Top Summer Reads to Hide on Your E-Reader
Summer’s here: The kids are home from school, the weather is hot, and the days are long, as Katie Sluiter predicted. And that means it’s time to indulge in a little romance.
What? You’re not a romance reader?
A couple years ago, I may have snubbed my nose at the genre, but that was before I actually started reading the books. And then writing them. Once I did, I found out what a fun summer indulgence these books can be.
Just to clarify, the title of this article isn’t saying that romance books should be hidden. I’m simply alluding to a cultural reality: romance has a bad reputation. But why is this?
Is the cultural stigma of bodice-ripping Fabio covers strong enough to last decades after these covers’ demise? Is it the centuries-old American taboo against “good” women thinking about intimacy and sex? Strangely, this taboo especially applies to mothers, who (in most cases) by definition have had sex at least once. Or is romance’s bad reputation simply based on the idea that these books are predictable and therefore boring? Or is it that they promote stereotypes of women?
It’s funny—mysteries and thrillers are rarely criticized for being predictable, thought they are: in the end, the case will be solved, and the criminal will be caught. Nor do we hear much about the stereotypical portrayals of men we often see in this genre. This genre is “just” entertainment, even if it’s not always the pinnacle of literary talent.
So why are we so hard on romance’s predictability and stereotypes? Is it because romance, by far the best-selling genre in fiction, is written by women, for women, about women getting what they want? Hmm…
So are you on board and ready to give romance a try? If so, you’re in for some fun this summer. Check out this taste-tester menu of romance genres, all with different ideas about love, sex, and fulfillment. From sweet, sexy, dark romances to romances featuring cowboys, LBGTQ protagonists, vampires, the Amish, and everything in between, it’s a huge genre with something for everyone. This overview of some of romance’s sub-genres, each with a sampling of titles, should help you find the right place to start.
While some of the books on this list are my own recommendations, there are sub-genres listed below that I haven’t even touched…yet. But I’ll never say never — I assumed I had no interest in vampire books, for example, until my author friend Kay Keppler recommended the first (hilarious) book in the Sookie Stackhouse series of HBO fame.
So browse the list, find your thing, and go from there. And remember, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s really something out there for everyone. Really. For every stereotype you find, there’s another book with a character who breaks it.
So sign up for your secret e-book account (note: not the family account!), find a shady spot, and explore. There’s a whole world waiting for you on the other side.
This is the largest category in romance, and it has been broken into many sub-genres, some of which are listed below. Basically, this category ranges from the 1950s to the present, though most books are written in present time. The danger with these books is that they can easily feel dated when the years elapse (think Fabio covers and predator-like men of 1980s-era romance), but the reward can be great. These are often funny with a quirky, everyday heroine and a sexy and surprising everyday hero.
Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas (set in Texas, deals with spousal abuse)
Nobody’s Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (overweight, sassy protagonist is a treat)
The Look of Love by Bella Andre
One Wish by Robyn Carr
The Cheating Curve by Paula T. Renfroe
On a Night Like This by Barbara Freethy
Young Adult Romance
Here’s a good summary: lots of relationship tension, no sex. Romance has very few rules, but one of them is no underage sex, so young adult is almost a guarantee of no sex (unless the couple turns 18). And this means that, in some ways, the writer has to work hard to keep the relationship progressing, even if they never pass first base. If done well, these books are compelling and emotional reads.
Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
New Adult Romance
While young adult romance has very little sex, this budding new category is just the opposite. The heroines are 18 to 26, in college or newly graduated, and getting to know the world in every way possible. This romance genre is sexy and sometimes dark. Think soap opera with all the drama but better dialogue. Think the voice of the Fifty Shades of Grey narrator…though I should add that this doesn’t make them all like Fifty Shades of Grey.
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Bared to You by Sylvia Day
Easy by Tammera Webber
This category is almost too large and varied to keep whole. It includes everything in the fantastical realm, from the now-ubiquitous vampire books to ghosts to time travel to fantasy magic. These books range in heat level and intensity, with the magical books often sweet to sexy and the vampire books sexy to dark.
Lover Awakened by J.R.Ward (vampire)
Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh (changelings)
A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux (time travel)
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (vampires with a side of small-town sass)
A Knight to Remember by Bridget Essex (paranormal lesbian romance with dragons. I told you there was something for everyone.)
If you’re looking for humor, just pass right by this section. These books are often intense, sexy, dark. At least half of the couple, if not both, have served, and the characters are often haunted by incidents that spill over into their present lives. They often reflect an intimate knowledge of being a serviceman or woman.
Full Exposure by Sara Jane Stone
SEAL of My Heart by Sharon Hamilton
Rules of Engagement by T.C. Kaye
Why do the words literary and romance rarely go together? I don’t think literary elements like theme and alliteration are out of romance’s reach; rather, it’s due to literary fiction’s aversion to unironic happy endings, and most especially romance’s Happily Ever After endings. But when an author finds the right balance, the result is magic. Actually, magic does seem to be an important element in each of these books.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Think Jane Austin. But with sex. Often plenty of it. These books are filled with women breaking out of the confines of society to explore their passions, both in and out of the bedroom. These lean heavily toward U.K. settings, with most popular point in history as Regency-Era England, but you can find the Georgian era, the times of the Scottish clans, Medieval castles. Rumor has it that U.S. Revolutionary War romances are the next big think in historicals, so keep your eye out for the next round.
Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt
Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh
The Preacher’s Promise by Piper G. Huguley (Historical Inspirational Romance featuring African Americans. Didn’t know that was a sub-sub-sub genre? I told you there was something for everyone.)
This isn’t just mystery plus some sex. In good romance suspense novels, both elements are intertwined and get equal play. The couple is usually thrown together, working on solving the mystery together but usually for different reasons. The mystery is often personal, and the couple keeps secrets from each other as emotions get stronger.
11 by Kylie Brant
Naked in Death by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts)
One for the Money by Janet Evonovich (if you like your romance suspense laced with comedy)
… and the genres go on and on and on. Hopefully this teaser is enough to get you started exploring the variety of romance fiction. And if you’re an avid romance reader, please post more suggestions for books and genres. I’m always looking for something new to try.
PIN TOP SUMMER READS TO HIDE ON YOUR E-READER FOR LATER:
This post was written exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC