Tuesday, December 14, 2010

RRA: Meeting 1

After the rousing success of my Romance Readers Anonymous post two weeks ago, I thought I'd do a series of occasional postings on what I'm reading and what you all suggested. For those who are not inclined to stay up until wee, bloodshot hours of the morning to find out how Lady Whoever is going to overcome X obstacle to marry the Earl of Blackacre, probably having really good sex either immediately before or after she becomes the Countess of Blackacre and then lives happily ever after with her husband who constantly tells her how much he loves her, well, you can skip the "RRA" posts. (Though you really shouldn't because most of the books, or at least most of the books that I like, go far beyond that basic plot line and are fun and witty and a fabulous way to spend an hour or two in the evening.)

After my last post, I made a list of authors you recommended who I hadn't read before.  Some are romance, some aren't, and I haven't had a chance to look up many of them, so I may have a few misspellings:
  • Georgette Heyer
  • Christopher Paolini (I've read his Eldest series, they're good, though not romance, and I don't think I've read the more recent ones)
  • Jean Auel - Clan of the Cave Bear (I read these many years ago, also good, I need to revisit)
  • Sophie Kinsella
  • Sarah Maclean
  • Marole Nelson Dougles
  • Erin McCartney
  • Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • Rachel Gibson
  • Sabrina Jeffries
  • Olivia Parker
  • C.S. Harris
  • Nora Roberts (LOVE her Magic Circle series, I've read each book at least 6 times; her Sign of 7 series has also been recommended to me; I'm not big on her more current mystery type books- I read one about a serial killer stalking small children and had nightmares for weeks)
  • Sally MacKenzies
  • Jessica Verday
  • Adriana Trigiani
  • Eloisa James
  • Lisa Kleypas
  • Mary Balogh
  • Edith Layton
  • Mary Stewart
  • Judith McNaught
  • Julie Garwood (I love Ransom and the Secret, but haven't read many others)
  • Linda Howard
  • Karen Marie Morning (Fever and Highlander Series)
  • Gawen Gristow
  • Susan Higgnebotham
  • Liz Carlyle
  • Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Sandra Brown
  • Jude Devereaux (I've read several of hers and have enjoyed them)
  • Anita Shreve
  • Stephanie Laurens
  • Suzanne Brockmann
  • Theresa Madeiros
  • Johanna Lindsay
  • Lauren Willis
Some of your recommendations that I have read, including a few extra of my own:
  • Philippa Gregory: loved The Other Boleyn Girl and The Constant Princess; her Wideacre series seriously turned me off from her
  • Percy Jackson series: awesome YA fun, like a mythology version of Harry Potter, though not quite as good (that's not an insult though, nothing is)
  • Twilight series: Ugh.  I can't figure out how I feel about these books.  The writing is terrible, Bella is the worst female heroine who ever served as the center of a series and the inexplicable focus of all male attention, and if Stephenie Meyer used the words "beautiful" "frozen" or "marble" to describe Edward one more time I was going to punch my book (also Edward is controlling and condescending and I hate it) -- and YET, I've read each book in that series 4 times.  I love the idea and hate the execution every time, but I'm not giving away the books because I know I'll read them again. 
  • Outlander/Diana Gabaldon books: go read them.  Also, read the Lord John books, or at least lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade because it adds a lot of backstory that is relevant to the most recent Outlander novel.
  • Sara Donati: her Wilderness series is awesome (starting with Into the Wilderness).  I found her because Diana Gabaldon recommended her on her website and the books did not disappoint.
  • True Blood: super fun series. I liked the books better than the HBO series, but I almost always do
  • Linda Lael Miller: this is purely for Cee, my cowboy romance afficionado- have you read these?  I picked up "Garrett" in a Walgreens when I was desperate for a book on vacation and had lots of fun reading it.  The fictional McKettrick ranch would be less than an hour from my house and reading about it makes me think of an entirely different life I could be leading.  Kind of like The Pioneer Woman, but with less homemade cooking.
  • Elizabeth Hoyt: picked up one of her Legend of the Four Soldiers series (To Seduce a Sinner, which is actually #2) at an airport during a long layover in October and really liked it.  I finished the series over that weekend and it kicked off my most recent spat of romance reading.
  • Julia Quinn Bridgerton series: solidly fun regency romance. Anthony's and Francesca's stories were my favorite, but I've read them all 2-3 times since I discovered the series in November (except Gregory and Hyacinth's stories, I haven't bought those yet and haven't felt a need for them).
  • Sharon Kay Penman: her Wales series is probably one of the best historical fiction series I've ever read.  Start with Here Be Dragons and keep going (I even linked it for you and I didn't do that with any others).  Someone asked me in the comments what book I'd recommend to someone who hadn't read romance before, and if you like historical fiction at all, I'd say this one.  A friend of mine who does not like romance but loves historical nonfiction said she LOVED this book and was surprised to see how much she cared about the romantic part of the story.  If you're a pure romance fan, I'll warn you that Penman is heavy on the history, but she does a fabulous job with it and her research helps tell the story rather than getting in the way of it.
Also, to the people who recommended Pixel of Ink facebook page and website, THANK YOU.  I'm also looking forward to checking out the paperback swap website, but I do love my kindle and I do re-read books a LOT, so I love having my own copy.  Thanks to Pixel of Ink I found Kathryne Kennedy- her Fire Lord's Lover and Enchanting the Lady were both free.  They're paranormal/magic romance, which is not my usual genre, but I loved both books and immediately got the next two in the Relics of Merlin series.  I read all four books in four days, so they're fast reads (they're set in Victorian England and the premise is that titles are given based on magical ability, not birth/wealth; other than the date and relatively accurate descriptions of London, they have zero anchor in history, they're pure fun).  JP gets super annoyed at how quickly I read books.  He's been working on some non-fiction tome for months, but I always tell him that if he read something with witty dialogue, dramatic fake situations, and great sex, instead of a book about a dead person where you already know the ending, he'd read faster too.  He is not convinced, but I think he's just being stubborn.

