Monday, November 24, 2014

My Top 10!

by Anna Campbell

If any of you read my review of BLACK SHEEP and ARABELLA by Georgette Heyer last month, you'll know that I'm hanging up my ballet slippers here on Christmas Eve and going off to seek new pastures!

Before I go, I want to do a round-up of some favorites that I've reviewed over the last five years - although basically anything I've talked about here, I've loved. That was part of the column's raison d'etre.

So these are the really special books that stuck in my memory. By the way, the order doesn't indicate anything except that there are 10 books on this list! They're all winners in my opinion!

I thought I'd start with some mystery/romance combos. This genre has become my reading of choice over the last few years, partly because of recommendations from readers here. Thank you!

The first is the Amelia Peabody series from the late, great Elizabeth Peters. I've been eking out this wonderful series for the last few years - I've got three to go.

These books are funny and quirky and full of information about Ancient Egypt. They also feature a string of fabulous romances, starting with the opinionated Amelia and her beloved Emerson, "the greatest Egyptologist of this or any age." There's a long and very passionate relationship spread across several books, featuring Amelia's dashing and enigmatic son, Ramses, who makes a wonderful romantic hero.

Next I'd like to mention the charming Daisy Dalrymple  mysteries by Carola Dunn. These are set in the 1920s and they're absolutely delightful. You'll so enjoy the impetuous Daisy's adventures and especially her romance with police Inspector Alec Fletcher.

Whatever you do, try this next recommendation if you haven't already. I discovered Julia Spencer-Fleming's fabulous Claire Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne mysteries through this site, so thank you, thank you, thank you. I think they're just extraordinary. Romantic and suspenseful and atmospheric and beautifully written, I can't recommend these books featuring a vicar and the local police chief of a small town in upstate New York highly enough. Start with IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, and I bet you're ordering the rest straightaway! I've recommended these to friends high and low and everybody turns into a convert!

If you're regulars, you'll know that I've been on a bit of a Nora Roberts kick lately. I particularly like her stand-alone romantic suspense books and of those, my favorite is THE WITNESS. This features a geeky and very appealing heroine who witnesses a Russian mafia murder as a teenager and spends the rest of her life trying to stay alive. What happens when she falls in love, much against her better instincts, with the local police chief of the town she's chosen as her latest bolthole? If she stays, she risks discovery. If she leaves, she'll break her heart. Wonderful characters and writing and a nail-biting situation. NORTHERN LIGHTS was another favorite!

One of the things I wanted to do when I started here was talk about category romance. Some of the best stories out there are series books and I was keen to share some of my favorite writers with you. I've read some wonderful category romances in the last five years, but I thought I'd pick out three particularly memorable stories from authors who never fail me.

The first is A WEDDING AT LEOPARD TREE LODGE by Liz Fielding. Liz Fielding is an absolutely exquisite writer whose books always make me laugh and cry and then sigh with joy at the end. A WEDDING AT LEOPARD TREE LODGE is about finding love where you least expect it and gathering the courage to risk everything to gain happiness. Highly recommended.

The next book on my top 10 is Aussie author Sarah Mayberry's HOT ISLAND NIGHTS. Another one to make you laugh and cry - and man, is it sexy! There's a fantastic sequel called HER BEST WORST MISTAKE that I think might be even hotter. Well worth checking out. Sarah has such a wonderful understanding of the human heart, and her characters are so real, you expect them to pop around for a cup of tea after you've finished reading the book!

My final category recommendation is Sarah Morgan's RITA-Award winning DOUKAKIS'S APPRENTICE. This one's such fun. It takes the tried and true Harlequin premise of the heroine falling in love with the guy who makes a hostile takeover of her father's ailing business, and then turns it on its head. Full of surprises and laughs and lovely emotion. All of Sarah's books are good, but this one really lingers in my memory as a classic.

My list wouldn't be complete without a couple of historical romances - you knew they were coming up, didn't you?

The first one is among my all time faves ever - Loretta Chase's MR. IMPOSSIBLE. People regularly pick her wonderful LORD OF SCOUNDRELS (also reviewed on this site) as one of the best romances ever written, but for me, there's just a tad extra goodness in MR. IMPOSSIBLE. It's funny, it's sweet, it's steamy, it's clever, and I lay good money that you'll fall in love with Rupert Carsington, the hero.

