Dec 11 2014 4:30pm

Top 10 Treasures from the Past from Howard, Brockway, and More!

Exposure by Susan AndersenIn Megan Frampton’s blog The Ten Romance Novels You Should Read (An Opinionated Opinion), Megan mentions Anne Stuart, Julia Quinn, J.D. Robb, E.L. James, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Laura Kinsale, J.R. Ward, Jennifer Cruise, Lisa Kleypas, and Loretta Chase. If you have been reading romance for a while, you’ve come across these names frequently in romance board discussions, as recommendations and on lists of top selling books.

Many of these authors have been writing books for a long time. Not to give away anyone’s age, but most of these authors published their first book in the 1980s. And the rest—except J.R. Ward and E.L. James, they’re the newcomers on the block—published their first book in the 1990s.

The eighties and nineties seemed to be the start of many popular authors’ careers, and the heyday of early romance— at least in terms of growth and some might say in originality. There were some great books published then – books that deserve to be remembered, most by authors still writing today. Here, in my opinionated opinion, are some wonderful treasures from the 80’s and 90’s that are just waiting to be discovered by today’s readers:

10. Exposure by Susan Andersen
Most readers know Susan Andersen as a romance author, but her first published book in 1993, Present Danger was romantic suspense. Exposure published in 1996 hit all the right buttons then and now.

9. Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla Kelly
Regency books were very popular for a long while and readers were introduced to some wonderful authors— like Carla Kelly. She immediately became a fan favorite because of her wonderful characterization, and talent as a storyteller.  Like other authors mentioned here, Ms. Kelly has won several RITA awards, including one for my recommendation, Mrs. Drew Plays her Hand.

Ravished by Amanda Quick8. Ravished by Amanda Quick
Humorous books never go out of style. Amanda Quick's books are known now more for their mystic elements, and mystery, but when Jayne Ann Krentz first started writing under this pseudonym her books highlighted more of her great repartee and humor. You can’t go wrong with any of her “S”, “R” or “D” named books. Desire is a big favorite because of the medieval setting, but the banter in Ravished and the way the heroine turns the hero on his head makes this book especially delightful.

7. No Place Like Home by Barbara Samuel (aka Barbara O'Neal)
It doesn’t matter what name she writes under Ruth Wind, Barbara Samuel or Barbara O’Neal, this author wins fans and awards—she has seven RITAs. If you are looking for a book rich in familial relationships, then you definitely need to read No Place like Home.

6. Dream Man by Linda Howard
Linda Howard has written numerous books. Some, while popular during the time period they were released in, haven’t stood the test of time well. But that just says that Ms. Howard is not afraid to take risks— from writing about a woman that kills for a living to a former cheerleader turned spa owner. Dream Man is a book that still keeps you turning the pages.

H&H Editor Picks:

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Top '80s Romances

Top '90s Romances

5. As You Desire by Connie Brockway
I look at Connie Brockway’s backlist of books and think how can I choose? I remember the steaminess of All Through the Night. The humor and how I laughed through The Bridal Season. But Harry—well he has a place in my heart. You won’t want to miss this book with its unique setting and exceptional hero.

4. Lady Reluctant by Maggie Osborne
Maggie Osborn made a made a name for herself with her humor and pathos filled western books. The Promise of Jenny Jones was recognized with a RITA award in 1998 and that book is wonderful— but Lady Reluctant holds a special spot in my memory. Part historical, part swashbuckling pirate story this book was my first introduction to Ms. Osborn's unique and hilariously funny books.

3. Older Woman by Cheryl Reavis
Cheryl Reavis’s first book, A Crime of the Heart, was published in 1988 and was a definite tearjerker. But then that is Reavis's specialty; she writes books about average people facing difficult decisions, from giving up a baby to facing new motherhood, single and 40, to dealing with breast cancer. Her books won a RITA award in 1989, 1991, and 1993. Her Navajo Family Blessing series is one of my favorite series. It’s difficult to pick one book to recommend, but The Older Woman is readily available and is a great representation of Ms. Reavis’ work.

Don't Forget to Smile by Kathleen Giles Seidel2. Beautiful Lies by Emilie Richards
Emilie Richards published her first book 1985 and won a RITA in 1994 for Dragonslayer, a contemporary series romance. But it was with Beautiful Lies published in 1999 that I became an avid fan. This book has it all:  romance, family intrigue, suspense, re-united lovers.

1. Don’t Forget to Smile by Kathleen Gilles Seidel
Kathleen Gilles Seidel's contemporary books were a breath of breath of fresh air in what seemed to be a historical market. Seidel won a Golden Medallion (RITA’s former name) in 1985, for After All These Years and then a RITA in 1995 for Again. Her books incorporated imaginative storytelling and vivid characterization although they are lighter on sexual content. After All These Years is wonderful friends to lover story, and Again is just as good, but I re-read Don’t Forget to Smile the most. Ms. Seidel’s message that a women’s worth is more than the way she looks was right on the mark in the 1980’s and is a timely reminder to women of today.

Now it is your turn—what books did you read in either the 80’s, 90’s or early 2000’s that still are a big favorite that you recommend to readers today?


