My Top 5 (umm, 6) . . . historical romances

June 16, 2009 at 5:00 am 23 comments

I’m really selective about the historical romances on my keeper shelf. I don’t have much shelf space, and am pretty ruthless about giving away and selling books that are not my absolute favorites. I also read a lot of historicals from the library, since they are so readily available. Right now I’m actually tracking down some of my favorites that I definitely want on my keeper shelf. Here are a few that already have prime placement on my shelf, or are on the top of my list to track down at the used book store.

ETA: This list is in no particular order.

To Seduce a Sinner by Elizabeth HoytTo Seduce a Sinner by Elizabeth Hoyt

Beautiful prose and quiet revelatory moments make this book a stand out for me.

I love Melisande’s quiet strength and determination when she proposes to Jasper in the opening scene in the book.

Jasper is a man who has lived through torture, and still suffers the emotional scars. He’s such a great combination of urbane gentleman and tortured hero.

I love that Jasper comes to love Melisande and doesn’t try to change her. He accepts her quiet, plain style as part of her. She accepts his quirks and doesn’t try to fix him.

My favorite scene(s) are where they visit each other’s empty rooms, trying to connect with the other, and reveal their true feelings (all without a word of dialogue.)

Here’s my review for To Seduce a Sinner.

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Dreaming of You by Lisa KleypasDreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

It’s funny, cause looking back at old posts, this book didn’t make my “Best Reads” of the month, yet was a Best of the Year. Partly, that was due to the fact that during October (the month I read Dreaming of You) I had also read Devil’s Bride, Tin Star, Sugar Daddy, and Seduce Me at Sunrise — all, truly excellent reads!

However, I also think it’s due to the fact that Derek Craven, DoY‘s hero, is the kind of character that really stayed with (and apparently, grew on) a me. His tough guy exterior belied an intense romantic, who loved the bookish Sara utterly and passionately.

My favorite scene, wasn’t a scene, exactly. It’s how Derek finds a pair of Sara’s spectacles, and carries them in his pocket. It reveals so much about his need for connection with her, his yearning. Oh man, I love it!

Here’s what I had to say in my Best of the Year post.

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Scandal by Carolyn JewelScandal by Carolyn Jewel

I really like it when a hero and heroine have lived a little prior to a book’s opening. This is truly the case with Scandal, where Sophie and Banalit have both personal history, and history with each other.

This book develops such a sense of restrained passion that just seethes under the surface. It creates a tension that at any moment may erupt. And boy, when Sophie and Banalit finally do come together it is explosive.

But I get ahead of myself.

Sophie is a heroine who has been buffeted about by events in her life, and does what she can to mitigate the historically helpless position impoverished women were in during this time period. However, as I’m sure was often the case, even her somewhat successful attempts aren’t always enough, and it’s this vulnerability that indelibly marks her character. It also impacts her behavior toward Banalit, making for some screaming plot tension.

Banalit begins the story in love with Sophie, so unlike most romance heroes, his journey is not one of falling in love with the heroine, but one of accepting her journey to receiving his love.

Beautiful, beautiful book.

Here’s my review for Scandal.

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The Devil in Winter by Lisa KleypasThe Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

Lisa Kleypas writes the best heroes, and St Vincent is one of her best (next to Derek Craven, of course!)

Now, while the main action between St Vincent and Evie takes place in TDiW, so much of their history and character is set up in the previous Wallflowers books (Secrets of a Summer Night and It Happened One Autumn) that the story starts with a bang when Evie proposes to St Vincent. (Hmm . . . I just realized 2 of the books on my list start with a marriage proposal from the woman. I guess I like the set up!)

I also really like Evie. While she is shy and has been dominated in the past by her abusive relatives, she really takes control of her life when she shows up on St Vincent’s doorstep. She also doesn’t let St Vincent’s sophistication and self-confidence cow her. When she sets ground rules to their marriage, it’s St Vincent who has to grow and adapt.

St Vincent is the best example of the “reformed rake” hero-type that I can think of. He really starts with a big hole to dig himself out of, in terms of gaining the reader’s (and Evie’s) trust and liking by the time TDiW starts. And, he does redeem himself, making himself one of my favorite heroes in historical romance.

