In search of happily ever afters...
December 3, 2016 8:47 PM   Subscribe

Give me your (diverse, feminist) romance novel recs! Snowflakes inside.

I've been asked to put together a romance novel reading list for an event at my school. I mostly read nonfiction and historical romance (Julia Quinn, Beverly Jenkins, Stephanie Laurens et al) so I'd love recommendations for contemporary romances, preferably ones with a diverse cast of characters, and where female characters have agency and spine. Recs for historical romance (especially set in eras/locations other than Regency England, or that aren't published by traditional romance publishers) are also most welcome.

What are books that made you sit up and take notice, that you would recommend to someone interested in the genre but unsure where to start? This is my chance to rescue the reading list from someone who thinks all romance is is bodice-rippers with questionable consent on the one hand and Heyer on the other and I'd like to take full advantage.
posted by Tamanna to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Courtney Milan's newest contemporary book includes a transgender lead character. It's a sequel to a book featuring an Asian-American female lead and a male lead with an eating disorder. Based on the covers, the whole series appears to be intended to be fairly diverse, but most of the books are not released yet.

She also has a bunch of historicals, though they are not necessarily diverse, other than Talk Sweetly to Me, which includes a black lead.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:18 PM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's not considered romance per se, but it's an amazing book and I think it would interest you:
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
posted by winterportage at 9:20 PM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Also, Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books moderated a panel on this subject at RT Con, so it would certainly be worth asking her to forward the reading lists from that panel. She's quite responsive to email, in my experience.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:21 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

The five-volume Glamourist series by Mary Robinette Kowal. They are set in the Regency era, but the author takes the story far beyond the drawing room. There is an extraordinary female protagonist. Plots involve magic, science, economics, class conflict, sexism, racism, colonialism, war, slavery, pirate ships, childbirth and a whole raft of other things. One major character is an abusive parent who uses his huge amount of financial, social, and political power in horrible ways. The romance between the main characters is realistic, plausible, and respectful to both of them. I'm not much of a romance fan, but this series is outstanding.
posted by Weftage at 6:05 AM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some ideas here, here, and here.
posted by bunderful at 8:25 AM on December 4, 2016

Alyssa Cole is rocking it in multiple subgenres of romance. Her historicals are my favorites of hers (especially Let It Shine, set in the 60s, and Be Not Afraid, set during the American Revolutionary War). Diverse characters, awesome women, non-traditional settings. The most recent anthology she's a part of with Kianna Alexander, Lena Hart, and Piper Huguley, Daughters of a Nation: A Black Suffragette Historical Romance Anthology, should be good, but I haven't yet read it. Her Off the Grid contemporary series is set during/after an apocalypse, which is not my thing, but it'd fit your criteria, too.

I wouldn't have thought I'd like a series called Blue-Collar Billionaires, but I've really enjoyed what I've read of M. Malone (Minx Malone)'s self-published series about a group of half-brothers and their coming to terms with their own family ties. Tank is the first book. This was one of the first times I read a contemporary series where the racial diversity (within families, among friends, etc.) felt real--nobody was tokenized, but it was recognized--and it was refreshing. The sex is hot, the women are awesome, and the family relationships are also so good.

Another awesome I-was-surprised-I-liked-it self-published contemporary series is Rebekah Weatherspoon's Fit trilogy. Diverse characters, fun and strong women, interesting relationships, and a unique setting.

I love everything I've ever read from both Farrah Rochon and Phyllis Bourne. A good recommendation might be their Wintersage Weddings trilogy (with A.C. Arthur, whom I haven't yet read, but I'm sure she's awesome as well!), especially since those books feature something I particularly love about romance novels--strong female friendships.

If you're including any paranormal romances in your reading list, I think Shelly Laurenston/G.A. Aiken is the queen of both strong women leads and diverse casts. She has a very particular writing style--she leans in hard to the humor, and there's a lot of oversized violence in her battle-heavy worlds--but I love it.

And one more historical recommendation: I love Jeannie Lin's Tang Dynasty romances a lot, and I'd recommend the Pingkang Li as a good starting place, especially for readers who like mysteries or crime plots but are unsure about romances.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 8:28 AM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Katie MacAlister is funny and her characters have agency and actually grow. She writes contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance. Her series have some diversity that's mostly just of the 'eh, and by the way" variety.

I also really like Rosalind James. Her novels primarily take place in New Zealand and half the characters are Maori. Most of the women are pretty strong.
posted by eleanna at 11:22 PM on December 11, 2016

Mary Jo Putney's books tend to put consent and agency front and center. She's got a number of series: The Lost Lords (7 books), The Rogues Redeemed (follows on from the Lost Lords books and deals with some of the same characters; 1 book so far), and The Fallen Angels (7 books) are her Regencies.
posted by Lexica at 11:21 AM on December 12, 2016

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