AAR Mini-Polls

Top Ten Hanky Reads

Top Ten Hanky Reads
Cry No MoreLinda Howard
Always To RememberLorraine Heath
The Bronze HorsemanPaullina Simons
Flowers From the StormLaura Kinsale
Dream a Little DreamSusan E Phillips
Dreaming of YouLisa Kleypas
The Secret PearlMary Balogh
A Kingdom of DreamsJudith McNaught
9TapestryKaren Ranney
Annie’s SongCatherine Anderson

Linda Howard’s 2003 release Cry No More, which earned DIK status at AAR, blew away the competition in the poll for your Top Ten Hanky Reads. It earned nearly 2/3 (64%) more points than the book in second place. Though it didn’t win as the Best Contemporary Romance in our annual reader poll, it garnered an honorable mention in that category, then went on to win, as a stand-alone win, in the Two-Hanky, Strongest Heroine, and Romantic Suspense categories. This story has so many bittersweet moments but the ending, without a doubt, was the pivotal point that had many readers reaching for the Kleenex.

All the titles in positions two through ten were closer together, point wise, than the difference between Cry No More and Always To Remember, published by Lorraine Heath in 1996. When Laurie originally reviewed it, her grade was a B-. Years and years later AAR reviewer Leigh Thomas did a second review, a DIK review. Always To Remember earned honorable mention in our very first annual reader poll.

Even though it was published a decade ago, it still holds a place in many readers’ hearts, so that when Leigh’s review was posted earlier this year, many readers who disagreed with Laurie’s B- felt a wrong had been rectified – and were vociferous about it for months on the Reviews Message Board. Always to Remembergradually works on the reader to see both sides of a story, which is particularly apt because it is about war.


Paullina Simons’ The Bronze Horseman, published in the U.S. in 2001, is definitely a hard book to categorize since it didn’t end with a traditional HEA. Even so, many romance readers love this book and it too earned DIK status, then went on to earn an honorable mention in the Two Hanky category in the Annual Reader Poll for that year. The Bronze Horseman, along with its sequel, Tatiana & Alexander (which finished in 31st place), are much better read back to back so you can have a major crying jag. Pollster Lee Brewer has read most of the Top Ten Hanky Reads, says that she “never cried so much as when reading these two stories – not just sniffles, but huge tears that made my eyes red”.

1992’s Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale slid into fourth place and is a book that some would consider the epitome of romance. Many readers came to romance as a result of this book, particularly those who had previously believed the genre was rather silly. The story of an overly proud and self-centered man who falls from his own pedestal and the only woman who dares to try and understand him is one of the most moving romances ever written. Part of the poignancy for this reader was that the hero and heroine never know what illness wrecked his speech and motor skills. Even though the reader has an inkling of what could have happened, the hero and heroine have little knowledge and quite frankly have no idea if the hero’s condition could get worse at some point. All in all, this story is about two people who are forced to look at their lives and make harsh choices in order to be with the person they love. For the last scene in the book alone, this romance should be required reading for all readers.

When Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Dream A Little Dream was published in 1998, it solidified her standing among readers as one of the best the genre has to offer, particularly because it showed such a different side to the author…a two-hanky side as opposed to the comedic romance side for which she’d gathered legions of fans. The book didn’t earn DIK status at AAR, but for that year’s annual reader poll, it earned three awards, for Two-Hanky, Most Tortured Hero, and Best Contemporary Romance – and all as stand-alone wins – and one honorable mention. It also earned the author the “Best New Discovery” category as well (that is no longer a category in our annual reader polls; now we poll for Best New Author and Author Most Glommed).

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas earned DIK status here at AAR, but because it was published in 1994, it pre-dates our annual reader polls. Still, readers have found a way to show others just how important this book is to them. Derek Craven placed fourth in a recent mini-poll on Top Ten Heroes, his heroine Sarah Fielding found her spot at sixth in the Top Ten Heroines category, and together they landed in fourth place in the Top Ten Couple mini-poll. Their story also placed second in the recent Top Ten Comfort Reads poll.

