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Ponderings on the Golden Era: Perspectives of a Seasoned Nerd and...

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Janet: Reading through the comments on the Dear Author Golden Era poll, they seem to reflect the split in the voting between the 1990s and the 2000s. Those who chose the 1990s seem more like Historical Romance readers, while a number of those favoring the current decade have pointed to the online community and the way that has opened up awareness of many more books.

Jaili:   Hm, when I think of the 1990s, I think of category romance novels – from authors such as Sandra Canfield, Anne Stuart, Judith Arnold, Marilyn Pappano, Linda Howard, Jennifer Cruise, Sharon Sala, and many more – and romantic suspense as well as speculative romance (vampire romances, futuristic romances, ghost romances and many more). Historical romances of the 1990s were different from the 2000s, too.

Janet: I’ve read Stuart, Howard, Crusie, and probably others, but most of my reading, I think, has been in historicals of the 90s. But now that I think about it, Howard is very much of the 90s, at least the books I’ve read of hers. Some Stuart books, too, like Ritual Sins.   I think part of it is that there’s just a ton of books to read. I’ve only been reading Romance for about six years, and I’ve managed to get through hundreds of books in that time, and many, many of them are oldies but goodies, but my reading is of books selected for me. Consequently, I have a very positive regard for those decades as judged through some truly outstanding books, from the Laura London Regencies to LaVyrle Spencer’s inaugural Harlequin Temptation, Spring Fancy, to almost all the books of Laura Kinsale and Judith Ivory, as well as the Jennifer Crusie categories.   An embarrassment of genre riches, you might say.

Conversely, my reading of books published in the past six years has been much more “of the moment.” Instead of carefully copying down a list given to me by the friend who got me reading Romance (who is herself a long-time genre reader), I got recommendations from friends and acquaintances, from reader blogs and message boards and even from browsing shelves and online bookstores/publisher sites.

Jaili: Lucky you! At the beginning of my reading career, it was pot luck. At the time there was no internet and there weren’t many romance novels available for sale in my area. I could only get my paws on whatever were available including those from Topaz, Leisure, Tapestry, Mills & Boon (Silhouette included), Onyx, and old Avon. There were no guide or anything like it.

I think I relied on book covers alone. I picked up books by Penelope Neri, Karen Robards, Jude Deveraux, Mary Spencer, Johanna Lindsey and many others this way. (Those original covers were awesome. Today’s covers haven’t a patch on those.) My purchase decisions were heavily tied to what were available and book covers and eventually, authors’ names.

Janet: How do you think the Internet has affected the genre. Not necessarily in terms of making it easier for readers to pick books, but do you think the online community has affected the books being written and published?

Jaili: I think so, yes.   It’s funny because some authors – such as Susan Johnson and Bertrice Small – took historical research rather seriously, but there were quite a few authors who clearly flipped the bird at such an idea. Some readers wrote to the Letters of the Romantic Times magazine to complain about those historical errors, but authors still wrote with a form of editorial freedom. And now? Pfft. Some authors will have to have the guts to keep flipping the bird at the idea of taking historical research seriously.

Actually, there’s another thought rattling around in my clearly empty skull that I’m trying to articulate. I think there is a sense of innocence – or optimism? – in those old historical romances. It feels as if old historical romances were written for authors’ own pleasure, rather than for money and audience.

Janet: Writing for the sake of the book? Or maybe a book for the sake of the writing? Yes, I have an intuitive sense of exactly what you’re talking about, but I can’t really articulate it, either. There does, though, seem to be an awfully strong emphasis on the commercial aspects of genre fiction these days.

Jaili: I can’t tell if it was because those books were more detailed than today’s books that make it feel as if authors were writing for pleasure, or that authors today seem more business-like than authors of the yesteryear were. Perhaps the shortened length of today’s romances may have something to do with it? Detailed books mean leisurely pace, which equals to a sense of luxury or comfort, perhaps.

To be honest, I can’t articulate what I am trying to say well. Perhaps readers of this article will understand what I mean and explain somehow.

Anyroad, I think authors have more pressures than authors in those days because not only they have to work against shorter deadlines and shorter word counts, they have readers breathing down their necks as well as having to resist the temptation of going online.

Janet: I wonder how much pressure authors put on themselves and how much is put on them from editors, publishers, agents, and readers, though. And did publishers offer more freedom in earlier decades and did the lack of reader feedback in electronic forums, for example, encourage more or less diversity in the genre? It feels to me like there’s a lot of subgenre diversity, but maybe not so much diversity within those subgenres. Which is too bad if you’re a reader who doesn’t like a lot of different subgenres of Romance.

Jaili: So true. On the other hand, the internet makes it much easier for readers to express their thanks and gratitude to authors who wrote books they enjoyed. The internet also opens up the once-enigmatic world of romance publishing to readers, thanks to authors and editors’ willingness to share their knowledge. Meanwhile, readers give the feedback, supply the support when it’s needed, and a bit of cheerleading to keep some authors’ stamina up.   It works both ways along with the pluses and minuses.

And the best of all, the online romance community. After ten years, I still think it’s bloody awesome to meet readers and authors from all walks of life. I sometimes wondered what it would be like if the internet was widely available back then. I think if it existed then, it would affect the genre in many ways. How so? I don’t know. It’s fun to speculate, wouldn’t you think?

Janet: Definitely! Personally, I think the Internet is slowing blowing the idea that readers are of a certain type, that they are of a certain age and like certain things. And as much as there still seems to be a collective set of values within the genre, I really think that’s going to change more as the reader community shows itself to be more diverse and more diversely engaged with the genre. And I think that’s really exciting.

As for reading books pubbed in the past six years, since I have been online, I’ve had many more reading ups and downs, although I have some powerful favorites from this decade, from Shana Abe’s The Smoke Thief to Loretta Chase’s first two Carsington books to Meljean Brook’s demon series, Sherry Thomas and Meredith Duran’s historicals, Jo Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady, Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series, and books present and future from many authors who I think are really coming into their own (Victoria Dahl & Julie Ann Long, for example). I recently started a Jill Shalvis glom, finding the way she draws relationships to be extremely well-nuanced. Roxanne St. Claire’s new Romantic Suspense was a real winner for me. And the upcoming Jo Goodman release is one of my favorites in her multi-decade body of work. I don’t think Lisa Kleypas’s writing has ever been stronger than in her recent contemporary Travis family saga. And then there are many authors (some of whom have upcoming releases) whose books I haven’t even read yet: Carolyn Jewel, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Ann Aguirre, Carrie Lofty, most of Nalini Singh’s Psi series, and many I’m forgetting at the moment (sorry!).

This doesn’t mean that I think the books published today are the same as those published previously. And maybe if I only liked meaty epic historicals I’d be pining for the 90s. But as I said in my shorter books post last week, I’m not convinced that shorter books are of lesser quality, at least not because of the lower word counts. But I wonder if that’s because I’m reading all these books within such a short period of time. Had I started as a teen or even in my 20s, would that change my opinion? Would it be different if I read all the clunkers from every decade, too? I don’t know. Maybe. It seems that the real long-time readers often have strong decade-specific preferences.

Jaili: That’s the thing; the 1990s didn’t have just meaty epic historicals. To me, this type belongs to the 1980s and the 1970s. Historical romances of the 1990s were actually shorter than those from the 1980s and 1970s.

What the 1990s had were similar to today’s historical romances, but different settings – such as Viking, various American settings (Gold Rush, the South, Alaska, Americana, Western and so on), different time periods (Tudors, Medieval, etc.) of different countries (UK, Russia, South America, Australia, etc.) – and different reader expectations.

Readers today, I think, expect characters to have similar sensibilities and values to theirs, whereas readers of the 1990s expected something between the 1980s and the 2000s. Romances of each decade generally reflect the readership’s mentality and attitudes, I think.

