This month’s TBR challenge, reading one of the classics, had me scratching my head for a little bit. Did I want to reach for one of those books that could be considered part of the romance canon(to the degree we have one), or did I want to pick a classic trope or author? In the end, I decided on Seven Tears for Apollo. When we start talking about old school romantic suspense or gothics online, certain names tend to pop up. Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels – all have their fans. However, Phyllis Whitney is one of those names that seems to be mentioned almost as an afterthought.
I’ve read a few Phyllis Whitney novels, all historicals, and I did enjoy them. However, I had yet to read one of her contemporaries and so I gave this one a whirl. Written in 1962, it captures a world that for 21st century readers feels like a curious blend of old and new. Continue reading →
Note: Do you ever wonder what authors enjoy reading when they’re not busy writing? So do we! So we decided to pose the “What are your Top Ten favorite books?” question to some authors. Today we welcome beloved author Carla Kelly to the blog to talk about some of her favorite books.
Put it to music, because books are music to me. The idea of narrowing down my ten favorites is trickier than I thought it might be. I’ve discovered – ahem – that the older I get, the longer the list. What I’m offering here are lists of fiction and non-fiction. I’m a historian by training and trade, and an author of historical fiction, so please allow this old girl that leeway. I’ll tell you what and why they mean so much to me. Continue reading →
I put off writing my top ten until the last possible moment for a variety of reasons. I wanted some time to think about it, but I knew even though I had lots of time I’d still be making choices at the last minute; it’s not unusual for me to make my Reviewer’s Choice top pick while I’m writing the column. I also decided my top seven fairly easily, and then got stuck on the final three. I agonized over which three deserved the final honors, and then ended up with some also rans. I’ve been reading romance for a long time, and that presented its own problems. Should I choose early, sentimental favorites, or more of the quality Johnny come lately offerings? Well, in reverse order, here’s my top ten (ish).
Also rans: Just for fun, my books that didn’t quite make the short list but almost did: Paradise by Judith McNaught (overwrought in all the best early 90s ways, and my favorite of all her books). Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn – the popular favorite of her Bridgerton books, and my favorite as well. In the obscure category, Dana Ransom’s Wild Texas Bride or any of the books from her Bass series. You want a good western? These are the real deal. Ditto for Maggie Osbourne’s I Do, I Do, I Do, which has the added bonus of being a wagon train story, a particular weakness of mine. Susan Elizabeth Phillips Nobody’s Baby But Mine (and yes, I know the heroine was manipulative and dishonest. No, I don’t care). And old Signet regencies by Diane Farr and Elisabeth Fairchild – just in general. Continue reading →
Coming up with a list of my top romances is not romantic at all. In fact, it can be downright unromantic as I found out the first year I tried to compile a list of my Top 100 favorite romance novels. Really? They must be joking, right? Especially since I’m constantly reading.
My first try at a Top 100 garnered 76 titles, and as I go back over the list, I can barely remember some of the books after #50. How can the books after that be called “top”? So now I keep a running Top 100 list that I purge now and again. But the Top 12 seem to stay fairly constant—until I change them.
What puts a book on my Top 12 list? Readability. I’ve read these books over and over. They are my comfort reads. They are safely tucked away on my Kindle and go with me everywhere. When a review book gets so annoying I want to throw it at the wall, I read one of these. When I have a few minutes of free time, I read one of these. They are my blankies and my Teddy Bears. Continue reading →
Everybody has had so many interesting ideas for how to choose a top ten – breaking down by genre, assuming “pocket copies” of classics, choosing only books which haven’t been listed by other bloggers – so I apologize for using yet another methodology. I’ve chosen books which were so good that I have or would recommend them to non-romance readers. These are books which, in my opinion, stand as books, enjoyable and even lovable by people who will cut them no slack for genre conventions. I hope you love them as well!
Again is a true buried treasure: an A grade here at AAR and my personal pick for single best romance ever, and yet it isn’t even in print. Seidel transports you into the meticulously researched world of a historical soap opera called My Lady’s Chamber (think Downton Abbey, but Regency), written by Jenny Cotton and starring Alec Cameron. I love Alec, a natural leader unable to ignore the problems at work causing Jenny distress (boy, could my workplace use a man like that!). Jenny is creative, intelligent, and gifted at her job. It is fascinating to watch Jenny’s real-life relationships play out in her characters. When one of her soap characters does something wonderful, and you realize that on some level Jenny’s falling for Alec… it’s just magic. Continue reading →
Week after week after week I’ve been reading the other AAR staffers Top Ten blogs and have been hoping they wouldn’t choose some of my favorite books, but some were indeed chosen (The Windflower by Laura London; Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase; Chase the Moon by Catherine Nicholson; and The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne) so I decided to go with books that haven’t been chosen yet (I hope).
I don’t review books but instead help with behind the scenes work as well as being one of the three pollsters who calculate ballots for the Annual Poll and the Top 100 Poll which AAR runs every three years.
If I’m on a desert isle, and I can only have ten books, I want stories with excellent plots, memorable characters and that extra something that makes me feel an emotion – laughter, sadness (but not too much sadness), joy, angst, wonder – but stories that end with a happy ending. Most of these books I have read at least twice, if not more, so they have stood up to the test of time for me.
