There are a lot of people out there, my close friends included, who think we romance readers just pick up books for the sex.

I have the privilege to be part of a highly active community of romance authors. We’ve got some big names, some smaller names, some amazing advertisers, and some folks just starting out. It’s full of love and silliness, writing critiques, pictures of manly abdominal muscles, and questions like, “What’s the best way to outline?” and “How dirty is too dirty?”

I had the opportunity to ask some of my friends and long distance co-workers what their favorite romance novels are. After all, each romance author gets his or her start somewhere, and it’s usually from reading that one totally perfect romance novel.

Or at least it was for me.

I remember it well. It was the summer of 2014, and I picked up Outlander by Diana Gabaldon— the first in her beautifully well written, gigantic series. I was looking for a series to dive into, and I wanted something that would light up my imagination. When I read the description, I was sold. Not only did Outlander boast time travel, it also had a sexy, tall, redheaded Scottish hero. In a kilt. You guys, a kilt. Come on. And thus, my obsession with the ultimate book boyfriend, Jamie Frasier was born.

Let’s pause for a second.

There are a lot of people out there, my close friends included, who think we romance readers just pick up books for the sex. That’s part of it, of course. It felt so naughty to read about Jamie and Claire’s wedding night in Outlander—but I loved the novel for many other reasons. Diana Gabaldon’s writing is like a hot, smooth cup of cocoa on a cold night. It’s beautiful, soothing, scenic, and completely addicting. And the love—oh, the fated love. Were two people ever meant for each other more than Jamie and Claire?

If Outlander is my favorite traditionally published romance (or romantic fantasy, whichever you please) of all time, Luke by Sabrina Paige is my favorite indie novel — for entirely different reasons. Like I said, of course there’s the sex. And no one writes it better than Paige. It’s steamy, sensual, and … lengthy. Sabrina Paige writes lengthy sex scenes, and this romance author loves it. Again, though, there are many other reasons to love this book. Paige writes hilarious dialogue and characters that jump off the page. As arrogant and brash as Luke is, his heroine, Autumn, is ten times as frustrating. She’s a single mom, after all, and she’s protecting her family.

The main reason I love Luke? About half way through the book, Luke, the titular character, makes sweet love to his lady all night, wakes up early, feeds her two-year-old breakfast, lets her sleep in, and then makes her bacon. She kicks him out after that because she’s a frustrating heroine who’s scared of love. But as a parent, I pretty much think that was the most romantic scene ever.

Imagine it—sex, followed by sleeping in, followed by a man having cute interactions with my child, followed by bacon.

I wouldn’t have kicked him out.

Come to think of it, Jamie Frasier is a pretty adorable dad too. I think I’m a sucker for books with men who love kids and who actively want to be dads. I married one of those—and I like them in books, too.

Let’s see what some other fantastic romance authors have to say about their favorite romantic reads of all time:

Author Bliss Devlin lists Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale as her all-time favorite. Devlin describes her favorite book as

“[a] regency historical that’s gorgeously written [and] impeccably structured, [which has] an amazing, historically-accurate, and gripping class conflict between [hero] and [heroine]. The hero is a mathematical genius and Bad Boy Duke–when we first meet him, he’s in bed with his married mistress. The husband comes home unexpectedly and challenges him to a duel. So far, pretty standard stuff…until the [hero] keels over in the middle of the duel. He wakes up in an insane asylum, unable to communicate except through his mathematics. Our heroine is a Quaker who volunteers at the hospital, and the daughter of one of the duke’s math society friends. She’s the only one who realizes (eventually) that the duke isn’t insane–he’s just lost his ability to communicate and is mad as hell about it. (And that’s just the first 15% of the book….) A classic, and I can only hope to ever write anything half as good.”

Frankie Love has a sweet and spicy favorite, Love is Crazy by Abby Brooks. She recommends Love is Crazy to all dedicated romance readers because,

“It is a ‘wanderlust’ story perfect for when we are just beginning to miss summer!” I’m definitely not missing summer yet, but Frankie also says it’s an “…adventurous love story where true love wins.” When asked what she loves about the craft of Brooks’ story, Frankie says she loves the “chemistry” between Dakota and Dominic, the main characters. She says it is, in fact, “smoking hot.”

Jess Bentley, author of Heat, recommends Bad Boy’s Baby by Sosie Frost as her favorite indie romance title. Sosie is definitely one of my favorites too. Jess, a newer author on the contemporary scene, says that Bad Boy’s Baby is

“…the perfect romance novel. It’s well written, has a likable protagonist, and a good character arc for the bad boy. His evolution is believable and compelling. I also like that it’s accessible to all kinds of readers. Plus, the plot keeps you on your toes! I read this book in awe of Sosie’s skills.”

Paranormal romance author Lisa LaDew says that her

“… favorite romance novel is Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward, the entire series. I loved how grand and epic it was, while still being hot and sexy as all get out. I loved the action, the suspense, and the amazing romance, and I loved that J.R. Ward went so big with her characters. She didn’t hold anything back. They are big, bad, and named like rock stars.”

Susan Hammond says she’s showing her age… but she loves Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Can’t say I blame her! That’s a classic. According to Hammond,

“I first read Gone with the Wind when I was eleven. I’ve been hooked on romance ever since. I still list Pride and Prejudice in my top five all-time favorite books. I have no idea how many times I’ve read them. More recently I’d say Me Before You. I had a three-day book hangover after reading it. Immediately re-read the ending. Then thought I would re-read the last half. Then I re-read the entire book!”

It looks like I have some new novels to add to my reading list! Pick up some of these classics or newer indie releases while you’re perusing Amazon, and we guarantee you won’t be disappointed.


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Lexi Whitlow

Lexi Whitlow is originally from the middle of nowhere in a tiny county in Virginia--though now she's enjoying her days as a suburban romance writer in a neighborhood with a big, shiny pool. She spent her early years growing up between Virginia and her grandfather's farm in North Carolina. She's Southern by heritage and a world-traveler at heart. Writing books allow her to travel to distant, unexplored lands in her mind, but she spends most days chasing her six-year-old and shouting at her dog to stop sneaking onto the sofa while she's writing. She holds a master's degree in English literature, and her mom is so proud she's "using her degree." Lexi harbors a not-so-secret love for bad boys. She loves fighters, dirty princes, crooked cops, and criminals. Her husband is a scientist... but he has the heart of a bad boy. She spends what little free time she has crocheting, painting, and occasionally cooking for her family. On big writing nights, everyone is happy eating cereal.

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