It’s easy to dismiss the genre of romance as one filled with shoddy writing and salacious goings-on. The truth of the matter is that there is more to the story. As with any genre, there is a great deal of variation. There are many different flavors of romance. Some are spicy and exciting, others are thrilling and suspenseful, still others are sweet and charming. And yes, some are more well written than others, but isn’t that true of every genre? The settings vary from medieval castles to alien space ships to modern-day New York. One of the things that make romance unique is that it, more than any other genre, borrows from and combines elements from other genres. A romance may have all the elements of a good mystery, or a fantasy novel, or a political thriller, and still have that little pink sticker on the spine. So no matter what your taste in literature, chances are that there is a romance out there, somewhere, that appeals to you.
So now it’s time for me to make a confession: I actually do like romances. It took me a long time to admit it, and even longer to stop feeling like I had to apologize for it. The renowned library educator, Dr. Betty Rosenberg, had a motto, “Never apologize for your reading tastes.” But all too many of us do anyway, whether we like romances, or science fiction tales of aliens and robots, or even People magazine. It’s far too easy to feel ashamed of something that brings us pleasure, if it isn’t ‘cultured’ or ‘sophisticated’ or ‘educational’ or ‘great literature’ or even ‘bestselling.’ The truth of the matter is that personal taste is a highly varied thing, and something that brings joy and satisfaction is always worthwhile. So here are a few romance authors I would recommend, a sampling of the genre. I invite you to set aside any scruples about the sticker on the spine, explore a little, relax, and have fun.
Lisa Kleypas has written a number of books that are set in nineteenth century England, though she has recently begun a new series that is set in the modern day, in a small town not far from Seattle. Her books are whimsical and charming, with realistic characters and elegant prose. Many of her characters are overcoming various emotional problems, and find comfort and solace with each other. Her heroines in particular are strong and vivid, without feeling anachronistic for their time period. There is tension, even heartbreak, followed by satisfyingly happy endings. Kleypas’s books generally include one or two fairly explicit sex scenes, but are not erotic marathons. Nor is there a sense that all the couple’s problems can be worked out in bed. Particularly fine examples of Kleypas’s work include Love in the Afternoon and Someone to Watch Over Me.
Julia Quinn is another author who writes about nineteenth century England. Her books are effervescent comedies, bubbling over with wry good humor and ridiculous situations. Her books generally contain less emotional tension than Kleypas’s, and are rollicking good fun. Particularly entertaining are Ten things I Love about You and An Offer from a Gentleman. Again, these books contain one or two explicit scenes, but are not erotica.
Angela Knight has two series, set in two completely different universes. One is science fiction, involving time travel and genetic engineering. The other is urban fantasy, set in our own time, involving vampires, werewolves, and the Knights of the Round Table. Her stories are fast paced and exciting, often with an element of mystery heavily flavored with magic or fantastic technology. Her books contain more sex than the other two authors I’ve mentioned, and are more graphic. I particularly enjoyed Master of Swords.
For those who enjoy suspense, Pamela Clare has a series of books that involve men, usually with military backgrounds, helping women in life threatening situations. Despite the ‘damsel in distress’ set up, her heroines are fully developed and interesting people. The plots are complex and thrilling, with elements of mystery and horror. Her novel Breaking Point involves a U.S. Marshall who was captured by narcotics traffickers in Mexico and must escape with the help of a beautiful, kidnapped journalist. The tale is tense and sexy, with some fascinating twists and turns that will leave the reader on the edge of their seat.
These are just a few of the many romance authors out there. There is an almost infinite variety, with something to suit every taste. Genreflecting by Dr. Rosenberg, has a chapter dedicated to romance, with reading suggestions that cover much of the romance spectrum. So whether you are an experienced romance reader or someone just trying out the genre, it’s time to stop apologizing and enjoy!