Tag Archives: classic romance

My Favourite/Favorite Romance Novel Heroes and Heroines

There are books and novellas that I recommend. There are novels I loathed.

Inspired by a commenter’s request, these are my favourite romance novel heroes and heroines, and I have a separate post for my couples. Ranking them would take too long, so I haven’t.

If you’re uncertain, I suggest leaning towards the couples list for a starting point.

Favourite Heroes

Ashley, Jennifer Many Sins of Lord Cameron  – GUILTY PLEASURE
Ashley, Jennifer The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie
Balogh, Mary Only Enchanting
Bowen, Sarina The Understatement of the Year M/M clarification: Graham
Callihan, Kristen The Game Plan
Dare, Tessa Three Nights with a Scoundrel
Dare, Tessa A Week to Be Wicked
Enoch, Suzanne The Rake
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Touch
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Temptation
Gabaldon, Diana Outlander  OBVIOUSLY, plus the series
Kelly, Carla Libby’s London Merchant
Kelly, Carla The Surgeon’s Lady
Kleypas, Lisa Where Dreams Begin
Kleypas, Lisa Lady Sophia’s Lover
Kleypas, Lisa Secrets of a Summer Night – Top 5 Hero
Kleypas, Lisa The Devil in Winter 
Kleypas, Lisa Tempt Me at Twilight  TWO REVIEWS
Kleypas, Lisa Smooth Talking Stranger
Lauren, Christina Wicked Sexy Liar
Linden, Caroline Blame It on Bath
Long, Julie Anne What I Did for a Duke  CLASSIC
Milan, Courtney Unveiled – I’d marry him.
Milan, Courtney Unraveled FAVE
Milan, Courtney A Kiss for Midwinter  CLASSIC
Quinn, Julia An Offer from a Gentleman
Zapata, Mariana Kulti 

My Favourite Heroines

Bryce, Megan To Tame a Dragon
Chase, Loretta Lord of Scoundrels  CLASSIC
Dare, Tessa One Dance with a Duke
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Touch
Gabaldon, Diana Outlander  OBVIOUSLY, plus the series
Heyer, Georgette Venetia
Jenkins, Beverly Indigo She’s amazing.
Kleypas, Lisa The Devil in Winter 
Kleypas, Lisa Scandal in the Spring 
Kleypas, Lisa Mine till Midnight – I’d marry her.
Lauren, Christina Beautiful Player
Milan, Courtney This Wicked Gift
Milan, Courtney The Countess Conspiracy
Milan, Courtney The Suffragette ScandalI want to be her.
Quinn, Julia Romancing Mr. Bridgerton 
Quinn, Julia It’s In His Kiss
Reid, Penny Neanderthal Seeks Human
Thorne, Sally The Hating Game CLASSIC

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful or my  streamlined recommendations list.

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My Favourite/Favorite Romance Novel Couples

There are books and novellas that I recommend. There are novels I loathed.

This list is my favourite romance novel couples and there is a separate one for my favourite heroes and heroines as individual characters. If I put them in order, I’d never get this list published, so they aren’t.

If you’re uncertain, I suggest leaning towards the couples list for a starting point.

Balogh, Mary Slightly Dangerous CLASSIC
Bowen, Sarina Blonde Date novella  CLASSIC
Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Him
Bryce, Megan To Tame a Dragon
Chase, Loretta Dukes Prefer Blondes  – LOVE THEM
Cole, Kresley Dark Desires After Duska guilty pleasure THUNDER SEX™!
Dare, Tessa One Dance with a Duke
Dare, Tessa Any Duchess Will Do
Duran, Meredith Fool Me Twice
Florand, Laura All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Kiss
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Touch – Top 5 romance and couple
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Heart Whoops! One of my least favourite couples.
Florand, Laura Chase Me
Gabaldon, Diana Outlander  OBVIOUSLY, plus the series
Garwood, Julie The Gift – Old School
Hoyt, Elizabeth The Ice Princess
Kelly, Carla The Lady’s Companion
Kelly, Carla Marrying the Captain
Kennedy, Elle The Deal
Kinsale, Laura Flowers from the Storm
Kleypas, Lisa Dreaming of You
Kleypas, Lisa Where Dreams Begin
Kleypas, Lisa Again the Magic
Kleypas, Lisa Secrets of a Summer Night
Kleypas, Lisa The Devil in Winter 
Kleypas, Lisa Love in the Afternoon
Lauren, Christina Beautiful Player
Lauren, Christina Dirty Rowdy Thing
Linden, Caroline One Night in London
Long, Julie Anne Like No Other Lover
Long, Julie Anne What I Did for a Duke  CLASSIC
Long, Julie Anne A Notorious Countess Confesses 
MacLean, Sarah One Good Earl Deserves a Lover
McNaught, Judith Almost Heaven  OLD SCHOOL
Milan, Courtney The Duchess War
Milan, Courtney The Suffragette Scandal  IF YOU READ ONLY ONE…
Parker, Lucy Act Like It
Phillips, Susan Elizabeth Natural Born Charmer
Quinn, Julia An Offer from a Gentleman
Quinn, Julia Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
Quinn, Julia It’s In His Kiss
Reid, Penny Neanderthal Seeks Human
Reid, Penny Beauty and the Mustache
Spencer, LaVyrle Vows
Thorne, Sally The Hating Game CLASSIC
Willig, Lauren The Seduction of the Crimson Rose 

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful or my  streamlined recommendations list.

