Jasmine Guillory on Her New Book and Favorite Romance Novels

Thirty pages into Jasmine Guillory’s latest novel, Love is a drunken affairA one-night romance that changed both the lives of two characters has taken place in ‘The Secret Garden,’ which is out Sept. 20. Margot Noble is under immense pressure running her family’s Napa Valley winery alongside her brother, but she finds an unexpected release in a hot fling one night with Luke, a handsome stranger and former Silicon Valley techie who, unbeknownst to either of them, also happens to be Margot’s newest employee. Sparks fly as Margot and Luke are forced to transition from lovers to colleagues in an instant, leaving them to contend with their undeniable sexual tension in a heady romance that’s worth savoring.

It can be hard to pin down just what makes a romance novel swoon-worthy and not saccharine, especially in a genre that relies so heavily on standard tropes and clichés, but if there’s anyone who knows how to craft a gripping love story, it’s Guillory. Her best-selling novel has characters that are just as relatable as they are lovable. They navigate careers, their relationships with families and close friends, as well as romance, while also dealing with larger issues such as race and gender.

Learn more Writing a Romance Novel

Guillory’s approach to creating thoughtful and realistic depictions of love comes from being a voracious reader of the genre herself. While growing up in Oakland (Calif.), she was attracted to romance books during summer camps. She developed a mild obsession with the genre as a teenager, and found an insatiable love of them again as an adult. This allowed her to escape stress while she worked as a lawyer, as well as her new hobby of writing.

“I didn’t really dig in and start reading a ton of romance until I was in my 30s,” she says. “Once I started, I jumped right in and never stopped.”

Guillory discovered a variety of the genre’s best-known stories through her reading. She has also accumulated insights and favorite books about each trope. While her top choices run the gamut from a love story centering on a Black woman in the 19th century to a modern romantic comedy of errors in which three women discover they’re dating the same man thanks to Twitter, the throughline of all Guillory’s favorite romantic novels is the pure delight they impart, an experience that she tries to offer with her own writing. “People need influxes of joy, especially during hard times,” she says. “I hope more people realize the joy that romance novels can bring them.”

Learn More Don’t Underestimate the Power of Black Fiction

Get ahead of Love is a drunken affair’s release, Guillory spoke with TIME about her 11 favorite romantic books.

She loves historical romance books.

Devil in WinterLisa Kleypas, Wallflowers Series

“One of the authors that really sent me down the romance path was Lisa Kleypas,” Guillory says. You are hereThe Devil is Winter, the second book in Kleypas’ Regency-era Wallflower series, protagonist Evangeline seeks freedom from her conniving relatives by pursuing a marriage of convenience with London’s most infamous bachelor, the rakish viscount Sebastian. When the pair unexpectedly develop feelings for each other, their relationship is tested; first by Evangeline’s celibacy ultimatum to reform Sebastian, then by a dastardly plot against her by an enemy from her past. “I love all of her WallflowersBut books Devil in WinterIt has been a book I’ve reread many times. I checked it out from the library so many times that I eventually bought my own copy.”

Get it now: Devil in Winter Bookshop | Amazon

Destiny’s EmbraceBeverly Jenkins

“For a while, I was just reading historical romances about white people, which are lovely, but they didn’t make me feel like I had a place in romance. Then I read Beverly Jenkins and loved her books,” Guillory says, sharing that Jenkins’ novel Destiny’s EmbraceThis is her favourite work of the author. Destiny’s Embrace, the first installment in Jenkins’ Destiny trilogy, which takes place in 19th-century California, focuses on the forbidden romance between ranch owner Logan and his free-spirited housekeeper Mariah, who each must confront their true feelings for one another once Mariah’s ex-lover returns to her life.

Get it now: Destiny’s Embrace Bookshop | Amazon

The romance novel she loves is contemporary.

The Boyfriend projectFarrah Rochon

“Farrah Rochon has a collection of three books in the Boyfriend Project series about three women who meet because they discover from Twitter that they’re all dating the same man, but then become really good friends,” Guillory says. “The Boyfriend projectThe first book sets the stage for their friendship. However, each book is about one woman. While I enjoy the book’s friendships, I really love how each woman tells her own story. The way that they fall in love is so fun and thoughtful, and such a good read.”

