Friday, December 14, 2012

Six Lists: The Best Romance Novels of 2012

It’s that time of year when individuals and groups are looking back over the year and deciding who belongs on their best of 2012 lists. Most of you know by now that I love lists, making my own and reading those generated by other lists makers. If it’s a list of books, I always check to see how many I’ve read. With the best of romance lists, I have a particular interest in seeing how my list matches, or fails to match, the prestigious lists—the ones authors and their agents and publishers brag about having made.

The Best of the Year Season for romance readers always begins in September with Booklist, a century-old American Library Association publication that reviews books for school and public libraries. Editor and reviewer Donna Seaman notes the “smart women protagonists” in her list of this year’s top ten romances:

  • Bedding Lord Ned, Sally MacKenzie                                
  • Blue Moon Bay, Lisa Wingate
  • Can't Buy Me Love, Molly O'Keefe
  • Forever and a Day, Deborah Marville
  • The Great Escape, Susan Elizabeth Phillip
  • A Lady Never Lies, Juliana Gray
  • The Lord of Illusion, Kathryne Kennedy
  • The Night Is Mine, M. L. Buchman
  • Rainshadow Road, Lisa Kleypas
  • The Ugly Duchess, Eloisa James
My score on this one? I read five (the titles in bold), and I scored 50 percent.

Publishers Weekly, the most venerable of these sources with its 140-years of continuous publication, announced its best in early November. I’m not sure why, but PW limits its choices to five. I found this list especially interesting this year because it includes the reissue of a romance originally published in 1994. It’s one of my all-time favorite books, and I concur with the description of the novel as “tender and endearing.” Still, I question whether a book published in 1994 really belongs on a list of the best of 2012.


  • The Bridegroom Wore Plaid, Grace Burrowes 
  • A Week to Be Wicked, Tessa Dare
  • Love on the Run, Zuri Day
  • Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand, Carla Kelly
  • Dog Days, Elsa Watson (Tor)

I did better with this one. I read four of the five, giving me a score of 80 percent. I think I should get extra points for the number of times I’ve reread Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand.

Amazon made its list public in mid-November. Given the amount of money I’ve paid the company for filling up my Kindle in 2012, you would think I’d have a 100 percent score here. Nope. I read five of the site’s top ten romances and scored another 50 percent.

  • Bared to You, Sylvia Day
  • The Witness, Nora Roberts
  • Darker After Midnight, Lara Adrian
  • Gunmetal Magic, Ilona Andrews
  • The Recruit, Monica McCartey
  • Redwood Bend, Robyn Carr
  • Lothaire, Kresley Cole 
  • When the Duke Found Love, Isabella Bradford 
  • Forever and a Day, Jill Shalvis 
  • How to Be a Proper Lady, Katharine Ashe

Library Journal, a trade publication for librarians—founded by the inveventor of the Dewey Decimal system, no less—also published its list of ten in mid-November. LJ's romance reviewer Kristin Ramsdell always has interesting, insightful things to say about romance. This is my favorite list because I’ve read nine of the ten books. A score of 90 percent gives me an A on this one. Yay!

  • Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight
  • Firelight, Kristen Callihan
  • Scandal Wears Satin, Loretta Chase
  • A Week to Be Wicked, Tessa Dare
  • A Gentleman Undone, Cecilia Grant
  • ’Twas the Night After Christmas, Sabrina Jeffries
  • The Great Escape, Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • The Witness, Nora Roberts
  • Tempting the Bride, Sherry Thomas
  • Bride of the High Country, Kaki Warner

Kirkus, a book review magazine that has been offering readers “unbiased, critical recommendations they can trust” since 1933, doesn’t have a romance list exactly. Instead, it includes six books that it considers the “Best Fiction about Love and Sex.”  With only four of the six on my have-read list, my score is a dismal 66.6 percent. Moreover, I never even heard of the two I haven’t read. I fear my reputation as a remarkable reader is in jeopardy.

