Any romance reader knows you can basically enter a romance series wherever you want. Romance series are part of shared universes, but don’t usually carry over one couple’s romance through multiple books. (As with any genre, there are obvious exceptions.)
But a lot of the time, you want to read them in order. Sure, you don’t want to get “spoiled” for the couple in earlier books, but you also might miss key information that was provided in an earlier narrative. Relevant happenings in earlier books might affect character development and choices. They channel core elements to the rest of the story, particularly when all of the series stories are interconnected in more ways than just being in the same universe.
Here are some of those books that you might want to pick up first, before the next one is out.
An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
You’re going to want to set the scene before diving into A Hope Divided. While the setting—dead center in the Civil War—is a rough one, the payoff of experiencing Elle and Malcolm is wonderful. Elle Burns, once enslaved, is a spy with an eidetic memory. Her new partner, masquerading as a Confederate Officer, is a Scottish immigrant with a firm belief in the Union cause. The two together make fireworks, and also do some excellent spying. So not only do you get an awesome love story and spy story, but you get to understand the makings of the Loyal League.
Take the Lead by Alexis Daria
The characters in Dance With Me are established in Take The Lead, the magical story of Gina and Stone, two reality stars thrown together by circumstance and held there by attraction and affection. Paired up in a Dancing With the Stars type of competition show, the professional dancer and dance teacher Gina and Stone, her off-the-grid reality show partner, hit it off as dance partners and people. But other factors can get in the way. You’ll want to read this one first, just to get a grasp of the world in which these fantastic people live, and their relationships with each other.
North to You by Tif Marcelo
The family dynamics in this universe are best discovered in bits as you move through the books in this series (which already has two books out; the third releases in December). Camille and Drew are both food people, and their families are food people too. The two are reunited after an abrupt breakup in their teens, and are now living in San Francisco. Drew is just there briefly, on leave from the Army. His family, or more his father, is not so much on board with Drew leaving so soon, leaving the family restaurant. Not only is the love story just perfect, but the other relationships are such that you just want to enmesh yourself in these family units. And you can!
Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
Oh man, the angst. There’s so much angst. And it continues beyond the first book in the Forbidden Hearts series. But to really get into the core of this extended family, you have to start at the beginning. You need to know the story of the Kanes and the Chandlers, and why there was such tension for so long. You need to know what Livvy and Nicholas have gone through and will continue to experience, before you even think about Jackson and Sadia in Wrong to Need You.
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Okay, so it’s actually the sixth book that is coming out soon. But you’re going to start the first Five Boroughs book and you will probably be ready to read Citywide when it comes out. Seriously. The relationships that are built from the beginning of this series through to Citywide are many, and the revelations that come through each book to the benefit of all involved build to a wild crescendo and just stay loud. And right now, Goodreads says there are going to be eight of them, so you can just be prepared. Or you can spread them out, whatever you want to do. But I’m gonna need to devour.
Bonus: Shacking Up by Helena Hunting
I know, I know. Hooking Up is actually already out. It just came out on the 7th. But still. You’ve got to read Shacking Up before you even think about picking up the second in this series. Not only is it hella adorable, but you learn a few things about our heroine, Amalie. Also, there’s a ferret, so you have to read it now.
There are a million romance series, and this is definitely not the be-all-end-all of the series starters you need to read right now, but it’s a good place to start.