On the Shelf: April

In honor of it being a new month (almost), I’m taking stock of my bookshelf and stepping back to see what I’m looking forward to reading in April.

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose” by Lauren Wilig

This is the fourth book in the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig.  I’ve loved these books since my sister convinced me to read my first one over the Christmas break when I was stuck in New York and away from my family.  Willig’s books are a great blend of chick lit and historical romance with an impressive attention to detail.

I’m told “The Seduction of the Crimson Rose” focuses on two of the series’ anti-heroes so I’m doubly intrigued by how Willig pulls that off.

The Wildest Heart” by Rosemary Rogers

I started reading romances in the mid 90’s, so I missed much of the pre 1980s canon in romance.  I picked up “The Wildest Heart” the other day at the bookstore, and I’m very curious to see how I enjoy this book from 1974.  After reading the Smart Bitches’s book Beyond Heaving Bosoms I’m a little wary about books written during this time but I’m game.  Speaking of Beyond Heaving Bosoms, if you see a copy definitely pick it up.  Candy and Sarah have a deliciously snarky way with words, a love of the genre, and a willingness to skewer the books that are just so bad that even the most ardent romance reader can admit that they’re just not all that good.  They also have a great breakdown of genres, characters, and plot clichés.

When Seducing a Duke” by Kathryn Smith

I saw Kathryn Smith read at Lady Jane’s Salon a couple of months ago, and I really enjoyed her excerpt from this book.  A quick trip to Borders later and it’s sitting on the shelf waiting for me.

Born in Shame” by Nora Roberts

This is the third in Nora Robert’s “Born In” trilogy.  I’m guilty of a serious weakness for all things Nora.  I’ve read “Born in Fire” and “Born in Ice” already, and I’m eager to finish up the series.

I should add that there is one book that I’m currently in the middle of.  I figure that I should just throw it on here because I’ll be reading it in April as well.

An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England” by Venetia Murray

Okay, this isn’t a romance, but it might as well be one!  This books is a great reference for writers and readers of Regency-based fiction.  Murray’s attention to detail is incredible, and she weaves all of the historical information together skillfully with an engaging style.  It’s worth it just to read her first two chapters on the dandy and Almacks.

What books are you planning to read?  Do you stack up books, make lists, or just grab whatever is convenient on your shelf? Are you strict with yourself and only buy one book at a time or do you collect books until you can get around to reading them?

The Best

Every romance reader has a list of the best and worst books she’s read.  Sometimes they follow what’s popular.  Sometimes they just grab you for some inexplicable reason and stay with you.  Here’s a list of my favorite books…for now.

The Best

“Angles Fall” by Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts is one of my favorite authors, and that’s hardly surprising considering the fact that she’s dominated the romance world for so long.  I actually didn’t start reading her books until about a year and a half ago when I picked up “Midnight Bayou” in part because of a strange fascination I have with New Orleans (a place I’ve never been, mind you).  After “Midnight Bayou” I ripped through a whole stack of her other books.  “Angels Fall” was one of them.

What sets “Angels Fall” apart from her other books for me is Brody.  I have issues with a lot of alpha male heroes, but Brody transcends most of what annoys me.  Yes, he’s gruff and stubborn and would probably be annoying as hell in real life, but the important thing is that he’s flawed and that makes him seem all the more real.

I’m not a fan of the perfect hero school of romance writing.  No, a scar on his left cheek from a duel he fought at 21 is not enough of a flaw to make him stand out.  These have to be deep seeded personality quirks that force the reader to think twice about whether the heroine should actually  end up with him.  The author then has to work to show why this couple should be together.  When the realization moment comes (the “oh wait, I think I love you even though I shouldn’t” moment), I feel so much more invested in the relationship because I’ve seen the characters have to work and grow to come to this point.  Brody sells this book for me.

“Lord of Scoundrels” by Loretta Chase

This is generally recognized as the gold standard of historical romance.  What makes “Lord of Scoundrels” so jaw-droppingly amazing to read is that you not only have a strong heroine and an alpha male hero, but you can almost see the sparks between them jumping off the page.  The secret’s in the dialogue, my friends.

A lot of authors tell their readers that their leading lady is witty and smart, and we kind of just roll over and take it on faith.  Loretta Chase actually proves it to us.  From the very first meet in an antique shop, Jessica is sharp and smart.  And she’s not afraid to let us all know it.  The dialogue crackles with wit and charm, and it’s actually believable that Jessica could go toe to to with Dain.

Plus, who can resist a heroine who intentionally causes her hero bodily harm?

“Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

A doorstop of a book, “Outlander” was one of the first romances that was not a sweet Kensington I ever read.  I remember sneakily reading my copy under my desk in my high school math class.  I’m pretty sure I spent most of those math classes with a bright red face because of the fairly frequent sex scenes.  Ah to be so young and impressionable again…

Jamie and Claire will always be one of my favorite romance couples.  Not only does the book have time travel, plenty of Scotsmen, and a good helping of sex, it’s also got that magic formula of a great heroine and a dashing, warm hero.  I’ve given it to a few people as a starter romance despite its and have never met anyone (except my father) who didn’t regret turning the last page.

“Bet Me” by Jennifer Crusie

For some reason I avoided reading contemporaries for a long time.  After reading, “Bet Me” by Jennifer Crusie I have no idea why I waited so long.  From the above reviews, it should be pretty obvious that a great heroine and a hero I can actually imagine in the flesh really get me while I’m reading.  Min and Cal are another one of those pairings.  The dialogue is sharp and the characters have real lives with actual problems.  Plus the book has the best wedding scene I’ve ever read.

So those are my four favorites at the moment.  What are you favorites?  What makes a book grab you pull you in?  Who are your favorite couples?

Coming soon, my worst books.  I’m culling through my reading lists and narrowing things down as we speak.