Savanna, Associate Editor

New voices are rising to the forefront in sci-fi, fantasy continues to flower in new and surprising ways, and a YA icon is about to make her long-awaited adult debut. 

Goliath jacket

Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi
Tordotcom | January 25

Riot Baby, Onyebuchi’s 2020 novella, was one heck of a calling card, and he’s letting his prodigious imagination and piercing social critique run rampant in his first adult novel. Set in the 2050s, Goliath follows a large cast of characters as they roam a crumbling Earth that has been largely abandoned by the upper classes, who have decamped to space colonies.

Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik
Harper Voyager | February 1

If you’ve already been introduced to Mihalik’s sci-fi romances, chances are you’re already obsessed with her. Equal parts pulpy fun and steamy love stories, Mihalik’s books are for everyone who’s watched the scene of Han Solo and Princess Leia’s first kiss more times than they’d like to admit. This start to a new series introduces a bounty hunter with a heart of gold, her alien nemesis-turned-employer and an outrageously cute alien that’s like a cross between a cat and fox—and can communicate telepathically.

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
Tor | March 1

Dark academia will never go out of style if I have anything to say about it. And it looks like a sizable portion of BookTok agrees with me, as Blake’s self-published series took the platform by storm in 2021. The first novel of the series, which follows six talented, ambitious magicians as they compete to win a place in an elite secret society, has been revised and expanded for its release by a traditional publisher.

The Ravenous Dead jacket

The Ravenous Dead by Darcy Coates 
Poisoned Pen | March 15

The Whispering Dead was one of last year’s little wonders, a horror novel with a surprising amount of humor and heart among all its terrors. This sequel continues Keira’s quest to uncover her lost memories and bring peace to the spirits of the dead, but gives her a new enemy in the form of a ferocious ghost that refuses to go gently into that good night.

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
Tor | March 15

National treasure John Scalzi recently finished a complex sci-fi series, so it makes sense that his first book after that accomplishment is a standalone adventure that sounds like an absolute blast. (It also is the only book that takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic that I’d actually be willing to read.) Jamie is a delivery app driver desperate for a better job. She jumps at the chance to work for an “animal rights organization,” but then learns that she’ll be traveling to a different universe to take care of kaiju! Kaiju are Godzilla-type beasties, but in Scalzi’s version they are not automatically aggressive; they’re more like huge, dangerous pandas. If this book is half as good as the book in my head, it will be a masterpiece.

The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller
Tor | March 22

Even if it didn’t have that absolutely magnificent cover, I would be anxiously awaiting this fantasy debut, which follows Charm, an emperor’s mistress who is also a necromantic witch. When the emperor is poisoned, he tasks Charm with not only solving his murder but also deciding which of his three terrible (large, adult) sons should ascend to the throne. 

Wild & Wicked Things jacket

Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May
Redhook | March 29

Set on a resort island off the English coast, this book basically sounds like a mashup between Practical Magic and “Downton Abbey.” It’s set right after World War I but in an England where magic has been banned, due to its horrific applications during the war.

Sweep of Stars by Maurice Broaddus
Tor | March 29

There can never be enough ambitious, sweeping space operas in the world, and Broaddus’ start to a new series sounds truly epic. In his vision of the future, humanity has colonized the solar system. Our heroes hail from the Muungano Empire, a collection of city-states established by African space pioneers that is in danger of being destroyed by other human civilizations.

In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power
Del Rey | April 5

It’s kind of wild that ancient Greece isn’t a more common inspiration for fantasy worlds, so kudos to YA author Rory Power for using it as a backdrop for her adult debut. This series starter introduces two twins with unnaturally long lives and supernatural powers who help their father rule over their small country. But their father is getting unpredictable and his abilities are fading, while at the same time an independence movement is growing, so the twins have to work together to keep the kingdom under control. All I’m saying is that this kind of sounds like fantasy “Succession.” “Succession” with magical powers? Yes, please.

God of Neverland jacket

God of Neverland by Gama Ray Martinez
Harper Voyager | April 12

I am someone who loved, and I mean truly, deeply loved, the first season or so of “Once Upon a Time.” So here’s hoping that this fantasy about a grown-up Michael Darling returning to Neverland to find a missing Peter Pan (here characterized as a god of chaos and childhood) will fill the Storybrooke-size hole in my heart.  

The Fervor by Alma Katsu
Putnam | April 26

After writing a rather excellent espionage thriller (last year’s Red Widow), Katsu is returning to her idiosyncratic brand of horror: awful events in world history made even worse through supernatural frights. This tale of a demon terrorizing the inhabitants of a World War II-era internment camp will be one of her most personal works yet, as she’ll be drawing from her own family history and heritage as a Japanese American.

