Fri
Nov 11 2016 9:30am

8 Linda Howard Comfort Reads for Every Situation

What are the best Linda Howard novels?

Cry No More by Linda Howard

Confession: I’m a serial re-reader. When I’m stressed, tired, overworked, overwhelmed, sad, or just plain lazy, I turn to my old favorite shelf for a pick-me-up. A book I know I’m going to love, a book that feels like returning home. Sure, I know the ending, but so what? I love these characters, I know these characters, I miss these characters. You don’t stop talking to your BFF just because you know each others’ secrets. If you do, you’re a bad friend.

And for me, the author I always pick back up when life isn’t going the way I want: Linda Howard.

I really cannot preach enough about the gospel of Linda Howard, circa 1999. The mid-to-late-90s (plus a handful of early 2000s titles, which I’m sneaking in) are my jam when it comes to prime comfort read material. For me, that time period is a perfect merger of the alpha heroes—they know what they want and aren’t afraid to go after in—of the 80s and the heroines I associate with modern romances—they are smart, kickass, competent, who are vocal about sex, demand respect, and don’t take any shit. Plus, the plots are pretty darned good. Serial killers, psychic heroines, sultry New Orleans nights, hunky neighbors, a librarian in disguise!**

And while I will never claim to be a Linda Howard expert (I would need at least one advanced degree in Howardism), I have a lot of opinions. Very strong opinions. So if you’re stressed, tired, overworked, overwhelmed, sad, or just plain lazy, and looking for a guaranteed read here is my definitive list of The Ultimate 90s Girl Guide to Linda Howard.

8. Cry No More (2003)

I love this hero. If you want a prime example of Strong and Silent, take a look at this book. The story is not traditional by any means. The heroine is trying to uncover a child trafficking ring that stole her newborn son from her arms and left her for dead, but Milla, the heroine, is so strong.
Usage: For when you need to feel like a badass heroine.

7. Now You See Her (1998)

Heroine is a painter! And a psychic! Hero is a millionaire (a nearly extinct creature in modern romances). She paints creepy pictures in her sleep of murder and mayhem. They have epic cuddle sessions (in a unique take on the “sharing body heat” trope) and really nice shower sex.
Usage: For when you need a little magic in your life. And a really good hug.

6. Shades of Twilight (1996)

Shades of Twilight by Linda Howard

Virgin heroine alert! Virgin heroine alert! This is a contemporary family saga set in the South that spans years, has a big old house, horses, and true love. Full disclosure, the hero and heroine might be a little related, but the emotions in it make me feel that short-of-breath-he-loves-her-so-much pang.
Usage: For when you need a little angst to break you out of your own angst.

5. The Mackenzie Series (1989-2000)

This epic series of category length books follows the totally hot Mackenzie family in Wyoming. The Air Force hero with the scientist heroine. The SEAL hero with his virgin diplomat’s daughter. The horse trainer heroine with her undercover hero. The undercover hero with his equally secretive on-the-run heroine. I could probably spend hours debating the pros and cons of these books, but for me it’s all about the first book, Mackenzie’s Mountain, where a dowdy, but fierce, school teacher (read: spinster) refuses to give up on the super hot, but gruff, horse trainer and his son.
Usage: For when you want to fall into something familiar.

4. Kill and Tell (1998)

New Orleans, sexy detective hero, a heroine dealing with the death of her absent father, a long seduction... and the occasional murder. This is the book I turn to when I want a strong Alpha hero’s POV. Marc is Alpha. No apologies Alpha. But he’s also a gentleman and is in it to win it — and by it I mean a full-on relationship with the heroine. Watching him seduce Karen, the heroine, is…shiver. Sure, the sex is ON FIRE IN ALL CAPS, but it’s also fraught with intent and emotion. This is no Alpha Asshole. This is a Alpha who is going to get his woman.
Usage: For when you need a strong shoulder to cry on.

3. Dream Man (1995)

The second Psychic!heroine on my list, I have a soft spot for Dream Man. It’s raunchy, passionate, creepy, fun. Howard gives readers a heroine who is not afraid to walk away when the hero is a bit of a dummy, and their HEA is better for it. Too be honest, I have a hard time pinpointing why I love this book so much, but when I’m tired and I just want a good strong romance, with a straightforward plot, and really nice heat, I always turn to this book. It’s a personal one for me. I also like the way the Just One Bed trope is used.
Usage: For when your brain hurts but you want something good.

