Alaina Mauro is Publishing Manager for the Adult imprints at Penguin Group. She is a well-known romance-phile, and has been known to discuss the literary merits of her favorite romances with pretty much anyone who will listen. She thanks the Penguin blog for giving her the opportunity to proselytize to a wider audience.
It Happened One Wedding, byJulie James
Julie James is my go-to for an absorbing, funny, contemporary romance novel. She’s always the first I recommend to friends interested in reading romance. Her novels are full of wonderfully drawn characters who feel like real people, and by the end, real friends. It Happened One Wedding is no exception, and the story of Vaughn Roberts, Special Agent, and Sidney Sinclair, investment banker, is engaging from their first funny coffee shop not-meet-cute, in which both decides the other is not for them. Circumstances draw them together, and their gradual friendship that turns into something more is delightful to read. This is one of those book’s that I like to have more than one copy of—one to keep, and one to loan—it’s that good.
Then Came You, by Jill Shalvis
The fourth book in Jill Shalvis’s Animal Magnetism series is about veterinarians in rural Idaho. Dr. Emily Stevens is about to start a new internship far from her Los Angeles life at an animal clinic in rural Idaho, working for Drs. Dell and Adam Connelly. She has a plan. It involves spending the least amount of time in Idaho as possible to get a permanent position in LA, and marrying someone whose goals line up with hers. Not on the plan is Dr. Wyatt Stone, her new boss. She had a one-night stand with Wyatt months earlier at a veterinarian conference and expected to never see him again. Then Came You is a great contemporary romance about two people trying to reconcile life’s plans with life’s reality. Wyatt, in particular, is an excellent hero, and it was great to see him get his Happily Ever After. Though this is the fourth book in the series, it can easily be read without having read the others, but also, the others are great and you should totally read them!
Ravishing the Heiress, by Sherry Thomas
Historical romance is my favorite romance subgenre, and Sherry Thomas is one of the best writing currently. Her stories are emotionally engaging in a way that is really rewarding for the reader. Ravishing the Heiress is the second book in a series set in Edwardian England about the Fizhugh siblings. It’s my favorite of the series and can be read without having read the others. It is that most-common historical trope, an arranged marriage, which starts with the main characters, Millicent and Fitzhugh, both having had their hearts broken with their true loves through circumstance, agreeing to marry each other, but that if either’s true love were to become available, to part ways with no hard feelings. When Fitz’s love, Isabelle returns to London, their agreement is put to the test. This story is one where the HEA is far from secure. Will Fitz end up with Isabelle? Will Millie find her own love? Has there been more between Fitz and Millie than either was willing to admit? Finding out, and the way the Thomas resolves these issues, is what make this book really stand out.
The Secret Life of Violet Grant, by Beatriz Williams
Beatriz Williams writes engrossing novels with strong, well-drawn, female characters who don’t always act the way romantic heroines “should” and her books are all the better for it. The Secret Life of Violet Grant is set in 1914 Berlin and 1964 New York City, and follows Violet and Vivian Schuyler. Vivian has just graduated from Bryn Mawr and has defied her wealthy Manhattan family to get a job! And live on her own! And to actually do it successfully! The horror! She receives a parcel in the mail, a suitcase, which belonged to Violet. Violet is a hushed-up family secret, and Vivian becomes determined to find out what happened to her. The story is told from both Violet’s and Vivian’s point of view, and both women are smart, compelling characters. Of course, this wouldn’t be here if there weren’t two excellent heroes to help both women with their mysteries. Both romances are deliciously complicated, and the resolutions are extremely satisfying.
Romance is My Day Job, by Patience Bloom
Romance is My Day Job is actually a memoir by Patience Bloom, an editor at Harlequin. And yet, it is my favorite romantic story of the year. Patience, like some other people I know, grew up devouring romance novels, and expected that she too would find her hero, her happily ever after, her grand love. Then she moved to New York City, got her dream job at Harlequin editing romance, and…nothing happened. No hero, although many near-heroes. The book opens with a single, happy Patience in her early forties, living her life, when she receives an out-of-the-blue message from an old friend. All of a sudden it seems as if maybe her grand love might be a real possibility. Patience is an hilarious narrator, and anyone who has read and loved even one romance novel, will love her. Her actual romance is as compelling as any of the others here, if not more so, because it’s real.
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