The Year of Reading Deliciously

I'm working on a 2010 wrap-up piece with my take on "the best" SFF reads in YA and otherwise that'll appear elsewhere later this month, but I wanted to do a different sort of list here. I read my usual assortment of lots of types of books this year, except I also added a lot more romance in the mix. I've been reading a smattering of urban fantasy the past few years (Ilona Andrews, Marjorie Liu, Rachel Caine, Devon Monk, Patricia Briggs, et. more), and many feature prominent romantic elements. But after writing a couple of PW pieces on romance, I really wanted to feel better versed in the core genre.

I started by finally reading Jennifer Crusie, and, boy, did that quickly become an obsession. I tracked down her entire backlist and read everything she'd written in about a month. Then I started shopping for readalikes and branching out a bit.

The thing about starting to read in any genre you aren't overly familiar with is that it can be very hard to figure out what to read. I was incredibly lucky in that regard, mainly because of go-to sources of awesome recommendations, in particular: Dear Author, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, The Book Smugglers, and Rose Fox on twitter and (sometimes) at Genreville. (And through fellow readers elsewhere; you know who you are.) I found it INSANELY handy to use the rating/grade reviews on several of these sites, browsing the highest ones for titles that appealed. I figured it would be worth posting a list of some of the best romances I read this year, because there might be readers of this blog who'd like to mix in more ro-to-the-mance, but don't know where to start.

An idiosyncratic sampling of some highlights (by no means comprehensive) behind the cut:

Jennifer Crusie: Just give up and read them all, okay? My own personal favorites are probably Faking It, Welcome to Temptation and Bet Me, but I love them all.

10-ways-to-be-adored-when-landing-a-lord Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake and Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord by Sarah MacLean: I bounced off all the Regencies I tried before Sarah's, but fell in love with Nine Rules. Superhot, decidedly feminist, and the sort of books that make you laugh out loud. And they served as my entry point to other wonderful historical romances.

"Here There Be Monsters" and The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. My biggest and best discovery of the year. Oh, how I love the insanely rich and thoughtfully-developed steampunk world of the Iron Seas series. From the first page of the introductory novella I was hooked, and immediately begged an advance copy of The Iron Duke and devoured it. I absolutely can't wait for the next installment. Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth is one of my favorite heroines of all time now; more kraken-slaying ladies, please.

Proof By Seduction and Trial by Desire by Courtney Milan. Both these books are smart, sexy, and have heroines and heroes to die for. I'd suggest pairing Trial by Desire with Sarah MacLean's Ten Ways, just for the fun of seeing some of the same issues of women and choice explored in wildly different, yet equally fabulous ways. Can't wait for Milan's next book.

The Psy-Changeling series and the Guild Hunter series by Nailini Singh: I find Singh's writing supremely addictive. The Psy-Changeling series in particular, which begins with Slave to Sensation, is epic in scope and so weird and wonderful it's hard to describe. It's a blend of science fiction, fantasy and romance that remixes a lot of familiar elements in a way wholly Singh's own. A little Philip K. Dick (think pre-cogs), a lot of shapeshifter, and a big continuing story. I read the bulk of these in the week C was away at Sycamore Hill.

What Happens in London and Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn. Books filled with in-jokes about books! Smart, funny, and delightful.NaturalBornCharmer_lg

Natural Born Charmer and Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. These were the two books described as similar to Crusie that I found most appealing, though I don't think they're actually all that similar to Crusie. They get extra points for quirky, non-traditional heroines. (I happened to be home sick and reading Natural Born Charmer when I got the call that I'd won the Veritas Award, by the by.)

The In Death series by J.D. Robb aka Nora Roberts. Okay, so technically these are mysteries, but they're certainly very romance cross-over since the long-term relationship of Eve Dallas and Roarke is a centerpiece of the books. And there are almost always other characters hooking up in them. I wish these books were a TV series and that's exactly how I read them–gobbled like a marathon of episodes. I love the contrast of the Jetsons future with the gritty police procedural, and just find them outstanding comfort reads. I think I'm up to the tenth. I keep bouncing off the Roberts romances I've tried, but feel free to recommend some because I feel I just haven't gotten to the right one(s) yet.

Last Night's Scandal by Loretta Chase. I have got to read more Loretta Chase. Another wonderful heroine, combined with a Scottish castle supposedly haunted by ghosts and possibly the site of buried treasure, and an Egyptian explorer. I suspect that Chase is an excellent candidate for romances guys would like. Lots of action and adventure, lots of hilarity.

Please feel free to recommend more stuff in the comments. (I'd especially love to read more great contemporaries.)

