The Bookmatcher: Adults in Romances

Billie Bloebaum, romance book buyer for Powell’s in the Portland Airport, is exercising the power of her handselling abilities online, and fields requests for books to read. Thanks, Billie!

Today’s request is from Cara: I’m looking for some help finding romances with a particular kind of pairing.

I would like books with heroines who are smart, rational, and happy, and generally unconcerned with “proper” social behavior, and heroes who are equally smart and rational as well as kind.  Basically your anti -angry boner man.  Books where these two pair up because they both problem-solve in adult and unconventional ways, and where the sexy bits are clearly driven by genuine respect and admiration between the protagonists.

Any setting works, and any time period, with the exception that I would prefer no cowboys, no vampires and no werewolves.  Additionally, lesbian romances are totally welcome, so long as the two protagonists adhere to the same character requirements

For context, my favorite examples of this have been in Amanda Quick’s post 1993 books and Candace Camp’s “Suddenly”.

It seems like these would be very standard sorts of romances, but every time I walk into a bookstore lately, I’m inundated with dark, scary looking books, with a few rapey-sounding historicals scattered about for variety.

Billie says:

Billie says: “Off the top of my head:

Jill Shalvis
Julie James
Jennifer Crusie
Joanna Bourne
Lauren Willig (Or should that be “Jauren”?)

[Fortunately] I haven’t come across a lot of rape-y historicals recently.Yeah, there are nine bazillion paranormals out there and plenty of historicals with flibbertigibbet heroines and/or super-Alpha heroes, but the rape-y types seem to be thin on the ground. (Not that this is a bad thing.)”

What are your grownups-in-love go-to romance recommendations, where the conflict is character driven, not role driven or paranormal wtfery driven?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Ben P says:

    I completely second Cara’s request for some mature, respectful, anti-angry-boner romances.

    My 2 cents: Some of Katherine Korbel’s books may fit the bill (Although I thought the whole Vietnam vet genre would be horribly cheesy or somesuch, “Soldier’s heart” proved to be really moving and did a great job of addressing the issue of PTSD among women)

    Other than that I’ve had difficulty finding a novel that hasn’t involved some combination of furry, dead, angry and control freak of late.

  2. 2
    aphasia says:

    I found them in mystery (not romance), but I found Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave trilogy to be a great example of this genre. As an Amanda Quick fan, I enjoyed the spunky historical heroine.

  3. 3

    I’m a different Cara…I think. Maybe I e-mailed this whilst asleep. At any rate, I want what the other Cara wants! Some rational non-vampire-non-shifter characters would hit the spot nicely—a love story that might actually happen in real life, only, you know, swoon-worthy enough to warrant a book. I wish I had some recommendations to make myself, but none are popping into my head at 6:39 in the morning. I eagerly await the Bitchery’s collective wisdom.

  4. 4
    Cheryl McInnis says:

    Victoria Dahl and Beth Ciotta write some great grown-up, and funny, stories for HQN~
    spam word is own89- I don’t own 89 of Victoria Dahl’s books, but I’m working on it ;-)

  5. 5
    Bethany says:

    I just have to chime in with another vote for Jill Shalvis. Instant Attraction would be my pick to start with – hands down my favorite first chapter of all time!

  6. 6
    Katrina says:

    I can second (and third) everyone on Jill Shalvis. I’m reading Slow Heat right now, and the characters definitely deal with their emotions in a mature, realistic way.

    Also, I find Susan Donovan’s books great for these types of characters, especially Take a Chance on Me. The hotness comes from their emotional connection.

  7. 7

    I love Lisa Kleypas’ conteporary romances, especially Sugar Daddy and Blue-Eyed Devil. She gets my vote. Her historicals would also fit the bill.

  8. 8
    Barb says:

    Amanda Quick’s alter ego, Jayne Ann Krentz, is always my go-to for smart modern romance.  Her Arcane Society books (written under both names) are great fun.  A second here for Julie James—loved, loved Something About You.  Across the store in the mystery aisle I can agree on Deanna Raybourn’s Julia Grey books and I have to put in a plug for Julia Spencer-Fleming (though her books may be a bit fraught for our requesting Cara).