Janet: This is an interesting point, and I fear it’s true. In fact, if there’s one thing I wish there was more of in the genre it’s a diversity of cultural, racial, ethnic, and religious values. Religion, especially, outside of Inspy books, would be great, IMO, and I’m not all that religious, lol. But I so loved Gaffney’s To Love and To Cherish and Kinsale’s Flowers From the Storm and Samuel’s Bed of Spices that I would love to see more Romances that tackled spirituality and faith issues, especially as they relate to erotic relationships.

And, of course, as someone who has a keen interest in post-colonial issues, I’d love to see more reconsiderations of those older colonial/imperial Romances, or at least of the cultural clashes. Meredith Duran’s first book, Duke of Shadows, took on the India setting, but that part of the book felt choppy to me and it felt like there should have been more of that part of it. Loretta Chase uses Egypt as a setting, but I’d love a deeper look there, too. One of the things I loved most about Judith Ivory’s Untie My Heart was the way Stuart had experienced all of these different cultural values and had sort of cobbled together a multi-national, multicultural personality. Even though we didn’t really see beyond England in the novel, the book didn’t feel to me like a colonialist/imperialist gesture. Oh, I’d love more of that kind of thing. Also, more diversity of class/economic position. Still a big taboo, in my opinion, as is race, which, as we know, is terribly marginalized and sentimentalized in the genre, even today.

Jaili: There are so many good books from that period are forgotten today. I can reel off a long list for you to check out. I’m willing to bet that readers who voted for the 1990s have had the same experiences I had: fewer expectations and a willingness to read anything available. I remember buying two romances and when I got home, I was shocked to find one was a time travel romance and the other was a bloody Irish medieval (my least favourite time period). I knew there wouldn’t be any more available until the following month, so I forced myself to read both. Luckily, I enjoyed both.

Nowadays with the internet and its resources, I can be choosy and focus on those I think will appeal to me, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Yes, there are many readers’ favourite lists available, which is fantastic for us who have little money and time to spare, but it also makes us less adventurous that would have us losing out on lesser known books published, including those from this decade. It may explain why some readers quickly tire of certain favourite types or premises. Who knows?

Janet:   First of all, I’d love a list!!

Jaili: Heh! OK, will do. I hope readers of this article will share their lists, too.

Janet: Absolutely!

The whole 1990s issue is interesting, because I went through and checked the dates on some of my favorite books. Susan Johnson’s Pure Sin was 1994, Forbidden in 1991. Kinsale’s The Shadow and the Star was 1991. Candice Proctor’s Whispers of Heaven, 2001. I tend to associate those books as meatier historicals, but maybe the epic historicals would be stuff like the Sky O’Malley books or The Windflower (1984) or Monson’s Rangoon (1985)?

Jaili: When I think of epic historicals, I think of Forever Amber, Skye O’Malley and Woodiwiss’s famous (and infuriating) Birmingham couple. Come to think of it, I think if these were published today, they would be classified as Women’s Fiction or Historical Fiction.

The Windflower is a different breed, though, because it broke away from the epic historical romance sub-genre, which is why it was highly acclaimed. I think The Windflower was a turning point of the historical romance sub-genre. I’m trying to remember if it was Karen Robards’s Walk After Midnight that turned the romantic suspense sub-genre round on its head. My memory isn’t that reliable, I’m afraid. I do remember it was Marilyn Pappano’s Passion and Suspicion that hooked me on romantic suspense. Oh, let’s not forget Theresa Weir’s contemporary romances. I’d better shut up before I list some more.

Janet: So here’s my question, Jaili, for someone like you who has been reading Romance for much longer than myself: do you think we sentimentalize books in the genre or different periods, or do you think that some decades are just better for Romance novels?

Jaili: Yes and no. I believe some of us – myself included – sentimentalise certain eras of the genre, but books? I don’t think so. For some, these are remembered with affection because they were part of our journey as romance readers.   It doesn’t mean all could stand the test of time. Some may, but not all. This still applies to today. Take Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, for example.

When it was released a couple years ago, it wowed quite a few romance readers, but I recently caught some of those readers saying that after rereading Twilight a couple of years later, it didn’t stand up well. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if they still regard Twilight with affection because it gave them that unforgettable moment of time.

Janet: That’s so true, and it might be why I don’t re-read a lot. I don’t want to spoil the happy memory. I’m afraid, for example, if I ever try to re-read Dara Joy’s Rejar, it’ll be all over for that book!

Jaili: Heh! I’m too scared to re-read some of old "ohmygodthisisthebestIreadinyears!’ books, such as some of Sandra Canfield’s fantastic category romances and Megan Chance’s Gilded Age historical romance, The Portrait, which features the hero as a "manic depressive".

On the other hand, some are comfort reads, such as Rene J. Garrod’s Western romantic comedy, Her Heart’s Desire (I suspect the glasses-wearing scholar hero may have something to do with my love for it), and Pamela Morsi’s Americana romances, such as Courting Miss Hattie and Runabout.

In fairness, I think some forget that each decade has its share of trends. The 1990s were crammed with Medieval & Viking romances, time travel romances, psychic heroines in romantic suspense, Western romances, Native American romances and a couple of other trends. Some of us were thoroughly sick of those, just like how some of us are sick of Regency and British-setting romances today.

But since you have quite a few old historical romances, have you read any category, contemporary and paranormal/speculative romances from that era as well?

Janet: Yes, at least to some of those. I’ve read all of the Tom and Sharon Curtis books, both as Laura London and Robin James. I’ve read some Charlotte Lamb books, all of the Crusie categories except for Glitter (is that the right title?), some old LaVyrle Spencer, oh! and a bunch of Mary Balogh categories (which I prefer to her single titles, actually). And Kathleen Gilles Seidel, Anne Stuart’s Ritual Sins, some of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s contemps (Dream a Little Dream is my favorite, I think), Linda Howard’s After the Night, Now You See Her, Dream Man, Shades of Twilght, as well as the whole Kell Sabin series (from Midnight Rainbow to White Lies), and much more that I can’t even remember right now.

Jaili: Kathleen Gilles Seidel! Her books are fantastic. Well worth reading. Same for Sarah Bird’s The Boyfriend School, Marilyn Pappano and other authors I mentioned at the start. I think it’d be good for romance readers to have a look around in used bookshops because there are many forgotten gems waiting to be found.

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

35 Comments

  1. Laura Vivanco
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 05:37:22

    all of the Crusie categories except for Glitter (is that the right title?)

    I think you mean Sizzle.

  2. Jessica
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 05:55:08

    Still on vacation, I’ve awoken early, and am sitting here in the dark while my family sleeps. What an absolutely wonderful post, from which I learned so much!

    And did publishers offer more freedom in earlier decades and did the lack of reader feedback in electronic forums, for example, encourage more or less diversity in the genre?

    What a fascinating question! Has the internet pushed romance publishing closer to commerce and further from art?

    Isn’t it odd that internet engagement has revealed readership to be more diverse than supposed, and at the same time, somehow encouraged less diversity in books published?

    Why has diversity in the genre taken the form of the proliferation of subgenres? Is it related to the web phenomenon of narrow casting?

    Looking forward to the discussion.

  3. medumb
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 06:04:10

    How much romance was put out in the eighties and early nineties?
    Not being a massive consumer of romance until the naughties and being on the other side of the world I do not have a massive lot of knowledge. Though as a frequent haunter of bookshops, there does seems to be a lot more romance out these days.
    So would the restrictions(?) on romance from the publisher be more in response to it being a bigger business now, worth more money? Rather then the growth of an online community?

    That is not worded well, but hopefully some one gets where I am coming from??
    Anyone?

