I’ve never read a crime novel. Actually never. Which is a bit embarrassing given I work in book distribution. But it’s true – every time I reach for the Raymond Chandler book next to my bed, something else ends up in my hands. I’ve read a lot of true crime and watched a lot of crime shows; I’m not an asshole about the genre. It’s just that “I haven’t got round to it yet.” In thirty years of reading, there hasn’t seemed to be the time. I was thinking about this on New Year’s Eve (sad, I know), when I was quite beery and watching fireworks from my roof. And I decided that in 2016 I was going to do something about it.
I know I’m not the only person who hasn’t read a particular genre. I bet there are people who “forgot” to read any horror. And people who “haven’t had the opportunity” to test a bit of fantasy. I bet there are loads of people who have “just been too busy” to try some chick-lit. Obviously not everyone is going to like everything they read, but I’m reckoning there is a mountain of really good stuff away from the literary fiction/graphic novel pile I always grab from. This year, I’m going to try and find it. And if you’d like to widen your horizons too – maybe finally “get round” to reading that smutty romance that’s been hiding in a drawer –I’m going to do the hard work for you and offer up some suggestions, genre by genre.
Genre fiction has always got a pretty bad rap. Probably because some of it is actually quite rubbish. But there are so many books, writers and publishers that are undervalued. And as the ‘issue’ of diversity in publishing (or lack of it) gets more loud and shouty, now is as good a time as ever to branch out and read something we might not usually pick. Something we don’t necessarily identify with. Something that maybe has an orc or a crime-lord or a princess-murderer or a psychic sleuth with a pet pig in it (apologies if you actually do identify with any of these things).
Apart from expanding my own reading universe, hopefully these posts will show off some of the niche, weird, brilliant, obscure and – at times – culturally important stuff you might have overlooked. They might even help you discover a hidden love for something you never even knew you needed.
So… here goes…
Romance Isn’t Dead
According to everyone’s favourite fount of information Wikipedia, the romance novel began back in the 18th Century with epic doorstops of sentimentality such as Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. But romance came into its own in the 20th Century, with the invention of the mass market paperback. Mills & Boon started publishing “escapist fiction for women” in the 1930s. And given that so many have now been published that a section of the M6 Toll road is made from their pulp, I’d say there was no looking back.
Romance novels have proved so popular over the years, that there are now more subgenres than you could even imagine. There are genres within genres within genres. And every one of those genres, as obscure as they may be, has found a readership. Which basically proves we’re all soppy sods in one form or another.
I haven’t really read any romance novels either. The closest I came was reading this profile of Nora Roberts, which is really quite something. Given the lack of romance in my life, I’m not exactly sure of the proper terms for these subgenres. So, romance fans, please excuse me if I’ve got this all wrong. For the rest of you, here are my suggestions. And bear in mind that they are all parts of series. So if you like them, there’s no end to the reading you can do…
The Seduction of Elliot McBride by Jennifer Ashley
This book is from Jennifer Ashley’s Mackenzie’s and McBride’s romance series.
Juliana was raised to be very proper. After a long engagement, her wedding day dawns, only to find herself jilted at the altar. Fleeing the mocking crowd, she stumbles upon Elliot McBride, the tall, passionate Scot who was her first love. His teasing manner gives her an idea and she asks Elliot to save her from an uncertain future by marrying her. After escaping brutal imprisonment, Elliot has returned to Scotland a vastly wealthy yet tormented man. Now Juliana has her hands full restoring his half-ruined manor in the Highlands, not to mention restoring both their broken hearts.
Grim Shadows by Jenn Bennett
In Prohibition-era San Francisco, Swedish archaeologist Lowe Magnusson is in possession of the djed amulet, a priceless Egyptian artefact, which will provide Lowe with a hefty paycheck from one of San Francisco’s wealthiest families. But when the handsome Swede runs into his patron’s uptight daughter, what he once considered easy money becomes maddeningly complicated. Cursed with deadly spirits as her constant companions, curator Hadley must keep calm to keep her spectres at bay. But Lowe is driving her crazy and the amulet seems to be casting a mysterious power on them both.
Grim Shadows is part of Jenn Bennett’s Roaring Twenties series , in which San Francisco is a hotbed of illegal boozing, raw lust, and black magic.
Motorcycle Club Romance
Note: this isn’t a one off. There are at least two authors writing Motorcycle Club romance right now and it looks GREAT. Get ready for “hard bodies, hot leather and bad, bad love.”
