HOUSTON – Texas is a beautiful, romantic place and there’s no wonder it’s inspired many authors to write about the charms of our home state.
Whether you’re an unabashed romance reader or sly romance reader on the side, here are some classics, personal recommendations, best sellers, and cult favorites you’ll want to pick up at the library, local bookstore or online retail giant to feel the powerful love of Texas wherever you go.
Classics and some personal recommendations
“Lonesome Dove” – Larry McMurtry’s beloved novel won the Pulitzer Prize and tells the story of a dusty little Texas town and the colorful characters who live there, from heroes and outlaws to ladies of all stripes and those on the margins and beyond. As the Amazon description notes, “Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic, Lonesome Dove is a book to make us laugh, weep, dream, and remember.” McMurtry wrote more than 30 books and traversed lives of Texans, perhaps more than any other author. Lonesome Dove is a good starting place to taste the richness of his literary tradition and fall in love with Texas all over again.
McMurtry also did an entire series featuring Houston. “Moving On,” “All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers,” “Terms of Endearment,” “Somebody’s Darling,” “Some Can Whistle” and “The Evening Star” are all set in our city and are stories hailed as some of McMurtry’s best.
“Buffalo Gal” – This is one of my most beloved books in my collection. It has traveled with me across the country and through several homes and will always be on my shelf, the raggedy paperback that it is.
The book is about a young woman on the verge of adulthood traveling with her mother across Texas to save the buffalo when she meets a young, brash guide who will lead them across the frontier. It has everything. I still love to read this one every couple of years. It’s about the story and this one is compelling. I highly recommend for the budding romance readers among us.
“All the Pretty Horses” – It’s been a long time since I’ve read this one, but it still stays with me, as all good books do. The romance in this one is built of heartbreak, but it remains in my memory just the same, as does Cormac McCarthy’s stunning imagery and ability to build a story into an epic wrought of guilt, love and loss. Also, read the book — the Matt Damon-Penelope Cruz movie adaptation was poor and didn’t develop the relationship between characters that McCarthy’s detail teases out with wonderful description that writers learn is the height of “showing” not “telling.”
There are a lot of bodice-rippers in Amazon’s best seller list for Texas romances. We really can’t vouch for all of these, but the mass following of the Amazon hoards might be just the endorsement you want. Don’t shame here. We grabbed a pen and wrote down more than a few of these authors for reference.
Book experts’ recommendations
Goodreads names “The Simple Soul of Susan” a top Texas romance favorite called “compulsively readable” and “an engaging, soul-endearing romance and a mesmerizing debut.”
The description is this: “When Susan Combs discovers a heart-breaking truth from the boy she has loved her entire life, she must make a life-altering choice. Will she still cling to the simple, small-town life she has always cherished, or will she chart a new path by overcoming this unforeseen trial?
“Calder Hurtz hopes to escape his dumpy Texas town for a promising career and life away from the dusty dirt roads…and even farther away from his family’s tragic loss. In his escape from him, he intends to leave behind his simple childhood ideals of family and love, but perhaps he will learn that redefining one’s identity is n’t that simple after all.
“Can two hospitalizations, two confessions of love, and one betrayal bring two simple souls together?”
Hannah Schaffer, of Off the Shelf Books, recommended “Rainwater” by Sandra Brown. This is a historical novel and it instantly joined our library queue based on her description of her: “This romantic historical novel takes place during the Depression and follows two main characters, David Rainwater and Ella Baron. She is a mother and runs a boardinghouse. David is a dying stranger who becomes a lodger in her home. While she is initially very suspicious of him, a romance begins to kindle. Ella’s whole life is about to change, and not just because of David—there’s an economic crisis threatening to tear up the town. It’s a heartwarming story about circumstances and the choices we make.”
We’re also compelled by Schaffer’s recommendation for “An Ocean of Minutes” by Thea Lim. The description — especially the time travel and pandemic element is fascinating: “When a deadly flu pandemic hits the US, and Polly’s partner, Frank, becomes sick, she has to travel to the future as a bonded laborer to get her company to pay for Frank’s treatment. They agree to meet in Galveston 12 years from the original time, but Polly is accidentally sent forward an additional five years, and she has to find out if Frank, and their love for her, is still alive. This mysterious and imaginative story is an exploration into the endurance and complexities of human relationships and does so with beautiful language.”
If you’re still looking for more recommendations, check out TODAY.com’s video for more romantic reads. It inspired us.
What books set in Houston or beyond in Texas do you love and will always remember? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to add a few more to this list that are your favourites.
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