I’ve written many times and in many places why romance novels are amazingly, inspiring, empowering and all sorts of other adjectives. I love being a romance advocate and doing what I can to spread the word on why these books matter, and how they can make a positive impact on women’s lives. (If you missed the incredible collection of essays celebrating romance for last year’s Read-A-Romance Month, you can see them here.)

But yesterday, a wonderful book came out that does a terrific job of explaining just exactly why these books are so powerful. If you’re a romance fan, then be sure to check out Maya Rodale’s Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. Here’s the official blurb:

“Long before clinch covers and bodice rippers, romance novels had a bad reputation as the lowbrow lit of desperate housewives and hopeless spinsters. But why were these books—the escape and entertainment of choice for millions of women—singled out for scorn and shame?

Dangerous Books for Girls examines the secret history of the genre’s bad reputation—from the “damned mob of scribbling women”in the nineteenth century to the sexy mass-market paperbacks of the twentieth century—and shows how romance novels have inspired and empowered generations of women to dream big, refuse to settle, and believe they’re worth it.

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For every woman who has ever hidden the cover of a romance—and every woman who has been curious about those ‘Fabio books’—Dangerous Books For Girls shows why there’s no room for guilt when reading for pleasure.”

I asked Rodale to share a few of her favorite “Dangerous Books” and why she feels they fit that description. Don’t these sound great?

Deadly Love by Brenda Joyce. This book introduces one of my all-time favorite heroines, Francesca Cahill. She disregards high society in turn-of-the-century New York City and instead secretly enrolls in college and risks her life solving crimes. And she has two heroes to choose from! This book sets a wonderfully dangerous example by showing how thrilling and satisfying life can be when one ignores the dictates of society and follows one’s passions. 

Romancing Mr. Bridgeton by Julia Quinn. Penelope Featherington Bridgerton Great Escapemight be one of my all-time favorite heroines. For all anyone knows—including herself—she’s a plain, unremarkable woman. This is a beautiful story of a woman discovering and owning her talents, her passions and what makes her a unique, funny and wonderful person. The love of a very good hero follows once she falls in love with herself. This book shows that any woman is capable of transformation, happiness with herself and a really good love. 

The Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. This novel begins with Lucy Jorik ditching the perfect groom at the altar. She naturally runs off with a bad-boy stranger on a motorcycle and embarks on a hilarious road trip that takes her farther and farther from the perfect life she had planned. So often women are brought up to focus on snaring Mr. Rig ht and having the perfect wedding; this story shows that true love, freedom and happiness can come from leaving those expectations behind. 

Love those choices, don’t you? What are some of your favorite “dangerous” books?

Bobbi Dumas is a freelance writer, book reviewer, romance advocate and founder of ReadARomanceMonth.comShe mostly writes about books and romance for NPRThe Huffington Post and Kirkus.