Romance Novels: Your List

Yes, I’ve been absent. Things happened and I’m moving to New Jersey next week instead of in December. Do you know how long it takes to clean out a house this size that has everything I’ve ever owned for sixty-three years? There were a couple thousand books alone to get rid of. (That’s not counting the thirty-six bankers’ boxes of books I’m keeping.) The yarn, the fabric, the clothes (Goodwill got very lucky). Much easier to let go of: furniture. Good think Lani and Alastair like Mission. Also ongoing: The McDaniel classes where I lucked out and got really talented students who are tearing up the place. Which brings us to you.

I think I want to revise the reading list for 521 (beginning class) before I teach it again in January. So I need one romance novel in each of the following genres:

Historical ROMANCE
Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE)
Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE)
YA ROMANCE
Paranormal ROMANCE
Women’s Fiction

I have some vague ideas, but I need more to draw on. So I’m asking for your list, the ONE novel you would recommend in each category. If you’re not familiar with that sub-genre, just skip it.

And thank you very much.

Edited to add:
They have to be romance novels.

178 thoughts on “Romance Novels: Your List

  1. I only feel qualified to comment on the Paranormal (although I would like to say I learned a lot from all of the books you chose, and I thought Lord of Scoundrels was an excellent choice for many reasons — it’s not a “classic” historical, but had lovely comparison points to many of the other novels, as well as being a really fun book).

    Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely (YA) was good on several levels: good comparison points to the Paranormal, strong romantic element, and it high-lighted a lot of the problems non-paranormal fans have with paranormal stories.

    I think you could get as good results from “Beauty” by Robin McKinley. It’s also in first person POV, has paranormal elements, community, and a strong romance center. IIRC, the political aspect isn’t very strong, but it is still a story about power.

    1. Historical ROMANCE – I love Georgette Heyer, but she’s been mentioned several times. I haven’t seen Anya Seton mentioned – I love all of her historical books, but most especially ‘Katherine’. Decades after reading it, I’m still half in love with John of Gaunt.

      I don’t know where this would fit in your categories – I hope the settings aren’t now so far in the past that they’d be considered ‘historical’! – but Mary Stewart wrote the most lyrical prose I think I’ve ever read. Her settings were so beautifully described that I always felt I had been there myself and could describe for you in great detail exactly what a location I had never visited looked like. My favorite – although it’s a hard choice! – is ‘The Ivy Tree’, which has the added bonus of being able to discuss the reasons sections of the book were removed from the American printing.

      And you don’t have a section for sci-fi romance (future romance?) but Lois McMaster Bujold’s ‘Shards of Honor’. I love Miles to death, but however amusing and touching ‘A Civil Campaign’ may have been it can’t compare to ‘Shards of Honor’ – which has the added benefit of being essentially a stand-alone and so easier to deal with in a teaching situation.

      Again, I don’t know into which category this would fit – Sarah Addison Allen. Anything she’s written – I read ‘Garden Spells’ and immediately went out and devoured all her other books and I’m impatiently awaiting her new book.

      1. I’m not sure if this is a plus or a minus in a teaching situation, but as engrossing as “Shards of Honor” is, the plot is a mess compared to “Barrayar”, which completes Cordelia’s character arc. Lois matured a lot as a writer in between the first 3 (“Ethan of Athos”, “Warrior’s Apprentice”, “Shards of Honor”) and her later works.

  2. LOL, sorry, realized I goofed that up. A lot of paranormal that I read is also YA. I’m not qualified to talk about straight YA romance. And I guess I really am not qualified to talk about paranormal romance either — I’ve only enjoyed a few of the books I’ve dipped into: Dogs & Goddesses, MaryJanice Davidson’s Dead and . . . series, the Sookie Stackhouse vampire, the series that started with Enchanted, Inc (by Shanna Swendson). One problem with paranormal romance is that the story either ends when the romance is resolved into a mating pair (and we never get to know the heroine/hero deeply), or the romance is dragged on and on throughout five or six books in the series with no resolution possible until the publisher says, “OK, this is your last book in this series — let’s catch that man or cut bait.”

    1. I’m glad to see another fan of Swendson’s Enchanted Inc. books, so glad she finally released the last two books in the series. They’re a little hard to categorize though, paranormal chick lit maybe? And I don’t think the romance is strong enough for a class on it.

      1. (-: I didn’t know there were two! I saw she’d just released one out on e-format. I think you are right — the romance is very, very tame and Does Not Move. She’s too busy getting her act together in other ways. But, it was such a cute idea! And she writes briskly. (IIRC)

  3. For the historical: Flowers from the Storm or The Prince of Midnight or Sieze the Fire or For My Lady’s Heart or My Sweet Folly by Laura Kinsale. Who is not writing enough these days.

  4. May i suggest one of Elizabeth Hunter’s Elemental Mysteries (A Hidden Fire, This Same Earth, The Force of Wind, and A Fall of Water) for the paranormal category. For contemporary romantic comedy, your own Bet Me is still a favorite of mine, there is also Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor series. For women’s fiction, i loved Susana Kearsley’s Winter Sea.

  5. For historicals I’m too torn to pick one (sorry); Judith Ivory’s The Proposition or My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway would be my top picks since you’ve already used Loretta Chase.

    I’ll put Jayne Ann Krentz’s All Night Long on the list for romantic suspense contenders.

    For romantic comedy Linda Howard’s To Die For is one my favorites, and it’s so radically different from her usual stuff that it’s interesting for that reason too.

    In YA I second Robin McKinley’s Beauty as a recommendation, and not just because I lust after that magic library. But Cameron Dokey has also written some really interesting YA fairy tales; her book Sunlight and Shadow is a fascinating retelling of The Magic Flute I wish more people would read.

    I give it to Heart Dance by Robin D. Owens in the paranormal category.

    I’ll leave women’s fiction to folks who know that category better.

    1. All Night Long besides being fabulously wonderful, offers a great opportunity to discuss alpha versus beta versus gamma heroes. If a gamma is an alpha on valium, where you keep the competence and protectiveness but lose the arrogance of the traditional alpha.

  6. Historical: “The Reluctant Widow” by Georgette Heyer
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense: “Midnight in Ruby Bayou” by Elizabeth Lowell
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy: “To Die For” by Linda Howard
    Paranormal: “Slave to Sensation” by Nalini Singh

  7. Historical: Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels OR Sherry Thomas, His at Night OR Lisa Kleypas, Mine until Midnight OR Stephanie Laurens, Devil’s Bride

    Paranormal: Robin McKinley, Sunshine OR Elizabeth Vaughn, Warprize OR Meljean Brook, Riveted OR Ilona Andrews, Bayou Moon

    YA: Tammara Webber, Easy OR Tammara Webber, Good For You

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy: Jill Mansell, Millie’s Fling OR Jill Mansell, Perfect Timing

    I am too chicken for suspense. Sorry! If you want suggestions for female heroine cozy mysteries, I’m all over it.

    What is Women’s Fiction?

    1. Women’s fiction is fiction that follows a woman’s journey, and doesn’t necessarily have a strong romance at the center of the book (otherwise, it would be categorized as a romance). It might have no romance at all. Friendship books, sister books, that sort of thing. There’s a connotation that it’s either not “arty” enough or too woman-centered to be in the mainstream fiction bookshelves, but . . . . That’s a matter of taste.

      How to Bake A Perfect Life was excellent, and there are many other examples. I think Divine Secrets of the Yaya Sisterhood, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe (or really, anything by Fannie Flagg), possibly The Secret Lives of Bees (but maybe that should be YA) are all women’s fiction.

    2. I was going to recommend Riveted too. It’s so good. It’s kind of a sub-sub-genre though. It’s steampunk – there are no paranormal elements that I can think of.

      Zoe Archer’s Warrior is also steampunk, and it has paranormal elements and it’s good too.

      1. I have to admit, I have a lot of trouble with paranormal vs. paranormal romance vs. preternatural vs. urban fantasy vs. fantasy vs. alternate history vs. alternate universe.

        At this point, my criteria has become that if there are creatures that have been considered preternatural – vampires, zombies, ghosts – regardless of origin story, I can call it paranormal. I get that doesn’t work for everyone, but – yeah.

        1. I have the same trouble. But I think it’s important for crossover fans. Some like certain elements. To tell you the truth, I’m not a huge romance fan. But I’m a huge fan of teh funny, and I love well-drawn characters. So, I will read in any genre as long as I’m promised funny and really good characters. Some people love historicals, and will cross over to fantasy if it involves time travel with accurate research and development (-:.

          But if you can’t suspend your disbelief in the paranormal direction, then it makes sense to throw all that stuff into the same category and avoid it . . . .

          I think there’s a higher chance of quirk with something labeled paranormal, but I still read the reviews and descriptions quite carefully to give myself a better chance of getting a good book.

  8. For historical, I have loved Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series. It starts with a Night To Remember. Otherwise, Elosia James’ Desparate duchess series, first one is Desparate Duchess.

    Comtemporay Rom. Suspense: I’d probably go with Christina Dodd’s Fortune Hunter series. Starts with Trouble in High Heels.

    Contempory Rom. Comedy: I’m guessing we’re not allowed to pick you, right? Is SEP out too? If so, I really like Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor Series. Simply Irresistible is the first book but Head Over Heels is probably my favorite so far. I also considered Rachel Gibson, Elizabeth Bevarly, Sandra Hill, or Kristen Higgins, who may also be okay in the Women’s fiction category.

    That’s all I really have. YA – Judy Blume too old to use?

  9. historical: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean or Slightly Tempted by Mary Balogh

    romantic suspense: Don’t Tell by Karen Rose or The Ideal Man by Julie Garwood

    romantic comedy: Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins or Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts

    paranormal: Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost or Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

    YA: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

    1. I completely second Allison’s suggestions for historical. Both of those books were a great read. If I had to, I’d tip the scales towards Sarah MacLean.

  10. Historical Romance – Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas , Into The Wilderness by Sara Donati, The Windflower by Laura London
    Paranormal Romance – Oracle’s Moon by Ilona Andrews, Bewitching by Jill Barnett
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense – Dark Paradise by Tami Hoag, Nightfall by Anne Stuart, Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy – if I can’t use Jennifer Crusie, there’s To Die For by Linda Howard.
    YA Romance – Beauty by Robin Mckinley or Stardust by Neil Gaiman
    Women’s Fiction – Lady Luck’s Map of Vegas by Barbara Samuel

    1. Oh, The Windflower. Yeah.

      Isn’t Oracle’s Moon part of Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series? The Andrews book with Moon in the title is Bayou Moon.

      1. You’re right. My mistake. In my defense, I’m listening to Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews and reading Lord’s Fall by Thea Harrison. I love both authors and highly recommend the Kate Daniels series by Andrews and the Elder race series by Harrison. Oracle’s Moon is by Thea Harrison (So good!) and Bayou Moon (Also good!) is by Ilona Andrews. I need coffee.

