Romance is a tough genre. Not because it’s hard to read, but because it’s hard to find the diamonds in the rough amidst the clichés. This burgeoning genre can be cause for some serious eye rolling. However, there are a few writers and a few books that rise above the rest and take us on brilliant love journeys without subjecting us to italicized thoughts, historical inaccuracies, weeping/ fainting heroines or burly/ rape-y heroes. So, if you want to read romance, here are some titles you might want to start with.
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. This is a complex story but if we look at it as a romance novel, it’s one of the best ever written. Scarlet is a headstrong, selfish, and successful woman who is blind to the love that is right in front of her. And Rhett Butler is one of the greatest literary heroes. You just want to shake Scarlett and be like honey, Ashley ain’t got nothing on Rhett (in your best Southern accent).
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Reunited with her husband after WWII, Claire and Frank go on a second honeymoon to Scotland. There, Claire finds herself time traveling to 18th century Scotland and falling in love with a young warrior. How can she reconcile the past and the present? Which man will she chose? Her husband or her sexy Scottish lover?
Which Brings Me to You by Steve Almond. She sees him from across the church. They rip each other’s clothes off in the coat closet at the reception. He stops and says he thinks he might like her and doesn’t want to go any further. They exchange addresses. They write each other confessions. After their inner most fears and dreams and secrets are laid bare will they still want each other?
A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries. This one was my first and perhaps I am attached to it just because of that, but I loved the gun wielding, horse riding heroine and the proper, lower class hero. Celia can’t imagine that anyone could ever want her because of a traumatic event in her past. Pinter is equally insecure because he doesn’t come from the same high society as Celia. Their relationship is tense due to a ton of miscommunication and mutual insecurities. But when the two of them go searching for the answers to Celia’s parents’ murders, they discover that they might like each other.
A Night Like This by Julia Quinn. Anne Wynter is not who she says she is. Working as a governess for a wealthy family provides a great cover for her unfortunate, indecent past, as well as protection. But her quiet world is disrupted when her pretty face catches the attention of the Earl of Winstead, or Daniel Smythe-Smith. Returned from three years of exile after a terrible shooting incident, Daniel is back but possibly in grave danger because of a grudge that is still very much alive. Yet, impending doom doesn’t stop him from pursuing his cousins’ mysterious governess with passion. This book is witty and fun and less melodramatic than most romances.
Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. This is the top book on almost every popular romance list out there. I wouldn’t say it was the best, but I did really enjoy it and think about it often. The hero was taunted as a child and as a result he is extremely insecure about his looks. Apparently he’s not that cute, but he has a rockin’ body (thinks our heroine, and who are we to disagree?). Our heroine is quick witted and knows how to handle men. His damaged self-image is no match for her therapy (both mental and physical).
The Booby Trap by Anne Browning Walker. Feminist heroines are a bit of a rarity — probably because many people equate feminism with man hating, which means little or no sex, which means really boring romance novel. Bambi Benson (God forgive Anne Walker for giving our heroine that atrocious name) is a waitress at The Booby Trap (a Hooters-like establishment). She’s doing undercover research for her PhD in Women’s Studies. Trip is the poster boy for his family’s online dating service, and in an effort to make him more marketable, his parents require him to find a girlfriend. Trip sees Bambi as the perfect opportunity to have a little fun at his parents’ expense, but he has no idea what he’s getting himself into.
Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry. A round of applause for the slutty heroine. There aren’t enough of these in romance novels, but there are plenty of slutty heroes. This is a contemporary romance set in England. Martin is engaged to Elizabeth, the heroine’s best friend. Martin and the heroine have never gotten along. He’s too proper and she’s too wild. But when Elizabeth calls off the wedding and leaves the country, they seek each other out. It’s like fate or something.
I’m still continuing my romance education, so if you have any titles that you’d like to see on this list, let me know in the comments.