What are the best Linda Howard novels?
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)
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)
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|
H&H Editor Picks:
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