Like most people, I've wandered all over the reading landscape, enjoying self-help, biography, historical fiction, spy novels and women's fiction over the years. In 2013, I started reading romance novels and never looked back! My man just built me bookshelves for the hundreds of romance novels that I've read and I have a stack waiting for me that will take up the rest of that space. According to Romance Writers of America, I have lots of company in this exciting genre that accounts for 39% of all e-books and 32% of all mass-market paperbacks sold.
I think the secret to the success of romance lies in the RWA definition of "the two basic elements that comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." In our busy lives filled with surprises both good and bad, isn't it great to know that at least somewhere, on the pages of these books, it's all going to work out in the end? As you'll read below, I love sexy romance filled with strong characters making their marks on the world. To these writers who can make that happen in a fresh, exciting way, all I can say is -- thank you! Here are some of my favorites and I hope you’ll come back and see more reviews as Kara’s Komments continues to grow.
Bared to You
& the Crossfire Series
I was fairly new to contemporary erotic romance when I read this book and WOW – I loved Eva Trammel and Mr. Dark and Dangerous, Gideon Cross, right from the start! The book had me at “His voice…brought sex to mind. Extraordinary sex. I thought for a moment that he might be able to make me orgasm just by talking long enough." I’ve enjoyed this angsty couple through the entire series.
Yes, there’ve been other hottie dominant bazillionaires and smart, submissive young heroines in romance novels. But Sylvia’s Day’s writing just flows, her plot is fast-moving and intelligent, and the sex scorches straight through your brain to your lady parts! I met her at the Nora Roberts Writing Institute and believe me, she is one smart professional who has worked hard to show us all how to be successful in today’s publishing world. And I do mean world – her books have sold tens of millions of copies in 23 countries!
& the Beautiful Bastard Series
Two words sum up why I love this book – Max Stella! The tall, sexy Brit is actually a well-adjusted, successful guy with a great sense of humor, which is a switch from the many romance heroes who have a dark, twisted past. I mean, his cheerful mother is the receptionist at his office in New York city!
The book’s heroine, Sara Dillon, made me remember when I first started working in New York years ago. She’s got that ‘Gee Whiz, look at me in the Big Apple’ thing happening combined with the determination to succeed in her new job. She meets Max at a dance club her first weekend in town and thinks “Of course. It would be just my luck to meet a gorgeous man just days after swearing off men forever. A man with a British accent to boot. The universe was a hilarious bitch!”
That bit of Sara’s internal dialogue gives you an idea of how fresh and fun this book is, not to mention the sizzling kinky sex that begins on page 22! It’s the second in a series that began with Beautiful Bastard and it has two authors – Christina and Lauren – who describe themselves as “two dorky best friends who’ve loved writing together.”
& many other excellent novels
I don’t know what’s going on there in the wilds of Pennsylvania where this author lives. All I know is, she writes some of the most unusual hot fiction on the planet! Stranger is my personal favorite because part of the premise is that in Harrisburg, PA you can hire a hot guy named Jack to do whatever sexy things you want him to do! And wow, our heroine -- Grace the funeral director – wants to do some fun, naughty things. Then a guy at the bar says “I don’t suppose you’re the type of girl to go upstairs with a guy she just met, even if he is cute as all hell?” “Actually,” I told him, matching his low, breathy tone, “I think I might be.”
She’s funny, empowered and smart -- so what makes Grace run from love with a real person? Frankly my dear, it’s the widows! Funeral after funeral, she sees those poor widows who’ve lost themselves in loving that man. She wants no part of it and she’s willing to not only pay but to train Jack to be the perfect escort. But it’s not going to turn out like you think it will and that’s part of the pleasure of reading Switch, Broken, Tempted or any novel by this prolific author!
