Top 5 Romance Books // 5 Fall Favorites 2022 Day 4

Welcome to day 4 of Five Fall Favorites! It still isn’t at all chilly or like a stereotypical fall here, but I went ahead and got out a plaid blanket for cozy reading on the couch. Even if it’s not cool enough to wrap up yet, it’s nice to have the aesthetic and acknowledge the transition of time with something visual.

In case you haven’t caught the previous posts, Five Fall Favorites is an annual time for the bookish community to celebrate fall and good books. Each day has a genre theme, around which participants share five book recommendations. There is a fall-themed giveaway that you can earn entries toward throughout the week, and several authors offer freebies or deals on their ebooks during this event. If you are looking for a good book or want to revel in the autumnal aesthetic, I hope you will stick around! More details and the giveaway can be found on the host’s site/landing page, Once Upon an Ordinary.

Today we’re talking about books with a romance element. I’m a sucker for soft, borderline-cheesy romances. There are so many I have enjoyed in the past! However, I’ve actually been wondering recently if this is such a good thing; I recently heard a scathing criticism of Hallmark-style romances, and it’s given me a lot to think about. The consequences, from their perspective, are more serious than setting up unrealistic expectations. I’m not going to dive into the whole discourse today – this day is about healthy, enjoyable romance stories, after all! – but I wanted to put it out there because it has been on my mind so much. I don’t know where my own conviction will end up landing, and I would be interested in hearing what y’all think.

So, settle into your favorite cozy spot for today’s recommendation of top 5 books with a romance element!

Top 5 Romance Books

Starting off with a book that has a protagonist who I wish I could be best friends with: Never Say Goodbye by Sarah Grace Grzy (2020). This book, y’all! If ever my personality were captured in a book, it’s this one. It is absolutely beautiful – but that doesn’t mean it’s all roses and no thorns. From the gorgeous, stormy cover to the accident-prone bookstore that Alyvia seeks to revitalize, this book is filled with beauty and a touch a heartbreak. As the story progresses, we get to see much of that heartbreak turn into healing. If you don’t mind books that pull on your heartstrings and want to sink into a beautiful, cozy aesthetic with a sweet and clean romance to boot, Never Say Goodbye should be at the top of your TBR! See my full review here.

Even though I used the first book in this trilogy yesterday, I had to mention Reached by Ally Condie (Matched #3) (2012) today. Ky and Cassia have matured quite a bit by this point in their story, and their romance is no longer based on a split second of attraction or outside influences. After taking some time to read negative reviews of this book, I think I understand a bit better why a lot of people just don’t get it. Condie spent so much time on the more subtle, academic elements which I adore, so I enjoyed the romance being fairly simple. Well, as simple as a YA love triangle set in a dystopian world can be, which still isn’t very. This book builds well on the philosophy and details of the previous ones and doesn’t wrap everything up neatly, because things never truly wrap up neatly. Overthrowing a government is dangerous, and continues to be dangerous regardless of what path people take in its wake (this is something Westerfeld explores really well in the Impostors series). Still, one of the lesser-discussed threads in this series is that of characters finding their people – and I will die on the hill that the protagonists all find their people. It’s not where they expect, or where anyone else expects, but it is right, and I, for one, love it.

The next book I have to recommend is, I think, much less contested in the literary world: A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin (Wings of Glory #1) (2010). As I was drafting this post, I realized that this may have been the first true Christian romance book I ever read. I remember picking it up from a display at the library on a whim during my sophomore year of college, more drawn by anticipating themes of music and flying than of romance. I don’t think I had even heard the distinction of “clean” romance before, to be completely honest. I was then blown away by this book. The historical setting is very well done, the characters are ones I can empathize with, and the story is satisfying while still leaving the necessary room for the rest of the books in the series. If you are not already familiar with Sundin’s work, this is a good place to start. She has written prolifically and I have enjoyed almost all of her books, but this is easily my favorite. You can find my review of this book on my previous blog, here. (I’ve also just remembered while adding in that link that the author commented on my review – I had forgotten about that, and how much it meant to me as a new reviewer. I was elated about that simple comment for days! I don’t know how or why Sundin found my review, but I am still thankful for her kindness.)

