Maddie's Top 10 List
Updated: Sep 20
So many books, so little time.
Who remember's the post-apocalyptic Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith when he finally had all the time in the world to read then broke his glasses? That would be my hell!
There are so many wonderful romances out there, present and past, I had a hard time stopping at ten. Thus, the honorable mention I tacked on at the end. I think in time I need to expand to Top 20, or the Top 50 so I don't exclude many more of my favorites from authors such as Nora Roberts, Jude Deveraux, Katie McAlister (Dragon shifters, yum), Alethea Romig, Madeleine Hunter, and many, many more.
My list may surprise you. It contains everything from alien heroes to highland lairds. It doesn't have to be kinky or spanky, and I don't avoid vanilla. My pre-requisites are few; a compelling love story with a happy ending.
Many of the works on my list are ye olde bodice rippers from long ago, but hey, I went to high school in the 80's and as a teen read from my mama's bookshelf. They are a guilty pleasure of mine, as are stories with shifters, sexy dominants, and gorgeous level four wizards. I provided links in case my top 10 differs from yours and you want to 1-click and enjoy.
1. Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey
Fabio in purple tights! This was written in 1989 so be prepared.
We get a smart, determined, independent heroine in an era where she is definitely not in control. She must use her wit and wiles to steer things down the path of her choosing. This isn't instalove and there are some awkward fits and starts in the bedroom, but romance blossoms in this contracted marriage. The host of secondary characters from the gay chambermaid to the village whore the hero visits for how-to advice, to a jealous, deliberately farting cat will keep you smiling Leave your 2020 feminism behind and sit back and enjoy.
2. Motorcycle Man by Kirsten Ashley
Tack is rough around the edges and a scary biker dude, he cusses, tells it like it is, but on his terms. Everything is on his terms. He's older, has a biker goatee, tats, sexy crinkles beside his eyes. Don't mess with him, and accept you have to take the bad to get to the good, then you too will find him irresistible. Yum!
3. Club Shadowlands by Cherise Sinclair
Come visit this private BDSM club and meet Master Z. I fell for him when he broke his own rules to take care of a half-drowned, down on her luck young woman and loved him more with each book. Its perma-free on Kindle so jump right into book 1 of 14. Let me know if you don't fall in love with Z and all the Masters of the Shadowlands.
4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The book is divine and the series (aka Sam) is wonderful, too. But with the book I don't have to wait for the end of a pandemic to know what happens next.
5. The Sherbrooke Bride by Catherine Coulter
I really did not like this hero in the beginning, but he grew on me, like mold. True, there was some trickery involved so he had reason to be ticked, but her really wasn't nice. There is unrequited love on the heroine's part, and at first, tries really hard to please, until she simply can't take it anymore. When she shows her backbone, and decides to pack it in and leaving him, he finally wakes up and sees what he's overlooking. Again, the humor, witty banter, and evolution of the male character when she finally pries the stick from his stubborn ass, makes this (and the entire Brides series) a winner.
6. The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss
My first romance as a teenager and boy, oh boy, did I pick a doozy. There's a larger than life conquering hero, a damsel in distress, a baby whose parentage is in question, good vs evil, character evolution, villains you'll hate so much you're are tempted to flip to the end to make sure they get it in the end. Its set in 1066, and the Norman's invade England, so there are warring enemies, brutality, and, trigger alert, enslavement of the Saxon's in ways that I'm sure are historically accurate. If you hang in long enough to get past the vanquishing in the beginning you'll find a love story. Along the lines of Outlander, its not for everyone, and some of it is hard to read, but I loved it and have re-read it more times than I care to admit. LOL
7. Knight of a Trillion Stars by Dara Joy
SciFi crossed with paranormal and a big, gorgeous alpha hero is my guilty pleasure.
Lorgin is "called" to Earth by Deanne and a lost magic torque as the prophesy predicts. There is instant steamy chemistry between the H/h, creative world building, wizards and magic, and humor, including the hero assaulting a scary microwave with his light sword during his brief visit to Earth.
