There are probably quite a few romance readers who wouldn’t mind a hunky Scottish highlander bursting into their bedroom (*cough* Jamie Fraser *cough*). But in Gayle Callen’s The Wrong Bride, heroine Riona Duff isn’t too pleased about being kidnapped by Hugh McCallum and dragged to the Highlands to be his bride. It’s all a case of mistaken identity, Hugh meant to snatch up his betrothed, Riona’s cousin. Callen’s written over 20 novels, though this marks the start of her first series set in Scotland. To celebrate the release of this new novel, Callen is here to share some of her favorite romance novels with Bookish.
When you’re a writer, it’s a given that you’re a reader—an avid reader, usually, and I am no exception. I used to bike the couple miles to the library every week as a kid and load up my backpack with books. I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi then: the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Dune series, the Thomas Covenant Chronicles. As an adult I branched out into military thriller writers like Tom Clancy. But always, at the heart of my reading favorites, is romance. So here’s my list of favorite romance novels.
Kathleen Woodiwiss started it all, as far as I’m concerned, writing historical romance with love scenes where the woman gets just as much pleasure as the man—and doesn’t die at the end, like so many earlier “romances” (if you can call them that) written by men. Sure, the writing is more wordy than we’re used to nowadays, but I still find the passion between rich spoiled Shanna and daring, honorable Ruark just thrilling. Shanna needs to marry a man in name only, and quick, so she finds a death-row prisoner, Ruark, who has some demands of his own before he’ll agree. Talk about adventure—the story goes from England to the Caribbean, and from a pirate island, to colonial America. I’ve probably read this book thirty times. It made me leave sci-fi behind and enter the world of romance.
This is another book I’ve read dozens of times. Loretta Chase is a master of witty, clever repartee between her characters, and the passion just sizzles. The opening prologue so vividly makes you sympathize with the hero Sebastian, who’s not always heroic later on. But you understand him, and you get to watch him grow as a person, so it works. He meets his match with Jessica, who comes to rescue her dim brother from Sebastian’s debauched clutches. They clash and bicker and yearn all across London. There’s a scene where Sebastian, in a public shop, slowly strips a buttoned glove from Jessica’s hand, all while speaking movingly in Italian—about drains. I swooned and laughed and reread it over and over again.
I don’t just read historicals; I love contemporary romance, too. I even write contemporaries as Emma Cane. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is gifted at taking an over-the-top premise and making it romantic, funny, and moving. The premise for this book is that our heroine Jane is a brilliant physics professor who just wants to have a normal baby, one who won’t have to go through the challenges of being a child prodigy like she did. She decides to find the stupidest man she can to father her child, hoping they’ll make an average baby. She picks star quarterback Cal, because she cluelessly thinks all football players are dumb. And then she tricks him, and trust me when I say that intelligent, clever, honorable Cal isn’t going to take that lying down. Geeky professor vs. smart quarterback—talk about fireworks!
So those are my favorite romances. I’ve talked myself into rereading these books again! I hope persuaded you, too.
After a detour through fitness instructing and computer programming, Gayle Callen found the life she’d always dreamed of as a romance writer. This USA Today bestselling author has written more than twenty historical romances for Avon Books, and her novels have won the Holt Medallion, the Laurel Wreath Award, the Booksellers’ Best Award, and been translated into eleven different languages. The mother of three grown children, an avid crafter, singer, and outdoor enthusiast, Gayle lives in Central New York with her dog, Uma, and her husband, Jim the Romance Hero. She also writes contemporary romances as Emma Cane.