As a romance writer, I read A LOT of romance. While every romance novel is different, any genre that you read frequently can grow a bit repetitive over time. When that happens for me with romance, I just take a short break and read other genres for a time. Then, once I’ve refreshed and reset my love for love, I come back to my trusty HEAs.
But sometimes I might read a moment in a romance novel that feels so entirely new and different that I’m immediately reminded of why I have loved these stories all along. Over the past several months of quarantine life (#quarantinelyfe), I’ve been binging these feel-good stories more than ever, and I have stumbled across four “refreshing” moments in romance that I just can’t stop thinking about.
Take caution, dear readers: THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!
- There are many beautiful, idyllic settings in romance novels. Main characters fall in love in castles, frolic in fields of flowers, make love on a beach at sunset…you know, the fairytale life. *Le sigh* Don’t pooh-pooh it, folks. Romance readers eat that shit up. Myself included. But occasionally a book comes along and turns that perfect setting on its head. Well, that was certainly the case for When the Duke Returns by Eloisa James. The female and male MCs fall in love while having to dig their marital home out of a literal pile of shit. (Damn the laziness of wealthy forebears and the lack of plumbing insight of the 18th Century!) With two rather uptight MMCs, of course, hilarity ensues.
- Historically, romance novels have placed the MMC in pursuit of the FMC. That’s exactly why I loved the refreshing switcheroo in Right by Jana Aston. FMC, Everly, is outspoken, filter-less, and a whole lot of outrageous fun—especially when she’s pursuing her intended (at least in the beginning of the book). I loved her exuberance and self-confidence, especially in a subgenre where a female MC is not always written in such a way—e.g. New Adult Romance.
- Another breath of fresh air comes from Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert. In fact, the whole love story here is a breath of fresh air. Chloe, is a plus-size heroine of color with chronic health issues and a fortress built ‘round her heart. Redford Morgan is her ginger motorcycle-riding prince who swoops in and treats her like the everyday goddess she is. Chronic pain/fatigue conditions are extremely common, and yet there aren’t many romance novels taking them on. We all deserve a happily ever after, and I enjoyed this novel immensely.
- Speaking of greater representation, other romantic subgenres could also benefit from greater diversity. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella is a YA contemporary romance novel that centers around a 14-year-old girl with mental illness. The premise itself is beautiful, the book is gorgeously written, and I could see this book being a source of comfort to many young people. What I found especially refreshing was that we never fully learn about the incident that triggered Audrey’s anxiety and depression. We know that it happened at school, and it involved a group of girls, but we never learn the whole of what took place. I find this refreshing simply because it’s a reminder to us readers that we don’t actually have to know everything to experience the MC’s story on a deeper level. The decision to withhold this information from the reader also takes the story-telling power away from Audrey’s bullies and places that power back with her instead.
If you’re a romance reader, and you’re looking for something new and refreshing, I hope you’ll check these books out. If you’ve already read ‘em, let me know what you thought in the comments!