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher
Tor | April 26

Through what I’m sure is some form of black magic, Kingfisher’s books are both totally hilarious and deeply scary. That particular combination is why her latest book, a subversive take on fairy tales, is so very exciting. Nettle & Bone will follow a princess on a quest to save her sister—by murdering her sister’s awful husband. 

Book of Night jacket

Book of Night by Holly Black
Tor | May 3

It seems impossible, but YA fantasy icon Black has never written a novel for adults. Until now. Book of Night centers on Charlie Hall, who lives in a world where it’s possible to magically manipulate shadows. Doing so can alter another person’s memories and perceptions, but the cost is time lost from your own life. Charlie is a bartender and con artist, but she has ties to the shadow trade that prove difficult to sever.  

Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller
Tachyon | May 10

The author of acclaimed speculative novels Blackfish City and The Blade Between will release his first collection of short fiction, which is sure to please fans of cli-fi, weird sea creatures, queer SFF and pretty much everyone who wants to read something brilliant, strange and new. 

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
Tor | May 10

After The Chosen and the Beautiful, her luminous, dreamy take on The Great Gatsby, Vo is heading to the West Coast wonderland of Pre-Code Hollywood. Of course, in her version of the film industry, wannabe movie stars like protagonist Luli Wei must sign magical pacts, selling their entire selves to companies ready to exploit them. 

All the Seas of the World jacket

All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay
Berkley | May 17

There’s almost nothing I can tell you about the plot of this book, but it doesn’t really matter because Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the best writers of historical fantasy of all time. This book will return to the Renaissance Italy-inspired world first introduced in the superb A Brightness Long Ago, and I will be ready for him to take me wherever he wants to go. 

A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland
Tordotcom | June 21

Rowland’s Conspiracy of Truths duology seems destined to become a cult classic; the blisteringly smart fantasy novels flew a bit under the radar but won the hearts of all who read them. I would not be surprised if A Taste of Gold and Iron makes Rowland the next big thing in fantasy. This queer romance set in a world inspired by the Ottoman Empire sounds like a blockbuster hit and a perfect use of Rowland’s talents for world building, intrigue and complex relationships. 

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey
Tor | July 19

The genre-hopping Gailey seems to be settling down (at least for now) in a delightfully specific niche: female-led thrillers with a supernatural twist. If last year’s The Echo Wife could be described as Alfred Hitchcock meets “Orphan Black,” this tale of the daughter of a serial killer sounds like “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” mixed with Shirley Jackson, aka the dark cocktail of my dreams.

A Half-Built Garden jacket

A Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys
Tordotcom | July 26

Cli-fi’s been around long enough that authors are starting to find innovative twists on what was, originally, a pretty bleak sort of formula. (Humans destroy Earth! Here’s the depressing society that’s arisen afterward!) Acclaimed fantasy author Emrys offers her rather brilliant twist on the subgenre. In 2083, the Earth has just begun to heal from the ravages of the climate crisis. But then aliens show up, intent on saving humanity by taking them off the planet—whether they want to or not. 

The Spear Cuts Through the Water by Simon Jimenez
Del Rey | August 30

It’s almost impossible to overhype The Vanished Birds, Jimenez’s debut novel (the first chapter alone was award-worthy). Not one to rest on his laurels, Jimenez is immediately switching from sci-fi to fantasy: His sophomore novel will follow a warrior who teams up with a goddess to overthrow a tyrannical emperor.

There’s never been a better time to be an SFF fan than right now.

Foodie-friendly rom-coms, literary love stories and some very hot takes on Greek myths—all these things and more await romance fans in 2022. 

The Roughest Draft jacket

The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Berkley | January 25

The powerhouse YA romance duo (and real-life married couple!) will make their adult debut in a very meta fashion. Two writers who found great success with a co-written novel owe one more book to their publisher. The only problem? They now hate each other, and haven’t spoken in three years. 

Lockdown on London Lane by Beth Reekles
Wattpad Books | February 1

And lo, the romances inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic hath begun. This kaleidoscopic romance by the author of The Kissing Booth follows various couples in the same London apartment building during a seven-day lockdown.

Out of the Blue by Alison Bliss
Forever | February 1

The wonderful Bliss was writing rom-coms before they were cool—check out her underrated A Perfect Fit series. She now returns after a few years away (an eternity for a romance writer) with this rom-com about a woman who falls for her personal trainer.

Ramón and Julieta jacket

Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana Albertson
Berkley | February 1

A retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in San Diego, California, Ramón and Julieta will swap out Renaissance aristocratic families for contemporary fast-food and taqueria dynasties. 

