ROMANCE FOR BEGINNERS
I unabashedly love romance novels. Here is a list to help you start reading, become addicted and finally let them turn you into a rad feminist who doesn't settle in love.
- •If you are not prepubescent when you first discover "bodice rippers," becoming an avid fan in adulthood can be an uphill battle.There is a myth that reading romance will instantly make a spinster cat-lady. Your ovaries will practically turn to dust! But spinsters don't have to deal with pesky kids and husbands, so they have lots of time to read. Sounds good to me!
- •You don't have to be dead inside to love romanceAlthough, the plots can be predictable, and, yes, they always have a happy endings, these books are usually about smart women finding respect and love for who they are without compromise. Feminism, hallelujah!
- •So how to start reading these fabulous books?There are three genres within the romance cannon and many, many sub-genres. Below are my recommendations for starter books in the each main genre: contemporary, historical and paranormal.
- •Contemporary - Nobody's Baby But Mine or This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsFor me, the heyday of contemporary romance was the early nineties, and the queen of this era was Susan Elizabeth Phillips. She writes quirky, highly intelligent, at times crazy female protagonists that sometimes manage to be so weird and unlikable that you're surprised to be pleased when they get their happy endings. Plus she loves a good late-in-life secondary romance, as evidenced in both these novels.
- •Historical - It Happened One Autumn or The Devil In Winter by Lisa KleypasNobody writes a woman coming into her own like Lisa Kleypas. Taking up the banner of Miss Austen herself, every La Lisa romance gives you plucky women, society gossip and true gentlemen (or at least a reformed rake), but I think, most importantly, she writes incredible female friendships. My favorite example of this is the Wallflower series--the middle two in particular. The third book, A Devil in Winter, is considered one of the best romance novels ever written and I wholeheartedly agree.
- •Paranormal - Immortals After Dark Series by Kresley ColeVampires, Werewolves, Witches etc. Paranormal romance is for the escapist and I think the best way for women to explore the fine line between force and consent. And Kresley Cole manages the intricacies of BDSM in ways that EL James can only imagine all while building a world that has the kind of depth any epic fantasy lover would wish for. I dare you to start from the beginning and not finish the entire fourteen book series.
- •Feminist Pick - The Brothers Sinister series by Courtney MilanIn each book of this series, Courtney Milan presents a heroine with an interest in a Victorian social issue--suffragettes, worker's right proponents, female scientists and fashionistas. My favorite, a novella called A Kiss for Midwinter, is all about contraception and women's health. She's subtle but incisive and I am often astounded by how she works feminism into a story largely about romance.
- •Honorable mentionsSome other wonderful authors are Julia Quinn, Sarah MacLean, Eloisa James, Maya Rodale, Jane Ann Krentz, JR. Ward, Nora Roberts, Julie Anne Long, Thea Harrison, Meljean Brook, Kathleen Woodiwiss.
- •AND there's sex!If the author is good (and the ones I recommend are) then the sex is integral to the plot of the book. The plot, romance and sexual intimacy should come to a head (pun intended) at the same time. And, no, it isn't porn for women. Romance novels have something that porn severely lacks, context and respect.
- •If you've managed to get this far, you've surpassed the stigma and you're ready to start reading! Gird your loins!