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So You Want to Read a (Historical, Contemporary, New Adult, Paranormal) Romance …

Alternatively: The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

This recommendations list is gleaned from at least 80 authors and over 500 books.

Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started

Looking for something specific? Here’s a list of authors I’ve read enough to see thematic consistencies and it’s hard to go wrong with these writers:

Tessa Dare – FUN, bring your willing suspension of disbelief, on double-secret probation right now
Laura Florand – contemporary romances set in France, great intensity
Carla Kelly – lovely Regency romances, often military-themed
Lisa Kleypas  – the gold standard, also writes contemporaries
Julie Anne Long – extremely clever and funny
Courtney Milan – The very best currently publishing, one for the pantheon.
Julia Quinn – An excellent place to launch your reading. Start with The Bridgertons.

I lovehate Jennifer Ashley’s sincere romance mired in tortured heroes and overwrought plotting.

This list is an edited version of my Complete Reading List by Author. Reviewed books are linked.

Mallory, a frequent commenter, asked me to make a personal Top 5 list. I tried. I couldn’t do it.

CLASSICS

  1. Balogh, Mary Slightly Dangerous – historical
  2. Bowen, Sarina Blonde Date  – new adult novella
  3. Chase, Loretta Lord of Scoundrelshistorical
  4. Gabaldon, Diana Outlanderhistorical
  5. Heyer, Georgette Venetia (Dameral/Venetia) – historical
  6. Jenkins, Beverly Indigo  – historical
  7. Kinsale, Laura Flowers from the Storm old school, historical
  8. Kleypas, Lisa Dreaming of Youhistorical
  9. Kleypas, Lisa The Devil in Winter  – historical
  10. Long, Julie Anne What I Did for a Duke – historical
  11. Milan, Courtney A Kiss for Midwinter – historical novella
  12. Milan, Courtney The Suffragette Scandal  – historical
  13. Montgomery, L.M. The Blue Castle – historical now, but not when published
  14. Quinn, Julia Romancing Mr. Bridgerton  Bridgerton Book 4 – historical
  15. Thorne, Sally The Hating Game – contemporary

Continue reading

Sarina Bowen’s Catalogue

Recommended books are in bold.

Bowen’s books are all contemporary romances and the new adult works are so noted.

Ivy Years Series – New Adult
The Year We Fell Down (Hartley/Corey) – start with this, buy the set
The Year We Hid Away (Bridger/Scarlet)
Blonde Date novella (Andy/Katie) CLASSIC
The Understatement of the Year (Graham/Rikker) – LGBTQ
The Shameless Hour (Rafe/Bella)
The Fifteenth Minute (DJ/Lianne) – skip this one, seriously

With Elle Kennedy
HimLGBTQ, New Adult
Us LGBTQ, New Adult
Wags Series
Good Boy – I can’t decide if I recommend it or not.
Stay – not yet published, I will buy it

The Brooklyn Bruisers Series
Rookie Move – review pending, pretty good, not great
Hard Hitter – not yet published, I may buy it
Pipe Dreams – not yet published, I may buy it

The True North Series
Bittersweet – good not great, down-to-earth plot
Steadfast – skipped it, didn’t like the idea of the story
Keepsake – nice, gentle, okay

The Gravity Series
Coming in from the Cold – shows potential, but not strong
Falling from the Sky
Shooting for the Stars

 

 

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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Barring a dark horse in December, I am quite sure this is going to be the best romance I read all year. It’s that good.

Over with my friends in Kissing Book Corner, there’s one book we’ve all been reading and (mostly) heaping praise on. Now it’s my turn to review The Hating Game and I have already added it to the “Classics” section on my Romance Recommendations Quick List. The writing is fantastically witty and fresh, the love story sweet, and I have already pre-ordered Sally Thorne’s next book.

Lucy and Josh work together in similar roles supporting the co-chiefs of a publishing house. They have a hate/hate relationship which evolves into love/hate but is, of course, actually secretly love/love. How they sort that out makes for a wonderful bit of escapism that almost feels like it could be real life, if one could be as funny as the heroine and men really existed who are romance novel constructs.

I keep a lot of lists for recommendations and such, but particularly of pet peeves for historical and contemporary romances. Logically, I know Sally Thorne didn’t read my lists, but apparently we are of one mind on several items: Josh and Lucy have a significant height difference which they acknowledge and that is unusual in and of itself, but they find it tantalizing and work to manage it; Josh’s not insanely wealthy, just financially secure; he’s romantically experienced enough to know what he’s doing, but not a player; moreover, his body’s “astounding masculine architecture” is justified and the product of tremendous effort. There’s just so much going on in The Hating Game that I appreciate as someone who reads many of these books. It’s not just the writing that’s clever, the construction is, too. Thorne follows tropes that work and plays with the ones that need to be put out of their misery.

