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If You Like Laura Kinsale…. Hosted by Janine

This is a new series called "If You Like" which will be hosted by various readers, authors and bloggers of Dear Author. The purpose of the post and the comments is to explore what we like about a particular iconic author and what other authors have books like the iconic author. If you would like to host an "If You Like" post, please email Jane at dearauthor.com.

Please be aware that the post below may contain some spoilers.

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Laura Kinsale

book review My first experience of Laura Kinsale was the riveting Seize the Fire. The story of the cynical, out-for-himself Sheridan Drake and the idealistic dreamer Princess Olympia of Oriens was so gut-wrenching that I was afraid to finish it. It was clear that Olympia’s idealism and Sheridan’s cynicism were on a collision course, and that things would get worse for them before they got better.

Yet, though I dreaded what might happen to Sheridan and Olympia with the turn of each page, I also could not put the book down. The ultimate shattering of Olympia’s innocence was painful — but it was one of the most powerful things I have read in any book, in any genre. The last few pages of the book, in which Sheridan opens up to Olympia about his past and wonders whether his words will make a difference are so potent and so visceral that though I’ve reread them many times, they have never lost their emotional power.

When I finished Seize the Fire, I was certain of three things: the book had affected me more deeply than any romance ever had, I would never be able to reread it in its entirety, and it would stay on my keeper shelf for years to come.

book review It took a long time for me to get up the nerve to try Kinsale again, but the second time I tried her, with Flowers from the Storm, I was relieved to find that it wasn’t quite as gut-wrenching as Seize the Fire… but it was just as fierce and potent in a different way, just as beautifully written, just as meaningful and thought-provoking, and even more romantic.

I went on to read Kinsale’s entire backlist, and I discovered that few books can match the romanticism of hers, and no other romance author has written as many books that have such a strong effect on my emotions. The Shadow and the Star is my second favorite book in the romance genre, and I’ve reread it, For My Lady’s Heart and The Dream Hunter more times than I can count. Flowers from the Storm is also a favorite, and has appeared in survey after survey as one of the most beloved romances. If you’ve never read her before, you are in for a spectacular experience.

Setting (era): A variety of historical eras

book review Kinsale’s settings are as diverse as the fourteenth century (For My Lady’s Heart and its sequel, Shadowheart), the late eighteenth century (Uncertain Magic and The Prince of Midnight), the early nineteenth century (My Sweet Folly), Regency England (Midsummer Moon and Flowers from the Storm), the 1820′s (Seize the Fire), the 1840′s (The Dream Hunter), and the Victorian era (The Hidden Heart and its sequel, The Shadow and the Star).

Setting (geographic): England and many other locales

Every single one of Kinsale’s novels takes place at least partly in England. But roughly two-thirds of them take place in one or two other locales as well. Thus, The Hidden Heart takes place partly on board ship, Uncertain Magic partly in Ireland, Seize the Fire partly in Madeira and the Falkland Islands, The Prince of Midnight partly in France, The Shadow and the Star partly in Hawaii, The Dream Hunter partly in the Arabian desert, and Shadowheart partly in Italy.

Heroine type: Varied

If Kinsale has a heroine type, I’m stumped as to what it is. Her heroines each have unique personalities and come from diverse backgrounds. Like her heroes, they are psychologically complex, but they range from innocent and sometimes painfully naive (Olympia from Seize the Fire or Leda from The Shadow and the Star) to experienced and bitterly cynical (Leigh from The Prince of Midnight and Melanthe from For My Lady’s Heart). Even when two have something in common — for example, Melanthe and Folie from My Sweet Folly are both widows first married at a young age; Leda book reviewand Zenia from The Dream Hunter are both born on the wrong side of the blanket — they have vastly different temperaments and attitudes toward their circumstances. If readers’ opinions on this differ from mine, I would welcome hearing them.

Hero type: Alone, tortured and determined

Kinsale has a knack for putting her characters through the wringer, but it makes her endings that much happier. Several of her heroes suffer from a physical or psychological malady or disability that they must overcome. Faelan from Uncertain Magic and Robert from My Sweet Folly are both wrongly thought to be mad, and suffer some symptoms that indicate they may be dangerous. S.T. Maitland from The Prince of Midnight is a former highwayman who has lost his sense of balance, while Samuel from The Shadow and the Star was sexually abused as a child and therefore represses his own sexuality. Christian, duke of Jervaulx from Flowers from the Storm is unable to communicate due to post-stroke aphasia and his troubles are compounded when his relatives believe him mad and have him put in a lunatic asylum. It would be a huge spoiler to reveal what it is that torments Sheridan in Seize the Fire.

Even when one of her heroes is relatively well adjusted, they frequently experience feelings of aloneness at some point in the story (aloneness as opposed to being part of a couple is a theme that recurs in Kinsale’s books), and are still tormented by something — often a need to prove themselves to someone, be it the heroine (The Prince of Midnight, The Dream Hunter), a mentor (The Shadow and the Star), society or a monarch (Flowers from the Storm, For My Lady’s Heart), or oneself (even if that means proving one doesn’t give a damn, as in Seize the Fire). Their determination to prove themselves, overcome the forces that hold them back, and attain their goal can reach epic proportions, and is one of the things that makes them so very heroic.

Kinsale’s heroes and heroines are psychologically complex and multidimensional. Some of them are wounded people and some are not, but all of them have acutely vulnerable interiors (though some hide them beneath a tough exterior).

Plot (action-oriented/character-driven): Character-driven

book reviewKinsale’s plots are almost always driven by the intense internal conflicts that her characters are faced with. Even in a book like For My Lady’s Heart, which has a large cast of characters, everything that happens is the result of the emotions of those characters. To take an example from that book, when Princess Melanthe’s happiness with Ruck, the man she has fallen in love with, is threatened by Gian, a ruthless man who will stop at nothing to attain Melanthe’s hand and her lands, Melanthe must decide whether to place her trust in Gian’s son Allegreto, who is in a position to help her. Allegreto, however, is torn between the loyalty and fear he feels for his father, and his feelings for someone else, whom Melanthe can protect. It’s a beautifully intricate, complex plot, but everything in it stems from the characters’ emotions and personalities, and everything depends on their decisions. By the end of the novel, the characters are lined up like dominoes: if one falls they will all come down. But it never feels less than convincing because no one ever behaves uncharacteristically to accommodate a plot device.

Pace (slow/medium/fast): Medium

Kinsale’s books tend to run long (Shadowheart, the most recent, has 502 pages), but that is not the same as slow paced. Often they begin with a slow build up in, but by the end, events are coming fast and furious. So I would say medium.

Writing style (simple v. ornate): Intricate and lyrical

If forced to choose between these two descriptors, simple and ornate, I would have to say Kinsale’s style is ornate, but I think better words are intricate and lyrical.

Her sentences can be long and elaborate, but to me, their rhythms serve to accentuate the emotions that her characters, and by extension, I myself, feel when reading them. Her words also possess a sharp clarity. She can render her setting so vivid that the images that form in my mind’s eye when I read are breathtaking.

Take this example, from The Dream Hunter :

Something about the clear winter light and the deep ruddiness of the setting sun tinted everything with crimson and vermilion, like a twilight in the red sands — it brought the desert back vividly — just so had she sat, just so, in silence, looking a little down, singing softly in the vast emptiness… and strangely, as if the light revealed some lost aspect of reality or memory or vision — he saw her fully, for the first time, as the same companion who had sat beside him there. The same face, the same person, the same heart.

All his memories conformed at last — the free-striding youth had not vanished, had not died, but been different all along. It was not a boy; it had never been: it was this woman beside him who had mounted a camel by a graceful athletic swing upon its neck, who had slept close at his back; who had let him braid turquoise and pearl into her hair, it was this sober, beautiful, pensive young woman who had rationed his water and food for him in the sands and labored up the endless dunes and wept as he lifted her up onto a camel’s back, so thin and light she was nothing.

Kinsale is also not afraid to challenge her readers and has been known to take some risks with her prose. In For My Lady’s Heart some Middle English words are woven through some of the dialogue, while in some sections from Flowers from the Storm the hero’s POV thoughts mimic his aphasia. While these portions of the books demand a little extra effort, they are rewarding because they convey the characters’ mindset so well.

Dialogue (lots/little/balanced): Balanced

Kinsale doesn’t skimp on description, as the quote above shows, but her books also contain their share of wonderful dialogue. The conversation between the characters reveals their personalities and their emotions, and always moves the story forward.

