LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
OK, there are still a few weeks of summer left, which means plenty more afternoons to lie out in the sun, maybe poolside, while diving into a good book. I especially love anything with a romantic twist, and that's why we have novelist Jasmine Guillory on today to tell us more about the best romance reads to catch up on. Hello.
JASMINE GUILLORY: Thank you so much for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Before we hear about your picks, you know, you're an acclaimed romance author. What are you looking for when you're choosing a romance novel to read?
GUILLORY: What I am looking for in a romance is I want to feel like I'm inside the story, you know? I want characters who feel real to me, who, even if I have nothing in common with them, I understand why they're behaving the way they are. I think about their, like, struggles, and I understand why they're falling in love. I think that's the most important thing for me in a romance - is to really know, like, that these two people are meant for each other and to feel like I'm kind of tagging along on their love story. That's my favorite part.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. I personally like the banter, you know? I like the dialogue.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's the thing that always gets me because it brings me into the characters.
So I am now going to dive into your list. Top of is "Honey Girl" by Morgan Rogers. It revolves around an overachieving Ph.D. grad who suddenly finds herself hitched in Vegas to a woman she barely knows. What happens after they tie the knot?
GUILLORY: Well, so one of the things that I love so much about this book is - I think that, like, the kind of drunken hookup in Vegas is a common beginning of a romance novel trope, but this book is so different than what you would expect from that. You know, it's a very coming-of-age book. Grace is in her mid-20s. She's just finished a Ph.D. program and is really figuring out what to do with the rest of her life and then, you know, deciding that she's really going to kind of give it a shot with this woman that she hooked up with in Vegas and then got married to. And they live on the other sides of the country. They kind of fall in love over the phone. And then, you know, they travel to meet one another. And it's a really kind of slow, thoughtful, loving book, and I just enjoyed it so much.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, going now to the beautiful beaches of Key West - "An Island Affair" (ph) by Priscilla Oliveras. It shakes up the fake-it-till-you-make-it relationship trope. Who is this love story about, and where does it take them?
GUILLORY: So this story is about Sara and Luis. And they, you know - I should have probably said this at the beginning. One of my favorite things about romance novels, honestly, is I feel like they're always kind of secret family stories, right? Like, because when you think about who you want to spend your life with, a lot of times that is because of your family and the people that you grew up with. And so, sometimes, you're really figuring out who your family is in relationship to you. And I think there's a lot of that in this book.
Both Sara and Luis are figuring out their families. They both love their family so much but have kind of difficult relationships with different individuals in the families. And Sara especially feels like her family looks down on her. So that's why she has this kind of fake fiance because she was supposed to come on this family vacation with a fiance. They broke up right before, and she feels like she has to save face in front of her family. And so she gets Luis to pretend to be her fiance, you know, with her family. And I kind of loved the way that they learn about each other, figure out their families and figure out theirselves as they're working through their relationship.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And for the sports fans, you picked "Intercepted" by Alexa Martin.
GUILLORY: Yeah. You know, one of the things that I love about Alexa Martin's writing is a lot of her books have been set in and around a football team. And I've always had a kind of love-hate relationship with football and, I think, a lot of sports. I think, you know, there's so much that we love about watching them, but we all know so many of the bad things that happen in sports, from the health struggles to, you know, to assault, to, like, all of the kind of ways in which the teams don't treat their players well. And Alexa Martin really knows how to deal with all of that - like, both sides of it.
This story is really about Marlee, who starts out the book dating an NFL player. She finds out that he's cheating on her, breaks up with him, but then there's a new player in town, and she has kind of a past with him. And so she's figuring out herself and kind of who she wants to be as a person. Does she want to be in this relationship? Does she want to be, you know, kind of an NFL girlfriend, right? And there's so much about friendship and family and kind of knowing who you are as a person before you're in a relationship in this book. And that's one of the things that I loved about it so much.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me ask you this. Are there any themes you've noticed in romance novels that have come out this year? Anything that surprised you?
GUILLORY: You know, I think that it's an interesting year, right? Because I think a lot of the books that have come out this year were written at least partially during the pandemic. And so while none of these - none of the books that I've read, at least, have specifically touched on it, I think a lot of the themes really have touched on it, right? There's a lot about friendship and how our friends evolve, about loving family, about mental health. You know, I know that, like, my most recent book, "While We Were Dating" I wrote during the pandemic, and there's a lot about mental health in there. And I think I couldn't write a book last year that didn't deal with that theme because it was so important to so many of us in the past year. And so I think I've seen a lot of books really dealing with kind of all of those things.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's romance novelist Jasmine Guillory. Thank you so much.
GUILLORY: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
(SOUNDBITE OF DJ COVER THAT'S "KISS ME MORE (INSTRUMENTAL)")
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