Book Bytes

by Marylaine Block

Books Too Good To Put Down: Romances


Don't let men put you down for reading romances. Yeah, a lot of romantic fiction is complete trash. However, so is a lot of detective fiction, not to mention spy stories, westerns, and murder mysteries. Like Nelson Algren said, 90% of everything is crap. Romance fiction can be, and often is, done well. What I look for in romances is likable people, heroines with spunk and brains and a sense of humor (or at least 2 out of 3), and heroes who are bright enough to appreciate them. I like my heroines to be connected to other people besides just the hero. Way too many bad romance novels have heroines who have no friends, no families, nobody except the man they fall in love with -- which is to say, they are fundamentally unlike any real woman. The best romance novels show women who have caring, well-drawn relationships, with children, sisters, brothers, parents, friends. Here are some of the books that meet my standards.

Note: To keep up on what's new and really good in romance, look for Kristin Ramsdell's columns in Library Journal; this is a woman who appreciates wit and intelligence in her romance novels. And if you want to get your hands on any of these books, and they're out of print, click here for suggestions on how to find them.

Carly Alexander. The Secret Life of Mrs. Claus. A charming Christmas 3-pack of novellas centered around Rossman's, a family-owned department store, struggling to remain competitive with larger chains. A Mrs. Claus suit hand-sewn by the store founder's wife long ago, becomes the magic ingredient in the lives of 3 women who don it at three different branches of the store. A dancer who had fled Baltimore for fame in NY returns and finds her old love and new life; a single mom trying desperately to get her ex to be a father to their charming, inventive little boy finds a man who's far more interested in doing so, and an heiress to the store's founding family finds that love and the family tradition of charity are more important than running the company.

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Last updated August 2, 2006

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Writer, Book Reviewer, and "Librarian without Walls."

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