When AAR ran the Top 100 romances poll, our reviewers blogged their personal Top 10s weekly to share some of their favorites. Since the mini-polls are smaller, we consolidated a few of our favorites into one blog post. Hopefully this will help you finish up your own ballots before voting ends on April 25. (You can vote for your favorites here at SurveyMonkey).
(A word to clear up some confusion about which books are eligible: if it feels like a Western or Frontier to you, go ahead and vote for it. Don’t worry about what it’s called in our database or anywhere else.)
Patricia Potter’s Notorious: Catalina Hilliard, owner of San Francisco’s top watering hole, the Silver Slipper Saloon, will go to any lengths to keep the rival neighbor saloon out of business, but ex-gunslinger Marsh Canton, who just won it in a card game, doesn’t scare easily. The competent, ruthless businesswoman heroine is unique among typically-rural Westerns, and the hero is sympathetic in his struggles to leave his gunslinging days behind.
Carla Kelly’s Her Hesitant Heart: Susanna Hopkins is divorced, which means her life back East is essentially over. Major Joseph Randolph escorts her to Fort Laramie, where she is to take up the post of schoolteacher – unless her scandalous past catches up with her. Kelly’s heroines are always models of quiet, enduring strength, and I appreciated a historical in which mindsets, not just dresses, were a product of their place and time.
A Reason to Live by Maureen McKade: A Civil War nurse travels from the East Coast battlefields to Texas giving families the messages left by their slain sons. She’s accompanied by a father whose son was killed in battle and who thinks one of the boys she took care of was his. As you can imagine, this is an angsty story of the highest degree because the nurse suffers from nightmares of the boys she looked after and the father from the nightmare of agreeing to let his son go off to battle.
Silver Lining by Maggie Osborne: A large female Colorado miner nicknamed Low Down wants only one thing in her life: a child to love. After nursing a group of miners through a deadly disease, she is granted her wish by Max McCord, who draws the scratched marble in the minters’ pay-back lottery and who’s in love with a woman back home. What hope does this mismatched couple have of happiness? Only Osborne can make readers laugh, sigh, and cry as they travel toward true love.
Bad Man’s Bride by Susan Kay Law: Anthea Bright comes to town as the new schoolteacher and is totally out of her depth. She’s particularly bothered by a brash, bigger-than-life unmarried man caring for a silent orphaned girl who is being picked on by the other children. Despite learning Gabriel Jackson is the town’s “bad man,” once big and belligerent as a youth when he grew up there, she stands up to him and coddles little Lily, bringing them together as a family. Law is another author whose mix of humor and honest angst makes me read this book over and over again.
Hummingbird by LaVryle Spencer. As fans of Ms. Spencer know, her main characters are always totally far apart from each other at the beginning of each book. They may not hate each other, but the reader cannot figure out how they could ever get together in the end. And so it is with Hummingbird, as the hero Jesse is a supposed bank robber and the heroine Abigail is a do-gooder who is forced to take in two wounded men. The dialog between the two is so entertaining you can’t help but smile as you read this wonderful story.
Linda Howard’s Angel Creek - Dee Swann lives alone at her ranch in Angel Creek (which is a little bit of paradise). After her father died, she keeps to herself and dresses to avoid the attention of the males in the community. As a drought threatens the area, Dee’s land with Angel Creek running through it becomes a much sought after commodity. Lucas Cochran is interested in the water Angel Creek will provide, but he wants Dee as well…
Linda Howard’s The Touch of Fire – Annie Parker is a female doctor in the West, working in a mining community. When Rafe McCay breaks into her home to get medical attention after he is shot, Annie gets embroiled in the life of a man wanted for murder. This on the road romance is classic Linda Howard.
Penelope Williamson”s Heart of the West – This is an epic Western and is both wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time. Clementine has been raised by her very strict father in Boston. When Gus McQueen nearly runs her over with his new toy (a bicycle), their meeting turns into something more. Gus needs a wife to take back to Montana and thinks beautiful Clementine will fill the bill. Clementine agrees, but when they reach Montana Clementine meets Gus’s tall, dark and handsome brother Zach Rafferty, she worries she married the wrong brother. This action in this book takes place over a 12 year period. (This choice was seconded by Shannon for the audio version and by Blythe)
If we can choose other countries, then I would also suggest Candice Proctor’s Night in Eden. (seconded by Lee)
Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell – Don’t let the covers fool you – this author simply writes wonderful Western historicals – (four since 2010) and I’ve greatly enjoyed all. Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold was her first and features a strong, silent, and misunderstood hero paired with a highly likable, sensible heroine.
Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath – A road trip romance, Texas Destiny kept me entranced with its hero who believes he’ll never have a woman (even wears an eye patch) delivering his brother’s mail order bride to the ranch – a three week trip – and falling in love along the way.
A Rogue in Texas by Lorraine Heath – A widow on a Texas farm needs help harvesting her cotton and receives it from an English rogue. It’s a tender story featuring not only a romance but family – the children greatly enhance the story.
The Outsider by Penelope Williamson – Simply an outstanding writer, I treasure each of her romance titles. One of the Plain People, a widow opens her home to an injured rough cowboy. You’ve likely seen the movie – the book is much better.
Did we miss your favorites? Vote in our poll and comment below. Thanks!