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My favorite "best of the year" list is the Bad Sex in Fiction award, even — or perhaps because — it eschews the romance genre. This year's winner was just announced: Nancy Huston's Infrared, whose heroine celebrates the "countless treasures between [her] legs." But I'm not writing a Best Romance of the Year list, because I don't think the idea even works for my genre.
Romance subgenres are strictly partitioned by readers; one woman's favorite romantic hero, who turns into a lion in his spare time, is another's anathema. The five books I discuss here are great examples of their individual subgenres. And not one of them belongs in a Bad Sex list. There's only Good Sex here, though nothing that reaches the ecstatic heights of Huston's "carnal pink palpitation that detaches you from all colour and all flesh, making you see only stars, constellations, milky ways." Maybe next year.