August = Romance Awareness Month
And so do we!
Every month, River Dog Book Co. will send out recommended reading to celebrate that month’s nationally recognized holidays.
Apparently Romance Awareness Month was started by a woman named Eileen Buchheim (come on, Eileen!) who had a company called Celebrate Romance in California back in the early 1990s. She would help couples plan dates and romantic getaways, and started creating “Celebrate Romance” kits that because a (brief) mail order phenomenon. While it’s still unclear what all that has to do with August (maybe because August is often the hottest month of the year – wink wink?), here are some romances River Dog Book Co. recommends, from the tame to the insane!
Young Adult/Teen (ages 12+)
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
No list of teen romances would be complete IMHO without a Jennifer E. Smith novel. In this one, as the story unfolds, it becomes a meditation on what “home” means, on communication in the 21st century, and on interpreting the ways different people make you feel when you’re with them and when you’re not. Also, the author has one of the main characters read a different book that is about or of or from the places she goes (Catcher in the Rye in NYC, Julius Ceaser in Rome, etc.), and I love that idea.
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Enchanting, and perfect to read in the summer or during the holiday season. “Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.”
Adult Fiction with romantic relationships as part of the story
Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer
Beautiful. Heartbreaking. I fell in love with the language of it and the romance of it and the way my heart still hurts now that I’ve finished it. Warning: not a happy ending, but one that has the characters getting what they deserve.
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
For anyone who loves reading woman-focused fiction that spans time and involves hidden family secrets. “A stunning debut novel of love, family, and justice that intertwines the stories of an escaped house slave in 1852 Virginia and ambitious young lawyer in contemporary New York.”
Both of these would make great bookclub reads, as do the next two.
Adult Fiction – epistolary romance (historical/contemporary)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
No part of this book disappoints. I wanted to rush through it to see how and what happens, but I wanted it to never end. Also, it’s a very sweet and sad story about how the book came to be. Mary Ann Shaffer was writing this novel when she unexpectedly passed away. Her niece, Annie Barrows, a famous children’s author (she wrote the Ivy & Bean books), finished the novel for her.
Fans of The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, and/or Letters from an Age of Reason by Nora Hague will love this book as well. This is the perfect summer read.
Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
A series of letters provides an exploration of daily life – all the ups and downs of a well-established path, the mid-life reflections, and the self-examination that comes from holding up a mirror as you attempt to explain your life to someone else. It is slow-paced but quietly intriguing, as if you could feel the seasons unfolding in real time, yet somehow only an hour had passed while reading. The hopeful ending mirrors the unfinished story of the very museum exhibit that brought these two strangers together. A lovely debut for fans of epistolary novels who enjoy finding the beauty in everyday things.
Adult Fiction – love in bookshops in Europe
How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
Absolutely charming. A love letter to the book industry and the bookshop life and the sense of family and community a good quality independent bookstore can create.
For lovers of books about bookshops and love, this is the book (about love) for you!
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
Full disclosure: I sobbed during the last three chapters and epilogue of this book. It was totally worth it.
I want to note pleased I was to read about love and relationships and comfort and friendship and camaraderie still being figured out, agonized over, and eventually found/developed/settled into in characters that weren’t in their 20s or even their 30s (most of them), but into their 40s, 50s, and beyond. As a 30-something-year-old myself, it was refreshing to read about people still struggling with those concepts.
As one friend put it, this is a book that will make you feel (again), and though it hurts, it’s also gentle, and will let you feel at your own pace. I highly recommend you pick it up.
Romantic Poetry through the ages
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
If you’re a poetry fan but aren’t aware of Rupi Kaur, get aware now. She became famous on Instagram, then achieved wider acclaim with her first book of poetry, Milk and Honey. This second book takes you through all the stages of love and heartbreak and is an inspiring contemporary work of modern poetry.
Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne by John Keats
It’s hard to beat Keats for romantic poetry, made all the more bittersweet by the true story of this star-crossed couple. The movie isn’t bad either, especially if you love period pieces.
Erotic Poems by e.e. cummings
The title speaks for itself here really, doesn’t it?
Roaring 20s Romance
Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood (A Phryne Fisher Mystery #1)
Hilarious, irreverent, and full of historical references that provide a fascinating portrait of a modern-age woman in the era of jazz, Art Deco, and drop-waist dresses. Don’t be surprised if there’s a different man in Phryne’s bed in almost every novel. The good news is, she never lets them get in the way of her detective work. Don’t miss the equally delightful show on Netflix!