Silver Bastard by Joana Wilde
When Puck Redhouse first laid eyes on Becca, he’d just got out of jail. She was at his welcome home party, where he was rewarded full membership in the Silver Bastards Motorcycle Club for keeping his mouth shut inside. Before the night ended he’d already violated his parole and stolen her away from everything she knew. Becca has been scared of him ever since, but 5 years later, when she receives a phone call from the past that she can’t ignore, Puck is the only man she can trust to help her go back to the life she left behind.
Silver Bastard is first in the Silver Valley series from Joana Wilde. For more Motorcycle Club romance, check out Kim Jones’ Sinner’s Creed novels.
Note: I call these ‘regular’ because they look like your average, earth-based human love stories.
Winning her Love by Harmony Evans
Bay Point mayor Gregory Langston wants community activist Vanessa Miller to help run his re-election campaign. Their attraction is a potentially explosive one, as outside of the bedroom they are on opposite sides of a controversial issue, and the slightest scandal in the press could obliterate Gregory’s chances of a second term.
This looks like a one-off, but Harmony Evans has written lots more romance.
Nauti Nights by Lora Leigh
Lora Leigh delivers a hot tale of a Kentucky marine who’ll do anything to get the woman he wants. Luckily for him, she wants him bad. James ‘Dawg’ Mackay has lusted after Crista for years. Just as many as she’s spent running from him. But for Crista, running isn’t an option anymore because Dawg’s got a plan to get her and keep her. It’s kind of low-down, but completely hot!
This book is part of Lora Leigh’s Nauti series, which I gather from reviews is quite saucy.
Strong Enough by M. Leighton
Muse Harper is a 20 something painter who loves to red wine, quirky movies and men with a fatal flaw. Jasper King is a bounty hunter with the eyes of a tiger and the nose of a bloodhound. When Muse meets Jasper he is meant to help her find her missing father. But something else develops between them, something dark, dangerous, and incredibly sexy.
This is the first book in the Tall, Dark and Dangerous contemporary romance series.
Rule Breaker by Lora Leigh
Lion Breed and enforcer Rule Breaker has a few rules he doesn’t break. Like having sex with a woman outside his own breed. Especially when it’s Gypsy, the party girl who’s determined to lead him on a merry chase. But she won’t be able to outrun the lion – or the man in hot pursuit. What ensues is a fiery affair that breaks all the rules of mating heat and will eventually endanger his mate with the very rules designed to protect the Breeds – for she’s possibly been working against them.
This is part of the Breeds series, which is massively long as far as I can see (Rule Breaker is book #29!) but, despite its weird premise, it is hugely popular. Check out the rest of the series here.
Shapeshifting Scottish Romance
Warrior’s Moon by Lucy Monroe
Chrechte wolf shifter Caelis turned his back on his human lover Shona so that he could remain loyal to his pack. Six years later, he thinks she’s dead. He is wrong. After being rejected by Caelis, Shona was forced to marry an English baron. Now she’s on the run from the deceased baron’s heir. Determined to protect her children, she heads north to Balmoral Island, to the only family she has left. And runs into the one man she never wants to see again – and the only one who might be able to save her. Caelis wants to save his pack and rescue Shona but who comes first?
This is part of Lucy Monroe’s Children of the Moon series, about shapeshifting, kilt-clad Scottish hunks.
Note: Although not technically classed as a romance novel, I’m throwing this one in here in case heterosexual romance is just not your thing.
Stranger on Lesbos by Valerie Taylor
Sexy, beautiful, frustrated, a neglected housewife finds the delights and degradations of forbidden love. Frances, a 1950s housewife, becomes bored with her suburban life and enrolls in a class at the local community college. When she meets Blake, a butch lesbian, her life completely changes. In thrall to a forbidden world of martini lunches, late nights at queer bars, and a sexual passion she never knew was possible, Frances must choose between the safety of Heterosexual marriage or the dangers of life on the edge of society.
I hope there’s at least one book in there that hooks you. In the very least, their covers are AMAZING. And if romance is still absolutely not your thing, then keep an eye on this blog for New Year, New Genre – Part II: Cosy Crime.
Further reading: Head over to this very cool website, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, where you’ll find everything you could ever hope for when it comes to romance.
And to see more of the romance Turnaround distributes, visit our website here.