Book One of the Breathless Trilogy
Mia’s had a crush on her big brother’s gorgeous, successful best friend for years. By page 75, she’s in the middle of the bedroom following his orders! Standard erotic stuff, right? Not in the hands of Maya Banks, author extraordinaire and dirty, dirty girl! Yes, Gabe is a wealthy, successful dominant man and you’ve seen that before. But Maya Banks makes it interesting and believable that Gabe has been watching Mia grow up, waiting for the day their age difference didn’t matter.
You feel her surprise at their first hot kiss and it’s a while before she totally ‘gets it.’ There’s a nasty ex-wife, international jet-setting, and, well…complications follow. Gabe’s not going to give up his kinky demands easily and Mia’s a smart, tough cookie who’s not easily controlled. An undercurrent of this trilogy is how the men are loyal to their women and to each other, forming a kind of ‘family by choice.’ Great stuff!
I Only Have Eyes For You
The Sullivans Series
Think of your favorite comfort food, what is it? Ice cream, mac and cheese, a burger? The Sullivans series is gourmet comfort reading, the story of the best-looking, most successful family in America as each of the six brothers and two sisters finds the love of their life. This particular book is about Sophie, whose nickname is ‘Nice,’ who is the twin sister of Lori, who’s called ‘Naughty.’ And yeah, okay, Sophie is a librarian and a damn good one. She’s had a crush on her brother’s bad-boy friend Jake for twenty years and decides to make a play for him at her brother’s wedding because “she’d written their love story a thousand times in her dreams.” There’s so much more to this sexy story but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
You don’t have to read them in order, you can just download or pick one up in the drugstore or the grocery store. The conflicts, the action, the sex – it’s all very real and Bella Andre will draw you in with these wonderful characters!
Surrender to Me
A Wicked Lovers Novel
Kata goes to Vegas to celebrate her birthday and fulfill a ménage a trois fantasy with her f*** buddy Ben. But Kata and Ben are way out of their league with Hunter, the hard-core warrior brought in to be Numero Trois. You might read that description and think this would be a thin, cheesy story but believe me, it’s not! You will love social-worker Kata (short for Katarina) and her struggle with bad guys in her professional life and bad choices in her family’s past.
This is not a book for those who don’t understand the attraction of a dominant guy because our man Hunter defines the role! The truth is, a guy like this can be a bit of an a-hole from the modern woman’s perspective because they believe what they believe – that’s it, period! Kata is strong enough to handle him but it’s a wild ride through family drama and absolutely blistering sex! Shayla Black describes herself as a “writing risk-taker,” and her journey into the thought process of a strong woman choosing to submit sexually to a dominant man proves that to be true.
A Virgin River Novel
There’s a place where I can go when I feel low, and it’s called Virgin River! This sleepy little fictional town in the mountains of California is the home of a series of novels that’s like your favorite vacation spot – familiar, yet refreshing and exciting! Oh, and there’s a bunch of hot retired military guys and lots of amazing sex going on!
In Temptation Ridge, 38-year-old retired pilot Luke is restoring a bunch of hunting cabins and he’s perfectly happy hanging out at the local bar with the other cozy characters from this series. That is, until he meets HER. Shelby’s come to town to visit her Uncle Walt after caring for her mother until her recent death. Luke is nothing like the guy she thinks she’s looking for, but hey – there’s something in the air in Virgin River!
It’s actually something in the pen of Robyn Carr, a true professional who has created a warm, loving community for us to inhabit with her sexy characters! It’s a bit like a soap opera in that there are multiple story lines going on, but the characters she creates are better than anything on TV because you fill in the details with your own imagination.
When you’ve read my book Captain’s Orders, you’ll know I have a fascination with Europe, Europeans and particularly eastern Europeans. The devastatingly attractive hero of this novel is a Russian mafiya enforcer Aleksandr “The Siberian” Sevastyan. From the moment he throws our girl Natalie Porter over his shoulder and into a plane that leaves for Russia from a cornfield, our panties start melting, our thoughts reeling, and our sensitive zones want more, more, more!
