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What Makes a Good Gateway Book?

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In case you haven’t heard any of the recent online and on-the-air discussions surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, this isn’t one of them! I will tell you, I have not read the book and honestly, I don’t intend to. This isn’t a commentary on Fifty Shades nor a discussion on whether or not one should read the book… I’m in favor of books that get people reading, and that is what this book is doing.
What I am here to talk about is what I hope Fifty Shades of Grey will be for many individuals… a GATEWAY book: a book that brings new readers into a genre. That’s what The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer was for me and so many other women. It was my gateway into romance – specifically paranormal romance. Before Twilight, I’d never read a romance in my life. The series was the pathway for (I’m guessing) thousands of women to paranormal romance and urban fantasy.
So I wonder… will Fifty Shades of Grey do the same for some of the  so-called “fringe” romances? I’ve had girlfriends that wouldn’t give my blog the time of day ask me about the book because of all of the hype. I’ve been asked for recommendations for more “erotic” or “BDSM” reads. This makes me happy!
A twitter discussion about both Fifty Shades and Twilight with @CarolynCrane and @KatiD prompted the question of what makes a good gateway (or introductory) book? You need something that is well-written and easy to follow. A gateway/introductory book should epitomize the genre without being too hard core. You don’t want to scare away a potential fan before they get used to the genre!
When people ask for recommendations in the paranormal romance genre, I always start with the Psy-Changeling Series by Nalini Singh. I feel that this series is hands down one of the best out there. It’s well-written, the stories are exciting, the romance sexy but not overly erotic, and the amount of paranormal is “just right.” And for folks looking for a vampire-centric story, I refer them to the Midnight Breed Series by Lara Adrian.
For Urban Fantasy, my go-to series is the Kate Daniel Series by Ilona Andrews.  It’s just amazing! And after railroading through the Disillusionists Series by Carolyn Crane earlier this year, I’ve added that to my “gateway” books list.
If someone is looking for a little bit of “fringe” in their romance, I recommend the ACRO Series by Sydney Croft. This series is one of my favorites! The sex is definitely more erotic than the average paranormal romance, and the stories showcase both m/m romance and (in one book) BDSM.
Now I’m looking to my readers out there… what books do you recommend to friends that want to try out a new-to-them genre? I’d love to get some ideas for contemporary, historical, and m/m romance. What about outside of the romance genre all together? What makes a book a good GATEWAY book for you?
I look forward to reading all of your answers! Thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading!

  • I introduced MamaMoon to the m/m arena via Somebody Killed His Editor by Josh Lanyon. She’s now devouring m/m books almost as fast as I do, despite her initial “I don’t know if I’d be into two boys kissing each other” thoughts. 🙂

    Gateway books have to be well written, the characters and the setting well fleshed out, and honestly? For me I need the book to be one that I can’t put down since I’m so easily bored/distracted. Lol.

    I’ve not read Fifty Shades yet but it’s up next on the TBR because I want to know if the hype is deserved. I read most of its original incarnation when it was still Master of the Universe and a fanfic, but I’d like to see what she did with it.

  • Julie Garwood and Lisa Kleypas are a both gateways for historical.

    JL Langley and Josh Lanyon for MM romance.

    For paranormal romance I would say JR Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Nalini Sing.

    For contemporary it would be Julie James and Victoria Dahl

    For erotic romance look to Lisa Marie Rice, Jaci Burton, Lauren Dane and Lora Leigh. Also Jaid Black but her books are freaky with plants that give orgasms and crazed sexed up shape shifting alpha males.

  • I hadn’t really considered any books for gateway recommendations. I’m part of the minority when it comes to the Twilight books and I just like books – though still quite frightened of horror.

  • CSM

    For fantasy, my gateway was Mercedes Lackey. Arrows of the Queen, Arrow’s Flight, and Arrow’s Fall did it for me.

  • The Black Dagger Brotherhood series and the Midnight Breed series were gateways for me to reading more paranormal romance.
    The Fever series by Karen M. Moning were gateway books to Urban Fantasy (with romance undertone).

    As for erotic romance, Lauren Dane (is the best), Shayla Black, Maya Banks.

    Contemporary Romance- Shannon Stacy. Her Kowalski series is SO good!