  4. liz m
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 06:17:18

    @medumb

    I started in romance reading circa 1977. The 80’s and 90’s I was buying more books than I am now. I think there may have been more published, but that’s just an impression. There were certainly more publishers out there – through consolidation there are less houses these days and it’s much harder (I hear) for a mid-list author to get published again. Authors that sell consistently at a certain number tend to get flipped now for a new voice that might sell better. It may be the same number of books are going out and it’s just the rise of paranormal that has cut me back.

    I used to buy a handful of category, the Avon line, the Onyx line, the Topaz line, a Signet Nal, the Signet Regencies, at least one from Pocket, at least one from Ballantine or Leisure, I’m trying to recall who else. In the 80’s and 90’s I averaged 30 romance a month. Now I buy about 6 -8 a month and really feel like I have to search. I’m reading more in other areas and actually less in book form overall. Not really by preference, tho. There’s just not enough of what I like out there.

  5. Tara Marie
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 06:29:06

    When I took the poll for this discussions, I hoped there would be a greater discussion.

    My vote went to the 90s, of course, the vast majority of my romance reading took place in the 90’s so that might have a tremendous influence on my thought process. The variety within the historical romance genre was much more interesting in the past. It’s probably why when I now see a medieval or Georgian period story I’m likely to pick it up without checking for reviews.

    I’ve purchased a series of books with supposed bad girl heroines (I’ve read one and gave up on the other 2) and have been left with a feeling of stupid rather than bad. As I was reading the author’s thoughts about how much she loves a bad girl, I wanted to recommend Megan Chance’s Fall From Grace, a much more interesting book with a much more interesting heroine and hero, and a western and since they are few and far between, highly recommended.

    Though I do believe those of us who loved the 90’s or even the 80’s or 70’s are looking back with rose colored glasses. Popularity drives the bus. If westerns are selling everyone is writing westerns etc. I remember a ton of bad westerns from the late 80’s and early 90’s as well as bad medievals. I belonged to a romance reading book club at the time and swore if I read one more book with a Southern Civil War hero that survived a Northern prison camp I was going to drop kick the book across the room.

    Do the books that we loved hold up over the test of time?

    Some do, the books listed throughout your post are solid and do hold up, but maybe not as many as we think. I remember rereading Whitney my Love over and over when it first came out, now I don’t think I could finish it. The same can be said for many of the “epic” novels I loved in the past, I’m not so sure I’d love all the Woodiwiss’ as much as I remember loving them.

    Great post. I’m much more of a lurker these days, but the “good old days” always catches my attention. Thanks ladies.

  6. Tara Marie
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 06:47:35

    @liz m:

    In the 80's and 90's I averaged 30 romance a month. Now I buy about 6 -8 a month and really feel like I have to search. I'm reading more in other areas and actually less in book form overall. Not really by preference, tho. There's just not enough of what I like out there.

    I could have easily said the same exact thing. For me it’s a matter of time. I’d rather buy 6-8 hopefully good books and re-read old favorites. My time is limited I wish I could spend hours reading reviews to find the enough new books each month. I’d rather spend my time escaping with a book I’m sure I’ll enjoy.

  7. medumb
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 06:51:50

    @ liz m

    Thanks! Glad I was not completely nonsensical in the post, though on the wrong path. lol

    Forgot to mention that I voted 00 in the poll, as while I had read some romances in the past, I wasn’t drawn into being a massive reader until then. Not being a historical fan or a category fan there wasn’t really much for me until now.

  8. Carrie Lofty
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 07:09:07

    You mentioned Gaffney, Chance, and Proctor–hitting me where I live. Gosh those are incomparable books!

  9. DS
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 07:43:05

    I think after the popularity of Woodiwiss and Sweet Savage that publishers couldn’t get enough romance manuscripts. Somewhere I have an early self published book of recommendations and pseudonyms. It’s not the one that was put out by RT. In fact, I rather wonder if the people who put it out read romances at all. Georgette Heyer’s novels are labeled gothics– I think because they didn’t run to bazillion pages the way most of the early romance novels did, rather than any thought of content.

    Late 70’s/early 80’s I worked for a place that had a ladies lounge– remember those? and people would bring in books and leave them for anyone to take. Most of those books sqwicked me out both due to the asshat alpha heroes and the sexual shenanigans. Other authors from the 80’s I ended up reading later and quite liking– Betina Krahn wrote for Zebra although she wasn’t a reread for me. Deanna James, another Zebra author who started in the 1980’s, is still on my keeper shelf although she seems to be pretty much forgotten in the romance world. There was an effort to jump start her career with another pseudonym but it must not have worked. I also liked early Judith Ivory (when she was Judy Cuevas) and Laura Kinsale.

    I remember flinging one book because the medieval knight gave his lady love a rose that sounded like a hybrid tea rather than a cinquefoil.

    .

  10. Moriah Jovan
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 07:52:49

    I started reading romance when I was about 9 or 10. Snagged a sweet Harlequin from my grandmother (the only one she had) and ended up with Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss as my next stop. What a contrast. I stopped reading romance in the late 80s because I went to college and didn’t have time, but when I did, it was what’s now known as women’s fiction. Went back to romance in the early 90s. Left it in the mid/late 90s and only came back to it in the last couple of years. I missed most of the titles and authors mentioned above.

    @Jaili:

    I think there is a sense of innocence – or optimism? – in those old historical romances. It feels as if old historical romances were written for authors' own pleasure, rather than for money and audience.

    I love this idea because it perfectly conveys my gut feeling about it, and it’s what I still long for.

    @Janet

    In fact, if there's one thing I wish there was more of in the genre it's a diversity of cultural, racial, ethnic, and religious values. Religion, especially, outside of Inspy books, would be great, IMO, and I'm not all that religious, lol.

    I did that. A kind editor was very frank with me when she said, “We like it but we don’t know where to put it [on the shelf].” I appreciate her for the insight. However, I’ve found that it hasn’t been an issue for readers.

    I agree that if the old Small and Rogers and Sherwood were published now, they’d be classified as women’s fiction. The heroines usually had more than one lover throughout the course of their journey(s), they enjoyed sex, they traveled the world over as this or that or some other thing (I’m thinking of a Valerie Sherwood I’m currently re-reading), yet they settled with one man with an HEA.

    I also began reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips when she was writing women’s fiction, viz., Hot Shot (loved that book), Honey Moon (man, I wish I’d kept those books–they had the original covers), and Fancy Pants. Her romance isn’t as rich and detailed as her women’s fiction (except Kiss an Angel, which is on my keeper shelf).

    Kinsale took me by the throat and never let me go. In the late 90s, Sutcliffe did the same, but now I don’t remember her stories.

    It seems to me whenever I left romance, I went to women’s fiction and I guess it could be argued that I started out with it, too, if we reclassify the old historicals of the 70s and 80s using today’s romance criteria.

  11. cecilia
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 08:39:13

    Romances of each decade generally reflect the readership's mentality and attitudes, I think.

    That’s just it. I never did vote on this poll, because while I’ve been reading romances since I was a pre-teen in the 80s, and have enjoyed romances all these years, I don’t pine for any of the previous “eras” of romance novels. These days there are very very few older books I would go back and read again, because when I do, I often get an unpleasant jolt from the attitudes they casually represent. Behaviour that made sense in the 80s or 90s seems nonsensical or psychopathic nowadays, for example.

    There are a handful of writers who will likely stand the test of (more) time, but many many more of them date badly, and mostly I find it’s far more enjoyable to read a romance novel immersed in the same cultural reference points it was written in.

  12. liz m
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 08:58:10

    mostly I find it's far more enjoyable to read a romance novel immersed in the same cultural reference points it was written in.

