In 2009, the then-current U. K. Children’s Laureate and four of his predecessors were invited to name their selections for the top seven children’s books. Somewhat surprisingly they chose not one Harry Potter title but rather honored thirty books (out of thirty-five total) that are more than twenty years old. The oldest among them such as Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women have long passed the century mark. Some people expressed surprise over Rowling’s absence from the lists; others praised the laureates for choosing “timeless greats.” Since the purpose of the lists was to inspire children to read books they might have missed, I think including Harry Potter could be considered redundant. Who could miss Harry Potter?
As readers and writers of romance fiction, we can qualify as experts of varying degrees, and I am certain we all have ideas about the seven romance novels all romance readers should read that they might have missed. So today I name you all official romance fiction laureates and solicit your list of seven titles. Your list may be different from your seven favorite books because you are naming books not just on the basis of personal taste but you are also choosing those most likely to have wide appeal and to represent the genre well.
My seven are all on my keeper shelves, but they are not my seven favorite books.
- Pride and Prejudice (1813), Jane Austen (because it is a literary classic and a perennial romance favorite—and it’s written by Jane)
- The Grand Sophy (1950), Georgette Heyer (because it features the prototypical smart, take-charge heroine )
- The Dedicated Villain (1989), Patricia Veryan (because it contains the best reformed villain ever)
- Lord of Scoundrels (1995), Loretta Chase (because it’s a funny, poignant Beauty and the Beast tale with some of the best banter ever to grace the pages of a romance novel)
- Flowers from the Storm (1992), Laura Kinsale (because it is one of the most challenging and emotionally intense novels, regardless of genre)
- A Soldier’s Heart (1994), Kathleen Korbel (because it powerfully demonstrates that category romances can be distinctive, complex, and unforgettable)
- Sea Swept (1998), Nora Roberts (because it shows romance heroes can be just guys--it’s written by Nora)
And I just noted that five of my seven were published within a ten year period. I’m not sure what that means.
So what seven novels make up your significant seven in romance fiction?