There is absolutely no possible way that I can trim my favorite romance novels down to ten. Therefore, I am going to take a page from other reviewers’ entries and exempt those written in the 19th century (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell). I am also going to state that Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is a given, but because the story continues and the end has not yet been written, it will be excluded from my top 10 list. I am also going to exclude A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught, because Jenna included it her list and I would not want to be redundant. So…in no particular order and with the caveat that I could exchange some books on this list at any time, here is my qualified Top 10 list:
1. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase – This is a book that readers either seem to love or hate and I can see both sides. However, I LOVE this book for its humor and for the strength of its heroine Jessica. Loretta Chase is one of those rare historical writers who can write humor that seems authentic for the era. I had a hard time choosing between Lord of Scoundrels and Lord Perfect, but Scoundrels slightly edged out Perfect. Dane was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and I liked the fact that Chase could craft a hero out of such poor raw material.
2. Upon a Wicked Time by Karen Ranney – Karen Ranney is also an author who has multiple books that are favorites for me. I could have picked My Beloved, After the Kiss, Tapestry or Till Next We Meet. However, I chose Upon a Wicked Time because of the tortured hero, Jered Mandeville. It is really, really hard to like this hero. He is cruel, arrogant and does everything in his power to humiliate and break Tessa. He eventually succeeds and it is only when he does that his character can be broken down and remade. Ranney is an absolute genius in my opinion in creating a believable setting and drawing you into the narrative with writing so good that I find myself going back to her again and again just to hear the language in my head.
3. Cry No More by Linda Howard – Linda Howard is also one of my go-to authors and I had a difficult time choosing just one of her books. If I expanded the number of contemporaries on my list, she would have made it multiple times. After considering After the Night and Dream Man, I settled on Cry No More. I must have a thing for tortured heroes, because Diaz is another hero who was difficult to warm up to, but once I did I just wanted to carry this one home in my pocket and protect him from a fate of living a life that was an emotional wasteland. Thankfully, Milla did it for me.
4. Tangled Up in You by Rachel Gibson – Rachel Gibson is another contemporary author who has multiple books that I re-read on a regular basis. Tangled Up in You has two main characters that are both emotionally flawed and those flaws stem from the same event. This tale that examines their baggage from both sides. I love Maddie. She is the quintessential strong heroine who kicks ass and takes names. That strong veneer hides the one vulnerability she refuses to acknowledge and Rachel Gibson takes us into her head as she journeys toward self-determination.
5. By Possession by Madeline Hunter – I think one of my favorite subgenres when done correctly is Medieval Romance. There is just something so raw and untamed about that time that draws me in and Madeline Hunter drew such a compelling picture that I felt I was actually in the 14th century. I did love Addis de Valence, but I love Moira Falkner more. Born to a bondwoman and returned to serfdom by Addis, she never gave in and never gave up her quest to be free again.
6. Night in Eden by Candice Proctor – set in 19th century Australia, this book is the story about Bryony Wentworth, a convicted murderer sent to England’s penal colony for her crime. Hayden St. John gains her indentured servitude as a nursemaid to his young son. Both have enough baggage to fill the cargo hold of a ship, but they work through it all in a believable manner and their story turns to magic in Candice Proctor’s skilled hands.
7. Once in a Blue Moon by Penelope Williamson – Another tortured hero shows up on my list with McCady Trelawny. He comes from a long line of earls who have died violently at a young age and has adopted a cavalier attitude towards life that covers for his need to make his mark before he dies. He intends to build a steam locomotive, but when he inadvertently falls in love with Jessalyn Letty he finds he must choose between her and his dream. He chooses his dream. When McCady refuses Jessalyn’s love, she turns to a childhood friend for comfort. This sets up a love triangle later on in the book that tests Jessalyn’s need for love against her strong sense of honor. This book is a very serious emotional ride.
8. Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale – There are just something about the language that Laura Kinsale uses that makes you want to savor each and every word. There are a number of her works that would merit Top 10 status, but I chose Flowers from the Storm because of its unusual heroine and how she dealt with a hero who has a life-changing medical crisis. She made me fall in love with both Christian and Maddie’s characters and enthusiastically cheering for their HEA.
9. The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt – Elizabeth Hoyt came on the romantic novel scene not long after I came back to reading romance after a 25 year hiatus. I was first struck by the absolute pristine quality of her writing. I also loved the fact that she chose a different historical era to highlight. Edward reminds me a bit of Dane in Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels. His curmudgeonly behavior hides an insecure soul who has pretty much given up on a life filled with happiness. Anna is not quite as brash as Jessica, but she leads Edward out of the darkness and into the light in a manner that is not only believable, but leaves the reader with a smile on their face when the last page is turned.
10. Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna Lindsey – Johanna Lindsey is one of those authors who can be very, very good or very, very bad. Some readers might place the medieval romance Prisoner of My Desire in the bad category because it contains rape scenes by both the hero and the heroine and one may wonder how it would be possible to like either character given their despicable behavior. Lindsey somehow makes it work in this book and I liked the fact that we were shown the anger and humiliation suffered by a male who was forcibly raped.
So here are the Top 10 romances from my perspective…at least for this week.
– Mary Skelton