  9. 9

    Totally agree on Jennifer Crusie and I’m loving Nora Roberts Wedding Quartet books.
    What about Erin McCarthy’s Fast Track books, Hard and Fast and Flat Out Sexy?

  10. 10
    lina says:

    I have to say that in historicals, Loretta Chase’s _Not Quite a Lady_ fit the bill for me.  Smart protagonists who respect each other and a welcome lack of those annoying misunderstandings that could be resolved with one adult conversation.

  11. 11
    Jody W. says:

    I read a Kristen Higgens book recently that would fit that bill. Also Linnea Sinclair (sf romance, not contemp), Ellen Hartman, and Trish Milburn don’t write angry boner romances. I have been doing more beta reads and crits lately, so lots of books sans the furious phallus are coming to MIND, but they’re not exactly available to the public, so that won’t help :)

  12. 12
    emdee says:

    Lina, I was going to suggest Chase as well.  Quite a few choices here.  Easy34!  LOL

  13. 13

    I second Jennifer’s vote for Lisa Kleypas.  Loved Sugar Daddy.

  14. 14
    anais7475 says:

    Julie Anne Long historical romances are really really good, Eloisa James as well.

  15. 15
    Dr. Ann Voisin says:

    Second Try to Submit this Information

    Believe it or not, for me, this kind of book was written back in the seventies by an author who just recently passed away.

    His name is Richard Stark.

    His books span the spectrum, but two of his strengths are comic crime (which I don’t care to read), and the other serious relationships of the kind you describe between the women in his novels and professional gangsters with a heart (these fit your description perfectly).

    I found particularly the relationship between Mary Deegan and Grosfield to be just the ticket for me.

    You can find them in two of Stark’s short novels.

    1) Lemons Never Lie

    2) The Score

  16. 16
    Dr. Ann Voisin says:

    Hi, I’m afraid when I used our web site in the website box provided on this site, I was white paged….completely blocked by Akismet.

    So,  I erased the website designation and the comment was accepted.

    In the spirit of being neighborly, if you accept the comment would you reinstate the website.  http:///www dot ToysPeriod dot com.

    Then come on over to ToysPeriod for a backlink. ToysPeriod is a do follow blog. Google Page Rank 4.

    Please let me know if you reinstate the website name above.


    Dr. Ann

  17. 17
    Kristi L. says:

    Totally off topic (kinda). I”m an Amanda Quick fan, she’s kind of a dirty little secret in that I have to read every one of her standalones when they come out, despite myself.

    Has anyone noticed, however, that her books ave become cookie cutter versions of themselves? I used to enjoy her characters, but I’ve come to notice that they’re essentially the same bookish girl with before her time ideals and glasses attracted to the hero against her will (and she either dives in head first, or fights it terribly for the first half of the book, both actions a way to shun what’s expectd of her) and the hero has some kind of dark terrible past, he’s either broke or eccentric, and has some kind of phsical deformity.

    It’s like she takes the same characters and throws them into some random murder/theft mystery, but changes their names, hair and eye color.

    Anyway, rant aside, am I the only one noticing this, or are others seeing it with me.

  18. 18
    Stephanie says:

    I don’t know it they are romance or just romantic, but the Sophie Kinsella books are nice.

  19. 19
    Beki says:

    I used to read all of LaVyrle Spencer’s books for the same reason: nobody was overly fraught or angry and the romance was heavy and sweet.  Though not sweet as in non-visible. Plenty of on-the-page loving in an LS romance.  I always liked her historicals better than her contemporaries, though.

    For modern-day sensible grown-up romances, I second Crusie and also LOVE Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  She may well be my new go-to comfort read.

  20. 20
    Zarrin says:

    I would strongly recommend Anne Gracie’s “A Perfect Rake”!  Great characters, awesome humor, and just a bit of adrenaline.  By far one of the best examples of the type of novel you described that I have found.

    Would also like to join the Jennifer Crusie bandwagon…her new book, Wild Ride, is fantastic!