Mary Balogh’s The Secret Pearl was first published in 1991 and, like most of the other titles on this top ten list, earned DIK status. It is just one of her many books to provoke tears in the reader. In fact, sixteen titles by Mary Balogh were voted on in this poll. The author, who has won and/or earned honorable mention in many of our annual reader polls, was the Author Most Glommed for three years (2003, 2004, and 2006). If you have never read this story (which was reprinted earlier this year), do buy it and save it for a time when you need a good cry.

A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught was published in 1991, and when Laurie learned of a reader who loved the book as much as she did, asked that the reader write a DIK review of the book, and it is that reader’s DIK review we have online. McNaught’s one and only Medieval seems to have improved with age as it did not win a spot in AAR’s first Top 100 Romances poll (1998), landed in the 23rd slot in the second (2000), and climbed its way to fifteen position in the third and most recent of our Top 100 Romances poll (2004). If you’ve not read it – or read it lately – perhaps it’s time.

Tapestry was Karen Ranney’s first release, and is said to bear no resemblance her more recent Avon titles. Published in 1995, it too pre-dates our annual reader polls, and it has never been reviewed here. We would love for that to change, so if you love this book, please consider submitting a DIK review of it. Tapestry has not shown up in any other polls by AAR so seeing it here is truly a surprise. That said, as a result of hearing about the book, Laurie asked the author to submit a Write Byte on the Allure of the Two-Hanky Read; the article remains online to this day (as do all Write Bytes).

Catherine Anderson’s 1996 release Annie’s Song rounds out the Top Ten Hanky Reads and is the story of a woman believed to be an idiot (she is, in fact, deaf…and doesn’t speak), and the man who is forced to marry her due to his brother’s horrendous actions. There are so many scenes in this book that will bring tears to a reader’s eyes, including one poignant moment as described by Cindy: “When the deaf heroine tried to make sounds, her mother used to slap her to keep her from sounding stupid. The part that made me tear up was when her husband heard her making sounds and realized that she was deaf and not an idiot – when she saw him she immediately stopped making noise and he begged her to not stop – definitely got me crying.” Amazingly this book only made a blip in the appropriate annual reader poll, earning an honorable mention in the Hanky Read category. Equally amazing is that this book has yet to be reviewed by AAR, so if this book is a DIK for you, we would welcome your review.

Previously we mentioned which of your top ten had also appeared in our annual reader polls. Let’s now reverse that. Interestingly enough, out of the ten years we’ve conducted our annual reader poll to date, just two winning Hanky Reads cracked your top ten. Those that did not are:

Reader Poll
(prior year releases)
Most Hanky Read
A Breath of Snow and Ashes
When He Was Wicked
Cry No More
No Place Like Home
One Good Turn
The Unsung Hero
Dream a Little Dream
One Perfect Rose
Sunrise Song
Diana Gabaldon
Julia Quinn
Linda Howard
Barbara Samuel
Carla Kelly
Suzanne Brockmann
Jill Barnett
Mary Jo Putney
Kathleen Eagle

Top Ten Hanky Read Authors

Your top ten hanky read authors are writers who consistently tug at your emotions, and require you to have a box of tissues close at hand whenever you read their books. By and large, the list offers up no real surprises. In addition to being hanky-read authors, these are also some of the perennial favorite authors of AAR readers. While readers cast at least one vote for 121 different authors in this category, the top ten can be viewed in this chart to your right:

These authors span many genres within romance, including Trad Regency, European Historical, Contemporary, Medieval, Renaissance, Frontier/Western, Time Travel, and Americana. Mary Balogh easily topped the list of hanky-read authors. This is no surprise, given that 17 of her titles received at least one vote, and one, The Secret Pearl, ended up in the top ten.

Judith McNaught placed second, and in addition to A Kingdom of Dreams (8th title for Top Hanky Reads), six of McNaught’s other titles also received votes as hanky-read titles.

Third third place author Lorraine Heath had one title among the top ten hanky reads. Many of Heath’s other titles received votes, including Texas Destiny(12th) and Sweet Lullaby (13th).