    Romantic Suspense – Pamela Clare, Cindy Gerard

    The list is endless!!!

  • I have three gateway books for non-romance readers:

    Contemporary:
    Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

    Historical:
    Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

    PNR:
    Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

  • That was such a good discussion we had on twitter, because it made me re-think my gateway books! I still recommend Bitten, but I love the idea of Nalini Singh’s psy-changling world to rec. Also, Outlander is another I recommend, to suck people mercilessly into the world of romance.

    Love your sentiment that any book that gets people reading is a worthwhile book. So agree!!

  • Kati! lol. You recommended LOS to me and it totally worked to get me into historicals…or was that the book smugglers? Oh, loved that…

  • For me when trying to convince someone to read PNR it has been Lara Adrian. Lately though I have added Thea Harrison to that 🙂

    For UF (light): Molly Harper
    For UF (darker): Jeanine Frost though I am going to add Patricia Briggs (Alpha and Omega–loved it)

    I have had gateway books used on me for YA: Richelle Mead and Rachel Caine….both worked for a bit but were good introductions to the realm.

  • Christine Feehan’s Dark Series was my gateway into both vampire and paranormal as a whole. I would agree with your Adrian choice.

    Going from historical to paranormal, I would suggest Lucy Monroe’s Children of the Moon series.

    Erotica can be very diverse, but my favorite is the Brown Sibling Series by Lauren Dane. It has a committed ménage, male/male action, and light BDSM. It is a good stepping stone into erotica with those focuses.

    Cheers!

    Bea

  • Hey all – thank you so much for the great input. I love the discussion.

    KT & Marq: I have shied away from recommending BDB to non-romance readers. It can be a bit hard core, but I do recommend it to non-paranormal romance readers.

    KT, Marq & Bea: I’ve heard great things about Lauren Dane. I need to add to my TBR list!

    CSM: I agree, Mercedes Lackey is great choice. I usually go with Marion Zimmer Bradley.

  • Lauren Dane is unbelievably fabulous. I can’t recommend her Brown Siblings books enough! They are SUPER hot and her heroines have an actual spine, which is delightful.

    I also like Maya Banks. Particularly her KGI series and her highlanders, who have a definitely Julie Garwood vibe to them, which makes them fantastic reads.

  • I think Nora Roberts is a classic gateway author. Her books are entertaining, the voice is compelling and the sex isn’t graphic, so maybe for someone who’s barely starting to read the genre, a milder book will be best. Personally, she is an author I usually recommend to newbies.

    I recently read The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley and I think that’s another great choice, her voice is so compelling and the story so wonderful that there’s no way for someone no to get hooked on romance.

    Julie Garwood’s historicals and Linda Howard’s classics like MacKenzie’s Mountain and Shades of Twilight are also books I always recommend.

    Gateway books have to be the best of the best there is, so any book you consider a favorite should fit the bill. Some authors are an acquired taste, though, so maybe they are best left for more experienced readers.

    I think it depends on taste and if someone is meant to read a romance, then any romance will do, after all, one of the first romances I read was Flowers in the Attic and it didn’t scare me off the genre. 😉

    Great post!

  • Brie: Excellent ponts about what makes a good gateway book. and I can’t believe Flowers in the Attic didn’t scare us all off the genre!

  • B.

    In terms of BDSM or Erotica, I think the best gateway books are those with a lot of “story” to them, rather than just a collection of scenes. There are merits to both, but for a curious reader who’s new to the genre, having a plot they can get into could make or break the entire genre.

    The Deviations series by Chris Owen and Jodi Payne are good. They’re strictly M/m and BDSM, but they’re also about the lives of the characters, not just the lifestyle.

  • Awesome discussion! If I know that someone really enjoys gods & goddesses, and ‘dark’ fiction, I’d recommend Lords of the Underworld (Showalter) as a gateway series. The romance is tempered with a great story, and the bow-chicka-wow-wow isn’t over-the-top. The series works into the trickier and more intense romance stories.

    I totally agree with Adrian and Singh, too. I’ve hooked several people on PNR via those series. BDB seems to be a bit more intense, and if you’re not into the darker side, it can be overwhelming.

    Again, great discussion!

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