        1. well, I pretty much only caught it because I was waffling between the two – Oracle’s Moon and Bayou Moon – myself, and had initially listed Bayou Moon by Thea Harrison. We broke our coffee squasher and I am on my 4th cup of earl grey and while it is delicious, it does not help.

          1. Now I see I was only supposed to put one in each category. I was thinking they would be narrowed down to one. In several categories I put more than one. More than two. Did I mention I needed coffee?

  11. For YA I’d recommend The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I’m not sure if it’s pure romance enough (it feels more literary than genre), but it’s an irreverent and honest story that deals with grief and sickness and has a first love story at its center. It also does a good job of treating teenagers as different than adults, without being afraid to show that teenagers can occasionally be more mature than adults. The other, non-romantic relationships in the book are also really strong.

    Other good YA: Stay by Deb Caletti. It’s about a girl getting out of a relationship that turned stalker-y. So you have chapters alternating, some showing how she ended up in the first relationship and some showing her falling for a nice guy in a new town as she tries to start over. More creepy because pretty much all of the characters (even the old boyfriend) feel real and sympathetic. It’s not the first thing I’d think of when I think of YA romance, but it’s a great book that deals with the grey area between love and need and obsession, which might be particularly interesting when you think of some of the alpha-hero tropes and dominant/submissive themes you sometimes see in adult romances.

    Also, Flipped. This is very young love (they’re in 8th grade when it ends), but it’s charming and funny, with alternating first person chapters from the hero and heroine’s perspective. It shows the progression from liking someone for who you think they are, to realizing who they are, to realizing something about yourself based on you really seeing them for the first time, to actually liking them for who they truly are. Again, probably not the most straightforward example of YA romance, but I read it when I was in middle school, and it has the humor, chemistry, character arc, and the glow-y optimistic ending that prepped me to end up an enthusiastic romance reader.

    Oh, also Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. It’s a Cinderella re-telling. The Prince doesn’t spend much time on-stage (probably only a third of the book), so it’s mostly carried by the fact that Ella is freaking awesome, but the Prince is just such a good guy when he’s there, and it’s interesting how Levine solves some of the story problems in the traditional Cinderella story while still keeping the good stuff.

    All good love stories, but I’m not sure what tone you’re looking for.

  12. Not sure if others would agree with my categorization but

    Historical ROMANCE: any Georgette, but my favorite is Venetia (my husband votes for False Colors)
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE) Kerry Greenwood Earthly Delights – well, there is a romance in this one,anyway, though I guess the series is more straight mystery. Darn, I bet this one isn’t romantic enough, but it is SO good.
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE) you are my go to on this one, outside yours, there aren’t any I am crazy about
    YA ROMANCE Does A Wrinkle In Time count? It’s been a long time since I read any, and much of what I read was not uhm…. good.
    Paranormal ROMANCE One of Jayne Anne Krentz’s Arcane novels “White Lies” is contemporary or (if you let yourself use your friends’ books) “A Little Night Magic” If it doesn’t have to be contemporary, Judith Merkle Riley “Oracle Glass”
    Women’s Fiction Kathleen Gilles Seidel “Keep Your Mouth Shut And Wear Beige”

    Not sure my suggestions are helpful, but I love to be surveyed. Reading other people’s suggestions is so fun too. And good for the “to read” list.

  13. For historical, I highly recommend Patricia Veryan’s Golden Chronicles series set in England after the battle of Culloden and the flight of the Jacobite supporters. Very romantic and you will absolutely love each couple.
    Paranormal: Aphrodite’s Kiss by Julie Kenner
    Comedy/suspense: Gone with a handsomer Man by Michael Lee West
    YA: Abandon by Meg Cabot. Could give Twilight a run for its money.

  14. Cont. Rom. Suspense: Any of Anne Stuart’s Ice series. I especially loved Fire and Ice.

    Cont. Rom Comedy: Tawna Fenske’s books. Linda Grimes In A Fix was hysterical but it had a happily for now, not a happy ever after so I think that disqualifies it.

    Paranormal romance: Gift of Ghosts or Gift of Thought by Sarah Wynde

    Women’s fiction: Dolci di Love by Sarah-Kate Lynch or Provence Cure For the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher or The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O’Neal or The Love Goddess Cooking’ School by Melissa Senate

  15. Historical ROMANCE: Heyer – either Devil’s Cub or Frederica (sorry, I just can’t choose between those two).

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE): JD Robb – Origin in Death. Problem here is that while this is my favorite, it’s also pretty far into the series. I’m not a huge fan of the first one, Naked in Death (and it is really not for the squeamish). If you want stand alone for this, then Nora Roberts’ Birthright. I noticed Krentz’s All Night Long already has a couple of votes; I love that one too.

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE): Faking It. But I assume you mean books not written by you, so in that case SEP’s Breathing Room.

    Paranormal ROMANCE: Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten. Technically this is the first book of her Otherworld series, but it was intended to be a stand alone when it was published, so it can be read that way if the class requires it. Honestly, I consider this urban fantasy, but the romance is very strong, so I’m listing it anyway.

    1. Just remembered: Meg Cabot for YA. It’s been a few years since I read her stuff (not since high school, really), but I remember really enjoying it. My favorites were her Mediator series, but she wrote several YA romance stand alone novels. The only YA I currently read is Kelley Armstrong, but to get the full impact of those you have to read the whole trilogy.

      1. Some of Meg Cabot’s stuff is great (strong voice, likable characters, funny situations, real emotions), but some of her books after she got really popular felt a little sloppy. But even sloppy they were fun.

  16. Historical ROMANCE
    I’m liking Joanna Bourne’s “The Forbidden Rose” here. Something of a newcomer, but I think her prose and turns of phrase are delicious.
    Although I think you would be remiss not to have a straight up London ton Regency, I hesitate to call out one.

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE)
    I’m a big Suz Brockmann fan for the suspense and interleaved points of view, and nominate Dark of Night as a more recent favorite (although I read Into the storm 4 times in quick succession, there’s a serial killer plot in it that I wouldn’t ever make required reading), although DoN could be spoilerish for folks who haven’t read the previous dozen in the series.

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE)
    Go with one of your own. Charlie All Night for a shorter one ahead of its time and still relevant, WTT Faking It or Bet Me depending on what point you want to make.

    YA ROMANCE: out of the loop, no rec.

    Paranormal ROMANCE:
    My current fav is Nalini Singh. I think she nails the trifecta of world-building (near future fiction/paranormal elements), character growth, and romance. Kiss of Snow if you want recent, otherwise the first of the shapeshifter/psy series Slave to Sensation.
    (for non-futuristic, Virginia Kantra’s Sea Witch)

    Women’s Fiction: no book rec. watch The Good Wife, maybe.

    1. If you don’t want to use tour books (you should), I can pile on the LH “To Die For”, if only for the heroine’s erogenous zones. It’s first person, which I’d never realized would put people off their feed until I started reading reviews for this book. I recently cleared it half the books that moved coast to coast with me and outside her McKenzie series (which I love except for the “all the ladies are virgins, all the men are not” prerequisite) only To Die For and a short story set in a snowed in cabin made my keeper shelf.

      1. Nuts. “tour books = your books” on autouncorrect. If the substitution was less confusing I wouldn’t burn a comment on the correction, but tour makes no sense. Posted from phone, obviously.

  17. For historical romance, you can’t go wrong with Georgette Heyer. I’d go for These Old Shades or Regency Buck, myself. Probably Regency Buck, actually, as it includes real historical figures as main characters.

    For the YA, I’m having a hard time thinking of books that are just romance, and not also thrillers/paranormal/dystopian/etc. Although Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare is kind of YA/historical/romance, and I remember it as being a great book. To be fair, I haven’t read it in about ten years, so I could be completely wrong. Empress of the World by Sara Ryan is one of the few YA romances I can come up with, but it’s about two young lesbians and I don’t know if you’re addressing non-heterosexual romance novels in the course. Meg Cabot does some great YA fiction in the sort-of-real world with elements of romance, as well. And Gail Carson Levine does great YA fantasy-romance. Her fairytale retellings (Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, Cinderellis and the Glass Hill) are short and numerous, and then there are the actual novels like Ella Enchanted. Which was the first book I can remember reading solidly and not wanting to take breaks from. I read it through recess and lunch and tried to read it through class, which did not go over well. Even though the teacher was the person who gave it to me.

    Ember by Bettie Sharpe might work for Paranormal Romance, but it’s more fantasy.

    Women’s fiction is something that puzzles me–is it stuff written by women, or stuff written for women? Or about women? Normally I’d use what other people have recommended as a guide, but I don’t know any of the books other people have mentioned. Obviously, I have a lot of homework to do. I’m going to go with the idea that a memoir by a female author probably can be categorized as women’s fiction and say Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.

  18. Historical ROMANCE – Joanna Bourne, either The Spymaster’s Lady or My Lord and Spymaster. Joanna Bourne is that extra step above every other writer of historical romance (or indeed romances generally) which I would have thought makes her ideal to use for teaching. You could pick any passage and analyse it to show how the author has used dialogue to reveal character and relationships AND move the story forward, show not tell, reveal situation without an info-dump of description etc.etc. – and yet her books are excellent to read for fun. Or, if you need something simpler, Georgette Heyer (another master of the craft): The Unknown Ajax (clever and amusing, easy to get into) or The Reluctant Widow (ditto).

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE) – the only modern ones I know, but they’re excellent, are Suzanne Brockmann especially the Troubleshooters. For a very good one which can be read alone: Force of Nature, which features one of her favourite characters FBI agent Jules, and would also show the students that romance isn’t exclusively heterosexual! If you want something less action-packed, almost any by Mary Stewart: Madam, Will You Talk? is excellent.

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE) – can’t improve on yours! Perhaps early Stephanie Plum (later ones not good enough).

    YA ROMANCE – can’t comment.
    Paranormal ROMANCE – oh no…

    Women’s Fiction – Not sure I read this category. (Or understand what it is, really.) If they’re not romances, they’re mysteries and not particularly targeted at women. Perhaps Joanna Bourne, again? Or Mary Stewart? Looked back at some other responses and Susanna Kearsley rang a good bell: The Rose Garden. But I hadn’t thought of it as a “woman’s book”. Don’t like that terminology!