Future posts won't be this long, I'll just sum up a few you recommended, with my own comments if I've read them since the previous post, and add any other good books I've read in the meantime.  I'm not sure if it's a support group meeting or more like a convention where we revel in the fact that we like books with ridiculous titles, but I'm leaning more towards the latter.  I loved this article from the New York Times and one commentor's statement that readers of romance tend to have more romantic marriages.  I have nothing to back that up, but I'm repeating it anyway because I like it and I'm pretty sure JP can always tell what kind of book I'm reading (and only in part because I suddenly want him to tell me he loves me way more often). 

So thanks again for your previous comments, my Amazon wish list is now super long and I'm really hoping Santa is planning to put an kindle e-book gift card in my stocking.  Happy reading everyone!


  1. Okay, I had to just quick say that as someone who used to study medieval history for a living, Sharon Kay Penman is AWESOME. Her history is really, really good (not that bad history has to get in the way of a good romance story, but if you're someone who worries about whether historical novels are accurate? she really really knows her stuff). The funny thing is that I could never read medieval historical novels before because it was too much like work, but I think I will have to go back and read some Penman this break because it's not work for me anymore!

    I also adore Georgette Heyer!

  2. Love this thread LL. I just finished that Higganbotham book I mentioned (Stolen Crown). It was great. I think you'll enjoy it. It's the same era as Phillipa Gregory's The White Queen but much better. Currently I'm reading some trashy romance freebies on my Kindle. I'm enjoying the brain candy! Have you ever read anything by Elizabeth Chadwick (the British one)? Her books are very enjoyable too.

  3. Thanks so much for this post! As soon as finals are over, I know what I'll be reading. I've had the Nora Roberts Magic Circle books for a long time, but never had the motivation to read them. I'll have to read those next, since you gave them such a strong recommendation.

    I feel exactly the same way about Twilight. I kind of hate them, but I've still read them each three times. I don't know what it is about those books!

    After I get past my antitrust and nonprofit corporations finals, I'll let you know if I have any recommendations for you. Though, it seems like you've got enough to keep you busy for at least a little while.

  4. Hey LL -- longtime reader here, who incidentally found you when I googled "should you have a baby in law school?". I'm now in my 3rd year and still babyless, but I think it was the best decision for us (and had way more to do with the economy than your posts!).

