Help A Bitch Out

YA Romance Collection

An Anonymous Librarian sent me the following query, and asked for your help:

I work in a high school library—my alma mater’s, no less—and my responsibilities include selecting and purchasing books (when we have a budget). While most of our fiction purchases are either YA or supportive of the curriculum, we definitely have an audience for grown up romance novels.  Kids who devour Cabot or Brashares are entitled to explore more mature options.  Our collection still includes a few Mary Stewarts, some Victoria Holt, some Danielle Steel, and, of course, DuMaurier, but when it comes to current romance authors, I am at a loss.  Some of the library ladies still read romances, but personal taste alone is not an adequate criteria for choosing books for a library collection.

So here’s my question for you and your readers: Can you suggest a couple of newer romance authors and/or titles that would be appealing for teens and appropriate for a high school library?  It isn’t helpful just to suggest an author like Nora Roberts who is incredibly prolific; a few titles or series’ would be more useful. 

I really need some titles that would interest teens specifically, but not scandalize their mothers.  Please think back to your own teen years and consider which of your current favorites would have appealed to you then.  Ideally, I would also need to be able to back up choices with reviews.  Any feedback on this would be much appreciated.

There are so many kickass YA romances on the market today, especially those by Jennifer Echols (Major Crush and Going Too Far)and Barb Ferrer’s Adios for My Old Life. I have a major weakness for YA romance in general, and I love that so much of it is smart and kickass.

Candy and I also both reviewed Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – which, since it was made into a film, could also be part of your DVD collection, and I also found Elizabeth Scott’s Stealing Heaven compulsively readable – though not a romance by the traditional sense.

What do you suggest would make a good YA romance selection at a library? Bringeth your suggestions, pleasth!


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  1. Elizabeth Stevens says:

    As a teacher and an Australian, I would recommend two books by Melina Marchetta – Looking for Allibrandi has been around for a while and deals with a girl growing up in a high school in Sydney. It has lots of themes that teenagers love – bad boys, family secrets and reconciliation and some romance. The other is Jellicoe Road, her most recent – check out the review (A) on Dear Author.

  2. aninsomniac says:

    Holly Black’s Faerie trilogy for those who like their fantasy a bit dark.

    Sarah Dessen’s everything, especially The Truth about Forever, Just Listen and Dreamland( which isn’t romance but deals with domestic abuse).

    Mette Ivie Harrison’s The Princess and the Hound and the Princess and the Bear – again fantasy.

    That’s about it. And please get rid of them SMeyer books!


  3. Tipsy says:

    I’m so glad you didn’t even try to mention Twilight. It’s a terrible, terrible piece of fiction yet I hear about it everywhere I turn.

  4. Eva Ibbotson’s romances aren’t new, but they’re being sold in the YA section of bookshops near me and have just been re-released with new covers.

    A Song for Summer
    Magic Flutes reissued as The Reluctant Heiress
    The Morning Gift
    The Secret Countess and Dear Author reviewed it under its previous title of A Countess Below Stairs (excerpt here)
    A Company of Swans

    Have you got any romances by Georgette Heyer? Again, they’re not new, but they’re still very popular. The Grand Sophy‘s one that a lot of people seem to recommend although personally I have some problems with the way in which a minor character (a Jewish moneylender) is depicted. Frederica is another very lively and readable novel by Heyer.

    I’m not sure what would scandalize the mothers of your students, but neither of these authors’ romances contain sex scenes.

  5. Natascha says:

    How about “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins.  It’s the first in a trilogy. The next one comes out in Sept.

  6. Lorelie says:

    Okay, second try ‘cause the first seems to be eaten by spam-bots:

    Sarah, I don’t think she’s asking for YA romances. I read it as asking for adult romances that are on the sweeter/tamer side. Things that bridge the gap.

    I’d suggest Practice Makes Perfect & Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James. The heroes and heroines have sexual tension that’s off the charts, but the actual action is kind of oblique.

  7. My comment got sent off to the spam filter too, because I’d added lots of links to reviews.  I had suggested some older novels which are still in print in very new editions and are being marketed at the YA audience, namely Eva Ibbotson’s romances.

  8. Sam says:

    I recently had a teen girl at the public library ask me for recommendations on paranormal romance. She said she had read everything in the YA section and wanted to move on to the adult section. I remember recommending Sherrilyn Kenyon, Charlaine Harris and P.C. Cast. I also asked her if she had ever read Anne Rice and she said she had read all of those over and over. I also recommended the first Anita Blake novel, but told her she may not want to go much past that one. I kind of felt guilty afterwards, but I thought “well hell, if she’s read Anne Rice…” (She was about 16). I was just so happy to have a patron actually ask for book recommendations instead of ” Can I get a computer?”.

