One of the women emphatically stated she never reads romance, to which her friends vociferously agreed. They immediately began discussing a popular novel about a woman who bears a child she hopes will serve as a kidney donor for her other child, one who is terminally ill and who eventually will need a renal transplant.
Keep in mind, please, that at the time of this convo, I not only am writing as a "romance fiction expert" for a major media concern, but also have a transplanted kidney I'd received about 18 years before from my older brother. The expertise I bring to bear on either subject was neither asked about nor discussed.
Why didn't I dive into the
mix to defend romance fiction - or my feelings about bioethics concerning
growing potential organ donors? A) I was on vacation, and 2. Life's too short
to waste precious beach time defending anything, when one instead can be reading
It's in that same spirit I'm offering those of you who'd rather your heartstrings be tugged all honest-like - and don't mind your libidos shaken and stirred along the way --my picks for this summer's
Top Ten Unabashedly Pleasurable Beach Reads (From Which No Maudlin Movie Starring Michelle Pfeiffer Ever Will Be Made)
1. Butterfly Tattoo/Deidre Knight -- After his lover's tragic death, Michael finds unexpected solace in the arms of a woman whose ability to overcome her own pain might calm his, and reunite him with his daughter. A brilliant exploration of the fluidity of sexuality - and the tenacity of the human spirit. Sure to grace many Best of '09 lists.
2. Goddess of the Hunt /Tessa Dare - Cheeky Lucy Latham decides to practice her seduction skills on Jeremy Trescott, her bro's best friend, so she'll be prepared to snare the real husband of her dreams. Yet neither she nor Jeremy is ready for the sensual and emotional journey in store in this sensational debut, the witty and warmly sensual first novel in a back2back trilogy.
3. Hot in Here /Sophie Renwick - Celebrity chef Bryce Ryder's known home-town girl Jenna McCabe forever. Yet once she's in charge of cleaning up his bad-boy act - and he's seeing her in an all-grown-up-and-takin'-charge light - Bryce starts cookin' up fantasies with one main ingredient: a suddenly sexy Jenna McCabe.
4. Knight of Desire /Margaret Mallory - After he slays her traitor husband, a knight offers the traitor's widow a devil's deal: Marriage to the knight, or imprisonment in the Tower. Turns out the brawny warrior shared an anonymous, kiss with the lady years before that only one of them remembers - yet both can't help but recreate at every turn. First in Mallory's "All the King's Men" series.
5. Tan Lines /JJ Salem - Sex, murder, sex, backstabbing, the Hamptons, sex, rock n' roll and more sex. Not a romance per se - though there's one happily ever after (HEA) -- "Tan Lines" is decidedly well written, trashy beach-read nirvana.
6. Liaisons /Various - Highly erotic, delightfully literary anthology of the kinds of no-holds-barred sexual fantasies women love. Each short riffs on the theme of illicit or daring rendezvous -- with happy endings to happily ever afters.
7. Mother Nature Matchmaker series: Temperatures Rising /Brenda Jackson; Sultry Storm (Kimani Romance Series #142) /Celeste O. Norfleet; Sensual Winds /Carmen Green - These luscious little, down-to-earth love-fantasies follow three buds in the Florida Keys who meet strong, beautiful women during a tumultuous season of hurricanes and whirlwind emotions.
8. Tails of Love /Lori Foster, Stella Cameron, et al. -- Sweet to sassy to sexy collection of short romantic stories, each with a pet pal helping bring together folks who simply were meant to be in love. This fun-to-read collection raises funds for pets in need.
9. Mating Game /Janice Maynard -- Nola Grainger's on the fast-track to the altar ‘cause granny's left her everything - as long as Nola gets hitched. So Nola's gon' try on for size three potential grooms on the way to HEA in this very "non-traditional" traditional romance.
10. Four Dukes and a Devil /Maxwell, Fox, Frost, Nash, Warren -- 2 zingy paranormal contemporary tales nestle among three delish historical novellas in this made-for-down-time treat from top-of-their-their-game scribes. My fave is Sophia Nash's "Catch of the Century."
What romances top your Unabashedly Pleasurable Summer Reads List? Which of those would you like to see made into summer blockbusters?
Michelle Buonfiglio writes daily about romance fiction and pop culture at Romance: B(u)y the Book (RBTB). Catch all her UB posts here.