Tuesday, February 14, 2012

14 Days of Romance: Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! We’ve come to the end of our 14 Days of Romance celebration and I wanted to do something special…. Two years ago on Valentine’s Day, I listed my top ten favorite romance novels of all time. Since much has changed in two years, I thought I would put together a comprehensive list of my current romance faves by author….  

Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart – This romance is in equal parts historical, western, and inspirational. I’ve always had a soft spot for a hero/heroine with some sort of physical handicap. In Homespun Bride, the heroine is blind. I love this book because it’s really one-of-a-kind. It tugs on the heartstrings and unfolds in a touching conclusion….
Montana Territory in 1883 was a dangerous place-especially for a blind woman struggling to make her way through an early winter snowstorm. Undaunted, Noelle Kramer fought to remain independent. But then a runaway horse nearly plunged her into a rushing, ice-choked river, before a stranger's strong, sure hand saved her from certain death. And yet this was no stranger.

Though she could not know it, her rescuer was rancher Thad McKaslin, the man who had once loved her more than life itself. Losing her had shaken all his most deeply held beliefs. Now he wondered if the return of this strong woman was a sign that somehow he could find his way home.

The Enchantment by Betina Krahn – This is the one historical romance I’ve re-read at least a dozen times. Swashbuckling Vikings, a kick-ass heroine, and one of the most lovable heroes I've ever read. I love Jorund because he defies classic hero classifications like alpha or beta. Perhaps that’s why his character leaps off the page no matter how many times I’ve read his story….
A Woman’s Heart: Strong, stunning, and breathtakingly fierce…Aaren Serricksdotter is the eldest daughter of a Viking sword stealer and a beautiful Valkyr. But for the power of a long-ago enchantment, none shall know the true secrets of her heart–perhaps, not even herself.

A Man Beguiled: Heir to the Norse high-seat, Jorund Borgerson is torn between the ferocious legacy of his clan–and his secret vow to bring peace to his people. Until he meets a distant clansman’s daughter, a ravishing warrior who rouses Jorund like no other.
Bound together by a force as mysterious as it is powerful, Jorund and Aaren must discover the secret of their remarkable union. For in this time of violence and chaos, two great warriors must prepare for a final battle–a journey beyond the bloodshed...to a true enchantment that is the birthright of every man and woman who has ever loved.

Knight of Desire by Margaret Mallory – Speaking of great historicals…I bought the first book in Mallory’s All the Kings Men series on a whim, mostly because the blurb grabbed me. I was not disappointed in the least. This series is filled with rich history. The hero and heroine spend the majority of the book as a married couple. But my favorite thing about Knight of Desire was the growth of the characters’ marriage over time and their struggle to trust one another completely. Their emotional journey is perfectly written….
Fearless in Battle: His surcoat still bloody from battle, William FitzAlan comes to claim the strategic borderlands granted to him by the king. One last prize awaits him at the castle gates: the lovely Lady Catherine Rayburn.

Tender in Bed: Catherine risked everything to spy for the crown. Her reward? Her lands are declared forfeit and she is given this choice: marry FitzAlan or be taken to the Tower. Catherine agrees to give her handsome new husband her body, but she's keeping secrets, and dare not give him her heart. As passion ignites and danger closes in, Catherine and William must learn to trust in each other to save their marriage, their land, and their very lives.

The Devil Wears Plaid by Teresa Medeiros – I haven’t read many Scottish historicals and when I finished reading this one at the end of last year, I really questioned why. I had a devilishly good time reading my first Teresa Medeiros romance and can’t wait for the next….

Emmaline Marlowe is about to wed the extremely powerful laird of the Hepburn clan to save her father from debtor’s prison when ruffian Jamie Sinclair bursts into the abbey on a magnificent black horse and abducts her in one strong swoop. Though he is Hepburn’s sworn enemy, Emma’s mysterious captor is everything her bridegroom is not—handsome, virile, dangerous . . . and a perilous temptation for her yearning heart.

Jamie expects Emma to be some milksop English miss, not a fiery, defiant beauty whose irresistible charms will tempt him at every turn. But he cannot allow either one of them to forget he is her enemy and she his pawn in the deadly Highland feud between the clans. So why does he still want her so badly for himself? Stealing his enemy’s bride was simple, but can he claim her innocence without losing his heart?