Here’s an exchange between Samuel and Leda after she discovers that he, a man she barely knows, has been breaking into her rented room at night.

“Miss Etoile, I have been in this room every night for the past week and more. Have I hurt you? Have I touched one of your possessions?”

“What?” Her voice went up to an unladylike squeal. “You’ve been coming in my room for a week?”

“And you’ve known nothing of it, have you? Until you moved everything and bathed yourself and the whole room in that exceptionally odorous soap.”

“You are mad! What has soap to do with anything?”

“It reeks. That hampered me.”

“It does not reek,” she said indignantly. “Hudson’s has no smell.”

“It reeks,” he said. “But it’s my responsibility–my mistake–I was too impatient; I allowed my perceptions to become disordered.”

book review “Certainly it’s your responsibility. It isn’t mine! I’ve every right to clean my floor and move my furnishings if I please, without some housebreaker complaining of it! And–and hanging up in the eaves like a horrid vampire bat!” She felt herself flushing. “I will never forgive you for that, sir! Never! You could have spoken, when you saw I had called the police! You could have revealed yourself!”

From The Shadow and the Star

Humor (Yes/No-serious/some): Some

Midsummer Moon is considered Kinsale’s lightest book. Most of her other novels are so emotionally intense that people sometimes forget that there is also some subtle humor in them. The section of dialogue I quoted above is one example. Here is another, from the epistolary opening of My Sweet Folly:

Cambourne House, Calcutta
15 October 1900

My dear Cousin Charles,

I disturb your peace at my father’s behest. He wishes me to investigate the progress of a lawsuit concerning the proper location of a hedgerow. Knowing and caring nothing of this hedgerow, except that it languishes, properly or improperly, in Shropshire, I beg you will do me the favor of not replying to this inquiry.

Emotional Angst (high/medium/low): High

The characters in Laura Kinsale’s books go through their share of heartbreak. It’s not so much that her characters suffer things characters in other books don’t, but rather that they seem so real, that Kinsale favors showing over telling, and that she reveals her heroes and heroines from inside, peeling back layers of determination and yearning and vulnerability. The result is that their longing for one another has is as acute and intense as it could be, and the pages of her books are saturated with emotion.

Conflict (externally driven/internally driven/both): Both, but with a stronger emphasis on internally-driven conflict

While the internal conflict is always more pronounced in Kinsale’s books, it is usually exacerbated by an external conflict. For example, in Flowers from the Storm, Maddy, a devout Quaker, and Christian, a rake, are brought together when she helps him escape from her uncle’s asylum after realizing he is perfectly sane.

The internal conflict is that in helping Christian escape, Maddy becomes separated from her Quaker community, and she fears that marriage to Christian will cut her off from them, and from a devout life, forever. She also disapproves of Christian’s rakish pre-stroke lifestyle, and is therefore unsure whether loving him is the right thing.

In addition to that central internal conflict, there are external obstacles which include a Quaker gentleman who is determined to return Maddy to the fold, Christian’s family members who seek to separate him from Maddy and return him to the asylum, and Christian’s former mistress who has recently given birth to his illegitimate daughter. Each of the external conflicts has an effect on the internal conflict.

Heat level: (kisses/warm/hot/scorching): Hot bordering on scorching

With the exception of Shadowheart which contains some pain play, Kinsale’s books don’t generally contain unusual sex acts. But they are some of the hottest scenes I’ve ever read nonetheless, and I would argue that their heat level stems from the way the characters’ intense emotions are woven through them. For example, this excerpt from The Dream Hunter comes as Arden and Zenia expect to be put to death the next morning and try to take comfort from one another.

“Am I like honey?” she asked, shyly, half beneath her breath.

“No,” he said. He leaned down and kissed her, his whole body pressed against her. He pushed his hands up into her hair and held her face between his palms. “You’re like water. Like bright water.” He bent his face to her throat. “Oh, God, so bright and cold that it hurts to drink.”

She felt him, his body ready to mount hers. He was heavy, lying atop her. She had never seen a man unclothed, though she had lived among them, for the Bedu were painfully modest even among their own. But she had seen animals, and boy children, and she knew. It frightened her a little, but the terror that lay beyond, outside this small circle of their bodies locked together, was so huge that her fright seemed like elation.

“Is that a stupid thing to say? I could live without honey,” he said, muffled against her throat. “I can’t live without water.”

Strangely, happily, she began to weep. She put her arms around his shoulders. “No. It is not stupid.”

There is a raw, almost shocking intimacy to this scene, something that is very much the case with Kinsale’s other love scenes as well.

If You Like Laura Kinsale, You’ll Like . . .

Ah, this is the toughest part here. I’ve never found another romance author whose books match Kinsale’s for pure emotional intensity. Truthfully, she is incomparable, and I think any romance reader who has not read her is missing out on greatness.

But there are other authors whose books have some similar qualities. Here (listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name) are my suggestions for other readers who, like me, adore Kinsale’s work and are looking for something to read between now and when her next book comes out.

Shana Abe’s drakon series (The Smoke Thief, The Dream Thief, and Queen of Dragons). I haven’t read most of Abe’s earlier backlist yet. Although the drakon books are paranormal historicals with shapeshifter heroes and heroines, Abe’s heroes possess a similar determination to Kinsale’s, and her heroines are reminsicent of some of Kinsale’s tougher ones. The books are set in Georgian England and have both internal and external conflict. Abe’s writing style is also lyrical and it reminds me of Kinsale’s at times.

Mary Balogh’s traditional regencies and early single titles. This choice may be a stretch since Balogh’s writing style and character types are quite different from Kinsale’s. But Balogh’s earlier books are filled with emotional angst. Set in Regency and Georgian England, these books have character-driven plots and lots of internal (as well as some external) conflict.

Joanna Bourne. Of Bourne’s two regency set historicals, I’ve only read The Spymaster’s Lady, and while it didn’t work so well for me, many other readers loved it and I do think Bourne’s writing style is lyrical and has a similar richness to Kinsale’s. Her two books have been set in England and France, had a good balance of dialogue and description, some humor as well as some angst, and both internal and external conflict. Also, my gut tells me that Bourne could appeal to Kinsale’s readers.

Elizabeth Chadwick’s medievals. Chadwick’s books, like Kinsale’s, are exceptionally well researched, and her heroes are both determined and vulnerable. Her settings are geographically varied and her writing style reminds me a bit of Kinsale’s.

Megan Chance’s romances, in particular, A Candle in the Dark, The Portrait, Fall from Grace, and The Way Home. It’s been a while since I’ve read most of these but I recall that Chance’s historical romances settings are historically and geographically varied (although her books are set in the Americas), as are her character types. Her plots are character-driven, though they can be slower paced. Chance’s writing style is a bit simpler than Kinsale’s, but still lyrical. The angst quotient in Chance’s books is quite high, and her characters are frequently emotionally wounded in some way.

Eileen Charbonneau. I confess that I have never read this author but from a glance through her books, her writing style was very reminiscent of Kinsale’s and I have heard other readers say that there are some similarities in their books.

Tom and Sharon Curtis. The Curtises, who have written both historical and contemporary romance, have a lyrical and intricate style of writing and character-driven plots, some with a fair amount of angst.

Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows. The hero of Duran’s book fits the “alone, tortured and determined” description to a tee, the characters suffer some psychological damage, the story is set partly in England and partly in India, has medium pacing, lyrical and sharp writing, both internal and external conflict, hot love scenes, and emotional angst.

Patricia Gaffney’s later historical romances, in particular, Sweet Everlasting, the Wyckerley trilogy (To Love and to Cherish, To Have and to Hold, Forever and Ever) and Wild at Heart. Gaffney’s books, like Kinsale’s, have varied settings (though all three of the Wyckerley books are set in the same village). Her heroines (as well as her heroes) are varied, with no single type. The characters in the last four of these books go through the wringer. Gaffney’s plots are character driven, her writing style is lyrical, there is plenty of angst and conflict, both external and internal, and Gaffney’s love scenes can be hot.

Megan Hart’s Dirty and Broken. Since they are contemporary erotic novels some might wonder what Dirty and Broken are doing on this list. I would argue that these two books have earned their place with character driven plots that are high on angst and internal conflict, and plenty of hot to scorching love scenes. Hart’s characters are psychologically complex and sometimes damaged, too.

