Last time, I talked about books that would make great gifts for young folks, should you know any who require some gifting. This week, I'm rounding up a few romance novels that make great holiday gifts for readers you know.
First, a word about romances as gifts. Romances often (but not always) contain some sexuality. Possibly descriptive sexuality. Sometimes, if you're very lucky, gravity-defying sexuality. But more importantly, romances are about intimacy—intimacy of emotion, of physical space and of individuals in the story—and the reader, too, if the writer is talented. So giving a romance as a gift can often be tricky, since you have to not only know the reading taste of the recipient, but also know that they won't be embarrassed or upset that you've given them a story that's a wonderful, romantic romp through gravity-deprived menage colony. I'm kidding. Sort of.
My point is, since romances are about intimacy, they might not always make the most ideal gifts for every person on your list, especially if you don't know them well. That said, the books I have to recommend for this bookish gift guide each have a wide appeal, and I've tried to identify which types of readers would most enjoy each book. I hope you have a very book-friendly holiday!
The Rosie Project Graeme Simsion
Earlier this year, I went to Australia—where this book was originally published, and where it had been available for months, so most of Australia, along with New Zealand, Europe, Asia and just about everywhere EXCEPT the United States were all able to enjoy this book long before I was. All the Australian readers I met asked if I'd read it. They savored a brief moment of enjoyment when I said it wasn't available in the U.S. yet, and then told me I HAD to read it. Moral imperative.
They were right. This book is incredibly charming. The hero, Don, is a brilliant geneticist and unsure of himself socially, not because he doesn't know what to do but because what everyone else does is so inconsistent with his own concepts of how a day should be structured. Don narrates the story, so you see everything that happens from his point of view, and thus you understand why he's frustrated by everyone else, why he struggles to deal with people so often, and why he's decided that the best way to find a person to marry is to come up with a survey, and start interviewing women according to his list of preferences. He's not smarmy about it at all—but he's often confused about how other humans work.
When a colleague sends a female student to Don's office, Don immediately presumes the colleague thought this young lady, Rosie, was a candidate for his wife-finding project. When Don realizes Rosie is completely unsuitable, he agrees to help her with a project of her own, for which his knowledge and access to genetics testing facilities would be most helpful. But even though Don thinks Rosie isn't a suitable wife, he is fascinated by her, and startled by her ability to increasingly convince him to deviate from his very specific, very comforting routine.
It's funny, touching and wonderful. And, yes, you HAVE to read it.
Recommended for: comedy fans, dudes and ladies alike, and those who, like me, enjoy the intellectually brilliant hero type.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
This book was on sale recently, and after many many many people told me I had to read it, I stopped everything and started reading. Then, I didn't do anything until I finished it. It's that good. The heroine, Cath, is facing her first year of college on her own. Her twin sister has decided not to room with her, so she's placed in a dorm with a roommate who doesn't seem happy to see anyone, much less Cath. Her ability to cope with her isolation, shyness and fear of every new routine is pretty low. The one place she feels confident and at home is in the fanfic community, where she's been writing one of the most popular slashfics about two characters from a Potter-like series called Simon Snow.
Cath's existence in two worlds, one online and one offline, as well as her struggle to create a new life at school separate from her life and worries back home, was so familiar to me, even though it's been years since I left home to go to college. Cath's loneliness and feelings of isolation are powerfully written and the ways in which she navigates her new life, her old life and her online life resonated with me, and with so many readers. I recommended this book to several people, and all of them wrote back to say simply, "thank you."
Powerful books make you feel, and the emotions I found in this story were sometimes painful and poignant, but the familiarity and realism of the characters are unique, and the ending makes the poignant parts all worth the journey.
Recommended for: high school readers, YA fans, anyone who adores fanfic and fandoms, and those who love powerful, talented writing.
Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan
This story pairs Kayla, a workaholic young English woman who works in advertising in New York, with Jackson, a successful developer who moves home to save his family's business. Kayla travels to Vermont to Jackson's failing family ski resort, Snow Crystal, to pitch a new marketing campaign. When she arrives, she finds more snow than she's ever seen before, and a family that's one small part interested and a larger part resentful of any and all changes to the way they've always done things. But Jackson is very interested in Kayla, and their attempt to do business while keeping any personal attraction separate is one part of a funny, touching story. My favorite moments were any time Jackson shows Kayla another feature of Snow Crystal, or another activity that guests enjoy. One the surface, he's demonstrating all the resort has to offer her marketing plans and their future customers. But really, he's showing her how magical winter is, and wonderful family can be—when they aren't driving you absolutely bananas.
Anyone who likes holiday stories and the opportunity to travel to new places through the books they read will like this book. There's a lot of Vermont in the wintertime, with skiing, sledding, snowmobile riding, sleigh rides and a whole lot of snow.
Recommended for: people who like cozy stories, readers who like comedyand definitely the contemporary romance fans.
Got a romance you'd recommend as a gift? Share, share!
Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. She loves talking with romance readers, and hopes you'll share your new favorite romance reading recommendations. You can find her on Twitter @smartbitches, on Facebook, or on her couch, most likely with her eyeglasses turned towards a book.