As a first person narrator, Lucy’s perspective is an absolute riot. Thorne gives her an insouciantly melodramatic voice that had me in stitches:

  • I begin screaming like an injured monkey.
  • Of their paintball location: The ground is dusty and stark. The trees ache for death.
  • …taking my hand and stroking it like an obsessive sorcerer.

In addition to being wry, Lucy comes across as clearly capable and together, while her interior monologue matches so many of ours in that she feels she is a bit awkward and is convinced she’s not managing as well as she is, even as she works to fulfill her ambitions. She and Josh are just so human.

There have been some great romances featuring difficult men (a few this year alone) and there’s always  something fun in the successful redemption of a man who would potentially be too irksome in real life, but can be matched to the right woman and the two of them work beautifully together as a team*. This is one of those books. The director Billy Wilder said, “You’re as good as the best thing you ever did,” and The Hating Game guarantees I will be checking out every thing Sally Thorne writes for quite some time.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

*This may require another list. Suggestions are welcome. Harry Rutledge is a given.

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Venetia by Georgette Heyer

Venetia was my first Georgette Heyer novel which seems odd given my love of the genre and the author’s lauded status in it. I did try to read it once before, but didn’t get very far. This time, I kept going and was well rewarded for my determination. Venetia, as much as almost any romance I’ve read, is about the heroine’s effort and insistence on choosing her own life. Much of the tension in the novel comes from Venetia saying, “I want this,” repeatedly and dealing with virtually everyone else in her life, including the man she loves, trying to tell her no. She is determined to choose her own freedom.

 “So far from being content, she had never imagined that this could be her ultimate destiny. She wanted to see what the rest of the world as like: marriage only interested her as the sole means of escape for a gently born maiden.”

Published in 1958, I wondered if Heyer was writing as much about the women of her own generation who had been given unprecedented independence and responsibility during World War II while the men in their lives were away and then compressed back into their old roles when peacetime returned, as she was about Venetia herself. With deceased parents, an absent and completely disinterested older brother off on The Continent, and a younger brother at home, Venetia has been running her family estate successfully for years. Beautiful, practical, and very bright, she meets the neighbouring estate’s own prodigal son when Lord Dameral returns after many years abroad. Significantly older than her and of leaden reputation, Venetia and her brother become fast friends with Dameral and he is soon a fixture on their lives.

A rake with profligate tendencies, Dameral enjoys his neighbours and is, of course, drawn to the wry and clever Venetia, but feels her social standing could not survive a deeper association. He’s not made of stone. He’s madly in love with her, but they remain friends and settle into that relationship; however, when her absentee brother sends home a shy wife and her harridan of a mother, Venetia’s life is turned upside-down and she is forced to find her own way. The book is largely her story, but Dameral appears regularly to be kindred and delightful. He’s a charming rogue, but a thoughtful and polite one. In him, Venetia sees a future she can embrace even as she knows there may be financial and social challenges. This is her life and her choice to make and she is the one who will make it, damn it!

“Well, my usurper is not very young, and not handsome, and certainly not virtuous: quite the reverse in fact. On the other hand, he is not a bore.”

Precisely and deftly written, just like Venetia herself, the novel felt as though I was reading something that was actually written in 1820 instead of set there. I have a degree in English literature and I mention that at this juncture because I was chagrined to discover that I found the prose style, so witty, so elegant, so historically appropriate, a bit formal and challenging when I started reading; for example, there was one short passage alone contained five new-to-me idioms for intoxication. Clearly, I was able to sort them out and, to my tremendous relief, fall into the flow of the prose, though never quite completely. Since this issue can only be helped by exposure and practice, please let me know which Georgette Heyer novel I should try next. As is often the case, I suspect I have tried a new author starting with her greatest work, but I am certainly willing to give her other books a try.

Venetia has been added to my list of classic romances on my shortened recommendations list. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started

HISTORICAL Romance

  1. Ashley, Jennifer Scandal and the Duchess  – enjoyable
  2. Dare, Tessa The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright  – fantastic
  3. Dare, Tessa Beauty and the Blacksmith – fun, bring your willing suspension of disbelief
  4. Duran, Meredith Your Wicked Heart  – such fun
  5. Grant, Cecilia A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong – very good
  6. Hoyt, Elizabeth The Ice Princess – nice version of a common trope
  7. Milan, Courtney A Kiss for Midwinter CLASSIC as a novella and of the genre

CONTEMPORARY Romance

  1. Bowen, Sarina Blonde Date CLASSIC new adult, a perfect novella
  2. Richland, Anna His Road Home – contemporary, wounded soldier coming home

PARANORMAL Romance  – Not my cup of tea, but it could help you determine if it is yours.

  1. Cole, Kresley The Warlord Wants Foreverplenty of THUNDER SEX™!

I also have a ruthlessly streamlined recommendations list: So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance.

Links to my reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.