Which side up? Guest Post

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SIDE EFFECTS is an adult contemporary, twisty, underhanded, certainly unscrupulous . . . romance.

LJ Greene Tells us:

4 Books That Redefined Romance for Me

I didn’t grow up reading (or writing!) romance. The romance genre to me was always the Harlequin books with Fabio on the cover and some maiden being swept away aboard a pirate ship. I never thought of it as real or relevant or, honestly, of much interest. As I look back on my own early attitudes towards romance, I see clear fingerprints of the ever-present snobbery that (sadly) exists against the romance genre. But these four books (or series) not only redefined romance for me, but inspired me in different ways to want to add my own voice to the chorus.

The Mists of Avalon Marion Zimmer Bradley’s retelling of the Arthurian legend from the perspective of Morgaine isn’t technically a romance – there are few happy endings to be found in its pages – but it remains for me one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read. It is also the sole reason I came back to reading for pleasure as an adult, in my early twenties. It’s a book of female heroism, something my former self had never conceived of in romance, and of the many, quiet, devastating sacrifices women make for those they love. It is enduringly relevant to the female experience and so beautifully crafted that its 900-page length is a treat worth savoring.

Outlander I am well aware that Diana Gabaldon would not appreciate me for including her books in a blog about romance. But the fact remains that whatever else her books may be, they are also romances, and there’s no shame in that. For me, the Outlander series is most instructive of the fact that as a writer, you can pen almost any scenario you like, as long as you take the care to write it well. It’s been a good reminder for me in my own work, when storylines have sometimes gone places I wasn’t sure I could or should go. This series tackles everything from violence to intimacy to plural marriages to nose-picking with an equally deft hand. The storytelling is absolutely brilliant. If you’ve only ever experienced Outlander through the television show, you’re missing out. The richness of the books is impossible to translate, even as I readily admit that Sam Heughan is about as perfect a Jamie as any reader of the series could ever hope for… 😊

Beautiful Player This book, for me, is contemporary romance perfected. This is the book I always wished I had written and honestly still strive to. It’s the book that inspired me to finally put pen to paper. Beautifully developed characters, lots of humor, and full of heart. You’d be hard pressed to find any writer (or writing duo, in this case) who can pen more authentic, layered, and loveable male characters told from the first-person POV than Christina Lauren. And I’ll also say that before they changed their writing style to omit on-page love scenes, they also wrote, in my opinion, the very best love scenes in contemporary romance – supremely crafted, sexy without being gratuitous, and always underpinned with the emotional complexity of real, human experiences. Beautiful Player is the quintessential CLo novel for me, but Dark Wild Night, Wicked Sexy Liar, and Autoboyography are sure bets, as well.

Bad Things RK Lilley’s trilogy is a master class in character development. It’s been eight years since I read these books and I still haven’t recovered. This was one of the first romance books I ever picked up, and the one that unflinchingly demonstrated just how raw and real and relevant romance could be. Tristan remains for me one of the most beloved, flesh-and-blood characters I’ve ever encountered in the genre. RK Lilley’s bravery in tackling his story arc is remarkable. And the execution of it is something to behold. I have no doubt that this series took its own pound of flesh from the author herself, as books often do. You can feel the way she never shies away from the tough stuff and the result is gut-wrenching. If you’ve somehow missed this series, I recommend you rectify that situation right now. But don’t say I didn’t warn you… 😊

These are just a few of my favorites but there are so many great romance novels out there today – so much variety in the stories being told, so much more inclusivity, and an ever-broadening universe of incredible authors joining the mix. This is a genre that is growing and evolving every day. As it should be, because its readers deserve that. Romance readers are, perhaps by nature, a kind and generous bunch, which often causes them to be underappreciated in their sophistication for good storytelling. But let me just say this to romance readers everywhere: your passion for stories of triumph, your love of happy endings, and your belief that everyone deserves one is the reason writers like me put words to paper. We live in a time when people can look anywhere for cynicism and horror. But you seek out joy, unapologetically, and I adore you for it.

 Author Bio:

 Romance author, obsessive multi-tasker, California native, music lover with no apparent musical talent, travel enthusiast, and cheese connoisseur.

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