I've just read two outstanding romance novels, and if you know me, you know that I'm not the usual romance reader or fan. I tend to read Science Fiction and Fantasy, Literature and Classics with some Modern Fiction thrown in for balance of the mental palate. I've not been a fan of the "throbbing manliness" school of bodice-ripping romance since I was about 12 years old. Even then, I always read Science Fiction in addition to romance, because most romances written in the 1970s were weak and formulaic tripe.
But a friend of mine, Renee Stern, happened to acquire a copy of Linnea Sinclairs "Finders Keepers" several years ago, and she passed it on to me, knowing that I enjoy Science Fiction with strong female characters and adventure. I read it, enjoyed it, and was surprised and pleased when Renee got me a copy of "Gabriels Ghost" by Sinclair this year. I devoured it, and found the characters to be engaging, fascinating and well-wrought. So I bought myself a copy of "An Accidental Goddess" with my Barnes and Noble gift card (my birthday and Christmas are close enough together that people tend to combine them and give me gift cards for both...which is perfectly fine by me. I love shopping for books!) and discovered that Sinclair just keeps getting better and better with each new novel. Her Science Fiction/Romance hybrids are a real treat to read, with just the right amount of futuristic aliens and technology to keep the geek in me happy, and just the right amount of interesting, fun characters and fast-moving plots with juicy male-female relationships to keep me turning pages long into the night.
I went to Sinclairs web site and found, to my joy, that she has a new book coming out in February that I will hasten to acquire from Amazon.com. I also wrote to the author, and, kind Libran that she is, she wrote back to me and was quite charming to chat with about being a reporter and about her latest books. I found that one of her earlier works, "Wintertide", is only available online used, at a very dear cost. I am hoping that I will run across a copy when I scour the used bookstores in the spring.
The second good romance author I've discovered is Lynn Kurland, a local (Seattle) gal who writes historical romances. Like Sinclair, Kurland has a knack for storytelling and for well-formed characters who seem real, they're so accurately drawn. I found "This is All I Ask" on the Library Guild book sale cart at the local library, and it seemed interesting enough to warrant a 50 cent price tag. I enjoyed it so much that I bought "From This Moment On" and "The Very Thought of You" and enjoyed them tremendously. I happened to find a copy of "Love Came Just in Time" at a garage sale, and I snapped it up. It contains 4 short stories by Kurland that take place in Scotland. The first story was the best, and a real joy to read, as it entailed some Science Fiction in a time warp that catches a nearly suicidal woman off guard and hurls her into the 13th century, where she meets and falls in love with a poor but hunky Laird. Granted, this isn't the kind of stuff that wins huge literary awards or becomes a classic, but it is great fun and the kind of escapist literature that makes for good distraction when you are waiting in the doctors office for a colonoscopy, for example. Kurland has a sense of humor, too, so she doesn't take her characters or their situations too seriously, which is wonderful. Her prose is fluid and gets down to business without a lot of metaphorical side trips. And her characters are never the perfect model-types you see in so many romances. They have problems, flaws and all too real trouble connecting to others.
So I highly recommend both Linnea Sinclairs SF/Romances and Lynn Kurlands historical kiss-fests. You won't be subjected to bizarre descriptions of pulsating body parts or perfect hair and teeth, I guarentee.