We pick the “Buried Treasures” of 2013

Starfish-beach-wallpaperIn 2013, self-publishing was mainstream, social media allowed authors more specific ways to publicize their work, and everyone had a strongly held opinion about what constituted a great romance novel.  This environment makes the idea of a “buried treasure” more difficult to define. So, let’s agree to accept this definition: a buried treasure is a book you loved you think isn’t as well known as it should be. Continue reading

Opening the Young Adult Special Titles List

Young_Love_Vol_1_119Unique among AAR’s Special Titles Listings, the YA list originally depended on the taste of three readers only. Three teenagers with ties to AAR listed their favorite books – both children’s and YA literature – and that was the first published list. Later, a second part was created, this time along the usual pattern, sorted according to subgenre and filled with nominations from AAR’s readers. Continue reading

American Indians, Amazing Animals, Time Travel

TimeTravelIn December we opened up three Special Title Lists for new submissions: the American Indian list, Amazing Animals, and Time Travel. We’ll have to be honest, we didn’t really expect a lot of submissions during the busy holiday season. We should have known better as AAR’s readers came through with a lot of new additions for the three lists. Continue reading

Special Title Listings Updated!

caressedbyice Whenever we look at the nominations for a currently open Special Title Listing, we are thrilled at how divergent the entries are. Each and every time, there are classics that for some reason no-one had thought of before, there are well-loved novels that were published during the last ten years or so, and there are recent books that have already made a great impact.

Taking the Virginal Heroes, there is Scaramouche, from Rafael Sabatini’s swashbuckling romances of the 1920s. There are Nalini Singh’s Judd Lauren from Caressed by Ice, and the Earl of Ardmore from Eloisa James’s Kiss Me, Annabel – both books were published in the 2000s. As for 2013 novels, there are Kaleb Krycheck from Heart of Obsidian (also by Singh), and Samuel Cooke from Courting Greta by Ramsey Hootman.

Newly entered classics on the May-Dec/Dec-May list are Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman (1947), Arabella by Georgette Heyer (1949), Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart (1956), and The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren (1974), an early male-male romance.
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Updating the Tormented Heroines List

scoundrelkiss The Tormented Heroines list, for us, is one of the “you know it when you see it” sort. The main female character is deeply unhappy and dissatisfied for some reason, and this reason may lie in her own character, or in dramatic events in her past that influence her self-image to a strong degree. Amending the definition was not so easy, and we ended up making it more descriptive than it used to be. This is how it stands now:

“These tormented heroines are at complete odds with the world around them – either because there is something in their past for which they feel deep remorse or shame, or because they are misfits who have not found yet a place in which they can be happy and fulfilled. They could be cynical, emotionally distant, unhappily eccentric, or wild. What they share is an edge that stems from their deep frustrations.”

We hope that you will find it more helpful than the last version. Now one problem was that when we asked you to nominate books for this list, the old definition was still in place. Fortunately, almost all nominations fit the new definition very well, and we are pleased to add 38 new titles to the list. Only a very few books didn’t make it, mostly because although the heroines are eccentric, we felt they lacked the desperation that makes a heroine truly tormented. One example is Yasmeen from Meljean Brook’s Heart of Steel, who has an extremely colorful past but actually deals quite well with it. Another example is Millie Fitzhugh from Sherry Thomas’s Ravishing the Heiress. Millie is unhappy, but that unhappiness stems mostly from her unrequited love she feels for her husband. Otherwise, she has forged a place for herself very nicely in revolutionizing the concept of marketing for the company she owns with her husband.

With the older titles already on the Tormented Heroines list, we were left with a dilemma: Do all of them really fit the new definition? We checked those we had read, but with many, we just didn’t know. That’s where you come in: Do you spot a title on the Tormented Heroines list whose heroines is not truly tormented according to our definition? If so, please let us know and we can remove that title.

Please don’t forget to nominate Virginal Heroes and May/December and December/May romances! The ballots are still open until Thursday October 24 at midnight.