    I completely agree with this. I like reading ‘vintage’ titles (I’ll go back as far as there was paper) but I judge them differently. When I recommend a book to someone I try to stay within the last five or so years – I may love Gaffney’s Wild At Heart or Laurie McBain, but unless I know the other person reads across culture shifts, I’m going to point them toward Duran or Thomas.

    I think this is part of the problem with older authors that suddenly seem to ‘lose it’. They’re (possibly) still writing the same styles, but it’s not feeling right in the context of today.

  13. Katharina
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 09:48:03

    I would kill for a list of recommendable meaty romances from the nineties, especially with Alakan, South American, African or Australian settings. (PRETTY PLEASE!)

    Some, not all, of Laurie McBain’s books belong to my favourites, total guilty pleasure reads, but I adore them. What I miss most in today’s historicals are books with +500 pages and non UK settings. While some of my most favourite historical authors clearly belong to the new milennium, I wished they had the opportunity to use more “daring settings” to develop their story.

  14. Janine
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 09:49:20

    I think the names of the authors you guys list as favorites from the 1990s tell a cautionary tale. Around the first half of the 2000s, there was a big migration of authors, many of them named in the above post, from romance to other genres. Patricia Gaffney, Candice Proctor, Megan Chance, Kathleen Gilles Seidel, Penelope Williamson, Patricia Ryan, Sandra Brown, Susan Wiggs and others all left romance for other genres. Others, like LaVyrle Spencer and (briefly) Loretta Chase, stopped writing.

    (I still remember a post about LaVyrle Spencer’s decision to leave which appeared on the old AAR boards, titled “Another one bites the dust!”)

    Those were sad days for many in the online romance community, and though there is no way to know with certainty in most cases, I’ve often wondered if one of the reasons at least some of the authors I’ve listed left the genre or stopped writing altogether was because they found the changes in the romance genre (which followed the publisher mergers) restrictive, if the new set of expectations regarding setting, content and length made it difficult for them to continue writing romance. I think Candice Proctor indicated that that was true for her in an article that used to be posted on her website.

    I have some powerful favorites from this decade, from Shana Abe's The Smoke Thief to Loretta Chase's first two Carsington books to Meljean Brook's demon series, Sherry Thomas and Meredith Duran's historicals, Jo Bourne's The Spymaster's Lady, Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series, and books present and future from many authors who I think are really coming into their own (Victoria Dahl & Julie Ann Long, for example). I recently started a Jill Shalvis glom, finding the way she draws relationships to be extremely well-nuanced. Roxanne St. Claire's new Romantic Suspense was a real winner for me. And the upcoming Jo Goodman release is one of my favorites in her multi-decade body of work. I don't think Lisa Kleypas's writing has ever been stronger than in her recent contemporary Travis family saga. And then there are many authors (some of whom have upcoming releases) whose books I haven't even read yet: Carolyn Jewel, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Ann Aguirre, Carrie Lofty, most of Nalini Singh's Psi series, and many I'm forgetting at the moment (sorry!).

    I have many recent favorites too, most of them from the last couple of years. I’m really grateful for the resurgence I think we are seeing. But I also fear that many of these authors could leave the romance genre if there’s another contraction, which is why, as a reader, I try to spend my book buying dollars in support of books I love, and as a reviewer, I do all I can to promote those books.

  15. Janine
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 11:00:12

    @Katharina:

    I would kill for a list of recommendable meaty romances from the nineties, especially with Alakan, South American, African or Australian settings. (PRETTY PLEASE!)

    Ask and you shall receive. Here are some of my favorite books from that era, listed by author. I am sure I am forgetting some very worthy authors. I complied this from a ten year old list of books I voted for in one of the AAR Top 100 polls so it’s possible there are some 1980s books on this list, but I tried to winnow it down to the 1990s ones. Keep in mind I haven’t reread all of these recently. Many are still on my keeper shelf though!

    Laura Kinsale — Flowers from the Storm (19th century England), The Shadow and the Star (Victorian England & Hawaii), For My Lady’s Heart (medieval England), The Dream Hunter (Arabian desert and England,1830s), Seize the Fire (shipboard and the Falkland Islands in the 19th century), The Prince of Midnight (France and England, 18th century).

    Judith Ivory — Black Silk (Victorian England) , Beast (Ocean Liner and France around 1900), Bliss (written as Judy Cuevas — France around 1900), Dance (written as Judy Cuevas — France around 1900)

    Patricia Gaffney — To Love and to Cherish (mid-Victorian England), To Have and to Hold (mid-Victorian England; this is my favorite book in the genre, bar none, but very controversial), Wild at Heart (Gilded Age Chicago).

    Mary Jo Putney — Uncommon Vows (medieval England), the Fallen Angels’ series (Thunder and Roses, Dancing on the Wind, Petals on the Storm, Angel Rogue, Shattered Rainbows, River of Fire, One Perfect Rose — I recommend reading them in this order — all Regency England)

    Eva Ibbotson — Madensky Square (not quite a romance and from 1988, but OMG, it is great! And set in Vienna a few years before World War I). She also has a book from 1997 which I haven’t read, called A Song for Summer. I’m pretty confident it’s worth reading, though — she’s that good. This one is from 1997 and also set in Austria, but this time, shortly before World War II.

    Meagan McKinney — Lions and Lace (Gilded Age New York), Fair is the Rose (Western set in the same time frame), and my personal fave, A Man to Slay Dragons, a mid-nineties contemporary romantic suspense set mostly in New Orleans.

    Jude Deveraux — A Knight in Shining Armor (Time travel, both contemporary and Elizabethan era), The Awakening (1920s America), The Conquest (medieval England).

    Judith McNaught — Something Wonderful (1988, but who’s counting, it’s my favorite by her — regency England), Until You (Regency England), Paradise (contemporary US), Perfect (contemporary US).

    Kristin Hannah — Home Again (contemporary paranormal), she also wrote some interesting American-set historical paranormals, including one called Waiting for the Moon which had a heroine who had lived in a shaker community, to speak of religion-themed romances.

    Nora Roberts — Sweet Revenge (Variety of settings including Paris, Mexico, New York, California, England, and a made up Middle Eastern country), Public Secrets (England, Ireland, USA), Hot Ice (US, France, Madagascar!)

    Lisa Kleypas — Only With Your Love (historical New Orleans — this one contains a forced seduction, don’t say I didn’t warn you), Dreaming of You (19th century England), Midnight Angel (same), Prince of Dreams (England & Russia in two different eras — this is a reincarnation romance, IIRC).

    LaVyrle Spencer — Years (Western — early 19th century?), November of the Heart (Gilded Age resort in the Midwest), Family Blessings (contemporary, heroine is 45, hero is 30).

    Iris Johansen — Lion’s Bride (Set during the crusades in the Middle East, I believe), The Ugly Duckling (romantic suspense), The Wind Dancer (Rome, don’t ask me for the exact era),

    Linda Howard — Midnight Rainbow, Diamond Bay (both categories — don’t know if they’re meaty but I love them), Sarah’s Child (ditto; controversial, but I ate it up) Shades of Twilight, After the Night (full-length contemporaries set in the American south)

    Patricia Ryan — Heaven’s Fire (medieval London, cleric hero), Silken Threads (medieval London, heroine is a silk merchant), Secret Thunder (also a medieval).

    Megan Chance — A Candle in the Dark (Late 19th century Panama Rainforest — heroine is a prositute, hero is an alcoholic doctor), Fall From Grace (19th century western), The Way Home (also a 19th century western)

    Amanda Quick — Don’t know if I’d call them meaty but I loved Scandal (19th century England) and also enjoyed Desire (a medieval set on an island).

    Linda Lael Miller — Forever and the Night, Time Without End, Tonight and Always (contemporary and historical time travel, vampire and reincarnation paranormals — there is another one in this series but I can’t think of the title. These use a variety of historical eras. My favorite is Time Without End).

