Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Things I Love/Hate About Romance in Books.
I’m a little late with this post, but I decided to go ahead anyway, because I had so many books for the topic! In fact, I had a hard time narrowing it down. I haven’t been finding a lot of 5-star books that I really adore recently. But I’ve read quite a few that I liked a lot! I had to leave out some of my 4-star reads, even though I turned this into a Top Fourteen list. I do tend to rate conservatively, so a 4.5 is probably equivalent to most people’s 5, and so on. Think of 5 stars as “OMG I loved it!”, 4.5 as “I loved it”, and 4 stars as “I really liked it or loved it with reservations.”
The other thing I realize as I look at this list is that I’m not reading nearly enough fantasy these days. Well, not new releases, anyway. I need to work on that.
Cover and title links take you to my reviews.
The Murder of Mary Russell (Laurie R. King) I love this series to begin with, and this one? Let’s just say that King upended my mental picture of one of the characters and several of the relationships, and she did it in a way that still fits all the previous books. Plus it’s an excellent character study, and the mystery part is good, too.
Because of Miss Bridgerton (Julia Quinn) This is Quinn at pretty close to the top of her game: humor, witty repartee, good character development, and real feeling. And I love that she’s exploring an earlier time and the previous generation, though not necessarily of Bridgertons.
Marrying Winterborne (Lisa Kleypas) Another historical romance writer I love, and one I’m excited to see writing historicals again after a 5-year hiatus. I enjoyed this one even more than the first in the series, Cold-Hearted Rake.
Masks and Shadows (Stephanie Burgis) Burgis blends historical fiction and fantasy in this tale of music, political intrigue, magic and treason in the glittering Esterhazy court. Wonderful, complex characters, excellent writing, a plot worthy of an opera, and a solid grounding in both music and history make this one of my favorite books of the year.
Reunion Pass (Emily March) Finally, March has given us the story of Lori and Chase, teenage sweethearts who drifted apart and finally find their way back together. March is always good, and this one, told half in the present and almost half in flashbacks, is terrific, especially if you’ve been following the Eternity Springs series for a while.
What We Find (Robyn Carr) Everything I love about the best of Carr’s writing is here: realistic characters you’d love to know, the bonds of family, friends, and community, and a romance that brings out the best in both partners.
Once a Soldier (Mary Jo Putney) Putney kicks off a new series and wraps up an old one with this story of the two remaining Lost Lords, Will Masterson and Ballard. I love her writing, and particularly enjoyed the heroine in this story. (review to come)
Only Beloved (Mary Balogh) Finally, we get George’s story, and it’s wonderful! Plus, I loved that both the hero and heroine are older — he’s in his early 50s, she’s around 40. There aren’t enough romances featuring people in their middle years; I need more love stories like this. (review to come)
A Study in Sable (Mercedes Lackey) Sherlock Holmes meets elemental magic in Lackey’s latest Elemental Masters tale. Actually, Holmes takes a back seat to John and Mary Watson (as strong secondary characters); the main characters are Nan and Sarah, the protagonists of two other books in the series. Lots of fun.
Crime and Poetry (Amanda Flower) A magical bookshop, a heroine who doesn’t want to be there, a cat, a talking raven, a hint of romance, an absorbing mystery, and a secondary mystery whose solution will probably span several books = my kind of cozy! Plus, something about the heroine/narrator just really clicked with me.
‘Til Death Do Us Part (Amanda Quick) Atmospheric, suspenseful, with shades of the gothic, this book is a smidgen darker than many of Quick’s early books, though not necessarily her more recent ones. I couldn’t put it down.
Death and the Brewmaster’s Widow (Loretta Ross) A strong sequel to Death and the Red-Headed Woman. I love the two main characters, and the mystery is well-written even if I solved it pretty early on—the fun is in seeing the characters figure it out.
Forbidden (Beverly Jenkins) Historical romance set in a western mining town, with African-American protagonists, one of whom is passing as white. Jenkins does a great job with the romance as well as the history and the impact that prejudice has on the main characters.
The Masquerading Magician (Gigi Pandian) When I first started reading this series about a several-hundred-years-old alchemist, I found Dorian (the living gargoyle) irritating; now I think he’s one of the best characters in the books. The long-term story arc is as or even more important than the current mystery, and that’s just fine with me.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend (Katarina Bivald) A heartwarming, sometimes whimsical look at a small Iowa town brought back to life by a bookstore—or rather, by Sara, the Swedish visitor whose arrival, presence, and love of books pull Broken Wheel’s residents together. Quirky but delightful.
The Corpse with the Garnet Face (Cathy Ace) A well-plotted mystery set in Amsterdam, involving art, World War II, and of course, crime. In many ways, this series reminds me of Christie’s novels, and The Corpse with the Garnet Face is one of the best in the series so far.