I suppose I could gush even more so about each book but I’ve learned over the years to downplay my enthusiasm for a book when trying to suggest someone read it. Too much high praise raises expectations. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a movie review where the critic says “the audience was standing and cheering at the end.” Uh huh. NEVER have been at a movie theater when that happened. Continue reading →
My very first romance novel wasLord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe, an old Harlequin Presents title. It starred a naïve British girl and an arrogant Argentinian cattle rancher. She had come to Argentina for a dancing job and instead found herself facing the possibility of working at a less savory profession. He had to be married in the next three days in order to inherit some land. The two make a bargain to marry without love but at some point – well, I’m sure you know what happens from there.
So it’s no exaggeration to say that romances with Hispanic characters have always been a part of my reading, even if some were drawn in somewhat stereotypical fashion. For many years Harlequin was my primary source. Along with novels by Kay Thorpe there were literally dozens of others published every year by authors like Anne Mather, Kim Lawrence, and Lynne Graham. As I began reading single titles, these characters stayed with me. From older books like Judith McNaught’s Tender Triumph to newer books like Regina Jennings’ Sixty Acres and a Bride, I’ve been able to enjoy excellent novels that celebrate the diverse cultures that make up the Latin American world. Continue reading →
The recent Labor Day weekend had friends and I discussing the changing job market. Many of us had launched into second (and even third) career paths, something that certainly wasn’t expected when we initially graduated from college. This got me to thinking of others who have a secondary career path (or sometimes even just a second job!); the writers who keep me supplied in romances.
Contrary to what many in the media may think, an author does not, as Eileen Dreyer so succinctly put it, choose this path because she is “a sexually frustrated loser dressed in a robe and bunny slippers who lives in a dreary apartment with my cat and lives vicariously through my devastatingly beautiful heroines.” Most seem to choose it because it is a girlhood dream. And many, many, many of them come to writing only after having pursued another career first. I am fascinated by the diversity of what those careers are and thought others might be to. So here it is, a cataloging of what several of the greats did before they were romance writers.
Linda Howard worked at a trucking company, which explains to me at least why she can create such realistic men. I would imagine working in a male dominated field like that would show one a great deal about how the opposite sex thinks. Susanna Kearsley was a museum curator, and I think that is reflected in the wonderful historical settings of some of her novels. Justine Davis was in law enforcement before being a writer. She writes authentic romantic suspense with an authentic flavor now. And Inez Kelly was a 911 dispatcher and Linnea Sinclair worked as a private detective and also a news reporter before taking on romantic science fiction. Sandra Brown also worked as a reporter, and Pamela Clare “went to work for a newspaper and held almost every position in the newsroom before becoming the paper’s first woman editor.” Karina Bliss, who has received a DIK here at AAR for Here Comes the Groom, worked as a travel journalist. And Carla Kelly? Well, among her many and varied careers, she has worked as a park ranger and was a Valley City Time Record feature writer.
I have caught a new addiction: I hunt the net for free and bargain eBooks. Thanks to the delightful folks at Mobileread and here at AAR Potpourri Forum, and thanks to special discounts offered by ebookstores like Fictionwise or Kobo, and by publisher sites like Harlequin, Avon or Carina, I pick up loads of books for comparatively little money. Let’s take the last two months: In April, I acquired 66 new eBooks, and altogether I paid $ 70. In May I acquired 171 new eBooks, and I paid $ 210. On average, that’s $ 1.18 per book, and considering I still paid full price for a number of them, you can see how many came completely free. Before I started to gather my numbers, I was going to write that I now bought more books than usual, but paid less for them than I had done with paper books. Faced with the exact numbers now, I must concede that while this is certainly true for April, in May I spent more on books than usual, ending up acquiring far higher numbers than in any other month before.
I made extensive use of Kobo’s delightful € 1 off discount for a lot of books, especially books from Smashwords and Harlequin that were cheap to start with, and with the discount came free, or virtually free. Similarly, in May there were very good discounts and bargain prices offered from Fictionwise and Carina Press. I want to point out that I acquired all of my new books legally, respecting geographical restrictions and never pretending I was from anywhere but Europe. And I want to add that were I a citizen of the United States, I would have had even more books available, and were I prepared to read books on my PC with a Kindle App, even more. Continue reading →
Recently, I reread Thornton Wilder’s The Ides of March. It’s a book I’ve read with great pleasure before; this time I was particularly struck by the way the relationship between the poet Catullus and society lady Clodia is portrayed. He loves her with all his heart and writes great poems to her and about her; she sometimes admits him as her lover and spends time with him before jilting him again in favor of a rival. The novel leaves no doubt that Clodia is cruel and capricious; however, at this reading, I suddenly felt that I understood her right to jilt him, and her urge to do so. In spite of the undoubted depth of Catullus’ feelings, it is quite clear that Clodia does not feel as deeply for him. Yes, she might have treated him with far less cruelty, as Caesar points out to her, in ending the affair. But for the first time, my reaction as a reader was sympathy with her desire to regain her autonomy in the face of Catullus’s overwhelming love and of his general wonderfulness.