Squawk Radio

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


1) THE WINDFLOWER by Tom and Sharon Curtis (Laura London - 1984) - As I've said before, this is not only my favorite romance but my favorite novel of all time. You'll find the writing a little more detailed than most romances today but it's so exquisite that I love every syllable. The cast of unforgettable characters include Merry Patricia Wilding, whose innocence, courage, and good humor prove irresistible to even the most jaded of pirates; Devon, her handsome abductor, whose passion is exceeded only by his compassion; enigmatic pirate king Rand Morgan and his young protégé, Cat. To this day, Cat remains one of the most beloved secondary characters in all of romantic fiction. No longer a boy, but not yet a man, he reluctantly assumes the role of Merry's champion and steals our hearts just as surely as Devon steals Merry's. (Alternate Curtis Pick - SUNSHINE AND SHADOW and every one of their short Regencies and categories.)

2) A KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR by Jude Deveraux (1989) - This is the ultimate time travel romance that rocked the publishing world back in 1989. It was fresh and unique because Jude brought her hero forward in time to the present day before sending her heroine back in time to search for him. It was the first time I realized just how compelling a "lovable loser" heroine could be. And I still smile when I think about Nicholas being introduced to the modern joys of the vacuum cleaner and can opener and get a catch in my throat when I think about the ending. Jude has always had the ability to write in almost any genre because she's such a consummate storyteller. (Alternate: WISHES, the VELVET series).

3) THE BRIDE by Julie Garwood (1990) - In this medieval and quintessential Garwood book, Julie brought something that was badly needed to the historical romance genre--delight. From the very first lines of Chapter One: "They said he killed his first wife. Papa said maybe she needed killing", you knew you were in for a treat. Garwood was a master at writing those "ditzy-appearing but actually pretty clever" heroines who swept into the castle/manor and made everyone fall in love with her...including us. (Alternate: HONOR'S SPLENDOR, THE LYON'S LADY, RANSOM.)

4) SOMETHING WONDERFUL by Judith McNaught (1988) - Judith McNaught has always combined fine writing with wonderful storytelling and she brings both to a culmination in this delightful and classic Regency historical. Her secondary cast of characters (loveable servants, a crusty grandmother, a sardonic "fairy godfather" type, the hero's sympathetic and sexy brother/cousin/friend) have become archetypes in the romance genre since this book was published. The end always leaves me sobbing (but in a joyful way). (Alternates: A KINGDOM OF DREAMS, ALMOST HEAVEN, ONCE AND ALWAYS, PARADISE.)

5) SEIZE THE FIRE by Laura Kinsale (1989) - Although some will swear by FLOWERS FROM THE STORM or THE PRINCE OF MIDNIGHT, it was SEIZE THE FIRE that gave me my first introduction to the wonderful and full-bodied romances of Laura Kinsale. In this extraordinary romantic adventure, plump exiled princess Olympia St. Leger wins the heart of nearly unredeemable rake Sheridan Drake. Kinsale was the first author I remember who wasn't afraid to make her characters less than likeable so that you could watch them grow during the course of the story. As a reader, I would gladly accompany her on any journey--either by camel through the desert or through the more complex and perilous pathways of the human heart. (Alternate: FLOWERS FROM THE STORM.)

6) LORD OF SCOUNDRELS by Loretta Chase (1994) - You'll find this Regency historical on almost every "Best of" list for a reason. Chase's tongue is as witty, sharp and delightful as her heroine's, as we quickly discover in the Prologue when we get our first sighting of our future hero Lord Dain as an infant--"His heir was a wizened olive thing with large black eyes, ill-proportioned limbs, and a grossly oversize nose. It howled incessantly." Fortunately, you know what they say about the size of a man's nose... (Alternate: THE LION'S DAUGHTER.)

7) IT HAD TO BE YOU by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (1994) - I've never met a Susan Elizabeth Phillips book I didn't love. Of her earlier books, FANCY PANTS, HOT SHOT and HONEY MOON are my favorites but of her later, slightly lighter books, this introduction to the football team the Chicago Stars most definitely qualifies as a classic. The minute Phoebe Summerville shows up at her father's funeral with a French poodle and a Hungarian lover, we know that Chicago Stars coach Dan Calebow doesn't stand a chance of resisting the brainy beauty. Susan writes some of the most three-dimensional characters I've ever met and is a master at establishing empathy for them from the very first page. (Alternates: Pretty much everything she ever wrote.)

8) JUST A KISS AWAY by Jill Barnett (1991) - This book is like one of those wonderful slapstick comedies from the 30's and 40's starring Carole Lombard and Clark Gable. Think BRINGING UP BABY set in the Pacific jungle. The lovely thing about Jill's comedy is that she could put her characters in the most ridiculous situations imaginable without making them ridiculous. And just when you think she can only make you giggle, she leaves you with a lump in your throat. Her historicals, even the funniest ones, had tremendous heart and that's what makes them timeless. (Alternate: BEWITCHING, SURRENDER THE DREAM)

9) GARTERS by Pamela Morsi (1992) - Pamela Morsi has the sort of voice that only comes along once every decade or so--warm, witty, and uniquely American. The Americana genre has fallen out of favor in the past few years and I desperately miss these books about small towns and mountain communities populated by good-hearted and quirky characters. A Morsi character like mountain girl Esme Crabb in GARTERS may be poor in wealth but they're always rich in humor and spirit. (Alternates: COURTING MISS HATTIE, SOMETHING SHADY, SIMPLE JESS.)

10) HUMMINGBIRD by LaVyrle Spencer (1983) - Everyone was shocked when LaVyrle Spencer retired from writing a few years ago at the top of her game (and the top of the bestseller lists), but she left behind a rich legacy of books. YEARS (with its grown-up LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE vibe) is another one of my favorites but HUMMINGBIRD is the ultimate gunfighter/schoolmarm Western. There are plenty of opportunities for delicious and romantic encounters as gentle, prim Abigail McKenzie nurses wounded gunfighter Jesse back to life...and love. (Alternate: YEARS, TWICE LOVED.)

Okay, it's your turn to stock our romance library! My first book had already been sold when I read most of these books but they inspired me to hone my prose, my storytelling and my mastery of sensual tension. I wasn't allowed to put any classic Squawker novels on MY list but you may if you just insist. (DREAMING OF YOU, anyone? ;))If you could recommend 1-10 romances to stock a classic collection, what would they be?
Teresa Medeiros, 6:49 AM