Good starter romances masterlist

Have a friend you think would love romance, but when you think about where to start recommending, your mind goes blank? Below is my own shortlist of proven starter romances, plus I asked for recommendations on Twitter and have compiled the answers.

See this post at Delilah Devlin’s blog for why this list came to be, tips for pimping friends into romance, and detailed commentary on my shortlist. If you just want the list, you’re in the right place!

ETA: This is an extremely non-diverse list overall. Alisha Rai has compiled a fabulous list of diverse starter romances, read it!

[Image credit: Patrik Neckman via Wikimedia Commons.]

My list of go-to books to loan to non-romance readers (mostly historical):

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer. Regency historical. (Please warn for anti-Semitism.)
Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie. Contemporary. (Or Bet Me.)
Fall From Grace by Megan Chance. Western historical.
Loretta Chase (historical, Regency and early Victorian). Lord of Scoundrels or Miss Wonderful are my picks but Mr. Impossible got the most Twitter votes.
A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant. Regency.
The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan. Victorian.

Now here is the full list of Twitter recommendations plus some of my own. Thanks to everyone who shared their tried-and-true conversion tools! I apologize if I’ve mis-sorted anyone; I did my best, but I haven’t read most of these books. I also have not included content warnings because figuring out which books included dubcon, etc., proved to be way more work than I could do. Please recommend responsibly!

Corrections, suggestions, and additions welcome.

If the book is listed as Title by Author, the book was recommended. If it’s listed as Author (Title), then the author’s complete body of work was recommended as a good starter author by at least one person, with the book mentioned as a possible entry point and/or a separate rec for the individual book. Links mostly go to the relevant page of the author’s website, but sometimes there didn’t seem to be one, so there are a few to other sites like Amazon, Harlequin, and Goodreads.


A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
Julie James (Something About You)
Laura Florand
Motorcycle Man by Kristen Ashley
Caro Carson‘s Harlequin Special Editions (category)
Sarah M. Anderson‘s Harlequin Desires (category)
Breakfast at Bethany’s by Kathleen O’Reilly (category, Harlequin Temptation)
Ruthie Knox (erotic)
Snowfall by Mary Ann Rivers (a Christmas novella)
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (AFAICT this is a book with two intertwined narratives/love stories, one contemporary and one historical)
Molly O’Keefe
Jackie Braun’s Mr. Right There All Along (category, Harlequin Romance)
Donna Alward’s How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart (category, Harlequin Romance)
All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins (good for chicklit readers)
Easy by Tammara Webber (new adult)
Beverly Jenkins (she mostly writes historical but the Henry Adams series are contemporaries set in a historic town, and I think I saw other contemps and maybe some romantic suspense in her backlist)
The Siren by Tiffany Reisz (erotic)
Glitterland by Alexis Hall
Close Enough to Touch by Victoria Dahl
Tell Me Lies and Crazy for You by Jenny Crusie for mystery readers.


Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series
J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood
Michele Hauf’s books for Harlequin Nocturne (category)
On Thin Ice by Cherry Adair (genre crossover with action/military)
Nalini Singh’s Angel’s Blood
Ilona Andrews (for urban fantasy fans)
Moira Rigers (ditto)


Heat by R. Lee Smith (erotic)
Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold


Ember by Bettie Sharpe (erotic)
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (they are writing partners – here is a chronological list of the books in their main series)


Soulless by Gail Carriger
Meljean Brook. The Iron Duke got the most nods but there were votes for The Kraken King and Here There Be Monsters too.

Historical (mostly Regency/Victorian England)

Sarah MacLean
Tessa Dare
His at Night or Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas
What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long
Beverly Jenkins (mostly American historical, but she’s written various genres)
Julia Quinn (The Duke and I)
Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer (WW2)
Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series (with a contemporary/chick-lit romance as a framing device for the historical romance)
Eloisa James (Regency and Georgian, I think) (tell your litsnob friends she’s a tenured English professor)
Mary Balogh (A Christmas Promise, The Famous Heroine, or Lord Carew’s Bride)
Jeannie Lin (The Lotus Palace) (Tang Dynasty China—she also just started a steampunk series with romantic elements)
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (time-travel)
Judith Ivory (Black Silk was mentioned as a good transition from litfic)
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (AFAICT this is a book with two intertwined narratives/love stories, one contemporary and one historical)
Written on Your Skin by Meredith Duran
Alex Beecroft’s False Colors (good for fans of historical adventure like the Aubrey/Maturin books)

Romantic Suspense/Action

Nora Roberts’s standalone suspense
Kiss and Tell by Cherry Adair
Lisa Jackson (good for mystery/police procedural fans)


Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (genre crossover with historical: set in “California’s gold country, 1850”)

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