BY GENA KITTNER
I’d be embarrassed if anyone saw my Kindle library. The bodice-rippers combined with your basic chick lit far outweigh any classics or novels you’d find reviewed in the New York Times.
Embarrassed, but not alone.
According to the Romance Writers of America, readers spent $1.08 billion on romance novels in 2013, resulting in this genre making up 13 percent of adult fiction. Most purchased the novels in e-book formats.
See — I’m not the only one with a trashy Kindle.
Three years ago, at the height of the “50 Shades of Grey” phenomenon, I wrote about the trend in readers seeking books considered “mommy porn” and the Harry Potter-esque wait-lists at local libraries for “50 Shades.”
So I’m putting my knowledge about romance novels to work (with a little help from some friends), and giving you a top 10 list of trashy reads, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
GENA’S TOP 3 RECOMMENDED ROMANCE NOVELS
The Chocolate Thief (Amour et Chocolat, Book 1), by Laura Florand
Kindle price: $9.59
The gist: What’s more romantic than a young, high-strung chocolate mogul traveling to Paris to persuade a young, hot chocolatier to go into business? Not much. It’s a quick read accented with lots of French, lots of chocolate, and a fair amount of steamy scenes.
Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues, by Linda Berdoll
Kindle price: $5.99
The gist: The (largely) happily ever after of “Lizzy” and Mr. Darcy is every Austen-ophile’s dream. The book is fairly well-written and peppered with bedroom scenes that will make you blush, but don’t overpower the story. Like “The Chocolate Thief,” it’s the first in a series, but I can only vouch for the first.
Outlander: A Novel (Outlander, book 1), by Diana Gabaldon
Kindle price: $1.99
The gist: It’s unfair to call this book trashy. “Outlander” actually is a well-written novel about a nurse who time-travels to 18th-century Scotland. It’s also a tomb, with the paperback coming in at more than 600 pages. But within those pages is romance with a capital R and all that that implies. It requires dedication, but doesn’t disappoint. So far I’ve read five books out of eight in the series, and I now know more about Scotland and pre-Civil War America than I ever imagined I would.
7 MORE ROMANCE NOVELS RECOMMENDED BY FRIENDS*
*WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS TO PROTECT THEIR STANDING AS HIGH-BROW READERS
Darkfever: Fever Series Book 1, by Karen Marie Moning
Kindle price: $5.99
The gist: A young woman heads to Ireland to solve the mystery of her sister’s death where she runs into mysterious and sinister forces. She meets a guy with much experience with the sinister forces, which often turn out to to be nymphomaniac fae. My friend calls this series “the trashiest thing I think I’ve read… but also really quite good.”
A Hidden Fire: Elemental Mysteries Book One, by Elizabeth Hunter
Kindle price: FREE!
The gist: An ancient and handsome vampire needs a super smart librarian with mysterious past to help him with his research, but danger lurks near. According to my friend, “This is a grown-up ‘Twilight,’ but smarter and sexier. Really well done.” I read the first in the series and totally agree.
The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory
Kindle price: $10.99
The gist: Set in the Tudor court of Henry VIII, it’s the story of Mary Boleyn and her sister Anne and their “relationship” with the handsome and charming Henry VIII. If Showtime’s The Tudors wasn’t hot enough for you, download this book immediately.
Black Lies, by Alessandra Torre
Kindle price: $3.99
The gist: A woman finds herself caught between two men — a tech billionaire who has proposed (and she has rejected) marriage three times and the gardener famous for banging housewives. My friend explains, “It skipped over some of the unnecessary details you can imagine for yourself, but it kept my attention and has a truly unexpected twist.”
Talk Me Down, by Victoria Dahl
Kindle price: $4.47
The gist: A bestselling erotic fiction author is forced to skip town and move back to tiny Tumble Creek, Colorado when her inspiration runs dry. There she meets former high school hot guy and chief of police Ben Lawson, and she’s back in business. My friend describes Dahl as her “favorite contemporary romance author” who writes “probably the most imaginative sex scenes without edging into ’50 Shades’ territory.”
The Raven Prince, by Elizabeth Hoyt
Kindle price: $3.99
The gist: A widowed young woman needs to find a job so she becomes secretary to The Earl of Swartingham. During her employment she (of course) falls in love with him. When she learns he plans to visit a brothel she decides to take it upon herself to take care of his… urges. My friend warns these books are “pretty explicit.”
Beguiling the Beauty (The Fitzhugh Trilogy Book 1), by Sherry Thomas
Kindle price: $7.59
The gist: When a duke meets a mysterious baroness on a transatlantic liner, he is fascinated and soon proposes marriage. But then she disappears. My friend explains the author writes traditional historical romance — the kind you used to need to hide before Kindles. But “her stories are typically above par and her female characters never merely debutants.”
In our opinion, all these romance novels are better bets than “50 Shades,” and who hasn’t read that? So dig in, it will be a little secret between you and your Kindle.