Not the Witch You Wed by April Asher
Griffin | February 8

The witchy rom-coms that were everywhere last fall are back in 2022! Asher’s stands out from the pack with its urban setting (New York City) and by including other supernatural beings—chiefly a wolf shifter as a love interest.   

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake
Berkley | February 22

Anticipation is high for Blake’s opposites-attract love story, which is a sapphic spin on the small-town romance.

Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron
Forever | March 8

Heron’s Accidentally Engaged was an utterly adorable treat (with truly scrumptious descriptions of food), and she’s upping the ante with this follow-up by adding another favorite romance trope: a Jane Austen adaptation. Kamila Knows Best will be a modern take on Emma (the cool kid’s choice for best Austen novel to adapt? Discuss.).    

How to Be a Wallflower by Eloisa James
Avon | March 29

James is heading back to the Regency period after wrapping up her Georgian-era Wildes of Lindow Castle series. In this start to a new series, a British heiress and an American businessman go to war over a London clothing emporium. 

Going Public by Hudson Lin
Carina Adores | March 29

Romances set in various high-stakes businesses were all the rage a few years ago, and Lin’s 2021 release Hard Sell was both a throwback and a breath of fresh air. All the corporate complications and power dynamics were present, but Lin’s diverse characters and soulful, deeply felt love story updated the subgenre while also bringing it down to earth. So readers will be in good hands for her next book in the Jade Harbour Capital series, which will venture into the tricky territory of a relationship between a devoted assistant and his boss.

The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa
Avon | April 5

Another frothy, wedding-centered treat from the author of The Worst Best Man, Sosa’s new rom-com pairs a diehard romantic with a cynical man in search of a modern-day marriage of convenience.  

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez
Forever | April 19

This romance between a sophisticated, city-dwelling ER doctor and a small-town carpenter seemingly has rom-com written all over it. But given that this is Jimenez we’re talking about, it’ll probably also be sneakingly profound and tear-inducing in both happy and sad ways. 

The No-Show by Beth O’Leary
Berkley | April 26

The author of The Flatshare and The Road Trip returns with another satisfyingly messy, refreshingly human rom-com. Her third novel sounds a bit like a less vengeful version of John Tucker Must Die: Three women get stood up by the same man, but then they all forgive him and are all still in danger of falling in love with him. (Who is this paragon to inspire such devotion??? We’ll find out this spring.) 

Book Boyfriend by Kris Ripper
Carina Adores | April 26

After wrapping up zir wonderful Love Study series last year, Ripper returns with another brainy but heartfelt contemporary romance. One of many recent romances that star either authors or people who work in publishing, this book will follow Preston Kingsley, an editorial assistant who’s in love with his best friend and expresses his love via a thinly veiled fictional version of himself.

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory
Hyperion Avenue | May 3

YA superstar Julie Murphy kicked off the Disney Princess-inspired Meant to Be series last year with If the Shoe Fits, her reality TV-set, rom-com spin on Cinderella. This year, the baton passes to Guillory, who will take her cues from Beauty and the Beast in the series’ second installment.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Berkley | May 3

Beach Read author Henry returns to the world of publishing for her third novel, an enemies-to-lovers romance between a literary agent and a book editor.

From Bad to Cursed by Lana Harper
Berkley | May 17

From Bad to Cursed brings fans back to the cozy, perfectly spooky town of Thistle Grove, the extremely enviable setting of Harper’s first romance, Payback’s a Witch. In this sequel, thrill-seeking sorceress Isidora Avramov has to team up with her buttoned-up archnemesis to clear her family’s name after someone starts sabotaging the town’s Beltane festival.

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
Atria | May 24

It’ll be a huge year for National Book Award finalist and bestselling author Emezi, who in February publishes Bitter, a sequel to their YA novel Pet, and then in late May releases their first romance novel, You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty, about a woman’s healing after loss and her second chance at love. Upon announcing the book deal, Emezi tweeted that they started writing the novel in 2019, “one of the worst years of [their] life,” and attributed the title’s inspiration to Florence + The Machine’s song “Hunger.” Each of Emezi’s books has been more powerful and groundbreaking than the last, with some of the essays in their 2021 memoir, Dear Senthuran, providing a closer look into their experiences and processes as such a wide-ranging storyteller.

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall
Forever | May 24

After carving out a niche for himself as the Richard Curtis of contemporary romance, Hall is finally bringing his signature wit and lovable, idiosyncratic characters to the world of historical romance! A friends-to-lovers tale set in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, A Lady for a Duke follows Violet Carroll, a trans woman who is reunited with her oldest friend after making a new life for herself after being presumed dead at Waterloo.  

