Okay, who of my readers is a fan of the romance genre?

As many of you already know I am a huge fan of Georgette Heyer.1 More recently I discovered a love of Sherry Thomas. Her first novel Private Arrangements is a total ripper. Funny too. Thanks so much for the rec, Diana!

I discovered there were well-written amazing romances courtesy of Kelly Link. She’s one of those omnivorous readers who doesn’t let genre classifications get between her and a good read. She’ll literally read anything and it shows in her writing in truly excellent ways.

When I met her back in 1999 I was not so open minded. I was disdainful of romance. On the back of having read one very bad Mills & Boon. It was Kelly who pointed out to me that Heyer is a romance writer. She loaned me a bunch of her favourite romances and I discovered writers like Penelope Williamson, Carla Kelly and my absolute favourite, Laura Kinsale. My favourite of her books is Flowers From the Storm which is so amazing I do not have the words to describe it. It’s INSANE.

I don’t read much romance. Largely because since 2003 I’ve been reading mostly YA and since last year only books set in the 1930s2. For some strange reason, I have not been able to find romances set in the 1930s. Why is that? I think someone should fix that immediately.

So which of you are romance fans and what are your fave books and why?

Are there any genres you were snobby about only to discover that you were wrong that there are indeed most excellent books coming out of that genre?

  1. When she’s not being racist. []
  2. The exceptions are books I agreed to look at for a blurb and books I agreed to critique for friends. []


  1. Diana Peterfreund on #

    Since I’m a fan of romance from way back, I never had the chance to be snobby about things. Romance gets more snob derision than anything else, so all other genres are considered a step up.

    You should also read Betina Krahn. THE BOOK OF TRUE DESIRES is awesome, about a female archaeologist in South America at the turn of the last century and the uptight British butler (yes, butler, and his “diary” entries about her are hilarious) she falls in love with.

  2. Astaryth on #

    People are always amazed when they see Georgette Heyer (and a couple other Romance Writers) on my shelves. “I thought you read sci-fi/fantasy.” My answer is always, “I read good authors, no matter what genre they write in!” I just love Georgette Heyer’s dialogue. She rocks!

  3. Sherwood on #

    Frenchman’s Creek is probably my favorite romance, by Daphne Du Maurier. There’s another from the thirties by D.E. Stevenson called Miss Buncle’s book that I adore. Jennifer Crusie is my fave of the contemporary romance writers, though I like Suzanne Brockmann’s style of hot romance plus action.

    Have you read the Smart Bitches’ “Heaving Bosoms” book? It’s hilarious-and informative.

  4. Tim Pratt on #

    I’m not terribly well-read in the romance genre, but I’d second the recommendation for Jennifer Crusie — smart, fun romances, sometimes but not always with crime/mystery elements layered in.

  5. Jaye on #

    I actually was not a fan of science fiction (or, rather, I thought I wasn’t) until I took a class on it in college, on a lark. Not only did I realize that some of my favorites were science fiction (1984!), but I was introduced to some of my new favorite books (The Martian Chronicles) and a research project that has me reading excellent science fiction weekly. I had no idea there was so much beyond the space opera.

  6. The Ravneous Reader on #

    I love romance. It is my favorite genre to read…well actually paranormal romance now, but as a teen I read alot of regency romance novels. Shirley Busbee, Johanna Linsey, Bertrice Small…wow so many that I enjoyed. I loved the tales of the young innocent deb that falls in love the the disreputable rake, totally wrong for her, but they are a perfect match and everyone is happy…TA DA!! Fast forward to the future and I still love the romance of the good girl, bad guy thing….so now I totally love and adore J.R. Ward and her Black Daggar Brotherhood series. They are amazing!!
    Warrior Vampires that are to protect the Vampire race from the evil “Lessers” hell bent on killing them. All the Warriors are flawed in some way and they totally worship the women they fall in love with. Iknow the vampire genre is a bit overdone but Ward’s take on it is fresh, smexy and original. Her last book Lover Avenged, my favorite read so far this year:)

  7. Jenn on #

    First of all, love Kelly Link! Her book Pretty Monsters caught my eye at Barnes and Noble so I bought it on my kindle (I know, I know, no kindle). I loved it! My favorites were the one about the soccer player, and the one about the Library.
    Personally, I don’t read the specific genre romance, but the books I choose to read usually have some element of romance in them underneath whatever genre they have been specifically classified as. I don’t know if I could read straight romance, I tend to like my books with a little bit more adventure.
    As for a genre I don’t usually read, that would have to be the short stories. Honestly, Pretty Monsters and Prom Nights from Hell have been the only short story groupings I’ve read. And maybe some Poe, but that just feels different… They were good, but the unknown kills me. I’m the kind of person who would like to read about a character until he/she dies, even if it’s pretty boring, as long as I like the character. Going into a short story and not knowing the background, they just start talking about characters and things and I have no idea what’s going on… I feel like I’m eavesdropping into someone else’s conversation, or life. Great props to the authors, I don’t know how they manage to fit so much infor into a tiny package without making it seem rushed, but with the story being over so fast my brain sometimes feels like it does when I do 6 hours of SAT prep in 4-information overload. I know Kelly Link has some other short story collections out there, I’ll have to read them and see if they grow on me.