    Mans65 – my man’s 51 today

  9. closetcrafter says:

    I just read The Wallflower by Steven Chbosky published by MTV (didn’t know they published books BTW) An EXCELLENT cross between The Catcher in the Rye and Almost Famous.  P.s. Sarah—author is a late 80’s grad of Upper Saint Clair High School, set in the Burgh

  10. I’d also recommend Beverly Jenkins’s Belle and its sequel, Josephine. They were first published by Avon and have just been reprinted with these shorter titles in Harlequin’s Kimani Tru line.

    There are reviews of Belle here and here and there’s an excerpt available at Beverly Jenkins’s website. As it says in the first review:

    The “Belle” of the novel is Belle Palmer, a sixteen-year-old girl who was making her way out of Kentucky with her father and a band of runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad.

    There’s a review of Josephine here.

    I really enjoyed them and the historical details were fascinating.

  11. Natalie Hart says:

    I’d recommend anything by Kristan Higgins—great characters, really specific locales, and the sex is not so graphicly detailed.

  12. kim says:

    I recommend THE HELLO GIRLS by Merlene Lovelace.  It not only has the contemporary romance element (between an airforce colonel divorcing her husband), but a significant piece of history about the Hello Girls, the young women telegraph operators who went to Europe to help with the first World War.  While some of the elements in the historical romance between one of the Hello Girls and a young pilot serving in the emerging air force was a bit fantastical, the history aspect of it was fascinating.

    On a general note, looking for newer titles, you might look at a Romantic Times Book Review.  They rate by sexual content (Sweet, Mild, Steamy, etc.), as well as how enjoyable they were (one to five stars), and give you some idea about the plotline, including whether it’s suspense, paranormal, or historical.  Frankly, when looking for new authors, that magazine is indispensible.

    Finally, you might look into the religious fiction section of your local bookstore.  Not all religious fiction is filled with overwhelmingly religious or preachy topics.  Ted Dekker has a really good fantasy series plus some suspense (not the ones with Frank Perretti—avoid those like the plague!!), and Stephen Lawhead got his start from a religious publisher.  Hannah Alexander is a really good writer, and I say that as someone who can’t tolerate preachy religiousness, so I can safely recommend her Steeple Hill Harlquins as well as her old series, which may be hard to find.

    Hope that helps.

  13. Susan Doerr says:

    For the sf loving rom reader, Ms. YA Librarian could try C.E. Murphy (partly sf, partly rom) and Ilona Andrews.

    Stephanie Laurens has some PG Regencies in a Harlequin line and which are better written than her Avon books (“Four in Hand” is one, can’t recall other titles).

    Julie Garwood’s The Secret and Saving Grace are all really sweet. I love those leading ladies and I read them in high school.

  14. Betsy says:

    The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger…I know I’ve recommended it on this site before, but I’m not going to shut up about it.  It’s an adult novel but I often see it featured in YA sections of bigger bookstores like Barnes and Noble.
    I first read it when I was eighteen and I adored it—still do.
    Also, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is not strictly a romance novel but definiely needs to be included in EVERY YA library.

  15. MichelleR says:

    On the legitimately YA front: A brand new selection would be The Secret Life of Prince Charming/Deb Caletti. Most of the book is about the main character seeking the wisdom of women to find out why her father is such a charming dirtbag—following the trail of broken hearts he’d left. When Quinn enters into a relationship, you know that she’s now a smart cookie and won’t let herself be used.

    Some language, but that’s all I can imagine would be an issue.


    Kristan Higgins, I agree, sounds like a good choice. Not too graphic, unconventional heroines…

  16. Anything and everything by Sarah Dessen.

    And I hope it’s OK if I humbly suggest my forthcoming YA, Crazy Beautiful.

  17. Julianna says:

    I looooved Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series when I was a teenager (and still do).  It starts with Crocodile on the Sandbank and goes from there.  You might also want to consider her Vicki Bliss series, also amazing.  Both of these series are throb and curse-free (unless you consider “damnation” a curse).

  18. I have found YA a great source of romance.
    There used to be a blog that was dedicated to reviewing YA romances but unfortunately it has been taken down.
    A few titles I have discovered:

    Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
    Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
    Bloom by Elizabeth Scott
    Graceling by Kristin Cashore
    Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer
    The Attolia Series by Megan Whalen Turner (has some romance but is not a full romance series)

    There is a blog post here ( with further suggestions.

