Kate Cuthbert’s Challenge: Read These 5 Romance Novels and Then Tell Me You Don’t Love Romance Novels

by |February 15, 2012

Kate and John before Romance came between them...

Kate Cuthbert, Editor of Booktopia’s Monthly Romance BUZZ has asked me to read the five romance novels featured below. She knows that I don’t read romance novels. I’ve read 19th century romances but I have never finished a Fabio-covered romance. She ardently (I can use ‘ardently’ in this context) believes I haven’t fallen in love with the romance genre because I have not read the ‘right’ romance novels. Kate is not a zealot. She’s a pragmatist. She knows if she succeeds in converting me my twitter stream will begin to be peppered with references to the genre. It is all about spreading the word, you know. Romance readers of the world unite!…  and all that.

Of course, I am not convinced. In fact, I am not sure whether I will take up the challenge. My reading history shows no sign that I am on the verge of converting to romance novels. But, what the hey… As Kate is a delight to work with I shall list the books she believes have the power to seduce me away from my George Meredith.

These Five Romance Novels, Chosen By Kate Cuthbert, Will Make A Romance Reader Out of Just About Anyone (even me)

Flowers from the Storm

by Laura Kinsale

The Duke of Jervaulx was brilliant and dangerous.

Considered dissolute, reckless, and extravagant, he was transparently referred to as the ′D of J′ in scandal sheets, where he and his various exploits featured with frequency.

But sometimes the most womanising rake can be irresistible, and even his most casual attentions fascinated the sheltered Maddy Timms, quiet daughter of a simple mathematician.


Dark Country

by Bronwyn Parry

They’ve considered him a murderer for eighteen years, so no one in Dungirri is surprised when Gil Gillespie returns and a woman s body is found in his car. Wearied by too many deaths and doubting her own skills, local police sergeant Kris Mathews isn’t sure whether Gil is a decent man wronged by life, or a hardened criminal she should lock up. She does know he s not guilty of this murder, though, because she is his alibi.

Gil isn’t used to feeling anything for anyone. But there s a teenager here who has his eyes – a daughter he never knew existed. And the sergeant s fiery tenacity stirs his blood. He can t acknowledge either. He s made too many enemies in the Sydney Mafia and amongst corrupt cops. Kris s alibi might have saved him from a murder charge but her dedication to finding the truth has made her a target.

Gil is surrounded by wilderness, but there s no place to hide because his enemies have most of the town on their side, and they know that the one thing most punishing would be harming the few people he cares about.


The Perfect Rake

by Anne Gracie

She ran from a brute…
Fleeing the harsh guardianship of her grandfather, Prudence Merridew escapes with her beautiful younger sisters to London. One of them must marry—and fast. To act as her sisters’ chaperone, Prudence invents a secret engagement to a reclusive duke… But when the duke arrives unexpectedly in London, she needs his help to avert disaster.

…into the arms of a rake
Aristocratic Gideon, handsome, rakish and with a strong frivolous streak, casually hijacks Prudence’s game, awarding himself a stolen kiss or three along the way. Used to managing sisters and elderly men, Prudence is completely out of her depth with a charming, devious and utterly irresistible rake. And her plot goes terribly—if deliciously—awry…


What Happens In London

by Julia Quinn

Rumours and Gossip . . . The lifeblood of London

When Olivia Bevelstoke is told that her new neighbour may have killed his fiancée, she doesn’t believe it for a second, but, still, how can she help spying on him, just to be sure? So she stakes out a spot near her bedroom window, cleverly concealed by curtains, watches, and waits . . . and discovers a most intriguing man, who is definitely up to something.

Sir Harry Valentine works for the boring branch of the War Office, translating documents vital to national security. He’s not a spy, but he’s had all the training, and when a gorgeous blonde begins to watch him from her window, he is instantly suspicious. But just when he decides that she’s nothing more than an annoyingly nosy debutante, he discovers that she might be engaged to a foreign prince, who might be plotting against England. And when Harry is roped into spying on Olivia, he discovers that he might be falling for her himself . . .


Agnes and the Hitman

by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

If you can’t stand the heat…

Agnes Crandall’s problems are roiling to a boil. First, a dog-napper invades her kitchen, seriously hampering her attempts to put on a wedding that’s she’s staked her entire net worth on. Then a man climbs through her bedroom window to save her. “Shane” (no last name) may be Agnes’s hero, but he’s also a professional hitman–so he’s no stranger to trouble himself…

Get out of the kitchen.

Between a rival who wants to take him out and an uncle who may have lost five million bucks in Agnes’s basement, Shane’s plate is plenty full. Soon Agnes and Shane are tangled up with the lowlifes after the money, a gang of Southern mob wedding guests, a dog named Rhett, and–most dangerous of all–each other.