    Aaaaaaaanyway. So, I'm curious about your obsession with romance novels. I totally get the need for escapism and easy reads, and also am prone to staying up way past my bedtime reading. However, I think I made a conscious decision to stay away from romancey-type novels. In your post, you kind of alluded to it, but I find these books tend to make me question my own relationship, and not in a good way. I look at my husband, and wonder why he is not constantly caressing my face, looking tenderly into my eyes, doing heroic deeds to save my honor. And although this study focused on RomCom movies and not romance novels, it seems like I'm not alone. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/7784366.stm

    It's totally silly, I know, and maybe I have a predisposition to compare my own life to books/movies/other people, but I'm just curious to hear whether you find that these books fuel your own romance or just keep you from focusing what little energy you have after work and kids on your relationship.

  5. Hmm, I don't think they really do either for me, they're just my entertainment. I don't watch much TV- in fact, our TV is rarely on in the evenings until The Daily Show at 10, so we usually just hang out together on the couch, talking and reading after the kids are in bed (I don't read when they're awake). And I read very quickly, so it's not the time suck that it probably appears (and decidedly not an obsession, probably 30% of what I read could actually be called romance; I just go on kicks and when I find an author I like I read most of what they've written, which lately has been Julia Quinn and Kathryne Kennedy. My favorite books are more like Diana Gabaldon, Sara Donati, and Sharon Kay Penman where the story itself is just fantastic and there's romance in it because what's a story without some sort of character relationships?).

    So anyway, I don't find it to be a problem. I do often think about how JP and I would have way more time to tell each other how much we adore the other if we had a house of maids, governesses, a cook, and no jobs (like the regency romance characters; it seems lovely, but since it's completely impossible in my real, modern life, the comparison doesn't make me feel dissatisfied). If anything, and without horrifying a few family members who read this blog (hi Dad), all romance reading tends to do to my relationship is make me think about sex way more often, which usually leads to doing, which usually leads to a husband who doesn't mock my choice of reading material quite so much ;)

  6. I found this link through my friend's blog, and I wish I had more time to request these through my library before leaving for Christmas! I scrolled through some of the comments on your last RRA post, but didn't see Marion Chesney listed. I love her regency romances. She's also fairly prolific, which I always enjoy in my favorite authors. Now I think I'll head over to my library's website...

  7. Oh, and I see what you meant when you said I referred to it above (re: making JP telling me he loves me more). I was really just kidding in the post. One of my favorite things about JP is that he's very vocal in how he feels about me or mentioning if I look really pretty in a random outfit or setting, etc., so for me, it's just teasing. I could see if I really did wish he said those things more, that the comparison would be harder or trend me towards a feeling that things should be different. But I don't feel that way, so that excerpt refers more to me reading him particularly cringe-worthy excerpts from whatever book I'm reading so he can hear how a duke should be speaking to his duchess (which is me, of course, I always identify most with the duchesses). He finds them funny, and (maybe) occasionally, secretly instructive. But if he ever actually told me every 30 minutes that I am the sun in his universe and he has no will to live without me, I'd probably start thinking he needed another hobby...

    I'd say the escapeism is key for me. I want a purely happy ending with the bad guys punished and the good guys living happily ever after. I get terrible nightmares (I always have) and I like disengaging from reality for an hour or two before bed. Even historical fiction, which is probably my truly favorite genre, is sometimes too real and sad for what I want before bed (the last chapter of the last book in Penman's Welsh series haunted me for months, oh my god it is so sad, but go read the books anyway because they're amazing). And modern fiction is also too frequently tinged with sad and/or too relevant to my daily life. But a story about a viscount and viscountess, in an era totally unrelated to my daily life, with obstacles that can be completely resolved by the end of the book? Perfect.

  8. Yay!! Another RRA post! Your list of authors is exactly the best of the best out there and I SO WISH you still lived in Chicago so I could sneak all my copies to you.

    The Bridgertons: Hyacinth's story is better than Gregory's. It was strange reading about Gregory as an adult. Also - Julia Quinn has many ebook "second epilogues" she wrote for each Bridgerton. It is SUPER FUN going back and reading MORE about each character. Check out her website for more info on those.

    Jude Deveraux: A Knight in Shining Armour is an outstandingly fun time-travel book! It's no Outlander, but it is a good one.