  19. For lighter YA with paranormal and romance, I hope it’s all right to mention my own DEAD GIRL WALKING, DEAD GIRL DANCING and (Aug 2009) DEAD GIRL IN LOVE trilogy, about a teen with a poor sense of direction and entertainment aspirations that makes a wrong turn after a near-death experience and lands into the wrong body. YALSA has kindly recommended DEAD GIRL WALKING for a Quick Pick, as well as selecting it as a Popular Paperback 2008.

  20. fiveandfour says:

    I’m with Lorelie – both with how I interpreted the request, and with the suggestion on the Julie James books.  Going based on my 13 year-old daughter’s taste, I would also add Rachel Gibson to the list.

  21. militaryspouse says:

    That is such a difficult age group to buy for. 

    When I was 16, I’d read “The Happy Hooker” and “Coffee, Tea or Me” (just dated myself badly).  Turns out several of my friends read copies found at “their aunt’s house” around the same time as well.

    While I realize that these aren’t titles for a HS library, it just illustrates that many teenaged girls will read anything.  I read “Gone with the Wind” when I was 12.

    Victoria Holt is/was good.  But she might be a bit “dated” now.

    Neville Shute while not a “romance” writer wrote some lovely love stories, “A Town Like Alice” and “Requiem for a Wren” spring to mind.

  22. JoolzGirl says:

    I can highly recommend Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series. I don’t think its over the top for a YA audience – lots of fun to be had in them – and its a fairly numerou series for those who like to follow a favourite heroine.

    ‘Impressive as she may be, Phryne Fisher, her activities and her world are never cloying thanks to Greenwood’s witty, slightly tongue-in-cheek prose. As usual, it’s a delightfully frothy, indulgent escape with an underlying bite.’—Otago Daily Times

    ‘Greenwood’s strength lies in her ability to create characters that are wholly satisfying: the bad guys are bad, and the good guys are great.’—Vogue

    I loved the Time Travellers Wife too!

  23. cursingmama says:

    Not sure how “adult” the collection is…

    I know they aren’t straight romance – but I would think that Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, Stephanie Bond’s Body Mover series, and Lori Avocato’s Pauline Sokol series would make great additions to a high school library.

    I also just finished The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square by Rosina Lippi and it was a great read.

  24. Shary says:

    When I was a teen, I read everything I could get by Barbara Michaels (Barbara Mertz who also writes as Elizabeth Peters).  Her historicals and contemporaries are in the gothic tradition.  Loved them all.

  25. I second the recommendation of Ibbotson and A Countess Below Stairs.

    I’d highly recommend Sharon Shinn’s YA fantasy novels, all of which have a strong romance theme.  There’s a trilogy of The Safe-Keeper’s Secret, The Truth-Teller’s Tale and The Dream-Maker’s Magic and the fabulous stand alone YA fantasies Summers at Castle Auburn and General Winston’s Daughter.  The last one in particular is a timely read as it discusses colonialism and attitudes toward people who are different from you.

    Shanna Swendson’s delightful fantasy novels set in NYC read like Harry Potter meets Chick-Lit and are appropriate for teens.  Start with Enchanted, Inc.

    Finally, I always like to put in a plug for my favorite historical romance suitable for middle school and older elementary readers, Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.  There’s a reason why it’s still in print after 50 years.

  26. Jo Beverley, An Unwilling Bride

    Lois McMaster Bujold, Young Miles

    Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels

    Jennifer Crusie, Getting Rid of Bradley and Faking It

    Tom and Sharon Curtis, The Windflower

    Diana Gabaldon, Outlander

    Roberta Gellis’, Alinor

    Madeline Hunter, By Arrangement

    Laura Kinsale, The Dream HUnter

    Jayne Ann Krentz, Trust Me

    Melissa Marr,  Wicked Lovely  This was last year’s RITA winner in the YA catagory.

    Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Ain’t She Sweet

    Mary Jo Putney, Angel Rogue

    Julia Quinn, To Catch an Heiress

  27. darlynne says:

    Garth Nix, Sabriel (The Abhorsen Trilogy)
    Marlys Millheiser, The Mirror
    Mary Stewart, The Ivy Tree

  28. darlynne says:

    Also, C. E. Murphy’s Heart of Stone trilogy is hugely romantic and very appropriate for a high school library. Gargoyles!

  29. Psyche says:

    Thirding Elizabeth Peters. Loved her as a high-schooler, particularly the Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody books. I also enjoyed Regency romances by Marion Chesney…a bit formulaic, but she wrote heroines in their late teens/early twenties who behaved like teenagers, which I found appealing.