Eva Ibbotson’s historical romances. Ibbotson’s romances have a lighter tone than Kinsale’s and the bedroom door remains closed in her books, but the diversity of her settings, the richness of her writing style and characterization, and her use of both internal and external conflicts are the reasons I think she might appeal to Kinsale’s readers.

Judith Ivory (also writing as Judy Cuevas). Judith Ivory’s books are also very different from Kinsale’s in tone but there is a big overlap between their readers — many Kinsale fans are also Ivory fans and vice versa. I count myself among that group. Ivory’s books are set in 19th century England and France, but I think the biggest reasons for the overlap are Ivory’s sumptuous prose style and her psychologically complex, varied and conflicted characters.

Judith McNaught’s historicals. When Loonigrrl hosted an “If You Like Judith McNaught” column, some of our readers suggested Laura Kinsale as an author fans of McNaught might like. I’m working on the theory that this could work in reverse, too, though I could be wrong about that. McNaught’s historicals are set mainly in Regency England (she also has one Medieval romance.) There are quite a few differences between McNaught’s historicals and Kinsale’s — the writing style is simpler, the character types are generally different, and McNaught’s books contain more humor, but they are similar in their pacing and length, their use of both internal and external conflict, in being character-driven, and especially in having a whole lot of emotional angst.

Mary Jo Putney’s earlier single titles, in particular, Uncommon Vows and the Fallen Angels series (Thunder and Roses, Dancing on the Wind, Petals on the Storm, Angel Rogue, Shattered Rainbows, River of Fire and One Perfect Rose). The Fallen Angels series takes place in Regency England and Uncommon Vows in the Medieval era. Putney’s writing style is somewhere between simple and ornate. Her books, like Kinsale’s, are well-researched and make good use of history. They are also character-driven. Putney’s characters also have psychological issues, deal with internal and external conflicts both, and her books can be quite emotional.

Barbara Samuel’s historical romances. Samuel’s historicals have varied settings and character types. They are written in a descriptive, though simpler, writing style. Her plots, too are character-driven. There is both internal and external conflict in her books, and some, like Lucien’s Fall and Bed of Spices, have their share of angst.

Sharon Shinn. Even though Shinn writes fantasy, I had to include her on the list, partly because she is one of the few authors to write books as romantic as I find Kinsale’s. Her fantasy settings have a historical feel to them, though her books are not set in our own world. Her character types are somewhat varied and her characters are psychologically complex. Her plots are character driven, with medium pacing, and she too has a lyrical writing style, though hers is a bit simpler than Kinsale’s. There is both internal and external conflict in Shinn’s books, though they are not as angsty as Kinsale’s. Though the heat level is often kisses only, Shinn writes some of the hottest kisses I’ve read.

Sherry Thomas. Private Arrangements and Delicious are both set in Late Victorian England. So far, Thomas’s heroines have been varied and her heroes filled with determination. The characters are complicated, the plots are character-driven, and though faster paced than Kinsale’s, both books have a flashback structure that is a bit reminiscent of the one Kinsale uses in The Shadow and the Star. They are also written in a lyrical writing style, have some humor as well as emotional angst, internal and to a lesser degree external conflict, and hot love scenes.

Sandra Schwab’s The Lily Brand. Schwab’s debut reminded me of some of Kinsale’s work, most especially because of Schwab’s writing style, the complex, three-dimensional character portrayal (that of the heroine especially), and the high emotional angst. The book was also set in Regency France and England, was character driven, and had both internal and external conflict.

Penelope Williamson’s historical romances. I haven’t read much of Williamson but The Passions of Emma, which I did read, was a medium-paced tearjerker with complex, conflicted characters. Some of my Kinsale-loving friends adore Williamson as well, so I’m including her on my list for that reason too.

What do you think? Which of my recommendations do you agree with? And which other authors or books would you recommend to a die hard Laura Kinsale fan yearning for this author’s next book?

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character-driven books. Examples include novels by Shana Abe, Loretta Chase, Patricia Gaffney, Cecilia Grant, Judith Ivory, Carolyn Jewel, Laura Kinsale, Julie Anne Long, Alison Richardson, Nalini Singh and Pam Rosenthal. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, "Kiss of Life", appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com. or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

69 Comments

  1. Kristie(J)
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 05:37:25

    Although I haven’t read all the authors you’ve listed above – of the ones I’ve read, Abe, Bourne, early Putney, Ivory I agree. And one I’d also add is Jo Goodman. Although her heroes don’t usually have the tortured history many of Kinsale’s do, I do think the richness of writing is comparable. In addition, Goodman’s dialogue is superb!

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  2. Jessica
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 06:44:32

    Janine,

    I have been waiting for this and it’s fantastic. Thank you. I haven’t read all of the Kinsales, but I agree with you that her ability to portray and evoke emotion is unparalleled. I actually cried at the end of Flowers From the Storm, something that only happens rarely when I read.

    I was so curious what you would recommend to those of us who love Kinsale. For me, she evokes both emotional realism (why I cry and laugh with her), and a dream-like quality that makes me feel like I am entering a strange new world (the lyricism you mention) at the same time.

    Several of your suggestions — Putney, Megan Hart, Sherry Thomas, and Meredith Duran — have also been recent favorites of mine and are on my keeper shelf. I never saw their connection to Kinsale’s strengths until I read this. Thank you!!!

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  3. msaggie
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 07:50:06

    Janine,
    Thanks so much for this marvellous analysis of Laura Kinsale’s works – I agree with the authors we might like as Kinsale fans – except that I have not read Megan Chance or Meredith Duran yet. Another exception – I tried to get into Laura London (Sharon and Tom Curtis’) The Windflower (their “best” book according to many), but it was really disappointing and dated. However, I would also second Kristie(J) that Jo Goodman is another superb author who manages to convey deep emotions and angst in her heroes/heroines very well. I think If His Kiss is Wicked (although the title makes my face crunch up each time I mention it) is her best novel so far. I would also add LaVyrle Spencer to the list of authors that Kinsale fans may enjoy – especially Morning Glory; and yes, definitely Penelope Williamson too – The Outsider and Heart of the West are my favourites so far.

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  4. Kat
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 08:12:07

    I love Kinsale. She’s probably my overall favourite romance author. I haven’t read most of the other recommended authors. I do like Shana Abe, but Ivory doesn’t touch me the same way that Kinsale does, and I think I’m probably one of the few people who was left unsatisfied by the romantic plot of Shinn’s Archangel. I agree with Kristie(J)’s recommendation of Jo Goodman. Goodman and Marsha Canham have probably come closest to Kinsale for me (except for a Scottish novel of Canham’s, of which I managed all of one page). Some of Loretta Chase’s novels have also come close. I think Joanna Bourne could do it, too (although she hasn’t quite got there yet for me). And although she writes in a different subgenre, Meljean Brook might be worth trying for the tightly interwoven internal/external conflicts (Demon Angel) and deep emotional angst (Demon Moon). I know a lot of people think Demon Angel has pacing issues, but to me it comes close to being the perfect paranormal romance.

    And while we’re on the subject, I read a while back that Kinsale had another book (or two?) in the works. Does anyone know if she found a publisher for it?

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  5. RStewie
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 08:14:18

    Janine,
    Wonderful article! I’m so glad to see that I haven’t read many of these authors. I believe I’ll start with Judith Ivory, because I’ve heard a lot of good things about her.

    I wanted to add, too, that Mary Jo Putney’s Veils of Silk reminds me a great deal of Kinsale’s writing, although the rest in that series pale in comparison to that book IMO.

    Again, great article! Here’s hoping I’ll find a jackpot with some of these authors!

    Kat,
    I agree about Meljean Brook, also. Her writing style is not AS lyrical, and her books are contemporary paranormals, but they are very character-driven, and I love her ability to show and not tell.

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  6. Keishon
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 08:37:42

    EXCELLENT analysis but I expected nothing less, Janine. Here are my thoughts:

    Judith Ivory is lyrical and her stories are character driven but as far as emotional intensity, she doesn’t even come close to Kinsale. I love Ivory’s work and tend to think she is more similar to Loretta Chase, they seem to share a type of writing style. I haven’t read a lot of Chase so I am making assumptions here.

    Patricia Gaffney – I’d agree with you but I’ve only read one book by her and can’t recall the title, dayum.

    Another check mark for Penelope Williamson for emotional intensity as I loved Heart of the West.

    Mary Jo Putney – would be somewhat close but you’d have to list titles which you did but I haven’t read but Thunder and Roses and Veils of Silk which were very good. Her stories are all character driven but emotional intensity level is not the same for me as it is for you. I think she hovers around the low to med level in terms of angst and intensity.

