Top Ten Tuesday: Romance (genre) books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

February 9: Valentine’s Day/Love Freebie

I think for a long time I didn’t give romance as a genre the attention it deserves because I bought into a lot of the misogynistic accusations that have been hurled at it over the years. I’m only recently started to question that more and more (see here and here for more). But in the past few years I’ve been trying to rectify that by seeking out books that I’ve heard are good, in the romance genre. And even before I made the conscious effort, a few slipped in here and there! These are some I’ve enjoyed.

  1. Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale– The Duke of Jervaulx is well known in the newspaper’s scandal sheets as a womanizing rake, but is also a brilliant mathematician, who occasionally collaborates with Mr. Timms a blind Quaker. One day, the Duke (Christian to his friends) collapses after presenting a paper to the Analytical Society, and Mr. Timms, and his daughter Maddy, believe he’s dead. Christian isn’t dead. He’s suffered a stroke, that’s left him without the ability to speak. Maddy encounters him sometime later at asylum, where she’s considering a job. She comes to realize that the math genius her father worked with is still in there, but he can’t communicate. The characters in the book face several problems on the road to a happy ending. The primary one is Christian’s disability, but Maddy’s crisis of faith is given almost equal weight. She worries that she’s compromising her Quaker principles by falling for Christian, whos exploits are the stuff of scandal. She also worries about getting her heart broken.

2. An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole– This is the first in Alyssa Cole’s Loyal League trilogy. I really enjoyed it, and intend to read the rest, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. It’s about Elle Burns, a former slave, with an eidetic memory. She uses her gifts to act as a spy for the Union Army, posing as a slave in the household of a Confederate senator. Malcolm is a detective for Pinkerton’s Secret Service, who is pretending to be a Confederate soldier, so that he can get information for the Union Army. When Malcolm and Elle come upon information that might turn the war the Confederacy’s way, they must get the information in the right hands no matter the cost. I was impressed with how Alyssa Cole managed to keep the stakes and suspense high. Presumably all her readers know how the Civil War ended, but I was still worried for Ellen and Malcolm’s mission as I read!

3. A Knight in Shining Armor Jude Devereaux- When Dougless Montgomery’s boyfriend ditches her on their English vacation, she goes to a church and cries on the grave of Nicholas Stafford, earl of Thornwyck, who died in 1564. She’s very surprised when a man in 16th century clothing shows up claiming to be Nicholas Stafford! Dougless helps Nicholas discover what brings him to the 20th century and how he was wrongly accused of treason. They fall in love and he decides to stay with her, only to be pulled back in time again, to the 16th century. Dougless goes after her beloved, only to discover that the 16th century Nicholas has no memory of the 20th century or falling in love with her. I liked that this broke the time travel romance “mold” a bit. For one thing it involves someone from the past, coming to the present and vice versa.

4. Remembrance by Jude Devereaux- Hayden Lane is a best selling author of romance novels, who becomes so obsessed by one of her heroes that she barely notices when her fiance breaks their engagement! She goes to a psychic to learn more about this man she supposedly made up. The psychic tells her that in a past life she was Catherine Tavistock, Lady De Grey, an Edwardian woman whose ghost haunts her husband’s English home. Hayden undergoes hypnosis, desperate to learn more. But the hypnosis goes wrong and instead of just remembering the past, Hayden is living it. She discovers that in earlier lives she loved a man, and they betrayed one another, and cursed their future incarnations. Now Hayden has to figure out how to set things right in the past, so that she can find happiness in the present.

5. Too Deep for Tears by Katheryn Lynn Davis– I wasn’t sure about including this on my list or not, since I’m reluctant to recommend it after this but I read this book a long time ago and enjoyed it, and since that’s the criteria for this list, I decided to include it. Charles Kitterage travelled the world and left behind three daughters with different mothers. Ailsa lives in the Scottish Highlands, Li-an (this portrayal may be very problematic, as is explained at the link above, but I didn’t realize it when I read it) lives in Peking, China, and Genevra lives in Dehli, India. They never met one another, and each has grown up haunted by a legacy of betrayal. But when a dying Charles wants to meet his daughters, they meet for the first time.

6. Lord of the Fading Lands by CL Wilson- I think this is technically classified as “paranormal romance” but I’m including it because it’s my list. Plus the book has a cheesy cover and is tropy enough to be considered romance! It’s the first in Wilson’s Tarien Soul series which follows Rain, the Tarien Soul, King of the Fey. When he claims Ellysetta, the daughter of a woodcutter, as his soul mate, no one is more surprised than Ellysetta herself. But their lands are facing an unseen enemy that threatens everyone and everything they care about and the happiness that they’ve found. It’s only by working together and facing their dark pasts, that they can find the hope of a future together. The first book sort of sets the stage for the rest of the series, and it’s one that you have to read in order if you want it to make sense!

7. The India Fan by Victoria Holt– I went through a phase at one point where I read a lot of Holt’s books, which are often classified as historical romance. To be honest, a lot of them blend together in my mind, but for some reason this one stands out, so I’m including it on my list. It’s about a parson’s daughter, Drusilla, who enthralled by her wealthy neighbors and friends, the Framling family- especially their handsome son, Fabian. But when they give her a beautiful peacock feather fan as a gift, Drusilla has no idea that it’s cursed. It brings with it a long history of death and destruction. But ultimately it may be less dangerous to Drusilla than Fabian Framling.

