History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

08 March 2010

Favorite Books . . . We All Have Them

My new agent recently asked me what I think the all-time top five romances are, which got me thinking . . . what follows is a list of books I can read over and over. Books I own in multiple versions. Books I’d own in Hard Back and electronic form if it were possible. If I was to be trapped on a desert island, I’d be ok if I had these books, a Machete and my Ray Bans.

I’m limiting myself to five in each category, and to specific books, not authors or series.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
Venetia by Georgette Heyer (I’m limiting myself to just one Heyer)
The Seduction by Julia Ross
Something Wicked by Jo Beverley
The Edge of Impropriety by Pam Rosenthal

Historical Novels
The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwall
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Beneath a Silent Moon by Tracy Grant

Science Fiction/Fantasy
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
World War Z by Max Brooks
A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay
Godstalk by P.C. Hodgell
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

“Classics” which were contemporary for their time
Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers
Behold, Here’s Poison by Georgette Heyer
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Piccadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse

Books in Translation that make me wish I could read the original:
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

What about you? What novels make your list?


Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Thanks so much, Kalen, for liking EDGE so much and putting me in such superb company.

I'm going to suggest one longtime secret romantic favorite of mine -- perhaps the smartest, wittiest book about a woman in love I'll ever encounter. It's called JANE, by Dee Wells, who was married, divorced, and married again to the philosopher A.J. Ayer, and.who (according to the Guardian),

...accompanied Ayer for a year at Harvard. In 1973, she published Jane, a satirical roman à clef about a fiercely opinionated American girl who arrives in London, coolly appraises English manners and traditions, and has affairs with an aristocrat, a black American lawyer and a burglar. "I was idle, and I had a perfectly good typewriter and half a box of paper," she said. The book sold 2m copies.

(While I was once amazed, chagrined, and delighted to receive an email from a romance reader who'd figured out that Billy, the boy-pickpocket from ALMOST A GENTLEMAN, was lifted from JANE. And yes, I'm guilty as charged.)

11:09 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oooooooo, something to track down. Yea!

And I really do love Edge. I've bought an electronic copy too so I can reread it whenever, wherever. I think I’ve read it five times now, LOL!

11:39 AM  
Blogger Miranda Neville said...

I'm hopeless at making these lists so I'm not going to try. But I always enjoy other people's, and your list is terrific, Kalen. Given how much I love the books that I have read, I need to look into the others. Always happy to meet another Dunnett fan.

Pam: I did read Jane many years ago, and hadn't thought of it since. I remember it being a good read. What with the Ayer connection, and the fact that Wells's daughter was dating Martin Amis at the time, it got a lot of ink in England where the press just love literary gossip.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Great post! I think I've got some reading to do.


5:16 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Wow, Kalen, I finally have a chance to check the site after a busy Monday and find the lovely present of seeing Beneath a Silent Moon listed in such lovely company.

I love lists like this, though invariably the minute I make and post one, I think of a book it was criminal to omit. You're lists include a lot of my favorites--Busman's Honeymoon, The Gallows Thief, Pride and Prejudice, Venetia, Persuasion. I'll add in Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust and Emma Bull, a wonderful combination of intrigue, romance, history, politics, and a (small) bit of paranormal that is one of my favorite books and also one of the best love stories I've ever read. Also Laurie King's Mary Russell books, though I'd have a hard time picking which.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...


Meant to include Game of Kings in favorites you'd already mentioned. And I've already gone back to Lauren's Seduction of the Crimson Rose several times.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Miranda, JANE is such a private favorite of mine that it's strange to think of anyone gossiping over it.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I haven’t read Freedom and Necessity or Laurie King's Mary Russell books. I’ll add them to my list (which is also one of the reasons I like posts like this; after all, I’d never read Sayers until last year when you all went on a tear about her).

7:14 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Yes, I'm definitely planning to read Laurie King because of Tracy's recommendations. Where shall I begin, Tracy (or anybody who recommends her books)?

7:47 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I'd start with The Beekeeper's Apprentice. It's the first in King's Mary Russell series.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Thanks, Tracy. Also, where do I begin with Terry Pratchett. Neil Gaiman? Terry Pratchett AND Neil Gaiman?

