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Big Kids’ Table: My Romance Novel “Guidelines”

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Hiya! Welcome to the first Big Kids’ Table post of 2014. If you are new here, this is where I recommend some titles outside of the young adult genre. As much as I love YA, sometimes I just need to branch out and hope you’ll decide to as well!

As the date of this post inched closer and closer, I toyed with the idea of giving the feature a more uniform layout. But you know what? I love writing something new every single month so this feature is going to continue to be experimental as always! (By all means, feedback is appreciated. Email me!)

So today, I’m talking about ROMANCE NOVELS. This post is actually inspired by Ellice who guest reviews over at Paper Riot (she is awesome so make sure you follow her everywhere, okay?). Like anyone else unfamiliar with a genre, she wanted to know where to start when it comes to romance novels. There’s totally no right answer to this so I thought I would share some of my own romance novel “rules”.

Where I started

My mom absolutely loves to read. I definitely inherited this from her, and I still remember the awesome summer days we spent at library, checking out all the shelves. My mom took out a lot of paperback Harlequin romances back then. (They didn’t even check them out separately, just counted them.) This is where it started. On vacations, and long road trips, I stole a few of her romance novels and got hooked. But it wasn’t until I read Danielle Steel that I fell in love. I’ve always been a huge fan of books set in the 60s and 70s and Message from Nam had it all. (Think Forrest Gump!) From Danielle, I learned you could tell a lush, full story in romance. It wasn’t all about the lust.

Message from Nam by Danielle Steel

When I was re-introduced

Confession: for four years after I finished college, I wasn’t reading that much. I think I just wore myself out. But then I got an eReader, I went on a long honeymoon, and I met Magan (not on my honeymoon) and my love of books came rushing back. (It was nice to be home.) So my journey back to romance novels came after the launch of RBR when I started reading Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series. I forgot how fun, how sexy, and how wonderful a community of people looking for happily ever could be.

Here’s what I learned:

♥  I didn’t mind reading this series out of order because happily ever after was the outcome.
♥  Even though these are a lot of fun, reading them back to back got to be a little difficult. The stories can feel a bit repetitive, the characters can get a little flat, and you can only read about tongues stroking each other so much. (True story.) Fool’s Gold became my feet up on the couch, palette cleanser.

A few of my favorites: Three Little Words; A Fool’s Gold Christmas; Just One Kiss.

Susan Mallery Fool

The hits keep on coming

In the past two years, there have been a lot of winners in my romance reading. (And, sadly, losers but we are being happy and positive today!) To make it easier, a short list:

♥  Star Crossed by Jennifer Echols: one of my favorite YA authors taking on the big kids? Love it. Hot chemistry, a Las Vegas setting, and a little mystery. So good.

♥  Let Me Be the One by Bella Andre: showing off my rebel streak because I started Andre’s series out of order too but this one. I loved stories of old friends with crushes who reunite as adults. This one was off the charts sexy with great background stories on both and a lot of sweet, REAL moments. (So many times emotions fall flat but not in this one.)

♥  Close Enough to Touch by Victoria Dahl: COWBOYS. That is all. No really. This one was almost TOO hot for me but I loved the back story, the setting, and the tension was just so intense. I basically read this in one sitting.

♥  The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins: Funny and sexy? What what? I couldn’t put this one down. I loved the supporting characters, how unpredictable the couple was, and the vineyard setting.

Recommended Romance Reads from Estelle

Don’t be scared; historical romance doesn’t have to be stuffy.

I lost my historical romance virginity in December, and I’m pretty glad I had such a great experience for my first time? (Is this getting too uncomfortable for you?) Wicked Designs by Lauren Smith features a sly and spunky leading lady, an aggressive (yet vulnerable) duke, and a team of Rogues — protective, lovable, and all around enjoyable to get to know. From the setting to the smallest details, Smith made me feel like I was smack dab in the middle of London watching the hi-jinx myself. I can’t wait to check out more!

Wicked Designs by Lauren Smith

With a little help from my friends

Need more recommendations? Try The Book Barbies, Heroes & Heartbreakers, Gone with the Words, Lusty Penguin, or Michelle and Leslie’s Book Picks.

Or some recent personal recommendations from Alexa (Julie Garwood’s Ransom) and Ginger (Lisa Kleypas’ Sugar Daddy).

Now it’s time to say goodbye

As you can see, I’m no expert. My guidelines are just my own personal preferences. It’s not a huge necessity to jump into series right at the beginning because happily ever afters will come no matter what. And for me and this genre, that’s what it is all about: -a reading experience that makes me feel good and keeps me smiling.

As always, I would love to hear your recommendations + even how you got into romance novels yourself.

Be sure to check in at the end of February for your next dose of Big Kids’ Table.

(Big thanks to Hannah, Alexa, and Jamie for all their recent feedback on this feature!)

February 15, 2014 - 9:39 pm

Hannah @ So Obsessed With - I read this back when you posted it, but I just realized I never got around to commenting on it. I love the direction you’ve taken with Big Kids Table – the personal background / discussion post format really works so well! I love getting to hear your history with romance, and I look forward to seeing what you write about in the future. I’ve loved discussion this feature with you – and reading it since you started it in the first place – so I definitely want you to continue to share the love for adult reads. XO

February 6, 2014 - 7:08 pm

Ellice - I love love LOVE this! Sorry it’s taken me so long to comment, but I read it as soon as you published it and did a little happy dance because, up until now, Nora Roberts was about all I knew about the romance genre. YAY for some new titles to add to my TBR. I love that you referred to romance novels as “palette cleansers.” Sometimes you just NEED something like this, especially after finishing a HEAVY book. We actually have some Susan Mallery books at the library. I saw them the other night when I was shelving books, so I think I’ll start there!

February 1, 2014 - 5:47 pm

Alexa S. - You already know that I LOVE a good historical romance! They can make me laugh, cry and feel ALL the feels. I’m starting to discover contemporary romances that have the same effect on me, which is truly a wonderful thing. Your guidelines are pretty spot on, I’d say! Happy romance reading 🙂

February 1, 2014 - 3:48 pm

Maggie @ Just a Couple More Pages - Yay Ellice! (She was my Secret Santa!) I really found my love of historical romances in 2013, I was so judgy of them in the past, but now I’m always on the lookout for good ones (although I’m really picky). Contemporary romances I’m still somewhat skeptical of. I seem to be drawn to more character-driven ones (like Kristan Higgins) than romance-story-driven ones. I keep meaning to check out Bella Andre because I always see you loving her. Also, that Close Enough to Touch cover image is a weird angle, haha.

February 1, 2014 - 11:02 am

Leah - Don’t mind me while I sing Alexa’s praises for a moment. She emailed me a fantastic list of historical romance recs and I’ve been starry-eyed ever since! For a newbie (slightly ashamed of that!) historical romance can be SO overwhelming, so it was awesome of her to get me some starting points. MUCH LOVE TO YOU, A!

It was only in the past few years that I caved and began reading contemporary romance. One Kristan Higgins novel and I immediately saw why she’s such a powerhouse. I have yet to read anything by Dahl, but cowboys is all I need to know. SOLD. I’m also curious about Linda Lael Miller: the next time I need a cowboy fix I’m heading straight for her!

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