Another all-time fav! But they redid the cover a few years back which is a shame. The original, pictured here, is so much better and captures the magic of the story perfectly. The new one just creeps me out. I didn't take points off for that, however, because the other is imprinted on my brain, and I have it saved to share with you here.
8. Fury by Laurann Dohner
Genetic engineering with human and animal DNA spliced together to create a new species. Throw in greed, power hungry politicians, and corrupt scientists and nothing can go wrong, right?
Love, love, love this entire series, its brilliant, creative, and addictive. And the sex between the new species and humans is carnal, instinctive, and animalistic. Rraawrrr!
9. The Locket by Maren Smith
I've read quite a few of Maren's books, she certainly has the storytelling gift, but this time-travel romance back to the post-war 40's really stuck with me. Maybe it was the nostalgia for a bygone era or the compassionate yet stern hero. It could have been the sweet old man in the park and the twist at the end, or the heartwarming romance, but it was definitely the bottom warming discipline. In the genre of spanking romance, this one is perfect.
10. The Bride by Julie Garwood
By order of the king, a highland laird must wed the daughter of an English Lord, but she is the enemy and she vows to resist him, and from there the fun and games begin.
It was hard to pick a Julie Garwood favorite, and The Prize is a close second, but there is something about a man in a kilt that makes my heart go pitter-pat.
While searching for a link, I saw at least six different covers. In this case, it got better with age.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
I have to throw this one in because, unlike the others, it veers from the HEA romance requirement, but I've loved this one, and the movie, since I was a teen. Considering I have a lot of arrogant, dominant heroes in my top 10, this classic may or may not be my most controversial pick.
Yes, it's racist, the black characters are living, breathing stereotypes, and, Hattie McDaniel, who won an Oscar for her performance couldn't accept her award in person due to segregation laws. It also depicts a completely spoiled, selfish, maddeningly manipulative heroine who falls in love with the wrong man, and deserves to be taken over the hero's knee more than any heroine I've ever come across--and the story falls short by not giving the reader that satisfaction--but it has some redeeming qualities.
Pay no attention to the fact its 1037 pages long, but the story telling is excellent, and despite Scarlett's many failings, for the setting and the era it was written in, its refreshing to see her portrayed as a determined, independent woman. If you want historical accuracy, read a history book, but if you want a well-written epic tale, with some romance, if you're like me, you won't be able to not love it!
Absolutely Positively by Jayne Ann Krentz
Paranormal romantic suspense. Take a brilliant, nerdy, sexy scientist who is also a bit of an arrogant alpha - what a combination - throw in his eccentric co-dependent family and a new girlfriend who knows how to handle them, add a bit of danger and a mystery, plus some romance with a lot of sexual tension and this one is a winner in my book. More story than sex and romance, so if that's not your thing...
Amaryllis by Jayne Castle
Set in a futuristic planet where Earthlings colonized some time ago before the Curtain closed between the two worlds, everyone has psychic ability, it's tested and rated. Strong psychic talents need a prism to help them focus or they risk burning out. It's usually non-sexual, and a service Amaryllis is happy to provide for her clients. When Lucas hires her to focus for him, they learn the other's power is off the charts, much higher than they were rated. When they link, on and off the metaphysical plane, they find their passion is off the charts, too. Like her alias, Jayne Ann Krentz, more story than sex, but lots of sexual tension. I could only find it used and in paperback on Amazon, but it is available on Audible.
Claimed: Brides of the Kindred Book 1 by Evangeline Anderson
The Kindred are a race of genetic traders whose population is ninety-five percent male. After saving Earth from the threat of invasion these huge alien warriors demand a reward—the right to find brides among the population. In Claimed, Baird comes for his bride, but before he can make her his, he must make her want him enough to give up the life she has on earth, including a sister and her best friend, to become a Kindred Bride. Olivia plans to be strong and resist his potent draw. If she can make it through the four week claiming period without having bonding sex with him, she is free to go. But this Kindred Beast sets fire to her blood and he intends to use all the tools in his arsenal to see that doesn't happen.
I could go on, and on, and on...
I did mention I'm a romance junky, right? Check out some of these awesome books by these amazing authors and let me know what you think.