Hot Reads for Cold Days: Local Romance Author Denise Williams
by Cathy Cooney
Denise Williams always loved stories with quirky humor and plenty of heart. Now, in addition to reading those books, she writes them too. Her novels, “How to Fail at Flirting” and “The Fastest Way to Fall” both featured prominently on a variety of lists including LibraryReads, Oprah Magazine, The Washington Post, Indie Next List, and Good Morning America.
Ames Public Library (APL) is thrilled to host Denise Williams on Monday, December 6 at 7 pm for a facilitated conversation about the romance genre, her novels, and how life is different now that she’s a published author. After the program, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions, and copies of her books will be available for purchase and signing, courtesy of Dog-Eared Books. APL loves to support our local authors, and Williams lives in Ames with her human family and two shih-tzus.
I recognize that the romance genre can be polarizing for some readers, who associate it with older family members or overly cheesy storylines. Today’s romance reads very differently, and makes a concerted effort to include a variety of representation and plots. According to Romance Writers of America, a romance novel consists of two distinct parts. First, it must center on a love story, regardless of the other subplots revolving around it. Second, no matter what challenges the central characters face, the book absolutely has to end in an emotionally satisfying way – no cliffhangers, mixed feelings, or unresolved threads. I don’t know about you, but over the last year and a half, that is exactly the kind of book I’ve needed to read. And over the last few years, I’ve seen romance novels branch out and feature a much broader spectrum of characters, including BIPOC heroes and heroines, plus-size heroines, leads with neurodiversity, and male/male or female/female relationships. There’s literally something for everyone!
“How to Fail at Flirting” focuses on Dr. Naya Turner, who in turn has been focused solely on her career after the termination of an abusive relationship. As time goes by, Naya decides there must be more to life than work and creates a to-do list to push herself beyond her comfort zone and to encourage her to reach for what she really wants. Naya meets Jake and sparks fly, but the trauma she experienced with her ex boils back to the surface when he shows up on campus. More than just a love story, this story shows characters rediscovering themselves, learning to trust again, and healing from past hurts. Williams is also incredibly conscientious about including content warnings, which for this book include past abuse and harassment, experienced racism, and a family member with Alzheimer’s.
Williams’ second novel, “The Fastest Way to Fall,” was just published in November. It features a plus-size heroine named Britta. Britta has her eye on a promotion and hopes that her newest assignment, an anonymous fitness app review, will help her earn it. The app works by pairing a user with a trainer and having them interact virtually, and Britta’s partner seems like a perfect match. Little does Britta know that she’s been paired with Wes, the app’s CEO. Content warnings for this body-positive romance include off-page alcohol and drug abuse of a secondary character, off-page over-exercise, and reference to a side character’s eating disorder.
In summary, Denise Williams writes delightful, quirkily funny but also fundamentally realistic contemporary romance. If you enjoy the books of authors like Tessa Bailey, Christina Lauren, Talia Hibbert, or Jasmine Guillory, these books could be your next best read.
We hope that you’ll join us at APL to learn more about Denise and her characters. And if you haven’t picked up romance before (for any number of reasons), this might be the perfect opportunity to try something new. You might find that you fall in love with it.