Romance Evangelism

I want to convince my book club to read a romance novel.

My book club–all women–was founded by engineers. Even the most right-brained of us has spent at least some time in a left-brained field–one is a former geologist, one a tech writer-turned-stay-at-home-mom, another a former tech & business journalist.

They’re hard-headed and thoroughly non-girly, and hot pink and gold script don’t come naturally to them.

I’ve taken this as a personal challenge.

This month, I “bring picks.” I’ll show up with 3-5 choices of books, and we’ll vote to read one of them. Majority rules, but lobbying is allowed and encouraged, and sometimes, Survivor-style, we form alliances.

I want to pick five books that are so good that no matter which one they read, they’ll come back for more romance. I also want the choices to reflect a range of styles and subgenres so that the lobbying and voting process will be an education about the variety in romance.

Here are my preliminary choices:

Lisa Kleypas’s Blue-Eyed Devil — I wanted to include at least one serious contemporary. Nora Roberts was an option, but I liked the idea of bringing in some names that might be less familiar to mainstream readers. I listened to Blue-Eyed Devil on Audible, and spent most of several days lying on my back, raptly soaking up Renee Raudman’s honeyed tones.

Mary Balogh’s Slightly Married — When I read this book, I still wasn’t jaded to the notion of a marriage of convenience. I’ve since written my own marriage-of-convenience book, and nothing jades one faster than trying to write around a genre cliche. Still, I don’t think any intro to romance can do without Mary Balogh, and this is my favorite series of hers, and this is the first in the series.

Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me — I can still picture Minnie eating that doughnut under Cal’s watchful gaze, with more vividness than any single romantic episode in my (pre-marriage) life. It proves that it is possible to drool with simultaneous lust and gluttony.

Julia Quinn’s What Happens in London — It was a tough call between this and The Duke and I (because who can resist those Bridgertons?). I think ultimately it came down to the fact that I just really loved Olivia and Harry. And, not to harp on the whole watchful gaze thing, but yeah, OK, I dug all the peeking out windows stuff.

Suzanne Brockmann’s The Unsung Hero — Everyone’s got at least one personal plot sweet spot, and one of my mine is the unconsummated high-school love revisited. (Do not read anything into this. I am grateful for the unconsummated nature of each and every one of my high school loves.) I also love how SB packs her books with romantic subplots that are often just as good as the romantic main plot. I like to say that I want to write romance because of (among other things) audiobooks that have prompted me to issue dirty-talk encouragement to the characters (yes, aloud, and no, there’s no one else in the car). Mallory and David were the first characters to win this honor.

What’s missing is a sure-to-please paranormal. I was thinking about Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten, but I also recently loved both Jessica Andersen’s Nightkeepers and Erin Quinn’s Haunting Beauty.

Please let me know if you’ve got a good suggestion for a paranormal (and why), and/or what your top five sell-the-book-club books would be!