This has been a crazy month, hasn’t it?

Storms and floods and one thing after another for people across the country.

And yesterday, perhaps you heard that one of the sweetest, most darling romance fans lost her long battle with cancer. Lynne Wall was a Chicago-area librarian with the brightest smile in the world, and I can’t tell you how much I’ll miss running into her—at Chicago-area events, RT and Facebook. She was a huge romance advocate, especially for romance authors of color, and she was also this year’s Spotlight Reader at Read-A-Romance Month (you can see her post here). In it, she talked about how romance novels gave her comfort through her treatments and struggles with this horrible disease. Well she’s free now, from the pain and the turmoil, and I imagine her happy as a clam in a great big cosmic library full of romance novels.

Rest in peace, Lynne. You, your enormous smile, and your gigantic, friendly heart, will be sorely missed.

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I hope you’ll read her full essay, but I wanted to honor her love of this genre by sharing her excellent RARM recommendations:

Pat Simmons   –  Pat is a veteran writer who should be more widely known. Her stories about generations of families and everyday heroes will inspire you.

K.M. Jackson   –   I met K.M. Jackson in line at RT a few years ago just after she had just signed with Kensington to write contemporary romance. Check out her twist on weddings in her Unconventional Brides series.

Shirley Hailstock   –    Shirley is another veteran writer with novels in several genres including contemporary and more recently a romantic suspense series, Capital Chronicles.

Sheila Roberts   –  Sheila writes small town contemporaries with lovable heroines that are little quirky. She has had some of her books made into Hallmark movies including The Nine Lives of Christmas.

In her essay, Lynne also mentions Lynette Eason, Nora Roberts, and a bunch of the icons, including Brenda Jackson, Lori Foster, Leanne Banks, Dyanne Davis, Dee Henderson and Beverly Jenkins.

That sounds like a great list of must-read authors to me.

From her essay: “This is the Power of Romance to me. Romance novels serve as a companion in a waiting room. A comfort that replaces the anticipation of a test result.  The pages hold descriptions that can spark promises for the future. The Power of Romance is the reminder to never stop looking for the Happily Ever After in the situations life brings.”

I’ve been feeling the need for some romance comfort reads this month and here are a couple of titles I’ve enjoyed:

You Say It First by Susan Mallery - Her gazillion fans cried when she announced she was ending her Fool’s Gold series, but Mallery wisely moved a few of theYou Say It First fascinating Mitchell brothers to a new quirky town that revolves around the wedding industry, and is pairing them up with some local women to help them heal their wounded souls (mainly due to their narcissistic artist father). First up is Nick, who meets Pallas when she needs someone to restore her priceless wood screens. Then he gets sucked into an out-of-the-box wedding he encourages her to plan. Mallery has another winner on her hands, and Fool’s Gold fans are going to be just as enthralled with this series. (Read the Kirkus review here.)

Head Over Heels by Jill Mansell - An interior designer who’s kept the identity of her son’s father a secret for twenty years is thrown for a loop when he shows up in her village. He’s a movie star now, with a family of his own, and he’s stunned to discover she had the baby without ever letting him know. But the small town is brimming with secrets, and once one gets out of the bag, it seems like they all want to follow.

Apparently this was Mansell’s breakout book in England nearly twenty years ago, being released in the US for the first time. I have to say, I really enjoyed it, but there was a bit more angst and characters making annoying choices than you usually see in her novels these days. She’s definitely evolved as a writer, but even so, I found this to be an interesting, fun read—and while there aren’t any big “well I wasn’t expecting that!” surprises like you often find in Mansell’s books today, there are a number of little ones that make you pause and consider. If you’re already a Mansell fan, this is definitely worth a read. If you haven’t read her yet, then a small disclaimer—you’ll likely enjoy this book, but if you don’t, give one of her newer titles a read, too. (Thanks to Tantor for the audio version!)

It’s a complicated month. Give yourself the gift of a good comfort read.

#ReadARomance #HappyReading