- Cindy Smith, LinnieGayl Kimmel and Rike Horstmann

And..We’re Opening Two New Special Title Lists for Submissions!

outlander2 Having looked at Experienced Women last time we updated the list, let’s consider their counterparts now: virginal men. What is so fascinating about Virginal Heroes? First and foremost that they confound all romance expectations. Romance heroes as such are expected to be suave, sure of themselves, confident in all matters – and that includes sex. How else, one may ask, will they be able to please the heroine so well that she experiences an orgasm the first time ever she has sex? How else can they pay the heroine the compliment that, although they have slept with dozens of women (or hundreds … take your choice), sex with her is more earth-shattering than anything they have ever experienced?

But let’s forget about the clichés of the genre for a minute and let’s consider real-life men. While many of them have sex with more than one woman during their lifetime, others are true to one woman only (just as it is the other way around). Which means that they are virgins when they meet their mate-to-be. So why not include the fictional counterparts of these men in the romance cosmos? Some of the heroes already on this list are utterly delicious – I am looking at you, Dr. Anthony Cook and Branden Kel-Paten, among others. So bring them on! Continue reading

Special Title Lists and Thinking About Definitions

thinker When we prepare to open one of our Special Title Listings, we look at the original definition and we look at the books that were nominated in the past and made their way onto the list, and matters seem straightforward enough. Then we write a little bit for the blog, trying to illustrate further what is so especially fascinating about that particular trope, and what variations there may be within it. Then you, our readers, nominate books. With most, the procedure is simple enough: They obviously fit the category, they have received glowing reviews here at AAR or at other respected sites, and on the list they go. But then there are the borderline books: They don’t quite fit the definition, but yet they are very close to it. Do we change the definition to encompass a larger range of books, to permit a wider variety within the list? Or do we stick to the definition because we don’t want to water down the list? Continue reading

The results of the AAR Top Ten Lists are in and the winner is….

loverawakenedBack in April, we began, on each Tuesday, publishing a reviewer’s Top Ten list. There were no rules other than the books be in the romance genre. Over the next five months, we published twenty-three lists. Out of the 230 entries, we listed 201 books. We hit every genre (although we have a definitive fondness for historical romance), and waxed upon the works of 121 authors. After every one had weighed in, only one book garnered five–the most–votes: J.R. Ward’s Lover Awakened. Continue reading

Special Title Listings: The Bad Girls

spear_of_summer_grass Bad girl heroines hold a special fascination for many romance readers because these women go against the grain of what we expect in a romance in a number of ways. They are aggressive, they take the lead, they act selfishly or irresponsibly, and they may even be without remorse. They don’t mind using their charm and attraction for their own advantage, and they even use their bodies to get what they want. Often they are outcasts, be it from choice or from necessity. However, as many of them are strong, independent characters, they are highly interesting to read about.

There are several special title listings at AAR that contain such heroines.

The Tormented Heroines are at odds with their role in society, and this results in their acting against the rules of sweet and caring womanhood. They may be cynical, eccentric, manipulative, selfish, or any combination of these. In any case they are mad, bad, and dangerous to know, and it takes a very special hero to bridge their defenses and let them find happiness. With these heroines, it is often clear that even the happy ending is only a single step forward in a battle of wits that will last for and enrich their entire lives. No conventional happily-ever-after here! Continue reading

Two Special Title Lists Revised

bookstack It seems hard to believe but one year ago Rike, Cindy, and I took over the task of updating the Special Title Lists after they had been untouched for nearly three years.

Since then we’ve updated or created 29 lists. We’ve encountered some unanticipated problems such as inconsistencies or overlapping lists, unclear definitions, and a few clearly misplaced titles. But more than the problems, we’ve had a great deal of fun exploring these lists and learning about some new titles in our own favorite categories. This morning we’re pleased to announce that thanks to you, two more Special Title Lists have been revised and are now available for you to check out: Older Couples and Big City Contemporary Romances. Continue reading