Updating the Conversion Kit

giftbooks All About Romance has discussed conversion kits for non-romance readers for quite some time now. The list of resources has helped me tremendously and for the first time, I now have offline friends who read romance! However, many good books have come out since these lists were written up, so I thought it would be fun to try to assemble updated conversion kits.

Some of my friends have been leery of reading anything that even looks like romance, either because they fear ridicule or because they’ve bought into the idea that romances are all badly written garbage. The fact that many romances are packaged to look like badly written garbage doesn’t help here, but that’s a subject for another blog piece. When trying to show my friends that there really is good romance out there, I’ve found that romantic suspense are paranormal romance are both good gateway genres. I also try to pull out some books that have crossover appeal. And obviously, when trying to convince people that romance is worth reading, I pull out the books that are written well!

My friends’ interests fall into four main groups, so here are my latest conversion kits:

For my fantasy-reading friends
– The Gardella Vampires series by Colleen Gleason
– The Signs of the Zodiac series by Vicki Pettersson (These are more urban fantasy than romance, but there are some definite romantic elements to the stories.)
The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning

For Mystery/Thriller Lovers
– pretty much anything by Karen Rose
Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart (an oldie but a goodie)
Black Ice by Anne Stuart
Cover of Night, maybe Death Angel or any of a number of other books by Linda Howard

For Jane Austen fans – and I know lots of them
What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
If the Quinn book is well-received, I often follow up with the Bridgerton series.
– Georgette Heyer and lots of it
– The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig
– The Company of Rogues series by Jo Beverley – Christmas Angel is a favorite of mine.
One Good Turn, Beau Crusoe or any of the many good Carla Kelly novels

For History Buffs
Okay -since anyone who’s read even a few of my reviews and blogs knows that I have a very special place in my heart for the non-Regency historical, you can imagine that putting together this kit is extra-special to me. Here goes:
Roselynde and Alinor by Roberta Gellis
-Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray
– pretty much anything by Cheryl Sawyer but I especially like Siren and The Winter Prince
- Libertine’s Kiss by Judith James

So, there are a few books to get you started. If you were trying to “convert” someone to romance reading, what books would you send their way?

– Lynn Spencer

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19 Responses to “Updating the Conversion Kit”

  1. Don’t give Austen fans the Julia Quinns – they’ll die of shock. There’s very little history in those books, and they might expect the “true” Regency that Austen wrote about, rather than the fantasy one. Don’t get me wrong, fun reads, but not for Austen lovers. Same for the Carla Kelly. How about a little Loretta Chase? Maybe some Laura Kinsale? For the others – spot on.
    History buffs – maybe the Jo Beverley medievals? a bit old now, but still great reads.
    And how about some Linnea Sinclair for the Sci-Fi fans? Or SF or Syfy or whatever they’re calling it these days.

  2. Mary Beth says:

    I would choose Julia Spencer- Fleming’s series to attempt to hook mystery fans. In the Bleak Midwinter is so beautifully written that it reads like a ‘literary’ novel and Russ and Clare’s story is so compelling that they would want to read the next book!

  3. Michele says:

    I’ve got my sister and her coworker hooked on the JR Ward Brotherhood series. For people who enjoy Sci fi or Fantasy I think thats the perfect conversion kit. I gave a friend What Happens in London and she enjoyed it but said it was too “light” and she likes books with more depth. I’m thinking the solution might be to give her Flowers in the Storm by Laura Kinsale. I’ve always loved that book-its smart.

  4. Xina says:

    I have a number of friends thAt don’t read romance but enjoyed books that I suggested not knowing that they are romance..
    The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
    The Love Knot, The Champion,The Conquest by Elizabeth Chadwick
    The Dark Queen, The Courtesan and the rest of this series by Susan Carroll.
    Something Borrowed, Somethng Blue both by Emily Giffen.
    I don’t tell my friends they are reading and enjoying romance. If I did, I’m pretty sure they would not have given these books a chance.

  5. DabneyAAR says:

    My history loving husband has read all of Joanna Bourne’s books and loved them. The history in them is spot on and they are phenomenally well-written. Any one who loves spy thrillers should enjoy them as well.

  6. Lynn AAR says:

    @Lynne Connolly – I see your point on the Regencies. I think I’d have to choose very carefully who got what. When I wrote that, I was thinking of two friends in particular who love the dialogue and mood of Jane Austen books, but wouldn’t know the difference between historical Regency and Regency romp. They ended up loving Julia Quinn as a modern version of that. However, I can think of folks for whom that wouldn’t work.

    And I don’t know where my brain was that I didn’t add Lord of Scoundrels for Regency and For my Lady’s Heart for history buffs!

  7. RobinB says:

    I started reading romances because years ago, I got impatient waiting for the next volume in the Outlander/Gabaldon series to come out. At that time, the Gabaldon novels were kept in the romance section of bookstores, so out of curiosity I started with Mary Jo Putney’s Fallen Angels series for historical romance and Linda Howards contemporary novels (e.g. “Midnight Rainbow”, “Diamond Bay”, et. al.) for a change of pace.

    I majored in history when I was in college, so for serious history buffs, I would start with the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. Not strictly romance, but there are definitely elements of romance in the books, and (SPOILER ALERT!) there is the HEA in the last novel! :)

  8. Carrie says:

    I agree with the suggestion of Linnea Sinclair for sci-fi lovers, along with author Sara Creasy who wrote Song of Scarabeaus. Another good entry point would be Shards of Honor by Bujold.

