On Twitter, @Mcvane and @Sonomalass were challenging each other to list their favorite books, movies and songs. Somehow this became a challenge to post our favorite 16 romances on October 16, which is the birthdate of a romance foremother, Kathleen Winsor (1919-2003).
Minnesota born, Berkeley bred Winsor was the author of Forever Amber, published in 1944. Here’s the synopsis:
Abandoned pregnant and penniless on the teeming streets of London, 16-year-old Amber St. Clare manages, by using her wits, beauty, and courage, to climb to the highest position a woman could achieve in Restoration England-that of favorite mistress of the Merry Monarch, Charles II. From whores and highwaymen to courtiers and noblemen, from events such as the Great Plague and the Fire of London to the intimate passions of ordinary-and extraordinary-men and women, Amber experiences it all. But throughout her trials and escapades, she remains, in her heart, true to the one man she really loves, the one man she can never have.
The Massachusetts Attorney General, exhibiting a streak of “prurient interest” if there ever was one, combed the book and found, according to Winsor’s Guardian obituary, “70 references to sexual intercourse, 39 illegitimate pregnancies, seven abortions, 10 scenes in which women undressed in front of men who were not their husbands, and nearly 50 ‘miscellaneous objectionable passages’ – and announced that the book would be banned (an action overturned on appeal).”
For her part, Winsor protested:
“I wrote only two sexy passages … and my publishers took both of them out. They put in ellipses instead. In those days, you know, you could solve everything with an ellipse.”
Forever Amber was reissued in 2002, with a foreword by Barbara Taylor Bradford. That same year, Forever Amber received a positive review in the Guardian by feminist literary critic Elaine Showalter.
Winsor went on to publish other novels, but none garnered the sales or critical notice of Forever Amber, which was made into a film. She opined, somewhat unflatteringly, that her readers “like to read about the past because it has no threats for them”.
Writers should take note that forever Amber was originally a 2500 page manuscript, pared down by editors into a “modest” 1000!
Some other bloggers are joining the fun. If you are one of them and I did not list you, let me know!
And if you don’t have a blog, just put your list in a comment.
Nicola, Alpha Heroes
What Kate’s Reading
Wendy the Super Librarian
Phyls Quilts and Books
Jill the Romance Rookie (with a review of Forever Amber!)
Books to the Sky
According to my LibraryThing account, I have only read about 200 romance novels. So, for me, 16 is actually the top 13% of romances I have ever read.
How did a book make the list? Basically, there had to be a moment (or more) in the book that knocked my socks off, that was unforgettable, that made the book come totally alive, the characters seem to get up and walk off the page. I did not pick the romance novels that I felt were the best written — not even the best written by the author in question — although of course, I harbor a secret hope that my tastes track aesthetic excellence at least a little. These are just my favorites, in the most personal, goofiest, least defensible sense of the word.
(And I kept making last minute subs!)
And they are listed, you might notice, in alphabetical order by title.
Black Dagger Brotherhood, JR Ward (first 4 books. These were the first romance novels I read)
Black Silk, Judith Ivory
Demon Moon, Meljean Brook
Devil in Winter, Lisa Kleypas
Dirty, Megan Hart
Flowers from the Storm, Laura Kinsale
Manhunting, Jennifer Crusie
More Than A Mistress, Mary Balogh
Mr. Impossible, Loretta Chase
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
Private Arrangements, Sherry Thomas
Seize the Fire, Laura Kinsale
Slightly Dangerous, Mary Balogh
To Have and to Hold, Patricia Gaffney
To Love a Thief, Julie Ann Long
Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn
Heart of Deception – Taylor Chase [Elizabethan]
Set in Elizbethan London, war veteran Rafe Fletcher races against time
to clear his family’s name as his father and brother are due to be
hanged for commiting treason. He shrewdly realises that Vivian Swift,
a notorious criminal underlord, may hold a key to the identity of the
real plotters and begins to worm his way into her dark world as her
While it has the HEA (and awesome love scenes), it’s not a typical
romance with misunderstood heroine and bossy hero. Vivian is truly a
bad girl who would do whatever it takes to protect her loved ones. If
that means killing someone, she will do it. Rafe, on the other hand,
is the innocent and noble one here. There are mystery, politics,
historical events and a journey through the dark and dirty side of
The downside: I feel Vivian’s brother Nick is somewhat stereotypical,
but it’s a flaw I’m willing to accept. This is actually the
lightest-hearted offering from Taylor Chase (aka Gayle Feyrer).
