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:
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.