I’ve mentioned previously that I’m usually not a big fan of Category Romances. So many of them seem to rely heavily on the alphahole hero and doormat heroine, plus there’s always some sort of over the top situation involved, such as amnesia, secret babies, or mistresses. I have to admit, though, that I LOVE the titles. They crack me up! I honestly believe that Harlequin has a title generator somewhere, and they toss in the words “Greek, Sicilian, Italian, Sheikh, mistress, baby, amnesia, Secretary, Boss, Wife, Doctor,” see what comes out, and smack it on the book as a title. My current favorite has to be The Sheikh Surgeon’s Proposal, although The Tycoon’s Pregnant Mistress is a close second. But with that first title you get two goodies in one – an exotic hero AND a doctor! Hellooooo, money!!! Not very PC, but who cares? At least you don’t have toddler beauty princesses getting screamed at by their psycho mothers! And after seeing that on TV, category romances seem really, really classy.
Seriously, when it comes to pure escapism, you just can’t beat a category romance. They’re short, usually less than 200 pages, and they’re definitely better for your brain than reality TV! Ok, I may be exaggerating somewhat, but reading is definitely more active for your brain cells than sitting and staring at the tube. Plus, if you have an e-reader, smart phone, or computer, you can download these suckers and no one will have to know that you’re not really reading War and Peace. Unless you’re at my house, where I’ve written the entire text of War and Peace in the dust on my shelves. I’m kidding, of course. I don’t have THAT much dust in my house. I only have enough dust to write the text of The Little Prince, not some weighty Russian tome. Sheesh!
But there are several category romances I’ve read recently that have truly been outstanding. They’re well written, with enjoyable heroes and heroines, and I freely admit that I will be reading more of these excellent authors. Check out some of my favorites!
Janice Kay Johnson’s Beauty & the Beasts I wrote a guest review of this Harlequin Presents Treasury a few months ago on DearAuthor.com, and it is my favorite bar none. It was written in the nineties, but other than a brief reference to a pay phone in school (like THOSE exist anymore!), it could have been written yesterday. Vet Eric Bergstrom woos former child actress Madeline Hunter by helping out with the local cat shelter she volunteers at. There are no outlandish plots in this book – just two reasonable adults falling in love, which is delightful. And the “beasts” mentioned in the title refer to both the cats and Bergstrom’s pain-in-the-butt tween son, which made me laugh. Loved this book, and it encouraged me to read other category romances.
Kelly Hunter’s Wife for a Week This book has to be the funniest category romance I’ve read. Hallie Bennett is working at a shoe store to earn money for tuition, when in walks Nick Cooper with his mother. Nick needs someone to pose as his wife for week, and at his mother’s instigation he offers Hallie an obscene amount of money to pose as his wife on his trip to Hong Kong. I mean, seriously, don’t we ALL need a fake wife for a week? I could use one, especially if she dusts. While not into dusting, Hallie does agree to Nick’s plan, as long as any displays of affection are limited to public spheres. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Harlequin Presents if there weren’t some smexy times! The first night when Hallie builds a “Great Wall of China” out of pillows on the bed and tells Nick she’s the Emperor’s finest troops and he’s the Mongol Horde will have you howling with laughter. This book was a hoot, and both characters were charmers. I absolutely loved it!
Kate Hewitt’s The Man Who Could Never Love This is an angst-filled romance, but the heroine actually has a backbone, and you’ll root for her to win the hero’s heart. The hero, Vittorio Ralfino, is an Italian count. Now, I see Italian counts every day at the Walmart, so I wasn’t as impressed with this as you might think. Just so you know. Anyway, he coldly decides that for business purposes and to ensure an heir, he will marry neighbor Anamaria Viale. What makes this romance so much fun is how much trouble she causes for him. He arrogantly assumes that since she’s plain, in her thirties, and unmarried, she’ll fall willingly into his arms, but that is most certainly not the case. Watching the snooty vintner fall in love with the woman he marries purely for convenience’s sake is a lot of fun.
Kim Lawrence’s Beauty and the Greek I really enjoy Ms. Lawrence’s style – she takes longer to develop the story, so at times the resolution of her novels feels a bit rushed, but I like the extra time pushing the hero and heroine together in this romance. Theo Kyriakis’s brother Andreas is engaged to a gold digger from whom Theo barely managed to escape a few years prior. When Theo realizes that Andreas’ mousy secretary Beth is in love with his brother, he convinces her to undergo a drastic makeover to snare her boss’s attention and distract him from his fiancée. It works, but Beth’s such a stunner that Theo’s the one ensnared. Like the other books I’ve mentioned, the major selling point of this book is the heroine Beth. She doesn’t shy away from telling Theo what she really thinks, and it’s great fun to see the sparks fly. Plus, any fantasy with a trip to a Greek island equals winning, right?
No list of category romances would be complete without a novel by the inimitable Sarah Morgan, and my favorite of hers has to be the recently released A Night of Scandal. This is the first book in the Notorious Wolfes series, and Ms. Morgan manages to set up the background of the family drama while penning a captivating romance. Nathaniel Wolfe is a Hollywood actor about to make his stage debut in Shakespeare’s Richard III when he spots someone from his past in the audience. He freezes, then makes a break for it. Katie Fields, the costume mistress, helps him retreat, but as soon as they get to her extremely modest apartment, he realizes that they’ll never be able to fight off the paparazzi from there. So the two escape to a private island, where Katie’s warm heart wins him over. Be prepared for more angst and a stubborn hero, but the end makes it all worth it. Now, you’re probably thinking, “again with the islands?” Still, when it’s 10 degrees outside, nothing beats imagining a warm, tropical paradise and a good-looking Hollywood actor who prefers a woman with real curves. Except maybe an electric blanket. That one’s tough to beat.