Top Ten Hanky Read Authors
Mary Balogh
Judith McNaught
Lorraine Heath
Linda Howard
Laura Kinsale
Lisa Kleypas
LaVyrle Spencer
Catherine Anderson
Mary Jo Putney
Diana Gabaldon

While Linda Howard’s book Cry No More ended up in first place for the titles, she took fourth place among hanky authors. In addition to Cry No More, six of her other titles received votes. Ms. Howard has pleased AAR readers in a number of categories, and is clearly able to evoke a variety of emotions. While 2003’sCry No More won the Most Hanky category in our annual reader poll, she flipped things around a couple of years later; her 2005 release To Die For earned honorable mention as Favorite Funny.

The fifth place hanky author, Laura Kinsale, had one title in the top ten, and three of her other titles also received votes.

Three authors – LaVryle Spencer, Mary Jo Putney, and Diana Gabaldon – placed in the top ten, but did not have a single title in the top ten. Clearly, for these three authors, it is the body of their work, and not a single, dominant title, that earned them your vote. LaVryle Spencer placed seventh among authors. While none of her books placed in the top ten, six did receive votes, with Morning Glory tying for 20th place.

In addition to taking ninth place among Hanky Read Authors, six of Mary Jo Putney’s titles received votes as well. Ms. Putney is no stranger to this category; her 1997 release One Perfect Rose won as Most Hanky Read in our annual reader poll, and The Spiral Path, published in 2002, earned honorable mention in the same category during the year it was eligible.

Diana Gabaldon landed in tenth place in the poll, and four of her titles received votes, with Outlander ending up in 18th place. Gabaldon is no newcomer to the Hanky Read category. A Breath of Snow and Ashes, published last year, tied with a Karen Ranney release in our annual reader poll.


We invite you to consider these questions and post about these poll results below:

  • Do you have to be in the right mood to read a two-hanky read, or do you read them at any time?
  • Do you agree with the results? Are there any titles that you’re surprised to see that didn’t make the top ten? Are there any authors you expected to see in the top ten that didn’t make the cut?
  • How often do you like to read bittersweet or emotionally intense romances? Are they your preference, or do you like a mix of light and dark reads?

Lee Brewer, LinnieGayl, and Cindy Smith

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comments (8)

1. Laurie Gold left… Wednesday, 22 November 2006 7:32 pm

This is a sample comment…you are not required to “subscribe” with blog-city to post.
2. LinnieGayl left… Friday, 24 November 2006 8:58 pm

I was really surprised by the top ten titles. Only one of my titles — Dream a Little Dream — ended up in the top ten. I really thought my top hanky title — One Perfect Rose — would be there.
3. Jeanne W left… Saturday, 25 November 2006 5:58 am

Hmmn, I’m not really surprised by any of the results, although a few made me raised my eyebrows slightly.

  • I’m really surprised that Tapestry by Karen Ranney is in the Top 10, was it ever there before? And I’m curious about Annie’s Song by Catherine Anderson, can someone give me spoilers and tell me why she has to marry the hero, considering this is a contemporary setting?
  • I would love to see readers’ DIK reviews of these books, it’s so neat reading other romance readers’ take and analysis of good books. I also happened to have scored a copy of Tapestry not so long ago at the UBS, so I’ll have to dig it up to read.
  • Even though she didn’t make it in the Top 10 of either Hanky list, I can’t say enough of Carla Kelly. I’m currently reading a friend’s copy of the very scarce Summer Campaign and it is so AWESOME. Finally, finally, a regency-set romance that really delineates the PPSD that many men must have suffered fighting in and through the Napoleonic Wars, unlike the lip service given to it in some many other regencies and regency historicals. Yes, there were so many painful moments, but it makes the HEA for Jack and Onyx so much more satisfying. One of the really, really great Carla Kellys, along with Ms. Chartley’s Grand Tour and 2002’s pick One Good Turn.
  • My other pick that also missed the Top 10 Hanky reads was Gallant Waif by Anne Gracie. Kate, the heroine, is full of life and spunk even though her life is full of heartache and sorrow. Ellen’s review was spot on about the ballroom scene, it is one of the most memorable scenes I’ve ever read in a book, one of the most heartbreaking scene of the devastation and destruction of an innocent young woman. Great, great hanky moment, and also great, great reading.

