AAR's latest Top 100 poll

>> Tuesday, November 19, 2013

All About Romance recently published the results of its latest Top 100 poll. I was planning to vote, as I have in quite a few of the earlier versions, but left it too late and then ran out of time. The story of my life these days *sigh*.

I feel like to prove that I've got excellent taste in romance I should be saying how the results don't reflect my votes (or rather, what they would have been) at all, and boasting about how far from the mainstream my reading tastes are. Well, there are a couple of WTF details there (for instance, I thought #4 in the list, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie was pretty terrible and #2, The Devil in Winter was just ok), but the truth is, it turns out I'm really, really mainstream!

I have read a whopping 82 books out of the top 100. I loved 39 of them enough that I suspect they would have been on my own Top 100 ballot. A further 29 were books I liked ok, but not enough to consider them for that list. 12 were books I didn't like and I absolutely hated the remaining 2.

I was hoping when I went through the list that I'd find some good stuff to add to my TBR, but it didn't work that way. Of the books I haven't read, there are 11 which I'm not planning on reading, whether because I've tried the authors before and know they don't work well for me (Georgette Heyer, Julie Garwood) or because I've heard enough about them that I have no interest in reading them (Outlander). There are 7 books that I do want to read, but... they're already in my massive TBR!

Books I've read and loved, probably in my top 100

1. Lord of Scoundrels Loretta Chase Eur Hist 1995
3. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen Classic 1813
7. Slightly Dangerous Mary Balogh Eur Hist 2004
9. The Viscount Who Loved Me Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2000
11. The Spymaster's Lady Joanna Bourne Eur Hist 2008
12. Mr. Impossible Loretta Chase Eur Hist 2005
15. Bet Me Jennifer Crusie Contemporary 2004
19. It Had To Be You Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1994
20. Welcome to Temptation Jennifer Crusie Contemporary 2000
21. Match Me If You Can Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 2005
22. The Raven Prince Elizabeth Hoyt Eur Hist 2006
23. A Week To Be Wicked Tessa Dare Eur Hist 2012
26. Lord Perfect Loretta Chase Eur Hist 2006
27. Naked In Death J.D. Robb Futuristic 1995
28. Paradise Judith McNaught Contemporary 1991
33. Private Arrangements Sherry Thomas Eur Historical 2008
34. Lover Awakened J.R. Ward Paranormal 2006
36. A Summer To Remember Mary Balogh Eur Hist 2002
37. A Knight in Shining Armor Jude Deveraux Time-Travel 1989
42. When He Was Wicked Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2004
44. What Happens in London Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2009
48. Dream Man Linda Howard Romantic Suspense 1995
49. Heaven, Texas Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1995
51. As You Desire Connie Brockway Historical 1997
52. This Heart of Mine Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 2001
53. More Than A Mistress Mary Balogh Eur Hist 2000
55. Slave To Sensation Nalini Singh Paranormal 2006
57. The Last Hellion Loretta Chase Eur Hist 1998
58. Ravished Amanda Quick Eur Hist 1992
63. See Jane Score Rachel Gibson Contemporary 2003
64. A Lady Awakened Cecilia Grant Eur Hist 2012
67. Cry No More Linda Howard Rom Suspense 2003
69. After The Night Linda Howard Contemporary 1995
74. My Dearest Enemy Connie Brockway Eur Hist 1998
76. Unveiled Courtney Milan Eur Hist 2011
77. The Iron Duke Meljean Brook Steampunk 2010
89. For My Lady's Heart Laura Kinsale Medieval Romance 1993
90. To Have and To Hold Patricia Gaffney Eur Hist 1995
97. Natural Born Charmer Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 2007

Books I've read and liked, not enough for top 100

2. Devil In Winter Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2006
8. Dreaming of You Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 1994
10. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2002
16. The Duke and I Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2000
18. Nobody's Baby But Mine Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1997
24. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte Classic 1847
25. Morning Glory Lavryle Spencer Amer Hist 1990
30. It Happened One Autumn Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2008
32. Devil's Bride Stephanie Laurens Eur Hist 1998
35. Persuasion Jane Austen Classic 1818
41. Mr. Perfect Linda Howard Contemporary 2000
54. The Rake Mary Jo Putney Eur Hist 1998
59. The Forbidden Rose Joanna Bourne Eur Hist 2010
62. Then Came You Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 1993
65. The Duke Of Shadows Meredith Duran Eur Hist 2008
68. Bound by Your Touch Meredith Duran Eur Hist 2008
72. Open Season Linda Howard Contemporary 2001
78. To Beguile A Beast Elizabeth Hoyt Eur Hist 2009
80. Suddenly You Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2001
82. The Secret Pearl Mary Balogh Eur Hist 1991
83. An Offer From a Gentleman Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2001
84. Sugar Daddy Lisa Kleypas Women's Fiction 2007
85. Secrets of a Summer Night Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2004
86. The Shadow and The Star Laura Kinsale Historical 1991
87. The Governess Affair Courtney Milan Eur Hist 2012
92. Simply Love Mary Balogh Eur Hist 2006
93. Rising Tides Nora Roberts Contemporary 1998
95. A Hunger Like No Other Kresley Cole Paranormal 2006
96. Lady Sophia's Lover Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2002

