AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites: Cindy’s Picks

Hi, I’m Cindy, I have been doing AAR Reader polls with LinnieGayl and Lee for the last 7 years, and now I help with the updating of the Special Title Listings with Rike and LinnieGayl. It would be fair to say I love reading lists, my favorite lists being AAR Readers’ lists of favorite books. Now, ask me to rank my favorite romances and I freeze up. But I’ve learned from the best how every list created by a reader may have some caveats attached. I loved reading Jenna and Maggie’s lists because each came at it in different ways. Jenna took Pride and Prejudice off the table – it is just her very favorite book, it’s a classic and almost always ends up on a reader’s top romance ballot, so she posted it as a given. Maggie spoke of the books that created a journey to her reading preferences today and she mentioned the very first series book she read that would be considered an emotional favorite but left it off her final list.

In listing my favorites I originally made the rule that no author could be on the list more than one time. It forced me to think in a different way. Ask me to list my top 10 favorite Anne Stuart books and it would be agonizing, but to only allow one book made me look for the very best of each author’s work. I then promptly broke my rule because one author surprised me and showed me she could make any situation work. And finally, knowing this list wasn’t etched in stone helped me to move forward because I know tomorrow I can change my mind. With that, my list:

lordofdanger 1. Lord of Danger by Anne Stuart – The hero is Simon and he’s a con man from way back, but he falls so hard for his new plain wife that you can’t help but fall in love with him. I love tortured heroes and Simon is the creator of his own misery but he marries a woman who changes everything. This book holds my favorite scene ever! Actually, there isn’t a bad scene in the book the more I think on it. The rooftop storm, the poisoned wine, the bars of her cage. Beautiful.




mrimpossible 2. Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase – I loved, loved, loved this story – if you haven’t read this one yet, keep reading until they get to the Pyramids. The opening is a little dry and slow but after that this book is a keeper all the way. Yep, this one beat out Lord of Scoundrels because it made me weepy. This is surprising because I love the tortured hero and Dane from LOS is definitely that but the fact that Chase could make me fall in love with a charmer when they usually give me hives makes this one just that much sweeter.




brandedbyfire 3. Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh – Mercy and Riley are two dominant were-animals having to deal with being attracted to each other. Mercy needs to be dominant yet at the same time needs a man strong enough to equal her. A welcome relief in paranormals where dominant were-animals need a dom/sub balance to be happy. It was quite a dance to get it right but it was great to watch these two fall in love.




pleasureofadarkprince 4. Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole – I want this book to be with me forever. I actually wish I could follow MacRieve and Lucia through more books! I love romance books granted, but it’s rare for me to like the hero and heroine separate from each other and damn, if I didn’t like these two immortals like best friends. It was the hero, Garreth MacRieve, with an earthy charm and the ability to own his mistakes, who completely made this book for me. I also enjoyed Lousha (Lucia) who is all broken and just really needs to believe in love. I had enjoyed Kresley Cole before this book but this one cemented her auto-buy status.

fireandice 5. Fire and Ice by Anne Stuart – This was the book in the series that I was sure wasn’t going to work for me. Silly me for underestimating AS. This book has some elements of a classic Stuart and yet, there were allowances made for how young these characters were. They both made mistakes (refreshing to see from an AS hero as they are usually dead set in their ways) and in the end, I loved them both. In earlier books I didn’t mind the heroine but the hero seemed ‘off’ for lack of a better word. I went into the book prepared not to like Rio but in the end, he was just too cute and sweet and so not like most AS heroes but then, he found love much younger than most of them.

timeenoughforlove 6. Time Enough for Love by Suzanne Brockmann – a TT Loveswept that blew my mind. Hot and sexy and no loose ends. This is probably one of the best time travel orientated books I’ve read. I have seen way too many time-travel shows and movies and have read my fair share of romance books that leave logistics all in the wind. Who cares about all the nitty gritty, I just needed to get these two people in the same area. Uh, no. My brain won’t let it lie. I think it’s one of her best books and I have to say half way through the story I thought ‘oh sh#t, this is so not going to work’ and yet, Ms. Brockmann brought it all together.

dreamfever 7. Dream Fever by Katherine Sutcliffe – Historical New Zealand – how about a romance that doesn’t shy away from the really, really horrible things in life. I always appreciate an author who allows for real life situations to happen. Guess what? Sometimes the knight in shining armor just doesn’t get there in time. Or ever. So bad things happen and I remember liking this story because it wasn’t all shiny and happy but there is a HEA.



