We’re Opening four Special Titles Listings!

BMWe hope you are all having a lovely time baking holiday treats and choosing gifts for the your friends and family. Hopefully there is also some time left for reading (although we know from experience this is not always the case in December). With everything being a bit busier than usual, we have decided to open this month’s Special Titles Listings late enough to extend until after the holidays. We’re hoping that if not straight away, you will find a moment to nominate some titles in the more quiet days.

When we looked at the lists this time, we realised with some astonishment that almost all of them have been opened and revised since we took up this task a bit more than two years ago. This means we will be able reopen some of the more popular lists quite soon. In the meantime, here are four more lists that have been neglected so far: All in the Family, Guardian/Ward Romances, Twins, and Plus-Sized Heroines.

The All in the Family list contains romances between relatives both by blood and by marriage. Quite a few of these books can be tricky in the eyes of the readers: In some cultures, for examples, marriages between first cousins is a taboo, whereas in others it isn’t. This means that as a reader from Central Europe I am just fine with Georgette Heyer’s Grand Sophy marrying her cousin Charles – especially since they never knew each other while growing up – but I know there are readers with different cultural backgrounds who find this difficult to swallow. In a similar vein, some readers find marriages problematic where one partner has been the lover/husband/wife of their new romantic interest in the past. On the other hand, the list also contains titles in which someone falls for a sibling’s best friend, for a step-sibling or an in-law. Reading how the dynamics of family play out in such romances can be great fun, and often they provide a more fully-fleshed cast of secondary characters than many romances do. If you nominate a title for this category, can you very kindly tell us how the characters are related (i.e. foster siblings or sibling’s best friend)?

Guardian/Ward romances can be difficult for modern sensibilities as well. Often they contain a relationship between a younger woman and a much older man. The obvious inequality of power can be further complicated by the rather problematic move from parental/filial emotions to sexual desire. This said, in a skilled hand they can work wonderfully well. As an example, take Georgette Heyer’s Regency Buck, where the hero is astonished to find himself guardian to a girl not much younger than himself, and is torn between his desires and the duties he needs to fulfil. In this list we also include romances with protagonists who take on a guardian-like role, like Georgette Heyer’s Frederica, so there does not have to be a strictly legal guardian/ward relationship.

Now Twins are fun (mostly). They can be found in any number of books where the twins in question play on the fact that nobody can tell them apart, and use this to get their own way. In a more serious vein, a twin may be asked to take on a sibling’s role as part of a criminal investigation – in the worst case, their twin is dead. Other books seriously explore the issues that may stem from being only part of a whole, and the development necessary to emancipate even from this close relationship.

The Plus-Sized Heroines list contains both characters who are curvy and who are unusually tall, so very kindly indicate this when you nominate a title! These heroines often feel inadequate or awkward due to their height and/or size, or in the case of being perfectly happy with themselves, they instead have to deal with rude remarks and preconceived notions from the people around them. They may further feel insecure when it comes to finding a romantic partner, because they do not fulfill the general ideal of female beauty.

We are looking very much forward to your nominations! In the meantime, take our heartfelt thanks for all the wonderful books you have contributed to these lists in 2014. We very much appreciate your input, and hope for more great suggestions in 2015!

- Rike Horstmann, LinnieGayl Kimmel, and Cindy Smith


LinnieGayl’s Favorite Mysteries of 2014

TSLong before I ever read romances, I was an avid mystery reader. My love of mysteries started as a child with Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, and continues to this day. The mystery community handed out the bulk of its awards for “best of 2013” in November of 2014. As usual, I was nearly completely out of step with the awards; I either hadn’t read the award winners (and nominees) or disliked most of the ones I had read. So I’m going to get a jump on the 2014 award year – by at least 10 months – and pick my favorite mysteries published in 2014.

The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley – Yes, once again the highlight of my mystery-reading year occurred in January with the latest in the Flavia de Luce mystery series featuring 11-year old Flavia, a would-be detective and serious chemist (with a particular love of poisons). Set in 1951 England, the series continues to delight me. I’ll admit I’m now counting down the weeks (and soon days) until the next book is released. This latest entry seems to wrap up one part of Flavia’s life, and I’m very curious to see where she ends up in the next book. I should note that I both read these in print and listen to them in audio, and cannot recommend highly enough the narration done by Jayne Entwistle; she’s absolutely delightful.

The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander – This is the ninth in the author’s Lady Emily mystery series set in Victorian England. As always, Lady Emily and her husband Colin are at the center of the story, featuring the mysterious murder of a woman who turns out to be an imposter heiress. I love Lady Emily and Colin’s relationship with each other, and with their host of friends. I’m also very curious to see what happens in the next book, as Lady Emily seems to be developing an interest in Egypt.

Moriarty Returns a Letter by Michael Robertson – This is the fourth in a series featuring two brothers whose law offices are located at 221B Baker Street. As part of the lease agreement, they had to agree to respond to letters to Sherlock Holmes, which leads them to many interesting cases. I discovered the series this past year and feel the latest is the best in the series.

The Question of the Missing Head by E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen – This is the first in a series featuring Samuel Hoenig, a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, who runs a business entitled Questions Answered. It’s a new business, and his latest “question” to solve is to discover who stole a head from a cryonics institute. All of the main characters – including Samuel’s mother – are interesting, and parts of the mystery surprised me. I can’t wait for the second in the series. As a note, E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen are the same person.