Wicked Beauty by Katee Robert
Sourcebooks Casablanca | June 7

We truly do not deserve Robert. Not only is she giving us two Dark Olympus romances in 2022, but the second (after January’s Electric Idol) will be her own delicious spin on the figure of Helen of Troy. In Robert’s version, Helen is gunning for the title of Ares, placing her in direct competition with Achilles and his partner, Patroclus. But all three soon realize they might be better together than on opposite sides—both professionally and personally. 

Husband Material by Alexis Hall
Sourcebooks Casablanca | August 2

If you read the entry for A Lady for a Duke and wondered wistfully when Hall would gift us with another contemporary rom-com, do not fear! Not only will Hall be releasing a modern-day romance in 2022, it will be a sequel to Boyfriend Material! Luc and Oliver are happily together, but everyone around them is getting married . . . are wedding bells in their future?

Here's to another year of tropes galore and Happily Ever Afters for all!

As a lifelong period drama devotee, historical romance is probably my favorite subgenre in all of Romancelandia. But as a history nerd, I’ve never quite understood why the Regency and Victorian eras are so very, very dominant. Don’t get me wrong—I will never say no to a good bustle, and I love Austen-esque tales as much as the next romance reader. But why isn’t there an entire genre of fast-paced, witty Roaring ’20s romances? Or love affairs within the court intrigue of Tudor England? Or, you know, more romances set anywhere other than England or America? The following list is unfortunately still Anglocentric, much like the romance genre itself, but these authors offer a place to start for those looking to move beyond the Regency or Victorian romance.


Medieval

After the Regency and Victorian periods, the medieval era is probably the third most common setting in historical romance. In Ye Olde Decades Past of romance, it was a super popular period but is now mainly the territory of dashing Highlanders. Which is not at all a bad thing!

Isabel Cooper
Medieval, but make it paranormal: The dashing Scottish hero of Highland Dragon Warrior is, you guessed it, a dragon shape-shifter. And if that wasn’t enough, his love interest is a Jewish alchemist. If you get hooked, Cooper also has a previous series starring the same family, centuries later.

Julie Garwood
She’s currently writing romantic suspense, but longtime romance fave Garwood has an extensive backlist of acclaimed medieval romances. Start with the Highlands’ Lairds or Lairds’ Fiancées series.

Elizabeth Kingston
If you’re looking for a realistic depiction of the period in both its cultural sophistication and near-constant violence, let me introduce you to the wonderful Elizabeth Kingston. Her deeply romantic Welsh Blades series takes place during the chaotic English conquest of Wales, and both books have a unique, utterly ferocious heroine.

Mary Wine
Wine’s book list is almost entirely medieval and early Renaissance, and she specializes in strong-willed female characters and lushly detailed depictions of Scotland and England.

Jeannie Lin
The Tang Dynasty was one of the golden ages of imperial China, and a particularly good example of how most of the world was doing just fine during what we Westerners have self-centeredly called “the Dark Ages.” Start with Butterfly Swords, where sword-wielding Princess Ai Li flees her upcoming wedding and enlists a handsome, mysterious warrior to keep her safe.

 

 

 


Georgian

No less an authority than Terry Dresbach, the costume designer for “Outlander,” has said that the 18th century, known as the Georgian period in England, was one of the sexiest ever periods of fashion. This era comes right before the Regency but was earthier, more sex-positive and far less constrained by propriety. Which to me sounds like a recipe for a pretty great time.

Eloisa James
After writing many beloved regencies, James has moved back a few decades to give us some arch, intelligent Georgian love stories. I’m partial to her current series, the Wildes of Lindow Castle, which works in the burgeoning gossip press of the era in hilarious ways, but readers also love her Desperate Duchesses books.

Elizabeth Hoyt
Like Mary Wine and the medieval period, Hoyt has staked out a claim for herself as the happy queen of her particular era. Check out her Maiden Lane or Legend of the Four Soldiers series for a grittier take on Georgian England, or go to the Princes books for some upper-class romance.


The Gilded Age/Edwardian Era

As any reader of Edith Wharton knows, the Gilded Age is a particularly fantastic setting for romance (even if it tends to end in gut-wrenching heartbreak—I still haven’t forgiven Edith for what The House of Mirth did to me). The extraordinary wealth accumulated by the American upper class in this period put much of the European aristocracy to shame, and the Yanks compensated for their lack of noble titles by adhering to hilariously byzantine rules of social engagement. In other words, everyone was very sexually repressed and looked super hot all the time.

Joanna Shupe
Shupe has established herself as a go-to author for smart, well-researched historicals, and she does particularly great work in this era. Her superfun Knickerbocker series put her on the map, but I’d recommend starting with A Daring Arrangement, which follows an English noblewoman as she embraces the hustle and freedom of NYC and hooks up with a delicious, dashing financier.