To learn more about the books mentioned in this post:

Exposure by Susan Andersen  
Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla Kelly  
Ravished by Amanda Quick  
No Place Like Home by Barbara Samuel (aka Barbara O'Neal)  
Dream Man by Linda Howard  
As You Desire by Connie Brockway  
Lady Reluctant by Maggie Osborn  
Older Woman by Cheryl Reavis  
Beautiful Lies by Emilie Richards  
Don’t Forget to Smile by Kathleen Giles Seidel  












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Scarlettleigh, blogger

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Kareni
Lots of great recommendations in your post -- most I'm familiar with but there are a few that I've yet to read. I still like to recommend LaVyrle Spencer's Morning Glory (1989) and Elizabeth Lowell's Tell Me No Lies (1986).
Maggie Boyd
2. maggieboyd66
I second Morning Glory by Spencer. My favorite Seidel is Summer's End. I just adore that book. I love Ravished by Quick and Dream Man by Linda Howard. Great list!
Lee Brewer
3. LeeB.
Some of the oldies are still goodies, especially historicals by Loretta Chase, Mary Balogh, Connie Brockway, Carla Kelly, Lynn Kerstan, Julia Quinn. I could go on and on.
4. Rose In RoseBear
Elizabeth Lowell anything! From the post-Civil War hardbacks to the Silhouette categories to the ones about gems and precious metals and international intrigue, Ms. Lowell writes a great stick. Her books take up all kinds of space on my bookshelves!

I love Linda Howard, and very few of her books are obsolete to me. I can still read the Spencer-Nyle books, despite the azzhole alpha males, 'cause their grovel is usually pretty good. And I could read MacKenzie's Mountain over and over ... who didn't fall in love with bossy Mary?

My copies of the late Edith Layton's Signet Regencies are falling apart, I re-read them so often; I've taken to hunting them down on eBay to replace 'em.

And nobody does early Americana --- 1800s to 1930s --- like Dorothy Garlock! Tough loving women and strong men with gentle hearts, all set against the great westward movement, when the frontier was the Missouri River. She also writes WWI and WWII romances that feel authentic.

Mary Balogh, of course, but also Mary Jo Putney. The Fallen Angels series is always worth a re-read, and One Perfect Rose makes me want to cry near the end.

And nobody mentioned Kathleen Woodiwiss! I don't recommend Shanna, which always leaves me feeling like I'm lost in the Neverending Story, but The Flame and the Flower (yes, yes, I know, rapey) and The Wolf and the Dove are favorites of mine.

And, if you like medieval, or Napoleonic Wars novels, you have to read Roberta Gellis. The Roselynde Chronicles and Royal Dynasty books just rock! And don't overlook the five novels set in the Napoleonic era ... great stuff! Her heroes are sort of adorkable, and her women are strong and capable.

Okay, now I have to go and re-read all this stuff ... gonna start with Mackenzie's Mountain, I think ...!
5. Scarlettleigh
@Kareni @maggieboyd66 --LaVyrle Spencer books are heart-felt.

@LeeB --I agree there are some great treasures to find by all your authors.

@Rose in Rosebear Dorthy Garlock books definitely don't get enough talk. I haven't re-read Tell Me Lies by Elizabeth Lowell in ages.
6. Janga
Books from nine of the ten authors on your list still rank among my all-time top 100, although except for Barbara Samuel, my top choice would be different books. I started reading Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley, Mary Jo Putney, Edith Layton, Robyn Carr, and Nora Roberts in the 1980s and Jill Barnett, Jennifer, Crusie, Kathleen Korbel, and Deborah Smith in the 1990s. Each is represented on my all-time favorites list. Perhaps more impressive is that many of these authors have books on my favorites list from this century too.
Vickie Russell
7. Vickie Russell
I adored Ravished, it was so sweet, and I've reread it a number of times. I absolutely love Linda Howard and many of her books are faves including Dream Man, Cry No More, Duncan's Bride and my absolute favourites MacKenzie's Mountain (I reread this all the time I can't stay away from it) and Open Season which is hilarious in audiobooks. I also love Jill Barnett, Catherine Anderson and Liz Carlyle. Mary Balogh is one of my absolute top authors, whether it's oldies or newies. A lot of older books from the 90s are still amazingly good.
8. Scarlettleigh
@Vickie Russell -- you know I am sort of caught up on my reading. It is a windy, damp day here, and I think I just might plop myself down for a re-read of Ravished. And I'm going to check out the Audio book of Open Season. Thanks!
Vickie Russell
9. lizzie18
Did I write this blog ?!? When I saw Exposure and Ravished (and those S,R,D books), I thought you had plucked them out of my head. I consider them hidden jems and I didn't think anybody else had given them much attention. And then you went on to Linda Howard's Dream Man, one of my favorite with Open Season and the MacKenzies.

Since we seem to have the same taste, I will check out each and every book I don't know on the list and in your readers' replies.

I have two hidden jems you can add : Survivors and Tallchief, both from Dinah McCall; very different from each other but equally engrossing.
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