Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Let's Talk Books

Coming up with a spew of historical favourites took less than a minute. Whittling that list down to my top ten took a whole lot longer. Shuffling the order could have taken me days if I hadn't finally called it a night and gone with what I had. I tried to be really strict about the order, as in, if the apocalypse was going to strike tomorrow and I'd be stuck in some bunker (or, let's say, a tropical island) for the next year, and I was only allowed to take one, yes one, book with me...

My all time, top of the list, favourite would have to be

I actually came to this book late in my reading life, long after I'd fallen in love with historical romance, but it stuck hard and fast. I love alpha heroes, especially ones who have so far to fall when they're finally ready to admit they're head over heels in love and cannot live with their lady.
But most of all, what stuck with me most in this story is the development of Whitney, how we're right there with her as she grows from a spoilt brat to a hoyden and all the way through to a lovely, mature woman.
I could read this book once a week and cry each time.

Now, let's say I'm allowed to take one more book because, you know, a year's quite a long time...

Sensing a theme here? A 'don't give a damn' hero and a young girl with a lot of growing up to do.
The romanticist in me always wants to give these two their happy ending and, I don't know, maybe there's a black spot on my brain that really thinks if I just read it one more time, the ending will change and everything will be sunshine and roses.
On the other hand, this book just would be the same without that famous... all together now... "Frankly, dear, I don't give a damn."

And then the powers that be make me an offer I can't refuse. Toss out the medical kit, they say, and you can take one more book...

Now I do realise this is cheating a bit as that's not the real book cover, but pass up a Colin Firth opportunity? Really? No, I didn't think so.
You know how in school you're expected to pull every line apart, imagine snakes hissing and hear the horse trotting just from the word pattern? Understand the character's entire personality from a few well placed barbs? Well, I never used to get that. I'd nod along with the rest of class and stare blankly at plain english words that told me nothing more than the Oxford Dictionary said they should. Until Pride and Prejudice. Suddenly the underwoven play on sentences and words came alive and finally, finally, I knew what the hell my teacher was talking about. I discovered a whole new art with this novel, not to mention Mr Darcy may have been the first man I fell in love with.

Right, so time's a ticking, you know, with the apocalypse looming first thing in the morning and everything, guess I'd better just get on with the rest of the list nice and quick.

4) The Bride by Julie Garwood... possibly the first Scottish medieval romance I fell in love with. All those years ago, these highland laddies just knocked me off my feet. And because the official blurb just says it so well...
     By edict of the king, the mighty Scottish laird Alec Kincaid must take an English bride. His choice was Jamie, youngest daughter of Baron Jamison...a feisty, violet-eyed beauty. Alec ached to touch her, to tame her, to possess her...forever. But Jamie vowed never to surrender to this highland barbarian....

(5) The Steel Bonnets by George MacDonald Fraser... This is not really a romance. Okay, so it's not even a novel. But it is my number one research book for medieval Scotland and for extending the leash on my muse. Just when I think I've put my hero into a situation that is so bizarre I'm afraid it will snap the suspension of my reader's belief, I'll find a real documented case of some wayward Sottish laird who did just that. When it comes to medieval Scottish history, the facts are just as, if not more, entertaining that fiction.

6) Desperate Duchesses by Eloise James...I had to show this gorgeous cover, the reason I picked up the book in the first place Isn't it pretty? Arranged marriages are one of my favourite tropes, but for every one that worked out fine, in reality there must have been dozens where the husband and wife merely endured each other.
What I love is that this is the story of the arranged marriage that did not work out. At least not at first :)

(7) Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas... Also an estranged husband and wife story, but with a difference. This started out as a love marriage, then turned sour. Now, ten years, hubby wants an heir and these two finally get to sort things out. A beautiful story.

(8) Tempted by Virginia Henley... Ram Douglas is an alpha hero to die for and the heroine is such an outrageous hoyden, you just have to curl up and lose yourseld in this world. One of the things I love most about Henley is her vivid writing that makes you feel as if you're really experiencing that world.

(9) Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught... This one has it all. The rugged hero, The Duke of Claymore. The virgin kidnapped straight from the convent. Family feud. The king's decree that the hero and heroine marry. The hero's refusal to do anything of the kind. And a fabulous ending!!

(10) Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning... Last, but not least by a long mile. In fact, the only reason this one sits at number 10 is that there's time travel and also, I'd have to cheat here and just include her entire Highland series in this spot. Just because.

There are so, so many more favourite historicals that I'd happily be stuck with for a year. What are your favourites?


Judy Croome said...

Oh my gosh. I can't even begin to make a top ten list of favourite historicals. Georgette Heyer and Mary Balogh would be on there, but so many brilliant historical romance authros to choose from I just can't bring myself to choose!
Judy, South Africa

Wendy Soliman said...

I'm so with you on Judith McNaught. My only criticism is a heroine in Regency times with an American name like Whitney? Hum. And I absolutely adore everything that Eloise James does.

Claire Robyns said...

Yes! Mary Balogh is also one of my all time favourites. This is what happens when you have to make a list of only 10, you miss out on the many more books that hold a special place in my heart.

Wendy, I know names are a big issue with many readers. For myself, I'm not too fussed. Today, some parents give their children really whacky names, so I just assume the random oddball all those years ago would do the same :)

Georgie Lee said...

Gone with the Wind! Yes!

Taryn Kincaid said...

I used to love McNaught soooo much. (We are totally dating ourselves!)

Royce Westmoreland, Earl of Claymore. Swoon.

And those declaration speeches before legions of followers.

Times have totally changed, though, I think. I will accept much less bluster and swatting around from a hero these days, though I still love the alpha boys best. Not sure if many readers would accept a Royce Westmoreland these days...on the other hand, many people seem to be reading and writing BDSM with all-controlling doms who seem to inflict more pain than the traditional heroes back in the day ever I'm probably wrong about that.
I just couldn't write one anymore.

My other old favorites from way back when : Jude Devereaux, the early Catherine Coulter, the early Amanda Quick, and maybe my all-time favorite...Laura Kinsale. (Curses, I know I'm leaving tons off this list!)
(I do not consider Gone with the Wind to be a romance. Loved it. But do not consider it a romance!)

Misha said...

Hmm.... I'm thrilled to say I've only read P&P. Thrilled, because now I have lots of books to add to my TBR list.