Converting a Non-Romance Reader

womanFrequently as romance readers we discuss “conversion kits” – those books we would give a non-romance reader to try to get them to understand the wonderfulness that is our genre of choice. Usually we pick the best of the best because we want to showcase the cream of the crop and prove that we aren’t all (to borrow a line from the movie Elf) “cotton headed ninny muggins.” I’ve recently had some success converting not just a non-romance reader, but a non reader period into an enthusiastic lover of romance.

Kelly and I have worked together since 1999 when our office started with just a small skeleton crew. She had just graduated with an MBA and I had recently received my bachelor’s degree when we began working in the same office. Since we were close in age and two of only a handful of females in a male-dominated office, we became friends quickly. We had tons in common except for one thing: I was a reader and she was not. So when she would talk about aTV show or I would mention a book, we would usually give each other blank looks.

But life has a way of creating ironic situations. When Twilight became wildly popular, she was intrigued. She bought the series on audio and gave it a listen. We began talking about romance and vampires and a growing young adult book market. I gently suggested that maybe she should try a romance audiobook next since she enjoyed those. To my utter surprise, she took my suggestion. And she loved it! The next thing I knew she began acquiring romance audiobooks like mad. She fell in love with the Black Dagger Brotherhood series but at that time only the first three or so books were available in audio. So she shocked me further by buying print versions of those that were unavailable in audio. As her passion grew, so did her collection of print and audiobooks.

Kelly’s love for romance continues to blossom and now we share recommendations and discuss our favorites. It’s been such a fun way for us to bond and her enthusiasm has fueled mine as well. It has been a thrill to experience the genre through the eyes of someone for whom it’s all new and has been extremely rewarding for both of us.

I would love to hear from you. Have you attempted to convert someone in your life into a romance reader? Did you have any luck? If so, how did you go about doing so? What book would you use as a starting point?

- Heather S. AAR

20 thoughts on “Converting a Non-Romance Reader

  1. I’ve had good luck converting several friends and co-workers by recommending Deborah Smith. Charming Grace or Sweet Hush always seem to work. Depending on who it is I’m trying to convert, I’ll suggest either Agnes and the Hitman or Outlander next, and then they’re hooked.

  2. That’s funny, I had a very similar situation. My friend T recently discovered and became obsessed by the Twilight books, and told me she’d loved the romance bits. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get her to try romance and gave her Dark Lover. To my surprise, she couldn’t get into it at all and told me it had too much paranormal and not enough romance. I’ll have to try again soon, so if anyone’s got any suggestions…

    • Wow… Not enough Romance in Dark Lover? It had less than Twilight? If that didn’t work, I have NO idea what would… Good Luck on that one! :)

      Rosario: That’s funny, I had a very similar situation. My friend T recently discovered and became obsessed by the Twilight books, and told me she’d loved the romance bits. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get her to try romance and gave her Dark Lover. To my surprise, she couldn’t get into it at all and told me it had too much paranormal and not enough romance. I’ll have to try again soon, so if anyone’s got any suggestions…

  3. I could use some suggestions myself. I would love to show the wonderfulness of romance novels to my boss who only reads historical fiction or mysteries. She constantly makes negative comments about my books and calls them “porn”. What makes this even more difficult is that we work in a library and she hates to order what she calls “smut”, and I know we have patrons who would love more romances. If someone could suggest a book to introduce her to the genre (without scaring her preferably ;] ) would be GREATLY appreciated!

    • Lynn Kurland’s books are wonderful romance novels with a very PG rating. The later ones would even be classified as G rated. There is no way she could read a Kurland and consider it “smut” or “porn”. There are medieval romances, time travels, and a fantasy series. A lot to choose from! :)

      Diana N.: I could use some suggestions myself.I would love to show the wonderfulness of romance novels to my boss who only reads historical fiction or mysteries.She constantly makes negative comments about my books and calls them “porn”.What makes this even more difficult is that we work in a library and she hates to order what she calls “smut”, and I know we have patrons who would love more romances. If someone could suggest a book to introduce her to the genre (without scaring her preferably ;] ) would be GREATLY appreciated!

    • Diane,
      I’d suggest Celeste Bradley’s Liar’s Club and Royal Four series. They are set in Regency and feature spies and some mystery. Amanda Quick is another author I’d get her to try. Her’s are also regency but have more mystery and can be a launching board if she likes them to the other genres of romance as Amanda Quick is one of the pen name of Jayne Ann Krentz (contemporary) and Jayne Castle (future paranormals). All her pen names books are linked by the subtle theme of the Arcane Society.

