Being a writer means being on a constant quest to learn more about what it means to tell a good story. The fantasy genre captured my heart long ago, and I’ve constantly been reading as much fantasy as I can get my hands on in the hopes of learning all that I can about what makes a good fantasy novel. However, it is a bit constraining to focus one’s sights solely on the genre of one’s preferences. This year, I want to branch out further, go seeking books I would not otherwise read. I think there’s a lot to learn about fantasy from other genres.
Admittedly, romance is not a genre I go to willingly. I’ve long avoided it, knowing that many romantic subplots in the fantasy genre have detracted rather than added to the overall story, and assuming that a book about just the romance part would be utterly intolerable. I’m walking into this expecting not to enjoy most of these books. But if you walk into something with low expectations, at least you’re more likely to find yourself happily surprised by the end of it.
So, in the next few days, I’ll begin my Romance Reading Challenge. As I did with my Middle Grade Reread Challenge, I’ve picked five books, and I’m going to attempt to read them all in the span of a month. It’s a lot for February, to be fair, but if I’m going to do a romance-themed reading challenge, I can’t not do it in February.
What are the books, you’re wondering? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
I’ve seen Rainbow Rowell’s name floating around on the internet. I think out of the handful of BookTubers I follow, at least two of them have mentioned her. She’s written seven novels, according to her website, and out of those, I’ve heard about Eleanor & Park the most. It’s a young adult romance novel that gives off some John Green vibes, about two teenagers who fall in love for the first time. If nothing else, it should be a relatively quick read.
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
This may just be me, and it may just be the cover and the fact that it has garden in the title, but I keep looking at this book and thinking of the Burnett novel The Secret Garden. What I am most intrigued by is the little flair of magic that the synopsis promises this book has. Additionally, Garden Spells seems to focus mostly on familial bonds, although it is labeled as a romance and promises it in the synopsis as well. It doesn’t seem like the fantasy plays a big role–which is the whole point here; I’m not looking for another romance-pretending-to-be-fantasy book that the Throne of Glass series ended up being–so just having that familiar dash of magic in this romance novel will be refreshing.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
You can’t have a romance reading challenge without having a classic like Austen’s on it. Had I realized how big the book was, I might’ve chosen another of Jane Austen’s works, but alas. I’m in a bit of a conundrum with this book; half of my brain is telling me I’ve read this before for school, the other half is insisting that I have not. I’m chalking this up to Pride & Prejudice being a classic, and therefore the subject of countless retellings, but I guess I won’t know until I actually start reading. Even if I have, it’s been a while, and I remember nothing about it. This should be fun.
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
I’m actually really excited to read this one. It’s told in a nontraditional format, making me think of Cloud Atlas, with a whole bunch of different parts and two readers chasing down broken bits of this story and then subsequently falling in love with each other. I really have no idea what I’m walking into with this one, but it’s always interesting to see the different ways a story can unfold. It looks quaint, and I’m thrilled.
The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
One last thick-ish book for the list, and it’s only fitting that this should be marketed as a fantasy novel. Another young adult novel, this is about a girl who volunteers to marry a monstrous Caliph and find a way to end his reign of terror, but instead finds herself falling in love with him. Normally these hate-to-love relationships make me roll my eyes, but I get the feeling that there is more to both of these characters than meets the eye. With luck, Ahdieh won’t let me down and we’ll end this romance reading challenge with a bang.