  19. I’m English, an editor, and knowledgeable about history: so a special plea – make your historical romance by an author who gets the history and the language right. Not that I think Regencies should be cod Jane Austen, but most of them are written in 21st century American, with features such as porch swings, and it seriously doesn’t work! (I want to tell them all to write contemporaries or American historical romance instead.) So with that off my chest:

    Historical: authors I’d go for would be Georgette Heyer (‘The Grand Sophy’ is my absolute favourite), Mary Balogh (‘Simply Dangerous’), Jo Beverly (‘Devilish’), Loretta Chase (‘Miss Wonderful’) or Elizabeth Peters ‘Crocodile on the Sandbank’.
    Suspense: Nora Roberts, ‘Birthright’.
    Comedy: ‘Bet Me’; or else SEP, ‘Breathing Room’ or Katie Fforde ‘Living Dangerously’.
    Paranormal: I don’t read much of this; best I know is Susan Carroll ‘The Bride Finder’
    Women’s: (ditto) Barbara Delinsky ‘For My Daughters’

    1. Porch swings in British historicals? Jeez Louise. I would have thought that mistakes that bad wouldn’t make it past an editor. When details are that far off I can’t suspend my disbelief. What’s the wold coming to these days? [Totally not sarcasm, I’m a curmudgeon in a relatively young body.]

      1. I so hear what you’re saying! And I can’t suspend my disbelief if the attitudes are 21st century American, either. So when a prospective wife of Henry VIII just wants to make her own decisions about who she marries … no way.

        The Eye of Osiris, a Dr. Thorndyke mystery, is actually also a romance, a very sweet and subtle one. It was written in 1911 so the language and the humor is real, not recreated.

        Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander is Paranormal Historical. Best ever.

        Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief trilogy is YA fantasy/suspense, but the second book is one of the strongest romance / love stories I’ve ever read

        1. I once read a medieval romance where the heroine, who’d been living rough in the woods all summer, turns down pear tart as a matter of principle. And there goes the book sailing across the room….
          There are a fair number of Regencies that I read as fantasy – the ton is there as a world structure, but the rules are wavey, at best.

        2. There’s no doubt that Outlander is a great book and worthy of the class, but as a student in the class, I can tell you it’s too darn long to read in such a short period of time with all the other work Jenny has us doing! (Not that it isn’t great work to do, Jenny…it is! Just have to keep page count in the back of your mind!)

  20. Man, where were you when I was taking lit classes? Incorporating romance novels into education is fantastic!

    Historical ROMANCE: Mary Jo Putney’s RIVER OF FIRE (I love her entire Fallen Angels series, but since you said just one, this one gets my vote for its look into the Pre-Raphaelite movement)

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE): Pamela Clare’s EXTREME EXPOSURE (again, a series — Clare is my go-to in the suspense genre)

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE): BET ME by some gal named Jennifer Crusie (I re-read all of your books at least once every 2 years), or, if you don’t want to toot your own horn, DEEP WATERS by Jayne Ann Krentz (crooked real estate deals, an alien cult, a snarky parrot, and seduction vegetarian cook-offs, what more could you ask for? *g*)

    YA ROMANCE: (skipping)

    Paranormal ROMANCE: This one’s a toughie, since the market is so saturated…but for quality, I’d go with Kelly Armstrong’s BITTEN (which I see has been recommended by others as well)

    Women’s Fiction: Julia Gregson’s EAST OF THE SUN

    Good luck with the move!

    JP

  21. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is
    Paranormal Romance Ilona Andrew’s Bayou Moon
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense Jayne Ann Krentz Family Man
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy Agnes and the Hitman, my fav!!!
    YA Romance Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine although I asked my 14 year old about YA Romance and she said Meg Cabot

  22. Historical ROMANCE Devil in Winter (Wallflowers, #3), Lisa Kleypas
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE) Breaking Point (I-Team, #5), Pamela
    Clare
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE) if not yours, then Victoria Dahl’s Talk Me Down
    Paranormal ROMANCE- Dragon Bound, Thea Harrison
    Women’s Fiction- I still don’t know that that is, are those the books with fuzzy landscapes as covers?

  23. A book I just read would fall into YA and paranormal. It’s Angelfall by Susan Ee. It’s so well done. It’s not your standard romance but I found the growing relationship between Penryn & Raffe to be very romantic.

    Historical – Georgette Heyer. Any of the ones already recomended.
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy – Rumble on the Bayou by Jana DeLeon

  24. Historical Romance: Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
    – Great book that places the focus on two individuals who aren’t in the nobility. She’s a writer and he’s the proud owner of the most successful gambling hell in Town. And the writing it was great. After reading so much about the nobility, it was wonderful to find a story focusing on other aspects of that time period.

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense: The Search by Iris Johansen
    – This book is one of my all time favorites! The female protagonist is a Search and Rescue expert and her relationship with her dog, Monty is wonderful. And the romance is great. It’s consistent throughout. Really good book.

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy: Ain’t She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
    – I’m assuming here you want to veer away from your own work, which is epic in its own right. And I love everything that SEP’s done, but I think Ain’t She Sweet does some amazing work showing the growth of the female protagonist and how a protagonist can have unlikeable qualities in the beginning and change toward the end.

    Paranormal Romance: Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night by Kresley Cole
    – This is actually book three of her Immortals After Dark series, but each book can stand on its own and be read out of order without having to read the previous books. The male protagonist is a werewolf whose mate died and he, along with other paranormal creatures including the witch female protagonist, are participating in a contest in which he can bring back his deceased mate. The female protagonist’s powers are spotty at best and she’s locked in a cavern with not feasible way out by the male protagonist so he can win the contest. Things just get better from there.

    As to the other genres, I’m afraid I haven’t read enough of them to give an opinion. I will say that these books are ones I keep coming back to and have read repeatedly over the years. Hopefully, something here will work for you.

  25. This is just off the top of my head (with a quick peek at my Kindle and iBook shelves ;p)

    Historical ROMANCE – sorry, I got nothing ;p
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE) – Carnal Innocence, Nora Roberts
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE) – Fast Women, Jennifer Crusie
    YA ROMANCE – The Gallagher Girls Series, Ally Carter
    Paranormal ROMANCE – Soulless, Gail Carriger
    Women’s Fiction – sorry, I got nothing ;p

  26. Historical: Cotillion, or, The Grand Sophy, Georgette Heyer
    PN: haven’t read enough to comment
    CRS: Nora Roberts, High Noon
    CRC: Natural Born Charmer, Susan Elizabeth Phillips
    YA: haven’t read enough to comment
    Women’s Fiction: Circle of Three, Patricia Gaffney

  27. I don’t have any suggestions for historical, suspense, or paranormal since I don’t read those genres.

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE): “Yours to Keep” by Shannon Stacey

    YA ROMANCE: “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

    Women’s Fiction: “Good in Bed” by Jennifer Weiner

  28. I think there are some great suggestions for all of these. I’m just going to add to the list for YA – Jennifer Echols. I personally love Forget You, but I like her whole list.

  29. The best ever-Lord of Scoundrels. Then books by G. Heyer.
    I am using this blog to add to my reading list-what better way to find out about good books than on this site!

  30. Historical ROMANCE – I got nothing.
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE) The Moon Spinners, Mary Stewart. Although maybe by now she’s historical?
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE) – Crusie
    YA ROMANCE – don’t know, I’d have to ask my daughter
    Paranormal ROMANCE – again, nothing.
    Women’s Fiction – The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (no romance – at least not that I remember. But an excellent book.) Actually probably any Kingslover would work.

    The sad thing is I’ve read so many good books, and I just can’t remember anymore.

  31. Here are a couple of suggestions in the comedy vein:
    Historical: The Talisman Ring, by Georgette Heyer
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (other than Crusie books): Lynn Michaels – Mother of the Bride

  32. Historical ROMANCE:
    Not Quite a Husband, Sherry Thomas
    The Spymaster’s Lady, Joanna Bourne
    Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE)
    Ain’t She Sweet?, Susan Elizabeth Phillips
    Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie (the novel I use to introduce people to Romance)

    Paranormal ROMANCE
    Dark Lover, J.R. Ward
    Maybe This Time, Jennifer Crusie

    Women’s Fiction
    Sugar Daddy, Lisa Kleypas (It’s Romance, but many people complain that it reads like Women’s Fiction.)

    1. Yes, yes, I am un-lurking to agree with Bet Me! It is also what I use to lure people into Romance and I think it is hands down the greatest contemp Rom com, with all the perfect elements.

      But if it can’t be Crusie (or SEP?), Kristan Higgins’ Just one of the Guys.

      For women’s fiction, I really loved Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells, if that counts as women’s fic. If not, Barbara O’meal’s The Secret of Everything, though I may have gotten that from your first class list…

      1. I agree with Bet Me. I think it is by far the best Romance comedy. The only reason I didn’t recommend it on its own, I didn’t think Jenny would want to teach one of her own books. But if she’s willing to do one of her books, then I wish she would do Bet Me.

        I forgot Just One of the Guys when I made my list. I really like that one.

  33. For YA Romance I’d suggest Claire LaZebnick’s EPIC FAIL. It’s a modern telling of Pride & Prejudice. Kiddo has read it three times, each time in a matter of hours.

    RomCon I’d go with MY ONE AND ONLY from Higgins or AIN’T SHE SWEET from SEP.

    Historical I’d throw in THE GAMBLE from LaVyrle Spencer. Talk about learning from a master.

  34. Historical Romance ~ “Saving Grace” Julie Garwood
    YA Romance – Dark Mirror (series) Mary Jo Putney
    Contemporary Comedy ~ Agnes & the Hit Man or Bet Me – (I know you probably cant use these but they are what I go to when I want romance and good laugh)
    Paranormal ~ “The Immortal Highlander” by Karen Marie Moning

  35. One? Only one? That’s just . . . cruel.

    Historical – Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (there’s no one like Amelia Peabody :)
    Suspense – Checkmate by Doranna Durgin (I love Durgin because her heroines often save the heros)
    Paranormal – A Feral Darkness by Doranna Durgin (dogs!! A corgi saves the day)
    Comedy – IMO, no one does it better than Jennifer Crusie

    And, entirely off topic, I read a story by one of my favorite M/M authors last night and one of the heroes packed a couple of Crusie novels when he went on a road trip. That made me grin.

    1. What about including an m/m romance as its own subgenre? It’s not my preferred reading, and I don’t have any suggestions (other than that I’ve seen Heidi Cullinan’s work praised), but it’s a romance category with a lot of fans, and it might be really interesting to study alongside the m/f romances to see how the stories compare and contrast.

      1. K.A. Mitchell’s No Souvenirs is hands down an excellent contemporary romance. m/m not my thing, but Mitchell’s on autobuy for me, because the characterizations, stories and writing are so strong.

      2. I love m/m.
        Contemporary: Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton or Collision Course by K A Mitchell. Heidi Cullinan is awesome but intense. Nowhere Ranch is my favorite but there’s a lot of kinky sex. It plays with genre conventions. Special Delivery plays with the genre even more. It has an old school vibe (young innocentish hero seduced by older,mysterious, more experienced hero) that gets turned on it’s head.

        Historicals: A Private Gentleman by heidi cullinan or This Rough Magic by josh lanyon.

        Misc contemporary novellas: The Winter Mating Rituals of Fur Bearing Critters by Amy Lane. The Dickens with Love by Josh Lanyon.

