We all know about Fifty Shades of Grey, and we all know about the sugary sweet romances of Nora Roberts (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I’ve been looking for something… more. I listen to or read about four books a week, and lately, I’ve delved into the world of romance novels. Weeding out the steaming hot ones with an actual plot and phenomenal characters, from the erotica with no substance, has been interesting to say the least.
I’m finding it seems to be a difficult task to create a compelling romance that’s intelligently written and still gives readers everything they want and expect from the genre. I want to highlight some authors that succeed in spades in this area. These authors all had books that sucked me in, made me want more, and brought characters into my heart to stay. Oh, and they do dark and twisty oh-so well.
Note: Some of the books mentioned below are what would be considered “dark,” so take note of any trigger warnings in the books’ descriptions before diving in.
Meet my dark and twisted queen. Seriously, bow down. Fair warning—these books are not for the faint of heart. They go to some impossibly dark places, but they are the cream of the crop, y’all. Most of her works are trilogies, which is necessary for the intense scenarios and plot progressions. Plus, it’s good for us readers who never want the stories to end. Out of all the romances I’ve read in the past year(ish), the Dollars, Monsters in the Dark, and Indebted series have stuck with me the most. Let me warn you again: The scenarios in these books are triple f***ed up and then some, but By George, they are worth it.
Two words: Mafia Romance. The Boston Underworld series, starting with Crow, will chew you up and spit you in a jumbled mess of emotions. It has action, romance, and (if you listen to the audiobook version) a brilliant Irish accent courtesy of Tracy Marks. Zavarelli also writes some lighter, but still sexy novels, but the Boston Underworld admittedly has my heart. The series continues with three more of Lachlan Crow’s “associates.”
Lauren Landish/Willow Winters
Yes, they have individual books, but they have a slew of them together as well, and I love them as a writing team. There are a lot of standalones to choose from here, and with the talent of these two, you really can’t go wrong. There’s even a Highest Bidder series (I’m sure you can take a gander what they’re about) that’s sure to appeal to you Fifty Shades lovers.
Ignore the alarming title of the books — I need you to trust me (or just Google it and trust the thousands of outstanding reviews). Reiss’ Submission trilogy is one of the smartest romances I’ve read, ever. What a talent! When you start reading it, you’ll know exactly what I mean, and then you can mail me some chocolate chip cookies as a thank you. This series has so much heart, and it will light you on fire one minute and crush you the next. Just go read it NOW.
Literally everything by Zaires is my newest obsession, and I’m flying through about a book of hers a day. You just can’t stop. I’ve heard wonderful things about the Krinar Chronicles, but have yet to read that series. But just LET me tell you about the Twist Me, Capture Me, and Tormentor Mine series. Scorching AND sweet, y’all! Plus, with the series being about the dark underbelly of illegal arms dealing, you know there’s going to be lots of badass action.