Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Welcome to A.J. Llewellyn's guest blog

Kiana: What Prince, Romance?
By A.J. Llewellyn

It’s happened to most of us who love books. At some point or another, we lose a cherished book. For me, it was a copy of Pearl S. Buck’s Dragon Seed, confiscated by my Science teacher when she discovered me reading it, hidden inside the pages of a text book. I was sixteen. It took years for me to find another copy and I did finish the book, but it got me thinking these last couple of days since I took on a job evaluating the worth of my friend’s grandma’s library.
She has some beautiful books, to be sure. I know she prizes them but needs to sell due to the economic downturn. I began the process by removing the books that have no value. Some we can’t even donate to the local library, for example Mary Higgins Clark books, Dan Brown and anything by Danielle Steel. These might be popular authors, but their books wind up on the free carts in libraries. There are just so many of them.
I’ve also have already removed the Readers’ Digest books since they are worthless (due to being abridged and again, copious in volume). Libraries can’t sell them at their book sales.
I was astonished that high on some old shelves were some genuine gems. Whilst comparing prices online, I realized some of my client’s books are worth a fortune. One book, The Rain Girl: The Tragic Story of Jeanne Eagels, a biography of an actress from the 1920s, stumped me. I was surprised to learn she died of a heroin overdose at the age of 39 in the midst of a controversial acting career.
I’d never heard of her and I love old movies and movie stars. I was further surprised to learn that Jeanne Eagels was the first actress to be nominated posthumously for an Academy Award (The Letter). The book is almost impossible to find and written by Edward Doherty in a racy, journalistic style (The book is a First Edition from 1930) I sensed that it was worth something and I was right.
It most recently sold for $400 at an auction site.
Then my hand fell on a real find.
I was pleased to see it was Kiana: A Tradition of Hawaii, the first-ever romance novel to come out of Hawaii. Written by James Jackson Jarves in 1857, I swooned when I saw this copy in person. It’s impossible to find and I knew, this first edition would be extremely expensive.
Though some libraries have a copy available for view in their buildings, there are recent reprints available of it, none of them cheap.
The original and rare book starts at $650.
Considered culturally vital, I was stoked that Kiana, a book labeled romance is so highly prized.
In this age when authors’ works are treated with such disdain that people upload them for free, “file-sharing” with millions of people, that a romance novel is still so valuable tickles me.
James Jackson Jarves was a scholar and artist who spent some years in Hawaii. He edited the first Hawaiian newspaper, The Polynesian from 1940 to 1948. His books, particularly Kiana, were and still are considered culturally and historically essential reading. They contain scenes of Hawaiian life of which, little else exists today.
I found myself during my lunch break, turning the delicate pages of this book gently with my white cotton gloves. I tried so hard to read as much as I could. I was back again, in Mrs. Elwing’s science class, sneaking my literary thrills where I could, stalling with each bite of my salad before having to return it to the shelves.
I loved that Mr. Jarves dedicated his book to the Hawaiian King at the time, Liholiho (which itself means rare and precious), King Kamehameha IV. Like me, Jarves’s love affair is with the islands…and this has perhaps lent such a mystique and allure to the story of Kiana.
The language is sheer poetry yet easy to read. It’s the voyage of a young man in love with life…and a certain island girl.
I wonder if Jarves had any idea how important his story would become? I wondered how many young men read this book, unable to forget it?
As I put Kiana on the sell shelf with the index card tucked in its front pages, I couldn’t resist holding it one last time, taking another look at the engraving on the inside page with the slip of fine rice paper protecting it. The dedication to King Liholiho touched me: To His Majesty Alexander, Liholiho who now worthily fills the throne of the Hawaiian Islands as Kamehameha IV, this tradition of his Kingdom is respectfully inscribed.
It’s especially tragic, considering the fall of the Monarchy a few short years later and the almost-complete disappearance of this sacred work.
I still don’t know what to say about what happened next. I think I am in shock. My friend’s grandma gave me the book. She insisted I should have it. I cried on the spot. Am I gay, or what?
But Kiana has found a home, with a man who loves her and will look after her. And I will never, ever hide her in a textbook. She has become the standard for which all other romances must aspire.
What about you? Is there a romance novel that affects you like this? Leave me a comment and the most original gets a free ebook from me.
Aloha oe,


Silver Pixies said...

OK My Darling AJ mine is kinda cheesy. I was in 5th grade and my best friend and i were going through her mom's extensive Harlequin Romance novels when I found it. Time Kissed Destiny By Constance O`Day Flannery. I snuck it out of the house and i read it everyday. Her mother found out and i gave it back and brought my own copy that i had for years. The pages Falling out. It was my first of many trashy novels i had over the years but it was my first and i loved it. I wont tell you about the Porno books i read in high school or the fact that my Freshman Year i read Ann Rice's Sleeping Beauty *winks* Sadly i dont have the book any more but i dont do Hetro Trashy novels any more. However i can think of 14 Books on my E-reader and laptops that if they had pages would be falling out by now and that would be Phantom Lover By an Awesome Writer i consider a friend. I am in the process of getting the books in paper so that they can be something i cherish above all others and read till the pages fall out.

