Best Romance novels

I can’t believe I’m writing this . . .

I’ve read 2 romance novels in my life - not Danielle Steele, Fabio topless on the cover, old lady porn - but found in the romance section nonetheless. They were Kane and Abel and The Healer.

I’ve got to admit, I really liked both of them. No, they’re not Tolstoy, or Hemmingway, or - let’s be honest - even Grisham, but I liked them for the same reasons I like Desperate Housewives: they’re fast-paced, mindless, easily digestible entertainment. I found myself, in both books, reading 100+ pages in a sitting, where I normally read 40-60 pages per sitting in a good regular novel, and maybe half that in a good non-fiction book.

As embarassing as it is to ask, I don’t want to miss out on some good fun for the sake of being a manly man or a literary snob. So bring 'em on, cheap paperbacks - “Romance” novels for lack of a better term, but I’m not going to be nitpicky about it.

No one’s going to own up to reading romances except me?

I took a look at the two you linked, to see what kind of romances you had liked (as the genre actually covers about about 20 genres). The first one… that’s a romance? I totally didn’t get that from the description. It’s probably a contemporary, I guess, which isn’t something I read a lot of. So no suggestions for another one in that style.

The second one, as a paranormal, I’m on firmer ground with. I would try out Christine Feehan’s Ghostwalker series, which is up to six or seven books. She’s best known for her vampire series, but I’m finding that this one is holding together better, and her writing is showing more maturity.

The series is about a scientist who experiments on orphaned girls to develop methods to cause psychic powers. The Ghostwalkers are the soldiers that he later applies the same techniques to. After his murder, the truth about his human experimentation comes out to his daughter and the Ghostwalkers, and the series turns into a mystery about the elaborate governmant conspiracy around his work. And of course, along the way the Ghostwalkers rescue various former victims of his from a variety of situations, and of course as happens in these things, one of the soldiers and one victim fall in love per book. :smiley: (Particularly gruesome, I thought, was the girl who was repeatedly given cancer and cured, just because the evil scientist didn’t like her.)

You consider Jeffrey Archer a romance novelist? This was in the romance section? Huh?

I guess I have a totally different perception of what “romance” is…

I’m not one for the bodice-rippers, but if you want a fiesty heroine, a red-headed Scot, time travel, a healthy dose of Scottish history during Jacobean times, and scenes that will make you laugh and cry…then you need Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

I’ve seen her books in both the romance and sci-fi sections, but she’s more romance. Trust me…read Outlander, and you’ll be hunting for the rest of the series.

Would The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough, 1978) be considered a RN? Romance fiction perhaps, but it was a good, and at times ‘lusty’, read. Other than that, I soooo got nuthin’.

Neither of the books mentioned in the OP are traditional romance. I’ve read Kane and Abel and other books like that, but I don’t know how to describe them. Maybe “family saga”? Healer sounds like a coming of age story with paranormal overtones.

But since you liked Kane and Abel, you’d probably like Celebrity by Thomas Thompson, or anything by Irwin Shaw and John O’Hara. Or The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – lots of romance there, and a meaty story.

Top 100 Romance Novels
I read Romance novels for cough 20 years. All genres with Regency being my home base overall quickly followed by contemporary story lines. ( Westerns, US Civil War and anything set in Scotland…blergh!!!) There is some very good writing out there and there is some utter crap. 90% is meh.

The above list is a good place to start.

Strangely enough, I cannot even pick up a book in this genre anymore. I’ve reached my saturation point and I’ve been all over the freaking book map since trying to find my reading identity.
I fully expect to fall off the wagon any time soon now that I’ve written this.

2007 Top romance books.

Jane Austen is still kickin’ ass after all these years.


What, no one’s owning up to reading romances of the traditional bodice-ripper variety? (ETA: Except Shirley!)

I will! I’m not ashamed! I read worse shit than this, believe me!

I’m not usualy into paranormal romance, but I really enjoyed the early books in Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series, starting with Dark Prince. After a dozen books, though, she really seemed to be reaching for new heroes, heroines, and plots. (No surprise, I guess.) Plus the profusion of characters just became too convoluted. I thought the last one but one, Dark Celebration, was complete shit, and it’s the last of the series I personally will read. But I would still recommend the series (or at least the first part of it) to a person who was new to it.

Same exact comments and caveats for Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Darkhunter series.

I really like the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn. It’s a Regency series, quite fizzy and humorous, not purporting to be terribly historically accurate yet she still refrains from having the characters say jarrringly inappropriate things like “Okay!” The Bridgertons are a set of eight siblings that she marries off in mostly chronological order, one per book. My favorite book is Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, despite the crappy title, though you really should read them in order.

