Did 2011 yield some great buried treasure reads? Of course it did! It seems like every year there are some wonderful books that fly under the radar, deserving of accolades but never quite getting the buzz they deserve. All of us here at AAR put our heads together and we came up with quite a list of books that you really should go back and read if you missed them the first time around.
Flirting With Italian by veteran author Liz Fielding not only got a DIK review here, but was also one of Senior Reviewer LinnieGayl Kimmel’s Buried Treasure picks, which she described as “a little gem of a category romance.” She really enjoyed its “fully developed characters and a wonderful sense of its Italian setting.” As both a series title and a holiday season release, it seemed that this book got a little lost in the holiday shuffle and really deserved more buzz than it got. The same is true of LinnieGayl’s other Buried Treasure pick, It Happened One Christmas, a Blaze book by Leslie Kelly.
These holiday novels weren’t the only series titles on our Buried Treasure list. Though Sarah Mayberry has a growing pool of fans, Senior Reviewer Pat Henshaw still believes that All They Need needed more readers. She praises Mayberry’s writing for her “highly intelligent characters and down-to-earth contemporary plots.” Senior Reviewer Rike Horstmann also chimed in with a Mills and Boon pick (you can find it online) – Shipwrecked With Mr. Wrong, a book with what sounds like a fabulous remote Australian setting, a biologist heroine, boating hero, and plenty of tension. Of this book, Rike says, “Both protagonists have deeply interesting back stories, and their interaction is both delightful and grippingly emotional. The setting is nothing short of spectacular, and really made use of.” And I also had an inspirational series romance to add to the stack. I know I’ve complained about silly wallpaper historicals in the past,but this year I found what I would almost call the anti-Regency-set historical. Debut author C.J. Chase’s Redeeming the Rogue was a lovely little book that brimmed over with interesting historical background and entertaining story. And – no dukes!
Chick Lit gets little attention these days, and many of the chick lit lines of the early/mid 2000s have closed up shop. However, there’s still some to be found, and Senior Reviewer Leigh Davis just adored Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts from Lucy Dillon. She reports that this book “entertained me on so many levels.” And women’s fiction from Gabrielle Donnelly, The Little Women Letters made it onto pollster Lee Brewer’s list.
Outside of category and chick lit, our reviewers are pretty fond of their single title contemporaries, too. In case you haven’t noticed by now, Senior Reviewer Pat Henshaw really liked Sweet as Sin by Inez Kelley. For Pat, it’s buried because it’s different from the author’s other works, and a treasure because ” it’s one of those books that will live on in readers’ minds far longer than it takes to read it.”
Debut author Meg Maguire captured Reviews Editor’s Jean Wan’s attention with The Reluctant Nude. She says that, “(T)he Nova Scotia setting and Max the sculptor totally pushed all the right buttons.” Reviewer Louise VanderVliet chose a contemporary romance as well, a self-published novel entitled Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire that she loved enough to pick as both her Buried Treasure and all-around favorite read of the year. And Senior Reviewer Pat Henshaw had another contemporary on her Buried Treasures list as well, this one a M/M romance. Quinn’s Need by SJD Peterson absolutely blew her away with its characters and well done plotting.
Just as paranormals continue to be strong in the publishing market, they are represented among our Buried Treasures as well. Reviewer Wendy Clyde has enjoyed all of Erin Kellison’s Shadow books, and this year Shadowman was one of those books she wanted more people to know about. She describes Kellison’s writing as “excellent” and goes on to report that, “The entire series has been a cut above other paranormals…but this one stands out even more…”
Moving a little more into the fantasy realm, Cat’s Tale by Bettie Sharpe was one of my favorite finds of 2011. This clever take on the Puss in Boots tale is enchanting, smart and fun. One of our pollsters, Lee Brewer, ventured into fantasy a bit for one of her Buried Treasures as well. Kate Johnson’s The UnTied Kingdom was a book with a synopsis she found “too good to resist.” This story of reality show contestants falling into the Thames and waking up to a very different world was a wonderful read.
We had a couple of picks this year that crossed genres a bit, too. The fabulous The Rose Garden from Susanna Kearsley features time-travel elements and Senior Reviewer Maggie Boyd had nothing but praise for the author’s writing style, proclaiming that, “she deserves every accolade she can possibly be given.” Reviews Editor Jean Wan enjoyed A Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man, a jointly authored work by Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan featuring the parallel tales of a Regency courtesan and a modern-day researcher. Jean called it “a seamless collaboration” that “bent considerable romance genre lines successfully.”
And that takes us to the historicals. Reviewers Editor Jean Wan sings the praises of author Darlene Marshall and calls her book Sea Change an “historical with a difference.” Difference was an element of Publisher Blythe Barnhill’s Buried Treasure picks as well. She chose Carrie Lofty, both for Flawless and for Portrait of Seduction citing the unusual settings and characters.
Blythe also picked Delilah Marvelle’s The Perfect Scandal, which she enjoyed. And as she said when she chose it, “Have you ever read another book with a Polish heroine…who has one leg? Me neither.” Though not quite as unusual, Lee Brewer still thought Follow My Lead by Kate Noble, with its unusual continental European setting, deserved more readers, too.
Senior Reviewer Dabney Grinnan says of author Elizabeth Essex that, “I know of no other writer whose words are as seductive as hers.” And she chose Georgian romance A Sense of Sin as her Buried Treasure pick of the year. She praises how the “story moves in perfect tandem with the love story” and describes the sexual tension as “brilliantly done.” In spite of an “iffy title and cover art”, Reviewer Wendy Clyde thought The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville deserved more attention. She describes the story as “so quirky and so much fun, strange but also somehow believable,” and states that she still smiles when she recalls some of the scenes. In a somewhat different vein, my own last Buried Treasure pick, When a Duke Says I Do by Jane Goodger, has the title and moderately hideous cover art of a light European historical romp, but turned out to be one of the sweetest, most deeply emotional romances I’ve read in ages. I saw very few copies of it in stores and have only rarely heard it mentioned, but if you like romances that bring a tear or two to your eyes, this one is sooo worth your time. So, if you’re looking for something to read or wondering what you might have overlooked in 2011, this list should give you plenty of ideas to keep you busy well into 2012.
– Lynn Spencer