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Cross-Genre Romance
By Hilary Williamson, February 2001

As February 14th looms on the horizon and Cupid takes a few practice shots around the globe, BookLoons reviewers have been browsing our shelves in search of romantic reads ... and we've found quite a few in all the genres, both recent publications and classics. Here's what we recommend for Valentine's Day gifts and reading.

Old favorites are always the best for those sentimentally inclined and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice tops my list. This and many more of Austen's best are now available on the screen as well as in book format, and the more recent video and DVD versions do a good job of staying true to the original. Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha is of more recent vintage but also heading for the big screen. It reveals the cruel underpinnings of some of the illusions of romance but there's a tale of true love in there as well. I also enjoy re-reading Georgette Heyer's light and witty tales such as Arabella, or her more serious romance set in the Napoleonic Wars An Infamous Army.

Speaking of Historical novels, the past provides many wonderful settings for love. Rafael Sabatini set his old style romances ('I would not love thee dear so much ...') in venues like the French Revolution (Scaramouche) and the High Seas (Captain Blood). Ahdaf Soueif's recent Map of Love interweaves love stories between Egyptian men and European/American women in both the modern day and Egypt at the turn of the 20th century. And Lindsey Davis took a detour from her amusing Falco mysteries to provide us with The Course of Honor about the lifelong love between Emperor Vespasianus and the slave girl Caenis (it starts with a sausage!).

Mysteries often have a strong core of romantic interest. In fact in those like Julie Garwood's Heartbreaker, the thriller becomes a foil for the love story, not the other way around. Robert Parker gives us his unique approach to true love and relationships in both his Spenser and his new Sunny Randall series. Cassie Swann finally gives in to the blandishments of her relentless suitor Charlie Quartermain in Susan Moody's Dummy Hand, and Susan Wittig Albert actually manages to get the knot tied between China and McQuaid in Lavender Lies.

The best romantic science fiction includes old favorites like Anne McCaffrey's delightful tale of adventure and love, Restoree and Robert Heinlein's Door Into Summer - his naive genius hero Dan Davis invents time travel to find the 'door into summer' and get the girl. Of more recent vintage, Lois McMaster Bujold's A Civil Campaign tells of spring in Vorbarr Sultana and weddings in the air. And Sharon Shinn does a wonderful job of describing the advent of true love in her Samaria series, a world of angels, mortals, oracles and the armed shipboard computer that manipulates their lives and loves from on high.

Fantasy stories cover a range of romance from the more traditional like Ann Marston's Rune Blade and Sword in Exile trilogies to Laurell K. Hamilton's bizarre tales of vampire executioner Anita Blake's love for both a werewolf and a vampire. Relatively recent favorites are Orson Scott Card's Enchantment, Guy Gavriel Kay's Lord of Emperors, Robin McKinley's Blue Sword, Judith Tarr's Kingdom of the Grail and, for young love, Philip Pullman's Amber Spyglass.

Whatever your genre preference, there's lots of scope for vicarious literary romance. So curl up with a classic, historical, mystery, fantasy or SF love story with some candy on hand - and if you're looking for a great chocolate recipe, delve into Diane Mott Davidson's Dying For Chocolate first.
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