The Books That Help Make Naima Simone A Romance Fan
Author Naima Simone joins us on the Harlequin Blog today to share which books inspired her love of romance writing! Are you working on a romance novel of your own? Let us know in the comments section below which books inspire you!
by Naima Simone, author of Blame It on the Billionaire
Plainfield, NJ. Spring 1985. A used bookstore behind the old train depot filled wall-to-wall with books.
And if you didn’t just say that in your best Sophia Petrillo voice, then I’m judging you.
This described my Saturday mornings for years during my childhood. While other kids bugged their parents to take them to the park, Toys “R” Us or the mall, my sister and I begged our father to take us to the used bookstore. And he was always willing. So we would spend hours there, perusing boxes and shelves of books. Now that I think back on it, my father got a great deal out of this. Instead of spending a bunch of money at the mall or at Toys “R” Us, he got away with doling out no more than ten dollars on bags of books! God, that man is smart… *snicker*
Reading has always been a part of my life, even before the Saturday morning outings. My first memory is my sister sitting on one side of my mother and me on the other, listening intently while she read from this huge book of fairy tales. Is it any wonder I ended up not just reading romance but writing it when my first experience with books was the HEA? I think it was fate. Well, fate and I didn’t see Judy Blume ringing me up to write my epic love story with Ralph Tresvant from New Edition… *whispers* Her loss.
There were several books that got me interested in writing. They lifted the limits off my imagination for stories and for myself. At the time, I didn’t fantasize about one day authoring books, much less having people read them or seeing them in bookstores. But they did stir my dreams and opened my mind so that later I could say, “Yes, I want to write like these authors. When readers open my books, I want them to feel transported just like I did when I read their stories.”
The first book is still my favorite book of all time—The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This story of four children traveling to the world of Narnia through the back of a wardrobe made me believe in magic so much that I climbed into my grandmother’s wardrobe in her attic to go to Narnia myself. It captured my imagination, my joy and my faith.
My “Uncle Freedom Fighter” used to mail my sister and me books. And one of them I read so many times, I smudged the cover and wore the pages thin. Phoebe the Spy by Judith Griffin was about a freed black girl who worked as George Washington’s housekeeper during the Revolutionary War—but who was actually a spy! She ended up preventing an assassination attempt and saving his life. It was the first time I ever read about a character who looked like me in a book. It impacted me because I realized that there were stories about people like me—black people…black women. And we were smart, courageous, strong—we were heroines.
I don’t really remember the exact romance novel that stirred my interest in writing, but I do know one of the books that started that journey was Fires of Winter by Johanna Lindsey. I’ll never forget Brenna, the fierce, brave, bad-ass warrior. I’d never read a heroine like her who swung a sword, could beat a man in battle and never be cowed or have her spirit broken. Her and Garrick’s love story was the stuff of legend for me, and it started my obsession with all things Johanna Lindsey. Also, she showed me that I didn’t have to be limited in who or what I wrote about. Pirates, cowboys, aliens, dukes, Vikings—if I wanted to write it, I could. I’m so going to miss her.
Since then, I’ve read thousands of wonderful books. My more recent ones have really done more than just entertain me. They’ve inspired me. While reading them, part of me wanted to put them down and go write because I was super excited to go knock out books half as wonderful as them! That’s how amazing they were!
I was fortunate enough to receive an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Not That Kind of Guy by Andie J. Christopher, and it was sooo good! A tough, funny and relationship-shy heroine who is also an assistant state’s attorney ends up involved with the legal intern she’s supervising. It’s taboo, but once he’s not under her anymore—pun totally intended—Vegas and her brother’s wedding are calling. What could possibly go wrong? Certainly not an impromptu marriage… With laugh out loud moments, Not That Kind of Guy is touching, fun and sexy!
I went on a historical romance kick toward the end of 2019, and I went on a Grace Callaway book binge. All of her books have bold, independent, perfectly imperfect heroines who refuse to be defined by society and the ton. And The Duke Redemption was no exception. It’s a wonderful twist on Beauty and the Beast with the coolest mystery running through it. And did I mention that it’s not just romantic and emotional, but hot? Oh yeah, suuuper hot! Sigh.
Continuing on my historical romance kick, I read My Darling Duke, the newest release from one of my auto-buy authors, Stacy Reid. I am a fairy tale retelling fanatic and was delighted to see My Darling Duke also contained elements of Beauty and the Beast. Also, it told the story of a woman, who society labeled as past her prime and invisible, taking her future into her own hands and dictating what life held for her and her family. And while she did so, she captured the heart of a physically and emotionally broken man and showed him the healing power of love and hope. Oh man, I’m tearing up just thinking about this book!
When I think back on how my reading and writing journey began to where I am today, I’m really thankful for the authors who have, and continue to, influence me. Not only have they written amazing work that will delight and educate readers for decades to come, but they provided me with a safe and beautiful place to land.
About Blame it on the Billionaire:
She fell into his arms.
Now she’s falling for his trap.
It was a night filled with secrets, lies…and soul-stealing passion. And now the blackout that turned lowly executive assistant Nadia Jordan and start-up billionaire Grayson Chandler into insatiable lovers leads to a proposal Nadia can’t refuse. As she steps into Grayson’s privileged Chicago world, will his matchmaking mother and vengeful ex destroy her dreams? Or will her fake fiancé make those dreams a reality?
USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR