Ready to try something new? Ali Williams and Rachel Dove recommend some books you might not know to help your find your perfect read!
Ali Williams has been inhaling books all year, and she can't wait to share some of her favourites with you!
This year has been a veritable cornucopia of books, and my reading field has expanded big time! I've discovered multiple new authors, inhaled (to my bank account's dismay) plenty of backlists, and I'm finishing off 2018 in debt to the huge corpus of recs that's been shared with me by Romancelandia on Twitter.
I couldn't possibly pick one, or two, or even three books to recommend, so here's a cross section across some of my favourites. You'll find many others in the reviews section of PHS, and just drop me a line on social media and I'll spout recs until you beg me to stop!!
Em Ali's Soft on Soft
Subtitled, #FatGirlsInLove, this is one of my favourite books of the year. It's a delightfully fluffy, queer romance that focuses on June and Selena, two women of colour who work together, and who end up falling in love.
It's a bit of a slowburn, but that's exactly what you need sometimes, especially as June has severe anxiety. I couldn't help but fall in love with these kind, caring women and their love story.
Alisha Rai's Serving Pleasure
Originally released back in 2015, I somehow didn't get round to reading this delicious erotic romance until this year. I actually used it to illustrate the difference between romance and erotic romance novels in my first undergrad seminar, back in November, because it is a beautiful illustration of how a sexual relationship can be used to drive the narrative forward.
Neither Rana nor Micah are looking for love—she's determined to be done with hook-ups, and he's only interested in hook-ups—but somehow they meet each other in a frenzy of lust, sex and... Love?
It's clever and funny, and engages with the issue of consent in a refreshing way. And it's also hot as all hell, which is pretty handy for an erotic romance.
Julia Quinn's The Other Miss Bridgerton
Pirates! Technically that's all I really need to say, but I suppose some more wouldn't go amiss. The third in her Rokesby series—the prequel to the Bridgertons series that's recently been optioned by Netflix—it follows independent and stubborn Poppy as she accidentally gets kidnapped with pirates, swept out to sea, and falls head over heels for the most exasperating captain.
There are some times when all the waxing lyrical in the world won't quite capture how catnip-y and delightful a book is. So let me say once more: Pirates!
Mongrel Marie's Let's Play
I've recently become fairly addicted to some of the romance comics over on Webtoon, and this is one of the best. It follows Sam, a game developer, when the video reviewer who slammed her debut creation online moves in next door.
Warning: this is most definitely a work in progress, with new episodes/chapters posted every week, but it's utterly charming. The characters are well drawn and developed, it's laugh out loud funny, and there are not one, not two, but three suitors for Sam. Plus her dog is just adorable.
Zoraida Cordova's On the Verge trilogy
I've read pretty much all of Cordova's backlist this year, including this sexy romance trilogy that was published across 2014-2016.
It follows three women, each linked to the last, who meet the men of their dreams. The first is an enemies-to-lovers story, the second has the hero quite literally fall at the heroine's feet, and the third is set in a rehab centre.
What I really love about this series, is how new it seems. Cordova takes established tropes or romance narratives, and turns them on their head. There's a nuanced depth to each of the characters that is simultaneously moving and heartwarming. To put it bluntly, I read the entire trilogy in less than 48 hours. That, I think, says it all.
Jasmine Silvera's Grace Bloods series
This year, in the wake of the scandal surrounding the RITAs, I made a conscious decision to read more novels by African American writers—not that this was exactly onerous. I reread old favourites, devoured backlists and discovered some new auto buys, one of which was Jasmine Silvera.
Her entirely unique Grace Bloods series is a romantic urban fantasy that follows godsdancer and immigrant Isela Vogel as she meets and dances for necromancer Azrael. The world building in this series is absolutely exquisite, and that instant attraction between her and Azrael sizzles! Definitely one for the TBR!
KJ Charles' Band Sinister
And finally we come to KJ Charles' regency offering. I do love a regency romance, although I'm aware that there are enough dukes in Romancelandia to populate the entirety of Europe, let alone the UK, and I love a regency romance with a difference.
There are some deft nods references to Georgette Heyer's Venetia (for the #DashItAlls amongst you), and the three main characters—Sir Philip, and Guy and Amanda Frisby—are just a joy to read. And joy just about sums this up. It is utterly joyful in a way that is an utter relief in today's world.
Ali is a romance editor, academic and writer, as well as being the Managing Editor of the Pink Heart Society. She's also suffering through a PhD focused entirely on romance. For more information about her and her projects, check out her website, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Rachel Dove's recommendations are for zombie fans, as well as anyone who has the guts to try something new and a little outside your comfort zone. It may very well be worth it!
I have two words for you. Zombie Romance. Eh? Zombies.....and romance?....er....what?
My book recommendation is Warm Bodies, by an American author called Isaac Marion. It tells the tale of R, a zombie who is not quite the other zombies, and he embarks on a mission to eat with some of the other zombies, which leads him into the path of Julie, and their relationship leads to real change in the world. It's a dystopian world, set post breakout in America. Cities have fallen, and the survivors hate the zombies, for obvious reasons. Then there is another threat... The bonies.
First of all, I am a huge sucker for romance—I live, breathe, write and read romance. I also have a darker side that loves gore, and scares, and zombies. When I first heard about this book, I was immediately intrigued. From the first page, I was hooked.
Warm Bodies is not just a romance or a dystopian fantasy, it goes far deeper than that. It's a great take on our society, the way we treat each other, and the way we use and abuse our world. If you were a zombie, and got the chance to go back to your life, would you be happy with the person you were?
R doesn't remember his past life, but after book one, part of the journey is about Julia and R finding their lives entwined and setting out to help make their world better.
It's a fresh take on the genre, and a worthy contender of a literary fiction novel. Isaac Marion writes beautifully, and the whole book is very clever, tender and engaging. I just know if you give it a go, you will love it!
Following the zombie theme.... I bring you.... Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!
Have you read the Austen classic? This is a unique and rather fresh take on the well known novel, and I found it thoroughly entertaining. The women crafted by Austen in Pride and Prejudice are fiery in their own way, but this takes it one step further, making them rather kickass too. It stays very close to the original in terms of language and settings, and I for one really enjoyed reading something different.
Seth Greame-Smith is the writer behind the novel, and both this book and Warm Bodies have been made into films, which are fantastic in their own right. I love the way they both portray different cross sections of society, and help us to think about our own lives, and what we find important. Do we value material things, and status updates over family, friends, comfort, satisfaction? If the world did change, would we miss the things we can't seemingly live without now, or would they fade into insignificance? These books are also about prejudice and assumptions, and I find the class and race connotations in the books rather fascinating. Can love transcend death, and social class? What about transcending the undead? Can a heart, once dead, beat again?
Zombies not for you? These undead characters might just surprise you, give them a go!
Rachel's latest release The Wedding Shop on Wexley Street is out now. For more information check out her RNA page, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Are you up for the challenge? Prepared to read a NTM author out of your usual comfort zone? Do you have books on your keeper shelf you would recommend to someone else taking up the challenge? Let us know in the comments or on our Social Media using #PHSReaderChallenge and don't forget to tell us if you find a new author you love!