The next writer on my list is Liz Carlyle who I think would currently be my favorite historical writer. Picking a book of hers to recommend was really difficult, so I thought I'd go with the first one of hers I read, the one that started the addiction. THE DEVIL TO PAY is another book full of unexpected takes on a tried and true formula, a feisty heroine making a rake account for his myriad sins. One of the many things I love about Liz's books is that they create such a rich world. It's wonderful revisitng characters from earlier stories and seeing how the various strands of the series plots intersect and enrich the current book.And don't you love that cover?

My last choice is one of the all-time great romances, historical or otherwise. Laura Kinsale's immortal FLOWERS FROM THE STORM. This is unlike any other book I've ever read and its intensity is amazing. Absolutely unforgettable! If anyone ever tries to tell you that romance is trivial and brainless, steer them in the direction of this book. Actually, don't - it's too good for the naysayers! It's a story of redemption and risk and forbidden love triumphing against impossible odds. A masterpiece.

So that's my top 10 of the books I've reviewed here on The Romance Dish. All are VERY highly recommended.

So what would your top 10 romance novels be? I'd love to see your lists!


  1. Thanks for the recommendations! I'm always looking for new authors I haven't read before. Picking a top ten is hard! I love so many books it's hard to narrow down but I'll do my best. :D

    In no particular order:

    Blue-eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas (heart-wrenching with a difficult theme)
    A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
    The Wild Child by Mary Jo Putney (different and emotional and wonderful)
    Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell (so many fabulous reads!)
    The Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer ( These Old Shades is about the hero's mother and father, great too!)
    The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue by Barbara Samuel / Barbara O'Neal (Love all her books!)
    Dark Fire by Christine Feehan (Great series especially the early ones)
    Naked in Death by JD Robb (series - must reads for me)
    Sarah's Child by Linda Howard (Love her books!)
    Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (special place in my heart)
    The Search by Nora Roberts (The Collector is good too)

    Whoops that's 11 and I could go on and on. ;) There is an excellent time travel series by Janet Chapman with sexy Scots. I love many of Nora Roberts Trilogies especially Three Sister's Island and the ones set in Ireland like Born in Fire, Born in Ice, Born in Shame, and the current series - I haven't had a chance to read the last one yet, it's newly released. And I love Gena Showalter's Lord of the Underworld series - so good! Okay, I'll stop now. :D

    1. Oh, oh, how could I forget Suzanne Brockmann's Navy Seals?!

    2. Ha, Laurie! That was pretty much the dificulty I had - keeping it to 10 was really tough (although I cheated and included some series, you'll notice). What a great list. Love Barbara Samuel - wonder how she missed out on being on my list. And how lovely you've got Courtesan there. Thank you so much. And thank you for being such a lovely regular as a commenter on my blogs here. Lovely to catch up so often!

    3. Great list, Laurie! There are a few on there I need to add to my buy list. I adore Janet Chapman's Highlanders in Maine! Love every single one of them. <3

    4. PJ, Janet Chapman is new to me. I must check her out. I'm always happy to reads about a sexy Highlander!

  2. Hi PJ, Andrea and of course, Anna!

    Wow, Anna, I'm so much in awe of your ability to pick a top ten. I don't think I could do it! Will have to add some of those to my groaning TBR pile! So sorry to see you're leaving the Dish. It's been a lovely experience to work with these wonderful women, I'm sure.

    1. Christina, PJ and Andrea (and Buffie and Gannon in the old days too) have been wonderful to work with. Ha, I'm already thinking of books I SHOULD have included. The problem is I'd then have to knock something else off the list. Oh, decisions, decisions.

    2. I don't know how she did it either, Christina. I sure couldn't choose a Top 10!

      We're sorry to say good-bye too but it sure has been a terrific five years!

