Rounding Up (Feminist, Bad Ass) Romance Recommendations

recommended feminist romance books

Last month, before heading to the beach, I decided I wanted to better understand the romance genre. This came in part from some incredibly ignorant comments floating around the bookish internet about the genre, and in part from my recognition that my own knowledge of an entire, vast and robust part of the publishing field is sadly lacking.

I ventured to a local bookstore only to find myself overwhelmed with rows upon rows of books that all looked--and sounded--exactly the same. I know better than to think that every single romance book ever published is exactly the same as every single other romance book ever published, but it seems publishers are doing their damnedest to make sure readers can't recognize that fact.

Awash in a sea of partially-ripped bodices and stunning six-pack abs, I turned to my ultimate bookish resource for help: Twitter.

Lo and behold, Twitter didn't let me down. In no particular order--and no, I have not read all of these, or even any of these, so I can't speak to their quality--here were the feminist-leaning, bad-ass lady heroine romance books recommended to me (all title links to and author names to author websites where possible):

Many (many!) thanks to Jenny from Reading the End and Olivia Kelly in particular for their many (many!) recommendations on this list--and to everyone else who chimed in on Twitter. Without you, I never would have purchased:

romance books from wonderbooks frederick md, delilah s. dawson, laura lee guhrke, elizabeth hoyt, julia quinn
My starter romance haul.

What's missing? Who should I add to the list? 

I'd love to include more stories by and about LGBT romances, for starters... any suggestions?


  1. Interesting take on a genre otherwise unknown to me as well. The only experience I have with "romance" books are the few Danielle Steel and Carly Phillips books I read in high school... and does Nicholas Sparks count as romance? If so, I went through a phase where I binge read all of his books too. Generally, in the past, I had been more drawn to romance books disguised as "women's fiction" a la Elin Hilderbrand. My tastes have changed SO much, and I'm just not attracted to these kinds of books anymore. But I HAVE heard of the that Sarah Maclean series, and might have to give it a go!

  2. Maybe that was why I got the itch to change the design... like swapping out winter wardrobes for summer clothes when the weather changes?

  3. Bryan G. RobinsonJuly 8, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    Excellent. Looks very good.

  4. Wow, thanks so much for including me in such an awesome roundup! I've had more than one reviewer dub my books "smart girl romance," and while I appreciate the compliment, I always feel slightly defensive of my genre. Does that imply there's such a thing as "dumb girl romance?" I often do speaking engagements where I'm the only romance author on the panel, and I like to point to the statistics gathered each year by RWA showing the average romance reader is a college-educated female in a committed romantic relationship. Not exactly the "uneducated, lonely spinster" stereotype a lot of people like to throw around. Our genre runs the gamut from steampunk to action-adventure to paranormal to mystery to my own beloved romantic comedy, and our covers are as likely to show a woman sporting an assault rifle as a ripped bodice. Again, thanks for the book love! I'm going to have to check out some of the new-to-me writers on this list!

  5. That is SUCH a good point--I hate that "smart" romance implies that there is "dumb" romance (any more so than there are "smart" and "dumb" books in any other genre). Though I've used that language myself in the past (even in this post), so have some thinking to do on how to better frame that conversation. I've enjoyed dipping my toes into the genre so far, and am kind of pissed at myself for waiting so long (so many books, yada yada yada), and am excited to learn more about all the genre has to offer!

  6. I've only read Danielle Steel's cross-genre book--I think it was called Granny Dan, about a ballerina fleeing Russia?--so don't know much about her romance books. The one Sarah Maclean book I read was great, and seemed like a great starting point into the genre from a newbie's perspective!

  7. Ooh, thanks for the future reads! I'm adding Barbara the Slut and Other People and Multiply/Divide to my list!

  8. Yippee! So glad to have been of service, and I hope your forays into the genre are overwhelmingly successful. I'll be taking some recommendations from this list myself! :)

  9. Great list! I haven't read romance since high school, but always wonder if I should give them a try again to see if I would like the stories. But once I get an eyeful of six-packs and heaving bosoms on the cover, I get scared off.


Thanks for stopping by!