Recent Romance Recommendations

How do you like that alliteration?

Over the last month, I’ve read several contemporary romances/romantic comedies. This is not unusual, since I read 10-12 books a month, three-quarters of which are usually in the romance genre. However, the level of enjoyment I experienced with this particular consecutive batch is unmatched. These novels were so good that I vacillated between absolute delight in the characters/stories and overwhelming anxiety that my books would never compare. Because I was super impressed with these novels, I decided to share them with you. Although I’ve included snippets from my reviews on Goodreads, you can read my full thoughts by clicking the links.

THE HEART PRINCIPLE by Helen Hoang (8/31).

This book was like a big hug. It was probably the softest book I’ve read in a long time and I loved every single word even as I struggled (sometimes unsuccessfully) to keep my tears at bay. It was a beautiful love story about being accepted by others for who you are and, more importantly, accepting and loving yourself. My favorite of Hoang’s trio.

THE CHARM OFFENSIVE by Alison Cochrun (9/7)

Oh my God…this m/m romance was SO GOOD. It was funny and romantic and so very soft. It was inclusive and educating (but never preachy). The dialogue was hilarious, the love scenes were swoon-worthy, and the grand gesture at the end? No spoilers but my heart was beating so fast in anticipation. I predict this will be a huge success.

THE DATING PLAYBOOK by Farrah Rochon (8/17)

I absolutely adored this book. It was warmhearted, funny, romantic, sexy, and sweet. Rochon’s writing style is so accessible and inviting. I stan Taylor and Jamar so hard!

FIRST LOVE, TAKE TWO by Sajni Patel (9/21)

So much tension in this second-chance romance – sexual and otherwise. This contemporary romance was emotional, funny, romantic, sexy, and fully of witty banter. Definitely going in my top romances of 2021 list!

THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS* by Ali Hazelwood (9/14)

Disclaimer: At the time of writing this post, I am 80% into this novel, but…my goodness, it is delightful! I am crushing so hard on this author’s charming and quirky writing style as well as Adam, the very tall and brooding love interest. I appreciated the demisexual representation even though the author never actually used the label. This slow burn romance is so absolutely delicious that I almost don’t want to finish the book!

And there you have them. Five romances in a row that were impressive AF and blew my mind! You’ll notice that none of these books have been released yet. I was lucky enough to be approved by Netgalley for early copies. But I highly recommend that you mark your calendars and put them at the top of your TBR. You won’t regret it!

I got an agent! (Part One)

I made a big announcement on social media yesterday: I signed with a literary agent!

Since I’ve already had seven books published, some of you might wonder if I’ve already published seven books without an agent, why get one now? Or maybe you assumed I already had an agent.

I tried to get an agent with my first novel about a decade ago. Even though I workshopped my query letter and had my book critiqued by a professional and several beta readers, I didn’t get a single request for a partial or a full after almost a year. Not deterred, I researched smaller publishers who took unagented submissions. I submitted to a few of them and got a contract. One contract led to many more over the course of eight years.

My desire for a literary agent and a major publishing deal waned as I released more books with small publishers and built my fanbase. I was having so much fun writing and connecting with the readers that I didn’t want to pause the journey to query agents. I also enjoyed the extra money! Traditional publishing moves very slow and I had too many books to write and too little patience to wait years!

A combination of factors contributed to me changing my mind: Spending more time with traditional authors and following their successes, watching my very good friends enter the query trenches and emerge with an agent they loved who believed in their talent, and my own career and fanbase not taking off/building as quickly as I wanted it to despite working so hard. I yearned for more marketing support, but mostly I wanted a partner/advocate (agent!) to help me navigate my career. I decided that after I fulfilled my contract with my current publisher, I was going to query my next novel. Unlike in the past, I wasn’t happy with the status quo. Timing is everything and I finally had the patience to wait.

I began researching agents even before I finished the first draft of the book. I used Query Tracker, Manuscript Wishlist, Publishers Marketplace, and Absolute Write to curate a list of agents who were open to queries and seeking submissions in romantic comedy, contemporary romance, or fun women’s fiction. I looked at each agent’s sales history. If they were a new agent, I looked at their agency in general. I created a list on Twitter of just agents to keep track of the types of books they were seeking and to get a general sense of their personality. I checked comments on Query Tracker for response rates. I stalked their reputations on Absolute Write. Although the pitch and bio parts of my query letter never changed, I tailored my first sentence to each agent, and I prepared the introductions ahead of time. If they’d tweeted about seeking more romantic comedies, I wrote that. If my book was similar in theme to one of their client’s, I mentioned it. I was very strategic in who I queried, and I wanted each agent to know there was a reason I chose them. Even though my manuscript wasn’t completed yet, I participated in Speed Pitch at RWA 2018 in Denver and met more than 10 agents and editors who invited me to send them material upon completion of the book. I knew this wouldn’t guarantee me an offer of representation but being able to put “RWA Speed Pitch” in the subject line of the query would at least get me noticed in the slush pile.

When the book was finished, I did what I always do—gave it to my beta readers. They knew I wanted brutal honesty and they gave it to me. My critique partner read it about four times—before and after the betas—and each time she pulled more and more out of me. I was exhausted. I hated her sometimes. But mostly, I was so grateful she helped me take the manuscript to a new level. Agents constantly implore writers not to query until there is nothing more we can do without their help. My support system helped me get there.

Now the book was ready, but I still had to nail the query letter and synopsis. And I thought I did. Many times. Only to be told by several people that they still weren’t good enough. The letter wasn’t “hooky” enough. The synopsis didn’t pull them in. I whimpered, I pulled on my hair until my scalp hurt, I screamed. I took my frustrations out on the friend who was helping me the most: “The book is about what the book is about! If it’s not a big enough hook, I might as well give up now!” This friend took it in stride, as true friends do. She assured me that the book had an amazing premise and hook and that I just needed a better pitch. Then she implored me to ask our other friend, one who works magic with marketing copy, to help. And she did! She read the entire manuscript and helped me tweak both my query letter and my synopsis so that everything she adored about the book shined through.

With a polished manuscript, a solid query letter, both a one-to-two-page and three-to-five-page synopsis, and a list of vetted agents in hand, I was finally ready to start querying! I was pumped!

I was also scared out of my freaking mind!

Spoiler alert: I got an agent! But come back tomorrow for part two and I’ll share how it happened.