I fell in love with romance novels about two years ago, when Jasmine Guillory’s “The Wedding Date” was published. But realistically, my love affair started earlier than that. Guillory’s fun, clever, intoxicating book was merely a catalyst for me to proudly identify myself as a romance reader.

Before “The Wedding Date,” I tiptoed into the romance genre via Sarah MacLean’s historical romances. The first one I read, “A Rogue by Any Other Name,” showed me that a good romance novel traditionally centers around women’s voices, focusing on the issues we most care about. Yes, there will be a happily ever after — and there may be some steamy content — but the ultimate message is this: there’s nothing better than a relationship founded on mutual respect, kindness, and consent.

A quick side note on steaminess: everyone’s comfort level is different, but if you’re interested in romance and not sure you want a steamy read, there are plenty of books out there for you. Just ask for what romance readers describe as “closed door” romance: anything steamy that happens behind a closed door in real life won’t be described on the page. “Waiting for Tom Hanks” by Kerry Winfrey, a September Bookmarks Festival participant, is a great example.

In addition to “The Wedding Date,” “Waiting for Tom Hanks,” and “A Rogue by Any Other Name,” here are some romance reads sure to get you in the mood for Valentine’s Day:

“The Bromance Book Club” by Lyssa Kay Adams 

This book features a couple on the brink of divorce, but Gavin’s friends swoop in to save his relationship with Thea by inviting him to join their book club — a romance book club. The guys focus on learning how to be better partners by listening to the underlying feminist messages ensconced in historical romance books. This book provides a great entry into the romance world if you’re new to it.

“Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston

One of the hottest books of the summer, this romance centers on the son of the female President of the United States and the grandson of the Queen of England. This book follows my favorite romance trope: enemies to lovers. Alex and Henry hate each other for years before falling in love.

“Intercepted” by Alexa Martin

Martin’s first novel follows Marlee, who is dumped by her long-time boyfriend, a professional football player, and promptly falls in love with the new quarterback. However, she shared one magical night with him years prior, so there’s history. If you love football, this book is for you.

Kate Storhoff is the floor manager at Bookmarks. Each month, Bookmarks contributes editorial content to our magazine. For more information, visit booksmarksnc.org.

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