I also like Mary Jo Putney, though she can be kind of hit or miss IMO. Some of her stuff is great, and some is not so. My favorite is The Rake.

There are a number of authors I used to really enjoy (Catherine Coulter, Julie Garwood, Amanda Quick, and Elizabeth Lowell, to name four), who have followed the publishing trend and moved away from writing classic light sexy romance to writing harder-edged “suspense” romance with more violence – government agent hero teams with beautiful scientist heroine to track down serial killer who is out to kill her, strewing bodies through the book in the meantime. That sort of book is not my cup of tea, so I can’t recommend anything by those authors after, say, 2000. But if you like that type of thing, you might check out their newer stuff as well.

As far as I can tell these are the current trends in romance:

  1. Moving to the light fiction: “madcap modern single woman in the city”-type book, a/k/a Chick Lit.
  2. Moving to sci fi: so-called paranormal romance – vampires are big, pyschic powers are big, dragons are big.
  3. Moving to erotica: harder core sex with less plot – really a new breed of women-targeted written porn masquerading as “romance.”
  4. Moving to suspense: more violent “damsel in distress” books and/or “hero and heroine team up to catch a murderer” books.

As it happens, none of these are my personal genre faves, so I’m reading less romance than I used to, but I’m always in the market for a good one if anyone has any recommendation.

I’m off the wagon.

I just ordered a couple of books via my library that looked good.
Currently, I am doing a vanity search for epistalatory goodness that I have rambled on about ReaLLy G00d Romance Novels…eleventy One!

I’ve gummed up the search here, so I apologize.

The Rake is excellent.

I OD’d on them in my 20’s – gothics, mostly – hundreds of gothics.

I have fond memories of the Angelique series by Sergeanne Golon. Angelique went through it all – Barbara pirates, royalty, the Americas, witch hunts, all of it. I’d like to reread them to see how they hold up, but they’re OOP, my library doesn’t have them, and Amazon sellers are asking collector prices for the paperbacks.

  1. Chick Lit is not romance.

  2. I really have to take exception to this. I strenuously object to this point all fronts, in fact. First, “women-targetted written porn” is so demeaning to the authors, the readers, and the publishers. I more or less completely disagree with the classification, but even if it were true, there’s a certain moral judgment you’re making here that isn’t fair. Even if it were porn, what’s wrong with it? And why modify that with “women-targeted”? Because that’s another way to completely dismiss it? I mean, I could write pages and pages about why I find that troubling, and it’s an ongoing debate in the romance community, but ultimately, I don’t even think it’s accurate. It is extremely possible (and common) for a book to have explicit sex (and a lot of it including kink) while still having characterization, plot, and the romance. There are more erotic books out there that don’t claim to be romance, but erotic romance novels do meet all the requirements of the romance genre. I’m not saying they’re all well written. I’m not saying this should be your cup of tea. I’m just saying it’s rather harsh and unnecessarily judgmental to dismiss an entire subgenre as “just” porn for women–as though you can’t get any more worthless than that.

  3. Damsel in distress books? Not in my experience. I think that the current trend is towards “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” style action-heroines. Sure there are still some “too stupid to live” heroines and moments, but generally it’s no longer popular to have the heroine be a helpless damsel.

I’d offer suggestions, but lately I pretty much only read gay erotic romance.

Found it

And a previous vanity search gushing about the genre

I’m such a spaz.

Jane Eyre. Seriously. It’s a great romance. Pride and Prejudice, too.

I don’t read a lot of romance, but like ivylass, I adore Diana Gabaldon. I’ve also recently been reading Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, and those are great.

I’ve read several paranormal romances (Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lynsay Sands, Karen Moning, Katie McAlister) and they’re very formulaic. When I was new to the formula they were entertaining, but they got old pretty fast, and I didn’t really enjoy the last few that I tried. I need to look over Shirley’s list for something new.

You know, it kind of pisses me off when people presume to “correct” my opinion with their own.

Sorry, you’ll have to show me your credentials as Grand Decider Of What Falls Into What Genre. :rolleyes: Besides which, my point was not that one is the other, but that AFAICT the trend in romance (as a genre) is to be edging into other genres, cf. Romance edging into Chick Lit.

Object away; I don’t really care. I never said you had to share my opinion.

Since you don’t know what specific books I’m talking about, I fail to see how you could possibly take it upon yourself to be “demeaned” for the authors, readers, and publishers. If you disagree that books with less plot and more hardcore sex are not in fact edging into porn, that’s of course your perogative, but once again your opinion does not make mine incorrect.

