Featuring heart-racing suspense, paranormal interactions, puzzling mysteries and authentic, compelling love stories, romance novels have evolved from generic tales of old about damsels in distress.
Comprising 23 percent of the overall U.S. fiction market, according to Romance Writers of America, the billion-dollar romance fiction industry reflects changing gender roles in our culture. Female characters of the genre have been redefined, fulfilling more powerful and respected heroine roles.
“Today’s heroines, even in historical (romance), are spirited and independent minded. They demand equality and respect from their heroes,” said Nicole D’Arienzo, editor at Wild Rose Press, a publisher of romance fiction. “They are self-assured and aware of what they want. The romance novel heroine has outgrown the unfair labels pasted on her decades ago when the industry was run by male editors who thought they knew what women wanted to read about.”
Today’s romance novels are likely to feature educated women with careers who aren’t financially dependent on men, said Sherrie Lea Morgan, president of Georgia Romance Writers, a 200-member chapter of Romance Writers of America, the largest writer’s organization in the world. “There are more professional women now, and there are many books where women aren’t married,” she said.
The characters at the center of romance fiction are also defying stereotypes. There is an increasing number of books with protagonists who are LGBTQ, over the age of 40, male or racially diverse. There are also a growing number of sub-genres, including fantasy romance, romantic suspense, religious romance and sweet romance, a rising trend popular for its absence of crude language and sexual scenarios.
If you’re looking for the perfect romantic read this Valentine’s Day weekend, here are five new romance novels by Georgia authors.
Thanks to her deceased sister’s ghost, Shannon discovers she has psychic abilities in the sixth book of Atlanta author Sherrie Lea Morgan’s Lost Trinket series. Shannon is determined to use her powers to help others, and she is racked with guilt when she fails to help police locate a missing boy. When she inherits an antique store in Petrie’s Crossing, she flees there to start over. At the store, she is drawn to certain objects — a pocket watch, a silver ring, a brass key, a locket, an ivory pipe with a familiar face sketched on it. Using her supernatural gift, she returns the items to their rightful owners. Meanwhile, a friendship with new neighbor Mitch heats up, and Shannon finds it increasingly difficult to keep her psychic power secret. In “A Sacred Devotion,” Shannon grapples with the realization that she will have to expose the truth about her past and her paranormal powers. (Village Publishing, $6.97)
A clan of hybrid dragon/sea serpent cousins who hide their true natures behind a human disguise as shipping tycoons come to life in North Georgia author C.J. Matthew’s fantasy romance series, Sea Dragon Shifters. Each book tells the story of how they find their “mates,” whom they recognize at first sight. The fourth book of the series follows shifter Kiernan at his port in Savannah. During the St. Patrick’s Day parade, he discovers his destined mate, Delia, but her head-strong nature makes her resistant to Kiernan’s charms. Complicating matters, Delia is in danger from her greedy and heartless stepbrother, who is after her inheritance following the tragic death of her mother. Delia is determined to save herself, but Kiernan is frantic to keep his love away from danger. (All Huston Group, $10.99)
Atlanta author J.P. Barnaby combines metaphysical elements and Southern culture to explore themes of grief, love, sexuality, abuse and more in her latest novel, “A Pocketful of Stardust.” Sick of living in his small, rural hometown of Aster, Georgia, Noah Hitchens moves to New York City. But his adventure is cut short when his father dies, and Noah has to return home to save the family’s failing bookstore. One bright spot appears in the form of shy, mysterious new neighbor, Kyle. As they connect over their tragic pasts, the two men form a bond. But before things get serious, will Kyle’s secret past catch up with him? Meanwhile, the ghost of the bookstore’s previous owner and a big, lovable dog make Noah appreciate the supportive community he didn’t realize he had. (Dream Spinner Press, $10.49)
Soul Carrington is a successful ballet dancer who discovers traveling the world with a renowned dance troupe isn’t as glamorous as she’d expected in Atlanta author Sharon C. Cooper’s “Soul’s Desire.” Soul quits the dance troupe and returns to her roots in Atlanta where she reconnects with former boyfriend, Micah, a police officer. The attraction between them is still there, but they realize they are not the same people they once were, having both suffered painful losses since going their separate ways after college. Can they reignite their flame or has two much changed between them? “Soul’s Desire” is one in the three-book romance series, “Unparalleled Love,” about three friends and their separate journeys to happy endings, written by three Atlanta authors. Other books in the series include Delaney Diamond’s “Heart’s Desire” and Stephanie Nicole Norris’ “Everlasting Desire.”
Packed with vivid imagery of a ruthless yet hopeful Wyoming frontier, the McCades of Cheyenne series by Fayetteville author Kim Turner is set in the unruly Wild West. At the heart of the series is rugged, buckskin-wearing Dawson McCade, a translator for the Cheyenne, who helps negotiate peace between the indigenous peoples and the invading U.S. soldiers. The third book in the series follows Dawson as he rescues a woman from a militaristic group of Cheyennes known as dog soldiers. Strong willed and self-sufficient, Haven has been fighting battles of her own trying to maintain her family’s homestead and caring for her younger brothers after the death of their parents. Following their fateful encounter, Dawson and Haven fall in love as the chaos of each other’s worlds temporarily melts away. But when Dawson is wrongfully accused of murder, the tables are turned when Haven has to come to his rescue. (Wild Rose Press, $18.99)
Learn more about Georgia romance authors at www.garomancewriters.org.
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