A couple of years ago, a friend called me to catch up. A mother of three, she was exhausted, burned out and unhappy. I gave her a little advice (my younger son is the same age as her eldest) and a lot of encouragement, but I ended with, “Kelly, honestly, I think you should read a few romance novels.”
While I could see that she saw some wisdom in a few of my suggestions, she took real exception to that one. I repeated she should try them and gave her some reasons why: Romance novels always make me feel happier, more lighthearted, often inspired. Unlike a lot of literary fiction that makes me feel perhaps more informed but heartsore, or some so-called “literary” fiction that just spends hundreds of pages describing people wallowing in their misery, never trying to change themselves or their negative environments, romance novels always, ALWAYS reflect growth.
They also usually have female characters who are proactive, smart and determined to change themselves or their lives for the better. Honestly, I don’t see many female characters like that in most other fiction.
And yeah, I love a happy ending.
That conversation with Kelly was a turning point for both of us. A few months later, Kelly called back to let me know she was about a thousand times happier, and that while she had taken all of my advice to some degree, she truly believed that reading romance novels had made the biggest difference. She was a convert. She, too, believed that those happy endings improved her mood. Not to mention a positive effect in the bedroom with her husband, which helped both their moods! And listening to romance novels started her walking and running for hours a day, so she’s in better shape, too.
I sincerely believe romance novels can help women feel uplifted, inspired and empowered, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to write about them and celebrate them every chance I get.
Right now, there’s a lot to celebrate, since there are some great books out. I took the opportunity to touch base with some awesome authors who have recent releases and ask them for some suggestions:
Eloisa James is a topnotch historical romance author, and her upcoming Three Weeks With Lady X revisits her highly popular Desperate Duchesses series. It’s a sexy, charming story with a terrific heroine and her perfect hero.
"I'm a fan of Megan Mulry's Unruly Royals series (snappy girls marrying into British royalty), so I was psyched to learn that she has a historical coming out in April—which turns out to be an erotica! Bound to be a Groom sounds wild and crazy, with a duke, a soldier, a courtesan and a convent…I'm guessing that this will be erotica with Mulry's own dusting of funny, which should be great.
Since we're talking funny, sexy historical, I just gobbled up Tessa Dare's Romancing the Duke, which came out a little while ago. I loved her heroine, Izzy Goodnight, who believed that her life would turn into a fairytale. Plus I have a definite weakness for scarred heroes, so this one kept me happily awake at night."
Kristan Higgins’ books are a pitch perfect combination of humor and emotion, and her new release, Waiting on You continues the Blue Heron series, which are two of her best books to date (which is saying a lot).
It Happened One Wedding by Julie James
"Julie James has yet to disappoint with her razor-sharp humor, clean style and fast-paced plots. Refreshingly set in Chicago (as are most of Julie’s books), this story tells the tale of a smokin’ hot FBI agent and a smart, jaded investment banker who are thrown together when her sister and his best friend get engaged."Carolina Man by Virginia Kantra
"I can’t adequately describe my love for Virginia Kantra’s Dare Island books, nor the way she writes from the bone marrow out. Her characters are flawed, interesting and genuine, and her stories pack a hugely satisfying emotional wallop. Add to that a lush, engaging setting, and we have what’s sure to be a winner."The Chance by Robyn Carr
"Robyn Carr has her finger on the pulse of what makes contemporary romance work. With all three previous Thunder Point novels debuting at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, this book promises more of what readers love—a rugged, blue-collar town on the Oregon coast, and characters who are complex and imperfect. A hero who’s an ex-con, a heroine who’s in law enforcement, both of whom are struggling to find roots and put the past behind them…what could be more satisfying, especially in the hands of the master?"
Finally, Karen Rose’s romantic suspense titles are guaranteed to keep you on your toes, with sizzling romance, tingling suspense and blazing action. Her recent title, Watch Your Back, is no exception.
Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner
"I have been a fan of Lisa Gardner since her first thriller, The Perfect Husband. She creates compelling, true-to-life characters and writes especially strong female characters and villains. I've been saving Fear Nothing for my upcoming vacation, intrigued by the idea of sisters, one good and one bad, helping series detective D.D. Warren catch a serial killer. Can't wait to dig in!"
The King by J.R. Ward
"I love vampire stories and few do it better than J.R. Ward. There's something about dark, angsty, otherworldly heroes who have the power to be extraordinarily evil, but choose to fight evil instead. I get a good dose of murder, thrills and suspense, but in a way that is so unlike my own work. It's a treat I always mean to savor, but I can’t help gobbling her Black Dagger Brotherhood books up, and I’m sure this one, featuring King Wrath, will be no exception."
The Stone Guardian by Danielle Monsch
"Newcomer Danielle Monsch grabbed me from the first page of this Gargoyle-themed book. I admit to being a fan of the '90s animated Gargoyles series and Danielle brings the legends to life much as the TV show did. Her post-apocalyptic world is the result of the human and magic realms colliding. I was hooked plus, I mean it's Gargoyles! Who doesn't love Gargoyles? (I have three gargoyles sitting on my bookshelf, looking down on me as I write.) Danielle's gargoyles are strong, silent, sexy, and secretive, while her plot was smart and fast-paced."
So many great romances, never enough time! But I’ll do my best to keep up. I hope you will too.Bobbi Dumas is a freelance writer, book reviewer, romance advocate, and founder of ReadARomanceMonth.com. She mostly writes about books and romance for NPR, The Huffington Post and Kirkus.