AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Lynn’s Picks

toloveandtocherish As with everyone else here, I found it quite difficult to whittle my list of book loves down to 10. I could handle 50 or even 25, but 10 just seems like such a paltry number when compared with the sheer number of books and characters I truly adore. Just to keep things manageable, I kept my list to post-1970s romance, which cut out some classic favorites such as Persuasion, Venetia, my little stash of Betty Neels books, or Elswyth Thane’s wonderful Williamsburg novels. I also stuck with romance, rather than picking some of the books I’ve loved in other genres which have romantic elements, such as Julia Spencer-Fleming’s mysteries or Catherine Asaro’s science fiction. So, what did I come up with? Well, in no particular order, here they are:

To Love and To Cherish by Patricia Gaffney – The controversial emotional powerhouse that is To Have and To Hold tends to get most of the attention, but this first novel of the Wyckerley trilogy is the one that I’ve always loved the most. It’s a tender, touching love story and hero’s struggle over his love for a woman trapped in a horrible marriage is filled with such amazing tension. If you like your romances emotional and angsty, this is one not to miss.

libertineskiss Libertine’s Kiss by Judith James – Speaking of angst-filled romance, this is another that fits that bill. I’d be the first to say that Libertine’s Kiss is not an easy, breezy read. However, this multilayered story full of raw emotion, court intrigue, and plenty of Restoration-era literary and historical references is a feast for the senses. I love the vividness of the world James creates, and I ached for her characters, who have had to go through so much before getting a shot at happily ever after.


dirtymeganhart Dirty by Megan Hart – I love Megan Hart’s writing and I have tremendous respect for her versatility as an author. She’s written erotic romance as well as mainstream fiction, and even a work of science fiction. However, this erotic tale of a deeply wounded heroine finally falling beyond lust into love remains my favorite of hers. The sex is hot, the writing is smart and I sooo wanted these characters to get their happily ever after.


morningglory Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer – If there were ever two characters in dire need of happily ever after, it would be Ellie Dinsmore and Will Parker. Watching the town outcast and her ex-con handyman find something of great worth both in themselves and in each other is a tender, beautiful journey. This book has a certain quiet, emotional power about it that enchants even some of my non-romance reading friends.


viscountwholovedme The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn – I’ve enjoyed most of Julia Quinn’s books for a couple of reasons: She captures human nature and emotion so well and her comic timing is fantastic. The latter is especially evident here. Viscount brims over with witty dialogue and even if some of the scenes are a bit over the top, I suspect that more than a few readers have laughed aloud while reading it. And if you’ve seen references online to the famous(infamous?) Mallet of Death, this is where you’ll find it.


formyladysheart For My Lady’s Heart by Laura Kinsale – I know that Flowers From the Storm tends to get a lot of attention and it is a wonderful read, but I have more of a soft spot for this one. Yes, the Middle English makes it a more challenging romance read than usual. However, I love the time period in which it’s set and I also love how Kinsale takes a sometimes cold and often unlovable heroine and gives her a story that captivates the reader.


bloodofroses The Blood of Roses by Marsha Canham – It’s no secret that I love a good saga, and this one just swept me away the first time I read it. In order to truly appreciate this book, it definitely helps to read its predecessor, The Pride of Lions. However, while Lions is good enough, this book is just epic. This tale of lovers thrown together, torn apart by war, and then brought back together again is gritty, emotional, and just wonderful to read.


badboysdo Bad Boys Do by Victoria Dahl – The entire Donovan Brother Brewery trilogy is well worth reading, but this middle book was definitely my favorite. I tend to notice interesting heroines, vivid settings and fantastic plots most of all while reading, but the chronically underestimated Jamie Donovan stands out as a hero and he truly makes this book. The mix of humor and angst in this story felt spot-on, and I’ve already read this one more than once.


lostwarriors Lost Warriors by Rachel Lee – This is one of those books that will probably remain forever in my Top Ten even if it’s not one that I’ve reread recently. There are some novels that catch a reader on a certain emotional level and remain forever burned into memory, and this is one of those books for me. When I was in college, I spent some time as a refugee relief worker overseas, working primarily with Bosnians and Kossovar Albanians. The adjustment to “normal” life after spending so much time on the edges of a conflict zone was difficult and since the wars in the Balkans weren’t exactly fashionable, there weren’t a whole lot of folks who understood those of us who had been there. It was while I was finishing up school that I found this book in a used bookstore, and the hero’s struggles with PTSD combined with the heroine’s unabashed love for him just melted me.


the_firebird The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley – I absolutely love Kearsley’s books and I originally thought The Winter Sea just might have to go in my top ten as it’s one that improves with every reading. However, I thought this book was even better, and it blew me away on my first reading. I loved following the threads of story both in the present and in 18th century Russian. Kearsley makes her settings feel real, and both the present-day and historical plots have wonderful love stories running through them. Her 18th century heroine goes through a lot over the course of her story, and I alternately ached for her and adored watching her grow as a person.

I wish this could have been a top 25 because there are so many other books(The Roselynde Chronicles by Roberta Gellis, any of a number of Carla Kelly’s novels, a few of my favorite Harlequin Historicals….) I would love to add to this list, but here it is. These are the 10 that currently sit at the top level of my DIK shelves. I’m getting excited about the impending Top 100 poll and can’t wait to see what everyone else out there loves reading!

