1.Sweet, Savage Eden by Heather Graham—To the best of my recollection, this is the very first historical romance I ever read. So let’s start out rocking it old school with this sweeping saga that starts in 17th century England and moves to the New World. A friend of mine had this book, and I was intrigued, shall we say. Up to this point, my attitude toward romance novels wasn’t particularly favorable. Books like this one helped change my mind. Yep, even with the reputation 80’s romances have. This book changed my reading life.
2. Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey—As long as we’re in the 1980s, I can’t help but give a shout-out to one of the queens of the old-school historicals. I believe the story of ship captain James Mallory and “George” the young lady who stows away disguised as a cabin boy was the first of her books I read. It wasn’t the last by any means. I don’t miss everything about older romances, but I do miss their epic sweep.
3. The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne—After I’d glommed all the historicals at my local library (and after a few unfortunate selections at the bookstore), I took a break for a while. I had children by then, and other genres consumed my reading life. When I was ready to pick up historical romance again, I went for this one, based on a glowing online review. I definitely didn’t regret it. Sweep, plot, intrigue, spies, the French Revolution, gorgeous writing—this book has it all.
4. The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas—When I came back to romance, I had to check out some of the ones I missed. Lisa Kleypas writes some delicious heroes, and, as to my favorite, it’s a very close call for me between Sebastian St. Vincent and Derek Craven. Sebastian, with his snarky sense of humor just edges Derek out.
5. Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas—This is the first Sherry Thomas book I picked up, again, based on a glowing online review. I did not regret it. Gorgeous, gorgeous writing gets me every time, and Sherry always delivers that. Beyond that, I love this book for its imperfect characters, difficult heroine, and non-English setting.
6. Unlocked by Courtney Milan—This is a novella, but it’s also the first work of Courtney’s I ever read, again, based on a review. Clearly, reviews influence my purchases. J The heroine of this story was the victim of ridicule since her childhood, and the hero is one of her principle tormentors. A story that will resonate with anyone who has experienced schoolyard bullying with lovely writing, and deep, deep characters.
7. Marrying the Captain by Carla Kelly—Yet another review introduced me to Carla Kelly’s Regencies. Her books stand out for their genteel and essentially good characters. I read Carla Kelly when I want to have my faith in humanity restored.
8. Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare—Tessa’s books are an auto-buy for me. I loved the premise based on unrequited love, in which the heroine sets out to catch one man and ends up with another. When I read the book, I loved the writing, the characters, the humor, and the steam.
9. Sinful Surrender by Beverley Kendall—These last two titles go together, as they’re a direct inspiration to my debut novel A Most Scandalous Proposal. At the beginning of Kendall’s debut, the heroine suffers from unrequited love for the hero and confides a lot of her angst to her younger sister. The situation got me wondering about how the sister’s view on love and romance might be colored by listening to the heartache. And thus was born Julia St. Claire and her older sister Sophia.
10. Lessons from a Scarlet Lady by Emma Wildes—I read this book about the same time I read Kendall’s. It stands out, because it features a secondary romance that is almost as prominent as the primary romance plot. Seeing this book in print made me consider the possibilities of telling both St. Claire sisters’ stories in the same novel.
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