New Special Title Listing: Big City Romances

chicago I’ve written here before about my fondness for the Special Settings list at AAR and posted here once about my love of romances set in Greece. I’ve scoured the Special Settings list numerous times for other unusual settings and have discovered some great reads. But there’s another type of setting that I’m particularly fond of and that currently doesn’t have its own list: big cities.

Romance readers often complain about the excessive number of small town/rural romances, particularly in category romances. While I don’t hate small town romances, I can only handle so many romances featuring small town sheriffs, or visitors from the big city who discover the wonders of small towns. As a long-time Chicago resident, I often find myself longing for big city romances (and I’m not talking about European Historicals set in London). Several years ago Rike wrote here about reading romances set in places where we live. Many of us chimed in with complaints – or praise – for books set in the towns we live in. About the time Jean wrote about the joys of city reading, and asked what romances set in big cities gave a feel for the city.

I recently had the unusual experience of reading for review three romances set in Chicago. One – Jennifer Lohmann’s The First Move – was a DIK for me. Among my many favorite aspects of The First Move is the author’s depiction of a seldom-featured section of Chicago. The other two romances (not yet reviewed here at AAR) feature other parts of the City. In each of them, the city came to life for me. When I finished the third I found myself longing for other vibrant romances that in addition to featuring a wonderful love story with a great hero and heroine, also bring a city to life.

A prerogatives of being one of the current editors (along with Rike and Cindy) of the Special Titles Lists, is that in addition to revising existing lists, we get to add new lists. We recently added the Met as Children list and are working on a few others. I’d like to give a Big City Romances List a try.

The Big City Romances list would include romances from any time period (despite my preference for contemporary and category romances). But a key element will be that the city has to be vivid in the romance. It’s not enough to feature a hero and heroine who live in New York or Seattle or Los Angeles, they have to actually be out and about in the city. A romance in which the hero and heroine live in New York but spend the entire romance in the hero’s bedroom doesn’t really fit the category. I’m also not interested in a romance in which the hero and heroine live in the suburbs of a big city, and make one brief trip into the city. I want romances featuring big city residents in which the city shines.

If you’d be interested in a Big City Romances list, please let us know in the comments below. And better yet, do you have any suggestions for the list? Ideally I’d like to put up a “starter” list in a couple months and open it up for submissions at that time. To get us started, I’d add the following romances to the list:

* Jennifer Lohmann’s The first Move (Chicago, contemporary romance)

* Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Match Me If You Can (Chicago, contemporary romance)

Any others?

– LinnieGayl Kimmel

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23 Responses to “New Special Title Listing: Big City Romances”

  1. Kathi says:

    The In Death series — JD Robb

  2. Paola says:

    Nora Roberts – The Winning Hand (Las Vegas, contemporary)

  3. Pamela says:

    The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand is set in Paris, and I think she does a wonderful job capturing the city.

    Jill Sorenson’s Caught in the Act and Edge of Night features the urban area of San Diego is vivid description. It felt like a character of the book.

  4. I write them almost exclusively. “In The Mood” is set in Chicago, and the rest of the Nightstar series is set in big cities around the world as the Murder City Ravens band go on a world tour.
    A total buzz to write!

  5. Linniegayl says:

    Great suggestions! Keep them coming

  6. Julie James. Her first book, Just the Sexiest Man Alive, was set in LA, and her other books have all been set in Chicago.

    Hope this is okay, but my novella, One Hit Wonder, was set in NYC.

  7. Paola says:

    Magic Flutes – Eva Ibbotson (Vienna in the ’20s)

  8. Ann says:

    Pamela Clare’s I-team series is set in Denver.

  9. pwnn says:

    Dinah Dean: The Ice King: St. Petersburg
    Joanna Bourne: Black Hawk: Paris & London
    Loretta Chase: The Last Hellion: London
    Loretta Chase: Your Scandalous Ways: Venice
    Liz Carlyle: A Woman of Virtue: London
    Susan Wiggs: Halfway To Heaven: Washington D.C.
    Medeline Hunter: By Design, By Arrangement: Medieval London
    Eva Ibbotson: The Morning Gift: Vienna and London
    Betina Krahn: Sweet Talking Man: NYC
    Jennifer Donnelly: The Tea Rose: London & NYC
    Paulina Simmons: The Bronze Horseman: Leningrad
    Anne Stuart: Glass Houses: NYC
    Winifred Watson: Mrs Pettigrew Lives For A Day: London
    Sharon Cullars: Again: NYC
    Sophie Kinsella: Shopaholic: London
    Sophie Kinsella: Shopaholic Takes Manhattan: NYC
    Marian Keyes – Last Chance Saloon: London
    Dorien Kelly: Do-Over: Detroit
    Georgette Heyer: Frederica, Arabella, Cotillion (among others but these stand out to me for use of locations): London

