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.
So, here are my top ten favorite books, in reverse alphabetical order:
Family Blessings by Lavyrle Spencer. At the start of most Ms. Spencer’s books, her two main characters are totally different in so many ways the reader never thinks they will end up as a couple. But as Ms. Spencer did over and over again throughout her writing career, she managed to create wonderful romances from opposites attracting. What I liked about Family Blessings was not only the growth of the relationship between the older woman and younger man but how the author framed its growth over the seasons.
The Bronze Horseman and Tatiana & Alexander by Paullina Simons. I know the author has written two more books that follow the characters of Tatiana and Alexander, but I decided not to read those because of feedback from other readers. Nonetheless, I read both these books back to back and wow, talk about a roller coaster of emotions! War, revenge, love and sacrifice but definitely a happy ending at the end of the second book. Whew!
Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. I truly enjoy Ms. Quinn’s writing style. Yes, she’s witty, but she also loves her characters. For instance, Penelope Featherington. Wouldn’t you want to be her friend? I know there are lots of “families” in Regency England romance books, but the Bridgertons are one of the most fun to read about.
Silk and Secrets by Mary Jo Putney. Adventure, faraway places, romance and great lead characters. I’ve enjoyed many of Ms. Putney’s books but this is truly my favorite.
This Is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland. Ms. Kurland creates charming characters that sometimes appear in subsequent stories, be they time travel stories (people popping in and out of different centuries) or not. This one is strictly medieval and a treasure.
Miss Whittier Makes a List by Carla Kelly. Adventure and romance on the high seas. Ms. Kelly has lots of fans and there is a reason for that. She teaches history in her books through characters living through wars and lesser conflicts. (On another day, I could have named another one of Ms. Kelly’s books, but this is one of my all time favorites by her.)
Mariana by Susanna Kearsley. This was the first book I read by Ms. Kearsley and even though I’ve read all her other books (except for her first two which she warns people not to buy – Undertow and Gemini Game), Mariana remains my favorite. It’s a gothic, it’s a romance, it made me cry – it’s a lovely book.
Beyond All Reason by Judith Duncan. Though Judith Duncan doesn’t seem to be writing any more, this story is indicative of her talent at creating sensitive characters. In my opinion, Ms. Duncan rivaled Kathleen Korbel in writing category romances that wrenched the reader’s heart.
Bewitching by Jill Barnett. This was the second book I read by Jill Barnett and I liked is so much, I bought the rest of her backlist. I’m not a huge paranormal fan, but this story of a “witch” and her relationship with a duke and his friends is sweet, sad and funny.
Bubbling under the top ten are even more super favorites like Tapestry by Karen Ranney, The Sound of Snow by Katherine Kingsley, A Basket of Wishes by Rebecca Paisley, The Widow’s Kiss by Jane Feather, Amazon Lily by Theresa Weir and The Affair by Sandy Hingston. It’s a hard choice but there you have it.
– Lee Brewer