I reread this about every other year, and it gets better all the time. The characters are so layered, the atmosphere is magical and gritty (depending on the scene), the romance is low-tone and utterly sweet, and the action scenes are gripping.
The Falco and Flavia Albia series by Lindsey Davis
I just love the tone in both these series - dry, self-deprecating, and yet with such richness about life in ancient Rome. Favorites, and incidentally the first in each series respectively, are The Silver Pigs and The Ides of April.
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
I love all the other Night Watch books by Pratchett as well, and truly most of his other works, but in Guards! Guards! every single word just works. And I adore Sam Vimes, and Sybil, and Carot, and here is where it starts.
A strong friendship between hero and heroine beside the lust. Real tough decisions without an easy way out. Laughter in a relationship, preferably in bed too. Colorful descriptions of scenery and actual historical events. Clever banter. A slow but strong build-up of sexual tension. Hero and heroine working together in moments of crisis. Finding love in unexpected places.
What I Hate in a Romance
Cookie-cutter characters and situations. Heroes that blame the heroine for something that is their own fault and get away with it. Heroes who know better than the heroine what she wants. Ahistoric names and wrong titles in historicals. Heroines who act cute and get away with it. Deus-ex-machina happy endings. Characters who claim they can never love again because they were hurt once.
A Bit More About Me
I teach English and German at a German high school, and I mentor young English teachers. I love reading and listening to music and watching movies and TV shows. Some time ago, I rediscovered knitting, and I am an avid knitter now.
(So you don't think I never move: I cycle a lot, and have very strong opinions regarding huge cars that block the cyclist's sight.)
My love of romance was nurtured by my father, who was a devoted reader of Georgette Heyer. When we'd read all historical romances that were available in German, he polished his English so he could read on in that language. Romance may have been the main reason I studied English Literature at university. Now the baton has been picked up by my two oldest nieces, who also love reading romances.