The dirty deeds begin immediately as graduate student Natalie, soon to be called Natalya, gets a little schooling on the plane. “What had just happened? ... Unless I was still dreaming, I was pretty sure I’d just been grinding the man’s face while deep-throating him.” The story is told from Natalie’s point of view and that’s a good thing, because she is Everywoman, if only we were brave, bright and funny enough!
Apparently Kresley Cole has already conquered the world of paranormal romance and now has her sights set on contemporary. Wow! Can’t wait for the next one!
preceded by Faking It & Losing It
This series defines the New Adult genre, books about those years between 18 and 25 when we leave home, explore sexuality and make education and career choices. Carmack’s books follow a group of friends just graduating from college and my favorite is this one about Kelsey, a lonely rich girl traveling around Europe after graduation with no limit on her credit cards. Using a little money I lucked into, I actually did nine weeks in Europe on ten dollars a day so this was kind of a fantasy re-do for me.
Kelsey goes to all the hedonistic sexy parties and hotels I couldn’t afford and she keeps running into this Jackson guy who her friend refers to as “a gorgeous piece of man candy with a buzz cut and biceps that some ancient civilization probably worshiped.” Yes, these books are filled with 20-something slang, casual sex and self-absorption, but they also capture both the uncertainty and the excitement of those years. Clever and fun!
When I’m With You
The Because You Are Mine series
Okay, I’m seeing a strong trend here – another book I love that has characters with European backgrounds. Elise and Lucien’s mothers are English, their fathers French, and they shared a summer together when Elise was 14 before they meet again in Lucien’s new restaurant in Chicago. Elise is building a new life as a chef, trying to outrun a well-deserved reputation as a jet-setting wild child.
“You’ve been grasping for an outer limit to your world for years now, something to contain you. Now you’ve run into it. And I’m not turning away this time.” How Lucien intends to help Elise create limits in her unlimited world is the intriguing premise of this hot, hot novel and Beth Kery does a masterful job of guiding us through the golden cage that this exciting couple lives in. I know, I know, you’re saying to yourself “What do these rich, sexy people really have to worry about?” Not paying the mortgage, certainly, but author Kery makes us care about Elise and Lucien and enjoy the luxurious details along the way!
Just One Night
So…the rich and sexy guy again. Hmmmm. Maybe being rich frees you to be sexy, is that the takeaway lesson? Kasie Fitzgerald is the straight-arrow corporate type who is forever changed after a one-night stand in Las Vegas. One problem – Mr. Fling is her company’s biggest account and he has big plans for Kasie.
We see Kasie gain confidence and experience as powerful Robert Dade helps her reinvent herself up the corporate ladder. Their erotic encounters are crackling with power struggles and exciting sexual growth. But there’s a dark side to his Ayn Rand-ean vision and Kasie reaches back for the compassion she valued before the journey started. Living the truth and facing the pain, Kasie is an unusually thoughtful and courageous romance heroine and I liked her a lot. It won’t be hard to hang in there with this one! Kyra Davis is a super-pro at feeding you deliciousness and a good story one bit at a time.
On Dublin Street
First of the On Dublin Street Series
Did you know there’s a whole genre of romance devoted to Scottish aristocrats from the 18th century? Proud, earthy and undeniably sexy, it’s easy to see why the kilt-wearing Scottish lairds from those days inspired hundreds of books!
Samantha Young brings the sexy Scots into current times with her series that begins with this book when our half-Scottish American heroine Joss moves to Edinburgh to start a new life and escape sad memories. She meets HIM when they both grab the same cab as she searches for an apartment. “He looked like a lazy tiger, eyeing me carefully as if deciding whether or not I was a meal worth chasing.” Mmmm, can’t you just feel that?
Interesting young people with goals, friends and realistic problems make this series absorbing and unusual, not to mention the stubborn Scotsman Braden Carmichael slashing his way into Joss’s heart. Maybe it’s the accent….