Here’s a review of The Devil in Winter in my November’s Best Reads post. (Scroll down.)

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Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta ChaseLord of Soundrels by Loretta Chase

I love how Loretta Chase will take romance reader expectations, and totally stand them on their head. It’s this “unexpectedness” in her writing that makes Lord of Scoundrels really stand out for me.

For example, Dain is that alpha hero who is autocratic and demanding. He assumes (and demands) that things go his way. Yet, Jessica doesn’t let it intimidate her. She simply smiles and coos at him, giving him lots of sympathy for his being so “high-strung.” The part that just makes me want to laugh out loud is that after Dain’s initial surprise at her reaction to him, he accepts — and comes to enjoy — this attention from her.

The other thing I love about LoS is Jessica’s determination that Dain accept responsibility for his illegitimate son, and then sets out to make it happen. She doesn’t waste time in the usual angsting and drama of betrayal over something that happened will before they met. She rolls up her sleeves and takes control of the situation.

You know, I don’t think I have a favorite scene, so much as the fact that this books overall intelligence, in the characters and in its overall writing make it a special read.

Here’s my review for Lord of Scoundrels.

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Devil's Bride by Stephanie LaurensDevil’s Bride (The Cynster series, book 1) by Stephanie Laurens

It’s definitely the hero and heroine that make this book one of my favorites. Honoria is no shrinking miss. She is confident, opinionated, and not shy about letting her opinion be known. When she encounters Devil, she is nonplussed by this commanding man who takes charge and refusal to be intimidated by Honoria’s bossy ways.

Devil is the oldest of the Cynster cousins, and very much the leader of a group of alpha men.

I love how the family dynamics are so interwoven into this romance and into Devil’s personality. Also, I love a mystery to go along with my romance, and Devil’s Bride has both.

This is such a wonderful book, and I just wish the entire series was more consistently a good as this first installment.

Here’s a review of Devil’s Bride in my October’s Best Reads post.

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It was really fun to look back on my favorites are remember why I love them so much. It definitely makes me want to go back and reread them.

I told myself that this would be a “top 5″ but I just couldn’t leave any of these out as my absolute favorites. Of course, these aren’t the only ones on my keeper shelf, just the ones at the top of the list.

What are your top 5 (or 6)?

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Elizabeth Hoyt’s new series Because KristieJ asked . . .

23 Comments Add your own

  • 1. AmyC  |  June 16, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Hey Renee,

    I’ve read two of your top 6! And I agree with you, Lord of Scoundrels and Dreaming of You are definite keepers.

    Mine I think would be without a doubt as numerber one, The Bride Finder by Susan Carroll. I love that book. Then in no particular order…The Duke of Shadows (Meredith Duran), Broken Wing (Judith James), Lord of Scoundrels, Dreaming of You (Only Kleypas book I’ve read), and for the final one, hmm, Destiny’s Warrior, by Heather Waters. The hero was mute through most of the book, so when he finally speaks to his lady love, it’s very, very good, and how he goes about speaking! I should reread that book! It’s been a few years.

    Reply
  • 2. katidancy  |  June 16, 2009 at 7:10 am

    Oh! Fun! I love your choices! And I’d agree with a bunch of them. I’m an old school reader though, so a bunch of my choices are older:

    1- The Windflower by Tom and Sharon Curtis (alot of readers hate this book, but OMG, I loves it!)

    2- A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught – delicious medieval with the very first laugh out loud funny scene I’d ever read in romance.

    3- Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase – everything you said and more.

    4- Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh – OMG, I just adore Wulf’s melting. And the heroine, Christine is one of my favorites.

    5- Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas – The speech McKenna gives at the end of the book will make you want to part with your drawers. ;o)

    6- Scandal by Carolyn Jewel – A remarkable book with extraordinary characters and incendiary chemistry. I adored Banaltt.