Elizabeth Camden
Inspirational romance is often a good place to go for great work set in less popular eras, and Camden’s Empire State series is perhaps the best example of this. Camden’s romances are witty, warm and exhaustively researched. She has a particular knack for writing about the scientific advances of the era, so any readers looking for STEM heroes and heroines will be very happy.

Laura Lee Guhrke
Guhrke has series in all sorts of eras, but her Abandoned at the Altar books take place in Edwardian England. All three romances have delightfully independent ladies, all of them center around broken engagements, and characters can actually drive themselves around in cars rather than carriages! (You’ve heard of carriage love scenes—I raise you old-timey automobile love scenes.)

 

 


20th Century

You’d think with the popularity of “Mad Men,” “Downton Abbey” and every other 20th-century period drama on television, there’d be a corresponding boom of romances. Alas, no. But there are a few shining stars out there, daring to write historical romances in eras sans corsets.

Amanda Quick
The alter ego of romantic suspense icon Jayne Ann Krentz has lately started writing romances that I swear were tailor-made for yours truly—sexy mysteries set in Hollywood circa 1930. It’s like “Poirot” and the second season of “Agent Carter” had a baby and wow am I sorry for that image. So sorry. Anyway, these books are great—start with The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

Roseanna M. White
Another hidden gem of inspirational romance, the Shadows Over England series takes place during the lead-up to the Blitz. As you might expect, things are very tense, very dramatic and very British. There are spy games and refugee musicians and clockmakers and reformed criminals aplenty, making these books excellent reads to curl up with on a chilly day.

Alyssa Cole
The wonderful Cole has a fantastic backlist of historical novels and novellas written both before and after she became a total superstar with An Extraordinary Union (which is a great pick for a different historical, given its Civil War setting, but also technically still in the Victorian era). Let Us Dream is set in 1917 Harlem, and follows a romance between a cabaret owner and her chef. And Let It Shine stars a boxer and a civil rights activist who fall in love in 1961.

As a history nerd, I’ve never quite understood why the Regency and Victorian eras are so very, very dominant in romance. The following list is unfortunately still Anglocentric, much like the romance genre itself, but these authors offer a place to start for those looking to move beyond the Regency or Victorian romance.

More than any other genre, the wonderful world of romance novels has its own separate lingo. It can be overwhelming for a newcomer, but once you learn the basics, it’s much easier to find the books that will make you smile like an idiot, and avoid the ones that will make you fling them across the room in a rage.

Romancelandia
Some fandoms would be content to simply describe themselves as “fans of [blank].” Not so the romance-loving blogosphere, who have coined this delightful term for themselves. If you’re looking to dip your toe into the romance discourse, searching the Romancelandia hashtag on Twitter is a good way to start.

Hero and heroine
The leading man and the leading lady in heterosexual romances. This may also be abbreviated to “H” for hero, and “h” for heroine. These are usually used instead of calling either character a protagonist because most romances focus equally on both halves of a central couple.

Old school romance/bodice ripper
If you’re not a romance reader, a bodice ripper is probably what you think most of the genre is—an innocent virgin, a swaggering he-man, not much subtlety, purple prose aplenty. However, those books fell out of style a few decades ago. If you pick one of them up, you’re probably going to have to deal with an uncomfortable (at the very least) lack of consent, and quite possibly any number of other discomfiting aspects—racism, homophobia, etc. “Old school romance” and “bodice ripper” function as giant you-have-been-warned signs for readers venturing down the backlist of the genre.

Insta-love and insta-lust
A trope that’s fallen somewhat out of fashion but can still be found in most subgenres, insta-love is when the hero and heroine lock eyes across a crowded room and fall madly in love right there on the spot. This works best in either high melodrama historicals or paranormal romances. Most modern authors are content to have their couple fall in insta-lust instead, which is exactly what you think it is.

Desert Island Keeper (DIK) and Keeper Shelf
A Desert Island Keeper is a book so beloved, one would take it to a hypothetical exile on a desert island. Keeper Shelf is the more practical cousin of this term and refers to the metaphorical or literal place where one’s favorite, eternally re-readable books are stored.

Book Boyfriend
If a book is a DIK for you, chances are it also contains one of your Book Boyfriends, the men you wish were real and could date you. Or make out with you. Whatever you’re looking for.

Alpha male
Speaking of men in romance, the alpha male is probably still the most common variant. This is your standard commanding, arrogant, accomplished dude. Think Mr. Darcy before Elizabeth Bennet’s rejection humbled him, and we all learned he was actually an adorable nerd who gets shy around sassy girls.

