This Is a Good Day to Read a Romance (an Early Good Book Thursday)

I just realized that today is Valentine’s Day (candy sale tomorrow, folks) so I’m putting up Good Book Thursday eight hours early so we can talk about romance novels we love and great romantic subplots and whatever else bookish you want to talk about.  Happy Valentine’s Day, Argh People!


102 thoughts on “This Is a Good Day to Read a Romance (an Early Good Book Thursday)

  1. I suddenly realized I’d missed the final book in K. J. Charles’s ‘Sins of the Cities’ series, so am enjoying rereading the first two as a lead-in. I love her characters, and the romances are great.

    I reread Mary Stewart’s ‘Wildfire at Midnight’ before that, and realized I don’t love it as much as I did years ago. The relationship’s too unequal; and she doesn’t trust him. It thrilled me as a teenager, though – probably shades of Mr Rochester/crush on father-figure.

    1. I tried re-reading a Mary Stewart and had the same reaction. She’s a product of her time and I really can’t ding her for that, but she’s not re-reading well.

      1. I love “Airs Above the Ground”. I know it’s dated, but I still enjoy it! Mary Stewart was the first author I fell in love with as a teenager.

    2. If Wildfire at Midnight is the one in Scotland, with the bonfires, I agree. She’s very passive, and then men are always saying, “Are you alright?” But I would try again the others. I think I’ve memorized some of them.

      1. I find Gillian Bradshaw also fills some Mary Stewart, mm, gaps. Most of Bradshaw’s books aren’t about a romance but they almost all have one. (_Island of Ghosts_ just knocks me down, for instance.)

    3. Wildfire at Midnight was my first Mary Stewart as a teenager so I still have a soft spot for it, but I stumble over aspects of it now. I think Airs Above the Ground might hold up. For one thing, she wrote it much later. And the couple is married, which changes the dynamic. Touch Not the Cat is on my Kindle, and I’m looking forward to re-reading that. Haven’t read it since high school.

      1. I’m also a fan of Touch Not the Cat. I pulled it out recently but only skimmed through parts.

    4. I’ve always gone back to Mary Stewart over the years. Some are always fresh for me (This Rough Magic, The Moonspinners, The Ivy Tree); others I’ve never found rereadable. (Thunder on the Right, Nine Coaches waiting). Wildfire at Midnight is somewhere inthe middle, but I love the setting. I think I’ve stayed at that hotel.

      I recently discovered an enjoyable All-Things-Mary-Stewart blog filled with info and covers. Lots of covers. Plus news of a newly reissued short story from 1960.

      Yes, they’re from their time, but in their time they were way advanced.

      1. I still find Mary Stewart very readable–I just make an allowance for the time period, as I have to with many books that I still enjoy. Allowing for that, I find the female characters do ring true, and are mostly brave (even when they see themselves as cowards) and proactive. Maybe if I picked up a Stewart for the very first time now, the masculine/feminine roles of that time period would bother me, but I’ve loved her for at least 55 years now, and still do.

    5. Nine Coaches Waiting is my favorite, but then, I love Jane Eyre, and Mary Stewart’s commitment to protecting her young child charge above love and all else. She has that a a theme in several of her books, and it really resonates with me.

      1. Yes, Jane Eyre forever! Also somewhat trapped by the constraints of her time, but strong, brave, proactive, and true to her beliefs.

  2. Lee and Lian Tanner recommended the Joanne Bourne Napoleonic era spy series and I test read a sample. Now I am binge reading every single one I can get my hands on. Very intelligent heroines. Good writing. They frequently save everyone, including themselves. Swoon worthy.

      1. I think that was the first one in the series. The books are even better than C. S. Harris Napoleonic mysteries and I love those.

    1. Veronica and Stoker are great. My local bookstore had a Facebook post recently asking: If you were kidnapped and the characters from the last book you read were coming to save you, who would it be and what would your survival chances be? I’d just finished A Treacherous Curse, so it would have been Veronica and Stoker – I think my chances would have been pretty good.

      1. That’s a great question.
        I just reread Sylvester, so it would be Phoebe and Sylvester and probably Tom. My chances would be pretty good.
        That’s an excellent way to ask, “Were the characters in your last story competent and strong?”

        1. What fun! Georgette Heyer characters save the day.

          Frederica would make sure you were all healed and her Marquis would have suggestions for where you could go from there.

          When it comes to children, Sir Waldo and Ancilla will house them and Gareth and Hester will play with them and help them grow up.