2. Mr. Perfect (2000)

What happens when four friends make a list describing their perfect man? Obviously, someone starts killing them off one-by-one! Obviously. Smart pacing, a chilling villain, witty banter, hot sex, a heroine who sharp and sarcastic, hot sex, a hero who is gruff and determined, hot sex.
Usage: For when you need a laugh and don’t want a cold shower.

1. Open Season (2001)

Open Season by Linda Howard

This is a controversial #1. I know that. I get it, I get it. The entire Howard fandom loves Mr. Perfect more than anything. I also love Mr. Perfect. But Open Season is my personal catnip. She’s a small town Southern librarian who Ugly Ducklings herself into a swan. He’s the new yankee chief of police who has plans for her. Naked plans. Add in a suspense plot line, MURDER! and a PUPPY, and this book had me at hello.
Usage: For when you just can’t help who you love.

And there you have it! My very definite opinions on comfort reading Linda Howard. Get your pitchforks ready, and sound off below if you disagree with Open Season being #1, or if you have your own favorite author you turn to when you need to feel human again.

**Beauty and the Beast reference, yo

Learn more about or order a copy of the Linda Howard books mentioned in this post:

Cry No More
Now You See Her
Shades of Twlight
Mackenzie's Mountain (The Mackenzie Family Series #1)
Kill and Tell
Dream Man
Mr. Perfect
Open Season

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Lizzie Poteet is a hopeless romantic who appreciates a good kilt and a sexy Scottish burr. Even if she can hardly understand it. She studied abroad at the University of St. Andrews on the off chance she would fall back in time and meet her own warrior soul mate. Sadly, she didn’t and now lives in New York with her dog Mr. Darcy where she watches a lot of TV and edits romances for St. Martin’s Press. You can follow her @lizziepoteet

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15 comments
Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
I like Open Season a lot, but yeah, Mr. Perfect is the one I recommend the most. I also really love Now You See Her. And the Mackenzies. And a lot of her old stuff, actually.

When I read them now, I recognize their flaws, including the dated gender dynamics, but her writing is still very compelling to me.
Elizabeth Poteet
2. ElizabethPoteet
@Heather, some of those gender dynamics are coming back around! I think the difference is while Howard's heroes are all very possessive and take charge, they're mostly take charge emotionally and not just physically like I'm seeing more and more currently.
Carmen Pinzon
3. bungluna
This is an author that I love to hate or hate to love, depending on my mood. I love "Open Season" especially because the heroine doesn't act like a TSTL ninny. I hate the last bit of it, so I skip it and pretend it doesn't exist.

I love "Mr. Perfect". I hate "Cry No More". I really hate "Shades of Twilight" but still read it when I need a good wheepy story.

Every time I think I should weed her books from my reader shelf, I get caught re-reading one (or 10!) of them and just leave them alone. You never know when you'll be in desperate need of a Howard fix.
Kareni
4. Kareni
You named my two favorites ~ my number one is Mackenzie’s Mountain and my second favorite is Now You See Her. I've read the others on your list but these are the two I've read multiple times.
Elizabeth Poteet
5. ElizabethPoteet
@Kareni, I've read them ALL multiple times so for me it was a tough one, since each book gives me something different. And WOLF! Oh man! I love him. The way he warms her feet. Shiver. Yum. Yes. Going to go read that one again right now.
Darlene Marshall
6. DarleneMarshall
I love Cry No More and keep the tissues handy when I'm re-reading it. The only one of those that wasn't a keeper for me was Dream Man. The hero was icky, but obviously I'm in the minority here.

I thought Mr. Perfect was fun and bizarre (love the scene when she spots Sam in the altogether), and I had great admiration for Daisy in Open Season.

