Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Celebrating a Month of Romance

It's romance month....

...and we're doing our best to keep the love alive this month by sharing our favorite romance novels with you. Of course, our definition of "romance" may be a little loose, so you know, we're just kinda going with it.  

Though you won't find any mushy-gushy recommendations from me this month - I run for the hills whenever the word romance is tied to any kind of fiction - our contributors surprised me! Melanie and Kate are about to woo you with a handful of awesome books to fall in love (winkwink).

Melanie Recommends:

The One-Week Marriage by Renee Roszel:

This was the first Harlequin my mom bought me, and I remember her saying that I should tell her if something too…steamy…happened. Nothing like that ever did, but I do know I fell in love with the headstrong lead, Izzy, and her too-perfect boss, Gabriel! Gabriel wants to gain an account with an eccentric old man who owns a baby food company; however, the old guy is a family man and only wants to work with family-oriented people. Gabriel is a playboy. Therefore, Izzy, Gabriel’s secretary, who protests the whole time, must pretend to be his wife for a week to dupe the old baby food tycoon. This story is so bonkers that I actually wrote several chapters of a parody during my MFA. I then read those chapters at an (required by the MFA program) open mic night and had people rolling all over the place. It was naughty.

A Girl’s Guide toVampires by Kate MacAlister:

Two best girl friends go on vacation to the Czech Republic. Joy is a total skeptic about paranormal activities, but loves to read vampire novels. Her favorite author will make an appearance at a festival the ladies want to attend, and Joy can’t wait. Her girl Roxy will believe anything, so her job is to fuel doubt. Enter a man so perfect that Joy can’t help but wonder if he’s a vampire, or just a really, well, perfect. He’s got a big meat stick and everything. Someone has to be a vampire—just look at the title!—and so we spend the book wondering if hot stranger is a liar or a blood sucker. In the meantime, the sexy boning will keep you happy.

Don’t Die, My Love by Lurlene McDaniel:

I got this book when I was in elementary school when Scholastic Book Order Day rolled around. Oh, how I loved Scholastic Day! My mom would give me a plastic baggie with coins and the order form. So, this book is meant for young adults, which elementary school children are not. Luke and Julie are high schoolers devoted to making it work after they graduate, but when Luke discovers he has cancer, they wonder if he’ll graduate at all. Ridiculously sad, but also touching, Don’t Die, My Love made a big impact on the way I thought about responsible relationships.

Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell:

This book is really “as advertised.” I felt it resembled the show very little and instead focused mostly on Carrie (not all 4 friends), who often seemed cold, but was always after some great sex. Love didn’t really seem to be a factor, and the characters aren’t always likable as they are in the show, which causes many readers to hate the book. But, I think this is a different side of the romance novel that not many writers explore.

Spur of the Moment by Theresa Alan:

I recently got a hold of Ms. Alan and was able to interview her for my blog, which was awesome! I don’t typically get a bestselling author over at my digs. Spur of the Moment focuses on 6 improv actors. Ana is the main character, but there are all kinds of misunderstandings about who’s in love with whom and when. There are sad moments, like Ana having a bad day at work and suddenly realizing she got her period, but such moments sound strangely familiar to some women. This is a lively, funny book that kept me entertained the whole way through.

Kate Recommends:

Small World by David Lodge

This is the second novel in Lodge’s campus trilogy and is playfully subtitled “An Academic Romance” by the author. Lodge’s cast of academics jet around the globe to attend conferences, foment rivalries and carry on affairs.

Unlike his later novels (which basically seem to be stories of a bloke a bit like Lodge having implausible amounts of sex with young, beautiful women) this has strong characterisation, clever literary references, a fast-moving plot – and it’s very funny.

The Doves of Venus by Olivia Manning

Ellie is a bright girl from a poor background. At eighteen she moves to Fifties London, dreaming of a life of art and bohemianism. She falls in love with an older man, Quintin.

Manning beautifully captures their relationship and the clash of Ellie’s na├»vety and Quintin’s casual cruelty. Ellie sees excitement in everything – a house party or an evening in the pub are filled with drama as she meets Marxists, drunks and divorcees - all the people her mother would disapprove of. Yet she is living an impoverished life and doing work she finds ridiculous, yearning for meaning and love from a man who has nothing to give.

You yearn too – for her to keep that freshness while becoming wise enough to ditch the loser.

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

I like Marian Keyes for her sparky characters, her sharp humour and her zeitgeisty references (though she does write rather more about shoes than I would like). This is my favourite of her novels and it goes deeper and darker than some of the others. And it references a Smiths song.

It tells the story of four women in Dublin. They have all had their lives changed in some way by involvement with prominent politician Paddy de Courcy, and are coming to terms with the news that he is to marry. There are stories of addiction and violence interlaced with glamour and power and great insights into contemporary Irish life. There’s even a female character who doesn’t like make-up.

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