Jun 15 2012 9:14am

The Gateway Experiment: What Should Our Romance Novel Virgin Read Next?

Martin Freeman as the HobbitHeroesandHeartbreakers’ Christopher Morgan has gamely read his first historical, Loretta Chase’s Mr. Impossible, a paranormal in Meljean Brook’s Demon Moon, Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation, a contemporary, met the Black Dagger Brotherhood in J.R. Ward’s Dark Lover, and most recently finished reading the romantic suspense Linda Howard’s Mr. Perfect.

Not to mention, we made him read E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey back in January for our roundtable discussion.

Guess we really shouldn’t be calling him a ’romance virgin,’ should we?

But now we’re once again open to suggestion—and this time, let’s find him something he will absolutely love. Chris comes from a SF/F background, loves history, world-building, and seems not to love super-alpha male heroes. 

What would you suggest for him next? This time, make your most compelling argument in comments, and Chris will choose, based on your argument for why he should pick the book you suggest. Keep your suggestion to one book per comment so he can weigh each person’s responses equally.


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K.M. Jackson
1. kwanawrites
So Chris what do you have against the super alpha? Inquiring minds what to know. The first book that some to mind this morning is Karen Marie Moning's Dark Fever to get your take on Mac and Barrons though I'm thinking you might not go for Barrons.
Carmen Pinzon
2. bungluna
In the fantasy line, I'd suggest Robin D. Owen's Celta series. It's more fantasy than sci-fi. The first tittle is HeartMate. It's about the desendants of humans who fled Earth because they were persecuted for having esp-magic-like powers and settled on this planet where they have become more so. I enjoy the world building and the take on colonies and evolution of societies.

On the sci-fi front, how about Gini Koch's Allien series. It's more funny than scien-cy, but a very good time. Touched by an Allian is the first one in that series. Marketing girl reacts to a close encounter of the allien kind and gets recruted to fight the fugglies and gets the guy, to the sound of '90s rock!
Christopher Morgan
3. cmorgan
@kwana, the problem with the super alphas are that I can't take them seriously at all. They come off a bit like caricatures for me than as well-rounded characters. In the right setting, like the wonderfully over-the-top BDB, it works, but the times I've come across the character in books that aren't as aware of themselves, it throws me out of the story completly.

Now the same can be said for female characters. When I'm reading my typical genre and every woman is busty, has a breathy voice, and her only role is to be either the seductive, Lilith-like temptress bad guy, or the unaware-that-shes's gorgeous, slightly clumsy, can't help but be cutesy hero, I get just as put off. Which is unfortunately pretty common.

I've heard of Barrons so I'll look a little more into that.

@bungluna It's very hard to say no to 90s rock. Matchbox 20 WAS my highschool years.
Vanessa Ouadi
4. Lafka
I love my male heroes alpha, so I can't think right now of many books with beta male heroes. Kristin Cashore's Graceling series comes to my mind, but it's definitely young adult, I'm not sure Chris will go for it.
Neal Shusterman's Unwind Trilogy is promising (I've only read book #1 so far and really liked it), but there again, it's young adult fiction _ plus, it's more SF/dystopia than fantasy.
Laurie Rivera
5. leb
How about Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles series? The books are about a 2100 year old druid named Atticus (the last of his kind) living in present day Arizona with his faithful Irish Wolfhound companion Oberon. I was hooked from the first chapter of the first book (Hounded) and couldn’t stop until I had read all four books that have been released. And then I wanted to read them over again! The author has seamlessly intertwined various belief systems and pantheons into a set of books that are very intriguing and believable. In one of the books, Atticus even has a beer with Jesus! The world building is awesome and the hero is very male and definitely alpha, but not in the "dominate everyone and become an asshat" sense. It’s urban fantasy with lots of history woven into the plots and backstories of the characters. There are romantic elements and encounters, but they are campy and fun and not the main focus of the books (so far).
6. Lidy
Nalini Singh's books are great! Angels' Blood (the 1st Guild Hunter) is a very good start point. Both Raphael and Elena are strong but sensitive characters with lots of healing to do before they reach their HEA. Raphael is alpha to the core (after all, he's an archangel), but doesn't try to control Elena because he knows that being a fighter is a part of her as much as his wings are of him.
Heather Waters
7. HeatherWaters
You know, Chris, I might just vote for a Suzanne Brockmann for you this time. Her heroes are a good mix between alpha and beta, imo, and, at least in the first few books of the Team 16/Troubleshooters books, there was always a WWII-period subplot, which I enjoyed. It's another suspense rather than fantasy, though.

@Lafka -- I think Chris'd like Graceling too!
8. Brianne Sherwood
I agree with @redline. I really liked the first Troubleshooters story (The Unsung Hero). it hooked me in to the rest of the series. There are alpha characters but they are not over the top, i think it fits into what we expect in Navy SEALS. but there are human and very real as well. Plus, there are usually at least 3 ro 4 subplots going on. I thought this had one of the strongest of the WWII plots and its ties in very well with the plotlines of the main H/H - Tom and Kelly.
C Hunter
9. huntece
Sherrilyn kenyon's League Series is an excellent scifi romance series.