        Romantic suspense: Nine Lights Over Edinbourgh by Harper Fox (novella)

  36. Historical Romance: Here’s four~ Windflower by Sharon & Tom Curtis, Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale, These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer, The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense: The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart (though calling it contemporary is a stretch now)
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy: Ain’t She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (though she’s a master at making you smile *and* cry), To Die For by Linda Howard, The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopholic by Sophie Kinsella
    YA Romance: Twilight polarizes readers. It would be interesting to figure out why.
    Paranormal Romance: The Invisible Ring by Anne Bishop (this is set in a fantasy world, but you get hooked with that first scene). Also agree about the Kate Daniels series written by Ilona Andrews. (Haven’t read Nalini Singh but will now!)
    Woman’s fiction: hard to think of a book with a romantic HEA, unless you’re talking Nicholas Sparks…

    1. “Twilight polarizes readers. It would be interesting to figure out why.”
      At the risk of oversimplifying I believe a large part of the reason is that many of us have notions of Vampires that we are unwilling to let go of. The sparking vampire, for example.
      Also on a technical level they are not well written, the quality of the writing is terrible and the plot crafting/mapping is sloppy. Readers who cannot overlook this tend to be very critical. Both of the work and of people who read it.

      1. And it’s just so unfair that authors who write well-written books are being passed over for sparkling vampires with stalking issues. Actually, I worked on a Scholastic book fair last week, and the really popular books with kids are cringe-worthy.

        1. I put up with having them recomended for so long, years even. I finally broke down and read the first two. Sat down and read the first one mostly in one chunk, bitching the WHOLE WAY. It took me several months to work up to the second, and even then I had to force myself to finish it.
          Sparkly emo vampires aside (I refuse to accept the sparkles) the books just arn’t well put together. There have been several discussions in this blog about the construction of narrative and everything Crusie says is bad is in these books. I agree with Crusie about the bad stuff, she just has the experience to use the right terminlogoy to explain the awfulness.
          There was a discussion of movie/tv shows that came up a few weeks ago. Many of the points she made about useless action and narratives being assigned to the wrong character, ect was really spot on. I kept reading thinking, ‘Yes, this is what
          is wrong with the Twilight books!!!’
          There have been

          1. There is virulent hate of Twilight, and the same thing happened to 50 Shades (and some real Harry Potter haters out there, too) — and maybe they aren’t the best-crafted books in the world (although, I read a real stinker last night that makes ’em all look like Shakespeare in drag). But despite the moaning about how awful these books are, they are obviously touching a chord somewhere. Millions buy them, they have been translated into many languages, and they have rabid fans.

            I think Twilight’s subtext is an important conversation about chastity and who we give our bodies to — I don’t exactly agree with the author’s conclusions (and I’ve only read the first two), but I think it’s a something we need to talk about with young girls. And young boys, for that matter.

            And 50 Shades of Grey is all about negotiating a relationship. It makes it OK for a young woman to say, “No, I don’t like that. I don’t want to do that. I can walk away from that.” (I’ve only read the first book.) And Christian, despite all his kink, is an honorable man who wants his partner to enjoy sex. What’s wrong with that?

            Maybe because I haven’t read the full series, I can forgive them their supposed craft errors. I think they are talking about things that readers want to discuss, or at least think about on some level. If the content is there, readers will forgive the form to some extent.

  37. Impossible to have favorites, but one of my favorites in some of the categories:

    Historical romance: Lisa Kleypas Devil in Winter
    Contemp. Rom. Com: Susan Elizabeth Phillips It Had to Be You
    YA Romance: Jennifer Echols Going too Far
    Women’s Fiction: Emily Giffin Something Borrowed

  38. Novels are like chips, it’s so hard to have just one!

    Historical ROMANCE: No one else has mentioned Stephanie Laurens (I’m new here, she’s not verboten is she?) The caliber of the writing is much better than most. She tends to group her books in series; The Cynsters(Devil’s Bride), The Bastion Club(The Lady Chosen), The Black Cobra Quartet(The Untamed Bride). All titles work as stand alones, but the first title from each (in parenthesis) might be the best bet just for simplicities sake.
    Someone else mentioned The Desperate Duchesses series. They’re ok, I’ve read them certainly, but I feel like the characters are so one dimensional it’s hard to believe them sometimes, and there are often long stretches of pages where the pace of the story stalls and nothing is happening.

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE): Julia Quinn is particularly good at these, Mr. Cavendish, I Presume and The Lost Duke of Wyndham are a pair that are among her best. Laurens’ Black Cobra Quartet novels would be excellent for this as well, but they are also historical. Laurens’ most recent Cynster novel The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae is excellent for this! The partnership between the main characters working to solve the mystery really drives the story. It is though the culmination of a three part grouping.

    Perhaps also the novels of Martin Cruz Smith? Lots of suspense, but also lots of political action, not sure if that would get in the way for your course.

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE): Fast Women is one of my favorites, a perpetual re-read, as is Agnes and the Hitman.

    Paranormal ROMANCE Jayne Ann Krentz here all the way! Any of her three pen names are great chocies. I particularly enjoy her historical paranormals written as Amanda Quick. The Quick title Second sight is a fantastic place to start, as it’s the .

    Women’s Fiction: Such a big umbrella, I’m not sure what fits and what doesn’t.

    1. Agree with you on Desperate Duchesses, although I think the last two or three are pretty good. I feel like James spends so much of her early books setting up the rest of the series that the first few books always suffer.

      1. Yeah, I noticed that too. It was just so frustrating to read 30-50 pages and think, ‘Nothing has happened, I just spent [however long] reading this and it was wasted. I could have skipped it and never even noticed. This particularly bugs me because there is so much that I have to read, that my want to read pile is HUGE, and when I feel like I wasted time I’m a little sad.

  39. I would love to see Georgette Heyer’s (historical romance) The Devil’s Cub compared to the modern retelling (contemporary romantic suspense) by Lauren Willig, The Deception of the Emerald Ring.

    Agnes and the Hitman is my favorite contemporary romantic comedy.

    The best YA romance I’ve read lately was Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken; it’s the first in a trilogy and the only one published so far.

    Barbara Elsborg and Eve Langlais may be the reigning queens of paranormal romance. BE’s Fight to Remember is the highest rated of her’s that I’ve read. The Geek Job is a good standalone of EL’s.

    As for women’s fiction, I recently read Sarah-Kate Lynch’s Blessed are the Cheesemakers and recommend it highly. Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells is also amazing.

    I hope all this helps!

  40. Skipped ahead to me. I love Argh people but I’ve got grading to do.

    Historical ROMANCE – Had to think on this one. Who do I re-read? JAK as Amanda Quick comes to mind. Her earlier work – like Desire. That was the one about the perfume-maker heroine, right? Early stuff before it becomes a tad formulaic. Unless you want to study the formula.

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE) – Elizabeth Lowell’s Amber Beach or Jade Island. I did see the Midnight in Ruby Bayou rec above but methinks Owen is a more open hero than Jake or Kyle and hence the story is less intense for me.

    Veil of Night by Linda Howard worked on MANY levels for me.

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE) – Crusie, Crusie, Crusie… SE who? I’m only half kidding. I enjoy some SEP but for laugh out loud funny, Bet Me. Loved Crazy For You because of Quinn’s journey.

    YA ROMANCE- ____ ? ____

    Paranormal ROMANCE – One of Ilona Andrews Edge books. Pick one, any one.

    For Paranormal Lite – Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts. It’s her first in her Three Sisters trilogy and strikes a good balance between para and normal (well, it did for me.)

    Almost forgot- the first in any of their series – either Nalini Singh’s Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling), Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound (Elder Races) and Zoe Archer’s Blade’s of the Rose series.

  41. HISTORICAL ROMANCE: Devil’s Cub, Georgette Heyer or To Say Nothing Of The Dog, Connie Willis
    CONTEMPORARY ROMANTIC SUSPENSE: Nine Coaches Waiting, Mary Stewart
    CONTEMPORARY ROMANTIC COMEDY: Murder With Peaccocks, D. Andrews or Faking It, J. Crusie or One For The Money, J. Evanovich (listed alphabetically by author – can’t possibly pick a favorite)
    YA ROMANCE: The Sherwood Ring, Elizabeth Marie Pope
    PARANORMAL ROMANCE: Dead Until Dark, Charlene Harris
    WOMEN’S FICTION: The Secret of Everything, Barbara O’Neal

    I realize I’ve played a little fast and loose with the “one in each category” request, but if you knew how many books I wanted to list and didn’t, you’d forgive me.

  42. YA for me would have to be The Changeover by Margaret Mahy (or The Tricksters). They also fall into the paranormal category.

    With Margaret Mahy, every word counts, and even as an adult, the more I read her books the better they get.

  43. For YA, I’d highly recommend Megan Whaley Turners trilogy, “The Thief”, “The Queen of Attolia” and “The King of Attolia”. They are fantastic, but I guess you need to have just one book? You’d have to look at all three together. This set is definitely a sum of its parts.Worth reading all three, but you shouldn’t separate them out.

    1. Well, crud. This is hard. However, having done serious purging these last two years, and only keeping a small box of my very favorites, this is what’s still in there.

      Historical Romance: I’d second suggestion of The Windflower by London/Curtis’s, or Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase. I laugh through both of those books but really enjoy getting pulled away to another time.

      Contemporary Romantic Comedy: “Bet Me” by you, my all-time favorite romance ever or This Little Heart of Mine by SEP (second favorite.)

      Too bad you don’t have a spot for Travel Romance: I also want to recommend Madensky Square by Eva Ibbosten (Good luck finding it, ‘tho). It’s the story that made me fall in love with Vienna, nothing like seeing the Prater though Anna’s eyes when I finally got a chance to go. Plus it’s not in the normal storyline. It’s excellent, but I loved how Ibbotsen took some unusual risks in her storytelling.

        1. I just ran across the YA romances by Eva Ibbotson, and was kind of blown away. I’ve only read Magic Flutes, and am now starting Company of Swans. They have an almost Crusie-like lightness & wit of dialogue, and they don’t fill me with discomfort at all the historical or linguistic anomalies that so often make me put down historical romances after the first few pages. Really nicely written stories.

      1. If not Heyer, I would have gone with Mr. Impossible. My favorite Chase by far, and considering how good she is, that’s really saying something :)

  44. For Historical, for pure beauty of writing, characterization, conflict, turn of phrase, I would highly recommend Joanna Bourne’s My Lord And Spymaster. Hate the cover, but it is, and I am not kidding, the only book I have ever read all the way through and then started over immediately, with a highlighter in hand, because it was just that well written.

    Contemporary — I enjoyed Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor series, and Lisa Kleypas’ series set in Houston (I am blanking on the name). Both had real depth of character and it didn’t feel like each guy was just a rehash of the previous guy (which I tend to find in some series, so I get bored, fast).