Alphahole
An alpha male whose bossy and/or stubborn tendencies go too far, causing the reader to imagine kicking him repeatedly instead of being wildly attracted to him.

The Grovel
Contrary to popular belief, most alpha males don’t stay bossy and commanding throughout the entire book. Usually, their lady love humbles them somehow, resulting in The Grovel. This is where the hero metaphorically or literally falls to his knees, begging forgiveness and telling the heroine how much she has changed him for the better. A good grovel may also be required for any character who lied to or tried to manipulate their true love before inevitably falling for them.

Beta male
A counterpoint to the traditional alpha male hero. Beta males are generally kinder, more nurturing and more open about their emotions and thoughts than a taciturn alpha.

Gamma male
I approach defining this term with trepidation since Romancelandia is still figuring out exactly what it means. A conclusion seems to have been reached that a gamma male is a mix of alpha and beta qualities. Usually strong and commanding, but not arrogant, a gamma male can be seen as the villain at first. He is often independent and may be indifferent to the heroine initially. Literally all of what I just wrote could change tomorrow though, so take this definition with a grain of salt.

HEA
Happily Ever After. The finale, the explosion of sparkles and rainbows, the endorphin high every romance hopes to spark in its readers. A good romance novel is nothing without a wonderfully sweeping conclusion, and if a reader says they weren’t sold on the HEA, it probably means they won’t be recommending the book to a friend.

HFN
Happy For Now. An ending that either leaves something to be desired or leaves the couple in a decent place while hinting there is more drama to come. A standalone book with a HFN is generally not desirable, although there are some fans that don’t mind. Most romance readers however, prefer a HFN if it comes at the end of a book in an ongoing series, and the author makes it clear the couple’s journey is not over yet.

Autobuy
An author you love and trust so much, you automatically buy their books whenever they come out.

Catnip
A trope that gets you every single time. For example, some people are suckers for a good friends-to-lovers story, or a workplace romance. Most romance tropes are pretty self-explanatory, but there are a couple worth explaining.

Forced proximity
This trope is when circumstances force a couple to spend a lot of time in the same space. So, snowed into a cute cabin in a contemporary, or stuck together on a long carriage ride in a historical.

Marriage of Convenience
When somebody has to get married to avoid scandal, being betrothed to some horrible old lord, get money for an impoverished family, what have you. This is a cherished trope of historical romance because it allows for society-sanctioned sexy times (heirs aren’t going to make themselves!) while the main couple slowly falls in love.

Ton
Speaking of historical romance, I would do a whole other list of period-specific terms, (but since a good amount of them will already be known to lovers of biographies or historical fiction, I’m not going to). Ton is one of the most commonly used phrases in historical romance, and one that historical fiction readers might not know. It refers to British high society, and you’ll probably come across this word quite a bit since almost every historical takes place in Ye Olde England. Unfortunately, historical romance is even whiter than contemporary romance, but that is the subject of an entirely different article.

Bluestocking
Another historical-specific term, a bluestocking refers to a bookish lady, probably a wallflower, probably on the road to spinsterhood. This was a derogatory term in reality, but since romance loves a smart heroine, the fictional lady in question often wears this epithet with pride.

Too Stupid To Live (TSTL)
One would think this is the direct opposite of bluestocking. But rather than refer to a lack of book smarts, a heroine described as TSTL is a person who wanders into or creates dangerous situations at an annoying rate, and thus makes sympathizing with her rather difficult. This is especially egregious in any Highlander or paranormal romances, where the stakes are often life-and-death.

The Duke of Slut
The ladies over at beloved romance website Smart Bitches, Trashy Books are responsible for this utter masterpiece of a term, which makes me laugh every single time I think about it. The Duke of Slut refers to a type of hero commonly found in historicals—the sexy aristocrat who never met an actress, dancer, courtesan or mildly attractive and consenting woman he didn’t then immediately sleep with.

More than any other genre, the wonderful world of romance novels has its own separate lingo. It can be overwhelming for a newcomer, but once you learn the basics, it’s much easier to find the books that will make you smile like an idiot, and avoid the ones that will make you fling them across the room in a rage.

You know what improves most things? Kissing. And if you, dear Private Eye July reader, would like your mysteries and thrillers to be improved by kissing, romantic suspense is here for you. A subgenre of romance that invests just as much time in high-octane action or clever whodunits as it does in its central love story, romantic suspense often comes in series that follow the adventures of a team, or track characters through their many difficult cases.

And if you’d like your mysteries or thrillers to be improved by kissing and magic, then jump to the second half of our list for an introduction to the thrills of paranormal romance.

Romantic Suspense

If you wished classic action movies focused on romance and foiling bad guys in equal measure, these are the series for you.