Dandelion Dust by Faith Potts (2017) is another strong Christian romance, even though it does dip back into YA territory. It’s a fairly short book, covering a lot of ground in a short span of pages. This is probably the most emotional book on this list, even more than Never Say Goodbye. The stakes are high, and even though there definitely is not a triangle, there is still a healthy tension and some (well, that’s an understatement) uncertainty about the future. Through everything, the characters stay strong in their faith, and are an encouragement to read. If you’re looking for a romance that has fewer social complications than most with strong and well-utilized Christian content, especially if you are partial to indie authors, this is a novella that I highly recommend! You can read my full review here.

Finally, we’ve come to Hearts on Lonely Mountain by A.M. Heath (Librarians of Willow Hollow #3) (2020). Unlike some of the protagonists in other books I have mentioned, in this book we have one who is almost nothing like me, and that makes reading it a different kind of enjoyable. While I couldn’t put myself in her shoes at all, it was interesting and enjoyable to read with almost no idea of what would happen next or what she would do next. Despite using one of my least favorite tropes (oh no, circumstances beyond our control mean that the love interest is the *only one* around to save the day, but saving the day means we are stuck in an isolated place together for an unusual duration of time, and now people are going to talk), I actually really like the story and the writing. The biggest plot points may be moderately predictable, but how we get from one to the next is not at all. Also, like the other books in the series, Hearts on Lonely Mountain is set in Depression-era Kentucky and features horseback librarians, so it had a lot going for it. It clearly followed through, and it’s another strong recommendation! You can read my full review here.

More Blog Party Fun

Maybe it’s silly, but talking about good, clean romance books warms my heart. I hope you have found a few to consider adding to your TBR!

Also, I saw this cozy pumpkin soup recipe on A Beautiful Mess Blog yesterday, and it has me wishing for fall and hot soup season even more than I already was! It looks so delicious.

Random fall question of the day: When you’re looking for something cozy, do you reach for things that are fuzzy or more sturdy? I will always go for the fuzziest, softest things, but I have a friend who says that some things are just “too soft.” I don’t think I will ever come across something that is too soft, but to each their own!

Until the next chapter,

Jana

11 thoughts on “Top 5 Romance Books // 5 Fall Favorites 2022 Day 4

Add yours

  1. I’m glad to see someone else loved Dandelion Dust—it’s so sweet! Never Say Goodbye is reallllly good too. And I really want to try Matched and Sarah Sundin’s books. Also, I’m glad to hear you recommend Hearts on Lonely Mountain—I also hate that trope so I was wary of it but now I feel more confident about giving it a chance!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dandelion Dust really is sweet and underrated! And, I can’t say enough good things about Never Say Goodbye. It and Grzy’s other book, Live Without You, have become my go-to mid-winter reads when the world is cold and I want to read something cozy 😅. The Matched series and all of Sarah Sundin’s books are really good in very different ways, too! I hope you enjoy them if you do check them out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The cover for Never Say Goodbye makes me happy every time I see it, and I’m delighted to see Reached here. 😉

    I thought a lot about what you mentioned about romantic movies. I think for every genre there’s a “serious and realistic” side and a “cheesy and fluffy” side. I know at least for action it’s that way. Especially when I’m dealing with depression, I gravitate towards a cheesy action movie where I know that no matter what the hero is going to survive and save the day. The predictability is comforting and hopeful, and I do get a good laugh out of the particularly ridiculous scenes. 😂 I think romance movies can be the same way, and in moderation and balance with more realistic ones, I don’t really see a problem. 😉 My two cents. Thanks for the interesting topic to think about!

    Liked by 1 person

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