AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Wendy’s Picks

abandonedbride OK. It’s confirmed. I set my Top Ten Staff Picks blog date way too far in the future. I thought this late date was a good idea originally, because I knew that I’d agonize over the list and change it several times as I remembered favorites or became disenchanted with others. I mean, I have a LOT of books on my keeper shelves. How to pick the top ten? I kept wishing I could narrow it down to, say, my top ten favorite Linda Howards, or top ten authors, or top ten historicals by location or time period. How about the top ten paranormals by era, shifter or vampire, erotic or more subtle? Ugh! After weeks of thinking about it I finally had a pretty firm list, which I put in a “safe place” from which it (of course) subsequently disappeared off the face of the planet. Here goes, in no particular order…

 

The Abandoned Bride by Edith Layton. There are a lot of extremely high quality Signet Regencies from this era, and this is my favorite, hands down. The mere fact that it wins a spot on the list over competition such as Carla Kelly and Mary Balogh says it all.

 

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AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites: Caroline’s Picks

again 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 – Kathleen Gilles Seidel

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

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Jean’s Picks

See, I knew that signing up for this blog would cause me a headache. How are you supposed to choose the top ten romances that rock your world? How? How? (At the back of my mind I have the Baha Men singing along, except it’s “How do you choose now? How, how, how, how?” Great. Hence the headache.)

Anyway, I figured the only way I can keep sane is a) recognize that I won’t hit them all, and b) acknowledge that if I am actually stuck on a desert island with only ten romance novels, I’d go crazy anyway, no matter what I chose. (Unless I chose, like, the Koran, Paradise Lost, and Journey to the West. Then maybe I’d not go all loopy.)

I decided that what I’d probably crave the most is variety, a little bit of every genre to suit every mood. It actually turned out to be relatively easy once I’d decided on this, looked at my Top 100 list, scanned my shelves, and sliced through the different categories. I’m happy with my choices – they’re all different in setting, subgenre, writing style, and character. I’ve also read each of them at least twice – I’m a serial re-reader, so I know when something works for me, when it doesn’t, and (most of important of all) when it stands up to the test of time. Continue reading

My Contemporary Dilemma

Rear view of a couple sitting on beach Series romances with contemporary settings appear to be going strong. Harlequin releases plenty of them every month and readers (including me) eagerly snatch them up. However, single title contemporaries are a little harder to find. Anyone who reads romance sites and blogs or who spends any time at all following romance readers on Twitter has seen plenty of moaning about the dearth of single title contemporaries. I started to wonder why this is, and that in turn has made me wonder if contemporaries might not be a more narrowly defined subgenre than one might think at first glance.

At first glance, the contemporary landscape appears wide open. The choice of settings is almost endless and so too the choice of character types. After all, a book can feature cowboys in Texas, a shop owner in Paris, or archeologists in the Middle East and so long as it’s set in the here and now, we can call it contemporary. The possibilities for the imagination at this point almost boggle the mind. Then comes the plotting – and that’s where things get sticky.
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Pets and Romance

dogAs I was reflecting this week on elements that unify us as readers, it occurred to me that many of my reading colleagues are also fellow animal lovers. I live in a house filled with rescued cats and dogs, which is by turns delightful and frustrating. Delightful because life doesn’t get much better than snuggling with a book and a kitty in my lap. Frustrating in that many of my books are now missing covers courtesy of a certain coonhound who has an affinity for ripping them off when my back is turned.

Since I am such a sucker for animals I almost always find it a bonus when a good romance features a furry companion. Especially if the author is adept at creating a unique personality to where the pet becomes an actual character in the story.

Without further ado, here are a few of my favorites:

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Flying the Romance Flag With Pride

flying_books Think about this: According to Romance Writers of America, in 2009, romantic fiction garnered the largest share of trade book sales, outselling mystery, science fiction/fantasy, and religion/inspirational books. In physical books sales, only general fiction sold (by less than one percent) better. Currently, romance is the fastest-growing segment of the e-book market, beating out general fiction, mystery, and science fiction. So, I have to ask, why all the derision of the genre?

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Summer Reading: What’s Your Pleasure?

summer_readingThe Memorial Day weekend is upon us and here in the U.S. that means summertime is kicking off. It’s the season of beaches, pools, quiet shady spots, and, for readers like us, the time when we’re all on the lookout for the Perfect Summer Read.

When I was a kid, a highlight of summer was always the championship levels I achieved in the local library’s reading club – you know, the kind of thing where you got a different colored construction paper star for the number of books you read? Believe me, I was always on the top rung.

But as we grow up, most of us don’t have the entire summer to do as we please.  (It sucks, doesn’t it?) We’re limited to a week or two of vacation and weekends as lazy as we can possibly make them.

I’ve always had a problem reading on the beach since there’s so much to see and experience that I have a hard time concentrating for any length of time.  I’m full of big plans about the books I’ll read and take w-a-a-a-a-y too many, but I get most of my vacation reading done in my room or sitting in a quiet, shaded spot sipping a Corona.

I remember, though, one moment on a perfect beach finding what was to me the Perfect Summer Read.

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Contemporary Clichés

RB-0811836428-LgI’ve got my cranky pants on today.

First of all, I’ve always loved contemporary romance.  And there are many – many – writers of contemporary romance I love.  Really love.  Welcome to Temptation is my touchstone for all that is perfect in contemporary storytelling.

Still, I’ve been burned a bit lately and I could use a little help in identifying the books I want to read.

In historical romance, we’ve got handy code words to help readers know what they’re going to get when they open a book:  Wallpaper or Not Wallpaper.  Though some may define what constitutes a true Wallpaper a bit differently, I think most of us would agree that we know one when we see it.  (Clue:  If a 19th century heroine uses “whatever” as a snotty response, you’re looking at a Class A Wallpaper.)

In contempories, however, we’re swinging out there in the breeze.  There’s no way to tell between a …say, a Rachel Gibson-smart small town book or a “contemporary” romance featuring a setting straight from the turn of the century.  And I’m talking the 20th century.

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AAR Book Club Discussion: A New Date

38995205-186x300Well, these things happen, don’t they?

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Book Club Discussion of Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie has been moved from this weekend to Sunday, November 15th at 4 p.m., eastern time. We’re sorry for the delay, but, on the positive side, that gives you two more weeks to brush up on your Crusie or, for those lucky readers who haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Phin and Sophie, to read it for the very first time.

We’ll see you here on the 15th.  Whether you love the book – or not.

-Sandy AAR

Who’s Your Fantasy Beach Companion?

beach_readingLast week’s Washington Post featured a nifty column in which they asked a few authors (no romance authors, of course) to name a fictional character with whom they’d like to spend a day at the beach.

As we’re heading into a lazy summer weekend, I thought it would be fun to ask our readers the same – only this time we won’t leave our romance.  So, here’s the question:  What hero or heroine is your fantasy day at the beach companion?

Here’s a clue to mine:

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