4. CindyS left… Saturday, 25 November 2006 9:43 am

Jeanne – I looked up the titles you mentioned and One Good Turn came in 15th in the Titles category but anything after the 12th slot were points away from each other. Summer Campaign and Gallant Waif did show up on ballots but just not enough ;)

Also, Annie’s Song by Catherine Anderson is an historical sorry I didn’t make that clear. Let me know if you want spoilers still and I will e-mail you privately. I don’t want to make a broad statement about Tapestry but I don’t believe it showed up in the Hanky polls before. That said, it is in the Special Title section under Two Hanky reads and Beauty is in the Eye category. Maybe we can convince someone to write a DIK review for this book since there isn’t currently one at AAR. I can’t because there was a point in the book where my suspension of disbelief was blown away and I stopped reading (3/4 of the way through). I would love to read what it is about this story that others love though! CindyS
5. LinnieGayl left… Saturday, 25 November 2006 1:42 pm

Jeanne, I looked up the results for authors, and Carla Kelly ended up in 12th place. She did actually appear on quite a few people’s ballots, just not high enough to land in the top 10. LinnieGayl
6. Jeanne W left… Monday, 27 November 2006 5:36 am

Cindy and LinnieGayl, thanks for telling me where Carla Kelly ended up. Woo hoo, within the top 15 isn’t so bad. I’m really not disappointed that she didn’t make the top 10, I just wanted to mentioned she’s also a great hanky read author and just a great author period.

Thanks also for mentioned that Annie’s Song was a historical instead of a contemporary. It didn’t make much sense that someone in modern times would be that cruel to a little girl. If your kid had trouble hearing things, it’s so easy to take them to the doctor, have him (or her) run some tests, and diagnose deafness. Thanks for clearing it up, and yes, Cindy, please email me spoilers. I think I’ll still put this title on my TBR pile, it intrigued me enough.
7. Laurie Gold left… Tuesday, 28 November 2006 12:07 am

I was so busy trying to get these comment pages to work that I forgot to vote! It was no great loss in the Holiday poll, but I wish I’d have voted in this one. I honestly don’t know how I’d have ranked them, but here are the titles I’d have included:

A Kingdom of Dreams, Judith McNaught The Wind from Hastings, Morgan Llywelyn Velvet Bond, Catherine Archer The Obedient Bride, Mary Balogh The Plumed Bonnet, Mary Balogh The Temporary Wife, Mary Balogh Tallie’s Knight, Anne Gracie Lord St. Claire’s Angel, Donna Simpson A Fire in the Heart, Katherine Sutcliffe Born in Ice, Nora Roberts Interestingly enough, half of my list is comprised of trad Regencies. TTFN, LLB
8. Jeanne W left… Tuesday, 28 November 2006 4:54 am

It occurred to me that questions were asked about hanky reads, and these are my answers.

I suppose I can read a hanky book any time, but if I know it’s a hanky read, I may not until I feel in the right mood for it. Why? Well, if I know in advance, and I’m feeling blue or stressed, I’m not going to compound it by reading a book that going to induce heart-wrenching sobs from me. I’m also musing if it’s a seasonal thing. I can easily see reading hanky books in any season except the brightness of summer and December, the month of holiday cheer. Why bring me down deliberately during these generally more upbeat times? I like mixing light and dark reads to vary my reading enjoyment. I couldn’t stomach three in a row of either type; the effect would be too sunshiney or too dark. In recent years I have really shy away from the very intense reads, prefering a medium dark book, does that make sense? One example of a medium dark book for me is Texas Destiny. Go figure. One example of an intensely dark book is Dream Fever by Katherine Sutcliffe. That is still in my library, even though I know I’m not going to read it any time soon.

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