  8. Gina Black on #

    I love Laura Kinsale too, especially FFTS. I suspect, then, that I should also look into the Bettina Krahn book that Diana recommends. It is, in fact, OOP but available for my Kindle. Maybe a little Mother’s Day pressy to myself? Ahem.

    I haven’t been reading much romance for several years since I’ve been reading YA and catching up on classics I missed when I was in school.

    If you ever haunt Thrift Stores you should be on the lookout for a copy of THE WINDFLOWER by Laura London. It’s old and very OOP, but one of the best romances ever written.

  9. Justine on #

    Sherwood: I shall track down your 30s recommendation. Thank you!

    Jenn: Lots of straight romances are full of adventure.

    Gina Black: Oh yes. The Windflower is another book Kelly gave me. Loved it!

  10. Julia Rios on #

    Yep, I’ve been a romance reader since I was about 10. Sherry Thomas is great. If you haven’t read Delicious yet, you might like it! And she has a new one out in a week or so, too. My other favorite is Amanda Quick (which is Jayne Ann Krentz’s historical pseudonym). Not exactly romance, and perhaps on the wrong continent for your taste, but Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear is an interesting between-the-wars-in-Britain book.

    Also, if you haven’t read Cold Comfort Farm, it’s pretty awesome. Weird, too, because it was written in 1937, but set in the near future of the 1950s, in which there are video phones, and everyone travels in private airplanes. This is in no way central to the plot, just happenstance. The film with Kate Beckinsale is set more in the 30s, and also worth a look.

  11. Justine on #

    Julia: I can’t tell you how insulted I am you’d think I hadn’t read Cold Comfort Farm! Why I grew up on that book! “There’s something nasty in the wood shed” is one of my favourite sayings! Because there is always something nasty in there.

    I’m currently campaigning to get Sarah Rees Brennan to read it. Can you believe she hadn’t even heard of it? The horror!

  12. Megan Crewe on #

    I think my theory has always been, if it’s a good story, then it’s worth reading, regardless of what genre it’s in. I tend to read more of certain genres just because I know I tend to enjoy the sorts of things that happen in them more–e.g., I read more fantasy/SF/paranormal than I do contemporary because there’s something about spec fic that just engages me more. But reading in the same genres all the time would be boring! So I’m always watching for recs of books outside the genres I most often read. Never know where I might find that next amazing story that I can’t put down.

    Which is why FLOWERS FROM THE STORM is now on my to-read list. 🙂

  13. A. Tassinari on #

    I love romance novels that are mixed with myths and history plus laced with tremendous conflict. Those make the best combination. There is always something erotic about stories of immortality where a mortal woman is the key to freeing her immortal lover. My book, Mortality Quest Book 1 The Awakening has that main plot. Its a trilogy with love put to the ultimate test.
    By the way Cold Comfort Farm is fantastic! I loved the movie!

  14. Julia Rios on #

    Actually, I thought you probably had read Cold Comfort Farm, but it never hurts to be extra sure of these things. Sarah Rees Brennan should certainly read it, as should everyone.

  15. hope on #

    The only two things I have read that compared favorably with Heyer were Lady Elizabeth’s Comet by Sheila Simonson and Gypsy at Almack’s. I can’t remember the pen name used on the second one, but the author is Laura Amy Schlitz who won the Newbery for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

    I always wondered why no one wrote like Heyer anymore. Then I read the amazon reviews for Gypsy at Almack’s. Nothing happens in this book, they say. The people just TALK.

    That explained everything to me.

  16. hope on #

    Ha! I take it back. Since I last looked the reviews have changed. Maybe there’s hope.

  17. Katie on #

    I don’t have any genre-based prejudices, but there was a long time when I refused to read anything by Meg Cabot. They were just so… pink. And sparkly. Like the book form of a squad of cheerleaders.
    Then I read the first Heather Wells book, and realized how idiotic I was being.
    I’ll have to check out all of these romance suggestions; the YA selection is dissappointingly lacking in my college’s library.

  18. Rachel on #

    Yes, definitely Meg Cabot!

