Saturday, August 17, 2019

Bookstore Romance Day - Reading Recommendations

Today is Bookstore Romance Day, something independent bookstores are celebrating across our country. To celebrate today, I wrote a post for our local independent bookstore, Hartfield Book Co., about the reasons to read romance books. You can check it out HERE

As a teacher, I tell my students that I will honor anything they want to read. Graphic novels for days? You bet. Reread a favorite book or series, absolutely that counts as reading. Below their level, above their level? Why not? I am not here to shame any reader, I simply want them to read. I want them to fall in love with books the way I have. Will that happen for every single kid, every single year? Nope, but I still try. 

Imagine my surprise when I dove back into reading romance books in the summer of 2017 and recommended them to friends. There were many comments about reading “those books” or raised eyebrows. Not cool, friends. Not cool. 

I am willing to shout it from the rooftops, I love romance books. I love the fact that one of the defining characteristics of a romance book is that there is a happily ever after for the main characters. I love that when I’m stressed, these books help me feel better. I love that I read books that celebrate and empower women. I love the supportive community that is the romance writing community. And above all, I love that these books have inspired me to chase a long ago childhood dream of writing my own book. 

With a crazy amount of new books flooding the market everyday, it’s intimidating to try and find books to read. My number one way of finding new romance novels is talking to friends who read the genre. Also, I follow authors I love on social media and they often sing the praises of new books that are similar to theirs. In honor of Bookstore Romance Day, I’ve attempted to do the impossible and tried to come up with a top ten list of romance book recommendations below. Really, I cheated, because I only listed each author once, allowinng me to squeeze in a lot more recommendations. But truly, go read any books by that author and you won’t be disappointed. 

Here we go...

*****

10. Kristen Ashley - Breathe
I had to begin with this book because this was what got me back into romance. I googled “librarian romance book” and this came up. Reading it, I realized it was the middle of a series. I went back and read the first four. Then I realized Kristen had written over forty books and I bought them all. Seriously. The Rock Chicks is one of my favorite series of all time. It would be fabulous on Netflix. Bounty in The Colorado Mountain series is one of my favorite books of all time. The male lead of that book, Deke, makes me think of Jason Momoa. Ahhhh. So yes, read Breathe, or any of Ashley’s book. You’ll be glad you did.

9. Robyn Carr - Virgin River
I have no idea how I found the Virgin River series. I know a friend told me about Carr’s Thunder Point series, which I loved, but somehow I made my way over to Virgin River. The series has been optioned for a Netflix series, which would be amazing. What I loved about this was that while there is a couple at the core of each book, other storylines overlap from book to book. I’m a sucker for a small town romance, which is obvious from many of my favorites, and this twenty book series melts my heart. 

8. Melonie Johnson - Getting Hot with the Scot
Let’s celebrate this Illinois author, Melonie Johnson! Melonie had my dream come true, she had a publisher pick up a three book series for her first published books. Getting Hot with the Scott is the first of a three book (for now) series about five college friends who, in this book, head to Europe on a trip five years after college vacation. I’ve read all three books and am praying the publisher options the next two ASAP.

7. Abby Jimenez - The Friend Zone
This is Abby’s first book. She’s actually more well known for her baking ability after competing on Cupcake Wars, or the three bakeries she owns called Nadia’s Cakes. In The Friend Zone, the main character of Kristen is planning to get a hysterectomy, even though she’s only twenty-nine, due to a medical condition. She meets Josh and is immediately attracted to him, but puts him in the friend zone since she won’t be able to have a family. This book took me from hilarious laughter to the ugly cry, and back. I cannot wait to read the next in the series in 2020.

6. Penny Reid - Neanderthal Seeks Human
I had a really difficult time picking a Penny Reid book. The woman is amazing and I’ll read anything she writes. Her Winston Brothers series is likely one of my all time favorite series, but I think you need to start with the Knitting in the City series, of which this is the first book, because it feeds into the Winston Brothers with book five of this series crossing over to be like a prequel to that series. Penny’s books are smart, quirky, full of love, and wickedly funny. Check them out. 

5. Kate Canterbary - Underneath it All
Not sure how I found Kate’s books, but I love them. I wrote about Kate’s book, Before Girl, HERE. Kate also let me pick her brain about writing HERE. Underneath it All is the first book in her Walsh series, Note, she also has anthologies for the series packaged that you can read about the brothers in The Walsh Brothers, and the sisters in The Walsh Sisters. When I read the series originally, I read each book on its own in the order it was published. I love Kate’s characters because the Walsh siblings are blunt, have overcome a lot, make me laugh, and her books are steamy. She is also a riot on her own. Highly recommend! 

4. Melanie Shawn - Teasing Destiny
It really doesn’t matter which book I put up here, I love everything these ladies write. (Melanie and Shawn are sisters that put their names together to create one author.) They have so many different series, but read one and you’ll likely encounter some of their characters from another series in little cameo roles. I love that. While their Hope Falls series is one of my favorites, I picked Teasing Destiny, the first book in the Wishing Well, Texas series, because I began running again after being inspired by some of the female heroines in this series. Who knew that romance books could make you want to exercise again just by reading about other characters who loved to run? One thing I would caution you, these ladies are writing so much that their website is often not up to date. So, for example, the website lists this series as having three books, there are actually eight released so far.

3. Sally Thorne - The Hating Game
A friend gifted this book to me when she heard I was diving back into the genre a few summers ago. It is the perfect enemies-to-lovers story. The idea that this was Sally’s first book is mind boggling to me. I haven’t read her second book yet, but I can’t wait to read it or see the movie adaption of this book. The book revolves around the relationship between Lucy and Joshua, forced to share an office and compete for a job. Whomever wins will be the other’s boss. They’ve never gotten along, but now there is a lot more on the line. Excellent writing. 

 
2. Casey McQuiston - Red, White, and Royal Blue
I read this book on vacation this summer and fell in love with the characters. Alex is the first son of the President. Prince Henry is his nemesis from England. After a misunderstanding while across the pond threatens to blow up into a social media nightmare for both countries, a fake friendship between the two men is created to smooth these rough Atlantic waters. Alex and Henry realize they each understand the unique position the other is in and romance begins to blossom. This is unbelievably Casey’s first book and I cannot wait to read more.
1. Lucy Score and Claire Kingsley - The Bootleg Springs series
I wrote an entire blog post about my love of this series a few weeks back. You can find it HERE. Luckily for you fine folks, the final book in the series, Highball Rush, is out now so you won’t be tortured with a wait like I have been. The first book in the series was Whiskey Chaser. That being said, I’ve read everything Lucy and Claire have written - together and separately. To give you a starting point, try Rock Bottom Girl by Lucy or the Miles Family series from Claire. SOOOO AMAZING.

*****

See? I totally cheated. Far more than ten books, but it’s a start. My list has a bias, of course. I read contemporary romance almost exclusively. There are amazing books out there in historical fiction - Courtney Milan, Beverly Jenkins, Sarah Maclean, Alyssa Cole. There are fantasy books, paranormal romances, crime/ thrillers, and more. But if you need a recommendation in contemporary, I’m your girl. 

How about you? Do you have a romance suggestion for me? If so, please share! And romance or not, pick up a great book from an independent book store this week if you can. Places like Hartfield Book Co. are vital parts of their community and I love everything they represent. 

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