    For fantasy lovers, I would again recommend Bujold: The Sharing Knife series and the Chalion series.

    Since I’m a recent convert to romance (wouldn’t tough it for years except for Heyer), I can say the sex scenes were part of the problem. I was mainly a mystery/suspense reader and made my way move to romance reading some of Suzanne Brockmann’s non-Toubleshoorter books (Bodyguard, for example) and some suspense by Linda Howard and Nora Roberts. High Noon is one I recommend to all my suspense loving friends. I also enjoy humorous mysteries (Donna Andrews, for example) and found a little known author by the name of Shelly Fredman who has a great cross-over series. The same with Christy Tillery French. Sex scenes aren’t an issue with me now, but just be aware that handing someone a sexually graphic book might backfire. It would have with me.

    For friends who read women’s fiction and chick-lit, I’d recommend Sarah Mayberry’s non-Blaze titles (Her Best Friend and Best Laid Plans), as well as books by Kristan Higgans. Also Jennifer Crusie is a good introduction, especially books like The Cinderella Deal, anyone But You, and Bet Me.

  9. Alex says:

    I think that starting with some of the chick lit books is a good foray into the romance genre. I think that Emily Giffin is a good start. I just finished a book by an author that I’m working with that is a great beach/summer read. The book is called “Born Under A Lucky Moon” by Dana Precious. It’s a really cute and fun read about a dysfunctional yet loving family from Michigan, and a story that spans from the Great Lakes to Hollywood and back. It’s a touching story and is based on some real life events of the author that include a surprise wedding and, sadly (yet sort of fittingly…you’ll have to read it!), a murder. It’s available on Amazon in paperback and e-book. It also got great reviews from Romance Times.

    Check it out here: http://amzn.to/lfoMAZ

  10. June says:

    I agree with Lynne and Carrie, Linnea Sinclair writes excellent SF/romance. Among last year’s favorites the Iron Duke could be a wonderful introduction for fantasy readers. For contemporary chick lit readers how about Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ football series?

  11. MarySkl says:

    For historicals I would recommend Sharon Kay Penman (Here Be Dragons) and Madeline Hunter’s medievals. I would also recommend Susanna Kearsley’s The Wintersea.

    For Jane Austen fans, I would recommend Pamela Aiden’s trilogy (beginning with An Assembly Such as This). It is written close to Austen’s style but with more spice to acclimate them to the more spicy romance novels.

    Mystery/Thriller – Lucy Monroe, Linda Howard & Cynthia Eden

    Fantasy – Karen Marie Moning’s time travels. I liked them a lot better than the Fever books. Also Shana Abe’s books. Of course Outlander is a must .

  12. Goosie says:

    Deanna Raybourn.

  13. Victoria S says:

    History-Deanna Raybourn–Lady Julia/Nicholas Brisbane
    Tasha Alexander– Lady Emily
    C.S. Harris Sebastian St. Cyr
    Lisa Gardner FBI Profiler/D.D. Warren
    Judith James Broken Wing and Libertine’s Kiss

    Just Darn Good Loretta Chase– Lord of Scoundrels
    The Last Hellion
    Linda Howard–Cry No More
    Mr. Perfect
    J.D. Robb Naked In Death (1st one)
    Remember When( kinda in the middle)
    Treachery In Death (the latest one)

    Oldies But Goodies Judith Ivory–Untie My Heart
    Sleeping Beauty
    Mary Balogh—Slightly Dangerous

    There’s A New Sheriff in Town—Sherry Thomas
    Courtney Milan
    I would not read romance for years , I was strictly a Mystery and Sci Fi reader. My sister finally convinced me to give romances a try, and gave me Nora Roberts’ “Sanctuary”, even though this isn’t my favorite romance story, it holds a special place in my heart for it was the book that opened up a whole new genre for me.

  14. barbie says:

    well currently I m trying to convert my mom so since we are spainsh I m trying to find spainsh verisons of

    Bet me by jennifer cruise
    any thing by Susan Elizabeth Brown
    anything from Sandra Brown
    anything from Nora Roberts

    For my grandmother and hairstylest i m trying to find Dream a little Dream in spainsh because it talks about god but SEP does it in way that is all her own.

  15. AAR Heather B says:

    I’ve used Monings Fever Series before (several times) and its worked almost without fail. An excellent choice for the fantasy reader in my opinion.

  16. Julie D says:

    I think anything from the “In Death” series of Nora Roberts is a good start. If the person to be converted is a reader of contemporary suspense, she/he will appreciate that. I also would recommend the inspirational romances by Francine Rivers. i have just started reading her and I was not an Inspirational romance book reader before but after reading”Her mother’s hope” I was hooked. Books by Diana Gabaldon – lots of history, swashbuckling adventure — would also be great.

  17. Jocelyn says:

    I recently gave a friend (who likes romantic movies) the Lisa Kleypas contemporary trilogy starting with Sugar Daddy and she is asking for more romance novel recommendations. Since she also likes Jane Austen movies, I am going to give her some of my favorite Mary Baloghs.

  18. Jeanne Miro says:

    I would suggest some of the fun new authors as well as some tried and true great authors (who you know well).

    Some of the new authors I would suggest are Kieran Kramer, Beverly Kendall and Ashley March.

  19. You…are…my…hero!!! I cant believe something like this exists on the internet! Its so true, so honest, and more than that you dont sound like an idiot! Finally, someone who knows how to talk about a subject without sounding like a kid who didnt get that bike he wanted for Christmas.