Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

If You Like…Debut Books had a nice article on why you should be reading debut authors. One thing I remember about debut books is that these are novels that authors usually labored over, for years. This sometimes explains the sophomore slump whereby the second book just isn’t as good as the first. The first two debut titles that spring to mind aren’t even romance. The first is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (her first and only published novel) and the second is Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

In romance, you also have a unique situation. Writers like Nalini Singh who publish in category are considered a “debut” author for the purposes of their first mass market. Her “debut” book would then be Slave to Sensation. I think this would probably be true for ebook authors moving into the print publishing market for the first time. Probably my favorite romance debut (that is until the comments jog my memory) is Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie.

For the purposes of this post, I ask that you give a shout out to your favorite debut novels and if they’ve been previously published, either in category or ebook, identify that. For fun, I’ll give away the two address books from the Harlequin vintage stationary collection to two random commenters.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Babs
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:14:17

    Oh, have to say Tessa Dare’s Goddess of the Hunt. I was one of the ones who was not annoyed by Lucy…although some of her behavior was cringe-inducing!

  2. Tamara Hogan
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:18:06

    Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander.” Anne Rice’s “Interview With the Vampire.”

    Both of these debut books pretty much created new sub-genres.

  3. Jia
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:25:15

    Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart.

    [don’t enter me into the drawing]

    Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:31:16

    Hi Jane-If you are asking for any debut, not just recent ones, I have to name Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER as a favorite romance debut.

    Margaret Mallory
    Knight of Pleasure, Releases Nov 24th

  5. Jackie Barbosa
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:35:53

    I’d have to tap Elizabeth Hoyt’s THE RAVEN PRINCE as my favorite romance debut, but would put Margarate Mallory’s KNIGHT OF DESIRE and Tessa Dare’s GODDESS OF THE HUNT as very, very close seconds.

  6. gwen hayes
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:36:58

    Anna Campbell’s Claiming the Courtesan

  7. Bev
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:40:29

    I definitely have to say hands down, Sherry Thomas’s Private Arrangements. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reread that one.

  8. BadgerChaser
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:45:27

    Meredith Duran’s Duke of Shadows. Such a lovely, painful book. Her second was good, but just didn’t have the same depth as her first.

  9. Lori
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:51:24

    Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. So enchanting and just left me a soft puddle of quivering emotional goo afterward.

  10. RStewie
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:55:06

    Oh, wow…lot’s of good ones already!

    Agree with Kushiel’s Dart…also, with Outlander. I immediately thought of Dark Prince, Demon Angel (which I consider the Debut Novel) and Passion (lol). Devil’s Bride comes to mind, too.

    I do get mixed up, thinking about debut novels, though, because I often confuse a new series with a debut novel (I almost added Cole’s A Hunger Like No Other and Singh’s Angel’s Blood to the list!!). Not the same, I know, but there it is.

  11. Renee
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:59:56

    I love reading debut authors, though I can’t pick just one favorite. A few of them, however, are:
    Gail Carriger-Soulless
    Julie James-Just the Sexiest Man Alive
    Kelley Armstrong- Bitten
    Ginn Hale-Wicked Gentlemen
    Deanna Raybourn-Silent in the Grave

    I enjoy visiting Tia Nevitt’s blog, Debuts and Reviews to see what new authors are up to. Until recently the blog was more oriented toward Fantasy, but she’s recently widened her scope of genres.

    ETA: I just realized that Tia Nevitt is the author of that article you mentioned over at Blogcritics! Her own site is well worth checking out for new authors to read.

  12. AnnB
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:03:58

    “Soulless” by Gail Carriger. Funny & smart! With treakle tart!

  13. Keira Soleore
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:07:48

    Joanna Bourne’s THE SPYMASTER’S LADY

  14. Janet
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:10:23

    Outlander (Gabaldon) and Kelley Armstrongs Bitten stand out for me. I’d also like to add Jennifer Rardin (Once Bitten, Twice Shy) – love Jaz Parks.

  15. Lisa J
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:13:14

    How about two e-book authors –

    Dana Marie Bell – Wallflower
    Vivian Arend – Wolf Signs

  16. MaryK
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:22:15

    My favorite debut novels? I have no idea. I rarely know that a book is a debut unless it’s a “Zebra Debut” with the special cover.

    However, I am looking forward to a debut, if that counts. The Book Smugglers interviewed Lori Brighton whose debut, Wild Heart, has a hero who was a feral child. Since it’s a theme I like and it’s rare, I’m going to take a chance on an unknown author.

  17. Randi
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:23:52

    Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Love love loved that book. It made the rounds my senior year of high school (all the way back in 1992).

    I’ll put in a vote to Outlander, Interview, Bitten, Kushiel’s Dart, and yes, Soulless by Gail Carriger (really impressive debut novel).

    Another one: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, by Lauren Willig. I heart Lauren.

  18. Michelle
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:27:35

    The first one that comes to mind is Madeline Hunter’s By Design. I loved that book – loved all the “by-” books. I knew nothing about her or that book when I saw the front display at a local bookstore. It was a total treat. It grabbed me by the throat in the first scene and did not let go until the very end of that book.

