Sep 29 2011 8:04am

The Gateway Experiment: Christopher Morgan Reads Romance

Clark Gable reading Gone with the WindOver the years, romance readers have discussed “gateway” books—the books that got them hooked on romance. And we’ve all bandied about the idea of what the best gateway book is for a theoretical non-romance reader.

Well. We are theoretical no more; HeroesandHeartbreakers’s able freelancer, Christopher Morgan, has offered himself up as a guinea pig for our own gateway experiment. Chris reads across genres, and is open to nearly any subgenre of romance, except for weird shifter types practicing BDSM (because, as we know, reading those books only comes after a long while of reading romance anyway).

To give an idea of his taste, he reads SF/F (he is the in-house Game of Thrones ringer), military history, Hunger Games fan (#TeamPeeta!), non-fiction, hates William Faulkner and Freud, and lists among his favorite authors Robert Jordan, JRR Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, and HP Lovecraft.

So it seems the usual offering of Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels might not be the perfect match for Chris, perfect book that it is. And even though it’s tempting to head into Urban Fantasy territory, UF doesn’t have romance per se, so try to stay on the Paranormal Romance side of the supernatural fence.

Once we decide on a book, Christopher will gamely take it on, and will report back on what he thought.

So—what romance book should Chris read?

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K.M. Jackson
1. kwanawrites
For something traditional-esque maybe Blue Eyed Devil my Lisa Kleypas? Non Traditional Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning. My 2 cents. Welcome to the dark side Chris!
Laura K. Curtis
3. LauraKCurtis
Anne Bishop's Black Jewels (Daughter of the Blood)?
Tami Hoag's Deeper Than The Dead?

Let me think some more...
Victoria Janssen
4. VictoriaJanssen
Loretta Chase, Mr. Impossible - it has a fun hero, and a lot of funny bits.

Judith Ivory, The Proposition - again, a cool hero, and one of the best writers in the genre; we might as well show off.
Clare 2e
5. clare2e
So, not to say these aren't great, but I have the PERFECT gateway title for Chris.

The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. (please to genuflect now)
Christopher Morgan
6. cmorgan
I for one am happy to be here, and I think that I could definitely pull off a less handsome, less charming Clarke Gable.
Heather Waters
7. HeatherWaters
I don't have a rec (yet), but this is fun!

@LauraKCurtis -- Hmm, yeah, maybe a romantic suspense...
Myretta Robens
8. Myretta
I wouldn't discount Lord of Scoundrels or, as @VictoriaJanssen suggests, Mr. Impossible. Loretta Chase is funny and I think they might appeal to Christopher's sense of humor. Or... How about Welcome to Temptation by Jenny Crusie? Yeah, the more I think about, the more inclined I am toward Welcome to Temptation. Humor, romance, murder. It's pretty much got it all.
Angela Quarles
9. Angela Quarles
What about one of Amanda Quick's Arcane series? Borderline paranormal, and she's got a great sense of humor. Quick was my gateway drug... Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the book -- the hero was actually really tough, but the heroine thought he was just a bookworm and she kept thinking he had delicate sensibilities? There's a showdown in an underground lair in London? I think he was some scholar that she'd had a crush on for a long time and he'd been out of the country?
Angela Quarles
10. mochabean
So I'm guessing Kushiel's Dart is out? At least until later? I can hmmmmmmm, I think I have to genuflect to clare2e -- that's a great pick!
11. ChelseaMueller
What about Karina Cooper's Blood of the Wicked? It's darker and borders on UF, but super sexy.
12. Janga
I've used SEP's Chicago Stars series successfully to introduce two male friends to romance fiction, and my brother, whose favorites include Harlan Coban and James Lee Burke, now reads Linda Lael Miller, Jodi Thomas, and Kaki Warner.
Louise Partain
13. Louise321
I agree with Loretta Chase as a definite possibility because she writes such hilarious males. Mr. Impossible is a good one because he is so uncomplicated, no angst. On the other hand if Mr. Impossible is a good one, a later one of Chase's books which I reread recently -- Don't Tempt Me -- might work as well. Lord of Sin by Madeline Hunter is also an uncomplicated male dealing with an invasion of young felonious females and there's a scandalous house party. And if you like adventure with a dash of old fashioned romance, Lord of the Silent by Elizabeth Peters might work. Another glittering Georgian romance is Jo Beverly's My Lady Notorious which involves highway robbery, a road trip, cross dressing -- trust me, it's fun, and another scandalous house party, all items to tempt the male palate.
Angela Quarles
14. lanchid
I always start romance virgins with "The Rake" by Mary Jo Putney. Gets 'em every time.
Angela Quarles
15. lanchid
@claire2e You have slain my "best first romance title" with yours! I bow to your choice. Well played. ;-)

I, too, vote for "The Iron Duke" by Meljean Brook
Angela Quarles
16. Ariel/Sycorax Pine
Definitely Crusie. Either Welcome to Temptation or Faking It. (I lean towards the latter.)
Angela Quarles
17. Bluemoonrogue
What about Christine Feehan's Ghostwalkers? Contemporary, military, paranormal.
18. ChelseaMueller
Iron Duke is certainly a good call, too, especially if he can handle the slow build of epic fantasy.
Christopher Morgan
19. cmorgan
Ok, looked a couple of these up, gotta be honest, the abs on the guy in the Iron Duke cover are slightly intimidating. But I do like the premise. I am a sucker for an academic hero so Ms. Quick also sounds tempting. But I defer to the greater knowledge of my coworkers to pick this out... Besides those are the only two I've looked up so far...
Megan Frampton
20. MFrampton
These are all great suggestions, and Heather and I will convene to select The Book for Christopher (TBfC, in shorthand).