    Paranormal — absolutely Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series; fabulously done. This is one of my few auto-buys. I’ll second Illona Andrew’s Kate Daniels series. (Spoiler: In both series, it’s about 3 to 4 books into the series before the couple is a couple, and then dealing with the ramifications of being a couple for the following books.) But both series have everything you’re looking for, especially depth of character / conflict, not to mention the writing chops.

    I would have to rate Welcome To Temptation as (still) my absolute favorite romantic comedy of all time. Ever. In the universe. I have re-read it at least six times. Agnes and the Hitman is possibly as funny, but it can’t quite nudge out WTT. I had no clue Linda Howard’s TO DIE FOR was a romantic comedy. Now I’m curious.

    I have no clues about YA romance.

    1. To Die For is really funny, but it also has suspense/mystery elements. I think you can still call it a comedy, even with the death and shooting.

    2. Lisa Klepas series you are referencing is the Travis series. I also recommended this series.
      1) Sugar Daddy
      2) Blue Eyed Devil
      3) Smooth Talking Stranger

  45. Historical romance: I think you could teach Lord of Scoundrels again; it was an outstanding book and all the students got a lot out of it, I think. Plus, thank you for introducing me to Loretta Chase–I’ve bought two more books by her. But if you want to teach something different, it’s been a long time since I read it, but I loved The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye. Takes place in 1857 in India/Afghanistan. She wrote it in 1997, so it might seem a little dated now, but I all but swooned when I read it.

    Romantic suspense: I like Linda Howard’s “Dying to Please” and “Cry No More.” Two titles, sorry.

    Romantic comedy: You have to teach something you wrote. Students want this. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. I vote for Bet me, Faking It, Agnes and the Hitman.

    Paranormal romance: This is not my area of strength, but if you want to teach one of your own books that is not in the comedy category, you could teach Maybe This Time or Dogs and Goddesses here. Otherwise maybe Charlaine Harris and the Sookie novels. “Dead Until Dark” is the first one. They’re very accessible for non-paranormal fans, although maybe that shouldn’t be the point of class. (And although in Dead Until Dark, a vampire walks into a bar, so there’s that. But at least by then Harris has established that she’s writing something with comic overtones.)

    1. Far Pavilions was originally published in 1978. I remember this vividly because my school called my mother to complain that I was reading “adult fiction” that “definitely wasn’t literature”. These are phrases that immediately entered family language and are used about all sorts of things.

  46. Historical romance: Julie Anne Long “What I did for a Duke” (it’s not like the others by ANYONE)
    Contemporary Romance: Susan Elizabeth Philips “Ain’t she sweet?”
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy: Kristan Higgins “Just one of the guys”
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense: Fast Women

    Good luck!!

  47. It’s stretching to recommend Guards! Guards! (Terry Pratchett) as romance, isn’t it? I’m still not entirely sure how Sam and Sybil got together, actually…. Wintersmith? Still stretching. Alas.
    The only romances I re-read regularly are Faking It and Bet Me, but both are contemporary. And the Santa Baby novella.
    For YA, what about Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword? I can’t remember if Hero and the Crown had romance as the central theme, and while I love Beauty, it’s hard to separate it from the fairy tale. Am I the only one, by the way, who thinks Disney lifted Belle’s character from the Robin McKinley retelling?

    1. The Hero & the Crown doesn’t really have romance as the central theme, plus whether it’s a happy romantic ending for her to settle down with her cousin instead of running off with the magician is debatable. The Blue Sword is more clearly a romantic HEA.

      A lot of people (I think including McKinley) have thought Disney lifted Belle, but I’d note that Belle was actually deemed beautiful by everyone throughout her story (unlike McKinley’s Beauty, who only grows into her name after she lives at the enchanted castle). Their main similarity really seems to be that both are bookish.

  48. For YA, The Changeover by Margaret Mahy.

    It’s a relatively old book (it won the 1982 Carnegie medal) but it still manages to feel fresh (heck it does everything twilight tried to do but many times better). It’s got complicated family dynamics, a genuinely creepy villain and an ambigous hero.

    Laura (the 15 year old heroine) manages to be flawed but awesome (as does her mother).

    Margaret Mahy was a huge figure in New Zealand children’s and YA literature and I’ve always felt that you share something of a kindred spirit.
    She used to show up to children’s book readings wearing either a penguin suit,a possum suit or (on her more restrained days) a rainbow wig.

    Sarah Rees Brennan describes the book fairly well here:
    http://sarahtales.livejournal.com/157724.html#cutid1

      1. I hold it firmly responsible for the fact that I wound up with a witty, sarcastic slightly damaged blond on a motorbike…

        The books you read at 13 have a really powerful influence…

  49. Historical: Lord of Scoundrels for the excellent writing combined with its use of conventions such as the hero rake who is emotionally wounded and healed by love
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense: Breaking Point by Pamela Clare

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy: Susan Elizabeth Phillips, so many to choose from. Just one? Natural Born Charmer; no, wait, Ain’t She Sweet?, or, how about . . .

    Paranormal Romance: Dreams of a Dark Warrior by Kresley Cole

  50. Unlurking for a moment:
    Romantic suspense. Mary Stewart. MADAM WILL YOU WALK.
    Romantic comedy. Bujold. CIVIL CAMPAIGN.
    Paranormal. Ilona Andrews. ON THE EDGE.
    Woman’s fiction. Pilcher. THE SHELL SEEKERS.
    YA. Elizabeth Pope. THE SHERWOOD RING. (Not too many books combine romance, history and fantasy)

    1. I love Civil Campaign now but when a friend gave it to me and said “you have to read this” I could not get into it. After I read all the books leading up to it, then I loved it.

        1. My top three books of all time are A Civil Campaign, Bet Me and Pride and Prejudice — and ACC edges the other two out because Jane doesn’t write about transsexuals, and Jenny doesn’t write about Counts. LOL.

  51. Another vote in the Historical category for Laura Kinsale, probably Flowers From the Storm. And Robert Gellis, especially Alinor or Roselynde. These books are kind of old school (and I haven’t read them in ages), and very heavy on the history as I recall, in comparison with currently published historicals, but that might be informative in its own way.

    I love Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs (and Donna Andrews), but I’m not sure they’re really romance, so much as urban fantasy (and mystery, respectively), with romantic subplots. Of course, that’s a discussion in itself — where are the edges of genre?

    For paranormal romance, I’d suggest, as others have, Jayne Ann Krentz under either the Amanda Quick (historical) or Jayne Castle (futuristic) names. I particularly liked some of her earlier futuristic (that sounds inconsistent), like Shield’s Lady, although that may be more s/f romance than paranormal. Not sure if it’s still in print, or how well it’s aged. It came out in the 1980s, I believe.

    1. Oh yeah. These two are in my keeper box, though I really love Kinsale’s Shadow and the Star the best. Think drunken cherries! And Gellis – I think Alinor is one of the most kick-ass heroine’s in m’lady garments to ever stride through an historical romance. You do NOT want to mess with that woman. Gellis kicked genre butt in that one.

  52. Historical Romance: The Grand Sophy
    Womens’ (womens’?) Fiction: Marion Keyes “Sushi for Beginners”
    Happily remembering Mary Stewart novels for romantic suspense. I think “My Brother Michael.” or the one on Corfu.
    Fantasy Romance: Tanya Huff: Summon the Gate Keeper.
    Romantic suspense: Barbara Michaels, Amie, Come Home.

  53. So few people seem to read YA, can I be forgiven for posting more then one? I think the problem comes from most YA coming in trilogies and series instead of singles these days.

    1) Wicked Lovely by Mellisa Marr. It’s been mentioned already but I would like to second it because it has a frank and upfront discussion on why the characters aren’t going to have sex yet and it’s not for religious reasons or twiglight style control. It can also be read without the other four books (although of course they flesh things out, etc…)
    2)Chime by Franny Billingsley, this is another paranormal style romance, but it`s also a single! So rare! The main character has been conditioned to hate herself by an evil stepmother (strong fairytale overtones) and learns that she`s actually kind of a cool person by the end. The guy in this story is also really cool, but it deals with the issue of rape quite a bit so it might not be good.
    3)The ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty, her books are all set in Australia and use an epistolary style. These are pure romance/slice of life high school stories.
    4)Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, these are translated from German but are done so well that you can’t really tell. This series has time travel, and mysterious powers. So far it seems like the trilogy will have all of the fun of dating someone when you both travel through time. Keeping a date never looked so hard.
    5)Anna dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. It has the benefit of the protagonist being male and the problem of the love interest being dead. Not sure how they’ll get out of this one, but it’s YA so the answer is bound to be fairytale-tastic. It’s fun to read awkward boy from the inside out.

    Lastly if you don’t like those then just go to the book store and pick up any shiny cover in the YA area. These days romance is an absolute must in the genre, should be easy to find someone you like.

  54. Spy Master’s Lady by Joanna Bourne for historical. It has a twist at the first quarter you won’t believe you didn’t see coming. For YA, Winter Girls by Laurie Halse Anderson, whose voice and imagery are so incredible you won’t be able to put it down even though its an issue book.

  55. Historical ROMANCE: Windflower
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE): Susan Anderson’s Exposure
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE): Bet Me. But assuming you don’t want to use your own, Shannon Stacey’s Yours to Keep (or any Kowalski, really)
    YA ROMANCE
    Paranormal ROMANCE: Nora Roberts Carolina Moon or Linda Howard’s Dream Man (if those count)
    Women’s Fiction:

  56. Ahahaha, I asked my teenager for a good YA romance and she said “Eh…Tweetheart was OKAY. I mostly read Jennifer Crusie when I want to read romance.”

    She didn’t know why I was asking.

    Everytime I think of a romance I like in a YA book, it’s not the focus. There’s so much growth going on with the main character, I hate to say “This is romance.” Hm.

  57. Historical: Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense: Agnes And The Hitman (Non-Crusie: The Witness by Nora Roberts)
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy: Welcome To Temptation by Jennifer Crusie (Non-Crusie: Breathing Room by SEP)
    YA ROMANCE: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
    Paranormal ROMANCE: No Suggestion.
    Women’s Fiction: The Lost Recipe For Happiness by Barbara O’Neal

  58. For Women’s Fiction I recommend Again, by Kathleen Gilles Seidel. I see someone already recommended another book of hers, but to my memory Again was more focusedly a romance. Plus the heroine is chief writer for a soap opera with a Regency setting, so there are some nice meta-genre bits. But mainly Seidel is a good, humane writer who does good characterization with no shortcuts.

    I would love to recommend Ladies with Options for women’s fiction, but it is much more of an ensemble piece with minimal romance content.

    YA Romance: I might recommend Something is Rotten in the State of Maryland.

  59. YA Romance (I’m a YA librarian): Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta is a wonderful romance and just a wonderful novel all around. Also, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Liani Taylor is a really great example of fantastical YA romance.