    I’d also recommend the wallflower series by Lisa Kleypass, maybe Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series. Also, just thinking, Laura Kinsale’s The Shadow and the Star is very dramatic and heartfelt, but not tremendously sensual. That might be a good choice too.

    I read tons of adult romances as a teenager, and the main way my tastes were different is that I preferred younger, more innocent heroines, whom I felt I could relate to better, and I had a higher tolerance for overwritten description.

  30. Janet W says:

    Mandy Hubbard—Prada and Prejudice—just ordered it for my dd. There’s another Prejudice hommage book that just got a great review on AAR: something about P&P and Zombies: I bought her that too. I personally think Heyer is great for teens … I know I loved it. But I’m probably not the best judge 🙂

  31. MichelleR says:

    I loved Barbara Michaels when I was a kid/teen, but wonder if those are too dated. I think of Jo inThe Crying Child with her love of modern music—The Beatles and Three Dog Night.

    Except69: People will be asking me all day why I’m giggling. Nice.

  32. Polly says:

    Ooo, I second the Sookie Stackhouse books. I would have loved those as a teen. And Patricia Briggs, both the Mercy books, and the Alpha and Omega ones.

    Also, for quality, medium-tame romances, I’d say Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jo Beverley. Maybe a few of the Quinn Bridgerton books, but they get a little much after a while (or maybe that’s because I read most of them at a go a few years ago). Eloisa James might be a bit racy for a high school library, but I don’t know what your bar is. They’re certainly fun and well-written.

    I read some craptastic romances as a teen because I was too embarrassed to actually browse the shelves and mostly bought what was available for .25 or .50 on the friends of the library shelf.

  33. em-dash says:

    Seconding the recommendation of Enchanted, Inc.—I read it a few years ago and it’s charming.  I’d also suggest The Boy Next Door and Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot, written for adults but will likely appeal to teens.  Lauren Willig’s series starting with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation might also be a good choice… there’s nothing [that I recall] that parents might find scandalous.

  34. Polly says:

    Oh yes, I also meant to second the Eva Ibbotson romances. I particularly like A Company of Swans. She has a real knack for taking over-the-top elements and writing them well enough that I’ll put aside the contempt I generally have for said elements (for example, the eugenics loving villain in A Countess Below Stairs, heroines who are distinguished for the goodness and love of small animals and children, etc).

    And since you asked for specific titles, for SEP, I’d say It Had to be You, Natural Born Charmer, and Match Me if You Can. For Jo Beverly, My Lady Notorious and A Lady’s Secret.

  35. em-dash says:

    MichelleR, The Crying Child was one of my favorites as a teen and the “modern” music being from fifteen years before I was born didn’t even register with me 🙂  I loved gothic romance when I was a teenager… that was sort of my gateway from mysteries to romance.  Phyllis Whitney was another favorite but I don’t know if her books are still in print.

    Also, I wanted to echo Betsy’s suggestion of I Capture the Castle… I desperately wish I had known about it when I was 15 or so.

  36. Leah says:

    I’m 28, but YA romance is probably my favorite genre.

    I would love to recommend Poison Study, Magic Study, and Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder.  Below is the review for Poison Study, which is admittedly my favorite:
    “Shivers, obsession, sleepless nights—these are the results not of one of the milder poisons that novice food-taster Yelena must learn during her harrowing job training but of newcomer Snyder’s riveting fantasy that unites the intelligent political focus of George R.R. Martin with a subtle yet potent romance. Through a stroke of luck, Yelena escapes execution in exchange for tasting the food of the Commander, ruler of Ixia. Though confined to a dank prison cell and doomed to a painful death, Yelena slowly blooms again, caught up in castle politics. But some people are too impatient to wait for poison to finish off Yelena. With the help of Valek, her steely-nerved, cool-eyed boss and the Commander’s head of security, she soon discovers that she has a starring role to play in Ixia’s future—a role that could lead to her being put to death as a budding magician even if she hits each cue perfectly. The first in a series, this is one of those rare books that will keep readers dreaming long after they’ve read it.” Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly.