The In Death Series by J.D. Robb – I really can’t seem to choose a favorite. Every time I read one of these futuristic romances between Eve Dallas and Roarke, I fall in love with the characters, setting, and the unique rhythm of the prose all over again. If I had to make the painful choice between them all, an exemplary example is Creation in Death, still the best romantic suspense novel I’ve read in a really long time….
NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas keeps the streets of a near-future New York City safe in this extraordinary series. But even she makes mistakes, and is haunted by those she couldn't save-and the killers she couldn't capture. When the body of a young brunette is found in East River Park, artfully positioned and marked by signs of prolonged and painful torture, Eve is catapulted back to a case nine years earlier. The city was on edge from a killing spree that took the lives of four women in fifteen days, courtesy of a man the media tagged "The Groom"—because he put silver rings on the fingers of his victims.

When it turns out that the young brunette was employed by Eve's billionaire husband, Roarke, she brings him in on the case— move that proves fitting when it becomes chillingly clear that the killer has made his attack personal. The victim was washed in products from a store Roarke owns, and laid out on a sheet his company manufactures. With the Groom's monstrous return, Eve is determined to finish him once and for all. Familiar with his methods, Eve knows that he has already grabbed his next victim. Time is running out on another woman's life. And chances are he's working up to the biggest challenge of his illustrious career-abducting a woman who will test his skills and who promises to give him days and days of pleasure before she dies: Eve.

Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts – I discovered romance through the eyes of Nora Roberts so it’s only fitting she makes the list twice (well, thrice if you count her J.D. Robb alias). Honest Illusions is my favorite Nora Roberts novel because it does what so few other romances dare to do – it follows the protagonists from childhood to adulthood in such color and detail, it’s hard to put away even for a few hours….
The daughter of a world-renowned magician, Roxy Nouvelle has inherited her father's talents-and his penchant for jewel thievery. Into this colorful world comes Luke Callahan, an escape artist who captures her heart-and keeps secrets that could shatter all her illusions...

The daughter of a world-renowned magician, Roxy has inherited her father's talents--and his penchant for jewel thievery. Escape artist Luke Callahan comes into Roxy's world and captures her heart, but he keeps secrets that could send her house of cards tumbling.

Public Secrets by Nora Roberts – This romantic suspense follows the life of its heroine through the world of her father, that of rock and roll. A lot can be said for Nora’s heroes, but in this case it’s the heroine who brings this one home for me...and makes me want to listen to every Beatles and Rolling Stones record I can get my hands on….
Emma. Beautiful, intelligent, and radiantly talented, she lives in a star-studded world of wealth and privilege. But she is about to discover that fame is no protection at all when someone wants you dead. All Emma has to do is close her eyes and she remembers the day Brian McAvoy swept into her life. A frightened toddler, she didn’t know then that she was his illegitimate daughter or that he was pop music’s rising new star. All she knew was that with Brian, his band mates, and his new wife, she felt safe. And when her baby brother arrived, Emma thought she was the luckiest girl in the world—until the night a botched kidnapping attempt shattered all their lives . . . and destroyed Emma’s happiness.

Yet now, even though Emma is still haunted by flashes of memory from that fateful night, she has survived. She’s carved out a thrilling career and even dared to fall rapturously in love. But the man who will become her husband isn’t all that he seems. And Emma is about to awaken to the chilling knowledge that the darkest secret of all is the one buried in her mind—a secret that someone may kill to keep. Emma grew up a frightened, lonely child, the illegitimate result of a pop music star's secret union. When her famous father rescues her and leads her into a star-studded world of wealth and privilege, Emma realizes that she carries a frightening secret--one that someone might kill to have kept private.

Hard to Hold by Stephanie Tyler – Romantic suspense was my first great love so I was thrilled when this one landed on my doorstep along with the other two novels in Tyler’s SEALs trilogy. With this book, she set a fine standard for all the rest to follow. Still, of all the books I’ve read from her backlist, this one refuses to let me go….
The Special Ops hero featured nothing—until he met a woman too hot to hold…. Lieutenant Jake Hansen has survived some of the riskiest missions known to man. But now the wounded Navy SEAL faces his toughest job yet: smuggling Dr. Isabelle Markham out of Africa without triggering an international incident. Not easy to do when the gorgeous hostage happens to be a senator’s daughter—and about as easy to resist as an oasis in the desert.

