Trisha a contributor to Bookriot, part of the When in Romance podcast duo (with Jessica Pryde) and romance lover, is on the road for the next ten months and so she is bringing us a rec post full of romances where love blooms on the road!
On the window of Magic City Books in Tulsa, OK, you’ll find a quote from author Jhumpa Lahiri: “That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”
It’s an incredible thing to experience new places and perspectives through a story. But I’ve undertaken a multi-month road trip through the continental United States (hence that stop at a Tulsa bookstore) and it’s made me even more interested in what one or both characters hitting the road does to romance stories.
Plunging the characters into a new context offers a different lens for character development and tension, and a skilled author takes those things and uses them to move and mold a story in a way I find incredibly satisfying. It’s not just a matter of throwing a couple of suitcases and maybe a plane ticket into the mix. Different kinds of travel dynamics – traveling together, traveling out of necessity, traveling with responsibility for the lives or livelihoods of others – all create different kinds of complicated circumstances. Throwing a love story into the mix could be a disaster, and sometimes it is…right up until the HEA.
Let’s start with some of those “blazing the trail together” romances in which our romantic leads venture out to attend a book convention, enjoy a fake honeymoon or save the world. That last one isn’t an exaggeration. Alyssa Cole is often sending her characters to different corners of the planet, but my favorite of her road trip romances is Signal Boost, the second in her Off the Grid series. Following the mysterious and disastrous collapse of the electronic grid in Radio Silence, John Seong finds an opportunity to help get things up and running when he decides help a mysterious young astrophysicist named Mykhail get to the university that may hold some answers. The way the dangerous roads and the high stakes require John and Mykhail to build a trusting partnership adds dimension to an already poignant and vulnerable romance.
There are some similar themes in Jennie Lin’s Butterfly Swords. Set in China during the Tang Dynasty, Princess Ai Li has no choice but to flee before her wedding once she learns a secret about her prospective groom. When she encounters Ryam, a western traveler with secrets of his own, they decide to travel together, navigating not only another dangerous road, but also disappointments and challenges related to family, loyalty, and honor.
I know, I know – that’s a lot of very intense time on the road. But sometimes people travel for fun! Or at least mostly for fun. Take Talia Hibbert’s That Kind of Guy, the third in her Ravenswood series: Rae wants to take a date to a book convention at which she’s nominated for an award, and her friend Zach offers to go and be her fake boyfriend. Taking the two out of their small town and dropping them in a hotel (complete with a room with only one bed) allows for Hibberts’ trademark combo of humor and authenticity as her characters work toward their HEA.
Also on the lighter side is The Unhoneymooners, a new rom com by Christina Lauren in which Olive finds herself offered a free trip to Hawaii…as long as she goes with her new brother-in law/nemesis, Ethan. Oh, also, they have to pretend they’re married. The trip itself is full of the hijinks and banter Christina Lauren is known for, but things get real once the unhoneymoon is over. That tropical getaway is all well and good, but you can go home again. And in fact, you MUST go home again – and when you do, you often have to confront all of the real life problems and people from which vacations grant us a temporary reprieve.
My favorite group of road warriors, though, have to be Twisted Wishes, the band from Anna Zabo’s
Twisted Wishes series. As a band, they’re on the road all of the time which requires the kind of tight quarters that can put a lot of pressure on any budding relationship. But it does allow for sexy tour bus shenanigans, so it all works out. Each of the three books in the series is fantastic, so just read them all: Syncopation is #1, Counterpoint is #2, and Reverb – admittedly my new favorite – is #3.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention a couple of the fantastic romances in which a traveler is (often literally) flying solo. In many of these books, a character sets out in search for independence, a fresh start, a better life, or even all three. Newly on the shelves is The Bride Test, Helen Hoang’s new romance about Khai, a handsome math and numbers whiz who’s autistic, and Esme, the hardworking and driven Vietnamese woman his mother recruits to marry him. The story is beautiful and unique in so many ways, but the way a struggling Esme is determined to succeed in a new country and culture hooked me into this book as much as anything. As my brilliant Book Riot colleague Annika Barranti Klein has pointed out, The Bride Test is at least as much a book about an immigrant experience as it is about romance.
Beverly Jenkins is another author who likes to send her characters far and wide, and her newest book, Rebel, is no exception. Set in 1867, Rebel’s Valinda Lacy has come to New Orleans from New York City so that she can teach. Her plan is to do so temporarily – even after she meets the handsome and wealthy Drake LeVeq – and then to return north when her fiancé comes back from Europe. But life and circumstance have a way of disrupting any traveler’s plans. (Falling in love can also throw a bit of a wrench into the works.) Jenkins’ extensive research and exceptional attention to historic detail makes Rebel even more captivating for anyone who is reading along as Valinda’s plans shift. (Rebel will be out May 28.)
There are so many other great travel books out there – let us know your favorites! Make sure to use the #RomBkLove hashtag when you share on Twitter and other social media so that I know what I should be reading while on the road.
How to participate?
Readers: Respond to the prompts! Share your favorite books, characters, scenes, or thoughts on tropes. Make sure to include the #RomBkLove hashtag with your tweet! If you have read and loved a book by LGBTQIA+, Disabled, and/or Authors of Color that fits the prompt please, please mention it. You might think everyone has heard of the book but I can guarantee you there are lots of people who still need to hear about it.
Authors: You are welcome to participate too, as fellow readers. The tag is not meant for self-promotion. Boost fellow authors, celebrate the community but do so in a way that respect reader spaces. Respect the conversation. Join in to rec the books you love that fit the theme/trope/prompt. Yes, you can say “I wrote a book with this trope” but please don’t spam the hashtag with generic promo.
For a list of all of these month's prompts and archives go to: https://www.anacoqui.com/2019/04/rombklove-may-2019-celebrating-inclusive-romance.html