In honour of Valentine's Day, I thought I would highlight my top five romance novels. I am by no means a top romance reader. I don't plow through ten romances a week. I don't read romances that don't interest me. I enjoy what's quirky and different and I avoid like the plague the typical "virgin/rake," "virgin secretary/ruthless boss," "gorgeous model/gorgeous model" storylines that have been done to death. If you've been reading this blog awhile, you'll probably recognize a few of the books on this list. I look forward to modifying it as I continue to read more. In the meantime, here's the romances that I've loved best:
Jewels of the Sun - Nora Roberts
It's not that this is the most outstanding of Roberts' work- it's that it holds so many of the things I love about her stories. Here we have Jude Murray, an American psychologist, giving up her busy life to live in an inherited Irish cottage. Let's count the Roberts-isms: a young woman burned by love who goes to live the simple life and in the process finds herself. Ireland. A trilogy. A family with three gorgeous siblings. Excellent female bonding. A hero who immediately loves and worships the heroine. Fairies. Magic. Destiny. Finding the comforts of home in simplicity. Immediately becoming a success in a chosen career. Roberts' world resembles ours, but it's always so much more comforting and predictable. That's why we love her.
Slow Hands - Leslie Kelly
This book does not deserve the harsh criticism it's gotten on Amazon. I suspect the main reason it's being dogpiled on is because it was given away for free as part of Amazon's 60th anniversary giveaways and a lot of people who don't understand or appreciate romance downloaded it. I don't think people realize how difficult it is to write a good romance and just how crappy some of them can be. Harlequins don't get much better than Leslie Kelly's sweet story about a paramedic mistaken for a gigolo. No, it's not going to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but it's funny, smart and left me with a big grin on my face.
Goddess of Spring - P.C. Cast
Maybe it's because I always suspected that Hades was a hottie, but I loooved this book. (My husband disagrees. He thinks that Hades is a whiny crybaby little brother. He just doesn't "get" Hades' tortured soul, obviously...) Me, I say the Greek gods always make things fun. I just love the idea of them interfering in the lives of modern-day mortals (hubby adds, "with sexy results!") Ladies, if you've got a thing for Batman/The Phantom of the Opera/The Beast, you'll know why this is one of Cast's most popular books.
The Devil's Delilah - Loretta Chase
Once she found herself in his arms, she'd decided she might as well let him steal his kiss-only because she was curious-and thereafter reward him with severe bodily harm.
Just thinking about this book makes my eyes water with laughter. It needs to come back into print with an awesome new cover, immediately! It's an absolute crime that there aren't more bumbling, nerdy heroes like Jack Langdon. They are certainly in more abundance in real life than the yawn-worthy "alpha-males" of most romance novels. I say hooray for nerd heroes!
The Blue Castle -LM Montgomery
Though not strictly a "romance novel" in the true sense because it was published in the 1920's, it is essentially just that. And it's my all-time favourite romance. If you buy the lovely Voyageur Classics edition, do yourself a huge favour and skip the awful introduction, which not only gives away the wonderful ending, it completely destroys the romance and magic of this enchanting book. Instead, head straight for Chapter One, where we meet meek and mild Valancy and her despicable clan, arguably one of the most horrifying families in literature. Be prepared for glee when Valancy decides to give her family the finger after a doctor's diagnosis and run off into the woods with bad-boy Barney. What makes this romance soar is the protagonist's slow build to love - none of this love-at-first-sight business. When it finally comes about, it's a joy to observe. Watch for the scene where Barney busts into the backwoods dance, punches out the drunks and flings Valancy out the window: it's sheer heaven.