      2. The last book I read was Deborah Blake’s Dangerously Divine. Gregori and Ciera would definitely rescue me, probably without a scratch.

      3. I think maybe Vicki Bliss and John (Elizabeth Peters author), but I may well think of another couple later.

        1. Oh, and maybe Stephanie Plum and Lula! It’d be messy, but they’d get me rescued. As far as romance, I’m sure Joe and Ranger would be lurking in the background, ready to jump in and save the day if/when necessary.

        2. Vicki Bliss would throw heavy things at the bad guys, and John would steal something on the way to or from rescuing you, but it would definitely get done!

  3. My all-time favorite romance is Norton Juster’s THE DOT AND THE LINE . . . .

    No feisty, tempestuous, red-haired heroine will ever match Dot’s perfect 36 figure — she’s 36 by 36 by 36. I love the way the modest Line makes up his mind to win Dot from the bad-boy Squiggle.

    Is this an Oh, No, Not You? plot?

    1. So I looked up the Dot and the Line and found an absolutely delightful animated shot of it -

  4. I’ve been trying to get past page three of *Ivanhoe* for the past week, and have not been succeeding. Haven’t even bothered to analyze why I’m not progressing.

    But it’s not an “all-books-are-too-much” deal. I stumbled upon *It Takes Two to Tumble* by Cat Sebastian and the m/m romance written by (and for?) women hit the spot. Lots of longing passion and “it’s so wrong, but it feels so right!” 19th century tension. I liked both characters very much, and it was so much fun! (-: I read right through to the end, and proceded onto the sample of the next book — and was very disappointed to find that it isn’t available yet. Maybe in April? The next book seems to be another stand-alone, but this time with a 19th century romance between a woman dressed as a man and an arrogant, lordly man. I need to put a reminder on my calendar to get this.

    (-: I find it really odd that I can buy stuff for Kindle and forget I have bought it — even the process of buying it. I can buy paper-books, and forget that they are there, but usually I remember buying it once I’ve rediscovered it! So weird. Doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s happened more than twice.

    1. I think that’s part of Amazon’s cunning plan. At least they warn you that you’ve already bought the book if you go to its page.

  5. First things first, I’ve got a $4.00 coupon at my pharmacy on anything, good for Dove Valentine’s Day chocolates (mini), also $1.00 off on toothpaste, go figure.

    Second, my choice in romantic books would have to be Outlander by Diana Gabaldon because I’ve read it twice, have taken it out of the library twice, own it in kindle and also own two paperbacks as backups. One for emergencies in the car if I’m out shopping with my husband and he decides to go into a hardware store. Outlander is not really a romance but a Fantasy/Science Fiction/Historical sort of romance.

  6. Very ho-hum, but I think my very favorite romance is Pride & Prejudice. I have reread it every couple of years since I was 12 or 13 (I’m 62 now). Supporting the main romance plot (right guy, right gal, both have to recognize and be humbled by their own weaknesses in order to come together) are the various not-quite/unromantic romance plots (too easily persuaded Bingley & Jane, self-absorbed Mr. Collins & pragmatic Charlotte, wild Lydia & cad Wickham). In the foreground are mis-matched forever Mr. & Mrs. Bennet, and in the background are well-matched Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner. Works for me.

  7. Ooh. I picked up a Baleful Godmother book by Emily Larkin. The first in the series is called ‘Unmasking Miss Appleby.’

    The Godmother features only to give a gift of one magical ability to women of a certain family. Ts and Cs apply, dontcha know. But who and what the chosen are matters more. I really loved book 1. Going to read the rest in due time.

    1. That sounds like so much fun! And it’s currently free on Amazon, at least in Oz, so I now have a copy in my TBR list. Thanks for the recommendation.

  8. Based on conversations on a recent Good Book Thursday, last week I read my first Ian Rutledge novel by Charles Todd. I’m now on my 4th. I love Good Book Thursdays! I’ve found so many wonderful authors here.

  9. I just read the sequel to the YA book Caraval, Legndary, and the romance is really well done. It’s secondary to the plot, or tied into it really, but there’s a lot of chemistry between the main character and the men she’s attracted to.

    The first romance I fell in love with was Catspaw 2 by Anne Stuart. Heh.

    You’re my favorite romance author ever. Compared to everyone else, your work feels purposely subversive and feminist, and it makes it tough for me to enjoy many authors I used to.