  19. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:33:46

    I loved Victoria Dahl’s To Tempt a Scotsman

    Megan Hart’s Dirty (was this a debut?)

    Marian Keyes’ Watermelon

  20. Kati
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:52:11

    I’d agree with Joanna Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady. And Elizabeth Vaughan’s Warprize.

    Also, if I’m confessing all, I re-read JR Ward’s Dark Lover a ton while waiting for the next book in the series.

  21. Anthea Lawson
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:52:53

    Cold Mountain was an amazing, lyrical debut novel. Loved that book.

    In romance? A big YES for Duke of Shadows and Outlander. I think that Joanna Bourne actually published one category Regency several years ago (it’s mentioned on her website) so, much as I *love* The Spymaster’s Lady, I don’t think it counts. I’d agree with Kushiel’s Dart, too.

    Great YA fantasy debuts (from way back…) Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, and Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen — pretty much made me fans of those authors for life. Strong love stories running through though books, as well.

    Great thread! Makes me want to re-read all these good books~

  22. Bella
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:56:41

    My favorite debut novel is In Over Her Head by Judi Fennell. Such a great new series by a fabulous debut author.

  23. Kay Sisk
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 12:05:36

    A big yes to Sherry T’s Private Arrangements and the Raybourn Silent in the Grave. Also, Morag McKendrick Pippin’s Blood Moon over Bengal.

  24. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 12:07:49

    Oh, and Jackie Barbosa’s Behind the Red Door. A recent read, nicely done.

  25. Kristina Cook
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 12:12:19

    I loved Tracy Anne Warren’s debut, THE WIFE TRAP, Lisa McMann’s WAKE, Libba Bray’s A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY..those are the first three debuts that popped into my head! (the last two are YA books)

  26. Caligi
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 12:13:23

    Simply Scandalous by Tamara Lejeune was a great debut historical. I bought it because it was $3.99 and I needed to pad my Amazon cart for the free shipping. I ended up enjoying it so much that I stayed up until 3am to finish it, then went back and reread passages to sigh or laugh over them again.

    Everyone knows and loves Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran, but it’s awesome enough to mention again.

    I enjoyed Olivia Parker’s debut At The Bride Hunt Ball about two people who can’t stay away from each other, though they want to. Historical.

    Pamela Clare is the best author you’re not reading and Sweet Release was her debut novel. It’s a refreshingly different historical too – it’s set in 18th century Virginia.

    Kimberly Killion’s Her One Desire was a fab medieval featuring the Lord Executioner’s daughter and the Scottish spy who loves her. Lots of action.

    Mastering the Marquess by Vanessa Kelly was a solid B/B+ historical. The plot was nothing new – poor relation finds improbable romance with a peer – but it felt new when she wrote it.

    And then, of course, there’s Lisa Valdez and Passion, a book seemingly everyone loves but I thought was almost unreadable. Depending who you ask, it has either the hottest or the most ridiculous sex scenes. I say the ol’ girl got her money’s worth out of the word “cervix,” and that is not a word that sets me on fire.

  27. Laurie Ryan
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 12:26:20

    I was totally going to say Margaret Mallory’s KNIGHT OF DESIRE was my favorite debut book until I saw Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER in the comments. Stil, Knight of Desire runs a close second as a debut book, in my mind.

  28. Rebecca B
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 12:38:52

    I second Kelley Armstrong’s “Bitten.” That was fabulous.

    Another (fantasy) novel that I thought was a fabulous debut was “Daughter of the Blood” by Anne Bishop (first in the Black Jewels Trilogy. All were great). And I’m pretty sure it was her debut (I double checked at her website!)

  29. Becca
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 12:45:00

    Shannon K Butcher’s debut novel (blocking on the title, and all my books are in storage so I can’t check) was pretty good – good enough that I’ve purchased others by her.

  30. ReacherFan
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 12:45:01

    Best debut book I ever read wasn’t a romance, it was historical fiction – Aztec by Gary Jennings. In mystery, tie – The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais and The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis. In thrillers, Rain Fall by Barry Eisler. Fantasy? How about J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit? Or J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone? Or The Magician by Raymond Feist? Now those are true originals!

    I read The Devil’s Bride – and many of the others named here – when first released and enjoyed them, but they remain derivative to me. Evolution, not revolution. A matter nuance, not invention. It would be romance author Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money – her mystery debut, not her author debut – that I’d point to as starting a genre onto itself.

    For what we call paranormal or alternate world today look to the fantasy writers of the ’60’s. Anne McCaffery for her Dragonriders series that spawned so clones. She explored issues involving love vs. rape, a woman place in governing and fighting, the whole taking care of themselves, not sitting around waiting for some man to do it for them. Joan Vinge for her Snow Queen series and Psion, the start of her Cat series that anticipated so many of the current kick-ass paranormal heroines today.

