I don’t have to convince anyone that these are strange times. On the one hand, book review websites like Fresh Fiction can function as normal–I already work from home! I can access review copies digitally! The internet never sleeps!–but on the other, I’m barraged with news notifications, mortified at the misinformation being shared as fact, and I’m just all around distracted and worried.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve found comfort in books. Everywhere I went, I had at least one book, often more, with me. Now I can carry many books around, be it a small paperback, on my eReader, or on my phone. I find when I’m anxious or worked up over something – and let’s face it, there’s a lot to be worried about right – I turn to books for solace and peace of mind. My favorite way to do this is through re-reading. Sometimes full books, sometimes just a scene or two, but going back to the books and authors that make me happy has been a surefire way to calm me down, cheer me up, and let my mind escape. Here are some of my favorite re-reads and why:
This was the first romance novel my mom thought she was recommending to me, even though she’d later find out (ahem, like a few months ago, which is ADORABLE) I’d been stealing her romance for years. But looking back, as a 16 or 17-year-old was the perfect time to read BORN IN FIRE by Nora Roberts, and the rest of the Born In trilogy. The heroine, a strong and sassy wildly gifted glassblower and the hero is a gallery owner who wants to make her into a world-renowned artist. They argue, they make up, they argue some more. . . it’s pretty great.
LITTLE WOMEN is a book I like to re-read scenes from – Jo cutting her hair, Beth playing the piano at the Lawrences’, Meg falling in love with Mr. Brooke… and even the upsetting plot points, like Amy burning Jo’s book and Laurie’s heartfelt yet failed proposal to Jo. I think I return to LITTLE WOMEN so often because this was among the first “big” books I remember reading, both in that it was actually humongous and that it was a classic.
One of the reasons I love this book by Beverly Jenkins is that I normally do not gravitate toward westerns – historical or contemporary. The stakes are high in this one from the start – a mail order bride who accidentally (maybe) shoots her husband-to-be and then stands her ground and still wants to marry him. The hero has lost his wife and wants a mother for his daughter and the heroine is his last chance. This is the third book in Ms. Bev’s Old West Series, which can be read on its own, and is a joy every single time.
Between the lush descriptions, the meticulous historical detail, and time-slip/time jump plotlines that actually make sense, THE WINTER SEA by Susanna Kearsley, is, at its core, a wonderfully told story. A modern-day writer goes to Scotland to research her family history, which is the basis for her newest book. But while she’s there, she begins reliving the past, and uncovers a dangerous and long-kept secret about the woman who will shape the history of her family, and of Scotland. It’s atmospheric, richly imagined, and a great way to escape for a few hours.
If it’s historical, I’m all about it. THE HEIR by Grace Burrowes is the start of her Windham Family Saga, which runs for many, MANY books, has various spinoffs, and each one is warm, and cozy, and supremely well-written. I think the reason I return to THE HEIR so often is because you really get a sense of the world Burrowes is building throughout this series – her heroes are strong and capable, but also emotional and vulnerable. Her heroines are steadfast and straightforward, but also vivacious and interesting. I have loved so many books in this series, and this one is where it all began.
*Full disclosure: I used to work for the publisher that published both of these books, which is how I was introduced to both of these authors and their wonderful work! While I no longer work for the publisher, I am still a fan of their books.
Interestingly enough, my go-to comfort reads are all older books! But that doesn’t mean I haven’t found newer books that I’ve been returning to especially during these tumultuous times.
One of my favorite series in recent years, Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals is truly remarkable – there’s sweeping romance, political intrigue, comedic moments, and so much more. Again, I think the reason I return to A PRINCESS IN THEORY is, similarly to THE HEIR, this is the book that starts it all. You’re introduced to the fictional African nation of Thesolo, the prince searching for his betrothed, who happens to be a grad student studying to become an epidemiologist in New York. She’s been getting spam emails from someone claiming to be an African prince who wants to marry her for years, and it turns out those emails are true! Alyssa Cole is hands down one of my absolute favorite authors ever, and I recommend her every chance I get.
I’m not a regular young adult reader, but I saw this one as an eBook deal a few years ago and gobbled it up in less than a day. Simon’s story of figuring out who he is, where he fits in within his friend group and family, and his school, and possibly falling for someone he’s only ever emailed is wonderfully relatable, even if you aren’t a teenager. Albertalli’s writing sounds like a teenager but isn’t jarring. Simon’s journey into young adulthood and self-discovery is really lovely.
I absolutely fell in love with what Romancelandia has fondly called the “Ren Faire” book! This is Jen DeLuca’s debut novel and it’s a delight. Emily is new in the small Maryland town where her sister and niece live, both of whom she’s helping out after her sister is rehabilitating after an accident. Her teenage niece wants to volunteer at the local Ren Faire for the summer but needs a parent/guardian to also volunteer with her. Emily reluctantly agrees to be a bar wench, and immediately clashes with Simon, the Faire organizer, local English teacher, and acts as a sexy pirate during the fair. Come for the leather pants, stay for the Shakespeare jokes.
This series has been widely recommended, but I heard about it on an episode of the Whoa!mance podcast and one of the hosts said it was the best graphic novel/comic series she’s read. I devoured the 9 volumes of Saga over about a month, and I had to make myself slow down. The sci-fi storyline is riveting – and yes, there’s a romance, a forbidden romance – the artwork is gorgeous, and it tackles a ton of big issues in a really smart way.
And Honorable Mentions because we all need more comfort reads: Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes, Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon, How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K.Eason, Smitten by the Brit by Melonie Johnson
COMMENT TO WIN: What books do you turn to for comfort? Tell us in the comments and you’ll be entered to win one of the highly-coveted Surprise Boxes from Love’s Sweet Arrow, a romance-focused independent bookstore in Chicago. Be sure to check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for deals, future book clubs and events, and all-around fun. They also have a robust online store and a great newsletter. US ONLY – Good luck! Here’s an example of what the box will look like:
Fresh Fiction Editorial Manager Danielle Dresser is an avid reader, lackluster-yet-mighty crafter, and accomplished TV binge-watcher. Once upon a time, she was a publisher publicist and continues to cultivate her love of books and reading by chatting with the best authors in the business. She lives in Chicagoland with her very own romance hero husband, darling daughter, and two tempestuous cats. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @dj_dresser.