Archive for the ‘Romance reading’ Category

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Rike’s Picks

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

cotillion All the romances listed below are true Desert Island Keepers for me, and for each of them the following holds true: Whenever I open them to reread a particular scene, I cannot put them down again, and I end up reading the whole book. Each and every time. So this list is entirely subjective, with no regard to subgenres or dates of publication – although to gain entry on this list, a romance must have been around for a few years, otherwise I won’t know whether I will reread it again … and again … and again.

The order in which I have placed the books is not according to preference, but, as far as I can remember, according to the time in which I discovered them and added them to my own personal canon. (more…)

AAR Top Ten Picks – Laurie Gold’s Picks

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

castles Note: Laurie Gold has graciously agreed to share her Top Ten picks here this week. Longtime readers here will remember that Laurie founded All About Romance, and you will see many columns and reviews from her in our archives. Though Laurie retired from AAR in 2008, she now contributes to Heroes and Heartbreakers, and still has plenty of opinions on books. – Lynn
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When Blythe asked me to write this blog, she sent me a link to AAR Reviewer Maggie’s entry. I immediately liked it because, like Maggie, I have an impossible number of favorites from which to choose, and thought her idea of sampling from among subgenres was smart. Here, then, are my top ten romances, culled from historical, contemporary, paranormal, and romantic suspense subgenres, with funny, sad, and an erotic option thrown in for good measure. And to make it perhaps more useful, more than once I went for a less well-known author/book. (more…)

AAR Staff Top 10 Favorites – Melanie’s Picks

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

the_wedding So, like the other AAR staff who have submitted their Top Ten, I’ve been struggling to make decisions about what belongs on my personal top ten. And as I made a list of some of my favorite books, I noticed a pattern – I love clever heroines. I can put up with a lot of flak from the hero, if only I can relate in some way to the heroine. The heroines (or, in the case of #10, one of the heroes) try harder, go further, than expected of them. For many of them, they are smart and educated, but that’s not everything. They have a certain spark to them that pulls me in and makes me root for them. And in the end, I am ecstatic for them when they get their happily ever after.

There were, sadly, many, many books that got kicked off the list. I tried to put in a little bit of everything, but in the end, there was really only two criteria – how many times have I read it? And if I don’t own it, would I pay full price for it for the chance to read it again? (more…)

Heroines and Aging: A Bit Painfully

Friday, July 5th, 2013

birthdaycakecandles Back in July of 2006, Robin Uncapher wrote an At the Back Fence column (#232) that is so timely for me as to be kind of eerie. She discussed the role age plays on romance novels: in who buys them, in how the age of the heroine is perceived, in what is considered acceptable versus creepy…well, just go read the article because I’m not doing it justice.

This particular topic is timely because next week I will celebrate my birthday. I’ll confess that this particular one shifts me closer to fifty than to forty, and if I think on it too long, I tend to get a big panicky. I know I’m still in the prime of my life, hopefully with at least another four or five decades to go. To call myself ‘old’ is as insulting and ridiculous as the size 2 supermodel calling herself fat. (more…)

AAR Staff Top 10 Favorites – LinnieGayl’s Picks

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

seaswept As one of AAR’s three pollsters – along with LeeB and Cindy – I truly adore the Top 100 poll. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also fun to look at the ballots as they come in. I was excited when everyone at AAR decided to post their top ten romances as a lead-up to the Top 100 polling in October. But I was also a bit nervous. Since I’ve seen the ballots AAR readers submitted in 2007 and 2010, I know that my top ten romances are a bit idiosyncratic.

Like most of my colleagues at AAR, I decided to set up some rules for my Top 10. I’ve made no attempt to balance the list by subgenre. Nor did I limit my list to just one romance per author (as you’ll quickly see). But I did decide to list just one entry from each series or trilogy and went with the first in a series. In some cases the first entry isn’t my favorite, but these are series that I believe should be read from the beginning, they’re just that good. All but one of the romances on my list (#9) are frequent rereads and/or re-listens.

Unlike many of my AAR colleagues, while I adore Pride and Prejudice, it isn’t actually in the top ten on my ballot, so I didn’t have to make any rules about it. But I did struggle long and hard about placing a mystery – with seriously strong romantic elements – on my list. The first in the Amelia Peabody mysteries, Crocodile on the Sandbank, can almost be taken as a cozy romantic suspense, and was actually my “A review” when I applied to be an AAR reviewer. While the series definitely reads as mystery, at its heart is the endearing romance between Amelia and Emerson. While I stuck with romances for my list, one historical romance set in Egypt made it onto my list and another (Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase) just missed. (more…)

AAR Staff Top 10 Favorites – Lee’s Picks

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

bronzehorseman 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. (more…)

TBR Challenge 2013: Into the RITA Wayback Machine

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

rendezvousatgramercy This month’s theme for the multi-site TBR Challenge had me scratching my head a little. We’re supposed to read a RITA winner or runner-up. Now I have to admit that, at least in recent years, my reading tastes and the RITAs have diverged somewhat. I also noticed as I scrolled down the list of RITA winners that the books I did have from that list were almost all books I’d already read.