    The paranormal/urban fantasy genres owe the ladies of the si-fi/fantasy genre a huge thank-you. They broke that ground back in the ’60’s, when romance was still all vapors and kisses, with the occasional Banned in Boston thrown in. Fantasy and science fiction was always more willing to give revolutionary books a chance. They explored topics that mainstream fiction was afraid to touch. Some of those writers crossed over to romance, but most stayed with fantasy. And for sex, hell, I got more sex in Mary Renault’s historical fiction books than any romance of that era – and that would include the scandalous Peyton Place.

    Let’s face it, true genre ground breakers are few and far between. The women who wrote fantasy and used it to explore many issues about power between male and female created something unique and utterly original. To me, they are the true grandmothers of today’s paranormal romance and kick ass heroines.

  31. Rose
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 12:59:15

    In addition to some of the titles already mentioned (esp. Outlander) I’d like to add two:

    Gaelen Foley’s The Pirate Prince is melodramatic and over the top, but it’s great fun and you can tell she spent a lot of time on it.

    Jennifer Donnelly apparently worked on The Tea Rose for the better part of a decade before getting it published. It’s not really a romance but it is very romantic.

  32. Denise
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 13:02:57

    This is a fantasy and an older book (out of print now I’m sure) by the recently deceased Louise Cooper – Mirage. I’m 99% certain this was her debut novel, and it was brilliant.

    The cover and front blurb caught my attention: “Ancient is the loss, ancient is the hate, ancient is the love.”

    I went on to read her astounding Time Master trilogy and Indigo series.

  33. tracyleann
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 13:11:14

    Some (possibly most!) of my very favorite books were first novels: Dreams of Sleep by Josephine Humphreys, Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Recent debuts that I’ve LOVED include The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (too early yet, but will probably make my all-time list no problem) and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

    And on the romance front, I have to say Tessa Dare’s Goddess of the Hunt and Meredith Duran’s Duke of Shadows.

  34. charlotte
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 13:12:34

    Hello all,
    Please could anybody tell me if they’ve read Bertrice Small? I would like to know more abou this author and how readers found it. Thank you.

  35. Nicci August
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 13:12:51

    My favorite debut novel is “Master of Crows” by Grace Draven. It’s been published as both an e-book on Amber Quill and a trade paperback on Great story, wonderful characters and a slow-building but very hot romance. I’ve already re-read it several times.

  36. Deb K
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 13:15:14

    Blythe Gifford’s THE PILGRIM AND THE PALMER. Dumb title. Great debut book.

  37. Sherry Thomas
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 13:18:56

    Nobody has mentioned Kristan Higgins‘s FOOLS RUSH IN yet? I had such fun reading it.

    Courtney Milan‘s upcoming historical debut PROOF BY SEDUCTION will be much talked about when it hits shelves on New Year’s Day.

    Also, isn’t TWILIGHT a debut book?

  38. Janine
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 13:26:34

    Leave me out of the drawing. I agree with many books mentioned above.

    Night in Eden by Candice Proctor has not been mentioned yet. A very impressive historical romance debut.

  39. emily
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 13:36:22

    Hear, hear, Reacherfan, regarding your comments about speculative fiction!!

    FYI, Spymaster’s Lady was Joanna Bourne’s second book.

    My picks. Though most are SF, almost all have a strong romantic thread.

    Madelein Hunter – By Design

    Clare Dunkle – The Hollow Kingdom. The rest of her books have been “meh” for me YA

    Carol Berg – Transformation. Best book I read that year. SF

    Catherine Gilbert Murdock – Dairy Queen (and sequel Off Season). YA

    Shannon Hale – Goose Girl YA SF

    Lois McMaster Bujold – Shards of Honor SF

    Rowling – Harry Potter & Philospher’s Stone YA SF

    Adam Rex – The True Meaning of Smekday YA SF. He’s also written YA poetry picture books and illustrated them. Fabulously talented man w/great sense of humor

    A Lee Martinez – Gil’s All Fright Diner one of the very very few urban fantasy books I liked. Pokes fun at vampire and werewolf cliches.

    Nina Kirki Hoffman – The Thread That Binds the Bones

    Sharon Lee & Steve Miller – Agent of Change SF

    Anne McCaffrey – DRAGONFLIGHT SF

    Sharon Shinn – ARCHANGEL

  40. Janine
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 13:42:31


    By Design

    Wasn’t that Hunter’s third book? As I recall By Arrangement was the first. I love some of your picks, esp. Dragonflight and Archangel.

  41. emily
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 13:44:57

    Wasn't that Hunter's third book?

    Oops, yes, you’re right! Thanks. I get all the “BY” book titles mixed up. Also all Robb’s “Death” books. It’s nice to know they’re all related, but, sheesh, I can never remember which title goes with which book.

  42. Hvitveis
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 13:56:04

    My False Heart, by Liz Carlyle.

  43. DeeCee
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 14:11:17

    Karen Rose’s Don’t Tell in print several years ago. It re-introduced me to romantic suspense which took a helluva lot. :)

  44. Kat
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 14:24:20

    This summer rocked for me as I got to read The Spymaster’s Lady, The Duke of Shadows and Private Arrangements. I loved them all so much I ordered everything else each of those authors had in print (which, fortunately for my bank account, wasn’t much).