    3. PJ, it's been a privilege being part of this wonderful blog.

  3. That's tough. LOL. Here are more than 10: (Me too in no particular order)
    Linda Howard - Sarah's Child
    Barbara Delinsky - Three Wishes
    Robyn Carr - A Summer in Sonoma
    LaVyrle Spencer - Twice Loved
    SEP - Kiss An Angel
    SEP - Nobody's Baby But Mine
    Debbie Macomber - A Bend in the Road
    Dallas Schulze - Tessa's Child
    Lorraine Heath - Parting Gifts
    Susan Mallery - Tempting
    Toni Blake - The Red Diary
    Julia London - A Summer of Two Wishes
    Louisa Edwards - Hot Under Pressure - This is the finale of the series and Louisa perfectly captures the essence of the hero and heroine in the menus they prepare for the cooking contest
    Julie Garwood - Mercy


    1. More new books to investigate! :)

    2. Pat, oh, no, how could I have left out SEP? She's one of my all-time favorites and I've reviewed her a couple of times here. My faves of hers include First Lady and Match Me If You Can. Actually and now I realize I left out WELCOME TO TEMPTATION by Jenny Crusie. I think my list might be different if I did it today.

  4. I cannot leave off: Marie Force - I Want to Hold Your Hand - Homie is really the star of the book.

    1. Ha, Pat, we're all having trouble sticking to 10!

  5. I checked my submission for the last All About Romance survey of top 100 romance books, in 2013. Below is my top 10 list. I know many people argue about Gone With the Wind--whether it's a romance or not. Nevertheless, my list, my opinion! If I was creating the list today, I would probably switch my Sherry Thomas choice and include this year's My Beautiful Enemy in place of Ravishing the Heiress. (That's my favorite book of this year.) I enjoyed your post--and your many columns for The Romance Dish.

    Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
    Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase
    Flowers from the Storm, Laura Kinsale
    When He Was Wicked, Julia Quinn
    Cry No More, Linda Howard
    The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, Jennifer Ashley
    Smooth Talking Stranger, Lisa Kleypas
    What I Did for a Duke, Julie Anne Long
    Ravishing the Heiress, Sherry Thomas
    The Duke and I, Julia Quinn

    1. LSUR, I should have included Cry No More. It's one of my all-time favorite books and I've reviewed it on the Dishes. I think it's a good thing I relied on my (unreliable) memory for my top 10. If I'd checked all my reviews, there's no way I could have stuck to 10. By the way, I agree with you about GWTW being a romance - it's just not a romance that ends happily!

    2. The Duke and I was my first JQ book. Love, love, love!

  6. I struggle each time I cast my ballot for AAR’s all-time top 100 romance novels, so choosing a top-ten is nearly impossible. I was able to do it for my blog in August 2013 only because I decided the list would be post-Heyer. 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 also stuck to straight-forward romance and cut women’s fiction titles such as Barbara Samuel’s No Place Like Home and Emilie Richards’s Prospect Street. After all that narrowing, I still would have found it easier to do a top 25, but I did choose a top ten.

    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

    That was over a year ago, and if I were making a list today, it would have to be longer because I could never omit favorites published in the past 15 months. And I’d have to do a separate list for mysteries, which Margaret Maron and Julia Spencer-Fleming would lead.

    1. Janga, I should have included IN THE MIDNIGHT RAIN. That's a book I just love to death and I often use it in workshops as an example of beautiful writing. By the way, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the wonderful recommendations you've given me over my time at the Romance Dish. I know we have similar tastes in reading - while being different enough to make it interesting - so I've given so many things you've mentioned a go and rarely been disappointed.

    2. Janga is my "go to" person for new author/book recommendations!

    3. What I love is that our tastes coincide, PJ. She's never recommended something I haven't enjoyed.

  7. I love categories too. I will miss your posts here.
    1. Blackmailed into Marriage by Lucy Monroe
    2, Montana Bride by Jillian Hart
    3. Her Baby His Proposal by Teresa Carpenter
    4. The Babe and the Baron by Carola Dunn
    5. Tryst by Elswyth Thane'
    6. Courting Claudia by Robyn DeHart
    7. Skin by Lydia Michaels
    8. Matthew by Emma Lang
    9. The Admiral's Penniless Bride by Carla Kelly
    10. To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer
    11. A Convenient Wife by Carolyn Davidson

    1. Wow, JCP, I haven't read ANY of those. What a wonderful addition to my TBR pile. I knew Carola Dunn had written Regencies - I haven't got around to trying them yet. Have you read M.C. Beaton/Marion Chesney? I'm deep into her Regency world at the moment.

