AAR Staff Top 10 Favorites – Heather’s Picks

paradise When you’re a voracious reader, picking a top 10 is a daunting task. There are so many books that I’ve loved and in many different ways or for different reasons. Some may be because they’ve brought me to a particular sub-genre. Some I’ve loved perhaps because they struck the right note for me for where I was emotionally at the time I read them. And some are on my favorites list just because they have that certain je ne se quois that causes me to connect with the story and characters. Whatever the reason may be, AAR has brought me fantastic recommendations for many years thanks to the wonderful community of reviewers, pollsters, commenters, and visitors to our message boards.

My highly scientific method of decision-making consisted of going through my reading log and if a book made me squee with delight, I short listed it. Then I began the arduous task of narrowing down my choices to ten. My choices represent a variety of genres and styles, but all have become favorites of mine in some way. There are some glaring omissions, notably due to the fact that there are no medievals on my list, and a few favorite authors, while I consistently enjoy the books they produce, did not make the cut.

And so now it is time for me to pick my favorite children, er, books. Gosh, this is harder than it sounded at first.

Paradise by Judith McNaught – I can still recall my college roommate coming into our dorm room one afternoon and saying, “What are you studying? Judith McNaught? Again?!” Paradise contains everything I’m a sucker for in romance: Reunited lovers, a bad boy hero from the wrong side of the tracks, a strong-willed heroine who is a perfect foil to his alpha male. Matt and Meredith’s HEA is hard won, but worth every second of the emotional ride.

wickeddeeds Wicked Deeds on a Winter Night by Kresley Cole – In 2009 I was facing a long convalescence following brain surgery. Knowing that my activities would be severely restricted during that period, I went in search of a long series that I could sink into in order to forget my pain and worries. Where else could I turn but the AAR message boards? The Immortals After Dark series turned out to be absolutely perfect for me. I read Wicked Deeds the day I was discharged from the hospital and fell hard for Bowen MacRieve. Maybe it was me, maybe it was the morphine? I just know that I want to have his little Lykae pups. (Please don’t tell Mariketa. She might turn me into a toad.)



loverawakened Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward – The third book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series features scarred and (quite literally) tortured Brother Zsadist. Brutal fighter Z is one scary dude who doesn’t let anyone get close to him or touch him. Gentle Bella sees past the scars and bravado and exerts a calming influence that finally allows Z to let down his guard and face the demons from his past. Their story packs an emotional wallop. Have tissues handy.




rosegarden The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley – I loved this book so much it’s hard for me to put my feelings into mere words. I loved the Cornish setting, the rich historical detail, the slow build of the story and romance. But most of all I loved how my heart was broken and then put back together in such a beautiful, exquisite fashion.




inthemidnightrain In the Midnight Rain by Ruth Wind (aka Barbara Samuel) – Atmospheric and moving, this story of love and redemption is the perfect blend of mystery and romance. I think the reason this stands out for me is not only the lyrical quality of the writing, but also the complexities of the characters and plot as well as the vivid description of the backstory. Plus, there’s the hero Blue. And who doesn’t want their own Blue?



boundbytheheart Bound by the Heart by Marsha Canham – This is the perfect rainy day, curl up under a blanket read. Originally published in 1984, this is old-skool romance in the best possible way. Shipboard shenanigans, island intrigue, abduction, a full-on battle at sea, and characters who have real chemistry – everything I miss about the old-skool “bodice rippers.” I recommend the eBook version in which the rapey scenes have been rewritten.



honestillusions Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts – I seriously could do a top 10 list consisting only of my favorite Nora Roberts titles and this one is among her best. For me it stands out due to the nuanced portrayal of morally ambiguous characters (they’re thieves) yet likable people. This is a story not just of love and healing, but also delivers the message that family does not necessarily mean blood.



mrimpossible Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase – I love the bantering between the hero and heroine and believe it is some of the best I have read. The unusual setting of 1820s Egypt pulled me into the story, but it was Rupert and Daphne’s dialogue that sealed the deal. The repartee and chemistry this pair share is off the charts.




magicstrikes Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews – While not a traditional romance in the strictest sense as the relationship develops over the course of multiple books, the Kate Daniels series has one of the best romances going. Strong-willed Kate meets equally strong-willed Curran in book 1, but things start really heating up between them here in book 3. The tension between them crackles with electricity and their bond just grows stronger.



ridethefire Ride the Fire by Pamela Clare – I usually find myself exhausted at the end of one of Pamela Clare’s books and this is no exception. Set in the American wilderness circa the mid-18th century, the author gives the reader a look at the harsh realities of frontier life. But through the days fraught with peril, a sweet romance develops between a hardened former soldier and a young pregnant widow. Be ye warned: There are graphic scenes of torture in this book. And while I believe that they are integral to the plot and help establish the overall feeling of the danger of the times, you may want to skip those scenes if you are easily (or maybe not so easily) upset.