  45. Caligi
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 14:26:04

    Ooh, ooh, I totally forgot Jennifer Haymore’s A Hint of Wicked which was an awesome love triangle.

  46. SonomaLass
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 14:27:56

    I’m trying to think of debut authors whose books I read when they were still new — not someone like Diana Gabaldon, whose debut novel I didn’t read until she was an established multi-book author.

    One would be Dru Pagliassotti, whose steampunk romance The Clockwork Heart was very good. Libba Bray’s Sweet Far Thing was a terrific debut, as was Malinda Lo’s Ash — both of those are YA fantasy.

    Most of the great romance debuts I’ve read are already mentioned above, as are some fabulous SF/F debuts. Very recently, I see Soulless mentioned a lot, so I will chime in with Leanna Renee Hieber’s The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker. That’s her debut novel, although she has had short plays and a novella published previously, I think.

    So many great books are mentioned in this thread!

  47. Janicu
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 14:42:22

    For this/last year: I keep saying this– Dru Pagliassotti’s CLOCKWORK HEART!! I also enjoyed SALT AND SILVER by Anna Katherine. These are both books that are fantasy/urban fantasy but romance is a definite element.

    I also agree with the SOULLESS suggestions.

    UF/SF Series with some romantic elements:
    Diana Rowland – debuted this year with MARK OF THE DEMON
    Ann Aguirre – this is a given, I love her SFR, debuted with GRIMSPACE
    Seanan McGuire – really enjoying her new series, debuted with ROSEMARY AND RUE

    I know I’m forgetting someone..

  48. joanne
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 14:46:21

    J D Robb’s Naked in Death (does that count as a debut when the author uses a pseudonym?) Whatever, it started an addiction.

    AMANDA QUICK’S Seduction. Another addiction starter.

    SHELLY LAURENSTON’S Pack Challenge (originally in ebook)

    LINDA HOWARD’S All That Glitters

    JESSICA BIRD’S (J. R. Ward) Leaping Hearts



  49. BadgerChaser
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 15:02:31

    I can’t believe I forgot Carrie Lofty! I think she had some e-publishing prior to What a Scoundrel Wants, though, so I don’t know if it counts. But that was one of the best romance novels I’ve ever read, period.

  50. Elyssa Papa
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 15:19:41

    Please don’t enter me into the drawing since my Harlequin delivery should be arriving any day now.

    There are so many awesome debut books that I’m probably forgetting a lot here. But these are some I’ve loved:

    Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare (loved Lucy, loved Jeremy, love everything about it)

    Proof by Seduction by Courtney Milan (Sherry Thomas is so right on this being completely awesome)

    Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas. Sherry Thomas is one of the few authors whose books I’ll read no matter what she writes. I think she’s fabulous.

    Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James. Complete love-fest.

    Not a romance but Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. I think this book opened the door to me reading more YA.

  51. pamelia
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 16:03:40

    Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey remains one of my favorite debut books and one of my favorite books period. I also really enjoyed Soulless by Gail Carriger. Sounds like I’m not alone!

  52. Marielle
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 16:12:06

    Kona Warrior by Courtney Sheets

  53. Jia
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 16:15:48

    @Denise: Sadly, Mirage is not Louise Cooper’s debut novel. I’m pretty sure she wrote the Time Master trilogy before that and those weren’t her debut novels either.

    @SonomaLass: I think you mean A Great and Terrible Beauty for Libba Bray? Sweet Far Thing was the final book in that trilogy.

  54. Helen
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 16:24:26

    I think this was a debut!
    Water Witch (I know it was by Cynthia Felice but she wrote it with someone else and I can’t recall who!)

    I second, third and fourth Gail Carringer’s Souless

    Silver Spoon by Stacey Klemstein

    I also second The clockwork heart

    Michelle Sagara’s Into the Darklands

    Linnea Sinclair’s Finders Keepers although her Accidental Goddess is my hand’s down favorite.

    Angela Knights Roarke’s Prisoner

  55. Christine M.
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 16:29:31

    Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten, Karen Chance’s Touch the Dark, Ilona Andrews’ Magic Bites, to name a few.

  56. CourtneyLee
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 16:41:45

    I agree with those who have said Kushiel’s Dart. Excellent book. Also Naked In Death because La Nora probably had that written and polished before she pitched the series because she wasn’t using the weight of her established name and the book had to stand on quality.

    How about authors with a mass market debut who had been published in other areas like category and ebooks? For those, Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh (previously of Silhouette Desire) and Ghostland by Jory Strong (20+ books at Ellora’s Cave) were awesome.

    One really good example of the sophmore slump for me was the second book in Jessica Anderson’s Final Prophesy series. I loved Nightkeepers, the first one, but the second one just fell flat for me, to the the point where I haven’t read the third yet. Anderson had been writing for Harlequin Intrigue (still does, I think) before that.

