Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Favorite Romance Authors

In my Internet wanderings, I came across a list of Top 100 Romance Books. I toyed with the idea of posting the list and bolding the books I read and enjoyed. That morphed into creating a list of my favorite romance novelists, and I stopped myself at 25.

1. Jude Deveraux — I first read her book, “Velvet Angel” when I was in middle school, and fell in love with the Montgomery family. It remains a favorite, along with “The Raider” and “The Awakening.” Her best book, though, has to be “A Knight In Shining Armor.” A woman with an asshat of a boyfriend gets abandoned on a trip to Great Britain. Crying in a church, she is startled by the appearance of a man in armor. She introduces him to the 20th Century, and finds a way to go back in time. The last few pages still haunt me. I recommend skipping anything Deveraux wrote after 1992.

2. Julie Garwood — A friend in my high school first introduced me to Garwood’s books. I love her historical fiction, especially anything written before 1997. Try “The Lion’s Lady,” “Guardian Angel,” “The Secret,” and her Rosehill series, especially “Come the Spring.” She mostly writes contemporary romance/thrillers now. I don’t like them nearly as much.

3. Judith McNaught — I’ve been waiting for years for McNaught to release a new book. I think only Lisa Kleypas comes close to her talent for writing both historical and contemporary romances. My favorites are “Paradise” and “Perfect,” followed by “Until You” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” I think “Double Standards” is my least favorite, and “Whitney, My Love” has a scene that many critics consider to be the “hero” raping the title character.

4. Kathleen Woodiwiss — It’s been years since I’ve read her books, but she remains a favorite, mostly because I know my father read one of her books once when he needed a break from his studies at MTU.

5. Johanna Lindsey — Her Mallory family series is utterly divine. Some of her books set in the Old West can be skipped. Some of her stand-alone stories featured Fabio on the cover, which makes me giggle. “Silver Angel” and “Captive Bride” were good books.

6. Georgette Heyer — I’m a newcomer to the Heyer, but quickly fell in love with her Regency romances. My favorites include “Devil’s Cub,” “Lady of Quality” and “The Grand Sophy.”

7. Julia Quinn — I first read her book “An Offer from a Gentleman.” While it was essentially a re-telling of Cinderella’s story, the richly-drawn characters and poignant and funny scenes riveted me. It turned out to be the third in her series about the Bridgerton Family. “When He Was Wicked” remains my favorite Quinn book, but I’d be hard-pressed to rank the rest in order of how much I enjoyed them.

8. Lynn Kurland — I chose “My Heart Stood Still” as one of my selections when joining a book-of-the-month club. Absolutely fell in love with the plot – part ghost story, part time travel and heartbreaking romance. Her romance books continue to delight and enchant me, and they would be safe to let a younger girl read.

9. Mary Balogh — I read a few of Balogh’s Regency books, but really fell in love with her stories when I read the “Slightly” series. Her “Simply” series is fantastic too, but my favorites remain “Slightly Dangerous,” “A Summer to Remember” and her novella, “A Matter of Class.”

10. Jo Beverley — The first book I remember reading by her is “Something Wicked,” and I devoured the rest of the books in her Malloren family series. Her Company of Rogues books are good too, but my favorite titles are “My Lady Notorious” and “A Lady’s Secret.”

11. Stephanie Laurens — My first introduction to Laurens came from reading “On a Wicked Dawn.” I fell in love with the rest of the books in her Cynster Family series, and my favorites are “All About Love” and “The Perfect Lover.”

12. Lisa Kleypas — I first read “Someone to Watch Over Me” and did not really like it. Then I discovered her Wallflowers series, and absolutely loved them. The Hathaway Family series is especially engaging. Her contemporary books, especially “Blue-Eyed Devil” are also good.

13. Diana Gabaldon — I love Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series, featuring a nurse who travels back in time from WWII to the mid-18th century. I love the epic tale of Claire Randall and her love, Jamie Fraser, in a story that spans both centuries and continents. Champing at the bit for the next book, not due out until 2013.

14. Celeste Bradley — I read the first book in her Liar’s Club series and loved it, and also liked all but one of her “Royal Four” quartet.

15. Eloisa James — I wish I could remember the first book by her that I read. I love her Essex Sisters series, and “A Duke of Her Own” is my favorite, and the best of her Desperate Duchesses series.

16. Constance O’Day Flannery — I first read her time travel romances when I was a teen, and my favorite remains “Timeless Passion.” It follows a woman from a modern day, pre-Katrina New Orleans to just before the Civil War. Most of her novels have a paranormal element to them. I also loved “Once in a Lifetime.”

17. Sabrina Jeffries — Her School for Heiresses series was delightful, especially the letters between headmistress Charlotte and “Cousin” Micheal. I’m also enjoying her Hellions of Hallstead Hall series, and the Swanlea Spinsters books were fun, too.

