8 books for romantic fiction writers for pleasure and research

Another month, another authors’ Round Robin!

And this month our topic is set by author Rhobin Courtright

helena fairfax, freelance editor, fiction editor
How much reading do you do, both for pleasure and for a work in progress?

The answer is… a lot! Like nearly all writers I know, I have at least one book on the go all the time. Reading is never a chore for me, and all reading is a pleasure.

helena fairfax, anne lister

The book I’m reading at the moment is partly for research, because I’m giving a talk soon around my book Struggle and Suffrage in Halifax, and Anne Lister (or Gentleman Jack), features in my book.

If you’re interested in Anne Lister’s life, the book I’m presently reading, The Early Life of Anne Lister and the Curious Tale of Miss Eliza Raine, by Patricia Hughes, tells the tragic and little-known story of her girlfriend Eliza Raine, an Indian heiress brought to school in the cold north of England as a child. I’ve found it a heartbreaking story, and it puts Anne Lister’s life in a new light. I do hope the life of this intelligent and affectionate girl reaches the same wide audience as her friend’s, because she truly deserves to have her voice heard. It’s thanks to the author’s diligent research we know more about her.


Besides my non-fiction history of women’s lives, I write and edit romantic fiction, and so I read a lot of romantic novels. (It’s hard work, but someone has to do it!)

I’ve chosen a few from my bookshelf to share here.

8 books for writers of romance to read for research (and pleasure!)

The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

Helen Hoang said she wanted to write a gender-swapped Pretty Woman, and I love this refreshing take on that story. The heroine, Stella, is autistic, and I also love that the author is writing from her own experience on the autism spectrum. She said of this book, ‘I want to believe that I can be a main character, I can be a leading character in my life, that I can have a happily ever after, that I can find true love, and I can get married, and conquer, and be happy.’

Romance novels so often include an important message. (If you know anyone who thinks romance novels are trite and formulaic, why not recommend The Kiss Quotient for research? 😊 )


Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding

If you know someone who’s never read a romance novel, and wants to know where to start, this would definitely have to be on the list for research. It seemed revolutionary when it came out, I think partly because the heroine’s life seems so relatable. She’s just bumbling along in an office, feeling as though her life is a failure. It’s become a classic, and Bridget Jones is one of the fiction’s best-loved heroines.


The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne

I’ve mentioned this book before as one of my favourite novels. It’s definitely on my list of books for romance writers to read for both research and pleasure. The author does a brilliant job of racking up the tension, and the focus of the novel stays firmly on the hero and heroine and the developing romance. There aren’t many writers who can make a funny and page-turning read for chapter after chapter out of two people working in an office, but Sally Thorne succeeds brilliantly!


The Duchess War, by Courtney Milan

This is the first book in the Brothers Sinister series, and the first book by Courtney Milan that I read, which is quite a few years ago  now. I picked the book up for research purposes (as I said, it’s a tough life being a romance writer and editor 😊), because Courtney Milan is a massively bestselling author, because this series had some great reviews, and because they were self-published. I wanted to see what readers loved about her books, and I wasn’t disappointed. I loved this book, too.

And here are four books for romance writers on my to-read shelf:

Clean Start at Forty-Seven, by Nora Phoenix

I downloaded this book after listening to Nora Phoenix’s interview on the Self-Publishing Formula podcast with the lovely James Blatch. You can listen to that episode here.) Nora Phoenix is a self-published author who is making an excellent living from her novels. What I particularly liked about this interview, though, was listening to her writing (and editing) process. I enjoyed listening to her so much, I downloaded one of her novels straightaway, and I can’t wait to read it.


Again, Rachel, by Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes needs no introduction! I’m so looking forward to catching up with Rachel. I follow Marian Keyes on Twitter. She’s the only person I know who can make a train journey to Rugby sound like a hilarious day out. And I love Adam Buxton’s podcast, too, and I’m also really looking forward to listening to his interview with her.


Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston

This book was an absolutely massive bestseller when it came out, to rave reviews. I bought it at the time, and had to put it down after two chapters. I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. But someone told me recently it’s one of their favourite books, they’ve read it several times, and they even check out the fan fiction. So now it’s back on my tbr and I’ll give it another try!


And finally one I’ve recently bought for my work as an editor, which writers may also find useful:

An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors, by Barbara Sjoholm.


I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of books. Have you read any of these? If you were going to recommend a romance novel to someone who has never read anything in the genre, what book would you suggest? I’d love to hear from you!

