I have a hard time remembering the books I’ve read. Ask me for a recommendation, and everything flies out of my head, leaving me wondering, “Have I ever read a book?”
If it weren’t for Goodreads, I don’t know how I’d get through the May #RomBkLove challenge started by Ana Coqui. The goal is to get people talking about romance novels across social media, and it’s certainly doing that. I’ve been participating on Twitter (my favorite platform), but I wanted to include the info here, for the next time someone asks for recommendations and I immediately forget every book I’ve ever read.
Day 1: Gateway Romance
This one is easy to answer. When I was 15, a friend dragged me to our local library and handed me Sea Swept and The MacGregor Brides, both by Nora Roberts. I was hooked. The MacGregor Brides had the humor, but Sea Swept had the heart. The Chesapeake Bay Saga remains one of my favorite romance series ever.
Over the years, I’ve recommended a lot of Nora titles to friends to draw them into the genre, but one of my more recent go-to recs is A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare. Yes, it’s the second in a series, but the characters are funny and sweet, with great banter, and it’s a road trip story so it doesn’t matter that it’s book 2. It also pairs a bluestocking with a rake, which is always a fun couple.
Day 2: Tropes, Tropes, Tropes
I went with three favorite tropes, since it’s mentioned three times in the prompt: marriage of convenience, ladies in breeches, second chance romances.
I read a lot of historical romance, where the marriage of convenience trope shows up a lot. I particularly liked Maya Rodale’s A Tale of Two Lovers, where the protagonists must marry to save their reputations–after they’ve ruined each other. This one also has another favorite trope of mine: ladies in breeches.
Ladies in breeches is of course another big historical trope (although there are a number of manga titles I’ve enjoyed that do this, and the film classic She’s the Man). Sarah MacLean does this trope so well, most notably in Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover and 9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. And while it’s not technically in the romance section, I also have to note The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy by Elizabeth Aston. It’s a P&P “continuation,” but this series was my gateway into historical romance, and this one in particular is over the top and fun.
A side note. Some tropes I don’t like: angst, college settings, characters in their early 20s doing stupid things. I have a hard time reading New Adult. But then, I like secret baby and amnesia tropes, and most people seem to hate those, so it balances out.
Lastly, one of my favorite second chance romances is The Sweetest Thing, book 2 in Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor series. This one combines another tropes mentioned above, but it’s a surprise in the book, so I won’t say which one. 😉
Day 3: Meet Cute
Sonali Dev’s A Bollywood Affair stands out to me as perhaps the most outrageous meet cute I’ve ever read. I don’t want to give it away, because it’s so good, so over the top, and the payoff is well worth the drama of their initial meeting.
Another meet cute I found super effective was between Shane and Crystal in Laura Kaye’s Hard as You Can. It’s the second book in the series, but the first I read. The contrast between Crystal’s horrible work situation and her sweet meeting with Shane sucked me in from the first few pages. I had to see how it played out.
Day 4: Secondary Characters
Funny side characters will always win my heart. Special mentions to Lucille in Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor series, and Magnus and Angus in Kimberly Bell’s series, The Countess Scandals. Lucille is such an instigator and sh*t-stirrer, I love her. Magnus the “valet” is a badass and no one even tries to control him. And old Angus cracks me up, especially his relationship and banter with Ewan, the hero of A Dangerous Damsel.
I’m also a fan of secondary romances, especially when they involve a protagonist’s parent. I have to give this one to Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, which has a sweet secondary romance playing out on the sidelines.
The In Death series by JD Robb/Nora Roberts has both great side characters and secondary romances. And because the same characters follow through each book, you get to see their stories and relationships evolve, as well.
Day 5: Romantic Elements
Even though I started reading Nora Roberts at 15 and often perused my mother’s huge collection of romance novels, it took a long time for me to consider myself a “romance reader.” But I lived for the romantic elements in other books I read.
As a teen, I read everything by LJ Smith (author of The Vampire Diaries) and JD Robb’s In Death series. Those led to early-00s chick lit, the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris, the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton, and the Stephanie Plum mysteries by Janet Evanovich. Eventually I found my way to The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger and the Lady Julia Grey mysteries by Deanna Raybourn. All of these have strong romantic elements, even though none of them would be found on the romance shelf in a bookstore. (Or at least, not in the bookstore where I used to work.) I read genre fiction for a long time before I made the full plunge into romance.
As for mainstream fiction with romantic elements, I have to mention Attachments by Rainbow Rowell and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. (The Hating Game by Sally Thorne is on my TBR.)
Day 6: Groveling
So this was really where I started to realize I don’t have a great memory for all the books I’ve read. I recommend Sarah MacLean, because I know she loves a good grovel. Check out her Rules of Scoundrels series. Ruby Dixon also does the grovel well in her Ice Planet Barbarians series.
Day 7: Diverse Romance
This section is mostly going to read like a TBR of diverse voices, so go open your Goodreads account and get ready to add some authors.
First, I have to give a shout out to Latinx authors writing own voices characters in romance. There are not enough Latinx characters in romance and not enough Latinx authors in romance. Period.
Priscilla Oliveras, His Perfect Partner
Zoraida Cordova, Love on the Ledge
Sabrina Sol, Delicious Temptation
Caridad Piñeiro, South Beach Chicas Catch Their Man
Mia Sosa, Unbuttoning the CEO
Second, you should go check out WOCinRomance, curated by Rebekah Weatherspoon. There’s also a Patreon to help keep it going. It lists all the new romance releases written by women of color. And now I’m going to run through a list of the WOCinRomance on my kindle.
To One Hundred by Melissa Blue
An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemicals by Six de los Reyes
The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev
Beary Christmas, Baby by Sasha Devlin
Seducing the Jackal by Seressia Glass
Filth by Dakota Gray
Jade’s Awakening by Isabelle Hardesty
Queen of His Heart by Lena Hart
The Preacher’s Promise by Piper Huguley
Insert Groom Here by KM Jackson
Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins
Lies You Tell by LaQuette
The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin
Love On My Mind by Tracey Livesay
Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan
Ironic by Harper Miller
Racing Hearts by Michelle Monkou
Cabin Fever by Audra North
Confessions of a Wedding Planner by Michelle Jo Quinn
A Gentleman in the Street by Alisha Rai
Deliver Me by Farrah Rochon
The Infamous Miss Rodriguez by Lydia San Andres
Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh
Bollywood and the Beast by Suleikha Snyder
You Should Still Be Mine by AC Taylor
Tempting the Bride by Sherry Thomas
Crux by HE Trent
So Right by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Level Up by Cathy Yardley
This is not a comprehensive list by any means, just a sampling from my own TBR.
Got a favorite romance you think I’d enjoy? Let me know! The TBR can never be too long. 😉