So you’ve read the four books I shrieked at you about, and now you want more? Give me a minute to rub my hands together and cackle with glee (another reader sucked into the salacious world of heaving bosoms!), and then we’ll move on to another round of my favorite picks for readers new to romance.
Next up on my comprehensive Nora Roberts syllabus (this will be on the test) is 1998’s Sea Swept, the first in her four-book series set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Cameron, Ethan, and Phillip Quinn were all neglected, abused children adopted by a professor and his wife. Sea Swept opens with the professor’s death in an accident and his sons learning that their father wants them to care for a boy, Seth, who’s in straits similar to theirs when he took them in. Fast-living Cameron upends his life in Europe to come home, and immediately butts heads with Seth’s social worker, Anna. For me, Roberts is at her best when she’s building a community and following it for a couple of books, and the Quinns are about as good as it gets—there’s a scene of all the brothers squabbling in the car that’s one of the funniest and truest evocations of family and the way they can drive you absolutely crazypants that I’ve ever read.
When it comes to books that I return to time and time again, Elizabeth Lowell’s Amber Beach is at the top of the list. It’s also the first in a series about a big, sprawling, squabbling family (see a trend in what I like? Or perhaps in how I was raised?), but rather than build boats like the Quinns do, Lowell’s Donovans globe-hop, searching for precious gems. Hope Donovan is desperate to find out why her brother Kyle is missing, and the man who shows up to help is—unbeknownst to her—Kyle’s business partner, and possibly the number-one suspect in his disappearance. True story: I once read this book twice in the same day, trapped at a mind-numbing temp job without Internet access, and right now it’s a struggle not to start rereading it. It’s a winner, and you’ll want to get your mitts on the three follow-ups as soon as possible.
On the subway last week after a lengthy workday, I scrolled past a few new titles in my e-reader and went for Julie James’s Something About You. James writes modern, relatable heroines who are still in some way extraordinary (here, she’s an assistant district attorney), and heroes who make me want to learn voodoo so I can turn them into real, live boys—this one’s a smolderingly sexy FBI agent who can kill bad guys with paper clips. More than anything else, I believe Something About You can turn romance skeptics into fans. Go get it, for the love of hot FBI agents.
Writers who can take a worn-out trope and turn it into something fresh and exciting are among my heroes, and that’s exactly what Sarah Mayberry does in her 2010 Harlequin SuperRomance Her Best Friend. Amy, the heroine, has suffered through being in love with Quinn for years—even after he got married and moved away. But now he’s back. And single. Part of what I love about Mayberry’s books is the contemporary Australian setting she often uses; her themes are universal, but the setting and culture lend variety and sometimes a touch of exoticism.
Anyone else have a favorite book they like to evangelize about until you’re begged to shut up? Or is that just me?