  10. I just finished How to Blow it With a Billionaire by Alexis Hall, and oh my word is it fabulous. It is the second in his Arden St. Ives trilogy, even better than the first, and the only problem is that the third isn’t coming out until August. Sob.

    It is a m/m spin on Fifty shades (I think, as I never actually finished that book) and I am in love with both characters, but especially Arden. It is the Billionaire trope done right in my opinion. Every sex scene leads to character and plot development, the author is well read (He references Georgette Heyer!!!), and he is a legitimate lgbtq+ author (I love m/m romances written by women for women, but this has a weightier feel to it). So, I am in love. This is a glorious series. And his other books are enjoyable as well across a wide range of topics 🙂

    1. Thanks for recommending this! I think I really like the “m/m by/for women” genre, and I was very curious about what m/m by men (possibly for everyone?) looks like. I’m going to take a look.

      1. It feels different, plot and reaction-wise, I think. I enjoy both, and would heartily recommend anything by Alexis Hall. A word of caution however, he doesn’t turn out books by any set formula so some of them are very hot and others are pretty much PG rated. Again, I like them all, but if you are expecting to take a drink of milk and get water instead it can be disconcerting. 🙂

        1. I loved both the *How to Bang a Billionaire* and *How to Blow It with a Billionaire*, but I do have to say that 1) I like mild naughtiness and I guess BDSM (very mild, apparently!), and while the balance was perfect in book one (for me), I was on edge for most of book two (and not in a good way) because early in the book there was a “scary to sexy ratio” that I wasn’t comfortable with. I was happy, though, that the scary:sexy didn’t escalate in following scenes.

          I just love that type of hero/heroine! It reminded me so much of Bridget Jones Diary (and therefore, P&P by Austen), and yes, there’s a conversation going on with the 50 Shades books, I think. (I’ve only read the first 50 Shades.) Arden is so funny, and full of hope and optimism! But he’s not a simple soul, and he can set boundaries (which is so important with the Dark Brooding Hero). I laughed out loud so much!

          I just don’t know how to frame it when I give out recs. It’s so different. Well worth reading, though, if it doesn’t trigger a body. Thanks, Lupe!

  11. I feel like anyone who follows this blog regularly has already hears of her, but Barbara Michaels wrote great gothics with more modern heroines. And of course, she wrote great romantic mysteries under the name Elizabeth Peters.

    Favorite romances, that’s rough. I do love – Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Jane Eyre, and Much Ado About Nothing.

    But also “Blue Castle” by L.M. Montgomery, “I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith (bittersweet), and “A Town Like Alice” by Neville Shute. Although the last time I read it, I was shocked by some of the racist stuff that went over my head as a teenager. It’s still a great example of a book where the two characters are just such solid, decent overall people. And a lot of it is narrated not by either of them, but by a third party in a way that becomes very poignant late in the book

    1. OOOooh. A Town Like Alice is lovely. I don’t remember any racist stuff either, but I haven’t reread it in years.

      1. A lot of words are just thrown around very casually in a way that would not be okay today, I’ll put it that way.

    2. I really enjoyed the Elizabeth Peters books more than the Barbara Michaels ones, but the books written under E. Peters are more fun and light-hearted vs. the gothic, ghostly suspense of B. Michaels.

      1. I would read anything Elizabeth Peters has written for the same ready I will read anything Jennifer Crusie has written: the narrative voice is so good, so smooth and seamless that you are never jolted out of the story and you can’t avoid the feeling that the narrator must be a soulmate!

    3. Isabelle Holland was one of my favorite authors. She was seemed more contemporary than Mary Stewart. But I have not read one of her books in years. They were a nice blend of romance and mystery. I think her books are largely out-of-print and when you can find them, they cost more than they did originally. My library no longer has them. So this is not a particularly helpful recommendation as a Mary Stewart replacement. Sigh.

        1. One of the best opening lines ever. I remember a little of the rest of the book but I can quote that line.

  12. I just started reading an ARC of “What a Difference a Duke Makes” by Lenora Bell. I’m enjoying it.

    Also, I noticed that there is a book called “Faking It” coming out soon by Christina Ross. The part that amused me was that a main character’s last name is Cruise. It would have been even more amusing if it had been Crusie.