Wondering if we should lend him an e-reader so he's not embarrassed in public with one of our covers...
Angela Quarles
21. LizB
I love Faking It because it reads like a caper (though it isn't technically a caper). And that hilarious denouement! Really, just about anything by Crusie would make a great intro to the best of what contemporary romance can do.

I haven't read The Iron Duke--and have only heard good things. But lemme ask you this. How's the world building? I love speculative fiction, but I am not a big fan of subgenre scifi/ fantasy romance (and this includes UF/ paranormals) because often the spec fic/ worldbuilding aspects of it are not particularly well done. I'm willing to overlook it if the romance is strong enough--but I'm a romance fan.

For a relatively traditional romance that is also very well done urban fantasy, I like Patricia Briggs. (I think you'd have to go with the Alpha & Omega series. I love Mercy, but I wouldn't call that series romance.)
Clare 2e
22. clare2e
@LizB- I would call the world-building in The Iron Duke of the immersive variety. You aren't given all the answers, and will keep adding new pieces to your concept of the world as you go. This offers the chance for revelations which are cool, but you may have to rethink the way you filled in the blanks. Some of the last stuff to flesh out is the geopolitical, but it's definitely a society under internal and external tensions, and we learn that by starting with individuals and action, then working outward. For my sff reading, I prefer this approach to a more expository type that lards up the information long before I need it.
24. ChelseaMueller
@cmorgan - Are you saying you want us to pick something with a particularly racy cover? Because that kind of read like a dare.
Angela Quarles
25. Louise D
I'm a fantasy reader as well, & I think Nalini Singh's Psi/Changling series is a good place to start. Excellent workbuilding, something that most fantasy readers love, and often falls short in paranormal romances.
Jennifer L. Gorfine
A) Don't cop out and give him an e-reader! If he's going to do this, he should do it all the way. =)

B) I agree with what everyone else has been saying -- he should start with a romance that has fantasy elements. Maybe he'd enjoy "Shadow Bound" by Erin Kellison? (It's a pretty quick read.)
Angela Quarles
27. kreads4fun
If he wants a non-threatening, kinda geeky graphic novelist hero, go with Tribute by Nora Roberts. If he doesn't want anything too feminine, go with anything by Linda Howard. Her heroes are over the top Alpha. The best would be the thriller series Kill & Tell, All the Queen's Men, and Kiss Me While I Sleep. (love John Medina) If he reads Martin and Tolkein, he isn't afraid of heavy lifting and should go with Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon.
Angela Quarles
28. Marci
I like sci-fi stuff, too (and just about everything else!) and I agree about Nalini Singh's Psy-Changling series and Christine Feehan's Ghost Walker series. Also Sherrilyn Kenyon's League series (future/space), or even Joss Ware's Envy series (post-apocalyptic Earth) all of which have some UF elements across the series, but with a hero/heroine and HEA in each book.
Angela Quarles
29. MindyM
The Sun Witch, by Linda Winstead Jones
Angela Quarles
30. Copper
Personally, I'm for starting him on Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series. (Start with Night Pleasures, though, the first DH book. Let him go back to Fantasy Lover.) After reading the first two, I coined the term "action-romance" when it came to Sherri's books. There's enough of it that there have been times I've skipped the romance parts to get back to finding out what the heck is going on in the meantime! That said, though, the romance parts are good but not the focus of the books (focal to the story, yes, but not 'let's find a reason to throw the characters in bed together') Worked in a bookstore for years and was absolutely not shy about recommending them to male fantasy readers who were looking for "something different." And if he'd like a bit more of an Arthurian bent, go with the Lords of Avalon (Sherri's alt: Kinley MacGregor). More magic. More high fantasy. But this ain't your mama's Camelot, as the tagline says. Heck, there's even comics of the LoA and manga of the DH, if he wants to be all guy and get his feet wet with them and not look like he's reading a romance novel, hehehehe.

(And okay, I have to share my captcha. Lord Lambora. Sounds like a bad villain or something...)
Elizabeth Krentz-Wee
31. ekrentzwee
Sharon Lee & Steve Miller's great Liaden Universe series is a nice cross-over to romance. The first couple books are feature unexpected couple combinations. Agent of Change and Conflict of Honors are wonderful reads (and rereads). I have my son and daughter-in-law, who usually read SF and thrillers hooked on Liaden.
Toni Horton
32. Tonidh69
I agree Nalini Singh-anything she writes ( Archangel series is fantastic too). And I like Mercy Thompson series too. Fever Series is intense. Darkness Chosen series by Christina Dodd maybe.
Toni Horton
33. Tonidh69
oooo....oh yeah. what about Sookie Stackhouse? or Night Huntress series? Love me some Cat and Bones
Angela Quarles
34. filkferengi
The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold. Start with Sharing Knife: Beguilement. The world-building's superb, & the main couple particularly engaging.
35. laurenkusa
What about Catherine Asaro, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels, or Anne McCaffre's Dragon series as SF starter romances? Catherine Asaro has probably the most direct romance correlations, but the other two offer action and romance.
Angela Quarles
36. carrie251hat
Don't Look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer- first of all it's hilarious, second it has lots of action, third it has a few complicated layers, fourth it has a crocodile...
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