    I would also recommend Marissa Doyle’s “Bewitching Season”
    From Booklist:
    *Starred Review* Twins Persephone and Penelope are of two minds about their coming-out season. Pen is excited about the social whirl. Persephone would rather be home studying magic with their beloved governess, Ally. But when Ally disappears somewhere in Kensington Palace, the girls must harness their magical skills amidst the swirl of balls and presentations to find her. This wonderfully crafted debut novel braids several very different story lines into an utterly satisfying whole. The mystery of Ally’s whereabouts mingles with a plot to control the throne of the soon-to-be Queen Victoria. Persephone’s strong attraction to her handsome neighbor, Lochinver, provides a romantic element that makes for twists and turns, some of which are obvious ploys, but fun nonetheless. All of this is spread with a patina of magic, which somehow never overwhelms, leaving the story in the world of reality rather than in the realm of fantasy. In the midst of all this plotting, characters might have been lost, but Doyle takes as much care with characters (even minor ones) as with story details. This delightful mélange of genres makes for a great alternative to the depressing overload of chick lit. Grades 7-10.—Ilene Cooper

    I saw someone else recommended Eva Ibbotson.  Her books are wonderful, as are Lauren Willig’s.

    Another great series that combines romance and mystery are Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series and also “Her Royal Spyness”:
    If you liked Bridget Jones…
    If you adore royal scandals…
    If you loved Charade and a touch of danger…
    A sexy hero who is not quite trustworthy…
    And you love to laugh…
    Then you’ll want to read Rhys’s new venture:

    Her Royal Spyness

    Georgie, aka Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, cousin of King George V of England, is penniless and trying to survive on her own as an ordinary person in London in 1932.

    So far she has managed to light a fire and boil an egg…
    She’s gate-crashed a wedding…
    She’s making money by secretly cleaning houses…
    And she’s been asked to spy for Her Majesty the Queen.

    Everything seems to be going swimmingly until she finds a body in her bathtub and someone is definitely trying to kill her.

    For “adult” romance that is ok for teens, Kristan Higgins “Just One of the Guys” is great, as are her other three books.
    “Just One of the Guys is a true masterpiece.”  —  Dee’s Book Dish

    Just One Of The Guys is hilarious. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much while reading a romance…I connected with Chas. I liked her…I wished she were my friend. Yes, I lost touch with reality… In Just One Of The Guys a damned good story got told. —All About Romance

    “Plenty of slapstick humor…Higgins provides an amiable romp that ends with a satisfying lump in the throat.” — Publishers Weekly

    “Kristan Higgins has a writing voice that is very genuine, robust, and amusing. She keeps the heart in romance without losing focus of her characters or the stories they have to tell. JUST ONE OF THE GUYS abounds with charm and the true joys and pratfalls of falling in love.” —

  37. distracted says:

    I highly recommend Diana Peterfreund’s Secret Society Girl Series—I cannot say enough good things about this series.  I stumbled upon the first book at the library two years ago, and salivated until the final book, book four, was released last month.

    Although technically the series is adult (college years), it has a very YA feel.  Also, it’s not technically a romance, but it has, in my opinion, one of the best romances I’ve read.  Please check them out!

      * Book One: Secret Society Girl
      * Book Two: Under The Rose
      * Book Three: Rites of Spring (Break)
      * Book Four: Tap & Gown

  38. I would totally recommend anything and everything by Sarah Dessen and Elizabeth Scott. Granted, Scott’s LIVING DEAD GIRL isn’t a romance, and it’s a bit dark and disturbing (kidnapping, sexual abuse that’s hinted at but not graphic at all) but one of those books that just stays with you. I second the Melissa Marr recommendations. I haven’t read FRAGILE ETERNITY yet, but WICKED LOVELY and INK EXCHANGE were both excellent. I also second the Maria Snyder and Holly Black recommendations.

    Other YA romances I’ve enjoyed (I’m 28, and yet I sometimes enjoy YA more than adult romance): GO FIGURE by Jo Edwards, PRETTY FACE by Mary Hogan, and PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles (there’s some language, and some violence, but nothing more than what any teenager sees on television these days, IMO).

    If she’s looking for books more on the inspirational side of things, Shelley Adina’s ALL ABOUT US series would probably fit the bill.

  39. Lisa Hendrix says:

    I’m in the Kristan Higgins camp.  Her books are fun, light, totally appropriate—and I can add anecdotal evidence: my 14 year old loves them.

  40. caligi says:

    I also read that letter as asking for “adult” romances without too graphic sex, not YA romance. Lots of great suggestions above, but I’d like to add two authors I enjoy:

    Mary Balogh writes tamer romances with a greater emphasis on dialog than sexual themes. My favorites are Slightly Married, Slightly Dangerous and Simply Perfect but there are many of her books that I’ve never read that could be fabulous.

    Mary Jo Putney also wrote some tamer romances, but two of my favorites, Thunder and Roses and One Perfect Rose are currently OOP, though Putney mentions that her current publisher plans to re-release them next year. The Wild Child is currently in print and is a good read as well.

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