Elmore Leonard said: I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''

Monday, 31 December 2007


It should probably come as no surprise that, in the year I spent more time than ever reading and writing about romance, I read less than ever before.

Looking at my list of reads over the past year, I’m struck by how underwhelmed I was by most of it. My favourite sub-genre is historical romance, but I only read a handful in 2007. On the other hand, I delved deeply into ‘vic-lit’ and greatly enjoyed the likes of Tipping the Velvet, The Glass Books of the Dreameaters (more a steampunk fantasy historical, but...) and the excellent The Crimson Petal and the White. I'm tired of 'wallpaper' historicals: one of the few I enjoyed was Lydia Joyce's well written and atmospheric Voices of the Night.

New authors I tried and liked included Lydia Joyce, Kresley Cole, Lynn Viehl and Shana Abe. Which makes me think that the paranormal/ fantasy elements in Romance are beginning to win me over. I have a stack of JR Ward's Black Dagger novels beckoning. Similarly, I'm awaiting the release of Meljean Brook's Demon Night before I dip into her much lauded Guardians series.

And so, without further ado, I present my Top 10 Winners and Losers of 2007

Best Reads (in no particular order)
Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Lord Perfect, by Loretta Chase
Shark Music, by Carol O'Connell
Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Walters
Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, by G W Dahlquist
Dirty, by Megan Hart
Voices of the Night, by Lydia Joyce
Smoke Thief, by Shana Abe
No Rest for the Wicked, by Kresley Cole
Indiscretion, by Jude Morgan
The Erotic Secrets of a French Maid, by lisa Cach

Worst Reads
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J K Rowling
Up Close and Deadly, by Linda Howard
Dangerous Lover, by Lisa Marie Rice
All About Men, by Shannon Mckenna
The Raven Prince, by Elizabeth Hoyt
A Lady's Pleasure, by Rennee Bernard
The Petrakos Bride, by Lynn Graham
Wedded by Contract, Bedded by Demand, by Carole Mortimer
The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes (not terrible, but very disappointing), by Crusie, Dreyer and Stuart

...And books I am eagerly anticipating in 2008
The Spymaster's Lady, by Joanna Bourne
Private Arrangements, by Sherry Thomas
Evermore, by Lynn Viehl
Queen of Dragons, by Shana Abe
Shadows of the Night, by Lydia Joyce
Dark Needs at Night's Edge, by Kresley Cole

... to name but a few.

Here's hoping 2008 is a more rewarding and entertaining reading year. Certainly, there are a number of books on the list above I am very excited about.


Jace said...

You're one of the few who had read Voices Of The Night, which I liked too. I've read all of Lydia Joyce's books and think she's talented, but overlooked and under-appreciated.

I discovered Shana Abe this year too. :) And totally loved her Drakon stories so far.

Here's looking forward to more great books and fantastic authors in the new year!

RfP said...

Interesting to see Lord Perfect on your "Best" list. I've been curious about Chase, as so many readers consider her books classics. But I just read Mr Impossible, and didn't enjoy it :( Perhaps I chose the wrong book.

I've read most of your "Worst Reads" list, and heartily (disheartenedly) agree on them. The two recent Howards were just painful. In each case I considered writing about the book to get the bile out of my system. But the biggest flaw in the books is that they're boring--that's no fun to spend time on!

Tumperkin said...

Disagree most heartily about The Raven Prince (how could you? *sob*) but I forgive you because I adore Tipping the Velvet. It's so beautiful.

RfP said...

I'd overlooked Tipping the Velvet on your list! Definitely a good one.

Meriam said...

To respond haphazardly and at much length:

rfp, I disliked Mr Impossible too! We might be the only two people in the world to hold this opinion, and I used to think it was only me, but it really annoyed me. I rolled my eyes, I sighed, I flicked through chapters and I thought it was a little crass. Much to my bewilderment, everyone seemed to love it unreservedly. I felt very alone.

Having said that, Loretta Chase is great - Lord of Scoundrels deserves its no. 1 slot and I heartily recommend it. After Mr Impossible, I was a little leery of Lord Perfect but it worked for me. I thought it fizzed along nicely and the romance brimmed with humour and chemistry. But then Lord Perfect wasn't everyone's cup of tea - so there you go. Different strokes.

Speaking of different strokes: The Raven Prince - Tumperkin! Why?!

Shana Abe was one of the writers who truly excited me this year. I was swept away by The Smoke Thief. It might even be my favourite romance of the (last) year.