The Emerald Necklace – Diana Brown [Traditional Regency]
Set in Regency-era London, the heroine is annoyed that she was forced
to marry a Cit. Sure, he’s wealthy but still, he’s a commoner. To snub
her nose at him, she openly and romantically engages herself to
another man. Eventually she comes to realise there’s more to her
husband than she’s expected, but will it be too late to redeem herself
to save their marriage? I rarely enjoy troubled-marriage romances, but
this one blew me away because it doesn’t have a rosy-tinted view of a
flawed couple. It’s a gritty, tough read and it has the HEA that makes
you feel richly rewarded for abusing your teeth by grinding so much.
An easy breezy read? Hahah. Please.
The Portrait – Megan Chance [the Gilded Age]
Set in 19th-century NYC, an emotionally unstable famous artist vs. an
ambitious socialite. She’d do anything to get him to agree taking her
on as an art student. At times the hero is an arsehole, but the
difference is he really has a valid reason: he has bi-polar (which is
never named in this story). I think this is also the first historical
romance I read that heavily hints that the hero is bisexual. It does
have flaws, but I liked The Portrait because it’s so atypical.
Her Heart’s Desire – Rene J. Garrod [Western]
It’s a Western-setting romantic comedy of a bespecated scholar coming
to the West from NYC to find his long-lost brother and gets abducted
by three sisters to present as a bridegroom to a practical-minded
spinster. It’s a comfort read. If you like Paint Your Wagon (without
the love triangle) with a touch of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,
you might like Her Heart’s Desire. It makes a light-hearted, fun read.
Hound dog is awesome as well.
Some Kind of Magic – Theresa Weir [Contemporary]
I have a very soft sport for this one because it’s probably Weir’s
only romantic [black] comedy to date, with a suitable amount of dark
angst provided by our Dylan who has a decidedly interesting
upbringing. I went into this story without knowing anything about the
story (I didn’t even read the back blurb) and it was awesome, so by
holding back the details, I hope you’d have a similar experience.
November of the Heart – LaVryle Spencer [19th-century Minnesota]
It’s one of Spencer’s undeservedly underrated works. A historical
romance that revolves around a socialite and a working-class Norwegian
immigrant who has a talent for boat-building. Lorna Barnett’s wealthy
father is besotted with sailing and competing in a yacht regetta. Jens
Harken, who works in the Barnett house as a kitchen servant, takes a
risk by offering to build a yacht that will give Gideon a real chance
of winning the Regetta. Amused, Gideon Barnett decides to let him by
giving him time off his kitchen work and the money and place to build
While Jens builds the yacht Lorna eventually gets close to him and
they fall in love. However, the difference in their social status gets
in the way that may destroy their relationship. It’s again an atypical
romance with no real villain, just a society that abides its social
rules, and an awesome HEA. It’s perfect for readers who enjoy
character-driven romances with a slow build-up of romance, social
tensions and relationships.
Always to Remember – Lorraine Heath [post-Civil War Texas]
Clayton Holland is a social outcast in his hometown, Cedar Grove of
Texas, because he’s steadfastly refused to join to fight for the
Confederacy. Meg Warner, having lost her husband and three brothers to
the war, has a real issue with Clay’s presence because it’s a constant
reminder of her losses. As punishment, Meg commissions Clay to create
a stone memorial in the name of men who died during war. Clay accepts,
in spite of the emotional cost of his decision and the depth of her
contempt for him. As he works on the sculpture over next few months,
they slowly fall in love.