 

Black Knights Inc.
Author: Julie Ann Walker
Premise: The Black Knights are a black ops group on a mission from the government, and their cover is a motorcycle shop. These books are the literary equivalent of a delightfully ridiculous, globetrotting spy thriller.
Number of books: 12.
Where to start: Hell on Wheels, where Black Knights member Nate “Ghost” Weller risks blowing his cover when the love of his life, Ali Morgan, comes into town and needs his help.

 


Fatal
Author: Marie Force
Premise: Did you watch “Scandal” and wish that Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald Grant would stop going back and forth and just get their lives together? This is the series for you. Sam Holland is a brilliant police detective, and Nick Cappuano is the fling from her past. Sam solves D.C. murders, which gets progressively more complicated as Nick climbs the political ladder.
Number of books: 16 (there's also a second series starring the same characters, First Family)
Where to start: Fatal Affair—the first book of the series starts when Sam is called in to investigate the murder of Senator John O’Connor, Nick’s boss.


The O’Malleys
Author: Katee Robert
Premise: Do you want the thrills of romantic suspense without any pesky black-and-white morality? Then, my slightly scary friend, the Mafia romance is for you. This Boston-set series is outrageously sexy and features men and women of organized crime. Because feminism is for everyone.
Number of books: Six.
Where to start: The Marriage Contract, which starts when mob scion Teague O’Malley is ordered to marry Callista Sheridan in order to increase the family’s influence.


 

 

Paranormal Romance

If you’ve never read a paranormal romance, you probably think most of the genre is like Twilight for adults. But actually, the vast majority of paranormals follow the same action-packed beats of traditional romantic suspense, just with added magical intrigue.

 

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
Premise: One of the founding series of urban fantasy as well as one of the longest-running paranormal series, Hamilton’s increasingly complex tales center on a vampire hunter/detective and her romantic entanglements. You’ll want to start at the very beginning with these.
Number of books: 25, with the 26th coming out this August.
Where to start: Guilty Pleasures, which sees Anita take on her very first case and get entangled with a very sexy vampire master.


Argeneau
Author: Lynsay Sands
Premise: A modern family of vampires battle evil and find love in this series of loosely connected romances. If you’re looking for a series that’s a little more light-hearted than some of the angstier offerings, the Argeneau books are for you.
Number of books: 27, with number 28 coming out later this year.
Where to start: A Quick Bite, whose vampire heroine faints at the sight of blood (told you these were funny) and gave the series its name.

 


Kate Daniels
Author: Ilona Andrews
Premise: After an apocalyptic event, magic comes in disruptive waves. One moment, technology works, the next it fails, and magic has to take its place. Kate Daniels is a mercenary in chaotic Atlanta, where magical creatures run amok.
Number of books: 10, with the final book coming out next month.
Where to start: Magic Bites, in which Kate gets caught between necromancers and shapechangers, both of which blame each other for a series of murders.

 


Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Premise: Even if you don’t read romance, you’ve probably heard of Singh’s long-running series. The name comes from two races at odds, but frequently falling in Romeo and Juliet-esque love. The Psy rule the world with their frightening psychic powers, and disdain all emotion. Their rivals are the changelings, shape shifters who live in close family units.
Number of books: 17 so far.
Where to start: Slave to Sensation—a love story between Psy Sascha, who has to hide her emotions from the rest of her race, and panther shifter Lucas that blooms while their respective peoples are on the verge of war.

You know what improves most things? Kissing. And if you, dear Private Eye July reader, would like your mysteries and thrillers to be improved by kissing, romantic suspense is here for you.

Vanessa Kelly’s Clan Kendrick series continues this summer with The Highlander’s Irish Bride. After a wild youth, Grant Kendrick has become an upright citizen and successful businessman. But when he takes on the task of escorting the rebellious, irrepressible Kathleen Calvert through the Scottish countryside, Grant increasingly finds that his buttoned-up reserve is no match for Kathleen’s adventurous spirit.

The Highlander’s Irish Bride will be available from Zebra on July 27, but you can read Grant and Kathleen’s first meeting below!


The set-up: Visitors have arrived at Kendrick House in Glasgow, and Grant Kendrick is returning home from his trading offices to meet several new guests.

Grant forced himself to remain calm. Most Kendricks tended to yell when frustrated, but Grant always made a point of doing the opposite. “Now, Angus—”

The old man started up the steps. “Och, fine. Ye can sit in a corner and be yer usual gloomy self. Not that the bonny lass will have time for the likes of ye, anyway. She’ll be too busy keepin’ her wee sister in line. That one’s waitin’ to pop off like a bottle rocket, I reckon.”

