Saturday, January 22, 2011

Old Skool Favorite: Amanda

SB Sarah invited blog readers to re-read our Old Skool romance favorites--the books that introduced us to the genre lo these many years ago--and see how the genre and we as readers have changed.

As I've discussed before, my gateway romance drug was the Sunfire YA historical series from the 1980's, all of which feature a girl of 16 or so finding True Love at a critical juncture of American history. I have many fond memories of buying the latest ones with my allowance at the mall bookstore and curling up in my room for hours on end to read them.

So for Sarah's challenge, I tracked down five Sunfires that stand out most in my mind, and I started with the inaugural book in the series, Amanda, by Candice Ransom.

Check out that cover! Isn't it 80's-a-licious? I try to avoid too much public snark about current covers because for all I know I'll be with that publisher and/or cover artist someday and I don't want them to hate me just because I don't share their taste in cover design. But this book is from 1984, so I think I can safely say...

What the heck? This book is set in 1846, but Amanda is wearing a Regency-style high-waisted dress with Charlie's Angels hair and blush just like Seventeen was teaching junior high me to apply it! Even as a 7th grader I knew something wasn't quite right about that cover.

An actual fashionable lady of the mid-1840's would've looked more like this:

With that bit of pedantry out of the way, I'll say that the story itself actually holds up quite well. The heroine, Amanda Bentley, is a Boston society girl whose father is dragging her alongside him to Oregon as he flees his creditors after gambling away his fortune. She never wanted to leave home and doesn't have the first clue how to do all the cooking and cleaning expected of a woman on the Oregon Trail. For the first half of the book she's a spoiled, bitchy little snob, but she gradually thaws toward the rest of her wagon train and turns her stubborn, temperamental nature to surviving the hardships the journey throws at her and helping others do the same.

As a mark of how much this book stuck in my mind as an adult, the very first time I drove through Oregon on I-5 after moving to the Northwest myself, I thought, "This is the Willamette Valley? Where Amanda and Ben from that Sunfire finally ended up? Cool!"

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