    The rest of the authors of “today” that you listed like Sherry Thomas, Merideth Duran and so on and so forth – haven’t read them but will.

    I’d have to disagree about Shanna Abe however, and I’ve read only the first two books in the dra’kon series and discontinued the third. Character driven and nicely done world building but she’s an author whose emotional intensity would be somewhat, again, low on the scale of high to low. There’s not much of a emotional payoff when comparing the two authors. Speaking only for myself.

    Again, great job. Laura Kinsale is hard to compare because she just is but you have some great authors for readers to try including myself so thank you.

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  7. Ann Aguirre
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 09:37:25

    I would add Anna Campbell to this list. She really rocked my world with Untouched, and I scarcely even read historicals anymore.

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  8. Sarah Frantz
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 09:53:39

    Penelope Wiliamson’s The Outsider is one of the most emotionally wrenching books I’ve ever read–right up there with Kinsale. Very close to Flowers from the Storm when it comes to the religious issues, while the hero reminds me of Allegretto or the hero from The Dream Hunter.

    Pat Gaffney’s To Have and To Hold was brilliant and very reminiscent of Kinsale.

    I’d throw out there Joey Hill. Her Natural Law, Rough Canvas, and the Ice Queen duology have the same emotional wrenching-ness, as well as similar intricacy of language and feeling.

    Great job, Janine. I adore Kinsale.

    From what I’ve heard, she’s actually finished a book, but can’t find a publisher who doesn’t want to sign a two or more book contract, which she feels will put her under too much pressure and will burn her out as before. That’s what I’ve heard.

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  9. Jessa Slade
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 09:57:46

    I think the exchange of letters at the beginning of My Sweet Folly is one of the absolute best examples of showing not telling the falling-in-love phase of a relationship. It’s so wonderful because you only have the voice of the characters (no authorly voice-overs of narration) and it’s incredibly short, just a few pages.

    Janine, it’s cool you mixed genres to find the feel of a Kinsale story. Thanks for the analysis.

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  10. BethanyA
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 10:34:07

    I just completed Penelope Williamson’s “Once in a Blue Moon” and it is easily the most memorable book I’ve read all summer. I’m going to look for The Passions of Emma next…I urge you to read “Blue Moon”. There were so many things to love– the Cornwall setting, the grandma with the gambling problem, and the saga-esque romance–and everything was expertly done.

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  11. Selene
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 10:34:14

    Wonderful column! Kinsale is one of my favorite Romance authors also. I haven’t read all the authors on your list, and now I’m eager to check them out. *making notes* As to the ones I have read, here are some comments:

    Megan Hart makes perfect sense to me! I love Broken. She, like Kinsale, isn’t afraid to make her characters suffer and have “real” problems (in lack of better word). Another I would add along the Erotic Romance vein would be Robin Schone. My favorite of hers is “Gabriel’s woman” and I feel that she, Hart and Kinsale, all bring a sense of authenticity to their work, a sense of honesty in depicting the characters, and in making them face their fears, which makes their novels so engrossing. Also, they all write very well, even if Schone’s style is decidedly more clipped than Kinsale’s and thus not similar in that sense.

    I would not agree about Shinn, as I often get the feeling she holds back in her novels and does not push the conflicts as far as they could go, quite the opposite of Kinsale. Also, several of her MCs tend to annoy me in the way they stubbornly cling to their stance without much (as it seems to me) reason to do so. (Perhaps for this reason, i.e. a dislike of the naive/idealistic/non-pragmatic heroine, Seize the Fire is my least favorite of Kinsale’s novels)

    Bourne, Goodman, Thomas all feel lighter compared to Kinsale, although they are still good reads, IMO. In Goodman’s case I read and enjoyed “If his kiss is wicked”, mainly because of the wonderfully intelligent and not-afraid-to-speak hero (silent and looming heroes being rather more common :-)) . After that I read “One forbidden evening”, however, and thought it pretty “meh”. Where was the conflict? :-/ Since then I have been afraid to try more of her books, lest I end up like with Linda Howard (one book I loved–After the night–followed by six I found completely forgettable before I gave up.)

    Chadwick I have tried once and found not to my liking as both her plot and characters struck me as somewhat lacking in realism/believability. So I guess I would exclude her from a comparison with Kinsale. :)

    Oops, I seem to have gone on rather long. Well, I’m off to order some new books! Thanks again Janine.

    Selene

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  12. DS
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 10:41:54

    One book by Edith Layton: The Crimson Crown, set in the reign of Henry VII and as much a historical novel as a romance. It must not have sold well because she has never written anything that sounded remotely like it before or since, but it remains one of my favorite books.

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  13. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 12:12:22

    Although I haven't read all the authors you've listed above – of the ones I've read, Abe, Bourne, early Putney, Ivory I agree. And one I'd also add is Jo Goodman. Although her heroes don't usually have the tortured history many of Kinsale's do, I do think the richness of writing is comparable. In addition, Goodman's dialogue is superb!

    Agree about Jo Goodman’s dialogue, Kristie — it’s lovely. An she does have a rich writing style. She didn’t occur to me but I do think she’s a good pick, although her books feel much slower in pacing to me than Kinsale’s (I sometimes have trouble finishing them for that reason). I know Robin/Janet who loves some of Kinsale’s books also loves many of Goodman’s.

    For me, she evokes both emotional realism (why I cry and laugh with her), and a dream-like quality that makes me feel like I am entering a strange new world (the lyricism you mention) at the same time.

    That is such a good way of putting it, Jessica. And I love that about Kinsale’s writing.

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  14. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 12:28:24

    I’m so glad you enjoyed my analysis, msaggie — it’s good to see you here!

    Another exception – I tried to get into Laura London (Sharon and Tom Curtis') The Windflower (their “best” book according to many), but it was really disappointing and dated.

    I couldn’t finish The Windflower, but I liked Sunshine and Shadow much better, so perhaps you might as well. I haven’t read more of the Curtises’ books other than these two, but I do think their writing style and some of their other qualities might appeal to Kinsale readers, even though they’re not on my personal short list of favorite authors. I included Joanna Bourne for a similar reason.

    However, I would also second Kristie(J) that Jo Goodman is another superb author who manages to convey deep emotions and angst in her heroes/heroines very well. I think If His Kiss is Wicked (although the title makes my face crunch up each time I mention it) is her best novel so far. I would also add LaVyrle Spencer to the list of authors that Kinsale fans may enjoy – especially Morning Glory; and yes, definitely Penelope Williamson too – The Outsider and Heart of the West are my favourites so far.

    I would also add LaVyrle Spencer to the list of authors that Kinsale fans may enjoy – especially Morning Glory

    I came thisclose to putting LaVyrle Spencer on my list. I ended up not and I think this was partly because I was trying to keep the length of my list under control and partly because Spencer’s books feel pretty different from Kinsale’s to me — possibly because they are much more grounded in the mundane and everyday than Kinsale’s. I do agree though, that she’s a pretty good recommendation for readers of Kinsale.

    Another author I came very close to putting on my list but didn’t was Kathleen Gilles Seidel. Her books are contemporary and her writing style is very different from Kinsale’s, but she does have a lot of realism to her characterization and her books can get quite emotional. I would recommend her to Kinsale’s readers but she’d probably not be my first recommendation.

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  15. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 12:37:40

    I think I'm probably one of the few people who was left unsatisfied by the romantic plot of Shinn's Archangel.

    A little OT here, Kat, but have you tried any of Shinn’s other books? I ask becasue the romantic plots in most of her books are different from those in Archangel, for example, the romance in Jovah’s Angel involves a hero and heroine with quieter personalities and there isn’t nearly as much arguing. I loved Archangel but I don’t think it’s really typical of Shinn’s romances.

    And although she writes in a different subgenre, Meljean Brook might be worth trying for the tightly interwoven internal/external conflicts (Demon Angel) and deep emotional angst (Demon Moon). I know a lot of people think Demon Angel has pacing issues, but to me it comes close to being the perfect paranormal romance.

    I was one of the ones who felt that the pacing in Demon Angel was too slow, but I do think Brook, like Kinsale, has complex and unusual characters. I haven’t read much of her work, but I’ve seen the comparison with Kinsale made, and I know other Kinsale fans who love Brook, so I think it’s a good suggestion.

