A good romance is an easy read, but a tough emotional journey for the characters. We want to watch them struggle with their deepest fears and beliefs on their way to true love and total acceptance. These three romance novels will keep you turning the pages as the characters earn their hard won happily-ever-afters.
In Last Night With the Earl by Kelly Bowen, a scarred and wounded war hero gets a second chance at love with a woman who was ruined by a major society scandal. Eli Dawes, the Earl of Rivers, is long presumed dead after the battle of Waterloo. When he finally returns to his house — in the dead of the night, naturally — he finds a woman in his bedroom. But not just any woman.
Rose Hayward was once betrothed to his best friend — a source of much anguish, angst and scandal. Now she's teaching art at her family's prestigious school for young ladies — and painting erotic portraits on the side. The last thing she needs to is to fall in love with an earl and return to a society that scorned her. But Rose and Eli are uniquely suited to challenge each other to overcome the scars — both visible and hidden — that keep them from their happy ending. Days and nights together convince them that time may not heal all wounds, but love definitely makes a difference.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice set the template for the romance genre as we know it. Many authors have written their own versions (Bridget Jones's Diary, The Lizzie Bennett Diaries) but Ibi Zoboi's gorgeously written Pride breathes new life into this familiar plot and shows why it's a story for the ages.
Set in Brooklyn's rapidly gentrifying Bushwick neighborhood, Zuri Benitez and her four sisters watch as the Darcy brothers — two handsome black teenagers, Ainsley and Darius — move into the newly and expensively renovated house down the block. You know how the story goes — Zuri's sister Janae falls for one of the brothers, there's a distraction from Warren (Willoughby), and of course the behavior of her mother and sisters highlights the vast gulf between the Benitez and Darcy families. Zuri and Darius initially dislike each other, wouldn't you know it, before her pride and his prejudice get out of the way of love. All the familiar beats are there, seamlessly fitting in this vibrant modern setting.
Why read yet another adaptation of P&P? Do it for Zuri — a richly drawn, real and relatable version of Elizabeth Bennett who really brings pride to the story. Her love of her family, neighborhood, way of life and aspirations shine through every line, especially in the poems she writes. And do it for Zoboi's description of Darcy — one of the most legendary and swoon-worthy heroes of all times — as a "cranky bodega cat." Read it for the sparks and challenges flying between Darcy and Zuri, who get more time together in this version to slowly open their eyes and fall in love. Pride is one for the keeper shelf.
Secrets of a (Somewhat) Sunny Girl by Karen Booth is not what you'd expect from a rock star romance — in a really sweet, sober, no-groupies way.
Once upon a time, Katherine and Irish hottie Eamon shared one magical summer together before going their separate ways — he went on to be a world famous rock star ("musician" he insists) and she created a good life for herself in New York City, with a job she loves and her sister/best friend as her roommate.
Fate finally brings back Katherine and Eamon together after more than a decade apart. (Fate, in this case, is her sister, Amy — who scored VIP tickets to his show and had no idea her sister once had a fling with the famous rock star.) That's the first secret. As the two super close sisters start planning Amy's wedding, and as Katherine's relationship with Eamon gets serious, Katherine is forced to reckon with some more dark family secrets that unfortunately don't stay secret — and that threaten her sister's relationship when they come to light. Through it all, Eamon is a hot, steady, loving boyfriend trying to make it work with the girl who got away. For those who love sweet and angsty romances with a heavy dose of family drama, this is not to be missed.
Maya Rodale is a best-selling romance author. Her new book is Duchess by Design.