  57. Carolyn Jewel
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 16:46:54

    Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Prime Time.

  58. Ros
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 17:54:46

    I think it’s quite telling that a number of those books mentioned are not actually debut novels after all (The Spymaster’s Lady and Devil’s Bride, for instance). The ‘breakthrough novel’ is probably more important in establishing an author’s reputation. Sometimes, the debut novel is the breakthrough, but not always. And in those cases where it isn’t, the earlier novels are often best forgotten. I recently bought a re-released early Stephanie Laurens and it is truly dire.

  59. XandraG
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 18:13:49

    I still remember Angie Ray’s Ghostly Enchantment (it won a RITA I think, in the mid 90’s). Paranormal historical with a tight story, a sweet plot twist, and a hero who liked bugs.

  60. catie james
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 18:27:15

    THE LACE READER by Brunonia Barry
    SLAVE TO SENSATION by Nalini Singh
    BLIND SUBMISSION by Debra Ginsberg
    TITHE by Holly Black (not sure if that counts ’cause the Spiderwick Chronicles were published before TITHE, but they’re for middle graders rather than YA)
    POISON STUDY by Maria V. Snyder
    RAIN VILLAGE by Carolyn Turgeon
    THE HEROINES by Eileen Fisher
    KARMA GIRL by Jennifer Estep
    COFFEE AND KUNG FU by Karen Brichoux
    SELF-HELP: STORIES by Lorrie Moore
    SECRET SOCIETY GIRL by Diana Peterfreund
    THE SWAN KINGDOM by Zoe Marriott
    GRACELING by Kristin Cashore
    HOW TO BUY A LOVE OF READING by Tanya Egan Gibson
    GODDESS OF THE HUNT by Tessa Dare
    GENERATION DEAD by Daniel Waters
    MIDWINTER by Matthew Sturges
    THE HIDDEN WORLDS by Kristin Landon
    BONE SONG by John Meany
    LINE OF SCRIMMAGE by Marie Force
    THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins
    ROUGH MAGIC by Caryl Cude Mullin
    BLACK MOUNTAIN ROAD by Jennifer Hubbard
    THE VINYL PRINCESS by Yvonne Prince
    TEMPEST RISING by Nicole Peeler

    Okay, I’m going to stop now since this list is already out of control.

  61. Kate K
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 18:32:22

    I’ll always have a soft spot for SPLENDID by Julia Quinn — even now it really stands out to me as a touching, funny romance. I also enjoyed Vanessa Kelly’s debut.

    For contemporaries, Julie James’s debut was really outstanding. I lent that to everyone I know.

  62. Tae
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 18:54:24

    another vote for Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. I’ll read anything that woman writes after that book

    Command Performance by Linnea Sinclair – after that I went and bought every ebook she put out, including Games of Command which was basically a rework of Command Performance. I’m impatiently awaiting the next book in the Dock 5 series.

    Grimspace – Ann Aguirre. I have no idea if she wrote anything else before this, but this was my first exposure to her and I loved it. I love, love, love Jax and March.,

  63. JulieB
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 19:09:31

    Along with so many of the others above (esp Outlander), I’d like to put a plug in for Charles deLint’s Moonheart. I believe that it was his debut novel, and it certainly broke the ground for what we call urban fantasy today.

    And I love this topic!

  64. Denise
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 19:27:35

    Thanks, Jia. Do you know which one was her debut novel? I’d love to get my hands on it. My copy of Mirage is the one I bought in the 80s with the Robert Gould cover on it.

  65. KristieJ
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 19:34:25

    For me – without question – the best debut book is Broken Wing by Judith James. It’s not only the best debut I’ve ever read, it holds the numero uno spot on my all time favourite of any book list.

  66. emily
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 19:35:59

    @ Denise

    Here’s the list of Louise Cooper’s books:

    Looks like Mirage was her 10th book.

    And I was wrong about Sharon Shinn. The Shape-Changer’s Wife was her first book, not Archangel.

  67. Tiffany Clare
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 19:46:18

    Please don’t enter me either.

    I’m with all the other fan’s of Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. One of the best Fantasy series out there.

    I agree with Anne Bishop‘s debut too. I read it in the omnibus so can never remember what title goes with what book in the Black Jewel’s Trilogy.

    I’m not sure if it was a debut or not, but Carol Berg‘s Rai-Kirah ranks in my top fave fantasies. The first book in that tril was Transformation

    Outlander by Gabaldon
    Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone by Rowling
    Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
    Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare
    The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
    Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell

    Wow, I didn’t realize how many debut’s I’ve loved… and all these authors have gone on to be auto-buys for me.

  68. Anthea Lawson
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 19:46:32

    Suzanne Collins had quite a track record before Hunger Games, too~ another case of the “breakout book” not being the debut book.

    The DeLint mention reminded me of Emma Bulls War for the Oaks. Great debut novel and one of the earliest UFs out there! (Published in 1987 and still a fabulous read today.)