So there you have Heather’s eclectic collection of favorites. Do our tastes align? Based upon my choices, what would you recommend that I read next? And are you loving these weekly Top 10 posts as much as I am? Let’s hear from you in the comments!

– Heather Stanton

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26 Responses to AAR Staff Top 10 Favorites – Heather’s Picks

  1. LeeB. says:

    I’ve read Paradise, The Rose Garden, In the Midnight Rain, Honest Illusions and Mr. Impossible. Excellent choices!

    And yes, I am loving the Top 10 lists.

  2. Wendy says:

    Obviously I need to find Bound by the Heart. I’ve read all your other picks and agree that they’re all great.

    • HeatherS AAR says:

      Oh Wendy, Bound by the Heart is definitely worth finding. If you like the sort of sweeping, over the top romances of days of yore. The author released an eBook version that apparently was rewritten for more contemporary attitudes toward forced seduction, etc. But if you have trouble finding an ecopy that works for you I have a paperback from 1982 I can mail you. :)

  3. Connie says:

    In The Midnight Rain and The Rose Garden are definitely in my top 10. You reminded me that I need a reread of both of them. Blue…..sigh………

  4. Sandir says:

    Ooh – I just found the Honest Illusions ebook at my library and am looking forward to reading it. Thanks for your list!

    • HeatherS AAR says:

      Oh I hope you like Honest Illusions! I struggled between Honest Illusions and Public Secrets as my favorite Nora Roberts book. I ended up going with Honest Illusions because I think the romance is stronger and holds up better upon rereading. But then again, Carnal Innocence has Tucker Longstreet…

  5. leslie says:

    I am totally head over heels in love with Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series.

  6. LeeF says:

    Ecletic indeed- what a great list- you had me at “je ne se quois”. And now I will have to visit my sticks and bricks library to re-read the whole Paradise-Perfect series. I was particularly fond of Every Breath You Take.

    You have given me some new authors to explore as well as books from favorites that I haven’t read yet- thanks.

    • HeatherS AAR says:

      Thank you! I hope you find a hidden gem within my list that you will enjoy. And I may just join you on that reread of the Paradise-Perfect series!

  7. Sandlynn says:

    Two of your picks have made my top ten: Paradise and In the Midnight Rain. And one just misses by a smidgeon: Honest Illusions.

    • HeatherS AAR says:

      Awesome! I love that I’m not quite as far out in left field when it comes to favorites as I’d thought. It was really difficult to cut my list to ten though, so I’m looking forward to the Top 100 poll. (And maybe I’ll have some new faves to add by October!) :)

  8. Joane says:

    I really love these Top Ten Lists. All Tuesdays I wait eagerly to the post to be published. Some weeks I agree and sometimes I don’t. The thing is that you can always find some new or interesting books. Up to date, I agree more with Caz, I think, but each week I discover a great bunch of books that I should try. Thank U very much for this weekly pleasure.

    • HeatherS AAR says:

      I’m so glad you are enjoying these too! Caz’s list was so interesting to me because I think I’ve only read one book on her list. I read her list and decided I need to do some more branching out. If you have any ideas of where I should start on her list, definitely let me know.

  9. Mary says:

    I wake up each Tuesday and remember…”today we get another Top Ten list!” I have read 6 of the books on this list and agree with Heather that they are wonderful choices. Now I will have to buy the Marsha Canham one. I thought I had read most of hers, but obviously missed this one somewhere along the way.

    • HeatherS AAR says:

      I get excited on Tuesdays too because I love these lists! We have such a diverse group, but the common denominator is that we all love good books. And you must find Bound by the Heart. It’s really one of those books that pulls you in and transports you to that time and place. I hope you like it!

  10. LinnieGayl says:

    One of your books — Mr. Impossible — will be on mine. Such a great book. I’ve just recently read my very first Susanna Kearsley book, The Shadowy Horses. Sounds like I should make The Rose Garden my next read.

    • HeatherS says:

      LG, you will love it. I’ve adored all of the books I’ve read by her, but this is my favorite.

      • LinnieGayl says:

        Thanks, HeatherS! Then it’s definitely going to be my next. I keep looking at descriptions and reviews of her other books and honestly couldn’t figure out which one to read next.

        • Sharlene Wegner says:

          Mr. Impossible was a great book! I read it due to a recommendation & loved it so much that I went back & read the whole series in order. I think this one is the 2nd in the series.

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