I’m not telling you what to do, but I am strongly encouraging certain behavior. Okay, fine, yeah, I’m telling you what to do. Do it.
What should you do? Read some romance novels.
I used to dodge these things like they were being not-adorable and I was Bailey. That sentence is atrocious, dear God; I used to go out of my way not to read them, that was the point I was trying to make. I thought they were cheesy and poorly-written and “not real literature” and whatever other stereotype has ever existed for the quality of these books. I’d also assumed that they were not feminist, that they showed women being attracted to nightmare humans, and that they were all basically Ms. Perky from Ten Things I Hate About You and I would die of embarrassment if I were ever caught even walking through the section of the bookstore on my way to Serious, Real Books. These things were for sad, lonely, misguided women, and I was… okay fine I was and am all of those things (depression!) but I had Standards, or something.
You can and should note that during this I was still extremely into fantasy and into science fiction which are both genre fiction and yet those didn’t get my snobby treatment and you would be correct and then you would say “is that because of internalized misogyny?” and yes, yes it was. Thanks for playing the part of Question Asker for this paragraph, reader, I appreciate you a lot, and the last few sentences went entirely off the rails.
ANYWAY, I’ve got some specific suggestions to make you join me in my trash habits. Minus the Bridgerton books, these are all contemporary romances, and maybe I’ll do one of historical romances too, idk. Yeah, I should. Hold me to it, readership, would you?
Hey, wanna be cool as heck and know what’s gonna happen on the new show that Shonda Rimes made for Netflix? Of course you do. So go read Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels and you can be cool like me. Or something.
As it was before, is now, and ever shall be, books without end. Start with The Duke and I if you wanna begin where you “should” and then read Romancing Mr. Bridgerton if you love Penelope as much as I do which you should if you have good opinions.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
This is also going to make it to the big screen, and honestly, that doesn’t even matter, because this book is so good it could exist in its one state forever and ever and just be perfection. This is the best enemies-to-lovers romance I’ve ever read and yeah that includes like Much Ado About Nothing fight me I ain’t scared. Josh and Lucy are both assistants to the co-CEOs of a publishing house that exists as a result of a merger, and as I’m typing it, none of that matters that much. They could be assistants to co-CEOs of the company that makes Henry Cavill’s wig for The Witcher and it wouldn’t affect the story and that’s a good thing. You’re so wrapped up in these two flawed humans with very human reactions and emotions and worries that you realize you’ve read several hundred pages and have no idea what city or country they’re in, and that’s great. This book is first-person present via Lucy, and I know that’ll bug some people, but like, get over it, or something, idk, just please read this book it is so good.
Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
Hi hello don’t talk to me about how good this one is or I’ll start crying. As you may know (HA) I didn’t particularly like the end of Game of Thrones and that goes double for Jaime’s plot and this book borderline fixed that for me. This is April and Marcus’ story but it is also the story of anyone who has ever read or written fan fiction or wanted to fix what is technically canon.
The leads met online in a fanfiction forum where they write about their favorite books that have been made into a show. April is a soil scientist, and Marcus… well, Marcus is on the show that he’s writing fanfic about. DUN DUN DUNNNN. April posts a picture of herself doing cosplay because she’s trying to fuse her fanfiction life and her “real” life a bit more, and because she’s plus-size, she gets destroyed online because people are horrible. Marcus sees this, someone challenges him to ask her on a date, and he does. When they meet, he discovers that she’s his best friend in the fanfic community, but she doesn’t know this.
I KNOW, RIGHT? Read this book now. It does such a good job with the idea of found family, and loving yourself, and even if you’re not involved in reading or writing fanfiction, you’ll still love this beautifully written book. And if you are? Boy howdy is this a delight and a half. Also if you just wanna get a little more Thrones angst out of the way, this is the way to do it.
Also in general, read fanfiction? It’s great? Like some isn’t, okay, but that goes for everything? I dove in after asking the internet “other people think Jaime and Brienne need to get married, right?” and the internet said “duh” and I was better for it.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
This is a romance that is also a book about writing, and a book about women’s writing, and it has the honor of making me genuinely laugh out loud, which almost never happens when I read (not that I don’t find things funny, I just very rarely vocalize a laugh, I’m dead inside, don’t worry about it). This is a story about January and Gus, who met in college in a writing class, and then meet again when they’re staying in houses across from each other at a beach. Gus writes **serious literary fiction** about horrible things or whatever and January has written a series of successful romance novels with happy endings. I’d probably read both of their stuff.