  69. Courtney Milan
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 19:49:53

    I loved THE SPYMASTER’S LADY (and according to Jane’s definition, this is a “debut”–JoB’s prior book was a category-length book), too.

    In addition, I’m thirding or seventhing or whatever it is these books, just because they all got in my head and stayed there:

    GODDESS OF THE HUNT, by Tessa Dare
    PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, by Sherry Thomas
    CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, by Anna Campbell
    WARPRIZE, Elizabeth Vaughan

    Non-romance debut books unmentioned so far:
    THE CHOSEN, by Chaim Potok
    WATERSHIP DOWN, by Richard Adams
    BRIDGE OF BIRDS, by Barry Hughart

  70. Courtney Milan
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 20:05:00

    Suzanne Collins had quite a track record before Hunger Games, too~ another case of the “breakout book” not being the debut book.

    I’m not even sure you could call HUNGER GAMES her breakout book. Her prior series landed on the NYT list.

  71. Meghan
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 20:58:25

    I took a chance on Lauren Willig’s Secret History of the Pink Carnation after reading a blurb in the local commuter paper – since I’m from Boston and she was a Harvard student at the time, it was local interest. I have not ever been sorry for springing for that hardcover!

  72. Rebecca B
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 21:02:11

    Can I add another fantasy debut novel?

    “Swordspoint” by Ellen Kushner. Fairly certain this was her first book, and it’s so beautifully written. The first few pages give me shivers (in a good way).

  73. Jane O
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 21:06:56

    Meredith Duran DUKE OF SHADOWS

    Liz Carlyle MY FALSE HEART


    Terrific, all of them

  74. Maibeeme
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 21:11:32

    I totally agree with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten. I’d like to add Elizabeth Vaughan’s Warprize and C.L. Wilson’s Lord of the Fading Lands.

  75. hapax
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 21:32:44

    Love this topic.

    I could pretty much copy and paste Emily’s list @39.

    I’d add

    Eva Ibbotson, THE COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS (her debut adult novel)
    Jennifer Crusie MANHUNTING (debut category) and TELL ME LIES (debut standalone)
    Doris Egan, GATE OF IVORY (sf / fantasy of manners)
    Kate Ross, CUT TO THE QUICK (historical mystery, not a romance, but Julian Kestrel was *such* an archetypical tortured Regency hero, and I regret that Ross passed away before she could finish the series and give Julian (and his fans!) their happy-ever-after)
    Oriana Papazoglou, SWEET SAVAGE DEATH (also a mystery, first in a very funny series that wickedly skewers the romance industry at the time; Papazoglou abandoned the series to find huge successs under the name Jane Haddam)

  76. Lorraine
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 21:42:27

    Tina St. John (aka Lara Adrian) Lord of Vengeance. It’s a medieval era, revenge against her evil father plot, but both of the characters were so sweet to each other, (for the most part). There are certain scenes I can read over and over and I still cry every time. *love that*

  77. Ali
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 22:41:05

    One of my favorite debuts was Lora Leigh’s from ebook to print… I loved her novella in the Honk if You Love Real Men anthology, Reno’s Chance.

  78. Mezza
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 22:51:35

    Judith James ‘Broken Wing’ is a debut novel I think, and one I love. I will second Ellen Kushner’s ‘Swordspoint’ too. Steven Erikson’s Tales of the Maalzan Fallen series begins with ‘Gardens of the Moon’ a military fantasy that up ends your expectations and made me go and do a philosophy course. The series is up to book 9 now and is a must read for me.

  79. sarac
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 23:07:51

    This Can’t Be Happening at McDonald Hall by Gordon Korman – written when he was 12 years old!

  80. Niveau
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 00:16:27

    So many good books to choose from… but, limiting it to a few, I’d have to go with:

    Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare
    How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
    A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
    The Theif by Megan Whalen Turner (it was her first full-length novel, so arguably her deubt, I’d say…)
    The Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson (her debut YA)
    Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

  81. Anthea Lawson
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 01:07:31

    I love this thread! Ooh Ender’s Game was Orson Scott Card’s first novel. AMAZING book. Everyone. Read it.

    Speaking of which… my TBR wish list has just gotten enormously long. Er, thanks all you enthusiastic readers. Some year I may be able to come up for air. ;)

  82. BlueRose
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 01:19:03

    Im amazed at how many of the fantasy books listed here I have read, which is nice

    I will also put my hand up for Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, and Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop. I really disliked the Kushiel books (really really)

    I would also add

    The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
    Dragonflight – Anne McCaffrey
    Elantris – Brandon Sanderson
    Jaran – Kate Elliott (I think she wrote earlier under another name tho)
    The Eight – Katherine Neville
    Airs Above the Ground – Toby Bishop (psuedonym for another writer)
    Dragon Prince – Melanie Rawn
    Stormwarden – Janny Wurts
    The Wild Hunt – Elizabeth Chadwick
    Jhereg – Stephen Brust

  83. Kimberly B.
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 03:03:47

    In recent memory, I can think of a few that really impressed me.
    Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. All her books are good, but in this case I really think the first is the best.
    Rosemary and Rue by Seanan Mcguire
    Thief With No Shadow by Emily Gee
    The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
    Doppleganger by Marie Brennan, which has since been retitled. Warrior, I think? and the second one is Witch?
    I’m fairly sure those are all first novels. Am now adding other people’s suggestions to my TBR list!

