So, I’ve been promising a list of my favorite romance novels toIrish, Alea and Tiffany. As most of you know, I’ve been a little busy, writing a book that I hope will be on someone else’s list of favorite romance novels some day, but now I am done (yay!) and ready to FINALLY make that list!
Of course, when I sat down to make the list, I realized that my favorite romance novels fill WAY more than one list. So…I’m splitting them up. Over the next few days, I’m going to list my top 10 Historical Romance Novels, Contemporary Romances, and YA Romances. I’m going to start with Historicals, because that’s what I’m thinking about right now and, between us, it’s the genre that I’ve probably definitely read the most of (read: literally thousands of books. it’s borderline embarrassing, but I console myself with the fact that I now write historical romance novels, so…nyah).
Here we go…in no particular order, my top 10!
But, wait. I can’t do it. It’s too hard. Because I could name 10 Johanna Lindsey books that are my favorites alone. Same with Lisa Kleypas. Same with…well…all of these authors. So…I’m actually going to name the top 10 historical romances written by ten different authors all of whom I hope to someday have my name uttered in the same sentence with. For the most part, you can’t go wrong with a book by any of these incredible women. But these are, in my humble opinion, their best.
**Clarification. This list was designed for Alea. Who is not a romance novel reader. At least, not yet. So this list includes some classics. I like to think that what we’re talking about here is a full on list of the top ten books that should be included in the CANON of romantic literature. Yeah, some of them are old. But you know what? They’re awesome.
- The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux – I can remember reading this one for the first time. I can remember falling in love with the hero…and the heroine…and their incredible story. And I can tell you that this book is, quite possibly, the reason why I have so long dreamed of being a romance novelist.
- The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas – This is the third book in a four-book series and, I’m sure that many would say that it’s breaking a pretty serious reading rule to start with book three. However, I say hang the rules and start with this one, as there is, quite possibly, no more perfect wallflower-rake romance than this one. And there is, quite possibly, no more incredible hero than Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent.
- Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey – This was definitely the hardest choice. Because, the truth is, I cut my teeth on Johanna Lindsey and the gorgeous, incredible, amazing Malorys. And asking me to choose only one of her books is like asking mothers to choose their favorite child. But James Malory is a pirate and Georgina Andersen is a perfect match for him (and he calls her George, which I think is were Alex got her somewhat masculine moniker). More than that, they are a heckuva couple. And Fabio is on the cover. And the Canon has to have at least one of those.
- Till Dawn Tames the Night by Meagan McKinney – Ok, so…this one can feel a little bodice-rippery…the hero is a pirate. and not the most gentlemanly of them. BUT…if you can see your way past that, you’ll see that he’s dark and brooding and, well, pretty darn perfect. And you’ll want to be abducted on his ship anytime it’s convenient for him. (Also…this one is out of print…so if you find one, snatch it up!!)
- The Duke & I by Julia Quinn – You have to live under a rock to have not heard of Julia Quinn, who many say is a modern day Jane Austen. I sure say it. This is the first (and my favorite) of her famous Bridgerton Series. I love love love it. Of course, as I wrote “(and my favorite),” my head was screaming…no! What about The Viscount Who Loved Me? What aboutIt’s In His Kiss? This list is IMPOSSIBLE.
- The Gift by Julie Garwood – Best. Prologue. Ever.
- The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt – Elizabeth exploded onto my bookshelf a year or so ago with this, the first in her Prince trilogy. Smart heroine meets dark, wounded hero…and saves him. Yummy.
- Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens – Ok. I’m in love with Devil Cynster. Seriously. My husband makes fun of me for it. But I don’t care. If Devil were flesh and blood, Eric would have a serious problem on his hands.
- The Dragon and the Jewel by Virginia Henley – I’m not wild about some of Henley’s more recent stuff, but I was so obsessed with The Dragon and the Jewel when I was in high school that I actually wrote my final paper for AP European History about Simon de Montfort, the hero (who was actually a REAL PERSON!) of the book. So, it makes the list.
- Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James – The last in the four-book Essex Sisters series…Josie is the youngest sister and her hero, the Earl of Mayne is about as debauched as heroes get…but oh does that make for a lovely lovely story. Le sigh.
