Heaving bosoms, smart-talking boss ladies, long-suffering virgins, bodice-ripping damsels, brainiacs, curvy vixens, neurotic late-bloomers and self-assured divorcées…

Throbbing members, garment-rending swashbucklers, alpha beasts, enticing step-brothers, shape-shifting dragons, misunderstood damaged souls with chiseled jaws, Adonis belts and early evening scruff…

These are a few of the characters you’ll run across if you dive into the stacks of romance novels found on shelves, both virtual and real.

I used to associate romance novels with grocery store check-out lanes, airport terminal bookshops, bored housewives, and giggling adolescent girls. I considered them perfect for short flights, afternoons at the beach and ultimately, the recycling bin. In short, I didn’t give them much thought.

Fast forward to my early forties. Plagued with insomnia, erratic libido, brain fade, and a lack of free time due to work, children, and a marriage teetering into crisis (which has since recovered), it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to get through the thicker tomes I’d enjoyed in the past. And, frankly, my brain couldn’t handle any extra weight.

As I stumbled through the kindle store one miserable night, bleary-eyed and wishing for sleep, I came across Jasinda Wilder’s Falling Into You. It was a fast read, full of wrought, emotional tension. Lost loves. Tragedy. Beauty. Youth. Smut. Yes, smut. This is not Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret type smut. This is bonafide (see what I did there?) erotica. There were explicit blow-by-blow (couldn’t help it) descriptions of who was doing what to whom and just oh-so-much detail.

I was hooked. My heart was racing, my mind was alert, and I wasn’t lamenting the failure to complete another reputable novel. In fact, I was now tearing through two or three books a week. I discovered the gentle, winsome tales of second chance romances. I was drawn into heady, erotically dark BDSM. Yes, I even suffered through the Fifty Shades series. I can truly say that those are literary garbage. I can also say, I’ve read worse. I now have authors whose work I love and receive more ARCs (advance reader’s copies) than I can possibly wade through.

The overwhelming majority of authors in the genre are women. Books for women, written by women, often edited by women…a feminist’s dream. Of course, there are the writers grinding out variations on the same theme book after book. There are self-publishers who are clearly struggling to find their footing (and could also benefit from a dictionary and thesaurus). There are also authors who manage to tell stories full of texture, fully formed characters and artfully constructed plots.

I am officially a Romance Novel Fanatic. Occasionally, I throw in highbrow literature to keep it fresh, and find I can enjoy the elevated, the gutturally low, and everything in between. I am grateful to the genre. It brought me back to reading.

I now have Kindle Unlimited, peruse the local bookstores, and purchase books online. No, they’re not all Pulitzer prize worthy titles, but many are. More importantly, I always have something on hand to see me through those wretched “white nights” of peri-menopausal insomnia. I also have a security code on my Kindle!

A few titles to get you started:

“The Man I Love” by Suanne Laqueur

One of the few told from the male protagonist’s point of view. Breathtaking and beautiful.

“Magpie” by M.A. Reyes

Grown up woman dealing with grown up problems and online dating.


“Falling Into You” by Jasinda Wilder

Moody, broody, and a wee bit dark and dirty.

Amazon  | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Audible

“Flat Out Love” by Jessica Park

Tender, heartbreaking young love with tragedy and quirks. Lots of quirks.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Audible

“The Stranger I Married”
by Sylvia Day

Historical fiction. It’s a period piece with enough intrigue and twists to be fun and surprising. Plus, bodices!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Audible


“The Air He Breathes”
by Brittainy Cherry

She’s got enough to deal with. Whatever doesn’t break you makes you stronger…right? Angsty.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Audible


“Wallbanger” and “The Unidentified Redhead” by Alice Clayton

Snappy dialogue, light, breezy and with plentiful laugh out loud moments. Clayton also has the Hudson Valley series that’s equally enjoyable.

Wallbanger: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Audible

The Unidentified Redhead: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Audible

“Six of Hearts” by L.H. Cosway

Magic and mystery with fascinating twists. First in the Hearts series.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Audible

“Vicious” by L.J. Shen

If you’re looking for love/hate and Alpha males, this is the one. It’s sharp and dark and surprisingly well written. Shen has stacks of titles and a distinct style.

Amazon | iTunes | Audible

“Neanderthal Seeks Human” by Penny Reid

Brilliant mind with less-than-optimal people skills looking for love. RomCom with an expanded vocabulary. First in the “Knitting in the City” series. Reid has another great series ,“The Winston Brothers,” among others.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Audible

Other authors to check out:

Tijan, Winter Renshaw, Christina Lauren, Mariana Zapata, Colleen Hoover, Claire Contreras, Lauren Landish, Vi Keeland, Nana Malone, Karina Halle, J.R. Rain, Jessica Hawkins, Mia Sheridan and Penelope Douglas.

Tulani Bridgewater
Professional Manager, Mother, Negotiator…purveyor of sardonic optimism with a love for gifs and great conversation.


  1. I just found your article… thank you for mentioning my novel and listing it with others that breat the mold! MA Reyes “MAGPIE”

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