    About multi-genre-ness… I was in my school’s book club this year and I was astonished by the way it was evenly split into fantasy lovers who hated realistic and realistic lovers who hated fantasy. As a lover of both (AND science fiction), this just perplexes me. They’re not exclusive concepts!

  19. Diana Peterfreund on #

    Gina Black was the one that talked me into reading Flowers from the Storm. Gina, I’m so disappointed to hear that the most recent Krahn is OOP. Even her old 1990s books are still in. Stupid Berkley! they sure didn’t know a good thing when they had her! (Book of True Desires won the RITA that year, and I hear Krahn will be doing some historicals for Blaze sometime soon.)

  20. Nicola on #

    I used to work in a bookstore and one of my fave customer requests was a young woman who came in looking for the new Georgette Heyer book. She was very upset when I had to explain that Heyer was no longer putting out new books due to, ahem, passing away a couple of decades ago!

  21. mb on #

    Not really a romance fan in general, but I love Eva Ibbotson’s romances (A Countess Below Stairs, etc.). They seem like fluff but have surprising touches of depth. And beautifully, beautifully written.

  22. Stephanie Leary on #

    I adore Heyer and Kinsale! Also Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels — wicked funny. I also think you would love Jennifer Crusie.

  23. Victoria Janssen on #

    Yay Kinsale! I want to write like her when I grown up.

    Kelly recced Eva Ibbotson to me a while back–she’s more old-fashioned, sweet romances.

    Now on to what you might not have read. She’s hard to find, but you must read Judith Ivory/Judy Cuevas. I also love Carla Kelly (Regency romances with “nice guy” heroes)–her older ones are some of my all-time faves. Autobuys for me are Jo Beverley, Connie Brockway, Liz Carlyle, Suzanne Enoch, Madeline Hunter, and Elizabeth Hoyt, all historical romance. Mary Balogh is an important historical romance writer whom I like; I also love Mary Jo Putney’s historical “Fallen Angels” series. Meredith Duran is a new historical author who’s interesting–part of her first novel is set in colonialized India.

    For contemporary, my recent favorite is Victoria Dahl’s TALK ME DOWN. Suzanne Brockmann is reliaby excellent–hers are contemporary romantic suspense. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is an excellent contemporary author–my favorite of hers is DREAM A LITTLE DREAM.

    Perhaps the biggest current romance writer is Nora Roberts. I’ve liked some of her books and disliked others. BORN IN FIRE (contemporary) is a good one–the heroine is a glass artist, and there’s all kinds of cool stuff about glassblowing. I also like her “Chesapeake” series about a family of brothers who were adopted by the same parents.

    Drop me an email if you need more info/titles, or direct message me on twitter:

  24. Victoria Janssen on #

    Oh, and for Jennifer Crusie, my favorites are BET ME, ANYONE BUT YOU, and WELCOME TO TEMPTATION.

    She is most excellent.

  25. Victoria Janssen on #

    Just saw someone else loved A GYPSY AT ALMACK’S! Woo! Another good Regency is Janet Mullany’s DEDICATION, which coffeeandink pointed me to, long ago.

    Paranormals: I like Eileen Wilks, Kresley Cole (funny!), Marjorie Liu, and Nalini Singh, who’s a New Zealander so you have to give her a try.

  26. Victoria Janssen on #

    And yay Loretta Chase! Someone above recced LORD OF SCOUNDRELS, which is the one to try if you only read one. But MISTER IMPOSSIBLE is incredibly fun as well. He lusts for her whenver she begins talking about translating heiroglyphics.

  27. Lissa on #

    The Rope Dancer by Roberta Gellis. I read it high school and loved it. Hunted it for years – it’s out of print now. Won it last year in a random contest held by Roberta Gellis (who is quite awesome!). Reread it and still loved it. I really like when books I read so long ago are still good to me. I also like the fact that I can like it all over again for completely different reasons.

  28. Joey-la on #

    I have a bad feeling that I will be murdered for saying this, but before I read Uglies (in late 2006, I think) I didn’t like sci fi, fantasy or futuristic books. But Uglies opened my eyes to the world of sci fi and fantasy! 😀
    I no longer think fantasy is bad – i think it is amazing!

  29. Jessica on #

    I second (or third!) Loretta Chase and specially Lord of Scoundrels. Jessica is a great, strong heroine (and would be whether it was a Regency or contemporary) and I just love her. Of course, I’m terribly biased. Anything (book, movie, whatever) that features a Jessica that is neither b*tch nor ditz gets about twenty kudos points from me! *g*

    Flowers from the Storm has been sitting on my nightstand since I finished it last year. Should I keep it, even though I rarely reread romances (this might be one of the few, however), or should I send it on to someone else and get them hooked? Dilemmas!

