Alternatively: The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read
This recommendations list is gleaned from at least 80 authors and over 500 books.
Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started
Looking for something specific? Here’s a list of authors I’ve read enough to see thematic consistencies and it’s hard to go wrong with these writers:
Tessa Dare – FUN, bring your willing suspension of disbelief, on double-secret probation right now
Laura Florand – contemporary romances set in France, great intensity
Talia Hibbert – contemporary romances set in England
Carla Kelly – lovely Regency romances, often military-themed
Lisa Kleypas – the gold standard, also writes contemporaries
Julie Anne Long – extremely clever and funny
Courtney Milan – The very best currently publishing, one for the pantheon.
Lucy Parker – great romance, great fun
Julia Quinn – An excellent place to launch your reading. Start with The Bridgertons.
Sally Thorne – Only two books, but the linked one is a CLASSIC!
I lovehate Jennifer Ashley’s sincere romance mired in tortured heroes and overwrought plotting.
This list is an edited version of my Complete Reading List by Author. Reviewed books are linked.
Mallory, a frequent commenter, asked me to make a personal Top 5 list. I tried. I couldn’t do it.
- Balogh, Mary Slightly Dangerous – historical
- Bowen, Sarina Blonde Date – new adult novella
- Chase, Loretta Lord of Scoundrels – historical
- Gabaldon, Diana Outlander – historical
- Heyer, Georgette Venetia (Dameral/Venetia) – historical
- Jenkins, Beverly Indigo – historical
- Kinsale, Laura Flowers from the Storm old school, historical
- Kleypas, Lisa Dreaming of You – historical
- Kleypas, Lisa The Devil in Winter – historical
- Long, Julie Anne What I Did for a Duke – historical
- Milan, Courtney A Kiss for Midwinter – historical novella
- Milan, Courtney The Suffragette Scandal – historical
- Montgomery, L.M. The Blue Castle – historical now, but not when published
- Quinn, Julia Romancing Mr. Bridgerton Bridgerton Book 4 – historical
- Thorne, Sally The Hating Game – contemporary
Short Version: Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked, these are ruthlessly streamlined recommendations lists –
So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance…
Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started
Plus just for funsies: The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read
I have more content based lists over there on the right –>
Annual Reading Tallies & Author Commentary 2012 – 2017
On reading romance: Emotional Version and Pseudo-Intellectual Version.
My AUTOBUY List (Links Will Take You to a Summary of the Author’s Catalogue)
Tessa Dare (on probation right now actually)
Laura Florand Though she stopped publishing.
Lisa Kleypas The Queen for a very long time. Her back catalog is very deep and strong.
Julie Anne Long Historicals only
Courtney Milan The. Very. Best.
Lucy Parker Delightful. witty contemporaries
Sally Thorne Because her debut was just that good!
Albert, Annabeth Waiting for Clark (Bryce/Clark)
Albert, Annabeth Save the Date (Randall/Hunter)
Alexander, R.G. Ravenous novella (Declan/Trick/Jennifer)
Alexander, Victoria Love with the Proper Husband (Marcus/Gwen)
Alexander, Victoria Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover novella (Robert/Amelia)
Alexander, Victoria The Prince’s Bride (Rand/Jocelyn)
Alexander, Victoria The Importance of Being Wicked (Winfield/Miranda)
Alexander, Victoria Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements novella (Winfield/ Felicia&Lucy&Caroline)
Alvarez, Tracey In Too Deep (West/Piper)
Andre, Bella The Way You Look Tonight (Rafe/Brooke)
Ann, Jewel E. When Life Happened (Gus/Parker)
Ashe, Katharine In the Arms of a Marquess (Ben)
Ashley, Jennifer The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Ian, not surprisingly/Beth) – GENRE OUTLINE
Eleven years ago, Andie Miller and North Archer married in haste and repented at leisure. Divorced for ten years, Andie comes back into his life to return a decade’s worth of uncashed alimony cheques and let North know she is going to remarry. In a panicked stroke of genius, North offers Andie a job looking after two children of whom he is guardian. He is trying to bring them to live with him, but they have experienced a lot of trauma and need help with the transition. North will pay her enough for Andie to start her new marriage free and clear of debt.
Travelling to the out-of-the-way town where the children are living in their family home, Andie learns that the house is haunted by several ghosts. Ghosts. Ghosts that talk and interact with the residents. Not ghosts simulated by the mean housekeeper who would have gotten away with it, too, if not for those meddling kids. Ghosts. No.
But before abandoning this review much as I did Maybe This Time, this hilarious detail warrants mentioning: North’s brother remembers the first time he saw Andie and that she moved like a song was playing in her head. North said the song was “Layla”. Ten years later, the song remains the same, but North tells his brother it is now the “acoustic version”. Jennifer Crusie, you slay me.
Recommended books by Jennifer Crusie: Welcome to Temptation and Bet Me
Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.
To sum up:
Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me is number 15 on All About Romance’s readers poll of the Top 100 Romances of all time* and Welcome to Temptation comes in at number 20. I managed to take four of Crusie’s books out of the library, but not the one I really wanted which was Bet Me. I put it on hold and then just bought the darn thing on Amazon anyway. It was worth it, Bet Me is a definite keeper.
Welcome to Temptation
This was an extremely entertaining read. Sophie and her sister arrive in Temptation, Ohio to film a C-list actress’s demo reel and it expands into a full movie of dubious content. The internecine political squabbles only a small town can provide are the backdrop for Sophie to fall in love with the Mayor, Phineas (Phin) Tucker.
Welcome to Temptation was frequently laugh out loud funny. Crusie created likeable and believable leads with excellent chemistry and a sexy, light-hearted tone. There are multiple players and machinations to track and the whole thing careened along very enjoyably, buoyed by its own charm, until it veered into farce. Let’s just say that it’s a lot of larceny for one small town and the resolutions were ludicrous in proportion to events.
This was one of those books you read while quietly adjuring, “This is so awesome, please don’t mess it up, please don’t mess it up, this is so awesome, please don’t mess it up.” Crusie did not mess it up. The Come Here Go Away went on a bit, but Bet Me was absolutely delightful, a fantastic read that I highly recommend.
Do you need to know the plot, too? Fine. Minerva overhears an Adonis making a bet with her former, for all of thirty minutes, boyfriend that said Adonis, Calvin, can’t get Minerva into bed inside a month. Everything is exactly and absolutely not the way it appears. There were subplots involving an ex-girlfriend of Calvin’s and Min’s ex-boyfriend conspiring against their success as a couple which went on too long and veered into farce; time spent on Minerva’s sister’s impending nuptials which went on too long and veered into farce; and the coming together of Min and Cal’s groups of friends which was just fine and did not veer into farce. That’s still a lot of veering. What exactly is my problem with silly over-the-top fun? I think I need to re-calibrate my willing suspension of disbelief, if I’m complaining that a romance novel is insufficiently realistic.