  60. Here is my list of books you may want to use for your class. For 2 categories I would have picked your books but I doubt you wanted to talk about yourself.
    Historical romance:
    Maya Banks Never Love a Highlander

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense:
    Roxanne St. Claire Edge of Sight–Great Book!!!!

    Contemporary romantic comedy
    Lisa Kleypas Blue Eyed Devil- not sure if this right category but this must read book. It is part of the Travis series

    Women’s Fiction:
    I have two picks for this category but I am going with my must read
    Lisa Tucker Cure for the Modern World- the hero is very layered. You think he is the bad guy but he the one you can depend on.

  61. What a great question!

    Historical ROMANCE:
    I like Jane Feather’s Bride trilogy. -The Accidental Bride- is my favorite. It’s set in England, starting in 1641. M’okay, so it’s a bookish young girl and a pirate gentleman, and she’s probably atypically adventurous, once she gets started, but I love her relationship with her two friends. There’s some real depth there. Mind you, I’m not sure how accurate the language & history are, but they do make me want to know more about the era.

    I also just finished reading (and loving) the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. They are seriously long books though, and may not work for your class if you’re expecting them to read each book in whole.

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE):
    Kay Hooper writes incredibly gripping suspense (ok, horror) mixed with romance and paranormal elements. No, really. My favorite of her Bishop novels is -Chill of Fear-. It truly is a romance, and yet it’s also blood-on-the-walls horror and also paranormal. It terrified me, fascinated me, and still tugged at my heartstrings when it came to the romance. Enjoy!

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE)
    You are my go-to suggestion for this category.
    If you’re looking for other suggestions though, Jennifer Weiner’s -Good In Bed- is amazing. It’s funny, and yes, it will rip your heart out and make you sob like a baby, but in the end it’s about finding your family of choice, loving yourself, and stumbling into love with the unlikely one.
    Linda Howard’s -To Die For- could be contemporary romantic comedy just because of the protagonist’s voice. Blair Mallory is unforgettable. That said, it’s actually a murder-mystery. How rare it is to laugh out loud and really enjoy that kind of book?

    YA ROMANCE
    I can agree with the others who’ve recommended -Ella Enchanted- it really is a wonderful book.
    Ugh. I thought I had a pretty extensive YA collection, but this highlights a hole in my collection! The first book that came to mind was Laurie Halse Anderson’s book, -Speak- which is all about the aftermath of being a rape victim who called the cops. It’s a powerful book.

    Paranormal ROMANCE:
    Linda Howard and Kay Hooper do a nice job with this category. My favorite is -Son of the Morning- which starts with a happily married woman, who then sees her husband killed before her eyes and then has to run for her life. So, it deals with an aspect of love that is frequently left unmentioned in the romance category. Mind you, there’s also time-travel and a delightfully Scottish hero to be dealt with. Wonderful storytelling and *ahem* well, the descriptions of the various scenes are *ahem* quite nice as well. :)
    -All The Queen’s Men- also by Linda Howard, is one I’ve read over and over again. It easily falls into the contemporary paranormal category, and has some very tender scenes. Oh yes, and a puzzling series of murders along the way as well.

    Another favorite? -Divine By Mistake- by P.C. Cast. A feisty high school English teacher from Oklahoma slips into an alternate dimension where she’s worshipped as the Goddess Incarnate of Epona (Celtic horse goddess). Wildly funny, this would fit in a variety of categories, but since the love interest is a centaur, I’m putting it in the paranormal category rather than contemporary comedic romance. And yes, she rides him! *grins*

    Women’s Fiction. Ugh. I hate this term. Why do the categories above not fit into this term? If by this term you mean literary fiction (which to my mind is just another type of genre fiction) then why/how is it different from any other literary fiction?

    Sorry, I know I have issues. Sometimes they’re easier to see than other times.

    So, literary fiction focused on the female experience / romance? Amy Tan’s -The Joy Luck Club-

    Now, I know you didn’t ask, but there are some other genres out there:

    Romantic Science Fiction?
    -Friday- by Robert Heinlein. Sheer perfection. The dialogue, the characters, the ideas, everything.
    -Crystal Singer- by Anne McCaffrey. True love, forever.
    -Stardance- by Spider & Jeanne Robinson. Male narrator, and you don’t realize it’s a romance until the very end.
    -Kushiel’s Dart- by Jacqueline Carey. Epic world-creation here, wonderful characters, and quite the interesting mediation on the nature of love. Also, BDSM scenes that make you understand the attraction, even if it’s not your thing.

    Fantasy Romance?
    -A Kiss of Shadows- by Laurell K. Hamilton. Best faery princess EVER. Mind you, it’s the court of the evil faeries that she stands to inherit if she can produce an heir to the throne, but still. Lots of love, lots of relationships.

    Hope this helps!
    Mrs. Turkey

  62. For paranormal Christina Dodd’s first book of the Chosen Ones series, Storm of Visions, is an engaging romance while setting the stage for a multiple book series.

    For Romantic Comedy, I know you probably prefer not to use your own works, but Agnes and the Hitman is a wonderful classic romcom that is hard to beat. I know Bob would hate it, but I truly can see it as a Hepburn Tracy production.

    Contemporary Romance /Women’s Fiction, Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner, or does that classify as Contemporary Romance. I must admit, I am fuzzy about where the lines are drawn on the differences. I could not understand why Good in Bed was in B&N as Literature, but Nora Robert’s single story hardback were in the Romance section.

    I do believe Nora should be included in the discussion. Rather the In Death books could be considered Paranormal because they are futuristic or not is debatable, but there is not doubt that Eve and Roarke are a great romantic couple. If the In Death books do not qualify, than as Contemporary Romance you could pick just about any of her single title books and fly with them. Montana Sky is my personal favorite because the who dunnit had me till the very end.

    Good luck with the move.

  63. Historical:
    Heyer (Frederica or The Grand Sophy)
    Connie Brockway – My Dearest Enemy
    Eloisa James – When Beauty Tamed the Beast or The Ugly Duchess
    Sherry Thomas – His at Night

    YA Romance:
    The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (such a wonderful book)
    Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
    Chime by Franny Billingsley (fantasy YA) Such fantastic writing
    Sheltered by Charlotte Stein (this is New Adult – ie post high school age)

    Women’s Fiction:
    Barbara O’Neal Lost Recipe for Happiness or The Garden of Happy Endings
    Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman

    Contemporary Romance –
    About Last Night by Ruthie Knox
    Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry
    Kristen Higgins – Until There Was You or Somebody to Love
    Unidentified Red Head by Alice Clayton

    Romantic Suspense
    Anne Stuart – On Thin Ice
    Amazon Lily by Theresa Weir (this is more adventure than suspense)
    Tempted by His Target by Jill Sorenson

    Paranormal/Fantasy Romance –
    Iron Duke by Meljean Brook (steampunk)
    The Native Star by MK Hobson (steampunk)
    Halfway to the Grave (#1 in series) by Jeaniene Frost- vampires
    Angels’ Blood (#1 in series) by Nalini Singh

    1. Oh, and since the tsunami caused by 50 Shades, maybe you should include an erotica title. Reading well written sex scenes can be…educational. In which case, I recommend Cara McKenna (Curio is her least edge-pushy) or Charlotte Stein (unique voice, charming characterization).

  64. Contemporary Romance: I’ve read a lot of Jill Shalvis lately. Lucky in Love was really good.

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE): Jayne Ann Krentz’s books from earlier in the decade. All Night Long or Smoke in Mirrors.

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE): Pick a Crusie, any Crusie:) but Fast Women is first on my ‘go to’ list

    Women’s Fiction: I loved How to Bake a Perfect Life but The Garden of Happy Endings and The Lost Recipe for Happiness are my ‘go to’ books for WF

    Women’s Fiction:
    Barbara O’Neal Lost Recipe for Happiness or The Garden of Happy Endings

  65. For historical: mr. Impossible by loretta chase
    His at Night by Sherry Thomas
    The forbidden rose by joanna bourne

    Not a suspense reader unless it’s Mary Stewart, in which case Nine Coaches Waiting or This Rough Magic

    Comedy: Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl
    A Lot Like Love by julie james
    Again by kathleen gilles seidel

    YA: the stuff by tammara weber is good, can’t think of a specific title justt now

    Paranormal
    Dragon Bound by thea harrison

    Womens fic
    Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas. It has a really strong romance too but I think a case can be made that the travis family series are all womkens fic.

  66. Historical ROMANCE: For My Lady’s Heart by Laura Kinsale. It’s actually not my most favorite of hers (that would be Flowers from the Storm), but it’s a great non-regency. If you wanted to go Regency era, I think Julie Anne Long is doing amazing work (except for “The Runaway Duke,” which when read with, say, “Since the Surrender” could be very illuminating about how much a writer can improve with experience and editorial assistance). Third choice: “My Dearest Enemy” by Connie Brockway, which is touching and funny and well-written and also unusually grapples with the historical legal place of women and what it meant to marry. Fourth choice: “Untie My Heart” by Judith Ivory.

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE): Linda Howard’s “Son of the Morning,” which is also a paranormal (time-travel) or her “Dream Man” (also has paranormal elements).

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE): Lightning That Lingers by Laura London (aka Tom & Sharon Curtis). I’m not sure if “Dream a Little Dream” and “Ain’t She Sweet” by SEP fit in this category (too sad? too serious?) but they’re my favorites of her books. Nora Roberts’s “Sea Swept.”

    YA ROMANCE – Seconding all those who have recommended Robin McKinley on “Beauty.”

    Paranormal ROMANCE – McKinley’s “Sunshine.” I think these make a great compare-contrast on how one writer can do two such different books that are both written in the 1st person perspective of strong, practical young women. Alice Hoffman’s “Practical Magic.”

    Women’s Fiction – This is a hard one. “A Room with a View,” EM Forster. “Practical Magic” could go here as well. Anything with an HEA by Maeve Binchy (RIP). I don’t know if Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead” fits here but I thought it was extraordinary, and far superior to “Housekeeping.” Anne Tyler’s “The Accidental Tourist.”

  67. Historical ROMANCE: Venetia or Frederica by G. Heyer.
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE): If m/m is allowed then ‘Come onto these yellow sands’ by Josh Lanyon is really worth considering.
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE): Any of yours?
    YA ROMANCE: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
    Paranormal ROMANCE: I read a lot of these, but nothing really stands out except for the series novels.
    Women’s Fiction: I never know what is and what isn’t.

  68. Historicals – Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas, What Happens in London by Julia Quinn, Summer to Remember by Mary Balough. If you’re willing to include m/m, A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan is intense but really good.

    Speaking of m/m, I’ve been on a big m/m glom recently, after being really skeptical of the sub-genre. I think it’s appealing to romance readers because it bypasses the gender inequalities and cultural baggage about women’s sexuality that still show up in (het) romance. I’m not willing to give up my heroines completely and I still want authors to write romances with strong heroines and non-assholish heroes, but I’ve found m/m to be a nice palette cleanser. It might be interesting to discuss in a class.