    ETA: I forgot your mention of Marsha Canham. I haven’t read much of her, just The Iron Rose, which wasn’t very angsty. I have heard some of her others are though, so I’m glad you mentioned her.

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  16. Jorrie Spencer
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 12:47:26

    Great article! And lots of good recs too.

    It’s really hard to find someone who writes with the emotional intensity of Laura Kinsale. I also think she’s a master at showing her characterization. I never feel like Kinsale is there telling me anything.

    I too love Goodman, although I find their styles and settings quite different. I also find that Kinsale usually (though not always) has tortured heroes, whereas Goodman’s heroes are usually laidback and her heroines are tortured.

    Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows was, I thought, reminiscent of Kinsale in scope and setting. I really enjoyed that book.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the first Joanna Bourne book, but didn’t find it much similar to Kinsale. Though I understand your point about richness and style. And, to contradict myself a little, I found the heroine somewhat like a Kinsale character, in that she just kept going, no matter how dire the situation, she moved onwards.

    A number of the other author suggestions have been misses for me. Which I find interesting.

    By the way, I recently completed my last Kinsale book (sigh, I do hope there will be more published), and it was Seize the Fire. I struggled with the heroine in this book and absolutely loved Sheridan. He made the book for me. I actually thought Sheridan deserved better than Olympia. If Samuel got Leda, Sheridan should have got someone deserving. (How’s that for rational argument!) But perhaps there are others who like Olympia. I know some readers disliked the heroine of The Prince of Midnight, whereas I really loved her.

    I need to do some Kinsale rereads.

    Ah, so fun to discuss Kinsale!

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  17. Jorrie Spencer
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 12:49:09

    Selena-’I wonder if you’d like Goodman’s A Season to be Sinful. It might be most “Kinsale-like” of that trilogy.

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  18. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 12:52:40

    RStewie,

    I believe I'll start with Judith Ivory, because I've heard a lot of good things about her.

    That’s an excellent place to start. I envy you for having Ivory’s works ahead of you.

    I wanted to add, too, that Mary Jo Putney's Veils of Silk reminds me a great deal of Kinsale's writing, although the rest in that series pale in comparison to that book IMO.

    Good suggestion! I don’t know why I left it off, except that I don’t care that much for the other books in the Silk trilogy so it just didn’t cross my mind. However now that we’re on that subject, I do know many other readers love Silk and Shadows or Silk and Secrets, so perhaps the whole trilogy should be included.

    Also, Keishon did a wonderful blog post about Kinsale and I believe at the time you mentioned early Connie Brockway and Robin McKinley. I thought about that after you posted (my article was already finished then).

    I haven’t read McKinley except for one short story (can’t remember the name of it) so I can’t say whether or not she seems similar to me, but I do see some similarities with Brockway’s earlier historicals — of the ones I’ve read, All Through the Night and My Dearest Enemy come to mind. Brockway’s writing style seems very different from Kinsale’s to me but there’s a similar freshness to her characters and a lot of focus on internal conflict in those books.

    Again, great article! Here's hoping I'll find a jackpot with some of these authors!

    Thanks — I hope you find the jackpot too! I don’t think there is another Kinsale, and maybe not all of them will work for you but hopefully at least one or two will.

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  19. Meanne
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 13:00:05

    Thank you for such an insightful post, Janine!

    Laura Kinsale rekindled my love for the romance genre…I credit reading her Flowers from the Storm for bringing me back to reading romance — something I hadn't done for the 10 years prior to that. I was a voracious reader from the time I could read, and gobbled up romance books like there was no tomorrow ( Mills and Boons and Sillhouette books were like candy to me all through high school and college in the 70's and 80's…and I also developed an obsessive passion for anything Judith McNaught wrote at the time ) . All through the 90's though, I'd stopped reading romance…Whether it was because of circumstance or inclination, I'm not really sure but I suspect it was a combination of both…

    One day in the spring of the year 2000, I found myself browsing a bookstore and looking over the books in the romance section with a feeling of nostalgia. The authors' names were totally unfamiliar me, but the cover of Flowers from the Storm caught my eye. With the words on the front cover “One of the world's most cherished love stories” and “Cited by readers of the Washington Post and Glamour magazine as one of the Greatest Love Story of all time..” on the back cover, I was intrigued. How would romance books written today compare to those in the past?

    Oh boy! That book took my breath away! I was stunned. I was mesmerized. I remember thinking to myself that if this is how romance books are written nowadays, then I have a fantastic time ahead of me. I couldn't wait to get hold of her other books and to read other new-to-me authors of the same caliber. Most notably, For My Lady's Heart will also be kept forever in my keeper shelf because even to this day, Ruck continues to be the ultimate embodiment of the honorable and noble hero and a great example of loving someone unconditionally..

    Since that crucial day at the bookstore, I've discovered other books by authors who've also touched me to the core. The list includes many of those listed by Janine on this post and I agree wholeheartedly that although Laura Kinsale is in a class by herself, authors like Mary Balogh, Megan Chance, Eva Ibbotson, Mary Jo Putney, Barbara Samuel are authors who have managed to write exquisite prose and captivating characters to fall in love with, combined with superb storytelling that can hold one in thrall even days after reading the last page of the book…I would also like to add some of Madeline Hunter and Galen Foley's books to that list as well..

    I’d like to go even further by saying that Laura Kinsale's books can hold its own with well-loved classics like Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre…

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  20. RStewie
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 13:07:28

    Janine,
    Brockway’s writing style IS very different, and not as dense, but her characterizations are wonderful, and the slight actions and details she includes to build the characters’ relationships are wonderful to me, and THAT is what really reminds me of Kinsale’s work.

    Sunshine by Robin McKinley is the way to go, if you are new to her. That is her first “adult” book. But I have read and re-read her YA fiction, The Blue Sword and it’s prequel, The Hero and the Crown at least every two years. Also, I love her re-telling of the Robin Hood story, The Outlaws of Sherwood.

    Speaking of dense writing, I read Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series right after getting my hands on Shadowheart and really enjoyed them, as well. That was actually my introduction to “pain play” and then I just dove in (I guess) with the Kushiel series.

    Again, wonderful article, and I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for these authors.

    Meanne,
    I thought the same thing when I first discovered Kinsale, and now it seems like I’m just always hoping to find an author that does it for me as well. McKinley’s work is the same way…wonderful writing, but too few books, and I’m always left wondering when…if…another of her books will come out.

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  21. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 13:18:34

    Keishon,

    Judith Ivory is lyrical and her stories are character driven but as far as emotional intensity, she doesn't even come close to Kinsale.

    Yes, that’s true — although I get very emotionally involved in Ivory’s books, they just don’t get as dark as Kinsale’s. The early ones (Black Silk, Bliss, Dance and Beast) are closer to that intensity for me, but you are right that they don’t get that close. Still, I had to include Ivory because I see more Kinsale fans who are also Ivory fans and vice versa than I see with any other author.

    I love Ivory's work and tend to think she is more similar to Loretta Chase, they seem to share a type of writing style. I haven't read a lot of Chase so I am making assumptions here.

    OT but yeah, I do think that if I were doing an “If You Like Judith Ivory” column. I would probably put Loretta Chase on that list. I don’t know if it’s the prose so much as the humor and the fresh and complicated characters, although I see Ivory’s books as more serious than Chase’s. Chase though seems to be getting a bit more serious in her last couple of books.

    Back to Kinsale and who if anyone compares:

    Patricia Gaffney – I'd agree with you but I've only read one book by her and can't recall the title, dayum.

    The Gaffney book that most reminds me of Kinsale’s works is Wild at Heart, which is the one about the hero who was raised by wolves in the wild for part of his childhood. The hero is really wonderful and really tortured — he reminds me a bit of Samuel in The Shadow and the Star, though the book doesn’t get as dark as Kinsale’s.

    Another check mark for Penelope Williamson for emotional intensity as I loved Heart of the West.

    I really need to read more of her books. I have Heart of the West, The Outsider, and Once in a Blue Moon TBR, but with all the new books we get for review it is hard to make time for older books.

    Mary Jo Putney – would be somewhat close but you'd have to list titles which you did but I haven't read but Thunder and Roses and Veils of Silk which were very good. Her stories are all character driven but emotional intensity level is not the same for me as it is for you. I think she hovers around the low to med level in terms of angst and intensity.

    It depends somewhat upon the book. Uncommon Vows is her angstiest IMO. If you are looking for high angst and don’t mind a medieval setting, I would recommend giving that one a try.