  13. I’m rereading Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series in advance of the release of the last installment, Marriage of Inconvenience (Kat and Dan’s story) on March 6. I have my faves in the series, and others I like but don’t love, or that I find problematic for some reason. I haven’t yet reread Beauty and the Mustache (book 4) even though it has my favorite hero (he writes the swooniest poetry!), and I don’t know how that will feel. The heroine’s mother dies of cancer in the course of the story, and my mother-in-law did likewise a few months ago. My mom also has cancer (incurable but, for now, treatable). It’s all very close to the surface, so maybe I’ll skim those passages.

  14. I sheepishly ask, does anyone like Mercedes Lackey? I do enjoy some of her Godmother books, which all include a romance with a fairy tale flavour, and she does make her heroines strong.
    She is fantasy in genre, and her Valdemar series had an early example of a (m) gay hero, early for novels aimed at teens, I believe.

    1. Oh, Oh, me, Me, Meeeee, MEEEEE! (also ) I’ve got all the 500 Kingdom tales in both hardcover and paperback. One to keep and to to lend, don’t cha know…

    2. I remember loving The Fire Rose, though I haven’t reread it in years. It was a fun take on Beauty and the Beast.

    3. When I was younger, I adored her. Especially the Valdemar series, and anything with Bards in it. I can’t remember which mini-series it was, but the one with the bards and the birdnames? There was a lovely one there! And one of the Elemental Masters I liked, and I really, really liked the Diana Tregarde series, and imagined all sorts of potential (especially, I was hoping for more Andre to show up).

      The books helped me grow up, but then it got to a point where 1) they seemed like they were still covering the same ground (bad adults, abused kids who fight and become tremendously successful), and 2) jumping the shark in Valdemar by introducing too many new kinds of things for my poor little brain to handle. I loved the horse-mates, I loved the specialized magics, but the dragons became a little too much for me.

      And then there were the collaborations, which didn’t work for me very well. I stopped actively seeking out her books. Baen’s strategy of repackaging books didn’t work that great for me, either. I came back to the States and would buy quickly all of my books for the next 18 to 24 months in two or three hours — and wound up getting a lot of books that I’d already read. Not such a big deal now, since I can check things out through the internet before I buy.

      1. Very good points, all.
        I too, enjoyed her more when I was younger and go back now for nostalgia more than anything.
        The one thing I always found somewhat off putting was her heavy-handedness in writing. She created a great world and makes strong characters but she drives her points and morals home with a hammer. You are in no doubt who the good or bad guys are. Even JK Rowling, not the most nuanced of writers in that sense, gave her characters more shades of grey. (Taking nothing away from Rowling, who created a world that will exist forever!) Lackey is very skilled and prolific but it’s nicer when authors allow you to form your own feelings and opinions as you go through their story, rather than so firmly guide you along in their morality tale.

        1. I probably should make clear that I loved her books very much, and not only were they great, but I am grateful that they exist. Just yeah, what you say, Lisa L.

    4. Absolutely, especially the 500 Kingdom books and the Elemental Masters books. My cousin really likes the new Hunter series (1. HUNTER and 2. ELITE).

  15. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m going to mention it again in the hopes that someone will try it. ‘Untamed’ by Anna Cowan. Regency romance with a BIG difference. Funny and witty and well written – plus a little bit twisted. I think it’s only available as an ebook these days, though I can still get a hard copy from my library.

  16. Thanks to Lian’s recommendation, I tried a fantasy book by Bujold — The Curse of Chalion — and really enjoyed it. Then, dashing out to get the sequel — Paladin of Souls — I was thrilled to read a rave review blurb on the back from Diana Wynne Jones! I would start reading a Bristol telephone directory if that woman recommended it. . . .

    Both books have a lot of depth to the main characters, who are older and wiser than in their youthful days, which is a Romance trope I find particularly appealing. Both books also very fun to read and hard to put down — and quite unlike the Vorkosigans. Each included at least one romance subplot, but it was a mixed genre bag — sort of fantasy/sword ‘n’ sorcery/ historical/mystery/romance, I’d say. But good reads.

    1. So glad you liked The Curse of Chalion. It’s one of those books I reread every now and again. And completely agree about anything recommended by Diana Wynne Jones!

    2. Diana Wynne Jones is amazing! I’ve had to replace some of the Chrestomanci books in my collection; I’ve read them so many times. Fantasy, not romance. Delightful books.

      1. Isn’t she good? I love the Chrestomanci books – one of my favourites is Charmed Life. But the one of her kids’ books I love most is Power of Three. With her YA, it’s Fire and Hemlock. I reread both of them quite often.