Books I've read but didn't like

4. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie Jennifer Ashley Eur Hist 2009
6. Flowers From The Storm Laura Kinsale Eur Hist 1992
13. What I Did for a Duke Julie Anne Long Eur Hist 2011
29. The Bride Julie Garwood Medieval 1989
43. A Kingdom of Dreams Judith McNaught Medieval 1989
45. Venetia Georgette Heyer Classic Fiction 1956
50. MacKenzie's Mountain Linda Howard Series/Category 1989
71. Perfect Judith McNaught Contemporary 1993
73. Honor's Splendour Julie Garwood Medieval 1987
79. Dream A Little Dream Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1998
81. Something Wonderful Judith McNaught Eur Hist 1988
94. Almost Heaven Judith McNaught Eur Hist 1990

Books I've read and hated

31. Blue-Eyed Devil Lisa Kleypas Contemporary 2005 
99. Whitney, My Love Judith McNaught Eur Hist 1985 

Books I haven't read and I'm not planning to

5. Outlander Diana Gabaldon Time-Travel 1991 
38. Devil's Cub Georgette Heyer Classic 1932 
40. Kiss An Angel Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1996 
46. Smooth Talking Stranger Lisa Kleypas Contemporary 2009 
47. The Secret Julie Garwood Medieval 1992 
61. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake Sarah MacLean Eur Hist 2010 
66. And Then He Kissed Her Laura Lee Guhrke Eur Hist 2007 
70. Frederica Georgette Heyer Classic Fiction 1965 
75. Ransom Julie Garwood Medieval 1999 
98. The Grand Sophy Georgette Heyer Classic Fiction 1950 
100. Sylvester Georgette Heyer Classic Fiction 1957 

Books I haven't read but want to

14. Not Quite A Husband Sherry Thomas Hist Rom 2009 
17. The Black Hawk Joanna Bourne Eur Hist 2011 
39. Ravishing the Heiress Sherry Thomas Eur Hist 2012 
56. Love in the Afternoon Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2010 
60. When Beauty Tamed the Beast Eloisa James Eur Hist 2011 
88. His At Night Sherry Thomas Eur Hist 2010 
91. Mine Till Midnight Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2007 


Barb in Maryland 19 November 2013 at 20:23  

Oh, Rosario--
I had a good chuckle over your rearrangement of the AAR list. I did the same, but with vastly different results.
I really dislike SEP's books--she's an author who just doesn't work for me. So there goes a quarter of the list! The only Loretta Chase I truly loved is "Knaves Wager"--there goes another chunk of the list! I and Lisa Kleypas' books don't get along--there goes another chunk!
I asked myself--where's Carla Kelly? where's Julie James? I was happy to see Sherry Thomas and Meredith Duran well represented and I voted for more Courtney Milan titles. And so on and so on.
However, I always have fun voting every year and then comparing my favorites to the consensus.

CD,  20 November 2013 at 03:16  

I've read 82 of the ones listed as well - snap!! Although not sure that that many of them would have appeared on my top 100. Most of them I liked (as in didn't feel them to be a waste of time reading) but very few of the books give me that "favourite books" feeling. And it was heavily skewed towards historicals, with far too many Quinns, Garwoods, Kleypas' and the like.

Since you've done quite a bit of the work already, why don't you give us your Top 100? That would definitely give me some reorderings of the old TBR pile...

And you really do need to give Heyer another chance and try SYLVESTER as I think you'd like it. There's quite a bit of Heyer that doesn't work for me at all (really don't see what all the fuss is about with DEVIL'S CUB and THESE OLD SHADES for one) so it could be that you chose the wrong ones to try.

PS. Can't believe WHITNEY MY LOVE is on there - is that supposed to be a joke?

Rosario 23 November 2013 at 08:29  

Barb: SEP is an author who shouldn't work for me. I see all the issues in her books that should bother me, but there's something there that makes me enjoy myself in spite of all that (although looking at the list again, I don't know if I'd have had 5 of them in my own top 100).

I agree that all those authors you mention should be there, and I would have liked to see some of Meljean Brook's Guardian books (I liked The Iron Duke, but it's far from my favourite of hers). Also, only 1 Nora Roberts?

Oh, well, like you say, it's fun to do!

Rosario 23 November 2013 at 08:34  

CD: :-D Yeah, that's true. I think for a lot of people romance=historical romance. There are a surprising number of people who say they only read historicals. Hmm, I might try and see if I can find my last list, and see how much rearrangement and additions it needs...