  84. Annmarie
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 04:55:13

    Naked In Death by JD Robb and Grimspace by Ann Aguirre. Both sparked my imagination in ways that I can’t describe and made me desperate for more.

  85. Kaetrin
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 06:03:50

    Well, I’ll join the crowd and add my vote for Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Also, Bitten by Kelley Armstrong and Slave to Sensationby Nalini Singh. Sorry, I don’t have anything original to add!!

  86. Tia Nevitt
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 06:11:31

    Thanks for mentioning my article! Here’s the link to it:

    Three Reasons Why You Should Read Debut Novels

    There’s lots of debut love here!!

  87. Denise
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 06:33:59

    Thank, Emily! ~rushes off to scan Louise Cooper’s list~

  88. Miranda Neville
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 07:45:39

    Lots of great books mentioned here. I’ll throw in Eloisa James’ Potent Pleasures.

  89. Blythe Gifford
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 07:57:19

    Thanks to Deb for the shout out, but the published title of my debut was THE KNAVE AND THE MAIDEN. (The Pilgrim and the Palmer was the author’s working title. Sort of obvious why it wasn’t published that way!) You all are playing havoc with my TBR pile! I’m so far behind. I’ll second Deanna Raybourn’s SILENT IN THE GRAVE, definitely.

  90. mingqi
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 09:17:21

    Someone had already mentioned it but I have to add again: My False Heart by Liz Carlyle. While other writers do have subsequent books that top and outdo their debut books, imo, I don’t think any of Carlyle’s other books can top My False Heart.

  91. Heather Snow
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 09:22:02

    For a twist on this topic, one author comes to mind whose second book was much better than her first–Sophie Jordan. NOT that her debut book was bad, mind you, but it didn’t inspire me to run out and buy the next.

    However, her second book “Too Wicked to Tame” was absolutely fantastic! I’m glad I took a chance on it, and that book caused me to buy her third and fourth.

    As for this post, I’m having to bookmark it so that I can work my way through everyone’s lists. They sound fantastic!

  92. Jody W.
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 09:33:39

    Recently I got a kick out of Cheryl Sterling’s WHAT DO YOU SAY TO A NAKED ELF? Also love Jennifer Estep’s KARMA GIRL, MAGIC BITES by Ilona Andrews, Linnea Sinclair’s FINDERS KEEPERS, & Robin Owens’ HEART MATE. From the wayback machine, a favorite is Elizabeth Ann Scarborough’s SONG OF SORCERY, which I never hear talked about and was fabulous, sweet and snarky all the the same time…in 1982!

    Not sure if FK was Sinclair’s debut since she started out in small press. It might have been a book called WinterTide?

  93. Jody
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 09:39:40

    Gone With the Wind was a debut novel. So sad that Margaret Mitchell died before she could write more.

  94. Darlynne
    Nov 13, 2009 @ 22:59:50

    @Courtney Milan:

    BRIDGE OF BIRDS, by Barry Hughart

    A big squeee! for one of the best and most original fantasy books. I love that series and am thrilled to see it mentioned.

    I’ll add these debut (I think) books:

    Devon Monk, Magic to the Bone
    Daphne Uviller, Super in the City
    Elizabeth Leiknes, The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns
    C. E. Murphy, Urban Shaman
    Meg Gardiner, China Lake
    Naomi Novik, His Majesty’s Dragon
    Louise Penny, Still Life
    Julia Spencer-Fleming, In the Bleak Midwinter

  95. brooksse
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 11:37:00

    I’ll add another vote for Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James. It put Ms. James near the top of my auto-buy list.

    ETA: A favorite of mine that’s close but not quite a debut is Linda Winfree’s Hold On To Me. I think I read somewhere that it was the first book she started writing, but it didn’t end up being her debut novel.

  96. Mitzi H
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 12:37:59

    I just started reading the Angelique Series by Sergeanne Golon. I believe they started writing this series in the 60s, but I’m not sure if the 1st book was their debut novel . I’ve read that some folks believe these novels were the beginning of popular erotica/romantica??? I don’t know about that, but I do know that the books are very enjoyable and entertaining…and pretty hot considering when they were written.

  97. Monday Morning Stepback «
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 12:37:11

    […] Noting the “make or break” nature of that first book, Dear Author is compiling an awesome list of debut books. […]

  98. JeanneTops
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 20:07:33

    I can’t believe that, in 97 comments, Megan Chance’s A Candle in the Dark didn’t get mentioned. It won the 1994 RITA First Book Award. The h/h couple are outside of the usual romance types – a drunk and a whore – and the time period and location are also unusual – Panama in the early 1850s. But it’s a superb character study of two lost souls who find themselves through the strength and love they give to each other.

