Deb Linda and the Angst of the Unoppressed Reader

Like a lot of you, I was fortunate enough to be raised in a household that didn’t censor my reading. Book banning was an alien concept to me. While I admit this was mostly a good thing (being the only girl on the block with easy access to Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask did make my house a popular hangout for my more sheltered friends), but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.

Face it, it’s hard to enjoy a good, naughty thrill when what you’re doing isn’t considered all that naughty by your parental units.

While most of my buddies were well acquainted with the deliciously guilty pleasure of reading books under their covers, or in their closets, by the warm glow of a flashlight, I could read whatever caught my interest right out in the open. Without the necessity of covers, closets, and flashlights, the Guilty Pleasure Factor was sorely lacking. And without the GPF, reading could at times get to be rather…well, humdrum. Tame. Downright yawn-worthy.

Now, where, I ask you, is the teenage fun in that? Frankly, I was a little envious of my friends’ forbidden fruit.

So, being an excellent fantasizer, I sometimes pretended I wasn’t permitted to read whatever I wanted. That I was an intellectually oppressed reader, downtrodden like my poor friends, because that allowed for so much more angstiness than the reality of living in my rather progressive home. When you’re a young teen, angsty is way more fun than not-angsty. It’s a good outlet for all those raging hormones.

I’d smuggle books into the house, and hide them between my mattress and boxspring (yeah – so original), only digging them out in the still of night to peer at them with furtive eyes. (An early indication of my penchant for acting? *cough* Maybe.) Let me tell you, nothing spices up a Mary Stewart or Victoria Holt novel like pretending you’ll be grounded for life if you’re caught reading it.

I know, I know. There’s nothing remotely objectionable about Stewart or Holt. But all the truly risque stuff I’d gotten hold of by then was so clinical it was boring. At least Mary and Victoria knew how to weave a great Gothic romance, with just enough suggestion to set my fevered imagination ablaze. I told you – I was fantasizing. Work with me here.

Holt’s The Legend of the Seventh Virgin was a particular favorite. Sure, it’s mild by today’s standards, but, oh, that title! It was just made for sneak-reading.

I have to admit, it kind of warms my heart to think that someday someone might be sneak-reading In a Fix. Or at least pretending to.

Tell me, did you have to resort to sneak-reading as a kid, pretend or otherwise? If so, what were some of your favorite sneaky reads?

28 Replies to “Deb Linda and the Angst of the Unoppressed Reader”

  1. Linda, oh that cover! No wonder it spawned such spicy thoughts–I remember as a kid covers like found in the ADULT paperback section of our library as a kid–I pored over them, able to glean all sorts of wicked thoughts from a single illustration. I mean, it was so easy when you had NO idea how any of it worked! 😉 Those were the days…

    I would say our house was a good balance–but I was a total prude of my own doing. I definitely liked to peek and ponder, but I certainly wasn’t going to take it further than that aisle in the local library. (Wait, that didn’t come out right. You know what I mean!)

    1. Ha! I was just about to say, your library sounds like it must have been a lot more fun than mine! *wicked grin*

      Oh, btw, my DD and son-in-law brought us some of their first batch of home-brew, which they named “Any Porter in a Storm,” since it’s a porter (duh!) and it was fermenting while Hurricane Irene was breathing down their necks. Delicious!

      1. I LOVE it! Genius! And I am so jealous. Porters and Stouts are my favorite. Yum! Here my husband will be bottling the Scottish Ale he’s been brewing this weekend. Please congratulate your DD and SIL for me–the first batch of many!!

  2. Sadly, I really didn’t read as a teen–GASP!! But I don’t think I would have had to sneak. If my mom had seen me reading something like that, she would have tried to talk to me about and would have completely ruined the fantasy. LOL!! She was a little too much in your face and very open about talking about stuff like that. It’s a good thing and bad thing. Maybe that’s why I write sweet romances now… Hmmmm…

    1. Funny how that can work, huh? And any sweet romance that contains a “condom thief” scene is going to be high on my list of must reads. 😉

  3. I sometimes flipped through my mom’s Jackie Collins type books for the naughty bits, but only in the purely clinical desire to augment my high-school delivered sex ed. Yep. All in the name of science.

  4. No, I was never censored either. I think my first “Big” book was something by Johanna Lyndsey. I remember the cover but of course, not the title. Heaving bosoms and mad pecs.

    1. We all have our own special ways to spice up a relationship. Er, with a book, I mean. A book relationship. Though TG has been known to use “stranger” lines to pick me up in book stores.

  5. Oh wow. That Victoria Holt cover reminded me of the public library when I was kid. All the Holts and Stewarts were on this one metal book carousel and I would just stare at the covers, thrilled and uncomfortable at the same time, without really knowing why. Later, of course I started reading them…oh, such fun!

    I, too, came from an open household. THE JOY OF SEX was on the bookshelf in my dad’s study. And, yes, boy howdy did we peek. In the kitchen, we had inset bookshelves where my mom kept her classics and her mass market paperbacks. For some reason the paperback shelf turned into forbidden fruit when mom placed one of those sex-and-your-body books on the shelf, telling me that if I had any questions…etcetera. Instead, I picked the other books and read them outdoors in the bushes. This includes Ludlum’s EYE OF THE NEEDLE (anyone who’s read that knows there’s a very randy sex scene near the end) and THE EXORCIST (satan, yikes!).

    1. LOL at passing over the sex-and-your-body book in favor of the mass market paperbacks. And I may *cough* have to check out that Ludlum book. For research purposes. 😉

  6. I found a copy of The Joy of Sex on a bookshelf at a home where I was babysitting as a teen, so, again, in the interest of science, I had a peek. What I found most appalling was that all the sketches of the ladies depicted them with armpit hair.

    Now THAT is shocking!!! My tender eyes!!!

    1. Totally! I was totally grossed out. I refused to grow hair (like that helped!). I actually think that looking at all those pictures lessened my curiosity for a long while — my parents were probably thrilled with my delayed development when it came to boy-craziness!

  7. i wasn’t censored as a kid and as such, i think i read way more risky books then than i do now. probably because i stole all the romance novels my older sister checked out of the library and read them before she returned them. that’s probably what made it feel that much more sneaky — i was taking them while she wasn’t looking!

    1. I know what you mean — reading does feel like a guilty pleasure when there are so many other things that need doing. Of course, that just makes me enjoy it even more. 😉

  8. My reading was never censored by my parents. My mother didn’t approve of some of my reading material, but she never stopped me from reading it. So the only reason I ever hid under the covers with a book and a flashlight was because I was supposed to be asleep.

    1. Sleep IS important to growing child. Not as important as reading, of course, but moms don’t always realize that. *grin*

  9. I did have to sneak read. And I did it under the covers with a flashlight. The unfortunate thing is my mom read those tame Harlequin romances that ended with a kiss – never went further. And I outgrew them by the time I was 13 latest. Then there were a couple of years where I had to resort to the school library – slim pickings there. Eventually I started earning baby sitting money and I could sneak off to the bookstore and buy something a little more risque.
    You’re right as a teenager the idea that mom disapproved made it even better.

  10. My “sneak reading” happened only after I was supposed to be in bed. It wasnt that I wasnt supposed to read what I was reading, it was that I wasn’t supposed to be reading, period. I was supposed to be sleeping. I’d take my book to the very end of the bed and hang off the side, reading by the light of the hallway. I hadn’t considered it until this post, but you are right that it felt very “dangerous” and is such a fond memory from childhood. Feeling like I was hanging with my fictional friends, scared that any second my parents would come in and break us up!

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