Et tu, CD? Everyone I know whose taste I mostly share loves Heyer. You tempt me, even though I'm pretty sure she's not for me!

And yes, just WHO is voting for Whitney? Probably people who read it 20 years ago and haven't reread it since!

CD,  25 November 2013 at 06:23  

Well, I'm on an essay deadline at the moment so obviously putting together a list of my top 100 romance novels is an extremely tempting prospect ;-)!

Maybe the feeling you have with Heyer is similar to my reaction to Nora Roberts - all of the ones I've tried have been a DNF for me, not because they were bad but because I got a bit bored and got tempted by other books. I liked what I read of the "In Death" a lot better (I think I only made it to 5th or 6th book though) but they are still a bit "meh" for me.

OK, how about if you try SYLVESTER and I'll try to finish a Nora Roberts of your choice, and we can compare notes...

Rosario 25 November 2013 at 06:31  

Hahah, I bet! I know that feeling, my house was never cleaner than when I was writing my dissertation!

Ok, deal. I will try Sylvester and you read... hmm... my top, top favourite is Born in Fire, but I would never suggest one of her Irish-set books to someone from this part of the world. I've realised in the last couple of years she's got an interesting idea of how Irish people speak. How about Midnight Bayou? I love that one as well, and it's a New Orleans setting!

CD,  25 November 2013 at 17:08  

OK - you got yourself a deal! I'll get on it as soon as I get this bloody essay out of the way.

Good choice in not giving me an Irish-set book: gleeful mockery is one of my favourite pastimes. And I had enough of Roberts' "oirishism" with Roarke: I almost started a drinking game whenever she mentioned the Irishness of his accent, his eyes, the way he slants his head, the way he burps and farts etc etc. It's up there with Eve's whiskey coloured eyes...

As THE BIG EASY is one of my favourite films (whew - that sex scene!) - looking forward for some lovin' in the Bayou while picturing a young Dennis Quaid...

Christine,  4 December 2013 at 18:26  

Rosario, I feel repetitive saying "me too" again to you- but I also had every intention of participating in the AAR 100 and even had the word file of my submission from the last time I intended to update and tweak. Sadly due to some work and family issues I missed the boat as well this time. I'm pretty amazed "Lord Of Scoundrels" held onto the top spot as the book hasn't aged as well for me. I was laughing when I read your list of books you wouldn't put in the 100 or didn't like as many of my favorites were among your discards. Like the poster above, I dislike much of SEP's work and some of it I just want to throw on the floor and jump up and down on. Like you, I have read a ridiculous percentage of the Top 100 and love-to-like a great deal of them. I was very surprised there was no Brockmann or Carla Kelly represented and noticed there is a definite bias towards historical romance. I agree with you about "Whitney" I haven't seen my copy of that book in close to 20 years. I think the poll shows there is a huge amount of people who read AAR and never post a thing but do participate in polls etc. There is a vocal minority of people who post there who are hard core romance readers that, like myself and others, are often looking for something "different" but the majority of the readers who visit the site tend to read and prefer a lot of the top mainstream historical authors. That isn't a criticism as I have said a huge amount of the top 100 are books I enjoy as well.

Rosario 8 December 2013 at 09:33  

Christine: I think you're right: we do tend to gravitate towards blogs and sites where people are interested in similar things to us, and for those of has who've been reading romance for such a long time, what we talk about is the different and innovative. I expect a lot of people on AAR must be relatively new to romance and using some of the resources there (including older top 100 lists) to read more in the genre. It makes sense that they wouldn't be that interested in the new.

Sabrina H.,  9 December 2013 at 22:45  

I accept all the criticisms of SEP, but for some reason her older titles really work for me. But, Julie Garwood, aren't we beyond her yet? Her Mary-Sue perfect heroines who are too naive to be believed, her uber-macho heroes, her over the top evil villains, come on...ugh. I am super happy Meljean Brook made it though. And its nice to see paranormal authors are still represented, but I agree that it is way too heavily skewed towards historical. And I have to agree, I am not a Georgette Heyer fan either, but she is always heavily represented.

I have to disagree on The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. I think that book is deserving to be in the top ten. I loved it, and its very different hero. I like to use that list to find things to read as well, but I've mostly read everything up there :(

Rosario 11 December 2013 at 06:43  

Sabrina H: Ditto about SEP, except that her new ones work for me, too. I roll my eyes a lot while I'm reading, but I still enjoy them. And you're so right about Julie Garwood. She's one I could never get. I tried a couple back when I first discovered sites like All About Romance and everyone was raving about her (that was sort of in the pre-history!) and they did not work for me at all.

I really wanted to love The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie, but while I did like the romance and the two main characters, I had huge issues with pretty much everything else. The suspense element was awful, and I hated the sequel-baiting brothers and wanted to reading nothing more about them ever...

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