      If she is more of a cop/dectective mystery reader then try JD Robb. They are set in the future but Eve is such a kick ass dectective and the books are written very well. There is sex of course but it’s not as decscriptive as some romances can get. And this is a hugh series so if she likes Naked in Death then she’ll be hooked for a time. This series also does something most series can’t do, it explores the relationship after HEA and how the characters mesh and deal with what life throws at them. Can you tell I love it? hehe. Hope that helps.

      Diana N.: I could use some suggestions myself.I would love to show the wonderfulness of romance novels to my boss who only reads historical fiction or mysteries.She constantly makes negative comments about my books and calls them “porn”.What makes this even more difficult is that we work in a library and she hates to order what she calls “smut”, and I know we have patrons who would love more romances. If someone could suggest a book to introduce her to the genre (without scaring her preferably ;] ) would be GREATLY appreciated!

  4. My story is similar to yours Heather. My friend and I go to lunch a couple times a month and we talk books. We used to exchange books quite a bit until we both started reading digitally, but before that I got her started on The Twilight series. Gave her the big pile of books and she read them in a couple weeks. So, a couple months ago we are having a glass of wine waiting for our lunch and she starts telling me about a new author she’s reading. She laughs and tells me it’s vampire and a romance. I’m thinking Kresley Cole right off the bat, but no…she is reading The Black Dagger Brotherhood. I like to think I had something to do with it, and our book talk is going to get a lot more interesting. :)

  5. I have to add that my friend was very much against reading romance. Left that out of my above post.

  6. No one in particular suggested I start reading romance novels…actually I was dead set against it. I had the impression that readers of romance were lonely spinster’s who didn’t get any and in fantasy land…Yeah right…boy was I wrong. For me it started with Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and yes her books are not romance according to her…but of course that’s not true at all…to me it is a GREAT love story and romance. That was 5 years ago and I have been hooked since…good and bad I read them all and have ventured from my beloved historical to paranormal and some contemporary with a paranormal twist. I am not a big fan at all of vampires and although I have a read a few books that do have that direction I usually steer clear.
    Its my evening “pill” so to speak and my “what shall I do on a rainy day”…I have no interest in TV and I find being in the quiet of my reading room and with a good juicy book to be heaven!

  7. I’ve given several people, including my husband, the Joanna Bourne books. They’re compelling to anyone who like history. I’ve also given the latest Pamela Clare, “Breaking Point,” to several folks. It’s a great read for those who like suspense novels and highlights crime on the US/Mexican border, something that is of interest to many.

  8. Carla Kelly is my answer every time for someone who says she/he likes historical books! My lovely JD-educated attorney daughter always rolled her eyes when I told her what I was reading. One Kelly book was enough to turn her into an avid historical romance fan.

    She “graduated” to Mary Balogh after Kelly, and now (gasp!) actually takes recommendations from me.

  9. If they like mystery/history….suggest the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. Suspense/action…I-Team series by Pamela Clare. Anything by Lisa Kleypas (contemporary or historical). Also would add the Virgin River series by Robyn Carr.

  10. How about Susan Elizabeth Phillips especially if she likes audio books. Another suggestion would be Linda Howard’s less intense books like Mr. Perfect, Open Season and the MacKenzie Series.

  11. I remember thinking as I read Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite a Husband that those who sniff at the thought of romances, need only to read this book and they would understand how powerful and satisfying a romance can be. Sherry Thomas writes some of the lovliest passages I have ever read.

  12. You could also try Kaki Warner’s books. She writes some wonderful American historical romances and they are not explicit at all.

  13. If she likes mysteries and audiobooks, she should try the Claire Fergusson series by J. Spencer Fleming or the historical mysteries/romances by Deanna Rayburn. Also, I second the vote for JD Robb’s Eve Dallas police procedurals.

  14. I would have someone start with “Morning Glory”. It’s got a little history, a little mystery, not too much sex and a whale of a love story. As far as I’m concerned if they don’t like “Morning Glory” they will never like romance novels and we just as well give up.

  15. I have to second the recommendation of Lauren Willig’s “Pink Carnation” series. Also anything by Ilona Andrews as the storetelling and worldbuilding are great in both the “Kate Daniels” & “Edge” series. In these books the romance is well written without taking over the entire story.

  16. Thanks, everyone, for all of the wonderful suggestions. Thus far I have gotten her hooked on Patricia Briggs’ series as well. I’ve not-so-subtly suggested the Kate Daniels series and Nalini Singh’s books lately. She has not tried either yet, but I’m pretty sure we can attribute that to the fact that her TBR pile is nearly as out-of-control as mine is. Which I think is just grand!

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