19 thoughts on “The Year of Reading Deliciously”

  1. I have Mr. Impossible in my stack! And ooh thanks for the other recs. I think Kelly Link has recced Laura Kinsale to me before, too, so I need to get on that.

  2. I’ve just ordered the first Courtney Milan novel! Thanks so much for this list. I agree 100% with all of the ones on there that I’ve read, I ditto Victoria on the Mr Impossible rec (that’s the book that first got me completely hooked on Loretta Chase and led to me buying ALL of her other ones!), and I think Miss Wonderful is even better (which is saying a LOT)! 🙂

  3. We overlap lots on this list, so I will have to look up the ones I haven’t read yet. I just started reading the J. D. Robb books recently, and while I like them a lot, there’s a certain…sloppiness to the language which IMO is more pronounced in her pure romances, and why I can’t read them.
    Loretta Chase I love. I read a lot of her old ones (when they and I were new), and they’re still fun fast reads. (The Sandalwood Princess and others around that time period.)
    Susan Elizabeth Phillips I by and large adore. I always read her books as soon as I can get my hands on them, and always enjoy them (I think Ain’t She Sweet and Kiss an Angel may be my favorites, but I’m partial to all of them that I’ve read (Even the civil war romance was unexpected, but still good)
    Since you like her, I’d also recommend Lynn Michaels who has a very losely linked series starting with “Return Engagement” felt very similar in a number of ways to “The Things I Do For Love” and at least one other I think had parallels (in good ways for both of them!)
    Also, Lisa Kleypas’s contemporary series (starting with was surprisingly good. I can’t remember why I was leery of it, but it was totally unfounded leeriness. I like her Regencies as well, but I think the comtemporaries may have even been better.
    The Sarah MacLean books were fine, but I find my memory of them is colored by my EXTREME ANNOYANCE with the titles. (The Rules to break one in particular, since the rules were not broken in the story, but rather made.)
    And damnit I was going to suggest something else, but i got distracted and forgot it. Oh well. You seem to be doing a good job on your own….

  4. I picked up Mr. Impossible when you recommended it awhile back, I think, but for some reason have not read yet. Will remedy IMMEDIATELY.
    I think you’ll love the Courtney Milan books. She’s so good.

  5. The copy editing is sometimes just awful on the Robb books. (I do not understand how something that sells this many copies can have HUGE easy to fix mistakes that sneak through.) But I totally get why they’re so popular. I love the characters in the same way I do TV series characters. And she can do very funny dialogue.
    Thank you for the recs!

  6. Aha! I remember. The Julia London contemporaries are also good. Perhaps not as good as her Regencies, but i still loff them.
    And Julia Quinn’s Regencies are wonderful.

  7. None to recommend off the top of my head but I have to thank you yet again for recommending THE IRON DUKE. That book is so fabulous I don’t know where to begin – and I’m so glad we got Liz to read it (and love it) as well. (And the novella is fab too.)
    Ooh – wait. I would recommend the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger to your readers as well. Funny, lovely banter-filled romance, and tons of paranormal dramarama. Fun, fun, fun! (And a most wonderful smart, tough heroine!)

  8. Ooh, ooh, ooh. You know what’s fun? Jennifer Estep’s Bigtime series. It’s like… comic books… plus romance, and I think it crosses over to YA pretty well.
    I’m now intrigued — kraken!?

  9. I love Loretta Chase so much. Mr Impossible, certainly, but my favourite thing by her is probably The Devil’s Delilah, which has a regency-era geek for its hero.
    Since you say you bounced off most Regency stuff I suspect you’ve already tried Julia Quinn. If you haven’t, do. Entirely fluffy, but smart and funny.

  10. Gwenda, I think you’d like Connie Brockway’s As You Desire. Not a regency historical, but set in Victorian Egypt. Desdemona is a linguistic genius whose parents paraded her around the world, and Harry Braxton… *swoon*
    Also for historicals, Joanna Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady and The Forbidden Rose.
    For contemporaries, I think Julie James is the obvious rec (particularly Practice Makes Perfect and Something About You). I was pleasantly surprised by Jill Shalvis’s Slow Heat, so I’ll suggest it, too.
    Don’t know if you’re interested in romantic suspense besides Robb, but my two current faves are Laura Griffin and Jill Sorenson.
    And as for Nora Roberts, Montana Sky is the book that got me hooked on romances, so it’s still a sentimental favorite. Hmm, maybe Honest Illusions? (This the magician one, right?)

  11. Thanks so much for these — they all sound wonderful! And especially for the Roberts tip. That’s not one I’ve tried. And I had NO IDEA there was a magician one.

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