What defines a “romantic read?” Is it a classic like Romeo and Juliet? A collection of sensual sonnets? A steamy historical tale of romance and adventure?
When it comes to romantic reading, it’s not all black and white–or Shades of Gray. Romance is in the eye of the reader.
So, in honor of the upcoming Feast of Saint Valentine, I asked several local authors which books they consider to be the most “romantic reads” of all.
“Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. It’s hard not to fall in love with this quirky, poignant debut novel that explores the complicated nature of the human heart. When 14-year-old June’s beloved Uncle Finn dies, he leaves behind a mysterious artistic legacy, which leads June to question her romantic view of the world.”
KaraLaReau is the author of Snowbaby Could Not Sleep, the Rocko and Spanky stories, Ugly Fish, Rabbit and Squirrel, OTTO: The Boy Who Loved Cars, and Mr. Prickles: A Quill-Fated Love Story. She lives in Providence with her husband and two cats.
“The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller is an oldie, but goodie, and one of my all-time favorite romantic reads! It’s one of those books I just couldn’t put down once I read the first chapter. The intense romance between Francesca–a woman who discovers the exhilaration true passion for the first time, and Robert Kincaid—a rugged world class photographer, is a story about the type of rare love which changes us forever.”
Raina C. Smith, a native Rhode Islander, is the author of The 13th Apostle, a thriller about the forces of good and evil and the soul of mankind. It is the first book in a trilogy.
“The most romantic read ever? I could answer that question a hundred ways, but I’m going to choose the most relevant: Gone With The Wind. Why? Because, as the great critic Leslie Fiedler tells us in his seminal work Love and Death in the American Novel, it changed the nature of romance in American fiction forever. Up until then, all the great relationships in American literature had been between men: Huck and Jim, Natty Bumpo and Chinggotchgook, Ishmael and Quequeag. But Gone With The Wind altered that landscape and paradigm forever. Our books and our writers were never the same again after publication of the Mitchell classic.”
Jon Land is the bestselling author over 25 novels including Strong Vengeance and Pandora’s Temple. He lives in Providence.
Mark Peter Hughes
“Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. As the youngest of three daughters, Tita is required by her family to remain unmarried and take care of her domineering mother, spending most of her days preparing meals that she fills with her own powerful but repressed emotions. It’s a wild and sometimes funny family drama set in Mexico and filled with food, earthy magic, and unrequited love.”
Mark Peter Hughes is the author of novels for teens and ‘tweens including Lemonade Mouth Puckers Up, A Crack in the Sky, I Am the Wallpaper, and Lemonade Mouth (now a Disney Channel Original Movie musical). Mark grew up in Barrington and now lives in Massachusetts with his family.
“Romeo and Juliet, Rhett and Scarlett, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth . . . pshaw! When it comes to the world’s most romantic couple, look no further than George and Martha. These best friends are clearly smitten with each other. Their hippo-sized love conquers all, including Martha’s split pea soup. To avoid hurting her feelings, George eats ten bowls of it, even though he hates split pea soup. And when Martha catches him pouring the eleventh bowl into his loafers? Well, she understands and makes him cookies instead. Now what could be more romantic than that?”
Jamie Michalak is a children’s book author. Her books include So You Want to Catch Bigfoot? and the Joe and Sparky series of early readers. She lives in Barrington with her husband and two sons.
“Choclatique: 150 Simply Elegant Desserts by Ed Engoron is like a chocoholic’s dream. This man KNOWS chocolate, and a as a chocoholic, I worship his culinary creations. Engoron has traveled the globe to find the best chocolate in the world and features 150 dessert recipes for this book. Every recipe in the beautifully-illustrated book is easy to make and ‘Death-by-Chocolate’ good. Imagine the romantic gifts you’ll receive from your spouse after serving luscious chocolate custard? I promise, these easy but elegant desserts will have your other half calling for a sitter!”
Jackie Hennessy is the author of How to Spread Sanity on a Cracker: Mom-to-Mom Whines, Cheese, Rants and Recipes. She lives in Barrington with her family.
“One of the most original novelists writing in English, Britain’s William Boyd is still a question mark to many readers on this side of the Atlantic. Part spy-thriller and part historical novel, his new “Waiting for Sunrise” is an offbeat ‘romantic read’ because the main character is a young Englishman with fairly traditional views on love who keeps getting tangled up with women who have, er, slightly more blunt ideas about what it means to connect.”
Peter Mandel is an adventure travel journalist and the author of nine children’s books including Jackhammer Sam (Macmillan) and Zoo Ah-Choooo (Holiday House). He lives in Providence with his wife, Kathy, and cats, Betty, Emily and Cecil.