Cleone’s Gateway Books

Gateway Book: any book that leads you to seek out stronger, dirtier, trashier books.

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- you show me a girl who feels passionately about Jane and Mr. Rochester and I’ll show you a girl who could easily fall into a Regency Shame Spiral.

2. Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews- Classic trash, this books (and its sequels) have everything: children born from incest, terrifying matriarchs, attics full of badly done arts and crafts, picnic baskets, yet more incest.

3. Exchange of Hearts by Janet Quin-Harkin- In my early teens I read probably 15-20 of these Sweet Dreams teen romances which were like Harlequins minus the doing it, this one about a teen girl from England who falls in love with her exchange student brother in Texas, was my favorite by far. The brother was surly, went by the nickname Taco, and was a legitimate cowboy. It hit all my catnip before I knew what my catnip was.

4. The Beloved Scoundrel by Iris Johansen- This book was the first time I ever encountered chair sex, and that is something that changes a 13 year old girl forever. It also has an awesome plot that involves the Balkans and detailed instructions on how to make stained glass, which is almost as fascinating as chair sex.

5. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer- I think Twilight was the undoing for a lot of us reading girls. Everyone was doing it, no one could fully say why, and anyone over the age of 18 was rightfully at least a little ashamed.

6. Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire- Beautiful Disaster popped up in my recommended reads on my Nook last year, when I was still reading Real Books. I didn’t know what I was doing to myself. This book is awful; the hero is basically a stalker and I pictured him as Weevil from Veronica Mars the entire time. I couldn’t put it down and its been all shame reads ever since.

What were your Gateway Books? Or did you plunge fearlessly into romance without any layovers in classics, poetry, and the great American Novel? Tell us how you’d arrange your shelves autobiographically.