“Good God, just how many people did the duchess bring with her?”

“Including the maid and the grooms?”

“You’re incredibly irritating.” Grant rapped on the door, ignoring his grandfather’s chuckle.

Will, the under-butler, answered. “Good evening, Mr. Grant. I hope you had a productive day.”

“I did, until a lunatic Highlander forced his way into my office.”

Will didn’t bat an eyelash. “The family and guests are beginning to gather in the drawing room, sir, but you and Mr. MacDonald have time to change.”

“Thank you. I’ll just be . . .”

The words died on his tongue as he caught sight of a young woman floating down the staircase. He blinked, and then blinked again.

Grant was used to living with beautiful women. His sisters-in-law were all stunners, the sort that stopped men dead in their tracks.

This girl, though? She was just a wee dab of a thing. If lost in thought, a man might pass her on the street and never notice. But with a closer look, there was something . . . something fey about her, as if she’d just stepped out of a fairy ring in a deep Highland glen.

That impression grew stronger as she reached the bottom of the stairs, her skirts seeming to drift on a mountain breeze. The gown was eccentric and charming, a confection of pink silk and white lace that skimmed over her figure. An extraordinary number of gold spangled ribbons encircled her slender waist and cascaded down the front of the gown, some gently flaring as she came toward them. As she passed under the huge chandelier of the center hall, she seemed to shimmer, as if a thousand tiny stars were embedded in the fabric of her gown.

You’re daft, man.

Girls didn’t shimmer or float, or any other stupid image his brain kicked out.

She was very bonny, just as his grandfather had said. With wide-set, pewter-gray eyes, narrow cheekbones, and a sharp little chin, her face looked more elfin than human.

Except for her mouth, which was definitely human and very lush, with a Cupid’s bow curve and a full lower lip. Set against her ethereal features, it made for an intriguing contrast.

Grant liked intriguing. He decided he liked pink gowns and spangled ribbons, too.

The young woman drifted to a halt a few feet away, her mouth tilted in a crooked half smile, as if unsure of her reception.

“You’re starin’, laddie,” Angus whispered.

Of course, what his grandfather considered a whisper could be heard half a block away.

Stop acting like a dolt.

He dredged up a smile. “I take it this is one of our guests. Perhaps you could introduce me, Grandda.”

“That would be preferable to us staring at each other like boobies,” the young lady responded.

The vinegary reply was offset by her light voice and an appealing trace of a brogue—not Scottish, but Irish. That was also intriguing.

After a fraught pause, Grant nudged his grandfather. “Angus?”

“Och, I’m forgettin’ my manners. Happens all the time, ye ken.”

When the girl smiled—a real smile, this time—Grant almost forgot his own name.

“Lady Arnprior warned me that you didn’t have any manners,” she said to Angus. “So I shouldn’t mind if you say something outrageous.”

Good God.

Angus gave her a wink. “I’ll be havin’ a wee chat with her ladyship, defamin’ me like that.”

The girl laughed. “Oh, drat. Now I’ve got us both in trouble, haven’t I?”

“Nothin’ we can’t get out of together, lass. Just follow my lead.”

She dipped him a saucy little curtsy. “I will be sure to do so, Mr. MacDonald.”

“A-hem,” Grant said.

Angus gave a fake start. “I almost forgot about ye. Miss Kathleen Calvert, allow me to introduce my grandson, Grant Kendrick.”

Grant bowed. “Miss Calvert, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Welcome to Kendrick House.”

“Thank you, sir.” She tilted her head back, studying him with a thoughtful frown. “I thought Lord Arnprior was tall, but you’re almost a giant. It’s all the clean living, I suppose, not to mention the log tossing. I’ve been told that Scots are fond of log tossing. By your size, I would say you do quite a lot of it.”

Grant’s mind blanked for a moment. “Er, is that a question?”

Miss Calvert studied him for a moment before letting out a sigh, as if disappointed. “I suppose we should go in. The others are waiting."

When she calmly walked off toward the drawing room, Grant turned to his grandfather. “What just happened?”

“Ye got rolled up, son, that’s what happened. Ye’ll have to do better than that.”

“Do better at having bizarre conversations? That’s your forte, not mine.”

Angus snorted. “At least my conversations don’t bore young lassies to death.”

With that annoying and probably truthful bon mot, his grandfather beetled over to the stairs, heading up to the family apartments.

Grant blew out a frustrated breath, then looked at Will. “Is it just me, or is my entire family insane?”

“Dinner in thirty minutes, sir,” the young man politely responded.

Shaking his head, Grant stalked up the stairs.

Read an exclusive excerpt of Vanessa Kell’s next historical romance, The Highlander’s Irish Bride!

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