8. Public Secrets by Nora Roberts– Just a note, I read this one a long time ago, and have no idea how well it holds up. But I remember it fondly. Emma McAvoy is the daughter of a British rock star. At the age of six, her baby half-brother, Darren is killed in a kidnapping attempt gone wrong. Emma was the only witness, and remembers little of that night. Investigators believe that someone close to the family was involved, but can’t solve anything. So Emma grows up under the shadow of guilt. Over the next twenty years, Emma carves out a career, falls in love, and builds a life for herself. But this long ago crime, could threaten everything she’s worked for. I would call this an “ensemble romantic thriller.” The mystery storyline is just as important as the romance and there are actually several secondary romances as well.

Top Ten Tuesday: Gothic Romance

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

February 26: Places Mentioned In Books That I’d Like to Visit (submitted by Georgia @justreadthemm)

I wasn’t really inspired by this week’s topic because I felt like I’ve done something similar in the past (see here and here) so I figured I’d do my own thing. I’m currently reading Nine Coaches Waiting By Mary Stewart and it’s reminding me how much I love a good Gothic. Think big creepy houses, a mystery waiting to be solved, a hero who is somehow tangled up in the mystery… I actually came across this little page about the commonalities of the cover designs in the genre.  Anyway, here are some of my favorites.

51k3i-j1fl-_ac_us218_1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-  I doubt that anyone is surprised to see this one here! The British governess who goes to the mysterious Thornfield Hall, falls in love with the master, and gets caught up  the question of what’s going on in the attic is definitely sort of prototypical for the genre. But I also love it for Jane’s complexity as a character. It makes her seem very real in a way that not all Gothic heroines are.

 

41ufepph-wl-_ac_us218_2. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– Like Jane Eyre, this novel seems to bookend the genre. The commonalities in terms of plot have led some to call Rebecca a retelling. I’d actually argue that a bit, but that’s not really the point here. In this case we have a young woman who marries the wealthy widower Maxim De Winter and moves with him to his imposing family home, Manderley, where Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca, still seems like the mistress of the house.

91n4fz7r-xl._ac_ul436_3. Dragonwyck by Anya Seton– When Miranda is given the chance to be the companion to the child of a distant cousin she leaps at the chance. So she goes to Dragonwyck in the Hudson Valley. Here she meets Nicholas Van Rynn, and his wife, Johanna. Miranda is  entranced with the elegant mansion, and the aristocratic master. So when Johanna dies, it just makes sense to marry Nicholas. But as time passes, Miranda comes to realize that her new husband has dark secrets that threaten everything that she holds dear.

51onssuljil._ac_ul436_4. Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt- When Martha gets a job as governess to Connan TreMellyn’s young daughter she goes to live with them in their Cornish mansion. Alvean, Martha’s charge, is a notoriously difficult child, as her three previous governess’ can attest. But Martha thinks that Alvean is acting out due to the loss of her mother, Alice. She wants to help the girl. As she learns about the family (and naturally, falls in love with Connan…) she discovers that secrets from the past may have led to Alice’s death, and may threaten her future.

51xd7qx0o7l-_ac_us218_5. A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott– Rosamond Vivian meets  Phillip Tempest and is pretty quickly swept off her feet. They run away together to marry, and everything is more or less perfect until Rosamond realizes that Phillip has been lying to her from the beginning. She flees from Phillip thus beginning a “love chase” that is both “long” and “fatal” (see what I did there?) This was first published in 1996, because it was too sensational for publication when it was originally written in 1866.

51hzkq6uiel-_ac_us218_6. Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart- This is my current read, so its hard to say too much about it, since I want to avoid spoilers. But I will say that I’m surprised I manged to go this long without having read it, since I like the genre and the author. Unlike many other books in the genre this takes place in a French chateau rather than an English mansion. Our heroine, Linda Martin, is a governess (quelle surprise!), for Phillipe, a young orphan. Phillipe’s guardian,  his uncle, Leon de Valmy seems charming, but for some reason the young boy is terrified of him…

51y8le-aoal-_ac_us218_7.  Silence For the Dead by Simone St. James– In 1919, Kitty Weeks, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House. Portis House is a remote hospital for soldiers left shell shocked after WWI. Kitty has her reasons for wanting to disappear. But when she arrives at Portis House she learns it was once a private home until the owners left abruptly. Did it have something to do with the nightmare that all the patients at Portis House seem to share? Something that’s so terrifying they won’t speak of it? Kitty’s ally is Jack Yates. He’s a war hero, and inmate, and possibly a madman.

51gkwlv5zql._ac_ul436_8. The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins– Walter Hartwright is an artist who has been engaged as a drawing master to Laura and Marian Fairlie. On his way to Limmeridge House, where the orphaned Fairlie sisters live, he encounters a mysterious woman in white who begs him for help and then disappears. When he arrives at Limmeridge House, he discovers that Laura Fairlie bears an uncanny resemblance to the mysterious woman. Walter soon falls in love with Laura who is facing an arranged marriage to Sir Percival Glyde. That marriage will bring her, Walter, and Marian into contact with Glyde’s mysterious friend Count Fosco, as well as a fortune and a lot of secrets.

51mn5td6ql._ac_ul436_9. The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley- Archaeologist Verity Grey is sent to the Scottish Borderlands because her boss is convinced that it is the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion. His reasoning is based on the fact that a local boy has seen a ghostly soldier wandering the fields, and the owner of a remote manor house is convinced that his property contains the bones of the lost legion. So Verity is a bit skeptical when she arrives but she is joined in the excavation by a number of colleagues, including the handsome David… But as they investigate the Ninth Legion they learn that some secrets may be buried for a good reason…