    I'd have to disagree about Shanna Abe however, and I've read only the first two books in the dra'kon series and discontinued the third. Character driven and nicely done world building but she's an author whose emotional intensity would be somewhat, again, low on the scale of high to low. There's not much of a emotional payoff when comparing the two authors. Speaking only for myself.

    I guess it’s realtive (and probably also different for each reader). To me Abe’s books are angsty for what is getting published today. In general books today don’t seem as angsty as they were in the 1990s, which is when most of Kinsale’s books came out. I thought Abe’s The Dream Thief was pretty dark — I was almost afraid to keep reading it at times — but dark isn’t exactly the same thing as angsty, and it didn’t wring tears out of me the way Kinsale’s books do. I’d still recommend Abe to Kinsale readers — partly the basis of writing style and character types. But I also don’t expect all these recommendations to work for all of Kinsale’s readers.

    Laura Kinsale is hard to compare because she just is but you have some great authors for readers to try including myself so thank you.

    You’re welcome — I hope you enjoy some of them.

    Ann,

    I would add Anna Campbell to this list. She really rocked my world with Untouched, and I scarcely even read historicals anymore.

    I haven’t read Untouched. I was disappointed in Claiming the Courtesan, but maybe I should try Campbell again.

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  22. Keishon
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 13:24:21

    I know some readers disliked the heroine of The Prince of Midnight, whereas I really loved her

    Hi Jorrie – not me! I completely got her character but she really was kind of cruel to the hero at times, that’s why I say that their love is “hard won” in the end. I read FFTS first and then moved on to The Prince of Midnight then came The Shadow and the Star, etc.

    I love angst when it’s written well. The emotional payoff is what matters the most for me in the end. That throughout the struggles, conflicts, annoying flaws and disappointments, love should and does prevail.

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  23. MS Jones
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 13:27:10

    Janine, what a perfect encapsulation of why Kinsale’s books are so riveting. As you noted, her writing seems very well researched, which is perhaps why the reader gets so enveloped by the world she’s created – there’s seldom a moment when some anachronism jars you into disbelief.

    That said, I had a tough time getting into For My Lady’s Heart because of the middle English. Someone new to her might want to start with Flowers From the Storm – I think it was the readers of the Washington Post who voted it one of the greatest love stories ever.

    Interesting that Kinsale was once a professional geologist spending time on oil rigs in Texas – not what you’d imagine as a c.v. for a romance writer.

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  24. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 13:55:23

    Sarah,

    Penelope Wiliamson's The Outsider is one of the most emotionally wrenching books I've ever read-right up there with Kinsale. Very close to Flowers from the Storm when it comes to the religious issues, while the hero reminds me of Allegretto or the hero from The Dream Hunter.

    I should move The Outsider up the TBR pile. The heroine is Amish, right? So is the heroine of the Curtises Sunshine and Shadow, which reminds me a bit of Flowers from the Storm.

    Pat Gaffney's To Have and To Hold was brilliant and very reminiscent of Kinsale.

    That is hands down my favorite book in the romance genre and I agree, absolutely brilliant. Still, Wild at Heart is more reminsicent of Kinsale to me than To Have and to Hold. The latter has the level of angst Kinsale’s books have, but I don’t think any of Kinsale’s heroes come close to tormenting the heorine the way Sebastian does to Rachel in To Have and to Hold. Maybe Sheridan in Seize the Fire comes closest? I think Michael in Wild at Heart is much more similar to a Kinsale hero, though more innocent than most of them. To Love and to Cherish also has a great hero and the religious issues there are a little reminiscent of Flowers from the Storm, although it’s flipped around since it’s the hero who is devout and the heroine who is not. All of this is just to say that I agree with the recommendation, but would include some other Gaffney romances as well.

    I'd throw out there Joey Hill. Her Natural Law, Rough Canvas, and the Ice Queen duology have the same emotional wrenching-ness, as well as similar intricacy of language and feeling.

    I need to try this author sometime.

    Re. Kinsale,

    From what I've heard, she's actually finished a book, but can't find a publisher who doesn't want to sign a two or more book contract, which she feels will put her under too much pressure and will burn her out as before. That's what I've heard.

    There’s a thread on the subject of her unpublished book on Kinsale’s message board. She explains the situation there.

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  25. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 14:00:32

    Jessa, I couldn’t agree more about the letters in the prologue of My Sweet Folly. The writing there is sublime.

    BethanyA, thanks. I do have Once in a Blue Moon in my TBR pile and Jennie has been urging me to read it for years! I’m not sure why I haven’t, but it probably has something to do with the book’s length. You might enjoy Jennie’s review of it, if you haven’t read it yet.

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  26. BethanyA
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 14:27:50

    BethanyA, thanks. I do have Once in a Blue Moon in my TBR pile and Jennie has been urging me to read it for years! I'm not sure why I haven't, but it probably has something to do with the book's length. You might enjoy Jennie's review of it, if you haven't read it yet.

    Thanks–my memory is a little shaky but I feel like it was her review that turned me on to Williamson. Jennie is great!

    Anyway, I’ve got a little question to pose about Kinsale to all. It’s not a criticism, but rather something I noticed about the way I’ve reacted to her work. I read my first Kinsale book in college at the recommendation of an editor at Pocket–I was an intern and she loaded me up with Kinsale, Brockway, and McNaught, books I “needed” to understand romance. I read The Hidden Heart, Seize the Fire and Flowers From the Storm (I later read The Prince of Midnight and My Sweet Folly on my own) and while I remember being totally engrossed by the books–the writing especially–I have trouble remembering the storylines, except for Flowers From the Storm. I think to myself “MSF is the one with the letters.” Or “TPOM has a recluse in France, possibly.” Or “Either Seize the Fire or My Hidden Heart is the one with heroine whose weight kept fluctuating.”

    I feel this is might just be a problem with me as a reader, but I’m wondering if anyone else feels as I do–that even though Kinsale’s prose is untouchable and the struggles so gut-wrenchingly well-done–her books are also hard to remember because the characters themselves are not relatable?

    Just a thought.

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  27. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 14:38:35

    Megan Hart makes perfect sense to me! I love Broken. She, like Kinsale, isn't afraid to make her characters suffer and have “real” problems (in lack of better word).

    Thanks, Selene. I’m glad that someone else sees that similarity.

    Another I would add along the Erotic Romance vein would be Robin Schone. My favorite of hers is “Gabriel's woman” and I feel that she, Hart and Kinsale, all bring a sense of authenticity to their work, a sense of honesty in depicting the characters, and in making them face their fears, which makes their novels so engrossing. Also, they all write very well, even if Schone's style is decidedly more clipped than Kinsale's and thus not similar in that sense.

    Good point. Schone’s writing style doesn’t work so well for me (mostly because of the repetitions) but her books are quite angsty and I can see that she might work for other Kinsale fans.

    I would not agree about Shinn, as I often get the feeling she holds back in her novels and does not push the conflicts as far as they could go, quite the opposite of Kinsale.

    I agree the conflict and angst aren’t as strong in Shinn’s books as they are in Kinsale’s, so they are somewhat dissimilar in that, but in my opinion they have similarities in other factors, like the characters’ variety and complexity, the lyricism and, for lack of a better word, visual quality of the writing, the use of details, and the pacing.

    It seems like emotional intensity is the one quality of Kinsale’s writing that readers most focus on, and I can understand why, since it is so powerful in Kinsale’s writing. But I didn’t want to focus on angst alone, and the template we have for these “If You Like…” pieces got me to focus on other qualities in her writing as well.

    Back to Shinn,

    Also, several of her MCs tend to annoy me in the way they stubbornly cling to their stance without much (as it seems to me) reason to do so. (Perhaps for this reason, i.e. a dislike of the naive/idealistic/non-pragmatic heroine, Seize the Fire is my least favorite of Kinsale's novels)

    I like this aspect of Shinn’s books, that she is not afraid to allow her characters to be stubborn and wrongheaded sometimes. And actually I’d say that Kinsale’s characters can be just as stubborn at times, so I see this as a similarity in their writing.

    Bourne, Goodman, Thomas all feel lighter compared to Kinsale, although they are still good reads, IMO.

    I agree they are lighter, but still some of the more angsty of today’s crop of writers. As I said somewhere above, romances today don’t seem to get as big on conflict as those from the 1990s — and I miss that aspect of the older books.

