Thursday, April 5, 2012

Penelope's Top Romance Novels Of All Time

How do you like that melodramatic title?

Someone recently asked me for my top recommendations. This is a toughie. There are many books I still have not read, and probably never will. Especially in the contemporary romance category, which is not my favorite.

So, let's rephrase: Here are Penelope's Favorite Romance Novels! This is a mix of mostly historical and paranormal (my favs), as well as a couple of extras (steampunk, contemporary, etc). I am going to add this as an extra page on my website, and will add/detract as my opinion changes.

1. WARRIOR by Zoe Archer

An extraordinary adventure. Packed with beautiful imagery, larger-than-life characters and a mystical storyline that takes you on the journey of a lifetime.

2. SKIN GAME by Ava Gray

I think this might be the only contemporary in this list. It blew me away. Totally unexpected, extremely sexy. Probably the most brilliant contemporary I've read.

3. SOULLESS by Gail Carriger

An incredible mix of historical humor, creative steampunk inventions and paranormal antics. Absolutely one-of-a-kind, quirky and enjoyable read.

4. THE FEVER SERIES by Karen Marie Moning

A departure from her earlier historical romance novels, this series is an epic fantasy. A thrilling first person narrative that combines horror, suspense and romance in an unbelievably riveting tale. Highly recommended.


The plotline wasn't perfect, but the hero is the most unique character I've ever seen in an historical romance. Ashley has created a truly fascinating, flawed, intense and sexy character in Ian Mackenzie. This book is amazing.

6. DREAMING OF YOU by Lisa Kleypas

The ultimate historical showcasing how opposites attract. Derek Craven has lived a brutal life, Sara Fielding is a sheltered writer from the country. Their love story is a classic.

7. A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER by Kresley Cole

This paranormal series has its ups and downs, but this first installment is almost flawless in my humble opinion. Cole knows how to punch up her stories with pop culture references, smoky hot sex scenes, and an astronomically cool paranormal world.

8. MORE THAN A MISTRESS by Mary Balogh

This is my favorite by Balogh (with Simply Love in close second place). Balogh's voice is so beautiful, balanced, sensual. It's the perfect vehicle for an historical romance, and this story is fraught with emotion. It's a DIK.

9. HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE by Jeaniene Frost

This book blasted me into a fabulous paranormal series when I least expected it. Frost dishes out crazy high octane action, super intense sex, and fantastic characters. I recommend the entire series.

10. RAVISHED by Amanda Quick

I'm a JAK fan of epic proportions. These historicals are like sour cream and onion potato chips. You can't eat just one. You want to read every single freakin' book, in chronological order, and save all the old print copies until they disintegrate in the basement. This book is a fabulous twist on the Beastly hero. It's got Quick's signature quirky heroine, intellectual and grumpy hero, an intriguing storyline, and a lovely romance. Win. (With This Ring gets honorable mention).

11. THE ENDEARMENT by LaVyrle Spencer

A stunning example of LaVyrle's storytelling. This American frontier historical has one of the sweetest, most satisfying endings I've ever read.

12. LORD OF SCOUNDRELS by Loretta Chase

This historical romance is absolute perfection. I love every scene, every twist and turn in the plot, every nuance of the hero and heroine's development.

13. DARK LEGEND by Christine Feehan

I'm one of the die-hard fans of this Carpathian vampire series (although I have skipped a couple that were too violent for me). Dark Legend is my favorite. Feehan knows how to create an immortal bonding that is so romantic and intense, you crave your own tortured soul. Gabriel is the ultimate immortal hero.

14. THE BRIDE by Julie Garwood

Once you read Garwood's Scottish heroes, you'll be addicted. Her romances have been accused of being less than historically accurate, but I couldn't care less. This book showcases her talent with characterization....there is no way you will read this book and not fall madly in love with Alec Kincaid. No. Way.

15. NO TRUE GENTLEMAN by Liz Carlyle

This is part of a series, but No True Gentleman can be read alone. It has absolutely phenomenal chemistry between the heroine and hero, a really lovely formal voice which lends itself so well to the historical genre, and beautiful prose throughout. I adore this book, and Maximilian de Rohan is one of my all-time favorite heroes.

16. A DUKE OF HER OWN by Eloisa James

After I finished reading this the first time (I have re-read it many times since then), I felt giddy with happiness. The same way I felt after finishing Lord of Scoundrels. This book is sublime. Eloisa James does not always hit it out of the park, but when she does, she writes extraordinary books. (I also adored When Beauty Tamed The Beast, another incredible novel by James).

17. JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte

This is my favorite "classic" romance. Jane is probably the greatest heroine ever written....I love how she is a mixture of strength, courage, practicality and a loving heart. And the drama and tragedy and redemption in this novel (all through the power of love, of course) is so romantic it's ridiculous.


This is a "non-romance" romance. It's funny, quirky, kooky, and bloody brilliant. It's my litmus test book. It's a pot of gold at the end of a gay rainbow. :^)

19. TO BEGUILE A BEAST by Elizabeth Hoyt

This is another one with a beastly hero (obviously one of my favorite themes in romance), and Hoyt has crafted a gorgeous story. This is a very emotional and earthy love story, with one of the most sweet and wonderful final scenes.

20. THE NIGHT OWL by Emma Holly (novella in Hot Blooded anthology)

This is my favorite novella. Emma Holly totally nails this paranormal is lush and sexy and a great introduction to her upyr series. The perfect amuse-bouche for paranormal romance fans.


FAVORITE MYSTERY WITH ROMANTIC ELEMENTS: The Liam Campbell Series by Dana Stabenow

This is not technically a romance, but this mystery series is so fabulous, I wanted to mention it. The relationship between Liam and Wy is integral to this storyline, and these books bring Alaska to life.


Stephanie Laurens, Jacquie D'Alessandro, Karen Hawkins, vintage Julia Quinn

So, at this moment in time, I consider these my favorite romance reads. I would love to hear your opinions (as if I could stop you, hee hee!).

Happy Romance Reading To All!


Sophia (FV) said...

Great list! I'm going to book mark it. I've read many on your list and agree they would be on my favorites list a well if I were adventurous enough to make one LOL.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Sophia! I had to leave a lot off the list that I re-read all the time. It was tough!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

I would not even know where to begin... I do love The Bride.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Julia! I know....this is next to impossible. How do you like Almost Like Being In Love? ;^)

barbara said...

Great list! I've read (and love!) many of these. Others I'll have to add to my TBR list.

The Fever series is still "jury-out" for me... I love Barrons, but am completely indifferent toward Mac. :)

Thanks for sharing!

Penny Watson said...

Hi Barbara! I love KMM's older time-travellin' books. And I adore her Fever series. I am pretty amazed that she switched from straight romance to a fantasy series. I thought Mac was pretty irritating at the beginning, but I loved how she transformed from a prissy girl with no clue into a bad-ass fighter. And of course I'll take Barrons on a nutella sammie, please. ;^)

Casey Wyatt said...

Sweet list Penny. Many of my favorites are on your list (including Gail Carriger - still buzzed that she spoke to me in Twitter - total geek out!)

Heidenkind said...

I agree with some but not others! Definitely agree about Madness of Ian Mackenzie and No True Gentleman. My fave Loretta Chase book is Captives of the Night, though, not Lord of Scoundrels. :)

Penny Watson said...

Hi Casey! I know you love Gail's series, too. I just fell in love with those books....I love mixing humor with romance. It's the perfect combination. ;^)

Penny Watson said...

Tasha...I am pretty sure I read that Chase book and I didn't like it as much as LOS. Funny, I know lots of folks who didn't love LOS as much as I did, but after that hilarious first scene in the antique shop (where Jessica is looking at the naughty sculpture), I was totally hooked on that book.

Unknown said...

I'm with Aunty Julia 'Wouldn't know where to begin' but for completely different reasons.

It seems to me that there is too much Lovin creeping in through Indie Authors and NOT ENOUGH ARM RIPPING OFF, KID FIRST SCENE Kil.. sorry wrong medium...

but you know what I mean xxx

Penny Watson said...

Hi Tom! I know you like a spot of violence mixed in with your lovey-dovey stories...hee hee! I would recommend Jeaniene Frost's series (lots of action and violence with the lovin'), Christine Feehan's series, especially the Ghostwalkers (sometimes too violent for me), and Karen Marie Moning's Fever series, which combines horror and romance exceedingly well. Happy Reading!

Linz said...

You are taking me back with the Julie Garwood and LaVryle books! Loved them too! I've read a few on your list and agree that they're great--especially KMM and K. Cole. But thanks for the suggestions as I'm always looking for new authors.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Linz! Most of my favorites are old romance novels that truly stand the test of time. I do have a few newer ones, too, but my favorite re-reads are Oldies but Goodies!

Nellie said...

I loved Lord of Scoundrels. No Penelope Williamson, Sabrina Jeffries, Candice Procter?! Keeper of the dream was a marvelous book by Williamson.