  21. 21
    Kristin says:

    I just read At Last and Caught In The Moment by Lisa G. Riley and I loved them.  I think they would both fall into this category.  Also, Rock Star by Roslyn Hardy Holcomb would fit the bill.

  22. 22
    Donna says:

    Totally with you on Jennfer Crusie. Her recent books with Bob Mayer totally fit the bill. In the historical market I’m watching Evangeline Collins. Definitely a different perspective.

  23. 23
    Mfred says:

    I think if you are looking for lesbian romance featuring sensible, average people, Karen Kallmaker is a go-to author.

    I’ve only read one of her books, so I can’t really make recommendations, but she’s quite profilic and beloved.

  24. 24
    Barb says:

    @Kristi L re: Amanda Quick.  Yes, AQ’s characters do seem interchangable of late, but it is less noticable if you are only reading them at the rate of one a year (as each new one is released).  If you read a bunch of them in a row—wow, you sure can get that impression.  In all honesty, though, I have been reading her since the dawn of time and she (like any author who has been writing for 30 years plus) has a finite set of character traits that she like to work with and a finite set of plot devices that she does well and she mixes and matches as she chooses.  You read enough of them and you begin to recognize all the characters and plots.  Depending on your mood, it either annoys you or you roll with it.  And I’ve been both places with AQ(and JAK) and Nora.  But she is still on my “gotta get immediately” list and that is unlikely to change.

  25. 25
    Cakes says:

    Smart protagonists who respect each other and a welcome lack of those annoying misunderstandings that could be resolved with one adult conversation.

    THIS! This is what drives me crazy. I would love more of these books. And yes, grownup characters. I really enjoyed Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray. A very sweet romance about middle aged love.

  26. 26

    If you like historicals, you can’t do better than Jo Beverly; wonderful research to back up the locations and truly wonderful characters and dialogue. One caveat, her most recent did not ring my chimes. The Georgian period is my favorite era, and has not been done to death as regency has.

    Loretta Chase! Yes! More!

    further84 encourages me to stick up a hand and say yes to some of the paranormals—Marjorie Liu and Lynn Viehl take action, adventure and characters into an interesting realm without drowning in fur or blood. Well, some blood.

  27. 27
    Lori says:

    Loretta Chase. I’m reading her backlist now and all the heroes and heroines are smart, brave, equally met and perfect. She’s also just a damned good writer and I love everything she does.

  28. 28
    KristenMary says:

    I agree with Barb. Amanda Quick/ Jane Ann Krentz can be cookie cutter but they are good. And they usually skip the really annoying Big Misunderstanding. Nora Roberts is the same for me. I love her. Both are auto buys for both me and my sis.

    Lately I’ve been glomming Stephaine Laurens, no rape-y historicals there but there is the occaisional misunderstanding (usually a small one). I really enjoy Sabrina Jeffries as well for smart historicals where the gal isn’t a pushover and the hero is not an ass-hat.

  29. 29

    Thanks so much, Billie!  I’m laughing so hard over the “Jauren” comment, because when I was a young ‘un, dreaming of being a romance novelist, it hit me that all my favorite romance novelists had “J” names: Johanna Lindsey, Jayne Ann Krentz, Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood….  Clearly, there was something in a “J”!  Oh, the hours of my teenage life I spent trying to come up with a “J” pseudonym.

    I’m so thrilled to get to be an honorary “J”!

    Going back to the main question, I second the recommendation of Loretta Chase!

  30. 30
    Randi says:

    Virginia Kantra’s right. The new NR series (Vision in White and Bed of Roses are the first two of the quartet that are out) so fulfill your requirements. In fact, everyone is such a super adult in the new NR books, that there’s no conflict. It’s a bit boring, IMO, although, as usual, the writing is superb. (Also, the packaging of this series is just beautiful. Even if I don’t like the books, I’m buying them for my collection and because they’re so pretty! ;) I just like more tension in my stories. NR’s Black Hills would probably suffice, as well.

    I’ll second Zarin’s Anne Gracie suggestion. She writes Regency historicals (I’ve been getting mine from which are really witty with tight plotting. But the hero and heroine are total grown ups.

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