    Reply
  • 3. Renee  |  June 16, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Amy: Gah! I still haven’t gotten to Bride Finder, though it’s on my book list. It sounds great, so I really need to request it from the library. I’ve got Broken Wing in my near future, since I’m participating in orannia’s BW challenge over the next month! I’ve also got Meredith Duran in my future, since I won her upcoming one over a Ciaralira’s. I’ll have to check out Destiny’s Warrior. Sounds really interesting. Great coices! :-)

    Kati: You know, back in the 80’s, I devoured shopping bag fulls of old school romances given to me by my aunt. I really liked them, but can’t remember any of them. It’s like one big blur.
    The Windflower sure does provoke differing opinions from people. I’ll have to see for myself one of these days! You know, I just read a Balogh for the first time last week (Simply Unforgettable.) I really liked it, and will definitely be reading more from her.
    I cruised by Fantastic Fiction, and noticed that Slightly Dangerous is the last of a series. I guess I should start with #1?
    I haven’t yet read Again the Magic, but since I LOVE Kleypas, I’ll definitely be checking it out! Oh, I love those kinds of scenes.

    Reply
  • 4. katidancy  |  June 16, 2009 at 8:56 am

    I cruised by Fantastic Fiction, and noticed that Slightly Dangerous is the last of a series. I guess I should start with #1?

    Well, the family (I think there are six Bedwyn books) do show up in the book, and you get glimpses of Wulfric throughout the series, but IMHO, you don’t have to read the whole series — unless you’re one of those people who can’t read a book from the middle or end of a series, in which case, go crazy, some are better than others). In fact, Slightly Dangerous is the only one of the series that remains on my keeper shelf. I got rid of the rest of them. But OMG, his book is just…delicious. Like I said, the slow melt, is wondrous, and it has a very P&P feel.

    I hope you’ll enjoy Again the Magic. I read it in one sitting during a very, very stressful day (my dad was having open heart surgery), and it’s probably why I love it so much. But I re-read it recently, and I still think it stands up as one of her best.

    Reply
  • 5. Anna  |  June 16, 2009 at 8:59 am

    I’ve read three of the books you have listed. Dreaming of You & The Devil In Winter are on my keeper shelves too.

    Reply
  • 6. Barbara  |  June 16, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Wow! Great choices!! I’ve read all but Loretta Chase’s which I started and got sidetracked–I’ll get back to it–and Devil’s Bride. BTW, LK’s Again the Magic is one of my all time favorites. I hope you like it, Renee!

    Reply
  • 7. nath  |  June 16, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Did you read all these historicals this year, Renee? Hmmm, if you want, I can send you my copy of the Elizabeth Hoyt. I just need to find it…

    LOL, surprise, surprise, I’ve read 5 out of the 6 books! and actually, I own them all! LOL. Those are some good books, I’d say I agree with your choice (except for the Elizabeth Hoyt. It was an okay book to me. I don’t think her style suits me well…) Still need to read Scandal.

    Reply
  • 8. VampFanGirl  |  June 16, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Great choices Renee and thank you for including your reasons. They were like mini reviews and I’m so kicking myself in the butt for still not picking up Elizabeth Hoyt!

    I’m not a big historical reader but the ones that I love, I love with passion and fierce loyalty.

    So my top five (or six) are as follows

    Passion by Lisa Valdez.
    Once and Always by Judith McNaught
    Scandal by Carolyn Jewel
    Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone
    A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
    The Conqueror by Brenda Joyce
    ;) VFG

    Reply
  • 9. Renee  |  June 16, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Kati: Yeah, I’m usually one of those series readers, but I was sort of thrown by having to read 7(?) preceding books to get to Slightly Dangerous. It’s good to know the book stands alone. I really love those kind of cold, restrained heroes! (Judd from Nalini Singh’s Caressed by Ice comes to mind.)
    I think the reread is a good testament to the fact that a book is just plain “good” and not just fitting a mood. I have to get back to Kleypas’ backlist. Again the Magic is a good place to start!

    Anna: I’m thinking Dreaming of You will be my book for this month’s Reread challenge. Just thinking about it makes me want to pick it up!