    Chadwick I have tried once and found not to my liking as both her plot and characters struck me as somewhat lacking in realism/believability. So I guess I would exclude her from a comparison with Kinsale. :)

    I should probably have stated this in my article above, but there are two romance authors named Elizabeth Chadwick. One is American and one is British. The one I am comparing to Kinsale is the British one who mainly writes medieval romances. I’m wondering if that’s the same one you read, or if you read the other one (whose books I have never read). I think the British Chadwick writes pretty believable characters and plots, myself, and I like the way her books are steeped in history.

    Oops, I seem to have gone on rather long.

    Don’t worry about that, I do it all the time! :)

    Well, I'm off to order some new books! Thanks again Janine.

    You’re welcome. I hope these recommendations work for you.

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  28. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 14:42:43

    One book by Edith Layton: The Crimson Crown, set in the reign of Henry VII and as much a historical novel as a romance. It must not have sold well because she has never written anything that sounded remotely like it before or since, but it remains one of my favorite books.

    Thanks, DS. I haven’t read The Crimson Crown but I love Layton’s old trad regency, The Duke’s Wager.

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  29. Brie
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 14:46:04

    I’m a huge Kinsale fan. After discovering her late last year she became my favorite romance author, bar none. Since Reading Flowers from the Storm (and being completely blown away), a few others in between and most recently, The Shadow and the Star, I can’t say that there are any other authors that have touched me the way that Kinsale has.

    There is an indescribable ‘something’ about her writing that stays with you long after you’ve read the last page. I find myself having trouble getting into a different book after reading a Kinsale because I’m still wrapped up in her characters and the story. Even the books that I like the least stay with me long after I’m done.

    If I had to name an author that reminds me most of Kinsale, I would go with Jo Goodman. Someone mentioned that Kinsale’s heroes tend to be tortured where Goodman’s heroines are. I think that’s true. But as far as writing and emotional impact goes, Goodman is a close as I’ve come to Kinsale.

    There are a few other authors on the list that I’ve read: Abe, Borune, Shinn, Thomas–and while I did enjoy most of their work, none of them have affected me the way Kinsale has. I’ll give some of the other options a chance, but I think that I’ll continue to find Kinsale incomparable.

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  30. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 15:01:24

    A number of the other author suggestions have been misses for me. Which I find interesting.

    Well, I think it’s probably only to be expected, and it’s probably going to be true for other readers too. All of these writers share some qualities in common with Kinsale, but I don’t think any of them share all the qualities, which is to say, none of them are Kinsale. There is only one Kinsale.

    If a few of the recommendations mentioned work out for each reader, that is probably all that I can hope for.

    By the way, I recently completed my last Kinsale book (sigh, I do hope there will be more published), and it was Seize the Fire. I struggled with the heroine in this book and absolutely loved Sheridan. He made the book for me. I actually thought Sheridan deserved better than Olympia. If Samuel got Leda, Sheridan should have got someone deserving. (How's that for rational argument!) But perhaps there are others who like Olympia. I know some readers disliked the heroine of The Prince of Midnight, whereas I really loved her.

    I didn’t love Olympia, though I did feel a lot of empathy for her. I loved Sheridan, but I didn’t love what he put Olympia through. I would have loved to see a hero like Sheridan matched with an equally cynical heroine — someone more like Melanthe from For My Lady’s Heart. But I also think Kinsale was brilliant to match him with Olympia, because the book’s theme of idealism vs. cynicism could not have come to the fore in the same way with a different heroine.

    I think the book shows that both extremes are destructive, in different ways. That is one of the things I find most brilliant about it; in most romances with a cynical hero and an idealistic, naive heroine, the heroine ends up healing the hero of his cynicism and teaching him to trust again. In Seize the Fire, the reverse happens — the heroine has to realize that her naive idealism won’t wash in the world she lives in. She has to wake up to a very painful reality. That book is more true to life than most romances, yet still very romantic.

    One of the lines I love most in any book comes at the end when Sheridan tells Olympia he’d love her even if she was responsible for what happened in Oriens. Olympia says she doesn’t deserve that, and Sheridan replies with something like “If we all got what we deserved… pray God spare me that.” The book doesn’t say that we all deserve love, it does not offer any comforting platitudes. It says (or at least, Sheridan says) let’s all hope that we human beings don’t get what we deserve. Let’s hope that we get grace and forgiveness instead, even if we don’t deserve it.

    It’s a book about how fallible we all are, and about how we need love no matter how much we’ve failed. Olympia fails to be heroic, Sheridan fails to protect her, but they need each other, the way all of us need love. If Olympia hadn’t been so fallible, I don’t think the book could have made its point so powerfully.

    She is still not my favorite Kinsale heroine, though.

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  31. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 15:18:11

    Oh boy! That book took my breath away! I was stunned. I was mesmerized. I remember thinking to myself that if this is how romance books are written nowadays, then I have a fantastic time ahead of me. I couldn't wait to get hold of her other books and to read other new-to-me authors of the same caliber. Most notably, For My Lady's Heart will also be kept forever in my keeper shelf because even to this day, Ruck continues to be the ultimate embodiment of the honorable and noble hero and a great example of loving someone unconditionally..

    What a great description of reading Flowers from the Storm, Meanne. Such a wonderful book.

    Since that crucial day at the bookstore, I've discovered other books by authors who've also touched me to the core. The list includes many of those listed by Janine on this post and I agree wholeheartedly that although Laura Kinsale is in a class by herself, authors like Mary Balogh, Megan Chance, Eva Ibbotson, Mary Jo Putney, Barbara Samuel are authors who have managed to write exquisite prose and captivating characters to fall in love with, combined with superb storytelling that can hold one in thrall even days after reading the last page of the book…

    I’m so glad these other authors have worked for you too, Meanne.

    I would also like to add some of Madeline Hunter and Galen Foley's books to that list as well..

    Thanks for making these suggestions. I enjoyed Foley’s The Duke, and Hunter’s By Arrangement, but I haven’t kept up with their most recent works.

    I'd like to go even further by saying that Laura Kinsale's books can hold its own with well-loved classics like Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre…

    That’s high praise. I’ll admit I haven’t read that particular Hardy, and couldn’t finish Jane Eyre, but I do agree Kinsale is an astonishingly good writer, and deserves to be recognized.

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  32. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 15:22:56

    RStewie — Great points about Brockway and thanks for the McKinley and Carey recommendations.

    I love angst when it's written well. The emotional payoff is what matters the most for me in the end. That throughout the struggles, conflicts, annoying flaws and disappointments, love should and does prevail.

    Beautifully said, Keishon.

    MS Jones, thanks!

    That said, I had a tough time getting into For My Lady's Heart because of the middle English. Someone new to her might want to start with Flowers From the Storm – I think it was the readers of the Washington Post who voted it one of the greatest love stories ever.

    Yes, I agree, Flowers from the Storm is probably the best starting point for a new-to-Kinsale reader.

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  33. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 15:26:07

    I feel this is might just be a problem with me as a reader, but I'm wondering if anyone else feels as I do-that even though Kinsale's prose is untouchable and the struggles so gut-wrenchingly well-done-her books are also hard to remember because the characters themselves are not relatable?

    For me, her books (especially the ones from Seize the Fire and on) are very memorable but that may be because I have favorites among them that I have reread many times.

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  34. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 15:35:16

    There is an indescribable 'something' about her writing that stays with you long after you've read the last page. I find myself having trouble getting into a different book after reading a Kinsale because I'm still wrapped up in her characters and the story. Even the books that I like the least stay with me long after I'm done.

    That happens to me as well, and doesn’t happen with many other romance writers.

    If I had to name an author that reminds me most of Kinsale, I would go with Jo Goodman. Someone mentioned that Kinsale's heroes tend to be tortured where Goodman's heroines are. I think that's true. But as far as writing and emotional impact goes, Goodman is a close as I've come to Kinsale.

    It is interesting how we are all different as readers. I admire Goodman’s writing intellectually — she has great craftsmanship in her dialogue — but emotionally, the effect most of her books (the five I’ve tried) have had on me have been rather mild. I fell asleep reading A Season to Be Sinful (I’m not exaggerating — I really did), whereas Kinsale’s books usually keep me up all night.

    There are a few other authors on the list that I've read: Abe, Borune, Shinn, Thomas-and while I did enjoy most of their work, none of them have affected me the way Kinsale has.

    This is where I would recommend Patricia Gaffney’s To Have and to Hold, which Sarah Frantz and I both mentioned above. For a book that kept me under its spell long after I had turned the last page, it can’t be beat.

