Author of over 200 novels, Nora Roberts’ books have spent over 800 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list and there’s a reason for this. Oscillating between romance as Nora Roberts and suspense novels as J. D. Robb, her books combine romance and Happy Ever Afters with well-developed characters whose trials and tribulations echo reality. Try Chasing Fire, a standalone novel starring a fire-fighting heroine.
The Contemporary Multicultural Romance Saga
The first African-American romance author to make the New York Times Bestsellers list, Brenda Jackson is renowned for her lengthy sagas, spanning families and series. Her latest series begins with A Brother’s Honour and explores the impact old family secrets can have on the present.
The What If
Mhairi McFarlane’s debut novel You Had Me At Hello takes the story of two university lovers and intertwines it with their lives years later. We all wonder about the one that got away – what if you met them years later?
After the Happily Ever After ***Warning, Spoilers!***
The romance novel dominating the papers this autumn has been Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy; killing off Mark Darcy and revisiting our beloved anti-heroine has drummed up questions about what happens after the ever-so-delectable Happily Ever After. Why is it so important to us that Mark and Bridget lived happily ever after?
Not the Traditional Happy Ever After
Not all romances end the way we expect them to. Eva Ibbotson’s gently prosaic Madensky Square, set in Vienna before the war, is but isn’t a romance that encapsulates a society that we don’t quite understand. Particularly worth reading for a revelation about Susanna’s past that will break your heart.
Both Amy Andrews’ Driving Her Crazy and Marian Keyes’ The Mystery of Mercy Close engage with weighty issues in a manner that make us laugh and make us almost cry. Andrews’ portrayal of Sadie’s reliving of a previous eating disorder is the perfect example of a Mills & Boon novel with substance, and Keyes’ exploration of depression – despite the frivolous cover – is a must-read for anyone who thinks that chick lit can’t deal with serious issues.
In a world where 50 Shades of Grey sold millions of copies, more and more people are interested in reading about the BDSM lifestyle and relationships. 10 Shades of Seduction contains stories from bestsellers Tiffany Reisz, Portia Da Costa and Lisa Renee Jones (amongst others) and is the perfect way to try erotica on for size.
Contrast that with Anaïs Nin’s Delta of Venus which ‘conjures up a cascade of sexual encounters’ at a time when men spoke for sex. Shocking, evocative and passionate, this collection of short stories deals with the darkest sides of desire, discomforting us whilst making us question our own fantasies.
Though rather sensationalised at present, romantic lesbian relationships set in the ever po-faced Victorian era challenge our preconceptions of how sickly sweet romance has to be. Try Sarah Waters’ riveting Fingersmith, where crime and love become entangled, or Emma Donaghue’s fictionalised account of a real Victorian divorce scandal in The Sealed Letter.
Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente’s surrealist novel explores the narratives of four separate characters who discover a city that’s only accessible at night. Referred to affectionately by its fans as the ‘sexually transmitted city’, Valente’s novel is haunting, heartbreaking and uncomfortably erotic.
Which romance and erotica titles are on your Christmas list?