        1. Mine is The Pinhoe Egg, which I found to be THE perfect children’s novel. Friends, animals, mysterious houses, cranky adults who underestimate children, and a evil villain who deserves to be petrified at one point. No word is wasted, and the description of anything is so concise but creates such a vividly imaginable sense of all the places. I especially loved the two grandparents, and of course — Klartch!

    3. Delighted you like the Chalion books!

      Don’t overlook the third, THE HALLOWED HUNT, set in the same universe but not in Chalion, rather in the Weald, and also at least a couple of centuries earlier in time. However, the Son of Autumn features.

      1. and now she has a series of novellas about Penric set in the same world. Penrith is inhabited by a chaos demon.

      2. Yes, I love all three Chalion world (world of the 5 gods) books. I think The Hallowed Hunt might be my favorite. The novella Penric and the Shaman carries through the slightly unfinished business of The Hallowed Hunt.

  17. I thought I was widely read and then I met this community.

    Eloisa James and Julia Quinn are two authors I often turn to. I have every book of Ms Quinn’s. The only other author so represented is Jenny 😃

      1. Meeeeeee tooooo

        I really enjoyed her latest (The Duchess Deal), even with the unbelievable elements.

    1. Julia Quinn and Jennifer Crusie are the only romance authors i read. Romance just isn’t one of the factors I enjoy in reading.

  18. It’s not a romance, but I promised an update on Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton series last week for the interested. Just finished This Fallen Prey. It’s not a cliffhanger; they figure out who killed who and no one is in immediate or even likely peril at the end. SEMI-SPOILER (NO NAMES): There was a serious injury, and that person is at risk of dying without medical attention not available in a Yukon hideout with no doctor or electricity, but the characters are making a plan to get that medical attention at the end and the person is stable for the time being.

    The central question of the story, whether the suspected killer dumped on Casey and Eric was guilty and what they do about the problems brought on by his presence, is resolved. While that gets answered, the ending won’t be entirely satisfying for anyone who chooses to read it. There is an opening for future conflict from this storyline. The events of this book also reveal things about some Rockton residents that raise questions about them she didn’t answer in this book, but I just consider that part of the arc of a series. It just wouldn’t be believable for someone to spill a bunch of exposition the first time Casey asks a question. That’s not how secrets work.

    My guess is that the Amazon reviewers were frustrated because Rockton and Casey’s life there are both less settled at the end of this novel than in the previous books. That’s not because she’s withdrawing from the community or because her relationship with Eric is in trouble. She’s committed to the town, and romance is still in great shape. But the events in this book will have consequences that could introduce future problems – with the town council, with the settlers in the forest, possibly with a couple of the town residents. The potential for conflict with shady powers and other forest inhabitants, and the idea that complete trust isn’t wise within the town, is probably good for the series as a whole. Things won’t get stale that way. But I understand that aspect of the ending might be unexpected for people, and they may not like it.

    There was one aspect of the ending that I wish had been cleaner, but that isn’t about an unanswered question, just emotional satisfaction. Saying anything else would be a huge spoiler.

  19. I still love Pope’s “The Sherwood Ring” — an absolutely darling book with several enjoyable romances.

    1. I just checked out the Amazon Look Inside for this book, and I plan to request it at my library. Thanks for the suggestion!

      1. Oh, good! I first read it as a teenager, and I have reread it many, many times since. It definitely stands up to adult reads. My siblings love it too. My brother and I still sometimes communicate using the special code. I’m so glad you’re getting it from the library; I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s funny and clever, with delightful characters, and just generally has GREAT charm.

  20. Okay, I just HAVE to add some of my favorite book quotes. They seem SO apropos to this particular discussion:

    People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading. – Logan Pearsall Smith

    Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.
    ― John Green

    I cannot live without books. – Thomas Jefferson

    In the highest civilization, the book is still the highest delight. He who has once known its satisfactions is provided with a resource against calamity. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Reading is my passion and my escape since I was 5 years old. Overall, children don’t realize the magic that can live inside their own heads. Better even than any movie. – Eckhart Tolle

    and, of course:
    “I have another fantasy, about being alone on a desert island with a lot of chocolate and books. Just me, hand-dipped nuts and caramels, and the complete works of everybody.”
    “I have that one too,” Treva said. “It used to be a lot of chocolate and Harrison Ford. And then one day I thought: Why is Harrison here? If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t have to do these damn sit-ups.”
    – Jennifer Crusie

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