  69. I’m seeing a lot of agreement here and a few for me to check out.

    Historical: The Grand Sophy (my favorite Georgette Heyer) To me she is still the grand mistress of Regency.
    Contemporary Romantic Suspense: Agnes And The Hitman (Non-Crusie: The Witness by Nora Roberts)
    Contemporary Romantic Comedy: Natural Born Charmer by SEP)
    YA ROMANCE: Beautiful Creatures by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia
    Paranormal ROMANCE: Beautiful Creatures qualifies, but also any Kelley Armstrong. Bitten is the first.
    Women’s Fiction: Does Magic Realism go here? If so, Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen.

  70. For paranormal romance -J. R. Ward’s vampire series is the BEST (and hottest} books ever. A new one comes out every 2years and it is not soon eonough for her fans.

  71. Historical – The Windflower – Sharon & Tom Curtis (Laura London) – amazing ACCURATE historical detail – beautiful language – amazing characters – main and secondary (every character in this book needs their story told) – LOVE this book.

    Cont. Rom. Suspense – Carnal Innocence – Nora Roberts (makes you question the hero – so the romance is in jeopardy as well as the heroines life – well done!)

    Cont. Rom. Comedy – So hard and unfair to have to pick – Any of yours – really – I can’t decide – If not you – SEP – Heaven, Texas

    YA – It’s been a while – I remember loving Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume – but that might be more coming of age than romance

    Paranormal – Dance Upon the Air – Nora Roberts (someone earlier had mentioned how it was a good normal to paranormal – I just tried to scroll back up – but there are too many comments – but I agree. I’m not a big paranormal person but I love this book)

    Women’s Fiction – Watermelon – Marian Keyes

    Thank you so much for asking – I love talking books and I’ve got some new things down on my list : )

  72. Historical: Red Adam’s Lady by Grace Ingram. I know this won’t make it because it is impossible to find but it is an excellent medieval romance.

    Contemporary comedy: If I can list Crusie, Welcome to Temptation. If not, Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score. Also I really like Mary Elgin’s few books if something 60 years old qualifies as contemporary. Highland Masquerade is probably the most easily available.

    Paranormal: Any of the Curse of Chalion series by Bujold. They all can stand alone.
    Or Jaqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. Or The Melusine by Sarah Monette – although that really doesn’t work well as a romance. Probably only Kushiel’s Dart does.

    1. Bujold is one of the few SF authors who gets romance subplots right. I’d call the Chalion series high fantasy rather than paranormal, but I tend to view paranormal romance as a sub-genre of urban fantasy. I’m with Jesse that the Chalion stories are all good, but “Paladin of Souls” is my favorite, as well being one of the few Hugo/Nebula award double-dippers, if that matters. But I’d call it fantasy with a strong romance subplot, not a romance in a fantasy setting.

      On the women’s fiction front, “Komarr” is Bujold doing an SF story about divorce, though Ekaterin’s plot arc obviously isn’t complete until “A Civil Campaign”. The SF fans who don’t understand Komarr are the ones who see Miles Vorkosigan as a character and immediately think that he must be the main protagonist, forgetting that LMB’s plot generating device, as with some other authors, is asking “What’s the worst thing I can do to this character?”.

  73. I also like some of Elsie Lee’s mysteries. Probably a good one for the romance is Curse of Carranca. A lot of her dialogue gets dated if you read much of her stuff but she had an excellent feel for what the reader in the 60’s wanted. Her “Roommates” goes for a ton of money if you can find it.

  74. Contemporary — MATCH ME IF YOU CAN (SEP)

    Young Adult — GRACELING (Cashore)

    Suspense — OVER THE EDGE (Brockmann)

    Paranormal — THE IRON DUKE (Brook)

    Women’s Fiction — LOVE WALKED IN (Dos Santos)

    Historical — Hard to choose!
    MR. IMPOSSIBLE (Chase)
    WHAT I DID FOR A DUKE (Long)
    THE SPYMASTER’S LADY (Bourne)
    NOT QUITE A HUSBAND (Thomas)
    WRITTEN ON YOUR SKIN (Duran)
    THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME (Quinn)
    AN AFFAIR BEFORE CHRISTMAS (James)

  75. YA: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. It’s snarky, breezy, short, and it stands alone. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour is good, too, but it’s kind of a deliberate attempt to capture the zing of Nick and Norah, and you might as well go for the original.

    Paranormal is hard because the category has gotten so muddled. Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten is definitely one of the prototypes of the genre, but it’s awfully dark, and I think it’s weighted more toward fantasy than romance. The Sookie books are too silly to make good representatives. I love Practical Magic, but I’d classify it as women’s fiction with magical realism; the romance is almost incidental compared to the mother/daughter issues. Patricia Briggs would be great, but the romance takes about five books to play out. Actually, if a novella would work, her “Alpha and Omega” is outstanding.

    For historical, I agree with the votes for Joanna Bourne (AMAZING; my first choice, and the only one people shouldn’t start with is the latest, Black Hawk), Sherry Thomas (either Private Arrangements or Not Quite a Husband), or Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm.

    1. Alpha and Omega is great; definitely more romance than the Mercy books. Maybe read Alpha and Omega and Cry Wolf together? The novella is pretty short, and it’s best to read it before the first book.

  76. I’d recommend Stephanie Perkins for YA Romance – I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door, and also liked Anna and the French Kiss. Lola would be my top pick though. They’re contemporary romance, published as YA, fairly light and comedic on the front end with more complex issues nicely touched on, and the couples have a nice balance of physical and emotional attraction to navigate.

  77. Realized I forgot to mention Shannon Stacey for Romantic Comedy. Exclusively Yours and Yours to Keep pretty much duke it out in my head for which one I like best of all. She is very funny and romantic, and I always feel like she’s actually writing about real people. There are no billionaires or virginal heroines and even when she plays with a genre trope (like the fake fiance plot in YTK) she makes it fresh and actually believable.

  78. for YA Romance – The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance, by Margaret Mahy. that book got me into reading, along with Ellen Raskin mysteries (but those aren’t romance books so they don’t count.)
    Contemporary Romance Suspence – Three Fates, by Nora Roberts. nice thing is, once you’ve read one Nora Roberts book, you’ve pretty much read all of them. but she has very pretty heros, so i never really end up minding much. and that book in particular has some steller dialogue and action scenes.
    Historical Romance – Comanche Moon, by Catherine Anderson. really, REALLY graphic at points but the whole of it made me cry. in a good way, for the most part. oh! or (and this one i would sooner recommend) Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. also uber-graphic, though. but it has some Paranormal Romance in it, along with being historical (time travel/extremely well researched).
    and of course, you could always use them (at least my second and third suggestions) as examples as what not to do. over used plot devices, cliches coming out of your ears… the whole dandy shebang. good luck, and stay dry this coming week! Frankenstorm Sandy is hitting NJ this week – nasty stuff!

  79. Thought of another YA if you don’t mind some paranormal mixed in with the romance: Tithe by Holly Black. It’s about fairies, VERY scary fairies and the romance in it is knee-meltingly good.

  80. Historical romance: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
    YA romance: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
    Paranormal romance: Lover Awakened by JR Ward
    Women’s fiction: The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough (not sure that’s the right genre, but it’s one of the best and most romantic books ever written).

    I don’t read suspense, and the only rom coms I could think of were Crusies! :-)

  81. For paranormal romances, the ‘Accidental’ series by Dakota Cassidy. I’ve read two, The Accidental Werewolf and The Accidental Human. Pretty entertaining, made me laugh out loud in a couple of places and the writing is decent.

  82. Historical – Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase
    Contemporary romantic suspense – Amber Beach, Elizabeth Lowell
    Contemporary romantic comedy – Ain’t She Sweet, SEP
    Paranormal romance – Atlantis Rising, Alyssa Day
    YA romance – The Thief trilogy if possible, or book 2 The Queen of Attolia, Megan Whalen Turner

  83. I usually lurk but thought I’d put in some of my favorites.
    Historical – Georgette Heyer either These Old Shades or Venetia ; there are other I love too but these are way up un my list.
    I also recommend Elizabeth Peters’ Crocodile on the Sandbank -she pokes gentle fun at the Gothic Novels with a strong, practical heroine and a hero to match. If I want a good laugh, this is one that I go to.

    Romantic suspense – Mary Stewart is my favorite author, although her books are a little dated based on fashion description, the storytelling and characters are great.

    YA – I read a lot of YA but although I loved Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief series, I agree with The Blue Sword for the romance (and adventure).

    Paranormal -I’m going back a ways but an old favorite of mine is Tryst by Elswyth Thane. It’s set back in the WW1era and is the story of a romance between the ghost of an English pilot and an 18 year old girl who comes to live in his family’s country home for a summer.

    I’d also recommend Robin McKinley’s Sunshine for this category. It’s the only vampire story I’ve been able to read and like.

    Romantic comedy is harder; Yours are my favorite romcons, especially Faking It, but if yours can’t be included then I’d suggest Elizabeth Peters’ Jacqueline Kirby series. They are mysteries as well as romance but the main character makes me laugh every time I read them, in particular Die For Love, which pokes gentle fun at the Romance genre.

    I agree with the recommendation of Sarah Addison Allen for contemporary although her books are also magical realism. My personal favorite is Garden Spells (perhaps because the main character grows and uses herbs which are a hobby of mine…).

    I also recommend The Shell Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher for contemporary. Maeve Binchy probably fits in this category but I gave up reading her books a while ago; I got tired of so many of her male characters turning out to be weak or abusive alcoholics

    1. YA Romance

      I just re-read Megan Whaley Turner’s Thief series, and agree that Book 2 is the most Romance centric of the three, but they are a series that you need to read in order because the endings in each are so wonderfully surprising. You cannot pluck Book 2 out of order and just read that, or you’ll spoil the fun for yourself in the other books.

      However I agree that McKinley’s Blue Sword would be an excellent choice. I read that one and Hero and the Crown every year. And now I’m drawing a blank on which one is written almost exclusively and very effectively without dialogue. It must be the Hero and the Crown… which is more of a Coming of Age story. But the Blue Sword is very much a love story and it’s got great world building. First rate recommendation from your other reader’s suggestions.

      1. Sunshine is also excellent. It’s been awhile since I’ve read it, but I remember enjoying the subtlety, and the finesse of the humor.

  84. You forgot YA paranormal! I can just give authors, I don’t want to go dig through my library and pick which one cause these authors all deal with series – For YA paranormal, Kelly Armstrong. For adult paranormal romance, Laurell K. Hamiliton and Kim Harrison. Sorry, can’t pick which is better. Both are amazing.