    Alina Adams — Annie’s Wild Ride, When a Man Loves a Woman — both contemporary and really interesting and different.

    Jane Feather — Virtue (great book, England — regency or early 19th century)

    Carla Kelly — Miss Whittier Makes a List, Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand, Reforming Lord Ragsdale — regencies.

    Sandra Brown — Mirror Image, Best Kept Secrets (both contemporaries)

    Elizabeth Chadwick — The Wild Hunt (medieval — Wales and England?). I also loved The Falcons of Montabard, a medieval set in the Middle East, but can’t recall if it’s from the 1990s or early 2000s.

    Connie Brockway — My Dearest Enemy (Victorian England, I think), All Through the Night (Regency, maybe? Not sure. I haven’t read this one in a while).

    Karen Ranney — Upon a Wicked Time (England, 19th century I think. Dark and controversial, but I loved it. She wrote many acclaimed romances in the 1990s but I haven’t gotten around to reading most of them.

    Mary Balogh — Gosh, where do I start? Dark Angel, Lord Carew’s Bride, Indiscreet, Snow Angel, Thief of Dreams, The Ideal Wife, A Precious Jewel, The Temporary Wife, Longing, Dancing with Clara, A Christmas Promise. Most set in England during the Regency but Longing takes place in Wales and Thief of Dreams is set earlier, not sure how much.

    Barbara Samuel — Bed of Spices (Medieval Germany — German heroine and Jewish hero), Lucien’s Fall (Georgian England?), The Black Angel (Georgian England).

    Kathleen Gilles Seidel — Again, Mirrors and Mistakes, Till the Stars Fall, Don’t Forget to Smile, More Than You Dreamed. Contemporaries but definitely meaty.

    Susan Wiggs — Lord of the Night (Renaissance Venice), The Charm School (19th century Boston, shipboard & Brazil).

    Candice Proctor — Night in Eden, September Moon (both 19th century Australia).

  16. liz m
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 13:21:15

    I've often wondered if one of the reasons at least some of the authors I've listed left the genre or stopped writing altogether was because they found the changes in the romance genre (which followed the publisher mergers) restrictive

    I started to say this in my other posts, but pulled it back because I didn’t want to be talking out of school. Many authors were dropped as the publishers merged and shuffled around. Names you might consider ‘big’ were shown the door in the hopes that the new names would generate bigger sales. One author was pretty open with me at the time about her struggles, despite critical respect and steady sales, to find a new home. (She eventually did) Some, I’m sure, went to ‘women’s fiction’ because they could get contracts there. There’s more than one author on my list that I’m desperate for a new book from (in that period) that I’ve been informed was dropped and hasn’t reemerged. I’m sure there are as many reasons as there are writers, but that was a common 90’s one from my conversations.

    I don’t want to talk out of school either — this is mostly something I’ve wondered and cannot confirm in most cases (which is why I said “at least some of the authors” rather than just “the authors”). As far as confimation, I can only think of two authors I’ve heard this about. One through the grapevine, so I shouldn’t post who, as it’s hearsay and not something I’ve heard from her. But in the second case, Candice Proctor, I’m pretty sure she said in an article that used to be posted on her site that the inability to change settings in the romance genre as she had done in the past was one of the things that motivated her to start her Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series.

    I’m sure you’re right though, about there being as many reasons as there are authors who stopped writing romance.

    @ Janine – awesome list, I’m going to have to think to add to it.

    Thanks!

  17. Katharina
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 13:28:55

    Gosh, oh my, Janine, thank you soooo much. Some of the titles I already know but others are completely new to me. Many many hugs.

    Patricia Gaffney -‘ To Love and to Cherish (mid-Victorian England), To Have and to Hold (mid-Victorian England; this is my favorite book in the genre, bar none, but very controversial), Wild at Heart (Gilded Age Chicago).

    So far I’ve only read one Gaffney book, Sweet Everlasting, which I liked very much. Thanks for reminding me of this author, I totally ignored her in the last years.

    Eva Ibbotson -‘ Madensky Square (not quite a romance and from 1988, but OMG, it is great! And set in Vienna a few years before World War I). She also has a book from 1997 which I haven't read, called A Song for Summer. I'm pretty confident it's worth reading, though -‘ she's that good. This one is from 1997 and also set in Austria, but this time, shortly before World War II.

    I feel very close to Ibbotson, mainly because she’s Austrian (like myself) and often sets her stories in Vienna, the city of my heart *g*. It’s a pity her backlist isn’t that big.

    Meagan McKinney -‘ Lions and Lace (Gilded Age New York), Fair is the Rose (Western set in the same time frame), and my personal fave, A Man to Slay Dragons, a mid-nineties contemporary romantic suspense set mostly in New Orleans.

    Have to confess, I didn’t like Lions and Lace at all. IIRC it was the hero that went on my nerves, but all in all I only remember the author often using the word “Knickerbocker” which, in German, stands for folklorist leather trousers LOL.

    Judith McNaught -‘ Something Wonderful (1988, but who's counting, it's my favorite by her -‘ regency England), Until You (Regency England), Paradise (contemporary US), Perfect (contemporary US).

    I never understood why her books worked so well for me, because most of her plots build on big misunderstandings… something I try to avoid whenever possible.

    Nora Roberts -‘ Sweet Revenge (Variety of settings including Paris, Mexico, New York, California, England, and a made up Middle Eastern country), Public Secrets (England, Ireland, USA), Hot Ice (US, France, Madagascar!)

    Ahh, god old Nora Roberts. I recently read Sacred Sins by Roberts, definitely one of her older romantic suspense titles, and someone said that her 90s titles read like historicals. Ain’t it true. But she rarely disappoints.

    LaVyrle Spencer -‘ Years (Western -‘ early 19th century?), November of the Heart (Gilded Age resort in the Midwest), Family Blessings (contemporary, heroine is 45, hero is 30).

    I read a lot by her, but not all of her backlist. I will work on that one. My favourites are Vows and The Endearment. And some of her contemporaries are simply splendid, like the one where the heroine had very large breasts and has an operation.

    Iris Johansen -‘ Lion's Bride (Set during the crusades in the Middle East, I believe), The Ugly Duckling (romantic suspense), The Wind Dancer (Rome, don't ask me for the exact era),

    I have meant to read more by her for quite some time now. A long time ago I very much enjoyed The Golden Barbarian, an Arabian set story I (well, at least as far as my memories go) recommend heartily.

    Megan Chance -‘ A Candle in the Dark (Late 19th century Panama Rainforest -‘ heroine is a prositute, hero is an alcoholic doctor), Fall From Grace (19th century western), The Way Home (also a 19th century western)

    I never read her, her stories sound interesting. I will just pass on the alcoholic hero, I don’t like those. Wasn’t there also a Kleypas hero who was a recovering addict?

    Amanda Quick -‘ Don't know if I'd call them meaty but I loved Scandal (19th century England) and also enjoyed Desire (a medieval set on an island).

    My favourites are Desire, Mystique and Deception. I know, titles that don’t rank so high on the favourites list over at AAR.

    Alina Adams -‘ Annie's Wild Ride, When a Man Loves a Woman -‘ both contemporary and really interesting and different.

    Now this one sounds great. Never heard of her, those are the recommendations I like best :-)

    Jane Feather -‘ Virtue (great book, England -‘ regency or early 19th century)

    Probably my biggest guilty pleasure read stems from her feather, Love’s Charade. It contains many plot ingredients I rarely enjoy but god do I love this romance. Next to some Julie Garwoods this one is definitely my favourite historical.