Thanks for the reminders. When things are grim, there's nothing like a re-read of a favorite romance to take you away from it all.
Helen McKenna
7. Helen McKenna
I ABSOLUTELY LOVE EVERYTHING LINDA HOWARD WRITES.
Its an "oldie" and not a murder, but I adore Sarah' Child. It gives me goose bumps every time I read it and I still cry in all the same places every single time . MY all time favourite author.
Helen McKenna
8. Kaye J
I too love the Linda Howard's 90's books the best and love your list but have to say my all time favorite of hers is After the Night...I just love Gray & Faith!!! Hot, hot, hot!!!!
Helen McKenna
9. Nikki H
Linda Howard has long been my favorite author ever and my favorite book ever is Open Season. It's lol and tense and hot and creepy. Cry No More is my second favorite. I like all the ones you listed, and in addition, I also reread Kill and Tell and All the Queen's Men, the Blair Mallory books (just a heads-up--these two are written in 1st person), Dying to Please (the h is a butler!) and Death Angel, Shadow Woman and Troublemaker. I know some readers aren't as happy with her later books but I always say a good LH book is better than anyone else's best seller.
Helen McKenna
10. Christine F
I love Linda Howard, but I have to agree with another post about After the Night! I love that book so much! I haven't re-read her books in a while, but when I do I always go back to that one. My other favorites are Now You See Her, Mr. Perfect, and Heart of Fire. I know that I liked Kill and Tell, Mackenzie's Mountain, Lady of the West and Son of the Morning, but I don't really remember them that well. It looks like it's time for another re-read!
bigedsgirl1
11. bigedsgirl1
My first read of Linda Howard's was To Die For and I was a fan for life. The dialogue between Blair and Wyatt was unforgettably hot and funny; this book primed me to become a fan of the Gilmore Girls tv series. I totally agree with the selections of the Mackenzie series; Wolf and Zane are both totally drool worthy and take no prisoners when it comes to their ladies. Ater the Night s/b on the list; I mean who can forget Faith running around in her night gown at age 14 trying to salvage everything she could, as her family is being booted out of their home. I have no problem with Open Season being #1, because I think Daisy and Jack's chat about the condoms in her little brown bag, trump Jaine's nude sighting of neighbor Sam.
Elizabeth Poteet
12. ElizabethPoteet
Confession to everyone here: I've only read After the Night once. Okay, like twice or something. Four times MAX. Obviously, there is something wrong with me if everyone loves it. I mean I remember liking it.... and when I think about the scene where Faith's family is run out of their home, it makes me feel all the feels, but then he's just so... to her.... and it's almost a little too rough?

Also, honerable mention to Dying to Please, which is a return read for me for the french fries, female butler, shooting range, and fondling under a blanket at a baseball game.
Cait Voss
13. Cathiewannabe
Adding to the comments. I absolutely love LH. I have EVERYTHING and If I can get an audio of it, I have that as well. I think I started with MacK Mt. I loved Wolf as well. Do you have any idea how hard it was ( years ago) to get a copy of M's Pleasure? I paid bucks for it on Ebay! But I still love Dad best. I think the sexiest thing (any book/author) is him standing in the doorway with the lightening behind him
Mr P in audio was another tough one to find. FYI, CRY NO MORE audio eliminated the Epilogue. The publisher thought it was superfluous! I complained.
Open Season is one of my go-to favs. I see no one mentioned SON OF THE MORNING. I didn't like that book.
I also wish we LH and LJ would get busy and write the sequels to BLOOD BORN, RUNNING WILD, FROST LINE: According to linda Jones' page they are all supposed to be the first in a series.
I always buy her books, but it's funny that the ones I remember and go-to are the old ones! Why are the newer so forgetable?
Cait Voss
13. Cathiewannabe
Adding to the comments. I absolutely love LH. I have EVERYTHING and If I can get an audio of it, I have that as well. I think I started with MacK Mt. I loved Wolf as well. Do you have any idea how hard it was ( years ago) to get a copy of M's Pleasure? I paid bucks for it on Ebay! But I still love Dad best. I think the sexiest thing (any book/author) is him standing in the doorway with the lightening behind him
Mr P in audio was another tough one to find. FYI, CRY NO MORE audio eliminated the Epilogue. The publisher thought it was superfluous! I complained.
Open Season is one of my go-to favs. I see no one mentioned SON OF THE MORNING. I didn't like that book.
I also wish we LH and LJ would get busy and write the sequels to BLOOD BORN, RUNNING WILD, FROST LINE: According to linda Jones' page they are all supposed to be the first in a series.
I always buy her books, but it's funny that the ones I remember and go-to are the old ones! Why are the newer so forgetable?
Helen McKenna
14. hww
Love the McKenzie's and reread them now and then. But, UP CLOSE AND DANGEROUS really does it for me. I just love that book!
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