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IBW x First Date: Romance fiction recommendations from Yulin Kuang


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Independent Bookshop Week starts on 15th June, and this year it coincides with the second edition of our festival for romance writing: First Date takes place at Summerhall on 14-15 June!

If you're not in Edinburgh for it, fear not. The panels will not only be livestreamed, but we've also invited some of our favourite authors of romance fiction from further afield to take part in the celebrations virtually by recommending their favourite romance reads!

Today, we're joined by Yulin Kuang, recommending three favourite romance reads. Take it away, Yulin!

I am an avid reader/student of the romance genre, and I selected these three titles because they were all reference texts for me going into the writing of my debut novel, How to End a Love Story, each for slightly different reasons.


Mariana Zapata is the queen of slow burn romances and has mastered a neat trick I call ‘edging the HEA’ - I often find myself at 98% and wondering how she could possibly deliver a happily ever after in the distressingly few pages I have left to consume.

Read for a slow burn romance that somehow still feels emotionally action-packed and a master class in edging the HEA.

LUCK OF THE DRAW by Kate Clayborn

The premise of Luck of the Draw is such an unlikely one for a contemporary romance: there’s a thread of heightened K-drama DNA in the setup (cutthroat corporate lawyer heroine won the lottery! traumatized hero who doesn’t want her help, also his family would hate her!) combined with tried and true romance tropes (fake fiancé!) that absolutely should! not! work! in combination, but Kate Clayborn absolutely pulls it off with her signature finely-drawn characters and beautiful prose.

Read for the rare enemies-to-lovers contemporary romance that sells me on the ‘enemies’ piece in a grounded way and a master class in ‘how-could-this-possibly-work-as-a-romance’ storytelling.

THE DUKE GOES DOWN by Sophie Jordan

I am such a fan of historical romance - the repression! the generational stakes! the lack of cell phones and wi-fi! - and to hear me tell it, Sophie Jordan is one of the best to ever do it. She fills her historicals with situations and characters that feel timeless and contemporary, with fun thought experiments for the reader of what if it happened to you?

Read for a childhood enemies-to-lovers romance and a master class in using your opening scene to set up character dynamics with brutal efficiency. Bonus points for a true ‘payoff on the title’ sequence that had me cackling and cheering.

Yulin Kuang is a screenwriter and director, whose credits include The CW’s I Ship It and Hulu’s Dollface. She was once fired from a Hallmark movie for being ‘too hip for Hallmark’ and is the adapting writer/director of Emily Henry’s Beach Read for 20th Century Studios, as well as the adapting screenwriter of People We Meet On Vacation. HOW TO END A LOVE STORY is her debut novel.

Follow #FirstDateFestival on our social media and keep an eye out for more recommended romance reads this week! Info about First Date Festival can be found HERE.

Author photo credit: Sela Shiloni

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