Get it now: The Boyfriend project Bookshop | Amazon

32 CandlesErnessa T.

“It’s about a Black woman who’s turning 32 and her love story, and it’s really funny and smart,” Guillory says. “I remember sneaking away at work to read it on my phone because I was just so deep into the story.”

Get it now: 32 Candles Bookshop | Amazon

Place a BetJennifer Crusie

“I really love Place a Bet. The trope is one that I have always not really liked—you know, there’s a bet that he can get her to do something and then they fall in love—but in the hands of a great writer, it really worked,” she says. “I had so much fun reading it.”

Get it now: Place a Bet Bookshop | Amazon

Fumbled, Alexa Martin

“Alexa Martin has four books about this football team, and I love the way she writes about sports. She doesn’t ignore all of the bad stuff, but talks about it and confronts it in a really interesting way. With Fumbled, she takes another trope that was never one of my favorites: when a man and woman have a baby together before the book starts and he doesn’t know about the baby,” Guillory says. “I’ve never really loved that, but put any frog in the hands of a great writer and I will love it. She makes me really empathize with both of them.”

Get it now: Fumbled Bookshop | Amazon

Swipe Right, Alisha Rai

Swipe RightThe story centers around a surprising romance between a dating app developer and a former professional athlete. They begin their interlude by ghosting each other. It’s a look at digital love. “I just love the way that Alisha Rai deals with people going through hard stuff in a relationship and working through it together,” Guillory says. “The friendships and families in her books are done so well.”

Get it now: Swipe Right Bookshop | Amazon

She loves comfort reading romance novels

Anne of the Island, L.M. Montgomery

“There are books that I read a lot when I was a kid that we don’t think of as traditional romance novels, but there’s lots of romance in them. It’s a book I love. Anne of Green GablesBooks, particularly Anne of the IslandGilbert and her go to college. Gilbert tries unsuccessfully to make Gilbert marry her, but she rejects him. Then their friendship breaks up, and then they get back together—love it,” Guillory says. “That romance has always stuck with me because I think it’s very real; they started as enemies, then became friends, and then fell in love—that transition of a relationship is done so well, and it really makes you fall in love with them together.”

Get it now: Anne of the Island Bookshop at Amazon| Amazon

Betsy, Joe, Maud Hart Lovelace

“The Betsy Tacy books are definitely a comfort read,” Guillory says. “I love Betsy & Joe because their romance also goes through some ups and downs.” In the book, protagonist Betsy, who has had a longtime flirtation with the mysterious and stoic Joe, her academic rival, begins a summertime correspondence with him ahead of their senior year that blossoms into a real-life romance. For Guillory, Betsy and Joe’s letters are some of the sweetest parts of their love story: “There are a number of messages that Joe writes to Betsy and her to Joe in those stories that make me swoon, even now.”

Get it now: Betsy & Joe Bookshop | Amazon

Her steamiest pick

Enjoy the Pleasures, Alisha Rai

“Alisha Rai does steamy very well,” Guillory says. “The first one of hers that I read, Enjoy the Pleasures, was very steamy and great.” The novel, which wastes no time in getting hot and heavy, serves up elements like voyeurism and kinky role-play through the story of Rana, a party girl who’s ready to trade in her casual hook-ups for a Mr. Right her family approves of—that is, until handsome (and entirely unsuitable) artist Micah moves in next door.

Get it now: Enjoy the Pleasures Bookshop | Amazon

Her favourite book is hers

Get drunk in love Jasmine Guillory

What’s Guillory’s favorite among her own novels? “The problem with that question is my favorite is always the most recent one because it’s so close to my heart,” she says. “I’ve been holding it close to me for so long. I don’t really talk about my books while I’m writing them, so it still feels like it’s just mine. I feel very tender about these characters.”

Get it now: Love is a drunken affair Bookshop | Amazon

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