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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • February 15, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Hm…The only Fabio-ish cover up there is the one you chose…

  • February 15, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I’ve read three of them, DNF’d a fourth, and need to try #5. Of the three I read, I adore one, liked okay another, and was exasperated by the third. (Names are being withheld to protect me from fangrrrls.)

    Still, I admire the concept. Makes me wonder what five books I’d list for my own challenge!

  • Kylie

    February 15, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Oh My God. The thing with any challenge is you have to weigh up the benefits of the sense of accomplishment you feel with the pitfalls. In this case I think the mockery potential and damage to your lit credentials far outweighs the accomplishment factor 🙂 But maybe you should do it, these books could become your secret guilty pleasure, soon you will be ordering them under a psudonym (from Booktopia) and having them delivered to a PO Box. LOL

  • February 15, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I’m buying 3 of them & then will let you know what I think. I love a good romance every now and again 🙂

  • February 15, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I’d choose 5 different books, although one of them would still be a Kinsale. I do like The Perfect Rake, although it needed a second read for me to really appreciate it. For the literary crowd, I’d probably include a Jo Goodman (maybe one of her Westerns) and Demon Angel by Meljean Brook (because most romance readers complain it’s too long, which I reckon the lit crowd would love).

    But seriously. A list of 5 is nowhere near enough for a good sample!

  • February 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    And why not try sweeter romance novels – e.g. anything by Marion Lennox, Nikki Logan.

  • February 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    I have read 3 of the books and loved them I do have Flowers From The Storm on the TBR pile but I made need to get the Jennifer Cruise/ Bob Mayer one

    This is going to be good

    Have Fun

  • February 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    yeah, five is waaaay too little! Out of all of them, I’ve read Kinsale (with the original cover!) and yet to read the Crusie/Mayer one (far behind on my TBR 🙂 ). I’d add Helene Young’s Shattered Sky, early Kristin Hannah (Once in Every Life or Waiting for the Moon) and JD Robb’s Naked In Death. In fact, I reckon you’d really like JD Robb, John. Lots of gritty stuff to balance out the romance 😀

  • Greybeard

    February 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Don’t do it! It’s a trap. Think of your self respect, the inevitable softening of your brain and atrophy of your critical faculties. You haven’t even mentioned money. Is there money involved? A lot of it?

    • February 15, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      It’s not a romance if it softens or–heaven forbid!–atrophies. Vampirism solves the latter. 😀

  • February 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    whole lotta waxin’ goin’ on for blokes in romance world…

  • February 15, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    What about Loretta Chase? Lord of Scoundrels or Mr Impossible? Funny and smart.

  • February 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    while I think the challenge is worthy – I do have to protest the lack of paranormal representation. How about a little Jeanine Frost or JR Ward even…

  • cassie

    February 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    That is not Fabio so you are safe. I would definately add Loretta Chase’s book Lord of Scoundrels to your list. You won’t regret it.

    I have read all but one of these on the list and loved them all.

  • eli yanti

    February 16, 2012 at 12:06 am

    i love all romance novel 😉

  • karen

    February 16, 2012 at 5:08 am

    Go on, read ’em, they won’t hurt you and you might find you actually like them and not only will it not make you less of a man, you might learn something really useful 😉
    While I wouldn’t have suggested reading so many historicals, these are all good writers, I especially like Julia Quinn, but there are many genre of ‘romance’ and I would have mixed it up a bit so a wider variety was in the challenge.

    • February 16, 2012 at 7:38 am

      Hello Karen,

      This list was chosen by Kate for me specifically as I have an interest in 19th century literature and as I expressed an interest in the Regency period.
      Thanks for your comment.


  • February 16, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    You never know you may learn something. 🙂 🙂

  • February 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    At the UK’s Festival of Romance in October 2011 there was a debate about how to get more men reading romantic fiction. I don’t remember anybody saying, ‘Challenge them to!’ but it seems to be working quite well, in this case.

    Whenever I read lazy, illogical articles about romantic fiction I wonder whether the writer has actually studied the market, or has simply perpetuated unsubstantiated, bigoted myths churned out by all the lazy, illogical journalists before them. Maybe we ought to issue similar challenges to them …

    • February 17, 2012 at 8:29 am

      No one can resist a double-dog dare 😉

  • March 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Well, I’ve read ‘The Perfect Rake’ by Anne Gracie & loved it! It was a chilly rainy day and I was worn-out from too much work – I made a cup of tea, curled p in bed, and read it throug in a single sitting. I particularly enjoyed the witty dialogue and the lightness of touch – she reminded me of Georgette Heyer mroe than anyone I’ve ever read (and I love Georgette Heyer). I’ll be reading more from Anne Gracie.

    I’ll report back once I’ve read the others.

    • Kate Cuthbert

      March 5, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      Hooray! And she’s a candidate for the Australian Women Writers Challenge if you’re taking part. So glad you enjoyed the novel!

      • March 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm

        I am taking part in the Ausrtalian Women Online challenge! thanks for reminding me 🙂

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