OK! That was, seriously, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. WOW. And now I’m already second guessing the list…what about the newer, closer-to-debut authors? What about the other women who I religiously buy? I’m going to have to make lists of those, too. And this is going to have to become a recurring feature. Because three lists will not be enough.
But, for now…what Historicals did I miss? I welcome additions and debate! (And recommendations, as always!!!)
Several months back, I made a list of my Top 10 Historical Romance Novels…which was, quite possibly, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I set out to make a list of my Top Romance Novels, period, before I realized that I could list 10 novels that I loved set between the years 1812 and 1815 off the top of my head. So I went with historical. And promised more lists soon.
Soon, as many of you who are regular readers know, became not so soon. But I did not forget you! I swear! This week, I’m tackling contemporaries. Not easy. Because contemporaries fall into so many different categories…there are the Harlequins and Silhouettes that I read voraciously every month after my sister’s HQN and Loveswept Book-of-the-month club boxes arrived…and then the big, sweeping single-title contemporaries that make us all sigh…and that doesn’t even touch Harlequin Blaze…or the new, hardcover single titles…or romantic suspense!
Sure, I’m a historical lover. But, between us? There’s something about curling up with a good contemporary that is awesome. Gone is your life…your problems…your world…and there is someone else’s life…someone who could easily be you. And there’s a man…a pillar of a stud who just might live next door. Or who might be sitting on a plane next to you the next time you fly somewhere for work. And that’s a powerful fantasy. But the contemporary romance seems to wax and wane…and I hate hate hate the idea of it fading away because people don’t appreciate its power.
Which is why I was so happy when Smart Bitches, Trashy Books & Dear Authorteamed up to Save the Contemporary earlier this year. And it’s why I persevered in FINALLY building this list. Here we go again…in no particular order…my top 9 contemporary romance novels (because now that I have a book with a 9 in the title, I am eschewing lists of 10)!
**Disclaimer. This list was designed for people who are not romance novel readers. At least, not yet. And it’s not comprehensive. This list includes some classics. I like to think that what we’re talking about here is a full on list of books that should be included in the canon of romantic literature. Yeah, some of them are old. But you know what? They’re awesome.
- Perfect by Judith McNaught – I got a complaint or two that McNaught’sWhitney, My Love wasn’t on my Historical list. There are a few reasons why that is–but the most important is this: I think Judith McNaught’s contemporary romances blow her historical ones out of the water. TakePerfect. If you’ve ever had that fantasy where a movie star falls in love with plain-old-you? This is the book for you. Yes, the plot is crazysauce: Falsely imprisoned movie star escapes and has no choice to kidnap a plain Jane teacher. They hideout in a cabin in the snow and fall in love. Of course. Don’t judge me. If you can stay dry-eyed through your first reading of this book, then you’re allowed to judge me. I see you judging me.
- Texas! Chase by Sandra Brown – Any list of best contemporary romance novels has to include two things: cowboys and military men. Here’s my first nod to cowboys (but, as I’m typing, I realize that there’s going to be at least one more). This one is tough. The hero is SERIOUSLY wounded. His pregnant wife died in a car accident, and he’s roped into marrying the woman who was driving (and who happens to have loved him for her entire life). IT COULD HAPPEN! He’s kind of an ass to her…until he realizes that ohmigosh he loves her. I know. But, I swear, as a reader, you go with it. Because you can’t help it. It’s just that good.
- Midnight Jewels by Jayne Ann Krentz – This was my first Jayne Ann Krentz book…and one of my first single-title contemporaries. It is still my favorite of all of her books, and I’m not really sure if it’s the nostalgia factor or the fact that I’m completely and utterly in love with the hero–and was from the very first second I saw his name. I mean, who doesn’t fall for Croft Falconer? Add to it the fact that the whole story is centered around a rare book, and stop it. I’m sold. This is also as close to romantic suspense as this list will get.
- Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas – It’s no secret that I think that Lisa Kleypas writes quite possibly the most perfect historical romance heroes (I’m looking at you, St. Vincent). And I will follow her blindly. Regency? Victorian New Orleans? Gypsies? Yes. But when she went contemporary, I thought, Oh No! But…but…how could these heroes ever compete? And what is this first person POV? And then I met Hardy Cates and….Oh YES. YES YES! Add to that the fact that the book deals with some really tough issues–spousal abuse–and still delivers a passionate, heart-wrenching lovestory, and…well, yes.