Then I got to the real oldies – books I would have been too young to read the first time around. My mother and grandmother both enjoyed Candlelight romances and I’ve ended up with a big box of their former keepers (some people get silver and china, some get antiques, I get old category romances and gothics – no wonder I write on a romance site). Sure enough, I managed to dig out a 1981 novel, winner of the 1982 Golden Medallion for Best Category Historical Romance, entitled Rendezvous at Gramercy by Constance Ravenlock. That’s right. This book goes back so far that they hadn’t even started calling the award the RITA yet. I wasn’t sure what I’d encounter when I read this one but it turned out to be a bit of a gem. I’d probably give it a B. (more…)

AAR Staff Top 10 Favorites – Anne’s Picks

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

defynottheheart 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?

1) Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

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! (more…)

Loving Problematic Books

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

chinagarden Grading books is not always straightforward. For me, there is no rubric, no check-list of Do’s and Don’t’s. I have a few deal-breakers, but not many. When I assign a book a DIK grade, though, I often feel like it has to be perfect — or at least very, very close. The writing must be flawless. The characters, well-developed. The plot, exciting, believable, and interesting. But I’ve found that some of the books I go back to, the ones I re-read over and over again (the true test, in my opinion, of a DIK), are objectively problematic in some way.

“Problematic” can mean a lot of different things. Maybe there is a pretty huge logical fallacy upon which the plot hangs. Maybe there’s something that should be totally unromantic, unhealthy, or taboo. Recently, my fellow AAR reviewers and staff members got to talking about our favorite books that have some flaw or problem. (more…)

Tying it up in a Bow

Friday, May 17th, 2013

tiedupbowAs romance readers we like happy endings. I still remember the book that pushed me firmly away from historical fiction into the romance camp. The heroine was a New England ship captain’s wife. It started out with a romantic meeting and courtship, and ended with plummeting fortunes and marital discord. I closed the book and tried to think why I had wanted to read it in the first place, or why anyone would want to read it. If I’m reading for pleasure, I want it to end happily. But I have to wonder whether ending happily means it also has to end neatly.

Because we also complain about hackneyed epilogues. You know what I mean. It’s a year later, and the heroine has just given birth to the adorable heir (because I swear it is usually a boy). Our hero and heroine look at each other with gooey eyes and perfect happiness. There’s no hint that the baby in question might get sick, or their financial fortunes will undergo an abrupt reversal, or even that the beloved family dog will pee on the priceless Aubusson carpet. In other words, there’s no inkling that the hero and heroine are about to experience life as we know it. If there’s any hint of discord in an epilogue, it tends to be in the form of angst for the couple’s friend/relative/old school chum who will be featured in the next sequel. 

What got me thinking about this in the first place? I read two with slipshod endings, both of which read as if the author got sick of writing and just ended the book with little thought or planning. One I have reviewed (and panned) already – Dusk with a Dangerous Duke. In this gem, the story ends with the hero and heroine professing their love as a house burns down around them (after bickering the book away), after which someone (no one ever says who) breaks down the door and presumably puts the fire out. The happy couple walks pout the door to live happily ever after (one assumes) without helping put the fire out, thanking the rescuer, or appearing in a happy epilogue with a dimpled baby in tow.

The second book is one I’m about to review (better than the first, but not by much), which leaves an ending with plot holes big enough to drive a semi through. My personal favorite was the way the hero’s brother had been grazed by a bullet and thought he was Russian. He stills thinks he’s Russian at the end of the book. Or was it the heroine’s brother, who was apparently kidnapped by Indians and renowned for his fiery red hair? Everyone knew about him (except the heroine apparently - she’d been trying to find him for five years). I’m pretty sure these loose ends will be addressed in the next book – which I will definitely not be sticking around to read.

Is there a happy medium somewhere? A non-gooey epilogue? A sunny – bot not completely unrealistic - ending? One where loose ends are tied up satisfactorily but not too neatly? One I can think of recently the struck all the right notes was Cecelia Grant’s A Gentleman Undone. The hero and heroine are happy, but their life is a modest one. Their immediate, pressing issues are resolved, but they aren’t exactly living in fabulous wealth  - or bouncing a baby on both arms.

What kind of ending strikes the right note for you? Do you like the ooey-gooey love and babies? Do you need everything tied up in a bow?

– Blythe Barnhill