    Barbara: I just love Loretta Chase’s writing style, and LoS is still my favorite of the ones I’ve read.
    Thanks, Barbara! :-)

    nath: Over the 12 months or so. After a very long break from romance, I’m back reading them. Historicals in particular are my comfort reads.

    Oh, I’d love the Hoyt! I was just at the ubs yesterday (I picked up Kleypas’ Suddenly You for the keeper shelf and Chase’s Your Scandalous Ways to read for the first time) and still couldn’t find the To Seduce a Sinner. I originally read a library ebook. Thanks! :-)

    Yeah, I know that not everyone digs her. She does have a very distinctive writing style.

    Scandal was a joy!

    Reply
  • 10. Hilcia  |  June 16, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Those are wonderful picks, Renee! Three of those are part on my permanent historical/romance keeper shelf. (I’m also short on space).

    To Seduce a Sinner
    Dreaming of You (Ohhhhh, Derek!)
    The Devil in Winter (Drooool, Vincent)

    But I just gave away two of those you want, plus my entire Cynster collection. :(

    I tend to keep more historicals & contemps because those are my comfort re-reads, and give away / trade the paranormals… those rarely make my keeper shelf.

    Reply
  • 11. Mandi  |  June 16, 2009 at 10:24 am

    That is a great list – To Seduce a Sinner is in my tbr!!

    My list would be:

    Revealed – Kate Noble (srsly..you must read this!)
    Lord of Scoundrels – Loretta Chase
    Seduce me at Sunrise – Lisa Kleypas
    Slighty Dangerous – Mary Balogh
    Dreaming of You – Lisa Kleypas
    Spymaster’s Lady – Joanna Bourne

    Reply
  • 12. Maija P.  |  June 16, 2009 at 11:39 am

    If you want to try Balogh, you could read Secret Pearl or Simply Love. Great reads both!

    I just read Lord of Scoundrels this year and loved it!!!

    Reply
  • 13. Hilcia  |  June 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Maija P., I agree with you totally. I forgot to put down who I would include:

    Definitely:
    Dreaming of You by Kleypas
    Again the Magic by Kleypas
    The Secret Pearl by Balogh
    A Summer to Remember by Balogh
    Once and Always by Judith McNaught
    The Raven Prince by Hoyt

    Tough, because I’m not even including Garwood or Foley… :)

    Reply
  • 14. KristieJ  |  June 16, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    You have some great choices there and some that are on my top list too! And since you asked *g* here are my top 5 or 6 historicals

    Broken Wing – Judith James
    Dreaming of You – Lisa Kleypas
    The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie – Jennifer Ashley
    Ride the Fire – Pamela Clare
    Lord of Scoundrels – Loretta Chase

    I wouldn’t exactly say that’s the exact order, but they are all in the top five

    Reply
  • 15. Renee  |  June 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Hilcia: So far, Devil’s Bride is the only one from the series on my shelf, and the way things are going, it’ll probably remain the lone Cynster series novel. sigh. It’s funny, cause I’ve only recently found that I must have certain books on my self. i think it’s because I’ve had to buy so few historicals, since there are so many available at the library. I buy (maybe?) 1 every month or 2, which given how much I read is really something. It’s not a bad way to do it, though, (library or swapping with friends, than only buying the keepers) cause it sure saves on shelf space. :-)

    Maija and Hilcia: Wow, that Secret Pearl sounds like one to try! And, yes, LoS just makes me smile when I think of it.

    Mandi: Hmm…I’ve been seeing a lot of Kate Noble mentioned, recently! Will have to look for her site!

    KristieJ: Will be reading BW very soon! I came thisclose to picking up Ride the Fire at the ubs, yesterday! Man, I can’t wait for the library to get Lord Ian. I’ve been waiting for-evah!

    Reply
  • 16. orannia  |  June 16, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Great list Renee! To Seduce a Sinner is on my TBR list :) I did enjoy Scandal, and I loved Banalt…it was just that plot twist around Page 200 that threw me :(

    My favourites? *thinking*

    * Knave’s Wager (Loretta Chase). The less well-known LC book but I just adore it! And the hero is to die for :)

    * Knight’s Move (Jennifer Landsbert). Another little know medieval romance, but a gorgeous story. Am thinking I should purchase a copy and send it around the world a la The Windflower so everyone can discover it :)

    * Devil in Winter and Mine Till Midnight (Lisa Kleypas). What’s not to like about Sebastian St Vincent. As for MTM….I just loved the heroine!