    Your last RRA post gave me the urge to dig out all my Judith McNaughts!! Now I'll be busy for weeks rereading some of my favorite stories of all time (books I have already read so many times I can turn right to a scene I want - which is why I LOVE romance novels. I feel no pull to reread any other type of book....)
    Any way - Judith McNaught - put her at the top of your list because she truly is a standard for all romance readers. Then, go get yourself Whitney My Love, Something Wonderful, and Almost Heaven!! (my third fave book of all time behind Outlander and Gone With the Wind - which is really saying something - it is just soooo good!)

    I really do wish we could just loan you all our books. :) :) Happy reading! and keep the RRA posts coming.

  9. I got a BIG smile on my face when I saw the title of this post! I really enjoyed your last RRA post and have been back several times checking out the authors suggested by others.

    I'm with you on the nightmare thing. My imagination is WAY to vivid and just reading the synopsis of some of today's novels makes me uncomfortable. I don't wanted to be shocked - the real world is shocking enough.

    I want movies and books to provide pure entertainment and escape. I like a happy ending better than an ending that rips my heart out (although movie-wise, I LOVE Dark Victory and it makes me choke back sobs - it even got my teenage daughter - she says she needs to watch more Bette Davis now).

    For a while I didn't even let my husband see what I was reading. He doesn't care though and likes to tease me about how Lord Percy (or whatever crazy name pops into his head) is doing. Our marriage isn't romantic in a grand way, but I think romance books make me appreciate my husband's attempts at flowery talk and small gestures - he's a modern guy and a real guy after all.

    I just thought of two other books I REALLY liked. Austenland by Shannon Hale and Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding.

    THANK YOU! FINALLY a book club I can enjoy! :)

  10. I was thinking of this post on my commute home. Since I got my Kindle, I have been way more into romance novels. Most of my reading happens on the Metro, so I am very selective about what I read when others can see the covers/titles. The Kindle has been liberating because I can read total trash in public. Today, I was reading on the Metro and I ran into someone I knew and she asked what I was reading. I was like, oh nothing special. Then I said I got the New York Times on my Kindle. So glad that the person couldn't see that it was actually a harlequin blaze novel. It reminded me of your story about not wanting to confess that you were reading the Viscount Who Loves Me.

    As for the discussion going on in the comments, I think my relationship is better when I read romance novels. My reading habits do tend towards books with more substance (but some romance in them), but steamy novels are great for my love life.

  11. Check out goodreads.com. I love it, you can post what you're reading, see what your friends are reading and what they thought of it, and find others who like the same things you do.

    I have downloaded a new book tonight on your recommendation, so thank you!

  12. I'm going to have to give some of these books a try! I Love Linda Lael Miller- however, I did not like Garrett much... Logan was much better :) Her other series- the ones set back at the turn of the century are some of my favorites- when the McKettricks were just starting out. My very favorite romance novel which isn't even that much of a romance is Lonesome Dove.

    Thanks for putting this list together- I look forward to crossing some off my own list!

  13. Check out this list of the top 100 romance novels -- can give a lot of good ideas...


  14. Amanda in Austin12/15/10, 3:05 PM

    Haha, thank you so much for this. I am so needing some good 'crap' to read! I didn't see this mentioned, but The Mists of Avalon totally sucked me in. It is a fantasy/romance/Camelot kind of tale and it has a zillionty pages.

  15. per the top 100 list posted above (which is a great list!) OMG - Lord of Scoundrels!! (#1 on the list) How did we forget to tell you about this one?!! LL - a MUST READ!

  16. I haven't had the pleasure yet (I tiptoe around the edges of the genre, usually after I've been burned out by a too-graphic thriller) but out of loyalty I have to mention my jr. high and hs bud, Susan Swift (a recovering lawyer who figured out she could have more fun and make more money by writing.) Her site is sue-swift dot com.

  17. I just realized that Amanda Quick / Jayne Ann Krentz isn't on your list! Oh, woman. If you like some of the Nora Roberts mystical books, I think you're going to like these. Books written under Quick are period novels, Krentz are contemporary. She has a psychic thread going through both lately, which has been fun. A good back library under the period novels, so that could keep you busy if you like her heroines.

    By the way, A has been trying to break me of my fluff reading habit ever since I came out of the closet while I was on bed rest. I appreciate that he bought me some really tasty literary reads for my birthday, but I doubt it'll kill my love for escapist books. Nothing like a good historical / fantasy / romance.