Please welcome Smarty Pants Mallory Hayes to the FYA stage! Mallory's a Midwestern gal based in Minneapolis, MN. She is a publicist for a small, independent YA publisher so she gets to gush about books for a living. After you finish DYING OF JEALOUSY, check out her impassioned defense of les smutty books. Take it away, Mallory!
In honor of Smutty February, I’ve dusted off my Romance-angelist hat and I am on a mission to convert some skeptics into full-blown romance lovers.
Ladies (and Brian), we as adult readers of YA fiction get a lot of shizz for enjoying the books we enjoy. Well, add romance reader to that and you pretty much lose all respect from “real” readers. It is a quick and easy way to get rid of the a-holes in your life. Good riddance! And you are left to enjoy the sexy books all to yourself.
There are a lot of things to poke fun of about the romance genre—weird euphemisms, awkward covers where the models clothes are inexplicably about to fall off, sometimes bad sex scenes—but there are a lot of awesome things about the romance genre as well. First off, they’re fun! They’re fluff of the best kind. Second, they will make you feel all the feels! Some romance novels are full of angst, and longing, and yes, I may have shed a tear while reading a romance. No shame! Thirdly, romances are full of wonderful, loveable, unforgettable characters.
I read mostly historical romance novels. I first fell in love with historicals in college because it was basically Pride and Prejudice with making out and a sex scene or two. Yes please! I've read a great many more historicals since then and I've fallen in love with the banter and character development that I now find essential to any good romance that I read (historical or otherwise.) I also find the historical setting fantastic because there are SO many more obstacles in the way for a couple. For example, the couple may be from different social classes and it’s IMPOSSIBLE for them to be together. (Spoiler alert: they figure it out). Ruination is just a kiss (or more) away but will the hero save the heroine by marrying her? (He freaking better.) And goodness knows, women’s positions in society were very precarious. Good historicals use these obstacles as a way to move the plot along.
One of the great things about historical romances, especially at the moment, is that there are so many awesome feminists authors! This is a great way to avoid the whole “You are my wife. I own you” business from a-hole heroes and you get heroines with strength and agency.
Julia Quinn is a fantastic entry into historical romances. Her novels are a bit less racy and much more focused on the characters. The Bridgertons series is a fantastic place to start with her. She was also the author that got me hooked on historicals.
Sarah MacLean is an amazing historical author (who has also written a YA). I have never been more attached to heroines of a story than hers.*
Tessa Dare's Spindle Cove series is about all the wallflowers and goddammit I loves me some wallflowers.
Lisa Kleypas's Hathaway series is very different from other historicals and includes two half-Romany characters which is something new!
These are just a few of the many talented authors writing historicals right now. There are so many more to discover! So many dukes who have to fall in love! So many rakes that need to be reformed!
BONUS FACTOR OF ROMANCE! Swoonworthy at all 10 levels. Listen, sex scenes are hard to write. You only need to read a bunch of bad scenes from otherwise good authors to know that writing a sex scene is a talent that not many possess. But when you do find an author that can WRITE, it’s melt city.
Now, my romance newbies, I can’t offer you many recommendations for contemporary or paranormal** romances because those aren’t my forte. But there are many awesome romance blogs out there that could offer some suggestions. I highly recommend Smart Bitches, Trashy Books for some great snark and sexy times talk. Also, they are much more educated and more articulate than I am about romance-angelism.
I hope I’ve inspired some of you to try a romance novel or two and if anyone has contemporary or paranormal recommendations, send them my way! Now go forth, my romance butterflies, and discover the greatness of the romance genre!
*Seriously, this whole essay could just be about the awesomeness of Sarah MacLean and how everyone should read her. In fact, maybe just read this interview from her? Her mom worked for MI6!
**My first foray into romance was actually a paranormal romance that features dragons. DRAGONS. Sure, they appeared in human form most of the time but they still breathed fire and when they reached *ahem* completion they shifted just for a moment into dragon form. WTF?
Thanks for stopping by, Mallory! So do y'all have a fave romance author or series, historical or otherwise? Share 'em in the comments!