I believe I’ve written about how I’m relatively new to romance novels, but that hasn’t stopped me from becoming a genre-vangelist, gifting unsuspecting friends and readers with surprise copies of my favorite historical romance novels and forcing recommending one favorite book after another. Not everyone has been convinced of the amazing writing to be found in romance, but of course, I can always count on my Book Sister, Heather, from True Stories & Make Believe to understand that good stories are everywhere. So I’ve asked Heather, as an even newer convert to historical romance, to write about one of her first historical romance loves, the swoon-worthy Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, by Sarah MacLean, as well as her burgeoning love affair with the genre overall.

I love reading about how people fell in love with romance, and I hope you do too. Take it away, Heather!

Hello everyone! If you don’t know me from my joint Outlander posts with Ronnie, my name is Heather De La Garza and I write over at True Stories & Make Believe. A few weeks ago, Ronnie asked me if I wanted to guest post on her blog about one of my favorite books, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing A Rake and how I became a voracious historical romance book reader. Given how much I like the genre I told her “Absolutely!”

Complete and total honesty: I did not think I would ever become a historical romance reader, nor did I particularly want too. Yup, that’s right: I judged these books on their over-the-top covers and titles. I was utterly unfair and biased. All I could see through my book reading tunnel vision was a collection of books unworthy of a serious reader like myself. Yeah, I know, I sound like an awful, arrogant person. So for my entire life I’ve ignored that section of the book store, believing I’d never find myself standing in front of those shelves.

I can’t help but note the irony of such an opinion because I aspire to be an “open-minded” reader. What’s even worse is that part of the reason I love and cherish certain books is due in large part to their flawless romance plot lines. I consistently say I’m a romantic. I never should have been so antagonistic about the genre in the first place (phrases like “put your money where your mouth is” come to mind).

This is where my dear friend Ronnie comes in. True friends give you the TOUGH LOVE. Most of the time they know you better than you know yourself. She’d been singing the praises of historical romance for a while, but one day she finally took the bull by the horns and sent me Sherry Thomas’ Ravishing the Heiress, all but mandating I read it.

Call it fate, a universal alignment of actions and events, or simple coincidence, but that little book arrived at a time when I had been searching for a new jolt of reading adrenaline. I started reading it during the twilight hours on the day it arrived. I’m going to make a cliché statement now: Four non-stop reading hours later I knew that my reading life would never be the same. After finishing that book I couldn’t get my hands on other historical romance books fast enough!

I started making my way through Ronnie’s list of her favorites to get to know the genre and soon became acquainted with Sarah MacLean’s novels. First I read her Rules of Scoundrels series which I LOVED. While expressing my happiness to Ronnie about that particular series, she quickly interrupted me and said, “Girl, if you love those books, you have to read Nine Rules to Break While Romancing a Rake. Trust me. You are going to LOVE it.” She’d been right about everything related to this new obsession so far, so I saw no reason not to take her advice now. I grabbed my iPad and bought the novel on iBooks.

And here’s where we talk about my favorite romance novel to date. First, let’s dispense with the formalities and meet our hero and heroine. You have Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston (“Ralston”) handsome, rich and, as the title so aptly puts it, a rake. Lady Calpurnia Hartwell (“Callie”) is, at 28 years old, “on the shelf” and on her way to becoming a spinster with no marriage prospects. She’s described as slightly plump and is looking forward to helping her mother plan her younger sister’s upcoming nuptials to a duke. Okay before you say, “Really Heather, in the 21st century you want me to read a story about a girl who wants nothing more than a rich husband?” No I don’t. Because this is not that. I can see where you might be rolling your eyes at me. But what makes Nine Rakes, and ultimately MacLean’s other novels so fantastic is that they are stories about two equals meeting each other at just the right moment, sometimes through hilarity or peculiar circumstances, and ultimately realizing they are mad for each other.

From the beginning Callie, realistic and pragmatic, has decided she’s going to stop wallowing in self-pity and give herself the life she’s always wanted. And it has nothing to do with finding a husband. She makes a to-do list, that back in those days would cause scandal amongst the “ton,” sending all those ladies who lunch swooning and reaching for their smelling salts. Her first attempt to complete an action on the list brings her into Ralston’s orbit. Ralston is far from perfect. He’s messed up after having been abandoned by his mother as child, and thus feels no need to enter into the institution of marriage, content instead to live his life with a series of mistresses. But like all great loves, Callie comes into his life unexpectedly. He’s not initially attracted to her because of her looks or her money. He’s thoroughly bumfuzzled by her tenacity to engage in behavior that could see her ruined, and through his attempts to keep her from doing so, he discovers that maybe he could lose his heart to this woman after all.

Why eat a bowl of ice cream when you can read a historical romance novel?

This is not a story about a woman sitting around waiting for a man to come and sweep her off her feet. Callie is taking what she wants and in doing so may have just found the love of her life. It turns all those Disney princess fairy tales on their heads. Nine Rakes is just one of many historical romance novels that does this, making the genre so worthwhile of your time and money. Of course not all the novels are great (as with any genre), but I can say with absolute certainty that all of the books on Ronnie’s list are A+’s and you can’t go wrong with any of those. Another plus side to taking up this genre is that you are always going to get a happy ending. So if you need a pick-me up or are just feeling genuinely melancholy, these types of novels may just be the cough syrup you need.

So you see, epic historical romance novels now make my life. I laugh about this because these books just kind of came to me out of nowhere (with a little help from my friend) and I fell in love with reading them. If you’ve ever ignored this genre or are on the fence, I hope that this little essay convinces you to give it a chance. I’m not going to guarantee you’ll love them as much as I do and that’s okay. But at the very least I hope this dispels some of your biases and stereotypes. For if there is one thing I know it’s this; these books are the epitome of that old adage, never judge a book by its cover.

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