Editor’s note: As our Official Romance Correspondant, Rebeca aka “Renegade” has put together a little primer for the romance-curious.
Romance gets a bad rap.
Actually, most of my favorite book genres get a bad rap: Fantasy, YA, Science Fiction, Romance. I guess you could say I go for the ‘bad boys’ of book genres. Of course, if you actually said that out loud, I’m pretty sure you’d be thoroughly mocked.
But I digress.
In the spirit of not assigning value judgements to our reading, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite Romance Novels for the Romance-curious. They are big-R Romance in the fullest sense of the word: they are about relationships and include hopeful endings. (Jennifer Crusie has a wonderful essay on what makes a book a romance novel, which is really required reading.)
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
For Fans Of: YA
Any Dessen book is guaranteed to rock. I think she must put it in her contract or something. Anyway, this is my favorite of her books in a large part because of Wes, the love interest. Trust me when I say that he is perfect in a completely three dimensional, I-am-not-Edward sort of way. Perfect. Okay, now I have to go read about Wes again… *sigh*
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
For Fans Of: The Classics
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Pride and Prejudice is a wonderful story about a couple that grows into their love. If you haven’t heard about this yet I don’t know where you’ve been living, but it’s definitely worth all the hype, even without a shirt- less Colin Firth.
What the Librarian Did by Karina Bliss
For Fans Of: Contemporary Settings (and rock stars/librarians—and, really, who isn’t?)
A rock star and a librarian meet. Sparks fly. The rest is history. The really interesting kind. Bliss moves beyond the stereotypes both professions inspire to create a love story for two people with pasts.
Not Quite a Husband* by Sherri Thomas
For Fans Of: Historical Fiction
This book is a good example of smart people not always being smart emotionally. Despite all the mistakes and their attendant angst, you never lose respect for the characters themselves.
Over the Edge* by Suzanne Brockmann
For Fans Of: Suspense
Three different love stories are woven together in an action-packed novel that’s more fast paced than your average summer blockbuster. Brockmann makes us work for our Happily Ever Afters, which makes them all the better, and more believable, when they finally arrive.
The Down Home Zombie Blues* by Linnea Sinclaire
For Fans Of: Science Fiction
Worlds collide (heh) when a space commander and a Florida homicide detective have to work together to save earth from destruction. As entertaining as the name would suggest, although there aren’t any actual, brain eating zombies.
Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs
For Fans Of: The Paranormal
This is the official start of the addictive Alpha and Omega series, although the characters were initially introduced in a novella. It’s perfectly capable of standing alone even if you’re not capable of stopping after just one. Briggs writes incredibly strong, relatable heroines who don’t live charmed lives. This has got to be even more difficult than it looks because so many other heroines tip into either weak or bitchy territory while remaining miraculously unscathed by their many adventures. (Alpha and Omega takes place in the Mercy Thompson universe, but you don’t need to read that series to understand this one.)
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
For Fans Of: Re-told Stories (okay, I may have just made this category up)
I love folktales and I feel like they have a lot in common with the Romance genre. Both can edge into sugary sweet unbelievability and both almost require Happily Ever Afters. On the other hand, a good fairy tale or romance is a hope-filled record of real life. These are the stories we tell ourselves to help us navigate our world, the archetypes imbedded in our psyches. They are important. Marillier does a truly wonderful job of living up to this tradition. Daughter of the Forest is a retelling of The Six Swans, originally collected by the Brothers Grimm. This rich, grown-up version had me in tears at times but never failed to deliver.
* These books have “body parts,” as Laura would put it. There is sex. The screen doesn’t do a discreet fade-to-black. If this is not your cup of tea, that’s totally cool. I would encourage you to try the book anyway and just skip those bits.
What are some of your favorites? Have you read any of these before? What did you think are good picks for Romance newbies?
Have I used enough question marks to beat you into submission yet?