What does New Zealand have to do with romantic fiction? Quite a lot.
When Joanne Graves from the Central Auckland Research Centre gave a presentation at the 2014 LIANZA Conference, she stated that the country “lays claim to some of the most popular authors” of the romance genre, but that few librarians in New Zealand were aware of the fact.
The first well-known romance author from New Zealand was Essie Summers. She wrote traditional love stories for Harlequin Mills & Boon and her first book, New Zealand Inheritance, was published in 1957. Summers frequently set stories in her native land. Christchurch City Libraries reported that “many of her readers have travelled to New Zealand to see for themselves the places she describes. In the tourist season it was a regular occurrence that someone would turn up wanting to meet her and this could put great demands on her time.”
Academic research suggests Essie Summer influenced the next wave of New Zealand romance writers, yet these authors wrote very different stories. The romance novels were sensual and dramatic with provocative themes. In the 1980s, Harlequin Presents (also known as Mills & Boon Modern) published the works of Daphne Clair, Robyn Donald and Susan Napier.
Readers developed a broader understanding of New Zealand history, lifestyle and natural beauty from these authors. In Robyn Donald’s The Temptress of Tarika Bay, the protagonists duel over a shabby bach, or beach house.
Hawke Challenger doesn’t understand the sexual enchantment Morna holds over him. Everyone knows about her past and the way she seduces men to extract money from them. How can this woman who uses her body as start-up capital override his restraint?
But Morna is not an opportunist who gathers up men’s legacies. Years ago she suffered a humiliating heartbreak and she will never look for security in a man. She’s fascinated by Hawke, but Morna knows what he ultimately wants is the beach property another man had bequeathed to her. She should stay away from Hawke, but their affair is as inevitable as it is destructive.
First published in 2003, this passionate romance about trust, love and vulnerability also describes New Zealand in loving detail.
Clair, Donald and Napier were extremely popular with readers. However, it wasn’t until the late 1990s when over a dozen more New Zealander romance authors started to write for publishers in North America and the United Kingdom.
Currently, the most well-known romance writer from New Zealand is Nalini Singh. She’s an international bestselling author who writes paranormal and contemporary romance. Singh often builds memorable and detailed worlds in her fiery love stories.
Want to read one of her sexy contemporary romance novels set in New Zealand? Try the arranged marriage romance To Have and to Hold. (The novel is sold in some territories under the title Bound by Marriage).
In order to keep a deathbed promise to her father and hold onto the family land, Jess made a deal with the devil—marriage to Gabriel Dumont—and it’s time for her to pay up.
But Gabriel knows that Jess is in love with another man… and that man is suddenly single. Jess discovers her husband has a possessive streak and she also learns that she’s just as territorial when Gabriel’s ex-lover returns.
Set in rural New Zealand and offering a glimpse of station life, To Have and to Hold was originally published in 2007 as a category romance. This story is filled with lots of angsty goodness and explosive passion!
Looking for more sexy contemporary romances by New Zealand authors? Readers who want steamy romances filled with scandal and family drama should read a Harlequin Desire by Yvonne Lindsay. Prefer passionate stories set in luxury and glamour? Read a Harlequin Presents written by Angela Bissell, Natalie Anderson or Jackie Ashenden.
Ashenden writes hot romances for other Harlequin Mills & Boon imprints and romance publishers. For darker or grittier stories, consider reading her 11th Hour series. Another New Zealand author who creates rough heroes is Sherilee Gray.
In Revved, the second book from Gray’s Axel Alley Viper series, Reid is an earthy and possessive hero who has ruthless control over his emotions. That is, until he meets Rusty. She’s his competitor and he quickly decides he wants both her and her business.
Rusty, however, isn’t falling for his charm. She knows men aren’t interested in her once they discover she’s a lot of work. She doesn’t date and finds it very difficult to trust men, but she might break all of her rules for Reid.
If you love damaged and primitive heroes who will do anything for the people they love, then this scorching hot romance is for you.
For more information about New Zealand romantic fiction, visit the Romance Writers of New Zealand website. The National Library of New Zealand also has a special research collection about New Zealand romance literature.