• Pete Ryan
Over in Questionland, honeyandlocusts asks:

Are there any romances out there that are actually good?

There must be some, right? Other maligned genres (scifi, mystery) have people writing in them that both honor and transcend those genres. I've never read a romance novel, but someone must be writing interesting ones. Right? Any ideas?

Sure there are. The problem is that they generally shy away from the "romance" label and refer to themselves as "literary fiction" to convince people to pick them up. But literary fiction is way too broad a label, so here are a few specific titles to get you started.

One Day by David Nicholls just came out in the U.S. this summer. (It was a runaway bestseller in England.) It's a love story about two friends who sleep together once in college. The book's conceit is that each chapter only visits them on one particular day every year—-the anniversary of the morning after their college hookup. It moves along quickly, and the characters are fun and cute, even if it falls apart a bit at the end, there. (A similar reading experience to One Day: Claire Marvel by John Burnham Schwarz.)

Ron Hansen put out "an entertainment" a few years ago called Isn't It Romantic?. It's about a young French couple who get in a fight in a small Nebraska town. It's a super-light, enjoyable souffle of a book, and cleverly written.

What about High Fidelity? Nick Hornby launched a whole fleet of books about romance and relationships from a man's perspective. And Michael Perry's Truck: A Love Story is a sweet real-life romance.

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It's interesting to me that almost all the books I can think of were written by men. I wonder if female authors shy away from writing straight-up love stories because they're afraid of the romance-novel label? I've read some great books with romance in them—-Aimee Bender's An Invisible Sign of My Own has an adorable romance in it—-but I can't seem to think of that many books by female literary authors that would qualify as romantic. The only one at the moment that I can think of is Emma Donoghue's Landing, which is a lovely story about a long-distance lesbian love affair.

To find other Questionlanders' suggestions for romantic reads—Jane Austen! Georgette Heyer!—follow this here linky-text.

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