I don’t remember when I first read a LaVyrle Spencer novel. I do remember that my mother definitely introduced me to them. My mother was a big Danielle Steele fan and I started stealing romance novels off of her bookshelf way, way, way before I should have. My mom didn’t really limit what I read, she just told me if I had questions, I could ask her anything.
Thus, I’ve read a lot of romance novels over the years. In my younger years, I could read three or four in a weekend. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a lot more critical of the genre. There are so many problematic tropes and I can’t ignore them for the sake of the fluffy escapism the books used to provide. However, LaVyrle Spencer’s books haven’t yet fully lost their luster. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to criticize – there is no diversity whatsoever and the stories are pretty standard romance fare. But within that standard story, the heroines have agency and the main relationships are built on respect and consent.
In Vows, we have an enemies-to-lovers story, where Tom Jeffcoat gets off on the wrong foot with Emily Walcott from the start. His business competes with her father’s and he made the unforgivable sin of mistaking her for a boy the first time they met. And even though she’s engaged to his best friend, Tom has felt the sharp edge of Emily’s tongue a few times too many to ever fall for her. But circumstances throw them together and they both learn that each has depths the other would never have suspected.
Years brings us Linnea Brandonberg, a young woman taking her first steps into adulthood with a job as a teacher on the windswept farmlands of North Dakota. She boards on the Westgaard farm, with a family as different from hers as night is to day. The head of the family is Teddy Westgaard, a stoic widower who wants no disruption to unsettle his ordered life. NGL, the age difference with Linnea and Teddy is squicky, although it is addressed as questionable within the story as well. Years is one of the few romances I’ve read where the story continues past the wedding, with Teddy and Linnea struggling with very real issues in a marriage.