"In the Ichidian Universe, the League rules all. Expertly trained and highly valued, League Assassins are the backbone of the government. But not even the League is immune to corruption..."

Her heros are alphas but really how could assasins not be :) Full of political corruption and characters who find a way to laugh in even the worst situations. The first is Born of Night but you would probably enjoy the second book Born of Fire more. The hero is a tech thief/assassin/doctor and the heroine is a bounty hunter. Both have abusive pasts and know how to kick ass.

(Also Sherrelyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series is a good fantasy romance series. I think its the only series Ive ever read to even come close to comic book world building complexity but it doesnt really feel like that till youve read a bunch of the books)
10. Jane Peach
Chris, coming from a SF/F background maybe you've already read Lois McMaster Bujold? If you haven't, what are you waiting for! Miles Vorkosigan is the most non-alpha alpha hero I've ever read. His "romance" is told mostly in "A Civil Campaign." Many readers would say you should read his entire series in order, but I came across ACC first and was so charmed by it that I couldn't bring myself to stop and read the series through from the first book like I normally would in that situation. (I actually read them in reverse order which worked great for me for reasons I won't go into 'cause they are kind of spoilerish.)

"A Civil Campaign"s subtitle is, A Comedy of Biology and Manners. It has the fun comedy of manner's approach of a good historical romance and Bujold is a really solid writer with excellent character development, interesting plots and strong world-building. Plus her use of language is a pleasure to read. I'll stop now in case you've already read her and I'm just preaching to the choir.

Seriously, even if you don't pick the book for this challenge - read them - so good I wish I could discover them all over again myself.
11. kyatty2007
What about Lauren Dane's Heart of Darkness? When I reviewed it, I thought it was a good blend of PNR meets UF. Besides, I love Lauren's work. I haven't yet met a book she wrote that I didn't like, regardless of whether the book was a contemporary, an erotic, a PNR etc :).
12. Chelle
I vote for Meljean Brook's mouth-watering steampunk adventure series The Iron Seas. The first book "The Iron Duke" is definitely Chris worthy! :)

I love the detailed imagination and back history Brook used to create a world where people can be part machine but all heart. Mina is a flawed heroine who has risen above her roots to become a female Inspector. She's not a kick-ass bombshell, but she captures the reader's heart with her stubborness and intelligence. Rhys may come across as a bit of an alpha (what good hero doesn't), but essentially he is also flawed, complex, and needs a hard kick in the ass sometimes. Althogether, I think Chris would enjoy the zombies, metal monsters, flying clipper ships, and a romance selection that is heavy on rich details yet easy on sap. ?
13. jguldy
Here's a vote for J.D. Robb's In Death series. It's a bit futuristic more than fantasy.
Lege Artis
14. LegeArtis
Ok, I thought about this... Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews has awesome story, bad-ass heroine and a hero I think every man would like to be friend with.
You have one big family feud, behind-the-curtains war between two countries led by spies and assassins with awesome gadgets, hero with impressive action figure army and heroine who has so much on her shoulders, but no luxury to go nuts about it. As if their lives weren't complicated enough, they had to cross the swamp on a same boat...
Cristina P
15. krissapl
I'm going to support @Lidy 's choice. I love Nalini Singh, the worldbuilding in both her series is great. I personally, find the Psy Changelings series more intricate and something I haven't read anywhere else, but I'm at book 11 and it definitely builds in time. Guild Hunter might pack more punch with its first book in the series. So, my ONE book recommendation is Angels' Blood.
The hero is alpha, but he has good reason to be. He's def not a caricature, he's just extremely old and powerful. Also has a dark side (which, after being so powerful for so long, is quite realistic). He's capable of a lot. The heroine is pretty kick-ass. Def not a simpering miss with a heaving bosom. She's smart, she's scared when there is reason to (no TSTL moves for her) but she carries on regardless, doing her job (which is not for the weak of heart). There's also a nice villain in this book (mean, smart, no conscience-as I remember you said you liked them), and defeating him is not as easy as just firing a gun. The only thing is: I would qualify the book as paranormal or fantasy rather than SF.
Myretta Robens
16. Myretta
If you'd be interested in Historical Paranormal, I highly recommend Mary Jo Putney's Guardian Series, starting with A Kiss of Fate
Myretta Robens
17. Myretta
Since we're doing one per post, I have one more Historical Paranormal to recommend (this one set in France): Susan Carroll's The Dark Queen, the first of her Cheney sister novels, with the added fillip of Catherine de Medici at the villain.
Janis Clark
18. maliamartin
I have the winner - Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. It is incredibly well written and has everything - romance, science fiction, history, genealogy and two main characters that are absolutely impossible not to love. Outlander is the first in a series of seven and is an absolutely epic read. Moving from present day time back to 17th century Scotland it pulls you in as no other novel has ever done. On my website's recommendations I have this one set aside as it is a completely unique read. I can't wait for the eighth novel.
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