So another Valentine's Day is sneaking up on us, and I have to tell you, I'm feeling a little odd. I have now been married 20 years, and while I still love my husband very much, the older I get, the more Valentine's Day seems to be for younger lovers.
There are hundreds of reasons to love romance novels, but one of them is that these love stories give us the chance to relive the joy and buoyancy of all the "firsts" of love: The first time they meet, the first electric touch, the first kiss, the first fight, the first chance to forgive and forge deeper understandings.
I sincerely hope my husband and I die together in our sleep at some ripe old age, after we've savored every possible experience in our life together, in which case I will never again experience a first kiss, or any other exciting "first" with a lover. So living vicariously through romance novels is a fun — and surprisingly satisfying — way to experience the spark and tension of those experiences.
Wherever you are in your own love life, I hope you have a lovely Valentine's Day, filled with romance, companionship and passion — whether it's a new love, a long-standing love, your best friend, your dog, or simply a good romance novel.
Wondering what to pick up this weekend? Here are some suggestions:
This is the last volume in the delightful Smythe-Smith Quartet, a series that highlights Julia Quinn's inimitable mix of charm, wit and breathtaking romance. Quinn's incredibly popular Bridgertons series serves as a world-building backdrop for almost all of her books, and this series is no exception — the musically unfortunate Smythe-Smith girls, whose annual concert ordeal serves as a set piece in several other Quinn books, take center stage here. If you would like to start at the beginning of the Quartet, pick up Just Like Heaven. If you want to start at the very beginning, find the first Bridgerton title, The Duke and I.
Krentz is a trailblazer in the romance community, who started writing in the 1980s. She has huge followings for each of her writing personas: Amanda Quick in historical, Jayne Castle in futuristic paranormal, and Jayne Ann Krentz in contemporary, though even these descriptions are simplistic boxes, since she's written so many books in crossover genres. But in the last year, she's gone back to less paranormal, more traditional romantic suspense storylines. Trust No One is a fun addition to that genre, set in the quirky world of motivational speakers. When self-help guru Sprague Witherspoon is found murdered, suspicion falls on his secret weapon, writer and social media whiz Grace Elland. The police clear her name quickly, but only after a connection to a tragedy in her past puts her in the sights of a potential serial killer, and she meets a sexy new neighbor who wants to keep her safe
My favorite paranormal romance last year was Nalini Singh's Shield of Winter, which was book 13 of her Psy/Changeling series, about a crowd of clashing paranormal societies that have to co-exist on our planet. I like the whole series, but Singh is at her best in the most recent titles. The world-building is textured and fascinating, and she truly captivates with her psychic alpha heroes, trying to protect their mates and survive in a crumbling world.The next one, Shards of Hope, comes out in June, but you can prepare for that highly anticipated book with the first two Psy-focused titles, Heart of Obsidian and Shield of Winter.
A few more:
Historical favorite Jillian Hunter has a new series, The Fenwick Sisters Affairs, kicking off this month with Forbidden to Love the Duke.
Lynsay Sands' bestselling Argeneau vampire series takes place in a society whose members are ancient survivors of Atlantis. The Immortal Who Loved Me is coming out at the end of this month, and it's a bit of a sequel to last year's Vampire Most Wanted.
And finally, last year's romantic and touching debut The Red Bikini marked Lauren Christopher as a contemporary romance author to watch. Her followup, Ten Good Reasons, comes out in early April.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Bobbi Dumas is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wis. She writes, blogs and reviews for Kirkus Media, and celebrates romance and women's fiction on her website ReadARomanceMonth.com