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Doorways to Romance


Why not books? Image ID: psnypl_grd_458
Why not (romance) books? Image ID: psnypl_grd_458

Ever finished a book and immediately wanted to read another one just like it? It’s not always easy to find another novel to enjoy when you’re only looking for something with the same topic or genre. 

Take a moment to determine what it was about the author's work you liked. Maybe you loved the quirky personalities, the non-stop action, descriptions of costumes and setting, or perhaps the sentences were more like verse. The four appeal factors for readers (plot, character, setting, and language) are widely talked about in reader circles. You can learn more about these appeal factors, or as our beloved Nancy Pearl calls them doorways, from her TedTalk or her Publishers Weekly article on the same topic.

With Nancy Pearl’s guidance, several of us Romance readers (and writers) came up with the lists below, the Doorways to Romance. 

Story Driven:

This is the hardest appeal factor to think of when looking at the Romance genre from a traditional fiction view. Generally if a book is plot driven, it's categorized as the alternative subject to market to a broader audience. For instance books described as 'A Thriller with romantic elements' very often fall right into the conventions of a Romance Novel, but calling it a Thriller means you'll also reach the John Grisham crowd. These rules often narrow what is formally considered Romance. With that in mind, here are some story driven titles from the Romance genre.

Born to Darkness

Dreaming of You - Lisa Kleyplas (Overdrive eBook)
Night Hawk - Beverly Jenkins (Overdrive eBook)
Destiny's Surrender - Beverly Jenkins (Overdrive eBook)
Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black (3M eBook)
The Wicked Wallflower - Maya Rodale (Overdrive eBook)
Too Hot to Handle - Victoria Dahl (Overdrive eBook)
Born to Darkness - Suzanne Brockmann (Overdrive eBook)
Less Than A Gentleman - Kerrelyn Sparks (Overdrive eBook)
Unspoken - Dee Henderson (Overdrive eBook)
Indelible - Kristen Heitzmann

Click here for the story driven catalog list

Character Driven:

As a Romance reader, when I think back to a book I enjoyed and don't remember much about the plot (it's there but vague), I'll usually remember the characters like they're old friends. Romance novels are generally built on the emotional conflict between characters (usually the hero and heroine) making the genre heavily character-driven. This is not a weakness. Romance novelists create wonderful fully developed characters you'll cheer on and remember for years.

Falling for Gracie

A Place Called Home - Jo Goodman (Overdrive eBook)
Welcome to Temptation - Jennifer Crusie (3M eBook)
Bitsy's Bait and BBQ - Pamela Morsi (Overdrive eBook)
Lord of Scoundrels - Loretta Chase 
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion (3M eBook)
Once More, My Darling Rogue - Lorraine Heath (Overdrive eBook)
Because of You - Jessica Scott (Overdrive eBook)
Virgin River - Robyn Carr (Overdrive eBook)
Barefoot Season - Susan Mallery (Overdrive eBook)
Falling for Gracie - Susan Mallery (Overdrive eBook)
The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever - Julia Quinn (Overdrive eBook)

Click here for the character driven catalog list

Setting Driven:

Romance audiences love detail: why a character is wearing a certain shade at her debutante ball, the way a hero sits on his horse, how a creature creates a bead to wish upon, or if a particularly well fitting dress boosts a heroine's confidence. We want to know. Romance authors are ace world-builders and if their quirky characters don't pull you in, their descriptions of ancient customs, historic clothing, back story, and all the other external influences impacting your characters will have you hooked.

A Bollywood Affair

Don't look down - Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer (3M eBook)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor (3M eBook)
One Forbidden Evening  - Jo Goodman (Overdrive eBook)
Rules of Surrender - Christina Dodd (Overdrive eBook)
An Affair Before Christmas - Eloisa James (Overdrive eBook)
The Ugly Duchess - Eloisa James (Overdrive eBook)
Devil in Winter - Lisa Kleyplas (Overdrive eBook)
Silk Is for Seduction  - Loretta Chase (Overdrive eBook)
A Bollywood Affair - Sonali Dev (Overdrive eBook)
The Iron Duke - Meljean Brook (3M eBook)
Comanche Moon - Catherine Anderson
Change of Heart ary Calmes (Overdrive eBook)
The Masquerade - Brenda Joyce (Overdrive eBook)
Simply  Irresistible - Jill Shalvis (3M eBook)
Love's Pursuit - Siri Mitchell

Click here for the setting driven catalog list.

Language Driven: 

Language Driven Romances are easy to find. They're everywhere. Romance is a huge umbrella genre that can mix with any other literary genre. Authors use language, sentence structure, or word choice to dance into many different genres. The lists above and the titles below include Romance titles from the popular sub-genres: Historic, Contemporary, Military, Western, YA, Mystery, Women's Fiction, Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Multicultural, Christian, Gay, and Humor.

What the lady Wants


What the Lady Wants - Jennifer Crusie (Overdrive eBook)


Naked in Death  - J.D. Robb  (3M eBook)
Secrets of Bella Terra  - Christina Dodd (Overdrive eBook)


The Hexed - Heather Graham (Overdrive eBook)
Dead Until Dark  - Charlaine Harris (Overdrive eBook)


How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire - Kerrelyn Sparks (Overdrive eBook)


City of Bones - Cassandra Clare (3M eBook)
One Foot in the Grave - Jeaniene Frost (Overdrive eBook)
Dark Lover  - J.R. Ward (Overdrive eBook)

Shades of Grey Jasper Ffford

Traditional Fiction:

The Tiger's Wife - Téa Obreht (Overdrive eBook)
The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett (Overdrive eBook)

Women's Fiction:

The Shop on Blossom Street - Debbie Macomber (Overdrive eBook)

Christian Fiction:

Unrivaled - Siri Mitchell
The Apothecary's Daughter - Julie Klassen (Overdrive eBook)

Erotic Romance:

Long Hard Ride -  Lorelei James (Overdrive eBook)

Social Satire/Thriller/Dystopian/Fantasy:

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron - Jasper Fforde

Here’s a huge THANK YOU to the folks who helped me out with these lists: Lynn, who convinced me to create them; My Romance Book Club ladies, who offered many, many suggestions: Alyssa Cole (@AlyssaColeLit), Alexis Daria (@alexisdaria), and Lena Hart (@lenahartwrites); and my beloved high school English teacher. 

Have some great titles to add to the list? Put them in the comments. 


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I'm a historical romance reader. Mainly Regency romance but I make forays into Georgian, Victorian and occasionally Medieval. Not so much contemporary. Not that I don't like them when I read them but I just don't seek them out. If I do, they tend to be in the silly Bridget Jones vein. I get very specific with what I like in terms of heroes, heroines, setting, writing style, dialogue and love scenes. I find an author and I stick with them. Some favorites include: Sarah Maclean, Vanessa Kelly, Eileen Dreyer, Jo Beverly, Lisa Kleypas, Candace Camp and Mary Balogh. I also enjoy historical mysteries with romance. I really love the Lady Darby mysteries by Anna Lee Huber, Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander, Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig, Sebastien St. Cyr by C.S. Harris and many many others. Luckily its not just me who loves these types of books because they keep getting published.

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