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Sizzling-Hot Reads For Those Cold Winter Nights

The winter weather doesn't seem to be letting up — it's still cold and snowy in much of the country. For a little relief from the elements here are five ribald reads to ignite the most fiery of passions.

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by Judy Blume

For young adults trying to raid the adult bookshelves for a little sizzle in their summer reading, Forever... was a revelation. A book about relationships — real ones — that was actually written for teenagers? Sold. A book about relationships, written for teenagers, that felt authentic, awkward, and still sexy? Sold to everyone in my high school class. Blume writes movingly of first love, but she also knows what's hot: like, y'know, shampooing your true love's hair over the sink. Besides that particular life lesson, Forever... also teaches that not everything is forever — and that's okay. You'll live to shampoo someone else's hair.

Wuthering Heights

by Emily Bronte

As any 16-year-old knows, there's nothing hotter than a forbidden romance. As every Bronte sister knew, the temperature rises substantially with the combination of a broody anti-hero and bad weather on the moors. Cathy and Heathcliff's doomed love still warms our nightstands because of its sheer intensity — and, like all the best bad choices we make in love, it is a source of "little visible delight, but necessary." That B- essay on class ambiguity in Bronte's novel may not have stood the test of time, but Cathy+Heathcliff? 4ever.

The English Patient: A Novel

by Michael Ondaatje

You know Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto? That part in the middle where you think you're going to die of romance? No? Well, there's your problem. If you do know of what I speak then you'll recognize that feeling about halfway through The English Patient. Ondaatje is a poet — that's both a description and a career for him — so his depiction of a heady desert love affair simply sweats with passion. "The heart," he writes, "is an organ of fire." And in his hands, so is the pen.

Mistral's Daughter

by Judith Krantz

If any of you were lucky enough to find any Judith Krantz on your grandmother's bookshelves, then you've probably already spread the word, but if you haven't well, I don't know that there's a hotter romance novelist as far as bang for buck (uh huh). The thing that's great about Judy K., besides scalding erotic scenes not confined to the heteronormative (i.e., great gay sex), is that her books are about pure pleasure. Randy villains and sexy ladies abound, bad choices and good sex are rampant, and you're always going to get an explicit... er, description of the outfits the heroines are wearing (shoulder pads). Mistral's Daughter is my favorite — a multi-generational epic about three generations of feisty redheads — and the French painter who loved them all. I'm not kidding. Go put some iced tea in a glass and get reading.

Frenchman's Creek

by Daphne du Maurier

If you're tired of hearing me talk about this book, well, then you must not have read it yet. I won't go on and on, but here's the deal: in a list filled with crazy, dysfunctional men (I mean, who wants to bring Heathcliff home to mom), I must go on record saying that the Frenchman of the title — Jean-Benoit Aubery, is a partner worthy of your love. The broad strokes (ha!): An English lady escapes her dud of a husband, and heads to her house in Cornwall, where she finds a French pirate (!) squatting in her mansion, reading poetry. Adventures ensue, the lady removes her earrings, and said pirate is an officer and a gentleman. But poetry! I ask you. There's no better way to spend your Valentine's Day than reading this book.*

*I mean, there is, but this is a great book.

Barrie Hardymon
Barrie Hardymon is the Senior Editor at NPR's Weekend Edition, and the lead editor for books. You can hear her on the radio talking everything from Middlemarch to middle grade novels, and she's also a frequent panelist on NPR's podcasts It's Been A Minute and Pop Culture Happy Hour. She went to Juilliard to study viola, ended up a cashier at the Strand, and finally got a degree from Johns Hopkins' Writing Seminars which qualified her solely for work in public radio. She lives and reads in Washington, DC.