If it weren’t for Jake, Isabelle would still be halfway across the world, where rebel forces left her for dead. The special ops warrior may have saved her life, but she doesn’t need him to protect her now. Tell that to the ruggedly handsome hunk in full battle fatigues who’s just been assigned as Isabelle’s personal bodyguard. Close quarters aside, Isabelle won’t let Jake anywhere near her heart—until danger throws them together again. And nothing in the jungles of wildest Africa could prepare them for a passion this wild. This crazy. This hot…

Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward – If you’ve been to The Cozy Page before, you’ve heard me brag nonstop about how much I love J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood paranormals. For me, there are two standout books in the romance series. The first is the story of anti-hero, Zsadist. I loved this book because Z was the least likely of his Brothers to fall in love…and when he does, he falls hard. The healing theme and Z and Bella’s journey are both beautiful and unforgettable….
Even within the vampire brotherhood, Zsadist is feared. Still bearing the scars from a tortured past, he is renowned for his unquenchable fury. Anger is his only companion, and terror is his only passion-until he rescues a beautiful female from the evil Lessening Society.

Lover Mine by J.R. Ward – Back to my love affair with handicapped heroes/heroines….this one involves a mute protagonist, John Matthew. I waited for J.M.’s book for what felt like forever and it lived up to all the anticipation and then some. A standout paranormal romance….

Darius, a fallen Brother, has returned to the fold with a new identity and a very different destiny. Now, John Matthew, plunged into the heart of war, must face off against evil incarnate-and rescue his one true love.

Wicked Little Game by Christine Wells – I came by this Regency by chance one day in the bookstore where I worked. I’m so glad I did! Regencies have a hard time standing out from one another, but this one stood out to me. The risk Wells took while crafting the situation between the hero and heroine was well worth it. I recommend this story of forbidden love for its originality alone…

The Marquis of Vane hungers for Lady Sarah from afar as she braves a disastrous marriage. That is until Sarah’s husband makes him an indecent offer: one night with Sarah for ten thousand pounds. Passions explode and lead to a deadly twist of fate that could spell a lifetime of regret—or love.

Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss – Ah, saved the best for last! Woodiwiss is classic romance exemplified. I had the pleasure of reading Ashes in the Wind at the recommendation of my sister-in-law. The best Civil War love story since Gone with the Wind itself – and that’s no exaggeration….
A woman burdened by war...A doctor torn between passion and duty... Alaina MacGaren is forced to flee the devastation of her homeland in the guise of a young boy, only to find sanctuary in the arms of an enemy. Cole Latimer is a dashing Yankee surgeon who has served the Union faithfully, and his tender heart compels him to help a ragged, innocent "lad" in need—never suspecting the rags conceal a bewitching belle suspected of being a rebel spy.
But Alaina's masquerade does not fool Cole for long. And the strength, courage, and breathtaking sensuality of this woman whom it would be treasonous to love sets duty and desire at war within him. Yet Destiny has joined them for good or ill—and they both must follow where their hearts would lead them, if they are to build a glorious new life together out of the ashes of the old.

This marks the end of my list of all-time favorite romance novels! Now it’s time for you to tell me all about yours, Cozies! Do we share some favorites? And since I seem to stick mostly to romantic suspense and historical romance, I’d love to hear your contemporary romance recommendations or any favorites from other sub-genres!
Here’s wishing everyone a very happy Valentine’s Day! Don’t forget to spread the love, peace, and joy today more than any other to loved ones and friends….
***For a free Valentine's-Day-themed read, visit the EXTRAS page of my website and scroll down to the Bonus Materials section where cowboy Casey and his heroine Josie are cooking up some flirty fun!!!

1 comment:

Lilly Gayle said...

Some great books and authors on the list, most I haven't read yet. But I could no more pick a favorite book/author than I could pick a favorite child. I guess I just need to keep reading and add to my every growing list.