Full confession I’ve been writing about and recommending books for years, but there are whole genres I do not read. For example, I do not read romance novels. Well, not really. I will admit to spending some wonderful days with chick lit novels like Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and Katie Fforde’s Wild Designs. Still I am not the person to ask about recent or best releases in the field of romance fiction.
A few weeks ago, while hanging out with writers on Twitter, I met Serena Bell and read her blog post on Romance Evangelism. I knew that she was the one to tell you about what to read in this genre. Thankfully, Serena accepted my plea for help. Enjoy her take on the romance market. And, if you like what you see, subscribe to her blog where she talks about romance novels regularly!
Romance Evangelism by Serena Bell
When a devoted romance reader wants to convince a pal to join the club, she puts together a “starter kit.” There’s no one-size-fits-all starter kit, because the romance market is too huge and diverse. There are books that’ll singe your hair and books with no sex at all. There are flowery historicals and hard-boiled novels of romantic suspense, books whose lyricism rivals literary work and books with zero pretension towards art. Romance novels can be hilarious, deadly earnest, or anywhere in between.
This starter kit contains a cross-section of my favorites. Not all these books will appeal to all readers, but my hope is that you can find a book in this starter kit to spark your interest in learning more about the romance genre. For more, check out All About Romance at www.likesbooks.com for an advanced search that will let you slice and dice the market to your tastes. Also, spend some time on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books at www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com because, well, they’re smart, and funny.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon Outlander was my first romance novel as an adult reader (though strictly speaking, it’s not exactly romance and utterly resists classification), and it was also the first novel that I’d read since childhood that completely and utterly transported me. The story of an Englishwoman cast back two hundred years into Scotland while on her honeymoon, it’s gorgeous and historically accurate. It’s also too violent for many readers (but not me).
The Duke & I by Julia Quinn I went straight from Outlander to The Duke & I, and it was like having romance whiplash. The Duke & I is a light, chipper, and funny historical, the first in a long series about the Bridgerton family. Many romance readers feel like the Bridgertons are old friends.
Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie This was the first romance novel that one of my friends, now an addict, read. She’s re-reading it now and loving it again. It might be the presence of Fred the Bassett Hound, or it might just be that Jennifer Crusie is so riotously funny and honest and sweetly sensual that it’s hard to resist her.
Dream Man by Linda Howard Romantic suspense isn’t suspense/mystery/thriller. It’s a romance novel with a suspense plot, and the suspense takes second place to the romance. (You read a lot of reviews on Amazon by grumpy suspense-lovers that say, “This was just a bodice-ripper!”) And yes, Dream Man is primarily about the love and trust that develops between a cop and a psychic crime-solver thrown into a serial-killer scenario. Oh, yeah, and the heat.
Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas I think it should be illegal to create a romance starter kit that doesn’t include at least one book by Lisa Kleypas. Some people probably think the same thing about Nora Roberts (and I don’t disagree). This is a terrific (serious) historical about a prim-and-proper lady and a bad boy. I can’t get enough of that particular romance cliché.
Have you tried any of these? If you do, let me know what you think! And if you have suggestions for a romance starter kit, I’d love to hear.
About Serena Bell. Bell recently wrote her first romance novel, Illegally Yours, the story of an undocumented woman who has been relegated to the shadows and a man who won’t be satisfied until he knows all her secrets. Serena has been a journalist for fifteen years and spent two years reporting on bilingual education and immigration, the inspiration for her heroine’s dilemma. You can follow Serena @serenabellbooks or visit her blog at http://www.serenabell.com