Christmas and Hannukah have left us with hearts full of memories, Kwanzzaa is winding to a close, and, in the blink of an eye, we will be in a whole new year. That makes this the perfect time to look into the past and future, sometimes at the same time. In romance fiction, the possibilities are endless, and this time of year, it’s only natural to take a look at what we’ve read in 2017 and what we will be reading in 2018 and beyond. Grab a warm beverage, snuggle under a thick blanket and get comfy, because this may take a while.
To the readers who came to the romance genre for the very first time in 2017, welcome. We’re glad you’re here, and do we ever have some recommendations for you. No matter if you stumbled into romance by accident, thinking you were reading a mainstream, literary, sf/f, mystery, or YA novel, or strode boldly into a brand new genre, knowing exactly what you were getting yourself into, there is a place for you here, and many, many stories, authors, series and standalones ahead.
This year probably brought a lot of firsts for you, the sort that come with discovering a whole new genre. There’s the first time you read a romance novel, period, the first time you read a new author for the second (or third or fourth or fifth) time, the first re-read, the first pre-order. Dozens of firsts, and here’s the best part: there are still dozens, nay, hundreds of firsts still ahead. The first book in what will become your favorite series or subgenre, your first favorite romance author (provided their work in another genre, like fantasy or women’s fiction wasn’t your gateway in the first place) and first venture into an online romance community, to name only a few.
If you’re new to romance, maybe you’re still a bit nervous, when the black moment comes, that, maybe, this time, the lovers won’t find a way to make it work. Never fear. In romance, that first will never come, because, in romance, the happily ever after (HEA) or happy for now (HFN) is a guarantee. If it’s not there? Then it’s not romance. It can still be a love story, still romantic, but not romance,. In romance, you know what the end product is going to be, so literally anything else can happen on the way there.
Maybe, over this first year in a new genre, you’ve started to fine tune your palate. Maybe you’ve learned you like historicals over contemporaries, and, if so, possibly even have a favorite period under the historical umbrella (and it doesn’t have to be Regency, either, popular as it is.) Maybe it’s the other way around, and you have a strong opinion over big city billionaires versus small town working folk. Maybe you don’t, and that’s okay, too. The best way to find out where you stand on that, or any other issue that may arise in romance reading -virgin hero/heroine, for example, versus experienced, children involved in the story, or grown folks business, etc- is research.
In this case, that means reading a lot of books. Experienced romance readers, you know what we’re talking about here. Those of us who have been reading romance for any duration of time (which, yes, technically includes the new readers who have not yet finished their first romance novel, but are pretty sure they would like to see what else is out there that tells this kind of story) know that a new reading year is serious business.
Some of us, present company included, set annual reading goals; numbers of books read, for example, new authors or subgenres we would like to try, or like to pick a theme to carry out throughout the year. Maybe you’d like to read more independently published books, or all the Rita award winners (the romance fiction version of the Oscars) from a particular year, be it the year just past, all of them since the award’s inception, or from a particular year in the reader’s life. Any of these, or any other criteria, are a great way to plan for the next year’s reading. Maybe the plan is only to read a lot of books, and make no plan at all. There’s a lot of merit, and a lot of fun, in that method, as well.
For those of us who keep track of our reading, be it online, or good old fashioned pen and paper (or both; some of us do both) this is a time of year to look over what we’ve already read, and see how that might be used to chart the course of our reading future. For this particular reader, the new year brings two reading lists, of twelve books each (corresponds nicely to one book per month, per list) that was not in play last year (or any other, because this is new, and may stick around.) One list is boos to re-read those books (all historical romance novels, in this case) that make a special, lasting impact, and are worth a closer look. The second list is books to finally read, those books that have always elicited an “I’ve been meaning to read that” response every time their titles are mentioned. This year, though, this year is the year they get read, or at least sampled. Never try, never know; that’s free advice, right there.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. How was your reading year for 2017? What predictions do you make for your 2018 reading? Do you make goals, keep track, participate in any groups or challenges? Have you found a new reading love this year past, or discovered that your affections for a once favorite trope may have cooled? Anything else about reading in 2017 you’d like to share? Pull up a seat in the comment section and tell us all about it. Don’t see what impact the flipping of a calendar page makes on your reading habits? We want to hear about that, too. There’s room for everybody at this table.