    Elizabeth Chadwick -‘ The Wild Hunt (medieval -‘ Wales and England?). I also loved The Falcons of Montabard, a medieval set in the Middle East, but can't recall if it's from the 1990s or early 2000s.

    Karen Ranney -‘ Upon a Wicked Time (England, 19th century I think. Dark and controversial, but I loved it. She wrote many acclaimed romances in the 1990s but I haven't gotten around to reading most of them.

    I read one book by her which I remember being totally boring, and never gave her a chance afterward. What a shame, so many reader recommend her. I will try her again. Promise.

    Mary Balogh -‘ Gosh, where do I start? Dark Angel, Lord Carew's Bride, Indiscreet, Snow Angel, Thief of Dreams, The Ideal Wife, A Precious Jewel, The Temporary Wife, Longing, Dancing with Clara, A Christmas Promise. Most set in England during the Regency but Longing takes place in Wales and Thief of Dreams is set earlier, not sure how much.

    I haven’t read many Baloghs but my two favourites are Heartless and Silent Melody. They belong into my top five historicals together with Garwood and the above mentioned Feather. I will have to work on her backlist.

    Barbara Samuel -‘ Bed of Spices (Medieval Germany -‘ German heroine and Jewish hero), Lucien's Fall (Georgian England?), The Black Angel (Georgian England).

    Hasn’t Samuel written a mini series where in the next installment the previous hero dies? Something like 14 years later after they found together? Or do I mix her up?

    Again, thanks very much, Janine! Some wonderful recommendations!

  18. Katharina
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 13:36:04

    Many authors were dropped as the publishers merged and shuffled around. Names you might consider ‘big' were shown the door in the hopes that the new names would generate bigger sales.

    This is horrible, and what a shame. While researching book titles I quite often stumble upon authors whose bibliography stops around mid to late nineties. I honestly don’t runderstand the purpose behind this. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put money behind an already established author rather than to start from scratch? And is this still practise today?

  19. liz m
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 14:02:59

    I don’t know how mid-listers fare today – the people I used to talk with it about have either died or I’m just not in contact anymore – I had kids and there went all my free time!

  20. Evangeline
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 17:14:13

    Great books are also to be found in places like Romance Reader at Heart’s book database, and the bevy of genre offshoots from Historical Romance Writers. They are both goldmines for authors who were most likely popular in their heyday, but have disappeared from the radar for most romance readers.

    While I voted for the 1990s as my view of romance’s golden era, I do find it interesting that those who point to the past always recommend the same names (Ivory, SEP, Kleypas, Spencer, etc), names most are very familiar with even if they’ve never read them. I’ll have to scour my bookshelves again for my own unfamous recommendations, but I’m interested to hear about authors that were successful in the 80s and 90s and are now forgotten by the majority of the genre’s fans (like Arnette Lamb, Susan Andres, Katherine O’Neal, Lynn Kerstan, etc).

  21. Evangeline
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 17:25:50

    @Katharina: Think about TV–don’t networks cancel shows that have a small but steady viewership in hope that the replacement show will do even better? It usually doesn’t, but networks look to new shows that became insta-hits and hold out hope that they’ll strike gold with a new show after an equally new one tanks.

  22. Lorraine
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 17:27:14

    Jaili: That's the thing; the 1990s didn't have just meaty epic historicals. To me, this type belongs to the 1980s and the 1970s. Historical romances of the 1990s were actually shorter than those from the 1980s and 1970s.

    Yep, I agree. I only read historicals and paranormals so for me the golden age was the 1980s for just that reason, there were meaty historical epics for the most part.

    Another difference between today’s authors and those from decades past is that it seems authors back then didn’t just stay within one time period or one region. They explored the whole world. Check out Janine’s list of awesome…most of those authors showcased different eras. It seems many of today’s authors stick with the tried and true regency era England *yawn*.

    That was one of the things that made Johanna Lindsay so great back then. She wrote about the 19th century American West, medieval period, regency era, Russia, the middle east, and even a trilogy that takes place on another planet.

    I remember buying two romances and when I got home, I was shocked to find one was a time travel romance and the other was a bloody Irish medieval (my least favourite time period).

    @Jaili I love the medievals. That sounds like a great book…do you remember the name?

  23. Jane O
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 18:13:46

    When I was a teenager, I read Mary Stewart’s pre-Arthurian books (they were new books then). I also read all of Jane Austen and Daphne DuMaurier. Thereafter, I didn’t read anything that was officially labeled romance until I retired a few years ago and picked up Loretta Chase’s MR. IMPOSSIBLE. I have been pretty well hooked ever since.

    However, a few days ago, I picked up a Harlequin Famous First -‘ Linda Howard’s TEARS OF THE RENEGADE. I have to tell you, if I had picked that up when it was first published I would never have gone near a romance novel again. (I have minimal tolerance for arrogant males, especially sexually arrogant males.)

    I figure I am pretty lucky to have missed the 80s (and maybe the 70s as well). Any books I pick up at the library are unlikely to be pre-1990. As far as I can tell, the only things I have missed are some Carla Kellys and some good Regencies.

    I don’t know if the golden age was the 1990s or the 2000s -‘ I’ve read really good books from both decades -‘ but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the 1980s.

  24. Janet W
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 23:27:31

    OK, I love this s**t!!! Here's my annotated list, totally meaningless but enjoyed by me. Clearly I'm on the same page with my counterpart Janet since I own tons of these books.

    Laura Kinsale -‘ own them all. If I could ONLY save one it would be Flowers from the Storm. Beyond belief good.

    Judith Ivory -‘ disagree with choices. Only one in a fire? Untie My Heart … and it totally represents the romance of Russia, the Middle East … not to mention the beating heart of romance among sheep raisers.

    Patricia Gaffney -‘ Agree agree. Wild at Heart is sexy, beyond belief different (virgin hero) and marvelous but again, the Fire question, I'm grabbing To Have and To Hold.

    Jude Deveraux -‘ my fave, a pre-revolutionary tale, The Raider and the hero is F A T!

    Jane Feather -‘ Disagree. House is burning down, grab VICE. The most nasty, selfish gorgeous duke ever!

    Carla Kelly -‘ Agree agree: can't go wrong with anything by Kelly. Miss Whittier Makes a List, Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand, Reforming Lord Ragsdale -‘ regencies.

    Connie Brockway and Karen Ranney don't often hit my re-read list unlike Balogh who I've memorized. Try Beyond the Sunrise (Balogh) for a book set during the Napoleonic Wars

    Susan Wiggs -‘ Yep, she rocks. Have ‘em all. I'd probably grab The Charm School.

    Candice Proctor -‘ Unbelievably good. Find and read and keep forever!! Night in Eden, September Moon (both 19th century Australia).

  25. Kara
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 06:18:45

    @Katharina:

    Janine did great. I just add one more name: Maggie Osborne. Not-your-typical frontier/western/American (Amazon to Alaska) historicals; but gritty, with emotional punches galore and unusual, imperfect heroines.

    Alexa: Spanish Inquisition, sultan’s harems and oh my…

    Lady Reluctant: pirates & high sea adventure

    Emerald Rain: London lady does Amazon

    The Wives of Bowie Stone: Kansas, hero chooses marriage of convenience over the hangman’s noose

    The Seduction of Samantha Kincade: lady bounty hunter

    The Brides of Prairie Gold: a mail-order bride wagon train

    Promise of Jenny Jones: Mexico to California, a cussing, drinking female mule skinner in man’s clothes (picture Calamity Jane/Deadwood)

    The Best Man: cattle drive

    A Stranger’s Wife: An Old West Gothic, Colorado, heroine chooses to impersonate the governor candidate’s wife to escape Arizona desert prison

    I Do, I Do, I Do: Gold Rush Yukon (*sigh*)

    Silver Lining: Colorado mining community, with a heroine called Low Down… (*sigh*)

    The Bride of Willow Creek: 1890s Colorado mining community

    Prairie Moon: Post Civil War Texas to Atlanta

    Shotgun Wedding: Colorado territory, heroine pregnant with an outlaw’s baby marries the town sheriff

    Foxfire Bride: a lady scout

  26. Maili
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 07:21:39

    @ Katharina

    I would kill for a list of recommendable meaty romances from the nineties, especially with Alakan, South American, African or Australian settings. (PRETTY PLEASE!)