As for Lydia Joyce, I think I just appreciated the fact that her work was well written, well researched and interesting. I love the later Victorian period, so that helped. Plus, Joyce really gets the period and consequently the people in it - none of this slapping a bunch of people with modern sensibilities (and speech!) into crinolines and top hats.

Linda Howard - ha. That last one was tedious. I would love to read a bile infused review, if only to get some catharsis.

Brie said...

I just finished The Smoke Thief and I loved it. I'm reading The Dream Thief now and, like you, I'm looking forward to Queen of Dragons.

Kresely Cole has me hooked. I devoured her IAD series in a week and WDOWN was the best of the three.

I've heard nothing but good things about Joanna Bourne so I can't wait to read The Spymaster's Lady.

Tumperkin said...

Well (being a lawyer here) seeing as how most everyone else in rombloglandia agrees that The Raven Prince rocks, I reckon the onus of proof is on you to show why it sucks. But basically - great hero, great heroine, good chemistry and very good sex scenes. What's not to like?

Meriam said...

Tumperkin, you mean I actually have to finish reading it?!

This is a copout, but Janine's review over at Dear Author captured a lot of my issues. Basically, though, it comes down to what I mentioned above - modern sensibilities in period costume. I'm not disputing that the sex was good, but I didn't buy into the relationship. To go into more detail, I would have to return to the original text. Which I might: I read it a very long time ago and maybe - maybe - I missed something. A lot of people I trust (yourself included!) really enjoyed this book.

Brie, I'm glad you enjoyed The Smoke Thief! I never thought to try Shana Abe before a string of glowing reviews for TST piqued my interest. Aren't the covers gorgeous? I have the Dream Thief in hardback and I kind of want the Smoke Thief in hardback, too.

Re: Kresley Cole. I read one of her historicals first and found it dull, but was persuaded to try her paranormals. They're good fun, aren't they? She has a handful out in 2008 and I'm rubbing my hands gleefully.

I'm itching to get started on Meljean Brook, too, but there's the Barbarian King to get through and FOUR Harlequin Presents left on my tbr pile...

Sherry Thomas said...

Oh, God. I was really excited about the Crimson Petal and the White, but after he peed all over her bed--and then she wipes him with a towel and proceeds to give him a blow job--well, I was out there so fast I passed the Road Runner on the way.

Meriam said...

No! No! It's great, Sherry. Even the stomach turning bits; there's one part a little later with a disgusting, grossly abusive doctor that made me feel sick with horror and pity, but that's why it's so GOOD! Faber's building this great, dark, nasty world and populating it with characters that are grostesque, petty, funny, strange, beautiful, selfish: captains of industry and "common" prostitutes. The character of Agnes, the delicate, dainty, unhinged wife of William Rackham: She is a high-Victorian ideal; perfection itself at the time William married her... she graces a thousand paintings, ten thousand old postcards, a hundred thousand tins of soap. She is a paragon of porcelain femininity, five foot two with eyes of blue, her blond hair smooth and fine, her mouth like a tiny pink vulva, pristine.

And, according to the monstrously self-obsessed William (the recipient of that skeevy blow job): He ought to have conceded that she was a flower not designed to open, a hothouse creation, no less beautiful, no less worth having.He should have admired her, praised her, cared for her and, at close of day, let her be...

Lastly, Sugar, the prostitute who administers the blow job: What makes Sugar a rarity is that she'll do anything the most desperate lley-slut will do , but do it with a smile of child-like innocence. There is no rarer treasure in Sugar's profession than a virginal looking girl who can surrender to a deluge of ordure and rise up smelling like roses, her eyes friendly as a spaniel's, her smile white as absolution. The men come back again and again, asking for her by name, convinced that her lust for their particular vice must equal their own...

Just these two snapshots, how much they tell you of the society he's recreating. I'm really loving the book. The gross bits just make everything that much more real.

Have I preached enough?

Sherry Thomas said...

Oh, no, it was never the power of his prose that I doubted. I loved that. I still remember the bit in the beginning about someone's eyes as bright and moist as freshly peeled fruit. Or something. It sent me over the moon. And the characterization of Sugar was extraordinary.

However, it's just a personal pet peeve. I eat when I read, so I have to draw the line at stomach churning. :-(

Okay, maybe I'll pick it up again someday, suitably forewarned to expect tons of yuck. I am curious as to how Sugar will turn out.

You see, I simply cannot resist book preaching.

Meriam said...

I still remember the bit in the beginning about someone's eyes as bright and moist as freshly peeled fruit.

That's the bit I wanted to quote, initially, but I couldn't find it. Lovely, I agree.

You see, I simply cannot resist book preaching.

I hope I wasn't too rabid...