  • Seven Variations on a Love Story, Joan Wickersham
  • Office Girl, Joe Meno
  • The Great Escape, Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • Somebody to Love, Kristan Higgins
  • Rainshadow Road, Lisa Kleypas
  • I’ve Got Your Number, Sophie Kinsella

Most recently, GoodReads, a privately run "social cataloging" website started in December 2006, announced its member-voted GoodReads Choice Awards for 2012. I blush to admit that I have read only one of the ten on this list, and even if I use the full list of twenty nominated books, I’ve read only three. So, my score here is 10 percent or 15 percent. Dreadful in either case. I guess my reading tastes must be very different from those of GoodReads romance readers, at least those who voted.

  • Fifty Shades Freed, E. L. James
  • Bared to You, Sylvia Day
  • Lover Reborn, J. R. Ward
  • The Witness, Nora Roberts
  • Once Burned, Jeanine Frost
  • On Dublin Street, Samantha Young
  • Edenbrooke, Julianne Donaldson
  • Gabriel’s Rapture, Sylvain Reynard
  • Motorcycle Man, Kristen Ashley
  • Lothaire, Kresley Cole

Overall, there are forty-three different books on these lists; I’ve read twenty-two. The oldest book on the list is Carla Kelly’s Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand, first published nearly twenty years ago; the most recent is The Bridegroom Wore Plaid by Grace Burrowes, a December 4, 2012 release. Burrowes is the only author with two novels on the lists. Only six titles appear on more than one list. There are more than twice as many historical romances as contemporary romances on the lists, but the two that appear most often (The Great Escape and The Witness on three lists) are contemporaries. Bared to You, Lothaire, Rainshadow Road, and A Week to Be Wicked each appears on two lists. Six of my top ten are on at least one of these lists, but that’s getting into next Friday’s post. Until then . . .

Do you check out these best of lists? How many of these books have you read?


quantum said...

Many years ago when I was silly enough to dream of winning the football pools, I would look through various pundits selections for games most likely to produce a draw, and then select the games that appeared most often. I never won the jackpot!

A statistical definition of 'best' might use this approach to select the books appearing most often on best seller lists, but I'm sceptical. Statistics help people selling books but don't necessarily pick out the books that will most appeal to an individual.

The statistical winners here are 'The Witness' and 'The Great Escape'. I found both to be superb reads (curiously they don't appear anywhere on the same list!) but for me, neither was as good as 'I've got your number' which only appears on one list.

I think the moral here is that statistics have their uses but need caution when addressing individual tastes.For that one requires a reviewer who will resonate,or at least come close to personal likes.

On that note I'm eagerly awaiting next Friday's post! LOL

Nancy Northcott said...

Janga, wow! I'm impressed that you tracked down all these lists. I don't usually see the lists, but I'm always interested when someone puts them in front of me.

A friend of mine loves Carla Kelly, and I'll bet she didn't know there was a new book out.

I've read only six of the books on all these lists, alas. I have several of the others but haven't read them yet. Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight is a wonderful holiday story.

Janga said...

Q, I suspect "favorite" might be a more accurate adjective than "best" for these lists. I don't know that any of them are formally evaluated by an established set of criteria. I think it's just a matter of which books appealed to a particular reader or group of readers most powerfully. I know I had a list of thirty or so books that I read this year that were all on my top reads of 2012 year list. I had a difficult time cutting that list to ten. I'm happy that you are looking forward to next Friday's post. :)

Janga said...

Nancy, I keep an eye out for the lists every year. I find them fascinating. BTW, the Carla Kelly is a reissue, not a new book. I hope we do get a new one from her soon.

Grace Burrowes is a marvel. She has a dozen books scheduled for publication in 2013.

irisheyes said...

Out of all of the lists, I've read a total of 11 of the books mentioned.

I do like lists too, Janga. Just not as much as you (I'm not sure anyone likes them as much as you. :)) Actually, I like to read lists others make, but I definitely don't like to make lists. I have too hard of a time making decisions to be a good list maker - I can never decide where to draw the line.

And after reading you and Nancy rave over Grace Burrowes' Christmas book I went online and it's 99 cents at B&N. I've never read her before and I love when I can try out a new-to-me author for such a reasonable price.

Janga said...

So you think no one else likes lists as much as I do, Irish? LOL

it's funny because I am a waverer too and can agonize when I have to limit my longer lists to a certain number. As for choosing one from any list, I just can't do it.

What a great deal on the Burrowes book! I think you'll love her characters.