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 →
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 first thought when I heard about this was “Eek! Only ten?” These picks are in no particular order, and some make no sense when I look at them. But these were the books I often think of when I try to pick favorites — often because they influenced me so much. Sadly, some of the romances I loved the most have titles like “That old Silhouette where the hero helped the heroine recover from an abusive childhood. Or something. I think it was blue.”
If I left your book off the list, don’t feel bad. It might be one of dozens of runner-ups. Or maybe it was one of those books I’ve been trying to remember for years. Was your book blue?
This book broke rules and yet still managed to be classic Lindsey, without being classic Lindsey that involved Viking slave collars and the like. Even the sex was mediocre at first, until the hero found out how to make it better for the heroine. That was a great touch. But I’ll always remember this book for the gay lady’s maid Theo. An unexpected find in a Medieval. Sure, the hero and heroine fought a lot. This is a Lindsey, right? Was it PC? Come on! This is a Lindsey! Continue reading →
Normally, the question “what’s your favourite book/piece of music/film?” is one that’s likely to turn me into a jibbering idiot and turn my mind completely blank. I mean really – just one favourite? And in any case, it usually depends on my mood on any one day. One day might demand Mozart and the next, Mahler. Or I’ll be in the mood for Die Hard one evening and Wall-E the evening after. By that token, if my choices tend to be mood dependent, how was I going to produce a list of titles that wasn’t going to change from day-to-day? So I decided the first thing I needed to do was to decide on the benchmark qualities I look for in a book that would qualify it for a place in my Top Ten.
Anyone that knows me knows I’m a bit of a stickler for good spelling and grammar, and for writing that displays at least a basic grasp of good sentence construction and logic. But those things should be a given in any good book, so they should be taken as read. So, was my criteria to be based on good writing or an unusual storyline; good characterisation or a talent for sparkling dialogue?
Eventually, I realised I was leaning more and more towards one particular thing – how did the book make me feel? I read romance novels because I enjoy becoming invested in the characters and their stories, so my list is based very much on my emotional response to each title. Did it make me laugh and/or cry? Was it one of those books that, as I finished the final page, made me feel emotionally drained (in a good way)? Did I finish it on a high? Was it the sort of book that makes it hard to get into another one for a day or so? Continue reading →
Heroes making big assumptions… They’re so common in romance. So much so that they were labeled “Big Ass” heroes” in an ATBF column several years ago. Readers often use shortcut terms like “the Big Miss.”
But what about readers making big assumptions? Whoops. Guilty as charged. I finally figured out something I hadn’t wanted to face. I have been a Big Ass reader.
The book that shook me up wasn’t a romance. Far from it. It was a collection of Mickey Spillane’s first three Mike Hammer books. Sure I was familiar with Spillane. I had enjoyed his beer commercials. I had fun watching him get interviewed on TV. I watched the Mike Hammer show on TV. Continue reading →
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 →
As a genre, romances have largely moved beyond the “bodice ripper” forced seduction-style stories (despite lingering stereotypes). They still pop up from time to time, but generally now the “she said no, but I know she really means yes” and “her body betrayed her” are ridiculous, sexist, and indicative of rape, not romance.
Gender norms have long dictated that men are insatiable and always willing, while women are more hesitant and require an emotional attachment. There was a double standard: men were allowed to sow their wild oats (whatever that means) and women who behaved similarly were sluts. It’s been this way for centuries, until the past few decades in which society has recognized that, yes, respectable women are allowed to have sex before they get married as men have been doing for centuries, and they can enjoy it, too. Continue reading →
There are a few published authors who have a reputation for being passionate about a particular political or social topic. Most readers know this up front and share these authors’ views. But what about those individuals who unsuspectingly buy a book and find themselves getting a dissertation on our corrupt politicians, or how the lack of progress in going green is hurting the country. When does the author’s belief system interfere with your enjoyment of a book?
Frankly, I can tolerate social commentary over political. For the most part, I don’t run into it in most of the books I read and when I do, it’s usually not a problem, but politics can be more problematic. I recently read a book for review that had our politicians sabotaging a military mission in order to stir up sympathy support for the war. Talk about an unexpected and unwanted political surprise. Things like this stick in my mind and overshadow the romance portion of the book. When I asked my fellow reviewers what romance books they have read with political or social views within the pages, I received numerous examples within minutes. Maggie remembers Lady Liberty by Vicki Hinze being controversial for its inclusion of political talk about a former president whose sexual exploits brought disgrace to the office and a new one whose ritual of daily prayer was returning that respect. Kristan Higgins’ book All I Ever Wanted has Michelle Obama giving sage advice to the heroine. Continuing on the political front in the realm of historicals, Dabney mentions Sherry Thomas’ discussion about the lack of foresight used by the British in the 1800’s invasion of what is now Pakistan in her book, Not Quite a Husband. Continue reading →