So here’s a thing: 2018 is the year I started reading romance.
I have read young adult (and some middle grade/children’s books) almost exclusively for about 10+ years now. It’s not that I have anything against adult fiction — I just generally prefer YA, for one reason or another. And even when I have read adult fiction, the one genre I’ve never really given much time to is romance.
That all changed this year.
Why? Well, let me tell you a story.
It starts back in March, when I received what I swear was the third copy of What a Difference a Duke Makes by Lenora Bell from the publisher (Harper Avon). Now, as previously stated, I’ve never really read romance and I’ve certainly never reviewed it here on the blog. But for some reason, I’ve been on this mailing list & have been receiving review copies of Avon romance books off and on for a few years now.
When this third copy of What a Difference a Duke Makes showed up on the day of my sister-in-law’s 30th birthday party, I decided, what the heck. I’ll add it to her birthday gift. Ha ha, I’m hilarious.
My SIL, Heather, saw my hilarity and raised me … by actually reading the book. I raised her again by taking her to an event & signing for that same book. (I’m pretty sure Heather made that author’s night when she told her that it was her first romance book!)
That night, as we marveled over the beast that is the romance reading & writing community, we started a discussion — trying to figure out what exactly “romance” as a genre entails? Where does the line cross from romance to erotica? How do you determine the smuttiness of a romance book before reading it? Is there a rating system to tell us how much peen to expect?
After the signing, we moseyed over to the store’s romance section seeking answers … only to find ourselves more confused. The only distinction made by the store was “romance” and “paranormal romance.” But the books seemed all over the place within those two categories.
A few days later, we wandered into our local Barnes & Noble to explore their romance section. It still wasn’t clear how the books were distinguished, nor could we tell which books were on the smuttier side. (Look, we figure if we’re going to read romance books, we want the dirty bits!) But we did start to notice a few distinct themes within the romance genre:
- Historical Romance (this, we already knew, was A Thing, and we discovered that most publishers note whether a book is historical romance on the spine)
- Cowboy/Western Romance
- Highlander/Scottish Romance (this could also fall under Historical, but definitely seems to be it’s own Thing)
- Contemporary Romance
- Sports Romance
- Paranormal Romance
I’m sure there’s more, but these were the six main themes we saw recurring with some frequency.
Heather decided to wade into the genre further: she picked up a highlander romance, a contemporary (which also happened to cover sports & cowboy, as it was about a hockey player turned llama farmer – I kid you not – and it remains one of her favorites), and a paranormal. The results were … mixed. But with a three-year-old daughter at home, Heather likes that reading these romance books requires (1) very little concentration, and are therefore good for reading around a toddler and (2) they do help drown-out the sounds of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
Now, Heather’s been promising to write me blog posts about these books and her experience reading them all year — but she has yet to actually do that (she blames the toddler), but I couldn’t let our experience go on any longer without beginning documentation.
Over the course of the year, I’ve given Heather other romance books that came my way via publishers, and we’ve shopped for more books to read together. The results have been mixed (okay, some of them have been truly terrible & some have just been hilariously bad — while others have been truly delightful), but we’ve been having fun regardless.
I haven’t dabbled in the more traditional romance books nearly as much as Heather, but I have found that I absolutely love contemporary romantic comedies like The Hating Game, The Kiss Quotient, and Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating. Seriously, I have been loving these cute, funny, sexy books and I just want more! (They’ve also been a really bright spot for me in a tough year personally.)
Now Heather and I make a habit out of visits to our local bookstore, shopping for new romance reads, and sharing the ones we really enjoy. And besides discovering new books to love, it’s also been pretty great having this experience to bond over.
Now you tell us: Do you read romance? What kinds of romance books are your favorite? (And do please share any recommendations!)