  99. Janine
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 02:40:32

    @JeanneTops: I remember loving A Candle in the Dark. I’m sorry I forgot to mention it. It was a unique story in many ways.

  100. April
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 03:01:55

    An excellent debut is an amazing thing, because I believe that most authors come into their talent, rather than start off with a bang. So, big kudos to all the authors out there that made a bang with their debut.

    I don’t understand how books are listed as “debut” when they are not necessarily the author’s first book.

    For instance, Suzanne Collins had a bit of a following with her Gregor the Overlander books before The Hunger Games hit the big time, but I’ve seen The Hunger Games listed as a debut.

    Beth Kery wrote some other erotica before Wicked Burn but I’ve seen it listed as a “debut” book. I don’t understand that. It’s almost as if these aren’t strictly first-books, but actually debuts to the public’s notice.

    Reading through these comments I’ve been thinking about debut novels in two different ways.

    Some people mention the debut books of authors that have gone on to great success, and I think “well duh!”

    IMO,The Sorceror’s Stone should only count if you read that book when JK Rowling was unheard of and loved it THEN. I’m silly, I know, but looking at these popular authors in hindsight, after they’ve become popular and listing them as favorite debut books seems a little after the fact to me. I, personally, didn’t like The Sorceror’s Stone when I first picked it up. It was years later, after I had watched some of the movies, and decided to pick up with the series at book 6, that I came back and re-read the whole series. Then decided I LOVED it.

    I wonder how often the POPULARITY of an author forms or re-forms the opinions of the readership.

    So….debuts I’ve loved after rampant publicity or previous popularity as “classics” made me reconsider or take notice for the first time :
    Anne of Green Gables
    Sense and Sensibility
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Betty Smith
    Jane Eyre
    Life of Pi
    The Sorceror’s Stone
    Interview with a Vampire
    Carrie (hmmm….I don’t know if I “love” this one, but it’s a good debut)
    The Clan of the Cave Bear

    Debuts from authors unheard of to me before I read the book that left me agog:
    The Princess Bride William Goldman
    The Neverending Story Michael Ende (I think this is his English debut)
    The Time Traveler’s Wife
    Cold Mountain
    The Duke of Shadows
    The Firm by John Grisham (not much of a Grisham fan anymore, but at the time I remember thinking…WOW! What a story!!)
    Private Arrangements
    Wicked Burn Beth Kery, though I still wonder how this is “debut”
    Dirty Megan Hart (debut? I don’t know…also, I wonder if I only list these last two because I JUST read them and they are such stand-outs compared to what I’ve BEEN reading)
    Bitten by Kelly Armstrong
    The Bone People Keri Hulme (ugh. I still get all emotional when I think of this one)
    The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy
    Angela’s Ashes Frank McCourt

    hmmm…..that’s all I can think of right now.

  101. Elisa
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 04:49:31

    No one’s mentioned Naomi Novik’s book His Majesty’s Dragon yet? Excellent debut, excellent series!

    and, SQUEE for Barry Hughart…what happened to him? did he only write…2?…books? at least, I’ve only ever been able to find 2…

    Carrie Vaughn’s first Kitty book (Kitty and the Midnight Hour?)

    Also, Nancy McKenzie’s The Child Queen (about Guinevere) and Persia Woolley’s first book on Guinevere. (why yes, I was on an Arthurian kick…)

    and, of course, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor.

    As for romance: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong for sure (I especially love the hardback cover, of the woman in pinkish-red), Splendid by Julia Quinn, Seduction by Amanda Quick (yeah I know Jayne Anne Krentz, but….), Naked in Death by JD Robb, Dara Joy’s debut (can’t remember the title right now but it was good), and a whole bunch that have been mentioned before…

    *edit: I see someone HAS mentioned Naomi Novik, sorry I missed it!

  102. Keishon
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 09:59:55

    Duke of Shadows / Meredith Duran [first part was captivating]
    Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
    Remember the Time by Annette Reynolds [her one and only book]
    In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming
    The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneggar

    *exclude from contest/drawing as I am late to the party anyway.

  103. Jeanna
    Dec 03, 2009 @ 20:13:46


    I enjoy the comments and reviews. I just wanted to add a holiday book that is new (2009) entitled The Stocking Stuffer by Violet Summers. The book is currently available at
    The main character experiences what most women go through in their lives. The book is a good, quick holiday read that will lift your spirits. Anyone who reads it will immediately relate to the characters. Overall grade A-.

  104. REVIEW: Knight of Pleasure by Margaret Mallory | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 04:01:36

    […] remember a number of people raving about your debut in the If You Like Debut books thread. I bought the debut book, Knight of Desire, but by the time I got around to reading it your second […]

  105. brittney
    Apr 22, 2010 @ 13:21:05

    @Sherry Thomas: i love this book it s fave in the whole world fools rush in

  106. Lorenda
    Sep 30, 2010 @ 15:47:09

    C.L. Wilsons Lord of the Fading Lands

  107. Jane
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 10:17:44

    @Lorenda That was a great debut.

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