That Summer by Lauren Willig – This is a standalone from the author most known for her Pink Carnation series. There is a slight nod to the series in that one of the characters has a distant connection to a character from the series. But this definitely stands on its own. Like her Pink Carnation series, it features a modern story (2009) and an historical story (1849). While there is no murder involved in the story, there’s a definite mystery about a pre-Raphaelite painting. I liked both the historical and modern parts, but found myself particularly interested in the modern story. The historical part is decidedly darker than the historical parts of the Pink Carnation series, but intriguing, particularly with the links to the pre-Raphaelite artists.

Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James – This is the author’s third book. While each of the books are set in the same time period (this one in 1919) and feature ghosts, they are all standalones. For me this is the darkest in the series, but also a completely engrossing mystery. The heroine — Kitty Weekes – lies about her identity and experiences and gets a job in a remote nursing home for shell-shocked soldiers. In addition to a particularly frightening ghost, the soldiers in the home have many secrets.

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny – In the author’s latest Armand Gamache mystery, the now retired Gamache is living in Three Pines – that virtually hidden small village in Quebec. I wasn’t sure where the author would go after the last mystery, as it seemed to resolve a number of story arcs. But in this latest book, she takes us back to many of the earlier books in the series and resolves some long-standing mysteries. I have come to love this series and cannot wait for the next. But the series features so much character development, and has so many linked stories that it absolutely must be read from the beginning.

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths – This is the sixth in the author’s series featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. Ruth is an unusual main character; she’s grumpy, overweight, a bit of a loner, and is now a single mother of a young daughter. I found this to be much more interesting than the previous entry in the series, with parallel mysteries of mothers accused of the murder of their children in Victorian and present-day England.

The Harlot’s Taleby Sam Thomas – This is the second mystery featuring midwife Bridget Hodgson. Set in York in 1645, the story mixes a rather grizzly series of murders with information about life in York during the civil war. An historian, the author does a wonderful job conveying the history of the period while holding my interest in both the characters and the mystery.

That’s it, my top nine mysteries of 2014. Did you read any great mysteries you would recommend in 2014?




We’ve updated our Special Titles lists!

Since we started updating the Special Title lists in 2012 we’ve asked AAR’s readers to tell us which lists they would like updated first. We’ve taken your priorities to heart and have gradually been working through your favorite lists. We’re now down to the lists that very few readers listed as their favorites. Needless to say we were nervous when we opened the latest five lists for updating; would anyone submit titles? Our worries proved groundless. Once again, you’ve submitted lots of great titles. Continue reading

Opening five Special Titles Listings for submissions!

5heartsAfter a long, relaxing summer break we are very happy to be back and full of renewed energy. You can see that from the fact that we are opening no less than five of the Special Titles list, and hoping for many fascinating submissions from you. Remember, that you should only nominate the best of the best romances. We will be accepting submissions starting today, Monday, October 13, and ending at midnight on Sunday, October 26. Here are the five lists: Continue reading

A Special Titles Update!

One of the nicest parts of looking up newly nominated titles for a Special Titles Listing is discovering and rediscovering great books. This time around, we were struck by how many of the titles we had to research for the present list were actually perfect summer reading material. We came across exotic settings, sea travel, luxury lifestyles and an over-all fairy tale quality. Here are some of the new titles that we found especially interesting, sorted by the list they are part of. Check out all of the results here.sleeping-beauty_jpg Continue reading

We’ve Four New Special Title Lists!

SpecialToday we open up four more Special Title Lists for new submissions. And now that summer’s here, we thought it would be fun to focus on what for many, are guilty pleasure reads. So starting today, we’re looking for submissions to the following four lists: (1) Pirates, Vikings & Sheiks; (2) Royalty in Romance; (3) Fairy Tale Romances; and (4) Perfect First Wives. Continue reading

Books with Characters Who Read

tumblr_lcwupgBQRR1qb8ugro1_1280Last week I was walking past a used bookstore that had a number of books displayed on a shelf outside the store. One of the books – The Library by Sarah Stewart – caught my eye. I spent over 10 minutes thumbing through this children’s book (illustrated by David Small) and ultimately bought it. It’s now sitting on my coffee table where I can look at – and smile at – the cover featuring a young girl with her nose in a book dragging a wagon filled with books behind her. Continue reading

Seeking Submissions for Six Special Title Listings

1177597246_1024x768_book-of-a-wizard-wallpaperToday we open up six more Special Title Lists for new submissions. That’s right, we’re going all out with the following six lists as this will be our last major update until fall: (1) Green Romances; (2) Friendships; (3) Two-Hanky Reads; (4) Best Enemies; (5) The Limelight; and (6) Cross-Dressing & In Disguise.

We look forward to seeing your submissions for these lists starting today, Monday, May 12, and going for the next two weeks ending Sunday, May 25 at midnight. As a reminder, any additions to the list have to be: (1) the best of the best, (2) stand the test of time, and (3) actually fit the list for which they were submitted. Continue reading

AAR Mini-Polls: Which Should We Do Next?

1-1911-drawing-by-charles-dana-gibson-everettAAR reader response to the re-opening of the Mini-polls was robust and we are thrilled with the updated Western/Frontier romances.  With renewed spirits we turned our attention to the rest of the Mini-polls (see all the results here under “Top Ten Polls”).  We quickly realized that we would like your input as to which lists you would like to see updated next. To be honest, it’s been many years since these lists were started and some are definitely outdated, like the list from 2006 for the Top 10 E-books. And some of the lists seem to be in need of splitting (such as Paranormal and Time Travel Romances). Continue reading