If you haven’t noticed lately, romance is basically everywhere. Netflix has been bringing back the romantic comedy. The holidays are slowly creeping up on us, so Hallmark is advertising that their holiday romances are coming and promise to be epic! There are a ton of romance-discussing podcasts. Romance readers are taking over the bookish corners of YouTube and Instagram. The only problem is, you didn’t begin reading romance at a young age like a lot of romance readers. When standing on the outside looking in, it can look intimidating. Where does one start? Don’t feel alone. I didn’t pick up my first romance until I was almost 30, and this was after countless trips to Barnes and Noble where I literally stood in the romance section in total awe of all these titles, yet totally lost as to where to begin!
As girl gangs do, Frolic Readers, I’ve got your back and am here to share recommendations of romances I think make good starting points for us late-blooming, new-to-romance beginners. When I began my romance reading journey, I discovered that a good way to ease into reading the genre is to start out with sweeter, cozier titles and ease your way into the steamier ones. If you want something a tad steamy, I’ve got you covered there too, but we’ll take it easy.
First, I want to recommend The Rose Harbor Inn series by the force that is Mrs. Debbie Macomber. Yes! You read the word series! Prior to reading romance, I was not a series-reading girl. Nothing about the commitment it would take to continue reading about the same characters in the same world sounded appealing to me…but then I became a romance reader! In The Rose Harbor Inn series, our heroine throughout is Jo Marie. Jo Marie is a war widow, having lost her husband, a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. She moves to the town of Cedar Cove, purchases an old house and turns it into a bed and breakfast, The Rose Harbor Inn. This series is a good starting point because Jo Marie begins to feel like an old friend who you witness grappling with her grief in the beginning and see fall in love at the end. She feels like such a real woman. What makes this a good series to start with is the way Debbie Macomber keeps it interesting I think. In each book Jo Marie and her inn are still the centerpiece to the story but we also follow her new guests which brings a fresh spin to each new book. There are lovers who have been corresponding online, meeting for the first time in person. You’ll meet best friends since high school who return to Cedar Cove for their high school reunion, seeking closure from old hurts and a married couple taking their first vacation alone as parents hoping to rekindle an old spark.
My next recommendation is the Haven Point series by Raeanne Thayne. This series is ongoing. Mrs. Thayne recently released Coming Home For Christmas which is part of the series and it was so good. Definitely one of my new favorite holiday romances! The Haven Point series was one of the first series I read when I ventured into romance. I fell in love with how well Raeanne Thayne captures small town charm and the sense of community. I continued going back for more, devouring each book in the series because I found myself wondering who would get their happy ever after next. I am also a huge fan of how Raeanne Thayne writes the non verbals between characters. When she explains the moment our heroine or hero notices the other person differently, how he notices the way she flips her hair or her laughter. Her writing is swoon worthy without being over the top, and oh-so emotional! She outdoes herself with each book. It gets better and better.
My next recommendation is a standalone and one I recently read, Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt. This book was hilarious! Heidi is a prior kindergarten teacher who finds herself one night, armed with a box of wine and hand me down podcasting equipment recording herself as she reads steamy scenes from romance novels, hitting ‘submit,’ to the great big universe podcasts go to and thinking no one would listen. She admits to having a huge crush on her neighbor and hoping, reading these scenes will help build her confidence to actually talk to him. This book is so good. The author really captured what the end result of being a kid in a household where parents shy away from talks of sex can be. Now, Heidi is this grown woman and doesn’t know how to express herself, so we get to see not only the romance bloom between her and her neighbor, but we see her grow more comfortable with her sexuality. I need this adapted into a film. It was a five-star romantic comedy for me.
My next recommendation is by the Queen herself, Beverly Jenkins. Go, as fast as you can to your local bookstore and haul her most recent release, Rebel, but before reading that one, also snag yourself a copy of Forbidden. Forbidden was my first romance by Queen Bev and it’s one of those timeless stories that I think about all of the time. Forbidden is a historical romance novel following Eddy, our heroine, who travels to the old west. She is found on the brink of death in the middle of the desert by what appears to be a white gentleman named Rhine, who we learn eventually, is secretly white-passing and engaged to a white woman. Eddy and Rhine begin to have feelings for each other but interracial dating is not allowed during this time period. This romance will have you on the edge of your seat as it flawlessly weaves historical facts truly transporting you there! Beverly Jenkins is my go-to author for historical romance. I have yet to read anything by her that wasn’t amazing, but I am so happy with my decision to start my reading of her bibliography with Forbidden.
Let’s end off with Sarah Morgan and her From Manhattan With Love series. Within this series is one of my all-time favorite books, Miracle on 5th Avenue. Please, go read the entire series because it’s amazing, but if you only read one book from it, read this one. This is Eva’s romance with Lucas. Eva is a hopeless romantic, hired by thriller writer Lucas’s grandmother to go decorate his apartment while he’s away writing in Vermont. As Eva walks around the apartment scoping it out, gathering ideas how to decorate, in walks in Lucas. He never had any intention of going to Vermont. This is a holiday themed romance which takes place in New York City. Enter in a December snowstorm which has the two locked in Lucas’s apartment. What I love about this book is how Lucas has been experiencing writers block until he gets to know Eva. Completely unaware, she becomes his muse for the story he’s writing, the more they spend time together. If I could have a fictional character as a best friend, it would be Eva. She is a blogger and has a Youtube channel called Eats With Eva where she cooks different recipes. She’s a lovely character. This book is steamier than my other recommendations but it’s nothing too crazy. If you are a hopeless romantic and don’t mind stories set amidst New York City snowstorms, with a heroine who sings at the top of her lungs while cooking in the kitchen, I think you’ll love it. I reread it recently and loved it just as much the second time around as I did the first!
If you read any of these, please let me know what you think of them and if there are any other types of recommendations you’d like to see as well. Happy Reading friends! We will chat soon.