Books that are a tease.
May 21, 2009 6:07 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to read some mindless romance novels. I'm looking for books that have the drawn-out, difficult, possibly unrequited string-you-along love of a television series.

Some of my favorites: Mulder and Scully in the X-Files. Dana and Casey in Sports Night. Ned and Charlotte in Pushing Daisies. Blair and Chuck in Gossip Girl. Rory and Logan on Gilmore Girls. As far as books, something like the Twilight series if it were better written, the heroine wasn't spineless and also it had boning.
posted by IWoudDie4U to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Head on over to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Seems like they'll have the answers you're looking for.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:13 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Go for the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris if you want a more mature version of Twilight
posted by lizbunny at 6:53 PM on May 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

just FYI, that's the book series that the new HBO show True Blood is based on
posted by lizbunny at 6:54 PM on May 21, 2009

The Anita Blake series by Laurel K. Hamilton is like a very adult Twilight. It takes a few books to really get into the love story, and to be frank, it gets a little x-rated later in the series. But the books are a great escape and the story lines are interesting and unique.
posted by tryniti at 6:56 PM on May 21, 2009

Not a series, but for sheer intensity and sentiment's sake: Scott Spencer's Endless Love.
posted by t2urner at 7:13 PM on May 21, 2009

I'll second the call for the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Really, anything Charlaine Harris has done.
posted by ThatSomething at 7:14 PM on May 21, 2009

I haven't read the Twilight series, but you asked for mindless, so Danielle Steel came to mind. "Star", in particular has the type of plot you're looking for...
posted by yawper at 7:39 PM on May 21, 2009

Okay, look: I'm going to recommend two books that aren't exactly “mindless romance,” but you mention wanting something better written than the Twilight series.

Two of the greatest romance novels ever written (one of which, in my opinion, is the best novel ever written in the French language—and Victor Hugo agreed with me) were written by a man who was probably the greatest novelist of all time: Stendhal, whose real name was Henri Pierre Beyle. (I just quoted him on AskMe the other day over here.) They are:

The Red and the Black. (Don't read any reviews or summaries, as they'll ruin the story.) It's about a young man, Julien Sorel, in the countryside of France, and his struggles in his attempts to be a great man; Napoleon is his hero, but knowing that military leaders are in his time powerless and that the church is the place for strong men, he memorizes the entire Latin Bible without believing a word of it. His aim is ambitious, bold, and completely fruitless; for on his way he is accosted by love. It's a fantastically riveting novel; I loved it.

Stendhal's next-greatest novel is The Charterhouse of Parma. It's everything that The Red and the Black isn't. It is set in Italy; Stendhal was fond of saying that Italy was a much better country for love than France, and he happily spent thirty years of his life there in a government occupation that involved little actual work. (This was back when you could do that sort of thing.) Anyhow, it's about Fabrizio del Dongo, a young man who wants more than anything in the world to experience love; so he does everything he possibly can, joins the army, has many lovers, travels the world, and nothing works…until one day he does find love, but not in the way he'd hoped.

These books have made me eternally happy: I imagine you'll like them very much.
posted by koeselitz at 7:39 PM on May 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich could be good for you. There's sexual tension aplenty even though the novels run more to mystery and suspense than a straight out bodice-ripper romance type book.
posted by highfidelity at 7:39 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a difficult time suggesting "mindless" literature, but as far great romances go (your, "drawn-out, difficult, possibly unrequited string-you-along love" as it were), please give Jane Eyre and Rebecca a try.
posted by litterateur at 8:24 PM on May 21, 2009

MaryJanice Davidson's "Queen Betsy" vampire romance books start out pretty well, but kind of go to hell as the series goes on. But the first few books are great fun. They're not exactly a drawn-out tease, although the main relationship is a sort of love/hate thing, which is kind of similar.
posted by hades at 8:27 PM on May 21, 2009

Response by poster: Yay! Good suggestions so far, thanks. I've read Jane Eyre and Rebecca and many other classic romance novels. I'll happily take those suggestions, too. But I'm looking for something that's more distracting, guilty pleasure, hide-in-a-Murikami-book-jacket-on-the-bus kind of deal, like the examples I gave.
posted by IWoudDie4U at 8:42 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Outlander, by Diana Gal... whatever her name is?

R. F. Delderfield's Diana?
posted by Savannah at 9:19 PM on May 21, 2009

Diana Gabaldon, actually. She gets recommended a lot (though I've never read her).

I love the XFiles, like Bones, and heartily enjoy trashy romance novels. Oh, and I second asking Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (they have a regular feature called "Help a bitch out" that is essentially reader's advisory aka what you're asking now).

I recommend you pick up Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn. It's the start of a fantasy series, and it's got a really good unrequited-until-the-last-possible-moment romance (as well as a plot, so, um, not so mindless).

There's also Elizabeth Lowell at her trashiest; she does unrequited-to-requited with a fair amount of sex. I would say one of her most angsty is To the Ends of the Earth. Anything written by Lowell and published in the 1980s would be angsty, somewhat unrequited (for a while), and very sexy.

To go pretty far afield, there's also Georgette Heyer (she wrote in the early 20th century, so pretty much no boning), who does the English stiff upper-lip thing very well. She's not in the LEAST like Twilight, but she's got the unrequited down and the writing is of course far better than most. I would recommend Devil's Cub and maybe These Old Shades.