ridethefire 8. Ride the Fire by Pamela Clare – this was a frontier historical that had it all. Even a baby and I don’t like kids in my romance books. This is the type of story that would appeal to those who loved the movie Last of the Mohicans. The hero was tortured as was the heroine but seeing as how rough life was in the past, I appreciated an author who didn’t shrug off the dangers.





dreamman 9. Dream Man by Linda Howard – probably the first ESP book that worked for me. Yes, the hero is a walking hormone but I liked how frank and sexual he was. It wouldn’t have worked with a weak heroine but I think she gave as good as she got. I haven’t re-read this one in a while and it’s due. Normally I have this title in the same sentence as Duncan’s Bride, but I think Dream Man allowed for more tender moments.




loverawakened 10. Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward – What I loved about this story was there was no easy fix. To survive his childhood, Zsadist separated himself from his body and emotions. All except hatred. It was phenomenal to see how J.R. Ward didn’t flinch in telling a story about a man who had no connection to human emotion and how he came back to life. It was a breath of fresh air to see a real recovery versus the ‘OMG I love you and now I’m all better’ approach to real life issues. Sure, it was Bella that reached out to him and just refused to take no for an answer but sometimes no was the answer and Z is the only hero I know who meant it.

- Cindy Smith

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18 Responses to AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites: Cindy’s Picks

  1. AARJenna says:

    Fantastic list, Cindy! I like your rule about limiting yourself to one title per author, and I can see how you’d need to expand that a bit since so many writers these days cross subgenres. Out of your 10, I’ve read (and loved) two of the books, and I have four more on my TBR pile. With all of these Top 10 posts, my TBRs keep getting shuffled!!

  2. maggie b. says:

    I love Lover Awakened. Z and Bella were easily my favorite Ward couple. Dream Man is another favorite – a terrific book with a really wonderful hero. I’ve read all the authors on your list but not all of the books. Will have definitely be checking some of them out.

    • CindyS says:

      Once I finished Z and Bella I should have stopped – the first 3 of her books are keepers but I can’t read her anymore. Hope you find some great reads!

  3. MEK says:

    Loved your list! Although none of these made my top 10 on the “YOUR top ten” thread, I wouldn’t disagree with a single one. I’m glad to see Nalini Singh included. I thought the Kresley Cole was a sleeper…not as appreciated by many as some of her others, but had one of the most tender endings I’ve read in a long time. I still remember it vividly!

    • CindyS says:

      MEK – I finished my list and then found the ‘YOUR top ten’ list and was all ‘oh no, that was a great book!’ but after finally deciding on 9 and 10 (other books were in those slots) I told myself the list wasn’t forever. I have no plans on ending up on a deserted island and will have plenty of books to read!

      • CindyS says:

        Sorry, I meant to add that with the top 100 coming up the Top 10 lists of readers is helping me remember many of the titles that I have forgotten.

  4. Wendy says:

    See, I’ve got to quit reading these. My top ten changes every time I do. Mr Impossible was already on my list, but now I have to make room for Bella and Z somehow. Great list, Cindy.

    • CindyS says:

      I know right!? And who do you remove? What about timing? There are books I read 10 years ago that I remember fondly but I haven’t re-read them so are they really still that fantastic? Looking forward to the Top 100 so I can add all those to my list.

  5. Caz says:

    Nice list, Cindy! I love Mr Impossible, too – and I’m going to track down a copy of the Katherine Sutcliffe book as it sounds really interesting.

    Reading everyone’s lists is just making me procrastinate more with mine…

    • CindyS says:

      Caz – just so you know Sutcliffe also has a book called Fever and I didn’t care for that one. I always have to read the blurbs to make sure I’m recommending the one I loved. Would love to hear if you like it or not when you are done.

  6. Pingback: Historical Romance – Lament, or Let it Die? | Badass Romance

  7. Joane says:

    Love Loretta Chase and Linda Howard.
    I tried a J. R. Ward and I didn’t like it. You make me think if there’s something in her books that I just don’t get. Perhaps paranormal is just not my genre.

    • CindyS says:

      I only liked the first three books in her series and I’ve never read her Angel series. I don’t think she represents paranormal romance – Nalini Singh’s first book Slave to Sensation could be something to try. Also, JAK has some futuristic books written as Jayne Castle that have paranormal elements that could be fun to try.

  8. Kristie(J) says:

    While some of my top ten list are a bit different than yours, Ride The Fire is on it and I do love Dream Fever too!

  9. CarolineAAR says:

    Hurray, someone else who loves obscure Brockmann categories! Time Enough For Love is on my keeper shelf.

    • CindyS says:

      I love her categories! TEFL just holds up even after so many years that it can be the only title of hers that could make the top 10 list. Now, some of her other books will definitely make the Top 100 but TEFL was just terrific!

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