Sweet Dreams Series
I don’t tend to gravitate towards straight-up romance novels as a rule (though I must stress that I do read some now and again). I generally tend to prefer science fiction/fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal. If I do read contemporary, it tends to be of the Young Adult variety.
I have to admit though, a significantly large portion of my teenage years were spent reading romance novels – most particularly the Sweet Dreams series that was released by Bantam Books between 1981 through to 1996 (at least that’s what it states on Wikipedia!) aimed specifically at the teen market.
Being from the UK, many of the other big teen romance series released at that time such as First Love from Silhouette and Wildfire were not as readily available. Still, I would have to say that Sweet Dreams was certainly the most popular and prolific series. My local library had most of the books and what I didn’t get there I managed to pick up in second-hand bookshops (generally the books that were released in the early 1980s).
The books really stood out to me, from the pretty girls depicted on the front covers, to their almost chaste romances. These books were easily digestible – light and frothy with not a huge deal of substance to them but surprisingly addictive at the same time.
Nearly every book was a standalone romance (off the top of my head I think can think of only a few that followed on from each other, namely P.S. I Love You (#1) and Falling In Love Again (#23) by Barbara Conklin and The Popularity Plan (#2) and The Popularity Summer (#20) by Rosemary Vernon.
There was also Janet Quin-Harkin’s spin-off series On Our Own (containing 6 books) which continued on from The Great Boy Chase (#93) and followed the two main characters of Jill and Toni to college) and were written by many different authors.
For the most part, the tales were simple – in each individual story there would be a young female protagonist and love interest (as far as I can remember although some of the books did contain love-triangles it wasn’t an overly prominent theme). There were the usual mishaps and misunderstandings but the girl pretty much always got her guy.
The stories were usually relatively free from angst – they were fun and playful with nothing more serious than boy troubles, the heartache of first love, popularity issues and high school dances to contend with. YA novels nowadays are usually full of strife and woe which in some ways makes them more true-to-life than the more idealistic themes prevalent in the Sweet Dreams books, but can very often make the drama seem way over the top – almost hyper-realistic – to the point that it grossly overwhelms the narrative.
The Sweet Dreams series may have presented a simplistic view to the world of dating but they were vastly entertaining (although with every series written by many different authors the quality of the stories could vary to a massive degree).
Some of my favourites include (in no particular order): Rocky Romance (#137) by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, Winter Dreams by Barbara Conklin (#141), Tender Loving Care (#43) by Anne Park, Almost Perfect (#190) by Linda Joy Singleton, Wrong-Way Romance (#176) and Don’t Bet On Love (#214) by Sheri Cobb South, Never Say Goodbye (Special #5) by Janet Quin-Harkin, and Kiss Me Creep (#63) by Marian Woodruff.
To my ever-lasting shame, probably the most revered book in the series, P.S. I Love You by Barbara Conklin, happens to be one of the few Sweet Dreams books I never managed to read when I was a teenager. I intend to resolve this dilemma post-haste. I purchased P.S. I Love You several months ago (as well as its sequel Falling In Love Again) and as part of my little challenge to myself to try and read or re-read teen classics from my youth, I will make this book my first priority read and post the review on my blog when I have completed it.
Look out for more posts on my challenge under the category: 80s & 90s Fiction Rewind. I am looking forward to finding out if these books will stand up to the test of time or if I will ultimately end up disappointed – actually come to think of it I am beginning to have second thoughts – what if I ruin all those precious childhood memories? Oh well too late to worry now!!