8:55 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Can't help with Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman, Pam--I confess I haven't read them. Hope you enjoy the Mary Russell books.

Kalen,I think it's very cool you found Sayers through the blog.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Start wit Good Omens! It's a perfect combo.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Kalen,I think it's very cool you found Sayers through the blog.

I'm having a love affair right now with post-WWI novelists. I've always loved Heyer's historicals and Wodehouse, but now I'm gorging on Heyer's mysteries, Sayers, Christie, and discovering new authors too.

It helps that this era is slipping into the common domain and the books are starting to show up as free ebook on things like Girlebooks and ManyBooks (which is also filled with great stuff from Sabatini, Burroguhs, etc). I nabbed Police Your Planet, an old pulp sci-fi book by Lester del Ray on ManyBooks yesterday: this hard-boiled story of cheap grifters, Martian slums, and rampant crime features ex-cop Bruce Gordon, shipped to Mars with a knife, 100 credits, and a yellow card that means no return...

12:36 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I love post WWI novelists too, Kalen. Sabatini is also a favorite. And all the British Golden Age mystery writers--Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh in particular in addition to Sayers (all have lovely ongoing love stories, which is also what I love about the Laurie King books, which often consciously echo the Sayers books as well as being Sherlockian spinoffs).

Btw, I meant to say that I find it particularly cool that Beneath a Silent Moon is on your list along with Busman's Honeymoom, since Busman's Honeymoon was in many ways the inspiration for Silent Moon.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I really like all your books, but BaSM has some seriously cool stuff going on, and the setting is great. Of course I loved the manuscript I begged my way into reading too . . . I'm still holding out for Roul's book!

6:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Off to look up Allingham and March . . .

6:01 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I think think it's so cool BaSM is one of your favorites, Kalen. Sometimes I think Secrets of a Lady get more attention, but I had so much fun writing Silent Moon, and I felt I knew the characters more by the time I wrote it (plus it has some new characters I love, like David and Simon). I *really* hope I I get a chance to write Raoul's book!

6:10 PM  
Blogger Janet Mullany said...

I'm reading Venetia for the read along at riskyregencies.blogspot.com and although it must be a re-read (since I know I read all of them several decades ago) I'm finding it delightful.

Kalen, why Busman's Honeymoon rather than Gaudy Night?? (an infinitely hotter book in my opinion).

I don't think I could ever put together a list like this--I lack the self discipline.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I haven't read Gaudy Night yet, maybe my list will change when I do. I skipped from Strong Poison to Busman's Honeymoon (cause I couldn’t find Five Red Herrings and BH was just sitting there waiting for me . . .

1:32 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Fascinated to hear what you think when you ready Gaudy Night. It's a fabulous love story, but I like Busman's Honeymoon equally. I love the subtlety of the marriage developing, and I slightly prefer it as a mystery.

Purely in terms of mystery, my favorite of the four Peter & Harriet books is Have His Carcase.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

I like Have His Carcase, too. While as for Busman's Honeymoon, I find it a little religious for my taste -- much prefer Gaudy Night. Oh, and I've never been able to prove this, but I believe that there's a scene in Jane that's a send-up of Busman's Honeymoon (when Harriet goes to visit the Duchess).

9:31 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I'm not crazy about that part of Busman's Honeymoon where they go to Duke's Denver and go to church, but other than that I don't remember finding it overwhelmingly religious (maybe I just miss the references or am good at blocking them out). As I mentioned, Laurie King's whole Mary Russell series has Sayers reference, but I'd say A Monstrous Regiment of Women is an homage to Gaudy Night in many ways and A Letter of Mary most parallels Busman's Honeymoon.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Spoiler alert...

Re religious, I mean all the stuff in the end showing Lord Peter suffering for the sins of the murderer

10:22 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Replying to Pam, spoiler alert:

It's probably a sign of how completely unreligious I am that I simply read Peter's angst at the end as guilt at someone being executed because of his "meddling" (as he calls it).

1:32 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Well, Sayers was a very committed Catholic... translated Dante, too. So to me the allegory is pretty clear.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Yeah, I knew about her being Catholic (I thought her Catholicism got stronger later, though not sure where Busman's Honeymoon fits in terms of that). Still managed to totally miss the allegory--religious references tend to go right past me.

8:10 PM  

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