Romance books you can’t put down

Romance books you can’t put down

2009 Books Alive GuideThis month is Get Reading! month (previously Books Alive) in Australia. I unearthed an article I wrote for the ARRA newsletter last year around the same time. I’m posting it in full with some additional notes at the end.

If you’ve been book shopping recently, you may have noticed signs promoting the Books Alive campaign. Visit a participating bookshop before September 30 and you can pick up a free reading guide called 50 Books You Can’t Put Down.

I’ll be honest. I find it difficult to get excited about most of the books in the guide. We’re not likely to find Stephanie Laurens or Anna Campbell on the list, let alone the many Australian romance authors who write category novels or who are primarily e-published.

So what’s a romance reader to do? The good news is that there are romances listed—even if it’s not easy to spot them!

How To Break Your Own Heart by Maggie Alderson was a finalist in this year’s R*BY Awards. I haven’t started it yet, but I read the last page—because who doesn’t do that?—and I can confirm that it has a happy ending.

Dark Country by Bronwyn Parry (also a R*BY finalist but for a different title) is a romantic suspense set in the outback, and if you liked Parry’s first book, this one has a stronger external plot and the romance is more hero-centric.

I have it on good authority that The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer is romantic. This epistolary novel is set in the Channel Islands just after World War II. I’ve read a few excerpts and it seems to feature various relationships built upon a mutual love of books. Sounds promising!

As a bonus, if you buy these books during Books Alive month, you get a freebie—either an anthology or a children’s book. The anthology includes stories by Australian chick-lit author Anita Heiss, and Toni Jordan, whose debut novel, Addition, I couldn’t put down.

The Books Alive guide got me thinking about what books I’d include in a romance reading list. Here are five books published in 2009 that stood out for me:

Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh is the steamiest book in the Psy-Changeling series thus far. If you like paranormal romance, or if you want to know what all the fuss is about, this is the series to read.

Tempt the Devil by Anna Campbell was launched at ARRC, and it’s my favourite Campbell novel thus far. It combines what I liked best about her first two books.

Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan articulates, in the authors’ unique and hilarious style, a defence of the romance genre from a reader’s point of view.

Courting Disaster by Kathleen O’Reilly is published in Australia under Harlequin’s Special Release line as part of The Southern Legacies: The Prestons series. If you like a more old-fashioned type of contemporary romance where the wooing takes a little longer, this is an excellent read. (But skip the first 40 pages of back story.)

Finally, The Eternal Kiss: Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire is an anthology showcasing some talented authors in young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy.

I’m curious to know which books would make it to your list. If you have titles and authors to recommend, please consider posting it on the ARRA loop and sharing the love!

This article was first publised in the ARRA newsletter in September 2009.

Additional notes

I expressed doubt that we’d ever see a Stephanie Laurens title listed in the guide. I have eaten my words because The Elusive Bride is listed this year.

I’ve read and reviewed some of the titles mentioned in this article:

You can find more information on this year’s Get Reading! campaign at

Which romance books could you not put down this year?


  1. Julie says:

    Hi dont know if you have read Forbidden by christina phillips published by berkley, found this a great read could not put the book down, and I believe theres a book that carrys on from it, so cant wait to read that as well, gorgeous front cover as well.

  2. Kaetrin says:

    Hmmm. I didn’t have any trouble putting down The Elusive Bride at all.  I thought it was pretty meh.  Maybe because I listened to it??  On the other hand, I really liked Mastered by Love so…
    Most recently I read Infamous by Suzanne Brockmann.  Sure there were a couple of things that bugged me early on in the book, but I really enjoyed the characterisations and the story – I like this author and it’s been ages since she’s released a stand alone novel so I was saving it up to enjoy – loved it.
    I don’t know when it was published, but I also recently read Regularly Scheduled Life by KA Mitchell – it’s an m/m romance about a couple who’ve been together 6 years when one of them is shot in a school shooting and how their relationship is affected by it.  I love a good angsty read and I really enjoyed that it was about an established couple.
    And I read Kindred in Death (which was a last year release I know) and now I’m reading Fantasy in Death – some books are better than others but I always find the in Death series to be a reliable read and KiD was no exception.
    I’ve been lucky enough to read quite a few great books this year – In for a Penny by Rose Lerner, Don’t Tempt Me by Loretta Chase, Shades of Gray by Brooke McKinley – there are just so many great books out there!

  3. Kat says:

    I’ve read a few Brockmanns and have since realised that they shouldn’t be read back to back — some of them are just too similar. But I enjoyed a few of them, especially the secondary romance between Jules and Robin. I recently read a book in Cindy Gerard’s Black Ops series, which reminded me a lot of the Troubleshooters.

    Thanks for the recs. I haven’t read some of the authors you mentioned, and now I’ll have to check out some of their work. :-)

  4. Fran says:

    I have just discovered this site – I love it!

    I am a huge BDB reader and fan, I also love the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I am partial to paranormal romance and am also a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I have just read a series by Jeanienne Frost – The Night Huntress and Night Huntress World – they are great. 

    I also do regular, contemporary romance, in fact all romance really – yes I am a desperardo! My current favourite is Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Chicago Stars series, they are a very funny entertaining read.

    I am always looking for recomendations – I often wonder if there is RA for those of us addicted to reading?

    Keep up the great work and reviews…

    Thanks heaps

  5. Kat says:

    Julie — I’ll have to look up Forbidden in the bookshop. But first I have to know … were there any hygiene problems? I always get a bit caught up with the do-they-bathe-regularly question. :D
    Fran — Thanks! I must admit to a weakness for the BDB even though I usually don’t like open-ended series. If you’re looking for a romance readers group, have you looked at ARRA? They’re organising the 2011 Australian Romance Readers Conference, so it’s a great time to join. Depending on which state you live in, there are also some romance book clubs you might want to check out. Let me know if you need more info.

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