  85. Writing from the perspective of someone who designs courses–

    1. Romantic suspense–I agree with the recommendations of Mary Stewart’s novels. They will set a high for languagle, plot, and character. My favorite is “This Rough Magic,” which introduced me to Shakespeare’s great play “The Tempest,” as well as the Greek islands. She’s British, 1950s-1960s, and a master of suspense.
    2. Paranormal suspense–Barbara Michaels, “Ammie Come Home.” Great ghost story, told from perspective of middlle-aged character falling in love in the middle of a house haunting and including a younger pair of lovers as well. Ghosts! Possession! Historical references. Two romances! Alternate would be Alice Hoffman, “Practical Magic.” You might pair one of the with “Twilight,” as YA choice. That would be a chance to ponder the cultural meaning of adolescent girls’ fascination with undead guys who want to feed on their blood and make them undead.
    3. Contemporary–I like “Tell Me Lies” and “Fast Women” best–but If you want someone other than yourself, i would pick Mary Kay Andrews, maybe “Savannah Blues.” Susan Elizabeth Phillips has some memorable ones, but heck fire, not everyone can marry a pro football QB. That said, the opening of “Natural Born Charmer” is as good as the commenter above said ; there are also some great minor characters and multiple romances.
    4. Women’s Fiction: Jennifer Weiner, “Good in Bed.” Curtiss Ann Matlock, “Sweet Dreams at the Goodnight Motel”–a stand-alone novel set in her fictional Valentine, OK.
    5. Historical: pair any Regency romance by Julia Quinn or Eloisa James with “Pride and Prejudice.” You can use the film to keep reading load down if you like.

    So–urban, rural, American and Brit, South, North. Range of ages for central characters. And romance without extended explicit sex scenes that are tough to manage in a class–at least for me.

    Just got Dragon Dictation–got a broken right wrist. It will change my life as an English teacher. Thought of you and need to care for eyes.

  86. Hello Jenny,
    I am a reader not a writer, however I volunteer in a book store that suports Literacy in Central Vancouver Island. My section is Romance, Historical Romance and Vintage.

    For your information Jenny, SEP, JAK but NOT AQ are NOT Romance they are listed under novels or fiction. Many former romance ie Debbie Macomber are now fiction.
    If you want romance, contemporary romance or parnormal look on the spine of the book. it will tell you there.

    Best wishes for your move.

    1. Sounds like you’re relying on the publisher to tell you how they want the book marketed, Margaret. They’re not going to have an academic overview of each genre: they’re just going to go for the strategy they think will sell most copies of that title. So you’ll end up with very hit-and-miss genre divisions in your bookshop – and not groupings that will actually be helpful/enticing to readers.

  87. So many great suggestions! So many things to add to my to-read list.

    Historical: Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas – really fantastic and a step outside the box with a middle-class (or at least non-noblility) couple.

    Paranormal: Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose series. It’s 4 books of awesome. Lots of magic, turns a couple tropes on their ears.

    Can’t wait to see the final list.

  88. Historical: Venetia or The Devil’s Cub, Georgette Heyer. The Firebrand – Susan Wiggs. The Forbidden Rose or My Lord & Spymaster – Joanna Bourne.

    YA: Along for the Ride, Lock & Key or Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

    Women’s Fiction: The Coast Road, Barbara Delinsky, two romances, one with main characters and one sub plot.

    Contemporary: Bet Me or Faking It. Could be interesting to hear what your students say.

    Paranormal – got nothing except for Maybe This Time.

    1. if you go by way of Susan Wiggs’ The Firebrand, i would say don’t start the series with the end, but rather with its beginning – The Hostage. The Hostage, The Mistress, and The Firebrand all give a really interesting look at Chicago during the 1870s, not just by way of romance but also class roles and views, disaster response and relief, and woman’s rights via the start of the American Woman’s Suffrage. while not my most favourite works by Susan Wiggs (Charm School – i like the idea of Freedom Fighting Pirates :)), i would still recommend them. they have interesting plot lines and characters, are very well researched, and are most of all really fun romances to read!

  89. I like a lot of the titels mentioned here, but I can’t help adding some titles an authors

    Contemporaray comedy, Lions and Liquorice, Kate Fenton ( for everyone who loves Pride and Prejudice)
    Contemporary suspense, Night train to Memphis, Elizabeth Peters.
    One of my favorite authors combines historical, paranormal, comedy and suspense: Judith Merkle Riley. The Oracle Glass is my personal favoriete.

    YA ( also historical) Just finished reading Sally Gardners The Red Necklace and The Siver Blade and loved it!

  90. Lots of great ideas!

    My current thoughts:
    Paranormal – Discovery of Witchess and Shadow of Night – Deborah Harkness or The Host – Stephanie Meyer

    YA – Delirum and Requiem – Lauren Oliver

  91. So many books, and so little time.

    Recently I read, “Better Off Without Him,” by Dee Ernst. It would fit your Contemporary Romantic Comedy category. It’s clever and well written, and it examines the role the romance genre represents (which might present an opportunity for folks to talk about where they’re coming from).

    Connie Willis writes some of the best sci-fi I’ve ever read, and if that would work in the paranormal genre she’s got a book called, “Passages,” that I heartily recommend. She also has a load of short stories that would work, many of them in “The Winds of Marble Arch.”

    For the Women’s Fiction category, perhaps Ann Patchett’s “The Patron Saint of Liars.” I remember liking it because it offers no easy way out. Nothing but fodder there.

    Best of luck with your class

  92. Historical: This is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland (both protaganists have a journey, growth, and good dialoogue) or Reforming Lord Ragsdale by Carla Kelly
    CRS: White Lies by Linda Howard
    CRC: Natural Born Charmer, SEP or Worth the Tripp by Penny McCall
    Paranormal: Heart Fate by Robin D. Owens or Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh. I also reread Wild Rain or by Christine Feehan

  93. Was just checking to see if you had new books out and read your ‘moving to New Jersey next week’ post- so, I’m hoping that the storm hasn’t hit you and your new place- so many are having troubles with it. Good Luck.

  94. I’m going to second the Jaclyn Moriarty vote and suggest “I Have a Bed of Buttermilk Pancakes” for Women’s Fiction. She is a fantastic YA author and this is her only foray into adult fiction. This story is told through multiple female narratives – all of whom are connected through a uniquely managed family secret.

    I have such strong feelings for this book, it’s such an amazing mix of longing and strangeness with a real lesson on the magic of perspective.

  95. The first book that Marlys Millhiser wrote was Michael’s Wife which was a both a mystery and a romance and was excellent. She also wrote another romantic suspense a few years later called Willing Hostage. These had a different feel than her later Charlie Greene mysteries or her paranormal. Her heroines were seriously messed up -much like the rest of us – but still managed to behave in a reasonable way and come out ahead. I still remember Michael’s Wife.

  96. Books, besides yours (those would be on my list). Here are a few, although I may be too late to add anything.
    Natural Born Charmer–SEP
    Drop Dead Gorgeous–Linda Howard
    To Die For–Linda Howard
    Blue-Eyed Devil–Lisa Kleypas
    Time Travelers Wife–Audrey Niffenegger
    Soul Song, or Tiger’s Eye–Marjorie M Liu
    Shell Seekers–Pincher
    Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series.
    Forever a Lady–Delilah Marvelle
    Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage–Kieran Kramer
    Sleepwalker–Karen Robards
    Soulless–Gail Carriger

  97. Historical ROMANCE
    Married by Morning by Lisa Klepas is my all time favorite of this genre because of the characters, the humor and the continuing saga of the family members. Love the heroine and hero, quite a fun match with some lol dialogue.

    Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE)
    Bodyguard by Lori Foster, sexy, funny, quirky, suspenseful and the great romantic match up of opposites attracting (immediately) with the hero and heroine. Thoroughly enjoyable romance with just enough suspense for a good balance to the story.

    Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE)
    Your Bet Me is my #1 in this category and is what I recommend. Whenever I want to have a feel good experience quickly I can recall some of the dialogue between Cal and Min for a shift to happy. Their dialogue, internal, external, with each other and with all of the other characters is so sharp, intelligent and just fun to experience.

    For my choice by another author my #2 in the category is Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. The two lead characters are romantic, funny and at times tragic. Similar to my experience with Bet Me I can rely on this book as a recommendation to others.

    Paranormal ROMANCE
    A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter was a surprise for me since this is not a genre that I usually read. An interesting heroine and hero with some well drawn characters with extraordinary paranormal gifts. Listening to your audio book Wild Ride (loved it!) got me to branch into paranormal romance and this one is well done.

    Women’s Fiction
    Always Something There to Remind Me by Beth Harbision. The main characters were developed through the timeliness of their past into the present making a very interesting read. The question of first loves and what if were handled with humor, romance and realism. The hero’s character was well developed and his maturity, even as a teenager was refreshing and interesting. A great read.

  98. Boy, am I late to this party! Here are my picks (aka Sophie’s Choices…one book per category? ONE? I get it, but still…ONE? I weep for all of the utterly fantastic “honorable mentions” that I’m leaving out.)

    *Historical ROMANCE – The Shadow and The Star by Laura Kinsale. So over-the-top in concept, so restrained in execution, so Jane Austen-esque with the use of internal character logic.
    *Contemporary Romantic Suspense (aka ROMANCE) – failing to think of anything beyond “take your pick from Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series”.
    *Contemporary Romantic Comedy (aka ROMANCE) – Natural Born Charmer by SEP (though really, a strong case for pretty much all of her books is easy to make)
    *YA ROMANCE – I got nuthin’
    *Paranormal ROMANCE – DemonAngel by Meljean Brook. It displays a real richness of material, characterization, plotting, setting, etc. and is one of those examples of how complex a story can be within the “romance formula”.
    *Women’s Fiction – Rachel’s Holiday or Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes. I think she’s at the pinnacle for the genre, and these are the pinnacle of her works. (I recommend Rachel’s Holiday because, of her books, I think it’s more well known than Anybody Out There. I recommend Anybody Out There because it’s fantastic and I hate that I feel compelled NOT to talk about or describe it so as not to spoil it even a tiny bit, but somehow just saying “read it – it’s soooooo _____” doesn’t seem to be a compelling argument for most people, for some odd reason.)

    I must say I’m quite interested in how you’re going to utilize and choose from everyone’s suggestions. Good luck!

  99. Here’s a really good example of a badly written HISTORICAL. It is also a hardback, self-published and apparently attractive to a group of people in Britian who wrote glowing reviews on Amazon.

    Several one-star reviews mirror my opinion. I would not suggest actually spending money on his book, althought the $2.99 ebook price seems reasonable if the book is used as a teaching tool.

    “May 1812” by M.M. Bennetts.

    After connecting to his web site, I became less than impressed with his historical insights because he criticizes the American Founding Fathers for their lack of an ‘economic policy.’ As the fates would have it, the concept of ‘national economic policy’ did not arise among governments until many years later. As a consequence, I fell less than positive that his historical facts represent the setting of his story era [with the possible exception of the clothing – he seems to have that mastered.]

    What he does not have mastered is story telling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *