Tis the season of lists. For the grands, it’s lists for Santa. For me, it’s lists of the year’s top books.
There’s Booklist’s Top 10. I’ve only read half of these. Some of them I’d never even heard of until I saw the list. (The starred titles are the ones I’ve read.)
1. Barely a Lady.* By Eileen Dreyer.
2. The Clouds Roll Away. By Sibella Giorello.
3. Down River. By Karen Harper.
4. Last Night’s Scandal.* By Loretta Chase.
5. The Lone Texan.* By Jodi Thomas. 2009.
6. Secrets of a Scandalous Bride.* By Sophia Nash.
7. Sixteen Brides. By Stephanie Grace Whitson.
8. Steamed. By Katie MacAlister.
9. The Wicked Wyckerly.* By Patricia Rice.
10. Wolf in Tiger’s Stripes. By Victoria Gordon.
Publishers Weekly announced a Top Five. I did much better here. I’ve read three, a fourth is on my TBR shelf, and the fifth is on my TBB list.
1. The Forbidden Rose,* Joanna Bourne
2. The Iron Duke, Meljean Brook
3. The Heir, Grace Burrowes
4. Barely a Lady,* Eileen Dreyer
5. Trial by Desire,* Courtney Milan
Library Journal also has five, and I’ve read four of them.
1. Bourne, Joanna. The Forbidden Rose.*
2. Brockway, Connie. The Golden Season.*
3. Dreyer, Eileen. Barely a Lady.*
4. Kinsale, Laura. Lessons in French.*
5. McDonald, L.J. The Battle Sylph.
The Smart Bitches’ list in Kirkus Reviews is a list after my own heart. It has 21 titles on it, and they range from a book by Nora Roberts, who has been turning out winning books for more than two decades now, to the debut book of Sarah MacLean. I’ve only read ten from the Kirkus list, but I like the idea of 21 top books. Ten is classic, but five seems rather stingy to me.
1. Last Night’s Scandal* by Loretta Chase
2. Hot Finish by Erin McCarthy
3. The Summer of You* by Kate Noble
4. Something About You* by Julie James
5. Maybe This Time* by Jennifer Crusie
6. Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey
7. Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
8. Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin
9. His at Night* by Sherry Thomas
10. Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
11. What the Librarian Did* by Karina Bliss
12. Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh
13. Scoundrel by Zoe Archer
14. All I Ever Wanted* by Kristan Higgins
15. Happy Ever After* by Nora Roberts
16. Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews
17. The Forbidden Rose* by Joanna Bourne
18. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake* by Sarah MacLean
19. Naked Edge by Pamela Clare
20. Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton
21. Seven Nights to Forever by Evangeline Collins
Amazon went for the classic ten, and I’ve read eight of them.
1. Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage* by Jennifer Ashley
2. Burning Lamp (An Arcane Society Novel)* by Amanda Quick
3. Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark, Book 7) by Kresley Cole
4. Sin Undone (Demonica, Book 5) by Larissa Ione
5. Married by Morning (Hathaways, Book 4)* by Lisa Kleypas
6. A Hellion in Her Bed (Hellions of Halstead Hall)* by Sabrina Jeffries
7. Finding Perfect* by Susan Mallery
8. Burning Up* by Susan Andersen
9. The Summer Hideaway (The Lakeshore Chronicles)* by Susan Wiggs
10. Ten Things I Love About You* by Julia Quinn
The big winners are Eileen Dreyer’s Barely a Lady, which appears on the lists of Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and Joanna Bourne’s The Forbidden Rose, which appears on the lists of Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews.
These are just the lists that have garnered the most attention. I’ve lost count of how many lists I’ve read, and I’ve lost count of the time I’ve spent considering my own top romance novels. I gave 31 romance novels an A this year (about 12 percent of those I read), a grade that for me means “This was a great read, and I know I’ll read it again.” I tried to narrow my list of A books to a top ten, but the best I could do was a top twelve. I made my task easier by eliminating all books written by my Vanette pals since I couldn’t choose among them and including them all would have left no room for other books. Some of the following you’ll recognize from other lists. Some of them others have loved less than I do. But that’s ok. This is my list. Maybe I should call it “The Romance Novels I Loved Most in 2010.”
My Top Twelve
(in alphabetical order by title)
1. The Accidental Wedding by Anne Gracie
I love romances that somehow manage to render the conventions of the genre in a fresh way, romances that move me to laughter and tears, romances that have characters I believe in and root for. TAW has all of these plus a scene inspired by Katie Melua’s “When You Taught Me How to Dance,” a song I love.
I loved the hero makeover, loved the book connection, loved Diana’s quirky family. In fact, I pretty much loved everything about this book. It made Miranda Neville an autobuy author for me.
I had sworn off spy books before I read Joanna Bourne’s books. Now as soon as I finish one of her books, I’m impatient for the next one. This one may just be my favorite in the series. It’s a perfect blend of history and romance written in prose that has a glorious simplicity and lucidity.
I used to say I never read Medievals, but then I read Kris Kennedy. I think I liked TIW even better than The Conqueror. I found the legend of the dyes fascinating, and the relationship between Finian and Senna was one that had many dimensions. And Finian! Wow, what a hero!
A fairy tale with a feminist edge written with the usual intelligence and grace of Eloisa James, a never-fail author for me--how could this one not be on my list? The ending with the heroine’s surprising admission is one of my favorite endings ever.
This was one I both longed to read and feared to do so. I loved Olivia and Peregrine in Lord Perfect, and I wanted their story to fulfill all the promise of the intelligence, intrepidity, and opposition of the young characters and their relationship. It did. Chase once again proved she is a nonpareil.
Carla Kelly’s extraordinary ordinary characters are unique in romance fiction. Polly Brandon and Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Philippe d'Anvers Junot join a long list of unforgettable Kelly heroines and heroes whose love stories are shown developing amid the horrors and the wonders of life lived by people never found in the ballrooms and clubs of the Ton.
Charming is the best word I can think of to describe this short romance that gives the familiar tale of marriage between the progeny of a cit and an aristocrat the most delightful twist imaginable. Reginald, the son of a coal merchant, Annabelle, the daughter of an earl, are endearing characters. Remembering their story makes me smile—and sigh.
This book has a suspense plot, but it felt like a straight contemporary to me. The focus is definitely on the romance--and it's a terrific romance. Liz and Patrick have history, chemistry, and substance. And I can’t express my delight that they have a real relationship, not just lusty romps.
10. The Redemption of Tyler O’Neill by Molly O’Keefe
I chose the second book in the series, because while I loved them all, I loved one a bit more than the others. But the books in this trilogy (The Temptation of Savannah O’Neill and The Scandal and Carter O’Neill are the others) are like three acts in a single play that reveals the stories of a troubled family. O’Keefe demonstrates wonderfully just how complex and compelling a story a gifted writer can tell within category limits.
I’ve been a Julie James fan since I read her first book, but this one is my favorite. Cameron and Jack are whole characters. They have lives—jobs, friendships, backgrounds, and a history with one another that credibly complicates their relationship. And sexual tension? Whee! Julie James could write a book on what I feared was becoming a lost art.
I read this story of an arrogant rock star who wears purple boots and a librarian who wears vintage clothing in one gulp and then went back and reread it. It was a delight to read, but this is not to say that it is froth. The story has significance; it also has one scene that makes my list of all-time funniest scenes. It set me on the biggest glom I’ve been on in years.
What do you think about best-of book lists? How many have you read on this years' big lists? Will an apperance on the list persuade you to try a book? What were your top romances of 2010?