Four Romance Novels You Should’ve Read YESTERDAY

Read this book!

Most people who know me know I read romance—and they also know I’m not ashamed of it. (This…comes up a lot. Why would I be ashamed of the books I like?) And like any enthusiast, I often try to convert amenable friends to my promiscuous romance-reading lifestyle. I have a shortlist of accessible authors in my back pocket, whose books bridge the gap for fans of mainstream lady authors like Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult, as well as those whose reading tastes run more toward Stephen King or Michael Connelly. And yeah, I do try to get the ones who’ve only read Stephenie Meyer or E.L. James to open their eyes to the glorious pantheon of genre options. Here are just a few of my go-tos when convincing friends to give romance lit a try:

There’s a reason Nora Roberts has more than 400 million copies of her books in print: her writing is accessible, engrossing, and, to a longtime reader, as comforting as a bowl of soup and a mom-knit blanket. She also doesn’t get enough credit for writing some truly chilling thrillers, but that’s a rant for another day. With a catalog of 209 titles (and counting), it’s tough to know where to start with Roberts. My entry point was her 2002 standalone Three Fates, which tells the story of the Sullivan siblings, descendants of a survivor of the sinking of the Lusitania, who embark on a globetrotting pursuit of three priceless heirlooms. It’s sexy and speedy and includes a makeover scene and a stripper with a heart of gold. It’s basically perfect.

One of my favorite historical writers, Joanna Bourne, is basically the anti-Roberts—she’s published just five books, but each is a gem. (Bourne’s sixth novel is due fall 2014, and I have had to stop myself from marking each day off the calendar like a crazy person.) Her most recent, The Black Hawk, is a decade-spanning love story of emotionally damaged French spy Justine and equally effed up (but dashing—oh, so very dashing!) English spy Hawker as they wrangle their way through the Napoleonic wars. This is the book I whack people over the head with and scream, “READ IT I LOVE IT YOU’LL LOVE IT OH MY GOD JUST READ IT!” My histrionics aside, the precision and beauty of Bourne’s writing is summed up in one spare, perfect paragraph:

She did not think he was truly surprised. Hawker would always know what she was going to do before she did it. They had worked together and against each other for too many years. They knew even the small crevices of each other’s minds.

You cannot hear the noise I am making just thinking about this book. Read it. Please.

Ahem. While I have nothing against a good, traditional Regency drawing room comedy of manners that owes its very marrow to Jane Austen (the ones Claudia Dain writes are intricate little jewel boxes—start with The Courtesan’s Wager, which takes place almost entirely during a single party), sometimes the petty intrigues of the lords and ladies of the ton become tiresome. Courtney Milan’s historicals are largely set during and after the Industrial Revolution, against the backdrop of a society that’s brawling with itself as it moves out of feudalism. Her 2012 novel The Duchess War features a noble hero struggling with what the concept of nobility means in 1863 as he falls for a relentlessly brainy heroine with nothing in the way of family or fortune. Milan writes with a distinctly feminist voice, and she will twist your heart mercilessly—but man, does it feel awesome.

Of course I’m not immune to the paranormal wave that’s swept the romance genre over the past decade, but I prefer my vampires a little more “International Man of Mystery” than “Creepy Virgin Stalker.” Enter Jeaniene Frost’s Halfway to the Grave, about what happens when half-human, half-vampire college student Cat gets tangled up with two-hundred-year-old vampire bounty hunter Bones, whose name is just the tip of the suggestive iceberg. Frost has already spun off her Night Huntress series (the seventh and final book is out in January) with two ancillary characters, but I’ve always loved the way she builds a paranormal world that functions believably within our own. Here there be sexy monsters, but they’re also recognizably human characters who are charmingly easy to fall for yourself.

  • http://secondlifebysuzanne.tumblr.com Suzanne Piers-Fromund

    I am a huge fan of Nora Roberts’s books, both her romance novels and her thrillers. I love the “In Death” series she writes as JD Robb. Catherine Coulter is another romance novelist who has crossed genres to thrillers with her FBI series, which are also excellent. :)

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  • http://secondlifebysuzanne.tumblr.com Suzanne Piers-Fromund

    I am a huge fan of Nora Roberts’s books, both her romance novels and her thrillers. I love the “In Death” series she writes as JD Robb. Catherine Coulter is another romance novelist who has crossed genres to thrillers with her FBI series, which are also excellent. :)

  • Jennifer McGown

    I love Beatrice Small, Julie Garwood (especially her historical romances), and Jude Devereaux

  • Ginger Lee Thomason

    Sherilyn Kenyon & Lisa Kleypas are my romance author faves. I actually just picked up “The Black Hawk” from the library. I will be sure to read it this weekend.

  • MindyLuStarnes

    My go to action/thriller/mystery/romance writer is Sandra Brown…LOVE HER!! As far as historicals goes I have to say Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Sarah Maclean, Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsey…and I could go on!!

  • Lupita Almaguer

    I’ve been a Nora Roberts fan for almost 2 decades now. It’s always nice to learn about new authors and have new options to look for while waiting for the new Roberts book. Good suggestions.

  • Alyssa

    I adore romance novels! Nora Roberts, Jude Deveraux, and Judith McNaught are all favorite authors of mine. I read “Remembrance” by Deveraux at least once a year, because who doesn’t love time travel and soulmates and a good cry (with a happy ending)? Also, if you’re looking for a romance novel with sarcastic and witty heroines, Jennifer Crusie nails it every time.

  • http://www.everydayplanet.co/ Christy Childers

    I haven’t read any of these, but your enthusiasm is so familiar.

    “READ IT I LOVE IT YOU’LL LOVE IT JUST READ IT!”

    Yes. (:

  • Amanda

    JR Ward is also a great suggestion for romance novels. Most of the time I’m still shocked that she’s categorized as such in the stores but the plot for her Black Dagger Brotherhood novels is fantastic despite the resounding fact each book is, at it’s core, about one Brother finding his mate. The complexity she weaves with other plots is fantastic and keeps me reading. Also, her Fallen Angels series is another fantastic read with great attention to detail and a stellar plot.

  • http://aisle-hi-five.blogspot.com/ Tabitha Carnes

    I would add Susanna Kearsley’s “The Winter Sea” — great romantic historical fiction!

  • Thomas Andrew Inman

    My father is a big fan of Nora Roberts, and he’s the reason I first read Three Fates. It was my introduction to her books, and I’ve continued reading them ever since.

  • Dee

    The Night Huntress Series by Jeaniene Frost are without a doubt my favourite. I could happily read anything that lady writes :)