- Nobody’s Baby but Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips – I was woefully late to the SEP party. That said, I have made up for lost time in an extraordinary way. And, while I haven’t completed my tour through her catalog, I’ve come close…and I feel confident in putting Nobody’s Baby but Mine on the list. Such a fun read. Brilliant physicist goes after hot hot HOT football player thinking he’ll be dumb enough to both even out the gene pool and give up those genes without a fight. Too bad he’s clever, funny and smart himself. When these two go head to head, you won’t want it to end.
- Sweet Liar by Jude Deveraux – As you know from my historical list, Jude Deveraux holds a very special, very important place in my heart as the author of the very first historical romance I ever read–The Black Lyon. With that, she started a long and rich collection of books about a single family, The Montgomerys, who ultimately merge with the Taggart family. There are about six centuries worth of Montgomerys and Taggarts in the Deveraux catalog, and when we get to modern day, there’s always a risk that heroes living now can’t possibly compete with dukes and earls and larger-than-life heroes of then. And then you meet Michael Taggert, the hero of Sweet Liar, and you forget that there was ever a risk. Because this book, a brilliant contemporary wrapped up in the history of the St. Valentine’s Day-esque massacre, ultimately is one heckuva love story. If you’ve never read a book by JD, don’t start here…but definitely finish with this one.
- Frisco’s Kid by Suzanne Brockmann – Remember when I said that no contemporary romance list is complete without a Navy SEAL book? Well, if you’re going to read a Navy SEAL book, it ought to be by Suzanne Brockmann. Because the woman does SEALs like nobody’s business. Frisco’s Kid is one of her Tall, Dark & Dangerous series, and my personal favorite. I am a sucker for a wounded hero, who can only be saved by the love of a good woman (who isn’t?). Here, we’ve got wounded soldier + good woman + 6-year-old niece + the body and mind of a SEAL. Is it getting hot in here? Yum.
- Warrior by Elizabeth Lowell – Ok…this one makes the list for nostalgia reasons as much as anything else. This book was originally published as a Silhouette Desire and my friend Lindsay and I passed it back and forth and drooled over the hero–Nevada (wounded warrior and TOTAL Alpha male)–until the cover fell off. I still have my original copy, Scotch taped together with love. And the scene in the cabin when they finally FINALLY give into each other? Knee-watering. (NB: My version of this book is out of print. This link takes you to an HQN reprint that includes another book in Lowell’s series. That one’s worth the read, too!)
- And while I’m all the way down here on memory lane, discussing those series books that I fell in love with when I was 13, I have to give a slot to Diana Palmer. So… The Long, Tall Texans Series by Diana Palmer – More cowboys. Yes. But who doesn’t love a good cowboy? Ok. I’m totally cheating here…because when I was a kid, these books were individual titles. But now, you can read about Calhoun, Justin and Tyler in one fell swoop. Start with Calhoun–Texas playboy and all-around bad boy. But, oh. My.
Now, like always, I’m questioning the list…what about the newer authors? The Harlequins I’ve loved recently? Uhm…Toni Blake? Kristan Higgins? Jenny Crusie? Forget it. This is too hard. I apologize, in advance, for the books I’ve missed. It’s your turn to tell me what I *have* missed. Did I pick the wrong book from one of these authors? Or did i blow it by not including some other author altogether?
Comment with omissions, debate (and recommendations, as always)!
I have a failing. I know, I know…it’s hard to believe. But it’s true. You see, I don’t read much paranormal romance. In fact, it’s fair to say that until recently (I’m looking at you, Pamela Palmer & Juliana Stone& Kerrelyn Sparks), I was a strictly non-paranormal romance reader. It’s not that I was opposed to paranormals…it’s that I was just busy hanging out in my historical and contemporary worlds.
My sister, however, is a paranormal fan. I mean…WHOA. If there’s a paranormal romance author out there, Kiki has read her. So…since I was due for another Read More Romance post AND I’m committed to reading more paranormal and totally uncertain of where to begin, I asked Kiki to make me a list. Which she did…in the form of the following pretty awesome guest post…just in time to celebrate the long-awaited launch of Lover Mine, the next book in JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Enjoy!
