All About Romance announced back in April that, beginning on October 1, they will open the polling for their sixth AAR Reader’s Top 100 Romance List. Since I’ve cast my 100 votes in every poll except the first one, I immediately started considering my list. I know going in that most of my favorites won’t show up on AAR’s final list. I believe I matched 39 of the 100 titles on the 2010 list, and that was my highest match among the four polls in which I have cast my votes. But somehow that doesn’t matter. I’m always fascinated by the results, if a little grumpy because some of my favorite authors are no-shows on the list, and I feel that I’ve demonstrated my loyalty by seeing that what I call my Velvet Rabbit books (because like Margery Williams’s rabbit from her children’s classic most are “loose in the joints and very shabby” from being much loved) will have a place on the master list. I experience a great sense of satisfaction in having declared in a quasi official manner that I think books such as Second Star to the Right by Mary Alice Kreusi (aka Mary Alice Monroe) and Kidnap Confusion by Judith Nelson deserve to be known as favorites, even though their merits seem to have been overlooked by all but a very few readers on GoodReads who share my enthusiasm, .
Given that I have more than 1500 books on my keeper shelves, plus a couple of hundred or so on my Kindle for which I have no paper copies, narrowing my list to 100 is no easy task. I could probably list a top 100 published since the last poll more easily, and even selecting my personal top 1000 to match the list compiled by Myra Hawkins, Julie Davies and Lisa Harlowe in 2012 would require omitting books that left me replete with readerly satisfaction. You will understand why I started preparing my ballot for the 2013 poll shortly after AAR made the announcement when I tell you that, after more than three months of intermittently considering titles, I now have a list of my top 500 books. And it keeps changing as I remember something I particularly loved about a book that I omitted or as I fall in love with just published or soon-to-be published books such as Kristan Higgins’s The Perfect Match, an October 29 release.
AAR staff members have been sharing their top ten, and I seized on that idea as a practical way to continue narrowing. Surely I could select my top ten. I tried, but like the musical countdowns of my youth, I ended up with a top forty instead. I scheduled a blog post on my top ten for August 10 to force myself to make a selection. I pondered and considered and pulled books from shelves to reread sections, and I culled my list to thirty. At 10:00 p.m. yesterday, I decided the only way I would ever arrive at a top ten to post today was to make my top ten a post-Heyer list. That allowed me to cut Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice and Georgette Heyer’s Frederica, The Grand Sophy, Venetia, and The Unknown Ajax. I deleted titles that might be thought more women’s fiction than romance and thus removed Barbara Samuel’s No Place Like Home and Emilie Richards’s Prospect Street. Then I decided I would limit myself to one book per author and eliminated another eight titles, leaving me with a top fourteen. Finally, at 12:05 this morning, I had my top ten—or, more accurately, ten books I really, really, really love and have reread at least twice and plan to reread again and recommend highly to other romance readers every chance I get and think about writing fan letters to the authors saying thank you for the gift of this book that fills me with delight (which is one of my ten favorite words because it encompasses pleasure, joy, and gratification felt in high degree and which charms me with its erroneous spelling that makes it seem oxymoronic). But however accurate, all that is too long for a title, and so I give you my All-time Top Ten Romance Novels (sort of)
- Pleasure for Pleasure (2006), Eloisa James
- Lord of Scoundrels (1995), Loretta Chase
- Till the Stars Fall (1994), Kathleen Gilles Seidel
- Gallant Waif (1999), Anne Gracie
- In the Midnight Rain (2000), Ruth Wind
- Reforming Lord Ragsdale (1995), Carla Kelly
- Simply Love (2007), Mary Balogh
- Shattered Rainbows (1996), Mary Jo Putney
- A Notorious Countess Confesses (2012), Julie Anne Long
- Sea Swept ( 1998), Nora Roberts
(And I do love contemporary romance too even though seven of these ten books are historicals.)
Do you plan to vote in the AAR poll? What books make your top ten? Would your list include beloved books that many of your friends may never have heard of?