And this isn’t a spoiler, so I can share my favorite line in the book that isn’t a spoiler. They’re reintroduced in what might be my favorite meet-cute/meet-angry? and after Gus asks January “which do you find more fascinating to write: love-struck pirates or love-struck werewolves?” January replies with “what’s it like writing Hemingway circle-jerk fan fiction? Do you know all your readers by name?” and I don’t know how to express the joy I felt at this line because I’ll never write anything that deliciously cutting. I cannot hope to match it and I’m okay with that – reading this line was like watching someone speed-debone a fish, and the whole book is like that PLUS you get to eat a delicious meal. I’m shit with words; please just read this book.
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
Kate Clayborn is a menace and a goddess and her work makes me so upset because it is everything about writing that I cannot do and it makes me envious that I can’t do it and it makes me happy that at least someone can. She’s an artist, that’s all there is to it, and I can whole-heartedly recommend her romance trilogy The Luck of the Draw (three best friends win the lottery in a life-changing but not life-ruining amount and the books follow what each does with the money).
But that’s not this book: this book is somehow even BETTER than those books, and I am a disaster even trying to convey how good the writing is it’s like experiencing your favorite comfort movie for the first time, it’s like iced coffee on the first good day of spring, it’s how it feels to chew Five gum or something idk idk please just read it.
This is a book about Reid and Meg, and they meet when Reid and his fiancée hire Meg to do the calligraphy and art for their wedding invitations and program. (I could not remember the word “calligraphy” and just had to Google “fancy letters synonym” why do y’all read this blog). The wedding is called off before it happens for incompatibility reasons, but not before Meg subtly highlights the letters M-I-S-T-A-K-E in their wedding program. Reid notices, and goes to meet with her about it. I. KNOW. What a beginning. They are both reserved sweethearts who are trying very hard to figure out what the future looks like (Meg’s career is taking off, Reid doesn’t want to live in New York City anymore) and I don’t know how to explain how much of a hug this book is. It’s a long visit from a friend you haven’t seen in a while and all the stories and your friend is doing well and then you both go to sleep and then wake up and go to the most delicious brunch. My metaphors need work; this book needs no corrections it is perfect please read it.
Well Met by Jen DeLuca
Did you know you needed a romance novel set at a Renaissance Faire? Now you do! Because you need this book! It is so great! So! Great!
This book is about Emily and Simon. After a breakup, Emily recently moved into her sister’s house to help her sister out with her teenage niece and other household stuff after her sister got into a car accident. Her niece wants to do the summer Renaissance Faire, but to be able to do it, she needs an adult to volunteer with her. Emily shows up and meets Simon, who is running Faire and whom she immediately dubs the “RenFaire Killjoy.” He is bananas uptight, and understandably so – Faire was started by his brother, who passed away several years before the summer of the book’s plot. He doesn’t like things to change, and Emily is a fixer, so they fight constantly and it’s just really, really good. Simon dresses as a pirate for the Faire itself, and is flirty and hilarious towards Emily in-character, and the author is just very talented at weaving all these threads of emotion together and not letting any of them fall. It’s also just so flippin’ cute, the whole thing.
There’s a sequel that got released last year and a third book coming, and you’ll see why as you read: the supporting cast just begs for their own books and then you get them. Everything is adorable and nothing hurts and if these books don’t make you want to go become extremely dusty and warm at a local Renaissance Faire while you watch some jousts and buy a handbag I don’t know what to say other than you’re wrong. Huzzah.
I’m definitely forgetting some books because it’s impossible that I wouldn’t, so forgive me on that front in advance and if you’re like “but what about ____?!” YEP YOU’RE RIGHT I’M SORRY THAT BOOK IS ALSO GOOD.
Plus, I will probably need to do a second post about the historical romance books I read and their authors (Rose Lerner! Lisa Kleypas! Courtney Milan! Tessa Dare! Sarah MacLean! Cat Sebastian!) and just how many of them are former lawyers. It is bananas, it’s like all of them, they’re all lawyers, it’s a riot.
Please read romance novels. They are so good and they do not hurt you and if they do they’re very sorry and they apologize well. If you need specifics come to me and I will help you find your book happily ever after.