Once again, you with your finger on the pulse of romance, your eyes on the words and covers and spines of books of paper, screen, and audio. I come to you asking for your help. It’s four years since I post titled A Little Help From My Romance Reading Friends and I come to you to tell me about the Romance novels you have read where both leads are over the age of 40, especially novels you have read where the heroine is aged OVER 40 — or over 50, 60, and beyond. It’s time to update the list I keep on this site, and I need your help to do this because I am only one tiny woman with a TBR pile and books to edit and books to write about a middle-aged Irish butler and the British spy who loves her.
At the same time, I want to share a few lists with you, mostly because I am pleased to say there are many readers (and authors like me) who are looking for Seasoned Romance, a fact about readers I point out over and over. Now, whether you call it Seasoned Romance (as I and many others do) Later in Life Romance (as the Book Industry BISAC codes does), Adult Contemporary Romance, MidRom, Older Romance, MatRom, Vintage Rom, (rest assured, I will bite you if you call it HenRom, GrannyRom or HagRom), these readers want ALL THE ROMANCE, these readers want books with lead characters falling for each other and all the glorious, complex, baggage-filled mess that goes with it, the Big Misunderstanding, the (however much I despise them) Secret Baby, Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, the Marriage of Convenience, these readers want ALL THE familiar tropes you love, and maybe even hate, these readers want the romance to feature main characters aged 40 and over (although some are happy with 35 and over).
I’m like these readers, but I want the romance (and other genre fiction) I read to feature a female protagonist, a heroine, aged 40 and beyond. For the list of books I keep here, I focus on representation of women over 40. Why 40? Because, like in Hollywood 40 is some kind of invisible line for women. Women under 40 get roles, but hit 40 and they dry up. Plus, I’m tired (aren’t you) of the sexist, ageist older man-younger pairing that is the staple of Hollywood and, let’s face it, most kinds of fiction.
My very personal mission, if you’ve never come across my writing before, is to present women of a certain age in the genre of fiction that has a history of being oh-so-young, cis and white. I want to draw attention that there are older romance readers who, for example, like WOC, are more than damn ready to see themselves reflected in the genre they love. This is about visibility. Older women, across cultures and ethnicities, deserve and need to be written back into the narrative of life and fictional tales. Fiction, film, TV, and advertising hold the power to make older women visible. However, there are impediments still in place, sticky impediments. There is proof of a growing market and sub-genre, not a damn niche, and lists like these can clear way the cobwebs that still obscure some publishers’ minds, and show them the vibrancy of older women.
Yeah, okay, there are romance publishers who are open to older heroines, but, at the same time, limit their idea of the ‘field of older’ to somewhere between the ages of 35 to 45, because books with women older than 35 “won’t sell”, or, as one editor said to me (yes, I’m dragging out that comment again), “No one wants to read granny sex.” Remarks of that sort may seem business savvy, but remarks of that sort (besides being bullshit) highlight and perpetuates the inherent ageist and sexist attitude that older women aren’t attractive, sexual, or interested in sex, which implies women over 45 are lesser, other, unworthy of love, and their hideousness must continue to be sidelined, hidden, or kept out of the narrative that favours white cis women. You see how ridiculous and prejudicial the practice is, and how important book lists can be to change business practices, to make them diverse as they claim they want to be.
Booklists, and readers I come across looking for booklists of seasoned romance, are proof that the books can and do sell, even the ones with the granny sex in them. Have a gander at the list I already have—and then add these Goodreads books lists to it:
Since 2016, when I first began to ask for help, there have been titles released by traditional and indie authors, yet any author will tell you DISCOVERABILITY IS KEY to readers finding new authors and titles, especially in an overlooked sub-genre like Seasoned Romance. If YOU are keen to add books to my list of romance fiction featuring main characters over 40 — again, I’m looking for both leads to be over 40, not just the silver foxy hero because heroines can be silver foxy too — Shoot those titles my way! Help me add to my list of and all these other lists. Let me be even more specific about my personal book list, should you want me to add your book suggestions to it. I’m after Romance, not Women’s Fiction. In Women’s Fiction there’s often an element of romance, but the lovey-dovey stuff isn’t the primary focus. In ROMANCE the story is driven by a couple on a journey to find love, rather than, as you frequently find in Women’s Fiction, a woman’s journey of self-discovery or tale of women’s friendship and/or relationship with friends and family.
That nitty gritty bit out of the way, PLEASE, leave your book recommendations as a comment, or tell me about a book list that you know that I have not included. Allow me to reiterate: Booklists, and readers I come across looking for booklists of seasoned romance, are proof that the books can and do sell, even the ones with the granny sex in them.
3 thoughts on “Return of the Return of A Little Help From My Romance Reading Friends”
I looked at all of those lists and they all have at least a mention of the most of the not-as-well-known authors I know of that are currently writing romances with leads over 40, like Freya Barker, LB Dunbar, Natasha Moore, Mae Wood, Roxanne St. Clair, and Maggie Wells. One author that isn’t on the list is Jill Haymaker. She writes mainly older leads, some in at least their 30’s and 40’s, others in their 50’s. I’m not sure of the ages specifically, but at least several of the titles in her Peakview and Aspen Ridge series have older leads for sure.
Even though you specifically wanted romance, I also want to mention the Paranormal Women’s Fiction group because I think it’s fantastic that the paranormal genre is finally starting to get some books with older heroines. Every book features a woman who is at least 40 and who suddenly develops or discovers previously not known paranormal powers. I’ve read 4 or 5 of them and most had at least the start of a romance subplot. They are sometimes a bit heavy on the “middle-aged, menopausal” trope, but I’ve enjoyed all of the ones I’ve read, specifically, Suddenly Psychic by Elizabeth Hunter, Betwixt by Darynda Jones, Halfway There by Eve Langlais, Magical Midlife Madness by K.F. Breene, and Sucks To Be Me by Kristen Painter.
Thank you for the suggestions. I am SO glad that the older women in many PNR wolves are no longer simply 200+ year-old vampires. I happy to start including a new list of middle-aged Paranormal heroines. I admit I’d be happier if romance was more than a subplot, mostly because I’d like to see love/romance and sex treated as something normal (even in paranormal circumstances) for middle-aged and older women. That being said, THANK GOODNESS women over 40 are being portrayed in roles that are not defined by an arbitrary number that instantly devalues their worth as vibrant, intelligent, attractive, active human beings–and characterisations are finally stepping beyond the amateur Miss Marple/Agatha Raisin/Jessica Fletcher-Murder-She-Wrote sleuth.
I think you’d be happy with these books even though the focus is on the main characters’ paranormal experiences, because although romance is subplot, it is depicted as normal, and not at all unusual that a nice, hot guy would be attracted to the main character. If anything, the biggest issue standing in the way is her own self-doubt, often brought about by having spent years in an unfulfilling marriage to a jerk. Often, not only is the character experiencing a paranormal awakening, she’s also recapturing the idea that she is a sexual being and is just as entitled to a happy romantic relationship as anyone else would be.