I do not like tearjerkers, but I have to list this because it’s not
common to find a romance with the hero as a conscientious objector. My
great uncle was such and it came with a very high price, so it was
interesting to see through Clay’s eyes and how people around him
reacted. And the romance between Clay and Meg was rather sweet. It has
a couple of flaws, but the pay-off was worth it.
I’m running out of time (trust me to leave it at last minute!), so
I’ll just list the rest:
Moonrise – Anne Stuart [contemporary]
Runabout – Pamela Morsi [Americana]
Passion – Marilyn Pappano [romantic suspense]
River of Eden – Glenna McReynolds [Amazonian adventure]
Somebody Wonderful – Kate Rothwell [19th-century NYC]
As You Desire – Connie Brockway [Victorian Egypt]
Midsummer Moon – Laura Kinsale [Regency England]
Midnight Rainbow – Linda Howard [Amazonian adventure]
The Bride From Faraway – Olgas Daniels [turn-of-the-century Scotland]
WanderingG of the Scarlet Corset’s list:
I swear writing this list is like creating a mixed tape back in the day. Trying to get your favorite songs together and once recorded you realize you forgot this one or that one. Then if someone happens to find the tape and plays it they’ll say “Ew, you like that song?” Yep, just like a mixed tape ;)
One thing I’ve learned since blogging and blog-hopping is I haven’t read nearly as much as some other bloggers. Seriously, hats off to those that read 20-30 in a month. But that just means there are still tons of great stories out there for me to discover!
So without futher ado, here’s my current top 16 in no particular order:
Julie Garwood – Ransom
The very first romance novel I ever read was by Julie Garwood. Most of her historicals would fall in my faves category so I narrowed it down to a couple. I remember I enjoyed her writing because of the heroes but also the little quirks she gave her heroines. Always something that makes me smile. For some reason, Ransom with Brodick and Gillian’s story has always been one of my top favorites (I don’t care too much for the Ramsey and whats-her-face storyline).
Julie Garwood – The Bride
Alec and Jamie – a lovely little tale. One of my favorite parts is the whole Gaelic joke and Alec’s discovery of what Jamie’s been hiding.
Kathleen E. Woodiwiss – Shanna
This was the second romance novel I read after my first Julie Garwood book. This was back in my middle school/high school days and I haven’t read it since. But the story still sticks with me and I remember enjoying the trickery behind Ruark’s identity.
Kathleen E. Woodiwiss – Ashes in the Wind
I remember this one because there’s a portion where the hero is injured and soon after he becomes an alcoholic. Through all their troubles you still root for Alaina and Cole and hope somehow they will overcome all the hardships and get their HEA. I also remember this as being the first book that actually mentioned the heroine’s menstrual cycle.
Jennifer Crusie – Bet Me
Jennifer Crusie was the first contemporary romance author I read and this was the first that had a heroine that wasn’t the typical skinny girl. Cal and Minnie were sweet together and I have a fun time with most of Crusie’s books.
Jennifer Crusie – Manhunting
This was probably my 3rd Crusie book and another fun one. Kate and her plan for the perfect man. What could go wrong?
Judith Ivory – Sleeping Beauty
First book I read that had an older heroine and younger hero. I remember enjoying this because James really had to pursue Coco, who had very valid reasons for being cautious against it.
Stephanie Laurens – Devil’s Bride
Devil Cynster will always be a fave of mine. I read more of the series and liked catching glimpes of Devil, Honoria and especially Devil as a father, but they were basically the same storylines to me and none could surpass the first book.
Stephanie Laurens – Captain Jack’s Woman
After stopping the Cynster series I decided to try the Bastion books. I read 3 and found I liked this one (the first) best of all. I thought Kit and Jack were hot together. Although I stopped the series a while back, I do want to read Dalziel’s story because he always intrigued me.