    I’ll do my best to write a proper list (probably not as organised as Janine’s, I bet) in near future. Thanks.

    @ Janine

    I think the names of the authors you guys list as favorites from the 1990s tell a cautionary tale. Around the first half of the 2000s, there was a big migration of authors, many of them named in the above post, from romance to other genres. Patricia Gaffney, Candice Proctor, Megan Chance, Kathleen Gilles Seidel, Penelope Williamson, Patricia Ryan, Sandra Brown, Susan Wiggs and others all left romance for other genres. Others, like LaVyrle Spencer and (briefly) Loretta Chase, stopped writing.

    I’m sorry for being so thick-headed, but what cautionary tale? Isn’t authors’ movement like that part of the publishing life? Some of us don’t stay in the same profession for twenty years or even five years, so why authors should be any different? Sorry for being so dense. Clarification, please?

    @Lorraine

    Another difference between today's authors and those from decades past is that it seems authors back then didn't just stay within one time period or one region. They explored the whole world. Check out Janine's list of awesome…most of those authors showcased different eras. It seems many of today's authors stick with the tried and true regency era England *yawn*.

    Oh, that’s a good point. I think you may have pinpointed what I struggled to say. I thought it may be innocence or optimism, but I’m thinking it may be ‘adventurous’. In fairness, there were authors who stuck with certain periods or settings, such as Maryle Rodgers who wrote nothing but medieval romances (not my favorite setting) or Pamela Morsi who used Americana only for her historical romances.

    As for the Irish medieval, I still remember the story (hero is forced to marry blind heroine, whom he doesn’t want to marry because of his fear that her blindness would pass down to their future children, but the heroine basically flips the bird at him, which annoys him), but not the author and title. I didn’t think of keeping a list at the time, I’m sorry.

    ~

    I’m still feeling a bit bleary-eyed and sluggish from a bad cold, so this list isn’t completed and not all books are – I suspect – restricted to 1990s, but I hope it’ll do for now.

    I should re-read all those before I list them, but if you are willing to read for the sake of reading experience, then I hope this list is helpful – especially for those who seem to believe that 1990s were nothing but bodice rippers.

    Lorraine Heath – Always to Remember (probably the only romance that actually made me cry), Sweet Lullaby, Parting Glances
    Gayle Feyrer – The Thief’s Mistress, The Prince of Cups (I also liked Heart of Deception (Elizabethan) under her other pen name, Taylor Chase, that she wrote a couple of years ago)
    Lisa Gregory – The Rainbow Season
    Suzanne Robinson – My Lady Gallant
    Megan Chance – The Portrait, Fall From Grace, A Candle in the Dark… any, really.
    Candice Proctor – the Australian one
    Diana Norman – traditional Regency (leave Come Be My Love to last because the heroine has a couple of TSTL moments and the hero is an inconsiderate wanker)
    Meagan McKinney – her heroes can be unfortunately jerks (even Vashon from Till Dawn Tames the Night), but the world in each book she created was quite amazing. Anyroad, I don’t think her books can stand the test of time well, so proceed with caution.
    Penelope Williamson
    Deborah Smith
    Lauren Wilde (aka Joanne Redd) – Passion’s Springtime (as a romance, it’s not that good, but I enjoyed it because in spite of a couple of stereotypes, it was different)
    Julia Ross
    Connie Brockway – As You Desire
    Teresa Mederios – Nobody’s Darling
    Jo Goodman
    Kristen Kyle (adventure romance readers may enjoy her books) – The Last Warrior, the Gold series, Nighthawk (futuristic romance)
    Barbara Samuels
    Beverly Jenkins – western historicals with awesome heroines
    Katherine O'Neal – I can’t remember the title, but I liked the 1920s historical romance.
    Danelle Harmon – again, can’t remember the title, but enjoyed the scholar hero book.
    Betina Krahn
    Cheryl Reavis
    Marilyn Pappano – the Cattleman series, Passion (heroine hires former convict hero to kill her rapist), Suspicion, In Sinful Harmony, most of her category romances tend to be thought-provoking
    Sandra Canfield – she dealt with social issues without being soapboxy about it – male rape, breast cancer, PSTD (military hero was tortured for a long period), etc. She was awesome.
    LaVyrle Spencer – November of the Heart is my favourite
    Pamela Morsi – Courting Miss Hattie, Runabout, Haven’t read Simple Jess but quite a few readers enjoyed this.
    Elizabeth Grayson – can’t remember why I listed her here, but am leaving it in anyway
    Carla Neggers – romantic suspense of the 1990s, e.g. Night Scents; I think she’s quite underrated.
    Nora Roberts – Carnal Innocence, Honest Illusions
    Maggie Osborne – The Portrait of Jennie; The Seduction of Samantha McKinade

    Not a romance author, but if you’re into mysteries, read Kate Ross’s Julian Kestrel series set in Regency-era England.

    Sorry for making the list so chaotic. It’s all off my head. I think I left a few more out, especially category romance authors and contemporary authors, and there may a couple that shouldn’t be on the list, e.g. Meagan McKinney. I think I’ll use this weekend to sit and write a proper and more organised list. :D
    ~~
    Many thanks to all for responding to this thread because I truly enjoyed reading all these responses.

  27. Janine
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 07:54:11

    @Katharina:

    So far I've only read one Gaffney book, Sweet Everlasting, which I liked very much. Thanks for reminding me of this author, I totally ignored her in the last years.

    Wow, you are in for a treat. I envy you, having all those books ahead of you.

    I feel very close to Ibbotson, mainly because she's Austrian (like myself) and often sets her stories in Vienna, the city of my heart *g*. It's a pity her backlist isn't that big.

    Yes. She has some excellent books that were written in the early 1980s, too, but since this list was about the 1990s I didn’t list them.

    Have to confess, I didn't like Lions and Lace at all. IIRC it was the hero that went on my nerves, but all in all I only remember the author often using the word “Knickerbocker” which, in German, stands for folklorist leather trousers LOL.

    LOL. Truthfully, this is one that no longer works for me as well as it used to, but I listed it because I know a lot of people still love it. That said, I have reread A Man to Slay Dragons, her contemporary romantic supsense from the 1990s, in the past couple of years, and I still love this book. It has a great hero and heroine, so I would say if you are only going to read one McKinney, make it this one.

    Re. Judith McNaught

    I never understood why her books worked so well for me, because most of her plots build on big misunderstandings… something I try to avoid whenever possible.

    I think she is very good at evoking emotion, and also, the misunderstandings in her books are usually based on the hero being a cynical, mistrusting type to begin with. I think misunderstandings work better when they have some basis in the characters’ past experiences and personalities.

    Ahh, god old Nora Roberts. I recently read Sacred Sins by Roberts, definitely one of her older romantic suspense titles, and someone said that her 90s titles read like historicals. Ain't it true. But she rarely disappoints.

    I really love the settings in some of her older titles. Sweet Revenge is probably my favorite of the ones I’ve read, for the revenge-motivated cat burglar heroine. I think she and the hero are so well matched.

    Re. LaVyrle Spencer

    I read a lot by her, but not all of her backlist. I will work on that one. My favourites are Vows and The Endearment. And some of her contemporaries are simply splendid, like the one where the heroine had very large breasts and has an operation.