– Lynn Spencer

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16 Responses to AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Lynn’s Picks

  1. LeeF says:

    Thanks for mentioning Megan Hart. She is one of those authors whose books both take me by surprise and make me uncomfortable. I look forward to rereading her.

    I looked at For My Lady’s Heart for Kindle. Apparently the ebook has been reworked to include the original with all of the Middle English dialogue and a second version with more modern words. I am currently reading Kinsale’s The Hidden Heart for the second time- it is one of her quirky books that I find so enjoyable.

  2. AAR Lynn says:

    Kinsale is another versatile author, isn’t she? Her books really do differ in tone from one another sometimes. I know she’s been working on getting the audio editions of her backlist out (to great acclaim), but I do hope she write another new book one of these days.

  3. Bes says:

    I’m Albanian from Macedonia so it was pretty cool to hear about your refugee work. Believe me, I know about the Balkans not being fashionable.

    I’m a huge fan of Kinsale’s Flowers From the Storm and The Shadow and the Star, but have been hesitant about trying For My Lady’s Heart. I think I’ll give it a try after reading this. Maybe Megan Hart’s Dirty too. I absolutely loved her book Broken. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days after I finished.

    • AAR Lynn says:

      Yes, definitely try For My Lady’s Heart! It’s something very unique in romance, I think.

      And I know what you mean about Megan Hart’s books staying in your mind after reading them. I had a hard time choosing one because all of the ones I’ve read tend to linger in my head for days and weeks after I read them. I did like the hopefulness of Dirty’s ending, though.

  4. Wendy says:

    I miss those old Silhouettes, and a couple almost made my Top 10. It’s good to see an unexpected one on yours. I’ve never read it, so, yay, another addition to my wish list. I’ve never tried Megan Chance either.

  5. Jen says:

    I *adored* For My Lady’s Heart. I loved the Medieval language nuances and the story although I remember thinking “huh???” when I first started it. Wierdly, I wasn’t as fond of the 2nd book – but I really enjoyed FMLH and have recommended it to other die-hard romance readers who would appreciate that type of book.

    I’ve been plowing through Susanna Kearsley’s books and loved The Winter Sea and Marianna. I’m looking forward to The Firebird.

    Thanks for the wonderful recommendations!

  6. Blackjack1 says:

    I have never read Megan Hart but really enjoyed Lynn’s description of it here. I’ve never read Marsha Canham either. Great list of books :)

    • AAR Lynn says:

      Megan Hart is one of those authors who’s hard to peg because she writes such a wide variety of stories. Her books tend to really stick with you, though.

      And you’ve never tried Marsha Canham? Oh, you’re in for a treat! I believe she retired several years back, but she has be re-releasing her backlist in digital so her books have gotten much easier to find.

  7. LinnieGayl says:

    Oh, The Mallet of Death! Such great memories. And as a recent convert to the wonder that is Susanna Kearsley I’m happy to see her on your list (I made my list before I discovered her).

  8. FranA says:

    Lost Warriors sounded interesting. I imagine I might have read it as I used to read quite a number of Silhouettes. There have been some really good ones in the past. I looked it up on Amazon and this book has the wrong description. They have a description of an old Nora Robert’s Silhouette that I happen to have as a keeper. Does anyone know if there is a way to let them know this isn’t correct?

  9. elizabeth williams says:

    I love this list. I too love To Love and to Cherish and I think it’s very underrated too,To Have and to Hold is my favorites of the trilogy though . I have Dirty and For My Lady s Heart on my TBR I will definitely be moving them up. I wish I could see your top 50 favorites.

  10. Emily says:

    I have to say the only one I’ve read is the Julia Quinn. I liked it, but it was not particularly funny to me. I remember liking the emotional conflict, but none of the laws or humor scenes stuck with me. The Mallet of Death seemed didn’t seem at all over the top, but rather low-key and uneventful. Oh well, I haven’t read your other choices, but I love these lists. If you get through everyone maybe you should do my favorite romances #11-20.

  11. Paola says:

    I have five of them in my TBR pile and I’d like to add Lost Warriors, but it seems it’s OOP and there’s no ebook either.

    • AAR Lynn says:

      I know! It’s fairly easy to find used print copies online, but sadly no eBook. Hopefully Harlequin will add it soon – it’s a good read! Actually, several of the earlier Conard County books from Rachel Lee are all good reads.

  12. KristieJ says:

    Three of your choices, whirl maybe not in my top ten, though maybe they might be, are very favourite of mine too. I just did a reread of Libertine’s Kiss and loved it just as much during the reread, though I do confess to skipping the poetry.
    Morning Glory is a book I’ve read over and over and over and I adore both Will and Elly.
    And I’m in the LOVE IT camp as far as TLATC goes.
    I have Dirty though as yet unread and alas, though I’ve loved others of her books, I’ve tried on at least three occasions to read For My Lady’s Heart and just can’t seem to get into it.
    and while not in my top ten, Bad Boys Do was my favourite of the trilogy too.

  13. MEK says:

    Love your list! I recently read Gaffney’s perfect Wyckerley trilogy, and the first one I decided to reread was actually number 3, Forever and Ever, with Connor and Sophie. It was truly amazing. Its one of the only books I’ve read where an accidental pregnancy did not lead to immediate compatibility and bliss between the hero and heroine. They truly struggled for their HEA with some serious personality conflicts. They were very brave and heroic. Can’t wait to get back to the other two! They are all so good.

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