Bitter Spirits: A Roaring Twenties Novel (#1) by Jenn Bennett
Chinatown. A speakeasy. A bit of paranormal activity. A series of romances between unlikely characters that cross economic class and racial divides. Brilliant and so incredibly well-written.
Adult Fiction with emotional and physical romance and mild details of the explicit nature by two women who write many time periods and under several pen names
The MacGregors (series) by Nora Roberts
One of the longest-running romantic series involving multiple generations – surely this has to be true. From the Scottish highlands to the streets of New York, each generation is smart, feisty, and forging their own path to love and beyond.
Nora Roberts also writes contemporary romances not related to this series, as well as magically-inclined romantic trilogies, stand-alone romantic suspense murder mysteries, has just started her first dystopian trilogy, and writes futuristic thrillers under the name JD Robb.
In Too Deep (Arcane Society series & Looking Glass Trilogy) by Jayne Ann Krentz
Jayne also writes as Amanda Quick (for her historical novels) and Jayne Castle (for her futuristic novels). They almost always have a mix of thriller, romance (light on the explicit details and more on the emotional side of things), and a hint of paranormal activity. Her series often span all three names and time periods.
Contemporary Adult Romance with lots of explicit details both sexually and emotionally
The Professional (The Game Maker #1) by Kresley Cole
Contemporary adult erotica with a hint of implausible plot. The rest in the series are even better than the first.
Laid Bare (Brown Siblings #1) by Lauren Dane
An intriguing series about average-ish folks just trying to go about their lives while getting tattoos and having a lot of hot sex. The whole series is worth the read.
Mystery Man (Dream Man #1) by Kristen Ashley
Domineering men, smoking women, ridiculous plots, and hot sex. If this is your thing, you’re going to wish there were more than four books in this series.
Classic Bodice Rippers with women who give as good as they get
- Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt
- Proof by Seduction by Courtney Milan
- The Perils of Pleasure by Julie Anne Long
- A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
There’s not much else to say other than what the title says. These women enjoy having their bodices ripped, but they’re no pushovers. It’s refreshing to see women hold their own, stand their ground, and actively participate in having their bodices ripped. Can’t find these particular titles? Almost everything these women write falls into this category.
Adult Paranormal Romance – gargoyles, shapeshifters, and dragons – oh my!
- Heart of Stone by Christine Warren
- Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston
- Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken
G.A. Aiken is actually the pseudonym for Shelly Laurenston, so if you like one set of books, you’re probably going to like the other. What I love more than the intricate plots and detailed chemistry is the laugh-out-loud humor in her books!
Christine Warren also writes shapeshifting romantic thrillers. Her gargoyle series takes on a darker tone than some of her other books (near dystopian, end-of-the-world), but how many other paranormal writers out there are exploring gargoyles these days?
Hardcore Adult Romance with more explicit details than you thought were legal to publish but also good storylines
Beyond Shame (Beyond #1) by Kit Rocha
Actually a pen name for two women, this series started out being only available online as e-books, and it has gained so much in popularity that they’re now doing spin-off series and there are rumors of an actual publishing contract. Dystopian-plot, hot sex, strong-willed men and women exploring all of their deepest desires because why not, you might not be alive tomorrow.
Firelight (Darkest London #1) by Kristen Callihan
If you’re into steampunk and magic, this is the series for you! Tortured souls come together to find peace in each other in each book in this series. A lot of emotional angst.
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
Another steampunk series, this one dystopian in nature, less dark and emotionally angsty (though still plenty of that), lots of action, lots of sex, and the women are as strong and useful as the men.
Gay Werewolf Romance with explicit details + Lesbian Fantasy Romance with heart but light sexual content
The Sumage Solution (San Andreas Shifters #1) by G.L. Carriger
In her other life, G.L. Carriger writes as Gail Carriger, producing slightly less steamy Victorian paranormal steampunk novels for adults and teens. Under the name G.L. Carriger, she’s started producing LGBTQIA+ VERY STEAMY paranormal, occasionally steampunk novels very much for adults, and we thank her for that.
Starless by Jacqueline Carey
Jacqueline Carey has come back to the top of the fantasy world with this book – a standalone epic that follows two characters destined by a prophecy to be together and to save the world, with light lesbian romance as part of the plot. It’s wonderfully imagined, well-written, and a delightful read.
If you’re looking for more lesbian fantasy, Carey has also written a two-book series called Santa Olivia, about a female superhero.