Doreen’s Top Ten Romances and Why
As this is a new column, I thought I’d kick it off with a topic everyone has an opinion about: what are your favorite books and why?
Brief aside – this column is open to anyone! Please feel free to submit a question and some commentary designed to start some discussion and away we’ll go!
So, without further ado, here is my list!
Through a Dark Mist, by Marsha Canham. This is my all time favorite romance. It is a medieval and chock full of authentic period detail. Canham’s prose is dense and rich with detail, but still thoroughly readable. I’ve heard described as too bloodthirsty, but to me, the vigor of the detail of her battle scenes are what propel you so forcefully into her story. And what a story! Her plot is full of twists and always plausible. She does some fun things with point of view, starting the book in the heroine’s pov, telling the rest of the entire book as a flashback, bringing the story to the same scene, only now told from the hero’s pov. Her dialogue is magic, the romance and attraction yummy. I do a re-read of this book every year and find something new to love every time.
Dreaming of You, by Lisa Kleypas. I’ve seen this described as the most perfect romance ever written and it deserves the praise. A historical set in the regency period, neither the hero nor the heroine are from the nobility. Both characters have achieved some sort of notoriety, the hero as the owner of the most successful gaming club in England and the heroine as the author of a wildly popular novel. This story has some of the most romantic dialogue I’ve ever read. There’s really not much in the way of plot, which might be a fault for some, but not for me in this case, because the romance is so amazingly written.
I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips and while I love all her work, Heaven, Texas has to be her best. Her characters are amazing and incredibly lovable. The secondary romance between the hero’s mother and former bad-boy made good is one of the most sparkling aspects of this multi-faceted book. The dialogue is perfect. The re-telling of the Cinderella story is still up-to-date, even though it was written over a decade ago. This is a textbook case of show don’t tell. It should be required reading for all writers, I don’t care what your genre is.
Anyone who talks to me about books for more than five minutes knows that I worship at the altar of Suzanne Brockmann. There have been books I’ve liked better than others, obviously, but they’ve all got special places on my keeper shelves. Her recent books are moving beyond romance and while I’m good with that not a whole lot of readers are. So, I’ll go with my first Brockmann, Prince Joe. It has a delicious romance, packs in a heck of a lot in a Silhouette Intimate Moments and is just a great little book. Second place goes to one of her early Loveswepts, a romantic comedy called Kiss and Tell. This is one of the greatest heroes she has ever written. I’m a sucker for a hero who has been in love with the heroine forever and finally gets the girl. Ask me in January if this is still true. I loved Into the Fire and if the reviews are any indication, her 1/27/09 release, Dark of Night, is going to be my new favorite book. I love me some Decker!
Completing my trio of “Susans” is Susan Andersen. Her last release by Kensington is called Exposure and is a great romantic suspense, with another winner of a hero. Elvis was injured while on the job in the big city and has moved back to the small town where he grew up. He is disfigured and has a hook where his hand used to be. The heroine and her daughter bring Elvis back to life and the transformation is wonderful to watch.
Michele Albert used to write under the name of Michele Jerott. Her second book under that name is called All Night Long. The hero is a Wisconsin dairy farmer, Rick, with red hair and a mustasche (not your usual tall, dark and handsome). He’s just been through a brutal divorce and wants nothing more than to be left alone to pick up the pieces of his life and maintain a relationship with his daughter as she changes from a little girl to an adolescent. The heroine, Annie, is a photographer who is researching a battle from an Indian war that took place on his land. He grudgingly allows her to work in his house and explore his farm searching for her answers. The plot is unusual, the characters fun and the resolution fully satisfying.
Tami Hoag wrote romance before she wrote suspense. She began writing romantic comedy for Loveswept and moved into romantic suspense when she went single title. One of her first, Lucky’s Lady, makes my list. Lucky is one of those scrumptious Cajun heroes, an artist turned soldier turned jack of all trades who has seen too much of the worst in people. The heroine doesn’t ever entirely tame him. She’s a good girl with a good pedigree and he manages to unlock all the passion that been bottled up inside her all her life. The rest of the book is populated with quirky characters and a great mystery. Did I mention the book is hot? Oven mitts are required apparel when reading this book
My favorite Jennifer Crusie comes next, and that’s Fast Women. It skirts that fine line between romance and women’s fiction, but the end of the book puts this one solidly in the romance column. This book contains the usual Crusie snappy writing and understated humor and the friendship between the women is the thing that really appeals to me in a big way.
I’m going to cheat with Nora Roberts. I’m going to count her Born In series as two books. Of the three titles in the book, Born in Fire, Born in Ice and Born in Shame, Born in Shame is my favorite of the three. Of course, they are wonderful romances, the heroes are off the chart sexy and the heroines likeable and interesting. The books on the whole, however, deal with one of my favorite topics, why do we artists do what we do? There’s not an aspect of the artistic life and process that she doesn’t explore, from making art as a profession to selling it, from homemaking to international gallery owner, from singing in a pub to writing New York Times bestsellers. She also explores the complicated and tangled ties of what makes a family and how people can be deeply connected by what appears to me the most trivial detail. Rich and thought provoking, I also re-read this series once a year and again, always find something new to think about, either about my music or my writing, or about my teaching others to be artists.
So, there’s my list! What’s on yours? I'd love to know!