    * Devil’s Bride (Stephanie Laurens). Again, Honoria isn’t a typical heroine, and I like that :)

    * The Perfect Rake (Anne Gracie). The heroine isn’t conventionally beautiful, or slim , but to the hero she is absolutely beautiful!

    The speech McKenna gives at the end of the book will make you want to part with your drawers.

    It’s definitely a scene stopper :)

    And Renee, I’ve very glad to hear that you are picking up BW soon :)

    Reply
    • 17. Renee  |  June 17, 2009 at 12:43 am

      orannia: I’m working my way thru LC’s backlist, so hopefully I’ll track down Knave’s Wager.
      MTM is also on my keeper shelf. I love Cam!
      lol. Another tour!
      I’ll have to check out Anne Gracie’s book. I love unconventional heroines. :-)

      Reply
  • 18. Lori  |  June 16, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Oh wow. That is tough. I’m such an historical ho. Just 5? Hmm….

    Lord of Scoundrels (Loretta Chase): What a wounded soul Dain is. I love how Jessica healed him. It was just amazing to read a book from the man’s point of view. To read all about his insecurities, not from her perspective, but from his. And he has a boatload, no? I just want to cradle the poor little boy he was, and I’m in love with the scoundrel of a man he is.

    England’s Perfect Hero (Suzanne Enoch): One of the most poignant, emotional, books I have ever read. The perfect accounting of PTSD. Ever. Robert is a beautifully drawn character, one who makes you want to cry with him over his losses and weep with joy over every tiny victory.

    The Raven Prince (Elizabeth Hoyt): My favorite from Hoyt. Edward was the perfect hero. I loved his sensitivity, and that he was physically flawed. Hoyt’s humor appeared in subtle, yet LOL moments. And Hawt!

    Something Wonderful (Judith McNaught): McNaught’s writing paints beautiful pictures, and seeing Jordan and his autocratic, cynical grandmother both melt under Alex’s wide-eyed excitement for life made me remember why I started reading romance lo those many years ago. Jordan is a fabulous hero, and Alex the perfect heroine for him.

    Worth any Price (Lisa Kleypas): Nick Gentry. Need I say more?

    Reply
  • 19. Lori  |  June 16, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    Oh, and I’ll bring Lord Ian for you on the 27th if you want :)

    Reply
    • 20. Renee  |  June 17, 2009 at 12:52 am

      Lori: lol. Obviously, I couldn’t stick to 5, myself!
      I’ve still got Enoch’s The Rake in my tbr, which I picked up at Borders during the last SoCal Blogger’s get together. I’m still an Enoch virgin, but must get to her soon!
      The Raven Prince. All I can think of is that scene in the brothel with the chair. ::fans self::
      Yes, what is it about Kleypas heroes? And, who could argue with Nick’s skillz?
      Oh! That would be awesome to get the Lord Ian from you. Thank you so much! :-)
      Can’t wait for the get together!

      Reply
  • 21. KristieJ  |  June 17, 2009 at 4:26 am

    LOL You simply must head back the the UBS then and pick up Ride the Fire. I just reread it for the umpteenth time for my June Reread challenge and adored it just as much as the first time I read it :)

    Reply
  • [...] Top 5 . . . urban fantasy series Posted on June 26, 2009 by Renee So, last week I did my Top 6 favorite historical romances. This week, I’m focusing on urban fantasy. I decided to choose my favorite series, since, for [...]

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  • [...] the Outlander movieJuly 2009 New ReleasesFantasy Casting: the menMy Top 5 . . . paranormal romancesMy Top 5 (umm, 6) . . . historical romancesUpcoming ReleasesNew info on An Echo in the Bone by Diana GabaldonRead in 2009My Top 5 . . . urban [...]

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