    2. Lots of new ones for me too. Thanks, jcp!

    3. I love Elswyth Thane's books. My sister and I read and reread them growing up, and we both still reread her Williamsburg series and a few others, including Tryst every few years. My sister even named her oldest son after the hero of Remember Today.

    4. Wow, Janga, that's pretty special.

  8. Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught
    Paradise by Judith McNaught
    Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas
    A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran
    Something About You by Julie James
    Lady Be Good by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
    Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson
    When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn
    Seduce Me At Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas
    His At Night by Sherry Thomas

    1. Excellent choices, Kim! Almost Heaven is one of my favorite books by McNaught.

  9. I forgot to add What I Did For a Duke by Julie Anne Long

    1. Kim, Lady Be Good was my first SEP - I reviewed it here: Great list. Lovely to see so many historicals on it.

  10. 1. What I Did For a Duke (Julie Anne Long)
    2. Pleasure for Pleasure (Eloisa James)
    3. Secrets (Julie Garwood)
    4. Whisper of Roses (Teresa Mederios)
    5. One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (Sarah Maclean)
    6. Wicked Intentions (Elizabeth Hoyt)
    7. The Hawk (Monica McCarty)
    8. Sugar Daddy (Lisa Kleypas)
    9. The Undomestic Goddess (Sophie Kinsella)
    10. The Raider (Jude Deveraux)

    1. Wow, lovely to see so many historicals on your list, Helly. I love Julie Anne's book but haven't read WHAT I DID FOR A DUKE. A few people have mentioned it - I must check it out.

    2. Lots of favorites on that list, Hellie. The Kinsella is the one one I haven't read.

      Anna, do check out What I Did For a Duke. One of Long's best, in my opinion.

  11. I truly don't think I can. I have too many favorites and favorite authors too.

    1. Catslady, luckily I was restricted to what I'd reviewed here. The book that I love best that I did NOT review here is A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS by Eva Ibbotson. This is my perfect comfort read - must have read it at least 20 times. The world is always a better place once I've read that book.

  12. Anna, I have not read her. You may to really hunt online for a cheap copy of Tryst or get it using Interlibrary loan from a public library. It was originally published in 1939 reprinted in 1974.

    1. I'll definitely check it out, JCP. I really liked the M.C. Beaton Travelling Matchmaker stories, reviewed here:

  13. I have tons of favorites, but I will go with books I have read multiple time, in no particular order:
    Sophie Kinsella - I've Got Your Number
    Victoria Alexander - His Mistress by Christmas
    Kristan Higgins - The Next Best Thing
    Jill Shalvis - Animal Magnetism
    Nora Roberts - Vision in White
    Carolyn Brown - Darn Good Cowboy Christmas
    Adrian Trigiani - Big Stone Gap
    Loretta Chase - Mr. Impossible
    Laura Florand - The Chocolate Touch
    Terri Osburn - Meant to Be
    There are more where that list came from!

    1. Good list, Sharlene and a few new ones to add to my list. :)

      I love Trigiani's Big Stone Gap series. I'm interested to see how the new movie stacks up against the book.

    2. Sharlene, lots of authors there who I've never read. So glad you're another Mr. Impossible fan!

  14. Love your list. I have read the Julia Spencer-Fleming series, but none of the others you listed. Except for the Daisy Dalrymple books, I have read books by all the other authors. I am going to be digging through my TBR Mountain to see how many of these books I have. I know I have many of the books in the Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series. I just need to start them.
    As for my favorite books, I would have to think a long time about that. The Spencer-Flemming books would be there. Julie Garwoods' Highland historicals would be first on my list. Her THE PRIZE was the first romance I read. I really can't pick a favorite. THE WOLF AND THE DOVE by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Kat Martin's PERFECT SIN had some memorable scenes I go back and reread. I will have to think some more to decide other favorites.

    1. Pat, lovely that you're another fan of JSF. I'm so grateful that this blog led me in her direction. I just love those books. The Wolf and the Dove has very fond memories for me - first modern-style historical romance I ever read. I remember being absolutely captivated by Aislinn and Wulfgar's romance.