Finally, should you find these suggestions absolutely not to your taste, there's What Should I Read Next? (a website) as well as your local public library (the librarians are trained in reader's advisory, which as I sort of mentioned is what you're doing here)
posted by librarylis at 10:24 PM on May 21, 2009

Lauren Willig. Regency romances with a sort of modern framework. They're wonderfully written. Her prose makes me giggle. I feel deja vu, may have rec'd these here before in some other context. Since reading the series, I do tend to recommend it.

Start with "The Secret History of the Pink Carnation" to see if her style is what you're after. It's like the sweet spot between funny chick lit and a Regency romance.
posted by SaharaRose at 10:43 PM on May 21, 2009

Jean Auel's Earth's Children series....when Shelters of Stone came out, she said she had a draft of the last book, but it's been eight years and counting.
posted by brujita at 11:03 PM on May 21, 2009

YES to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I've read it (multiple times, in fact) and it's fab.
posted by pised at 11:36 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been on quite the escapist lit kick since my mother died recently, and can pass on some recommendations. Some of these drag out the romances longer than others, but they all have elements to recommend.

You might try a few of the paranormal romance series. A few I have enjoyed are the Mercy Thompson series, by Patricia Briggs - Moon Called is the first in the series. Another good series is the Kate Daniels books by Illona Andrews - Magic Bites is the first. Also, the Retrievers books by Laura Anne Gilman are an option - Staying Dead is the first.

She tends to write stand-alone books, but Linnea Sinclair does some really good science fiction romances. You also might try "Partners in Necessity", by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, which is a reprint collection of the three original Liad books: "Conflict of Honors," "Agent of Change," and "Carpe Diem."
posted by gudrun at 12:09 AM on May 22, 2009

Thirding Diana Gabaldon Outlander, its what I thought directly when I read the question. There's many of them, they're fat, you can lose yourself totally in the books, the interwoven plots are all linear, so there's not to much to worry about losing a connection, yet it's much more inventive than the twilight stuff, better written and funnier.
Otherwise Laurie R. King's Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Technically these are mystery novels, but in fact they're all part of a subtle romance story. In terms of "better written", these are enormous.
posted by Namlit at 12:11 AM on May 22, 2009

Diana Gabaldon got me through a stretch of unemployment some years back. So easy to Just Keep Reading. I think Outlander is the first one in the series.
posted by egret at 12:22 AM on May 22, 2009

For fun trashy reads, I heartily second the recommendation for the Stephanie Plum series. Exactly what you're looking for.

I really liked Frenemies and English as a Second Language by Megan Crane (despite the terrible titles), and I don't usually like chick lit. Though I may be proving that statement wrong by also recommending Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot (again, awful title), which has fantastic tv-like longing. That one is the first of a series, and the only one I've read so far, but I'm betting the rest of the series is similar. I'm about to start book 2 today.

In the slightly less trashy vein, Deanna Raybourn's Silent in the... series and Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series have exactly what you want, are well written, and don't quite feel like you're reading candy the way the other books I mention do (sorry, I recommend these 2 authors in almost every book thread I comment on, they just fit so well).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 2:52 AM on May 22, 2009

My fave reads in the trashy romance lately is sf/fantasy romance writer Robin D. Owens. She has two series (one I haven't read), but the series I'm recommending is the Celta series, starting with Heart Mate.
posted by lleachie at 4:43 AM on May 22, 2009

You may enjoy the Gardella Vampire Chronicles by Colleen Gleason, a five-book series that can be described as Buffy in Regency England. The heroine has several potential love interests, one of whom is the angsty troubled one, and there's lots of derrying-do and tension.

Start with The Rest Falls Away.
posted by Georgina at 6:37 AM on May 22, 2009

I've just read Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels, by the authors of the blog mollymayhem links. Here are three of the ones they recommend (none of which I've read):

My Sweet Folly by Laura Kinsale (because of the "plain and strong" heroine)

Born in Ice by Nora Roberts (because of the "intelligent" and "intense" hero)

To Love and to Cherish by Patricia Gaffney (because of the "sincere" and "funny" hero)

Seconding Heyer, but I'm not that keen on the two librarylis mentions. You might try Faro's Daughter, where the relationship is more tangled.

Also, Eva Ibottson's The Morning Gift - on Amazon as young adult, but originally published as an adult novel. Love and ethical dilemmas.

You might also like Eloisa James. She writes series based on sisters or friends, and therefore they perhaps have the television-like quality you're looking for. Much Ado about You is the first of the Essex sisters quartet. James also reviews romances by other writers on her website.
posted by paduasoy at 8:33 AM on May 22, 2009

nth-ing Diana Gabaldon and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.
posted by sarajane at 8:53 AM on May 22, 2009

It's YA, but K.M. Peyton's Flambards and its two sequels would be ideal.
posted by susanvance at 9:01 AM on May 22, 2009

I've never read it, but as far as long and drawn out, I'd say The Thornbirds.
posted by purpletangerine at 11:11 AM on May 22, 2009

Eloisa James is the pen name of Robert Bly's daughter.
posted by brujita at 4:37 AM on May 23, 2009

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