Love Luck and Lolly pops


P.S thank you for sharing your love of books, the islands and all things cupcakes with us. You are a treasure for the world to behold and shine brighter than any diamond.. Ok now i need coffee i just rolled out of bed

CynStorm said...

Kiana couldn't have found a better home AJ :-)

Beautiful blog, very touching and of course now you have me thinking. Have I ever come across a Romance novel that has made that kind of impact?

Still pondering that one. :-)

Thank you for sharing!

Cinderella said...

Dear Heart AJ you are so sweet! The blog was excellent. You always cherish the small things and make us see them in a different light.

Hello Danny!!

Dawn said...

AJ what a great blog and dang I love that cover. Now I have to check out the book. :) See feeding the inner book addict. Got to love authors. WOOT!

A romance novel that has made an impact on me? Well if this sounds cheesey forgive me please.

I used to read some harlequins but got bored by them when I was about 14 then I spied Bertrice Small's Skye O'Malley book and my god, that woman writes hot, historical stories that at 15 had me in awe. This was a book I bought later on and read over and over again. It is a classic story and it shows the world that yes, you can have some wonderful sex scenes in there but the story is center stage. :)

Thanks AJ for coming by.


Kathy K said...

AJ what a beautiful blog... and wow I can't imagine finding a book like that; especially one that has such meaning for you.

For me one of the first romances that I ever read, and one that I still love to this day, is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I'm really not sure what it is about this story that resonates so strongly with me, but it does. And every single time I read it I almost find myself back to my pre-teens when I first read it.

And I'm so glad that you were given this book; your friend's grandmother knew that you were someone that would not only appreciate the book, but treasure it. Smart lady.

Caroline said...

Wow I really had to think about it.Due to learning disabilities, I was in my thirties before I even really started to read.The first book that comes to mind is Arsenic and Rio by D.J.Manly. This story is a love story that does not contain the usual happily ever after.As a matter of fact for me it had no happy ending. From the middle of the book on I had to read through my tears. I cried so much. Don't let any of this discourage you from reading it.The love between the two main characters is devastatingly beautiful. All of my books are on my Kindle and when I am done with a book I remove it to free up space. Not so with Arsenic and Rio. I read the book in August of 09'. I refuse to remove it. The book is like a friend. The chatacters, I sill bring to mind often. I love this book so much that I begged DJ for a sequel .It moved me so much I wrote to D.J. Something I had never done before. Now there is a sequel and I am terrified to read it. I think what if they don't love each other the way they did in the end of book 1.
One last thing Arsenic and Rio literally changed my lIfe. if I had not taken the leap of faith and emailed D.J. I would not have made two of the most important friendships in my life. xoxo, Caroline

CynStorm said...


What a beautiful thing to say!!
I have tears in my eyes, because there are many of us who feel the same way you do.

I am truly blessed to have met Silver, AJ and D.J. and the ladies. My life has taken a whole new more evolved meaning with your friendships.


jsquilter said...

Lovely blog, A.J.! I'm so happy you ended up with the book, since it meant so much to you. We all know you will treasure it as part of Hawaiian history, and maybe donate it somewhere in your will?

I was looking at the other books listed in the comments. Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Christy are 3 books that have had a big impact on my life. In m/m, Phantom Lover (just listened to it again last week), and Caught Running are probably the two with the most impact; also The Professor's Secret Passion. And I'm not including PL just because I adore you, A.J.! :-) I truly love it. D.J.'s Arsenic and Rio is in the top 5 too...

Jen xoxo


Y. Bressani said...

For me - along with such mentions as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice - there are a couple books and they've made me think that the "keepers" (as I call them) come into each reader's/bookworm's life for a reason and at exactly the right time.

Two books that I've kept since reading them back around middle school/early high school are Desiree by Annemarie Selinko (gave me a love of historical fiction that I have to this day - as well as for the 'what might have beens') and All This and Heaven Too - don't remember the author off hand (think that this book gave me a good founding for the fact that a happy ending isn't always roses - something I still appreciate to this day in my reading).

Two somewhat recent finds that fall into the category where serendipitous finds. One, found about 7-8 yrs or so ago, is a Welsh songbook from the turn of the century and found at an estate sale in the city where I live. The other is an interdenominational military missal from the '40s and found in a Savannah antique shop 6 yrs ago. The finds - both dear to me - were serendipitous because the former wouldn't have been found if not for the fact I tagged along to the sale due to some free time and the latter due to a need for a walk and some time alone.

Most recent 'keepers' partially came about due to reviewing and partially due to luck of the draw.

On the reviewing end, early part of last November things were getting a little hectic and was going to be very limited in online time for about a month, but had a couple days to do just one or two more.....maybe (translation: didn't really have the time, but was going for it anyway - I'm nothing if not overly ambitious) and picked up Andrew Grey's Love Means...Courage. Well....needless to say, with several different "issues" going on at the time, the book was a blessing and, before even being a fourth of the way through, also left me cursing (I never have had the usual type of reaction) as I just knew I had to grab up the other then available titles, even though time was more than a little limited then.

The luck of the draw end - Fire and Ice. Don't entirely know what draws me to the story again and again, but it is one of the books that stays on the 'shelf'. :)

Danny said...

And the winner of AJ's blog is Caroline!!

Big congrats.