    Tamara Allen: Whistling In The Dark & Only The Gold: NYC (these are m/m – are they allowed on these lists because I haven’t seen any and yet there are books that would fit under any Special Title Listing. In this case there are tons that truly take place in cities. These two historicals are two of the best in describing city life in those eras)

  10. willaful says:

    New York is very much part of the story in Breath on Embers by Anne Calhoun.

  11. CarolineAAR says:

    The YA Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins really transports you to modern Paris.

    I do worry that this list will have 600 wallpaper regencies on it submitted by people who are like, “But it has Almack’s and Gunter’s AND Astley’s! Clearly it is authentically London!” But I guess you guys aren’t new to ‘auditing’ submissions and you’ll figure out a way to keep it under control.

  12. Emily A. says:

    I liked Louise Edwards’s Can’t Stand the Heat. All of her books I believe are set in NYC.

  13. Yulie says:

    I like this idea, though I agree with Caroline that it would be better to focus the list on contemporaries, or at least define it so that the list won’t be overrun by regency historicals.

    A few suggestions:
    * First, another vote for Jill Sorenson’s Caught in the Act and The Edge of Night. Aftershock is set in San Diego but since they’re all trapped under a collapsed freeway, it’s not really an urban feel.
    * I also second the suggestion of Pamela Clare’s I-Team books, which are indeed set mostly in Denver (except for the Mexican part of Breaking Point),
    * Cara McKenna/Meg Maguire has two Boston-set books, Willing Victim and Making Him Sweat.
    * Lisa Kleypas’s Blue-Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger. I’m undecided about Sugar Daddy, as much of it has a small-town setting.
    * Dorothy Koomson’s books aren’t exactly romance, but The Chocolate Run and My Best Friend’s Girl are close enough; both take place in Leeds.
    * Laura Leone’s Fallen From Grace (San Francisco).
    * Tammara Webber, Good For You (LA).
    * Going against my preference for contemporary settings in this list, I agree that Jennifer Donnelly’s The Tea Rose would be a great addition.

    I have to say that the Lohmann book to me read like a small-town romance set in a big city, if that makes sense.

    • LinnieGayl says:

      I’ll think about your suggestion for keeping it to contemporaries. I am afraid of it being over-run by London-set regencies and historicals.

      I think for me the Lohmann reminded me of living in Chicago, and how some of the people I knew rarely ventured out of their neighborhood (actually big, big neighborhoods but with very unique feels). For me it really had the feel of a particular area of Chicago.

  14. leslie says:

    I fell in love with Seattle through JAK and Elizabeth Lowell. I went to University of Washington for graduate school, married and had my kids in Seattle all because of those authors. Live in SoCal now and miss the Northwest dearly.

    I like Chicago books too, but London is the city I favor most no matter the genre.

  15. Detra says:

    I have always thought of New York City as one of the characters in the J.D. Robb “In Death” series. Even though it is set in the future they still mention some of the monuments we are familiar with today and you can tell that Eve loves her city.

  16. Sandlynn says:

    I think this is a great idea. I love city settings, especially since so many sections of cities, especially in the eastern US, are like small towns themselves.

    From what I can remember, the following may qualify:
    Paradise by Judith McNaught (Chicago)
    Kill and Tell by Linda Howard (New Orleans)
    Hidden Riches by Nora Roberts (Philadelphia)
    Dual Image/Local Hero from Truly, Madly Manhattan by Nora Roberts (New York City)
    Overseas by Beatriz Williams (New York City)
    The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot (New York City)
    Love in Bloom’s by Judith Arnold (New York City)
    Grace Grows by Shelle Sumner (New York City)
    Body Check by Deirdre Martin (New York City)
    Fair Play by Deirdre Martin (New York City)
    The Monk Donwstairs by Tim Farrington (San Francisco)
    Simply Irresistible by Rachel Gibson (Seattle)
    See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson (Seattle)
    Girl From Mars by Julie Cohen (London)
    I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (London)

  17. Sandlynn says:

    Should add Hustle Sweet Love by Maggie Davis (New York City)

  18. [...] this month I wrote here about wanting to start a new Special Title List for Big City Romances. You gave me a lot of great [...]