Kiki MacLean’s Top 9 Paranormal Romance Novels
I’ve been on my sister to read more paranormal romance for several years now. I suppose when you’re fast on the way to becoming one of the best historical regency romance authors – she’s my sister, I get to say this :) (editorial note: great sister, no?) – you must stay true to your genre. Nonetheless, I designed the list below to suck her in to the world of paranormal romance. Who knows, if I’m lucky, she’ll bring her talent to the genre and write one! I live in eternal hope…
The list below represents my humble opinion of the list of must-read paranormal romance novels for one who is new to the genre. Read at your own risk – they’re hot, they’re addictive, they’re dark. But, once you start, I guarantee you won’t be able to resist reading other books by these authors.
JR Ward, Dark Lover – The divine Ms. Ward… enough said … An aristocratic vampire, a blind king by the name of Wrath, a journalist, and quite possibly the best opening scene ever. Dark Lover is the first in the seven-book Black Dagger Brotherhood series (the eighth book is due for release today, I so can’t wait). This series is without a doubt one of the best (if not the best) modern-day vampire series.
Dance with the Devil, Sherrilyn Kenyon – Early in the Dark-Hunter series (book #4), the anti-hero Zarek (the ultimate bad boy, oooh leather) has been exiled to sub-zero climes in Alaska by the ‘bitch goddess’ Artemis. He finds salvation in his love for the Greek Nymph of Justice, Astrid, who is called to judge him for damning crimes – I laughed, I cried, and I admit I downloaded several of the music references, e.g., Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog.
Midnight Awakening, Lara Adrian – Book #4 in the Midnight Breed series has one super badass heroine, Elise Chase, who finds her match (and her love) in an equally bad badass hero, Tegan. It’s totally self-contained – no need to read those before or after in the series – in the immortal words of my sister, hang the rules, start with this book.
The Darkest Kiss, Gena Showalter – Showalter’s books deserve a special place on any bookshelf. An accomplished author, capable of moving effortlessly between Young Adult & Adult romance, her books underpin any paranormal list. Selecting just one? Super hard! Where to start? I suggest Darkest Kiss(Book #2 of the Lords of the Underworld series) – the story of Lucien (who houses the Demon of Death – just go with it…) and Anya, the minor goddess of anarchy – think paranormal version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and the chase is on.
Darkness Everlasting, Alexandra Ivy – Book # 3 in the Guardians of Eternity series, this book speaks to those who prefer a mix to their paranormal – one part were to one part vampire. Poignant & incredibly addictive, Ivy’s book pits the vampire king, Styk, against the were king, Salvatore, in a conquest for the love of Darcy. Did I mention, the entire race of demons is at risk … Who can resist that?!
No Rest for the Wicked, Kresley Cole – A fun, fast-paced adventure! I tripped upon this book by accident, devoured it in one sitting, and read the balance of the series in one weekend. Mix one part vampire, one part valkyrie assassin, a half-mad soothsayer, introduce a scavenger hunt designed by mercurial gods, and wow! It sucks you in…
Pleasure Unbound, Larissa Ione – Book #1 of the Demonica series, much ofPleasure Unbound takes place in a hospital run by demons – I know, kind of bizarre, but refreshingly different. Especially for those of us who are little tired, perhaps jaded, of the tried and true vampire story — This one’s a must read. Oh, and did I mention, the hero, Eidolon, is hot, hot, hot! And, his brother, Wraith … sigh.
So the last two on my list break from the vampire theme …
Caressed by Ice, Nalini Singh – There are so many elements of this book that make it a fantastic read – the brilliant world building, the character development, the dialogue, the political underpinnings – simply put, it’s one of my favorites in the genre.
The Game, Heather Killough-Walden (**eBook only) — This book is a total dark horse! Victor Black, Victoria Red, and Maxwell Blood, all are caught in ‘The Game.’ Who’s good? Who’s evil? Who ends up with whom? The book keeps you guessing, with twists & turns, until the very end. Science fiction meets paranormal romance, with not a vampire in sight. This book is enthralling! I’m so taken with it, I’m off to read, Third Kiss: Dorian’s Dream. If it’s as good asThe Game, it may just become #10 on the list.