The gorgeous and talented author Kathleen Winsor would have been 90 years old today. She is known as one of the pioneers of the romance genre after publishing Forever Amber in 1944 and was one of the first “romance novels” I ever read. The details in the story about events leading up to the Restoration, Charles II, court life, historical London, the plague, and trade with the New World in America are pretty much the only reason I got an A in my British History class. My final paper may have even read a bit like a romance novel itself ;)
Though she passed away in 2003, in honor of her October 16th birthday Maili suggested a tribute…with a list! I LOVE book lists! So here are my personal 16 favorite romance novels, straight from my heart to your computer. Not the “best” just the ones that I lust for and love most dearly, that are personal “A’s” for me. I have included only the “old skool” covers for your viewing pleasure:
Gentle Rogue, by Johanna Lindsey: Historical set in Regency London, Connecticut and the swashbuckling high seas in between with my favorite trope of a heroine disguised as a boy. Ms Lindsey is one of my favorite authors of all time.
The Duchess, by Jude Deveraux: I also cut my romance teeth on Ms. Deveraux and so many of her books hold dear places in my heart. But especially this one, a feisty American heiress husband hunting in England and Scotland in the 1800s falls for an Explorer rogue hiding on the grounds of her fiance’s estate. All I know about peat, whiskey, and bustles I learned in this book as a teenager.
Slightly Dangerous, by Mary Balough: I love so many books in the Slightly series, but this 8th and final story about the head of the Bedwyn family really gets me. Also a Regency set book we have a radiant, fun loving heroine and a brooding, serious, overly responsible hero. The scene in the garden where she harshly sums him up and he remembers every word and proves her wrong? Ugh, to DIE for! And his quizzing glass! Oh how I would love to throw that monocle up in a tree too!
Paradise, by Judith McNaught: Another old skool author, she fits my reading preferences so well. I adore many of her historicals (more down the list) but Paradise is probably my favorite contemporary romance. It’s a little bit of a saga, and a little bit too full of business and corporate details but Matt Farell and Meredith Bancroft are one of my favorite couples of all time.
Match Me if You Can, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips: my second favorite contemporary romance. The way historicals revolve around the ton, the Season, Almack’s and house parties, I think contemporaries revolve around careers and the workplace as important markers in the story. This book has a perfect balance of who Annabelle and Heath are in their jobs and in their personal lives and how that shapes them and their romance. Plus I ADORE the secondary romance in this book.
Lord Of Scoundrels, by Loretta Chase: since I’m assuming most of you who’ve got this far in my post are regular romance novel readers there is NO explanation necessary for this one. A Regency classic, just a beautiful story that makes my heart beat faster every time.
Emma, by Jane Austen: This is definitely a romance novel and I just adore Emma’s character because I may or may not be similarly meddlesome, occasionally rude, and have even been compared to Cher from Clueless once or twice (while I love Clueless as a retelling of Emma, I absolutely adore the Gwenyth Paltrow movie). Anyone with Mr. Knightly as a neighbor is one lucky lady!
Born in Ice, by Nora Roberts: of course there must be a La Nora in this list! A contemporary set at a B&B in Ireland I can remember exactly how old I was when I read the final scene, where I was sitting, and that I sobbed my little teenaged heart out. The whole Born In trilogy is my favorite of all La Nora’s works.
It Happened One Autumn, by Lisa Kleypas: I love the whole Wallflower’s series and I think this one’s my favorite? A Regency following an American heiress in England (love them!) falling for her exact opposite (or is he?), a stuffy English Lord who doesn’t think you should, can, or would want to have sex more than once a week. They change each others lives forever!
Something Wonderful, by Judith McNaught: a sweet Regency with a back-from-the-dead hero who returns just in the nick of time as the heroine is about to wed another!
My Lady Notorious, by Jo Beverly: the first, and my favorite, of the Malloren family series, it is a Regency with the heroine disguised as a boy (again, my favorite!) and a fun-loving hero.
To Wed A Scandalous Spy, by Celeste Bradley: I haven’t really met any other big fans of Celeste Bradley, but I love her Royal Four series and this is my favorite of the bunch. There are so many Regencies with spymasters battling the French frogs in secret, but these are all so fun.
Evening Star, by Catherine Coulter: Yes! Another Old Skool author, I told you I just love them! Set in 1800s London and Rome the heroine is forced to observe and attend events at a high class bordello as a punishing lesson from her mother about the true ways of men. But no one expects her to be sold at the infamous Romance Flower Auction to a dashing American merchant! And then they fight, she runs away, he finds her, they fight some more, they have sex and then they fall in love. Yay!
Prince Charming, by Julie Garwood: A frigid English noblewoman is forced to marry a rough American lawman as they adventure across Wild West on a quest to find missing family members and love (I should get paid for this).
Son of the Morning, by Linda Howard: of course I HAD to include a time travel, it is one of my favorite sub genre’s. Even though the first 100 pages could be condensed significantly this is one of my favorite ways of handling how someone could speak, interact with, and have a happily ever after with someone from another time.
PHEW!!! That was fairly demanding. Now I am off to read all of yours!