18. Gayle Callen — Her Sisters of Willow Pond trilogy was marvelous, and I liked the latest trilogy, featuring three women and a scandalous painting.

19. Suzanne Enoch — In “Twice the Temptation” she ties the storyline of her contemporary heroine with a story from the past. Her “Sin”quartet and Lessons in Love trilogy were excellent too.

20. Karen Hawkins — I love her St. John Talisman Ring series, but “Her Master and Commander” and “Her Officer and Gentleman” were simply outstanding.

21. Jacquie D’Allesandro — Her Mayhem in Mayfair series is a delight, and I’ve enjoyed her other books. And she’s fun to follow on FB.

22. Bertrice Small — I read “Skye O’Malley” and loved it and most of the saga that followed. I also loved “The Kadin” and “Love Wild and Fair.”

23. Liz Carlyle — “No True Gentleman” was fabulous, but I like most of her books. Especially ones that include George Kemble.

24. Gaelen Foley — I first read a book in her Knight Miscellany series, and especially love “Lady of Desire.”

25. Elizabeth Boyle — I adore the books in her Bachelor Chronicles.

Special recognition…
Phyliss A. Whitney who wrote “romantic novels of suspense,” and whose books I devoured as a teenager.
Victoria Holt’s books were similar to Whitney’s, but mostly set in Great Britain.
Eva Ibbotson’s book “The Countess Below Stairs” was sweet and heartbreaking.
Marissa de los Santos’s book “Love Walked In” was marvelous.
One of my favorite books is now "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." I often re-read the last 10 pages when my spirits need a lift.

Monday, January 2, 2012

My 2011 Reading Wrap-Up

I struggled to read this year. I still lack focus, and it seems that fruit flies have longer short-term memories than mine. Books usually serve as my escape, an armor I slip into to shield me.
There are some things in life that you cannot hide from, though, and heartaches and loss that strike like an armor-piercing round.

I finished 169 books in 2011, the lowest number since I began tracking the books I read in 2007. It dropped my average from 202 books a year to 195.

By the Numbers
Total: 169
Number of books that I'd read before: 46
Non-Fiction: 7
Mysteries: 26
Romance: 76
Sci-Fi/Fantasy: 17
Young Adult: 16
Anthologies/Short Story Collections: 8

I tried a few new series in 2011, a few that I’ll stick with and a one or two that I’ll skip. I discovered Casey Daniels’ “Pepper Martin” series because they are set in Cleveland. Those were fun. Molly Harper’s “Nice Girls” series involves a librarian turned into a vampire. It shares similarities to Mary Janice Davidson’s Betsy the Vampire series, but the main character in Harper’s series is more likeable.
Here are six books that stand out from 2011:

“River Marked” by Patricia Briggs
The latest in her Mercy Thompson series about a woman who works as a mechanic in the Pacific Northwest and shape-shifts into a coyote. Start from the beginning with “Moon Called.” Briggs’ “Alpha and Omega” series is connected to this one and also worth reading.

“A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah E. Harkness
Very hard to put down, with intriguing characters and a fast-paced stoyline. It’s the first in what will be a trilogy. The next book comes out this summer.

“Candy Freak ” by Steve Almond
An addictive look at not only candy, especially chocolate, but the industry that produces it and the little Mom and Pop-type places struggling to keep their brands alive.

“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern
Another book that is hard to put down, and one that I was sorry to finish. Loved the characters and the intrigue of it.

“Just Like Heaven” by Julia Quinn
Quinn’s writing creates characters vividly brought to life in books that make me smile, laugh and cry. A wonderful romance.

“Falling Together” by Marissa de los Santos
The author is also a poet, which comes across with her lyrical writing style. I enjoyed this book, but not quite as much as I did her novel “Love Walked In.”

Honorable mentions
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” by Kim Edwards, “Ghost Story” by Jim Butcher, “I am Half-Sick of Shadows” by Alan Bradley, “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline, “All Roads Lead Me Back to You” by Kennedy Foster and “The Mark of the Golden Dragon” by L.A. Meyers.

The Meyers and Bradley books are the latest in young adult series, and a lot of fun to read. Butcher's book is the 10th or 11th in his Dresden Files series.

I highly recommend this website if you want to learn the order of books in a series.

I plan to limit the books I re-read in 2012. The few exceptions will be the first Stephanie Plum book before the movie comes out in January, and the fourth Spellman book before the new title comes out by Lisa Lutz. My 2011 resolution was to not buy books, and that lasted until March when I was stranded at O'Hare for six hours and ran out of things to read. This year, I'll limit myself to one new book a month, and if I buy more than that, I have to get rid of two books for every new one purchased. I also hope to read more non-fiction in 2012.