  30. Trisha on #

    My theory, well theories, since I’ve got two of them, about why there aren’t many 1930s-set romances:

    1. 1930s = Depression = depressing (not to mention = fewer millionaires) = publishers think readers won’t buy books set during this time period

    2. 1930s = the presumably young (and fit) men who’d be starring in these books would fight in World War II = what if readers think they’ll die in the war? = publishers think readers won’t buy books set during this time period

    The only romance I can think of that even includes the ’30s as an important element is Michele Albert’s Her Bodyguard. (Okay, there’s also Morag McKendrick Pippin’s Blood Moon over Bengal, which is set in 1930s India, but this is one of those I’ll-mention-it-because-it’s-set-during-the-period-not-because-I-really-recommend-it books).

    My favorite romance novel is Karen Ranney’s My Beloved. It gets off to a slow start, but once it gets going, wow. As far as secrets in romances go, Sebastian’s is a doozy, and even though you know there has to be a HEA because this *is* a romance, you have no idea how Ranney will get her characters there. But she does, and in a way that totally works.

    Some other favorites are Candice Proctor’s Whispers of Heaven, a historical set in Tasmania, and Joan Wolf’s A London Season, a Regency which I love in spite of its rather cliched plot resolution.

    All these books are out of print 🙁 except for the Her Bodyguard which you can buy as an ebook on Albert’s website.

  31. Keziah Hill on #

    Anything by Loretta Chase or Judith Ivory. Shana Abe does a great line in historical-paranormal. Elizabeth Hoyt is fab. Jenny Crusie of course. I like Anne Stuart too. Her heroes are almost anti-heroes. Megan Hart and Joey Hill for erotic romance. Sara Douglass and Sara Donati. Linnea Sinclair for science fiction. Our own Anna Campbell for dark historical romance and Anne Gracie for wonderful character driven historical romance (and ex Pres of Romance Writers of Australia). Good Australian category (ie HMB Harlequin Mills and Boon) Kelly Hunter, Bronwyn Jamison, Paula Roe, Trish Morey. It’s a very diverse genre not without some crap, but with terrific life affirming stories as well. See a summation of the Princeton romance studies conference

  32. j-a brock on #

    i like a book to have romance in it, no matter what the genre!

    re your difficulty in finding romance set in the 30s, maybe it’s because of that was the time of the Great Depression. people may not automatically see a time of such economic hardship as being a setting for a romance novel. just a thought.

  33. mb on #

    Actually the “time of hardship” thing is one of the things I liked best about Countess Below Stairs. It’s set more like 1920 than the 30s, but there’s this post-war sense of loss that pervades it, and the villainess’s obsession with eugenics is particularly chilling in light of what is to come.

  34. PixelFish on #

    Dittoing the rec for Jenny Crusie. She writes what I call Nerd Romance, and she and Meg Cabot are kinda staking that trail. (If anybody knows of any other Nerd Romance, please let me know. I do not count the Nerd in Shining Armor books because it’s such a Hollywood nerd….nerd for surface reasons only, and once he sheds his glasses and she sees his pecs, she can tell he’s really awesome. Whereas Jenny Crusie has her characters make movie references to Support Your Local Sherriff and the Princess Bride and have actual hobbies, and Crusie herself recs Terry Pratchett. And Meg Cabot has movie nerds with Xena action figures and a predilection for watching the Weather Channel. Real people with real obsessions.)

    Susan Elizabeth Phillips is pretty fun too. I can see why her Chicago Stars books gotta lot of attention–she covers a number of different of different types of wish fulfillment romances, but manages to hit a LOT of demographics while doing so.

    I’ve just picked up the Shana Abe Regency dragons books. I’m divided on them—they are a cut above so many regular romances, but I feel like she missed a lot of fun chances to subvert things. (Also occasionally they fall prey to more conventional tropes too.) Still one can try them out to mix things up.

    Kristan Higgins writes some cute girl-and-her-dog-and-her dysfunctional-family-and-a-guy stories. The romance is light and fluffy, but the fun is seeing all the complications her friends and family get the protags into.

    On the romantic thriller side of things, there is always Barbara Michaels aka Elizabeth Peters, the mystery writer. (I prefer her books as EP since the EP side always gets the snarky heroines. Because she was trained as an Egyptologist, a lot of her stories feature archaeological elements, with the Amelia Peabody series being the most popular. But she does dose each book with a liberal helping of snark and romance.)

    I think I just read and enjoyed a Loretta Chase book. Have to go back and check the shelves later.

  35. Ellen on #

    A few books that you might like that are set in the 1930s are Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer -this is one of my favorite books and it really describes that time period well.

    Some other books set in the thirties are by Dorothy Garolock. With Hope, With Song, and With Heart are a few of them.

    I’d love to find more books set in this time period.

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