    Vows was great and I enjoyed The Endearment too. Haven’t read the contemporary you mention, though I think I’ve read quite a lot of her books.

    Re. Iris Johansen

    I have meant to read more by her for quite some time now. A long time ago I very much enjoyed The Golden Barbarian, an Arabian set story I (well, at least as far as my memories go) recommend heartily.

    She wrote some very good romances though sometimes her books got a bit edgy. I think my favorite was Lion’s Bride though it’s been ages since I read it.

    Re. Megan Chance

    I never read her, her stories sound interesting.

    They are very interesting, though they can get quite dark.

    Wasn't there also a Kleypas hero who was a recovering addict?

    Can’t remember, but there may have been.

    Re. Amanda Quick

    My favourites are Desire, Mystique and Deception. I know, titles that don't rank so high on the favourites list over at AAR.

    I can’t recall if I have read Deception, but I did like Desire and Mystique.

    I haven't read many Baloghs but my two favourites are Heartless and Silent Melody. They belong into my top five historicals together with Garwood and the above mentioned Feather. I will have to work on her backlist.

    I think I have Heartlesss TBR. Don’t think I’ve read Silent Melody. It’s amazing how many good books she has written. I love the emotional intensity of her older books.

    Hasn't Samuel written a mini series where in the next installment the previous hero dies? Something like 14 years later after they found together? Or do I mix her up?

    I never heard about that, but I haven’t read all her books. Among her historicals, I’m only aware of one series — the one that began with The Black Angel and continued in Night of Fire (haven’t read the latter yet), which she never finished. For a long time a lot of readers were clamoring for more books in that series, so I doubt it was that one. Samuel also wrote a lot of books (many of them categories) under the name Ruth Wind.

    Again, thanks very much, Janine! Some wonderful recommendations!

    You’re welcome.

  28. Janine
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 07:58:45

    @Evangeline:

    I'll have to scour my bookshelves again for my own unfamous recommendations, but I'm interested to hear about authors that were successful in the 80s and 90s and are now forgotten by the majority of the genre's fans (like Arnette Lamb, Susan Andres, Katherine O'Neal, Lynn Kerstan, etc).

    I don’t think I read any of them except one book by Kerstan which didn’t work so well for me. But feel welcome to post your recommendations — I’m sure other readers will enjoy them.

  29. Janine
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 08:03:43

    @Jane O: I have to disagree that the eighties were that bad. Yes, there were a lot of forced seductions and such but there were also some great books published then that were not like that at all, and not just among the traditional regencies — I’m thinking some by LaVyrle Spencer, Kathleen Gilles Seidel and Eva Ibbotson’s books which have been recently reprinted as YAs but were originally written for adults. I’m sure there are other authors I am forgetting.

  30. Janine
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 08:10:08

    @Janet W:

    Laura Kinsale -‘ own them all. If I could ONLY save one it would be Flowers from the Storm. Beyond belief good.

    Yeah, she is amazing.

    Judith Ivory -‘ disagree with choices. Only one in a fire? Untie My Heart … and it totally represents the romance of Russia, the Middle East … not to mention the beating heart of romance among sheep raisers.

    Although it isn’t my favorite Ivory, it is on my shelf. The main reason I didn’t list it was because Katharine asked for 1990s books, and this one is from the early 2000s.

    Patricia Gaffney -‘ Agree agree. Wild at Heart is sexy, beyond belief different (virgin hero) and marvelous but again, the Fire question, I'm grabbing To Have and To Hold.

    LOL. My adoration for THATH knows no bounds. I’m grabbing it in a fire too. Probably we should warn readers that it is very dark and very controversial.

    Jude Deveraux -‘ my fave, a pre-revolutionary tale, The Raider and the hero is F A T!

    I had fun reading that book. Not sure if it was from the 1990s or the 1980s, but it was very funny.

    Jane Feather -‘ Disagree. House is burning down, grab VICE. The most nasty, selfish gorgeous duke ever!

    Ah sorry, I like Virtue much better.

    Try Beyond the Sunrise (Balogh) for a book set during the Napoleonic Wars

    Thanks, I haven’t read that one — will have to get to it sometime.

  31. Janine
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 08:13:44

    @Kara: Maggie Osborne is an author I didn’t discover until I Do, I Do, I Do came out. I really liked that book, but I never got around to digging up her backlist. I have Emerald Rain TBR and am looking forward to it, but now that I review for DA, I rarely have much time to read older books anymore, since I try to keep up with the new ones coming out.

  32. Janine
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 08:23:04

    @Maili:

    I'm sorry for being so thick-headed, but what cautionary tale? Isn't authors' movement like that part of the publishing life? Some of us don't stay in the same profession for twenty years or even five years, so why authors should be any different? Sorry for being so dense. Clarification, please?

    I could be wrong, but it struck me at the time as a real trend of many authors leaving the genre within the same time frame. I don’t think there is a similar movement going on now, and I don’t think there was one going on in the early 1990s, either. As I say, I could be wrong about that.

    Re. what I’m cautioning — I think everyone can take whatever lesson they want to take from it, but for me, what I feel is that it if it happened before it could happen again and we shouldn’t take the current resurgence of the genre that Robin talked about for granted. And this is why I personally try to vote with my book buying $$.

  33. liz m
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 13:30:28

    In defense of the 80’s, Billie Green was writing some interesting category – I think she had mental illness in a heroine, if I recall properly – maybe in To See The Daisies?

  34. Evangeline
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 14:35:06

    Hmm…here’s a partial list:

    Betina Krahn: her Avons and early 90s Bantams are awesome
    Katherine O’Neal: action-adventure historicals (stay away from her current releases though)
    Lucia Grahame: The Painted Lady rests forever on my keeper shelf
    Megan McKinney: Fair Is the Rose (a sequel to Lions and Lace, which I hated because it was so over-the-top), The Ground She Walks Upon
    Jane Feather: Her entire V-series, her Bride trilogy
    Katherine Sutcliffe: Jezebel
    Suzanne Robinson: Lady Gallant, Lady Hellfire, Lady Dangerous, Never Trust a Lady
    Jude Deveraux: The Awakening, The Raider, The Duchess

    More to come…

    But I must say, after examining my own hang-ups about my writing, I feel there is a lack of real joy in the romance genre. I think part of it has to do with how close and how quickly the internet brings us together. Before, authors relied upon (maybe) Romantic Times and a few others for reviews, they met up with one another at RWA’s conference each year, readers wrote them letters, etc etc. Much in the manner of motion picture studios wringing their hands over twitter,text messaging and facebook/myspace ruining millions of dollars of marketing with one line: “this movie sucked!”, I think authors feel a bit of the crunch of instant, forever-there feedback. In the 80s and 90s, it felt as though each word an author wrote was for the joy of it, of discovering where the genre would go with that one book, whereas today, it’s all about looking flashy enough to stand out above the crowd and not really making sure each book impacts or benefits the future of romance.

  35. Patricia Rice
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 15:06:45

    I think this discussion is really about the maturation of an industry. The 70s and 80s were a time of building, when anything went–multiple partners, any time period, setting, whatever floated an author’s boat. Readers eagerly grabbed anything labeled romance because it was all new. And sexy.

    By the 90s, the wheat was separating from the chaff. The really good authors from earlier periods were in their stride. The weaker ones dropped away. And we could still write about anything that caught our interest, so each book was a new joy.

    By the naughts (love that term), the romance genre has become so mature that we’ve established multiple genres. Thousands more books are being published. Each author’s market is narrowed because readers cannot possibly read everything printed. This is where marketing steps in and the joy starts seeping away. This is also one of the reasons some really good writers have moved on to genres that allow them more creativity. Mature markets are tough to tackle.

    Great discussion, thank you!

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