And if you’d like to hear what the other authors in the Round Robin have to say on this topic, please click on the links below…

Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2yB

Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

11 thoughts on “8 books for romantic fiction writers for pleasure and research

  1. I think that romance fiction is a genre that’s so very much in dialogue with itself that it’s very difficult to pick just one! You can’t really talk about Regencies without mentioning Heyer – but then you’d also want to mention what people have done with the period since. I’ve been reading Jill Mansell since my teens, but I don’t know which one I’d choose. Maybe Miranda’s Big Mistake? You have Red, White, and Royal Blue on the list – which I haven’t read, and for a long time I kept mixing it up with Boyfriend Material (a quick glance at the cover will explain my mistake!), which, when I eventually got round to it, I adored. But I think that one’s funnier if you’re familiar with Bridget Jones. And so on…

    My most recent romance read was Division Bells by Iona Datt Sharma, which I found absolutely charming. It’s a short book with an unusual setting – the behind-the-scenes of British government.

    My own research reading is a mixture of WWI and Agatha Christie – fortunately Christie also doubles as comfort reading, or it would all be a bit bleak.


  2. Thanks so much for the recommendations, Kathleen. I read Alexis Hall’s Glitterland a few years ago and enjoyed it. Boyfriend Material looks like another great read. And I’ve just downloaded Division Bells and really look forward to reading it. I agree about the unusual setting, and I loved the blurb. Thank you!
    I totally agree about Georgette Heyer. I’ve read all her books several times over and never tire of them.
    I understand about the diet of WW1 literature. I read a non-fiction account of the battle of Verdun a few years ago and found it so upsetting I had to keep putting it down. I like how you have Agatha Christie as a welcome relief.
    Thanks again for your comment. I look forward to discovering a new author!


  3. It’s always nice to have a new list of reads to consider when your current TBR pile seems less than exciting. Thanks for that. I love Heyer and have all her books on my shelf, some old library volumes and some paperback, but they are always worth reading again. Sometimes you just need a change of pace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have all the Georgette Heyer’s, too, Skye, all in paperback. I know what you mean about a change of pace. I can always rely on a Heyer novel!
      I’ve enjoyed our topic again. Thanks so much for dropping in, and for your comment!


  4. Thanks for another great post, Helena. I’ll maybe try Bridget Jones but I found the character in the film so annoying, I’m not hopeful. I, too, read loads of research material and Georgette Heyer as well. I’m currently finishing Elizabeth Jenkins’s 1930s biography of Jane Austen. It’s wonderful – a mix of biographical material and literary chriticism. anne stenhouse

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Anne, it’s quite a while since I read Bridget Jones. I used to follow the series when it first came out in the 90s (I think in the Independent?) and I loved it then. It would be interesting to read it again and see if I love it the same way.
      The biography sounds really interesting. I don’t know much about Jane Austen’s life. I know far more about the Brontes, because of course they lived fairly near me, but Jane Austen is one of my favourite all-time reads. I’ll add this biography to my reading list. Thanks very much for the recommendation!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You always make the books you suggest sound so intriguing I want to read each one of them! I just finished a Western romance but with a shape shifting sheriff. Yes, really. If you want something very different to try. Mateo’s Law by Sandra Cox is for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi JQ, I just checked out Mateo’s Law and it has some great reviews. Thanks for the recommendation! It is something very different, but I love to discover new reads. Thanks so much for dropping in, and for your comment!


  6. I think in my case, the research work for THE LEGEND OF JOHN MACNAB was so tough and so protracted it felt like Conan being manacled to the corn grinder as a youth in CONAN THE BARBARIAN combined with being punched by Apollo Creed for fifteen rounds in ROCKY II. I honestly suspect I may have done two PhDs worth of research work, all of which is now sitting on (and filling) an entire shelf in my Shropshire flat.

    Re books on research, I am rather fond of John Marsden’s ALBA OF THE RAVENS. I had to read the whole book just so one character (Finnan of Moville) could casually recall the names of several ancient Scottish sea kings.

    Re romance, I recently came across an old DVD of THE THORN BIRDS and revelled in the epic nostalgia. Then I found out my thirty-four year-old paperback copy (bought and read in Australia while I was living in a tent) could no longer be opened and I was able to get a hardback first edition from a Baltimore bookstore.

    At one point, Luke takes Meggie to Dungloe in North Queensland where he intends to cut cane. I ended up in a town called Innisfail in that area and think Dungloe was based on it. Didn’t meet a Meggie, but otherwise it was all very romantic…


  7. Hi James,
    I love your description of researching! Actually, I quite like the research. It’s the writing part that can feel like doing a few rounds with Rocky :D
    Thanks for your recommendation of Alba of the Ravens. I haven’t heard of this book, but I’ve become fascinated by Celtic history. I’ll add this to my list of books for research.
    Thanks also for your mention of The Thorn Birds. I love this book! I’d completely forgotten about the series. I wonder if it’s dated now, or if it’s survived the passage of time. I can also highly recommend Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series, beginning with The First Man in Rome. Now I want to read all her books again!
    Thanks for dropping in, and for your great comment!


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