Kelley Armstrong – Bitten
First paranormal book I read with a strong female lead. I liked Elena and Clay together and though I’m only on book 3 of the series (which skips to other characters) I look forward to continuing and getting to the books that are back to Elena and Clayton’s storyline.
Keri Arthur – Riley Jensen Guardian Series
This I listed as a series because I don’t feel like any one book is a favorite. I really just like the series and the romance of Riley and Quinn flows pretty well across each book. There are parts of the series I didn’t much care for (the excess werewolf sex drive stuff, the cloning storyline) but the overall arc of Riley and Quinn and now Riley and her wolf mate is played out nicely. For me, Riley is better than some other paranormal characters because while she may have lovers and boyfriends, they have actual break ups and the guy will move on. She does not have the magical love palace that every man wants entrance to 24/7.
Sarah McCarty – Promises Linger
First erotica novel I read that I felt actually had a storyline too. I’ll admit some of the sex was a little much for me but I thought Asa and Elizabeth were a good match.
Heather Cullman – A Perfect Scoundrel
Hero is an ass through most of the book and heroine is considered plain and unattractive. This book won me over because of the heroine and how she handled herself when Sir Ass basically sent her off into hiding, her interaction with the people of his hometown and how she dealt with SA when he returned home.
Paula Quinn – Laird of the Mist
Paula Quinn reminded me of Julie Garwood. Enjoyed this one and looking forward to reading more from her.
Beth Kery – Wicked Burn
Very real and honest, emotional story. Has steamy, sexy elements but for me the overall storyline is what got me.
Megan Hart – Dirty
Again, another emotional story that has steamy elements but a great story arc from Ella’s actions at the beginning to dealing with what happened in her past with the help of Dan.
Janet NorCal’s/Janet W’s list:
1. Friday’s Child, Georgette Heyer
2. Cotillion, Georgette Heyer
3. Devil’s Cub, Georgette Heyer
4. More Than A Mistress, Mary Balogh
5. Unwilling Bride, Jo Beverley
6. His Lordship’s Mistress, Joan Wolf
7. Devil’s Bride, Stephanie Laurens
8. Naked in Death, J.D. Robb
9. To Have and To Hold, Patricia Gaffney
10. Welcome to Temptation, Jennifer Crusie
11. Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand, Carla Kelly
12. Tempting Harriet, Mary Balogh
13. Bride of Emersham, Leslie Lance (gothic)
14. Forbidden, Jo Beverley
15. Midnight Bayou, Nora Roberts
16. A Scandalous Proposal, Julia Justiss
Vassiliki Veros’s List:
Here are some of my fave titles. I’m sure I’ll kick myself later when I
remember an absolute fave. I have also realised this year that I am an
anomaly in that I only tend to enjoy contemporary romances. (In general,
historicals are OK but they are never on my re-read list).
16 fave romance titles
1. Welcome to Temptation – Jennifer Crusie
2. Bet Me- Jennifer Crusie
3. Agnes and the Hitman – Jennifer Crusie/Bob Mayer
4. Charlie all Night – Jennifer Crusie
5. Love Struck – Melanie La’Brooy
6. Serendipity – Melanie La’Brooy
7. This Heart of Mine – Susan Elizabeth Phillips
8. Start Me Up – Victoria Dahl
9. See Jane Score – Rachel Gibson
10. Sex, Lies and Online Dating – Rachel Gibson
11. Over the Edge – Suzanne Brockmann
12. Hot Target – Suzanne Brockmann
13. Beauty and the Brain – Elizabeth Bevarly
14. Taming the Outlaw – Cindy Gerard
15. The Grande Finale – Janet Evanovich
16. Night Whispers by Leslie Kelly
Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing! I have just quadrupled my TBB pile! Sending you the bill, Maili and Sonomalass.