Saturday, August 10, 2013

Creating My List of All-Time Top Ten Romance Novels

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)

  1. Pleasure for Pleasure (2006), Eloisa James
  2. Lord of Scoundrels (1995), Loretta Chase
  3. Till the Stars Fall (1994), Kathleen Gilles Seidel
  4. Gallant Waif (1999), Anne Gracie
  5. In the Midnight Rain (2000), Ruth Wind
  6. Reforming Lord Ragsdale (1995), Carla Kelly
  7. Simply Love (2007), Mary Balogh
  8. Shattered Rainbows (1996), Mary Jo Putney
  9. A Notorious Countess Confesses (2012), Julie Anne Long
  10. 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?


JulieJustJulie said...

Oh my.
Loved all of your choices, Janga.
So hard to pick only ten. So I chose books that I have read over and over.
My list would have to include ...
1. Lord Perfect , Loretta Chase. He's perfect she is not. What's not to love?
2. A Kiss To Remember, Teresa Medeiros. I'd rather have a vicar over a peer of the realm any day !
3. All of her Duchess series, Eloisa James
4. The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn. The struggles of a man who try's very hard Not to marry for love, but finds himself trapped in Cupid's tangled web non the less.
5. A Lady of Virtue by Liz Carlyle. A story about a woman who finds herself attracted to a man who almost ravished her y ears before.
6. What I Did For Love, Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Actually there isn't a single book written by this writer that I didn't love. What I liked about this story in particular was the H & H 's rather uncomfortable history. But SEP worked in out.
7.Morning Glory, LaVyrle Spencer. A complex story about two people looking for something not so complex ... Love and a person and a place to belong to.
8. Sylvester , Georgette Heyer. I like the lessons of the heart that this book teaches. This is a story of a man who shows his mother A List of marriageable debutantes , but finds himself attracted to someone definitely Not list worthy.
9. A Civil Contract, Georgette Heyer. A little different in that this is a tale of a marriage of convenience for one of the leads, and a marriage of love for the other. A more pragmatic look at being in love , the different types of love, and how love can grow then most romances typically show. IMO.
10. Although Johanna Lindsey ' s Gentle Rogue is a favorite of mine, if I had had to chose her most " Influential on me" book , I would have to pick Defy Not the Heart. This is the book that brought me back to reading Romance Novels. This was also the book that showed me how truly important the genre is. I remember quite vividly ... I was standing in front of a bookcase at the Ronald Mc Donald ... house trying to figure out what to read. All hell was breaking loose back at the children's hospital where my daughter was ... And I was searching for something, anything. Desperately. Some thing to take my mind off of what I could not fix. One of the other mothers came to stand next to me, then she pulled out a paperback and said " You need this." She didn't say want, or like, or whatever ... She said Need. And she was right.

Btw, my Books are not in any particular order.

Anonymous said...

Julie, I love Morning Glory too. One of my absolute favorites The scene where she is cutting his hair both broke my heart and made it swell with emotion. Another that would be on the list for me would have to be A Knight In Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux. It's a book that made me laugh, cry and sigh as I closed the book, and silly as it sounds, clutched to my breast in wonder of what a story I just experienced.

Janga said...

Thanks, Julie. I'm sure most of the books on your list will end up on my top-100 list. Probably not A Civil Contact, but Sherry Thomas's Ravishing the Heiress, which I read as a rewrite of that Heyer definitely will be. I do love Sylvester and Friday's Child and Faro's Daughter and The Talisman Ring. We should do a top ten Heyer list. :)

Janga said...

Ellen, Morning Glory has been getting all kinds of love in recent discussions here and elsewhere. It is definitely a romance classic.

The ending of Knight in Shining Armor keeps it from being one of my top favorites. I recently read Deveraux's latest, and a big part of the fun of reading it was keeping track of the Taggert/ Montgomery threads woven into the new story.

JulieJustJulie said...

Faro's Daughter was my first Heyer and the first romance I ever read. I was probably in 6 or 7th grade. While staying at my grandparents house, I found a cachet of one of my aunts books on a closet shelf. I was charmed by Heyer's writing style and wit. I still am. I also still have that old original 1960 something paperback. Not sure How I ended up with it ... But knowing that I do, and that it is carefully tucked away into my personal filing cabinet makes me smile. One never knows when one might feel like meeting up with an old friend again.
I love Sherry Thomas' voice. Her book Private Arrangements could easy be in my top 10 too.
And though Barbara Samuel is not on my list, it is not because I do not admire her work. I am in fact in awe of her talent. Her sumptuous descriptions, elegant yet earthy prose and such wisdom ... Barbara Samuel's work is full of " aaah " . And by that I mean that aaah moment when one reads a passage that makes one stop reading ... and everything else around them ceases to exist ... Except. Those. Words.
Yes, I'm in awe. But because I have only Just started to delve into her backlist I am quite unqualified to recommend One of her books over another.

JulieJustJulie said...

for me, what makes Morning Glory special is that it is a story about ordinary people struggling with problems that just about anyone can relate to today. Even though the story is set in the 1940's. A bad economy, the struggles of a single parent, a world at war, the loss of loved ones ... Who can't relate to some or all of that?
For me what truly makes this story poignant and list worthy is that it is at its heart a tale about nobodies who just want to matter to somebody. Which makes this book's theme "universal" because isn't that what most if not all people want, to matter?