I’m fairly sure I never said there was anything wrong with it. I never said it was “demeaning.” I never said it I “dismissed” it. I never presumed to make a “moral judgment” of it. I guess I don’t care if you want to import a big bunch of baggage into the discussion from someplace else but I will insist that you own it as your own baggage, instead of assigning it to me, and that you carry it yourself.

And it is also extremely possible (and common) for a book to have explicit sex while NOT having very good characterization, plot, or romance – or sacrificing one or more of those elements for more, and more explicit sex. So what is it you’re objecting to: My characterizing at least some of those books as “porn”? If you find that term particularly pejorative – I do not – feel free to substitute “erotica.” The fact that some of it is aimed at women? I think that’s pretty much beyond argument, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. Why should the boys get all the good porn? But you are are not effectively rebutting my argument that some romance – SOME, not ALL – is trending in that direction; you’re making it.

Again, you are reading dismissiveness and judgmentalism into my post that pretty obviously was not there. “Romance trending to erotica” was only one trend I cited, the others being romance trending to chick lit, sci fi, and suspense. Was I dismissive and judgmental in noting those trends as well, and in the exact same way? Obviously not. So whatever has your panties in a deep twist over merely asserting that at least some modern romance is trending towards erotica/porn, I don’t think you can blame me for it. But that trend is based on personal observation and I will stand by it as my opinion. You’re free to have your own of course, you’re just not free to read so much into mine before informing me I’m wrong.

What as my panties in a “deep twist” is the fact that, whether you meant to or not, your post reflected the sort of language routinely used to dismiss authors, publishers, and readers in several circles and for the past several decades. People don’t read romance novels, even if they might enjoy them, because they’re all viewed as “just” bodice-rippers for lonely or frustrated housewives. The implication being that romance novels have nothing to offer a thoughtful person because A)there’s no thoughtful content because it’s just “wank” material and B)it doesn’t matter because it’s not targeted to a thoughtful audience. I’m sure all readers of romance are aware of those stereotypes–it is right at the bottom of low culture. Now, take that exact same language and apply it to a specific subgenre–it doesn’t automatically lose its baggage or implications, just because you may not have intended it.

I won’t (and can’t) substitute “erotica” for "porn’ because they are not the same genre (or subgenre) of literature. For one thing, porn is almost always used to indicate that the work has nothing except sex–gratuitous, random body parts, fill in your own blanks about the implications of using the word “porn.” Erotica is not considered porn by its authors and audience, though people still insist on lumping the two together, which is just problematic because there’s no way to say where that line should be drawn. What if a book is 80% explicit sex, but it’s all character driven and is used for characterization?

It might seem really ridiculous to you–hell it probably is really ridiculous–but this is a hotly debated, hotly defended, ongoing issue in the romance community, and in the larger literature community. It’s an issue that affects what is written and published, how it is promoted, how authors are treated, and the reputation of publishers, and how the entire community is dealt with in broader literary circles.

You didn’t add anything about “women targeted” fantasy, or “women targeted” suspense–even though women are the presumed and intended audience for the other subgenres (and that does affect how books are written as well as promoted). Why not make that distinction there? Why make it only in relation to sexually explicit material?

I became such a paranormal romance fan, it’s not even funny. I have dozens of them so I consider myself sort of an expert. The best ones are The Blackdagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward and the Breed series by Lara Adrian.

I’m so ashamed to admit that. I read other books too, I promise! Like I’m currently reading Duma Key. It’s not all just smut :o .

I don’t think anyone has listed my favorite romance books (besides Outlander which really does transcend the genre):

The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I also love The Wolf and the Dove and A Rose in Winter by the same author.

Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught.

Something Shady by Pamela Morsi.

Mistress by Amanda Quick.

Dazzling Brightness and Shimmering Splendor by Roberta Gellis.

I also read a ton of Jude Devereux, LaVyrle Spencer, Julie Garwood and Nora Roberts, but it’s all kind of a blur.

I went through a huge phase of reading romance books in high school and college - but I can’t seem to get into them at all anymore. I don’t know if the books have changed, or I have changed but I haven’t read a true “genre” romance in over 10 years.

Oh, romance author shout out! I sat next to Catherine Coulter on a flight. She was a very lovely, tailored blonde woman and her assistant let me know I was sitting next to THE Catherine Coulter! Thank goodness I had worked in a bookstore and had read at least one of her books (the Cove) and was able to speak to several others. She was a very nice lady but both Catherine Coulter and her assistant were a little too impressed with her Catherine Coulterness.