Even if you hate the mostly commercial holiday and would rather ignore its existence, a great love story is never a bad idea. We asked resident reviewer Bernadette Bloom for her recent romantic faves.
Last week the heating in my car died, my garage door got a crack in it from the frigid temps, and I managed a doozy of a head cold. (And yes, it was only a head cold. I checked.) So, when I tell you I escaped my problems by curling up with a few good books under a duvet and an afghan, I’m not kidding. My book travels took me to South Korea, Seattle, Washington and Alaska in the span of three days. Allow me to introduce you to my new friends.
Seoulmates, by Jen Frederick
Hara Wilson was adopted from South Korea by American parents when she was just a baby. After her American father dies, she decides, on a bit of a whim,
to go to Korea and try to connect to her roots. When she arrives, she mistakes a tall, good-looking man named Yujun for her hired driver. When she and Yujun fall in love, she decides to stay in Korea. Except in this world, she and Yujun can’t be together because he is considered her stepbrother. Yujun, in his own quiet way, shows how he is proudly Korean, but as a modern man, won't be bullied over his love for Hara. Meanwhile, Hara tries desperately to acclimatize herself to life in South Korea, attempting to navigate the language barrier, the country's work culture and fitting in with her coworkers. As if that isn't enough, she's also coming to terms with her not-so-welcome standing in her new-found family, and her homesickness for her Mom, Ellen.
This is a poignant, sensitive story of love, and what really, truly constitutes as family. It's also a look at how culture influences us, what we are willing to sacrifice for family, and for love, and how far we'll go when we know what our future should look like. The underlying story of two of Hara’s friends is equally compelling, shedding light on how LGBTQ relationships are seen through the eyes of other cultures. Really, it’s a fascinating look at how cultures can blend together beautifully.
Weather Girl, by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Arielle Abrams is a meteorologist with a sunny disposition who always tries to stay upbeat. In reality, she suffers from depression, something she tries to hide in relationships because guys find that "she's too much" sometimes. Russell Barringer is a sports journalist, and a single dad. When their divorced bosses make their TV station workplace a hostile environment, they decide to play matchmaker and get them back together. Which is a great plan because it forces Ari and Russell to spend more time together. I loved the open and honest portrayal of depression in this story. Russell and Ari have real, everyday issues and problems that make their characters extremely relatable. From body issues to parenting woes, it’s a modern take on finding love amidst the baggage we carry.
Another bright spot is the Jewish representation in this novel, which I find is rarely seen in romance. It adds another layer of depth to the already realistic characters.
Running Wild by K.A. Tucker
Okay, pardon me while I fangirl for a minute: This is, without a doubt, my most favourite romance series. Added bonus, it’s written by a Canadian author. The series begins with The Simple Wild where we meet Calla Fletcher, a big city girl fro
m Toronto who left Alaska with her mother when she was two years old. When she heads back to reconnect with her father, she meets Jonah Riggs, a bush pilot with an even bushier beard and a dislike for “her kind” that runs deep. Jonah and Calla’s story continues in Wild at Heart, and the novella, Forever Wild. The nice thing is, though, that you don't need to read the whole series to enjoy this instalment. I just wanted you to get on this train with me.
Running Wild is the story of Dr. Marie Lehr, a veterinarian carrying on her father’s practice after his retirement. She volunteers at the Iditarod Sled Dog race, rescues animals and is a crusader for animal rights. When she's brought a sled dog that's clearly been abused, she decides to find out the truth. She ends up on Tyler Brady's property full of suspicion, but what she sees doesn't mesh with what she's been told. When she meets up with him again during the Iditarod she finds herself drawn to him. And when Tyler offers her his friendship she finds herself back in a very familiar situation...
This is a romance of a different order. At 38, Marie isn’t interested in wasting her time with guys who don’t want what she wants, or who don’t make her heart sing. She’s not willing to settle for anything less than what she deserves. She’s open and honest about her hopes, her dreams, her fears, her desires. She puts her heart on the line every time, and she's so freaking brave it makes me cry.
The conversations in this story are frank, and honest. Marie’s loneliness is palpable, and her desires aren’t the whims of a woman who hasn’t lived a life. Likewise, it’s refreshing to have a hero who doesn’t play games, and who isn’t hiding under toxic masculinity. It doesn’t hurt to have some pretty cute dogs in the story, either.
So, there you have it: Three modern romances for the thinking woman. Each one offers a wider view of the world in terms of culture and content. Each one delivers characters who are well-rounded and likeable, yet somewhat flawed. Each one has a message about love, family, sacrifice and hope. Snuggle in. I hope you like the people you’ll meet on these pages as much as I did.
Post image: Aung Soe Min/Unsplash