    I'll give some of the other options a chance, but I think that I'll continue to find Kinsale incomparable.

    She is incomparable for me as well.

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  35. Janine
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 15:38:07

    For me, she evokes both emotional realism (why I cry and laugh with her), and a dream-like quality that makes me feel like I am entering a strange new world (the lyricism you mention) at the same time.

    I was thinking about this some more, Jessica, and though I can’t think of many romance authors who do this, I can think of a couple of recommendations outside the romance genre. One is Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and another is Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat.

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  36. Jorrie Spencer
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 18:28:00

    Well, I think it's probably only to be expected, and it's probably going to be true for other readers too. All of these writers share some qualities in common with Kinsale, but I don't think any of them share all the qualities, which is to say, none of them are Kinsale. There is only one Kinsale.

    Yes. I suspect it’s the richness of Kinsale’s work that makes for a variety of suggestions in the If You Like category. (I hope my comment didn’t sound like a criticism!)

    You know who reminds me of Kinsale (or perhaps it’s vice versa)? Dorothy Dunnett and her Lymond Chronicles. It’s historical fiction, not romance, though it has romantic elements. And terrific angst. (Broke my heart, actually.)

    In Seize the Fire, the reverse happens -’ the heroine has to realize that her naive idealism won't wash in the world she lives in. She has to wake up to a very painful reality. That book is more true to life than most romances, yet still very romantic.

    You’re right, that is brilliant. And I admired it.

    Ultimately I was so tied up in Sheridan and his trajectory, that what I wanted for him was more healing. I barely saw how he and Olympia were supposed to limp along after the ending. And he went through too much. So I suppose I wanted the more common trope!

    Some day I will have to reread it, and I’m curious how I’d find Olympia on a second read-through.

    I don’t know if it’s just that Seize the Fire was my most recent Kinsale, but the other brilliant thing about it was the showing. For example, when Olympia first sees Sheridan she’s extremely attracted to him. But she can barely acknowledge that to herself, so she (and Kinsale) don’t tell the reader. Olympia simply can’t keep her eyes off him, and she is flustered and upset by her reaction.

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  37. Collette
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 19:55:21

    Thanks so much for this! I started off by going straight to the Chicago Public Library site and putting 5 books on hold (the limit). I’ll use all the comments for my next set of choices. This is really wonderful. Thanks Janine and thanks for all the other suggestions.

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  38. KeriM
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 20:55:15

    Shadow and the Star is my all time fav Kinsale. I lost count of how many times a read that story. Flowers from the Storm is my 2nd. Someone that comes to mind that could twist your heart was early Shirlee Busbee, plus her covers were beautiful.

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  39. Keishon
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 23:15:21

    I plan to try Jo Goodman, Janine and will get back to you on how I like it.

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  40. Selene
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 01:07:52

    Jorrie–Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll check it out. I also, btw, thought Sheridan deserved better than Olympia, who tended to get on my nerves (still loved the book though, which says someething for Kinsale’s skill).

    Selene

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  41. Selene
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 01:17:26

    RStewie–I enjoy the Kushiel series also, especially the first one, which I felt was the one that had the best balance between internal and external conflict (and the most prominent love story :-) ). Kushiel’s justice has been the one I liked the least (mostly due to Sidonie coming across as a 1D character to me), so it’s with a bit of trepidation I’m waiting to start Kushiel’s Mercy.

    Anyway, even though I love several of the Kushiel novels, I’m not sure I’d compare them to Kinsale. Mostly because of the difference in writing style–Kinsale shows you everything, whereas Carey is big on telling you about it (which is a hard writing technique to pull off, but she makes it work, largely through Voice, I think. When she tried to show more in her later novels, I think it actually worked less well.)

    Selene

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  42. Selene
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 01:34:52

    Janine–

    I like this aspect of Shinn's books, that she is not afraid to allow her characters to be stubborn and wrongheaded sometimes. And actually I'd say that Kinsale's characters can be just as stubborn at times, so I see this as a similarity in their writing.

    It’s true, Kinsale’s characters can also make mistakes, which is a good thing, so I do see your point. I guess that to me, Kinsale’s characters being stubborn feels believable, whereas Shinn’s characters being stubborn feels like a plot device, if you know what I mean?

    About Bourne, Goodman, Thomas:

    I agree they are lighter, but still some of the more angsty of today's crop of writers. As I said somewhere above, romances today don't seem to get as big on conflict as those from the 1990s -’ and I miss that aspect of the older books.

    *groan* This is bad news to me. I read more fantasy than Romance, and the main reason is that I have a hard time finding Romance novels with more conflict and more tough choices, ala Megan Hart’s Broken, e.g. Your list will come in handy here. :-)

    I should probably have stated this in my article above, but there are two romance authors named Elizabeth Chadwick. One is American and one is British.

    This is news to me! I have to confess I don’t know which one I read–I don’t live in either the US or the UK, so it’s hard to guess which one it might have been. I do recall it was a historical novel.

    Selene

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  43. Keishon
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 08:57:13

    I should probably have stated this in my article above, but there are two romance authors named Elizabeth Chadwick. One is American and one is British.

    No. There are two authors named Elizabeth Chadwick, one writes romances and one writes historical fiction. Their works are distinctive.

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  44. Janine
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 13:26:40

    You know who reminds me of Kinsale (or perhaps it's vice versa)? Dorothy Dunnett and her Lymond Chronicles. It's historical fiction, not romance, though it has romantic elements. And terrific angst. (Broke my heart, actually.)

    I’ve only read the first of these (the title eludes me at the moment), and it wasn’t that angsty to me but I understand that things get more angsty later on in the series. I have friends who love them to bits so I probably should read further sometime.

    Collette — thanks!

    KeriM – Shirlee Busbee, wow, that brings back memories. I enjoyed her books back in the eighties, but I don’t know whether I would today.

    I guess that to me, Kinsale's characters being stubborn feels believable, whereas Shinn's characters being stubborn feels like a plot device, if you know what I mean?

    I know what you mean, but I don’t feel that way myself.

    *groan* This is bad news to me. I read more fantasy than Romance, and the main reason is that I have a hard time finding Romance novels with more conflict and more tough choices, ala Megan Hart's Broken, e.g. Your list will come in handy here. :-)

    I read more romance than fantasy because I need the happy endings and the love stories, but if you know of fantasy books that have that, as well as “more conflict and more tough choices,” I would be happy to have some recommendations. Esp. if they write anything like Kinsale.

    No. There are two authors named Elizabeth Chadwick, one writes romances and one writes historical fiction. Their works are distinctive.

    My bad. I would describe the books the British one writes as somewhere between romance and historical fiction. The American one writes romances. Also, the British one is the only one who writes books set in the medieval era. So that might help Selene determine which one she read.

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  45. Leah Hultenschmidt
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 13:50:11

    Thanks so much for this, Janine! You’ve given me a lot of great authors to try out.

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  46. Kalen Hughes
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 13:54:01

    It is interesting how we are all different as readers. I admire Goodman's writing intellectually -’ she has great craftsmanship in her dialogue -’ but emotionally, the effect most of her books (the five I've tried) have had on me have been rather mild. I fell asleep reading A Season to Be Sinful (I'm not exaggerating -’ I really did), whereas Kinsale's books usually keep me up all night.

    Sort of ties into the C Reviews discussion, doesn’t it?

    Over the years I've heard over and over that Kinsale is amazing. Spurred on, I finally bit the bullet last year and bought the perpetual favorite of reviewers everywhere: Flowers from the Storm. It's a DNF for me. I was stopped in my tracks by the “fluffy kitties in the garden scene” and just couldn't go on . . . the book was well written (which only pissed me off all the more that I couldn't get into it!), but I think my personal sensibilities and preferences just didn’t match up with Kinsale's/FFTS. *shrug*

    From the descriptions offered above, it sounds like I may have started with the wrong book (for me). Maybe I'll give The Prince of Midnight or For My Lady's Heart a try. The cynical heroine is a bit more my speed.

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  47. Janine
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 14:53:14

    Thanks so much for this, Janine! You've given me a lot of great authors to try out.

    You’re welcome, Leah! I hope you enjoy them.

    Sort of ties into the C Reviews discussion, doesn't it?

    Yes Kalen, it sure does. I’m about to head over there and post some thoughts on that very topic.

    I was stopped in my tracks by the “fluffy kitties in the garden scene” and just couldn't go on . . . the book was well written (which only pissed me off all the more that I couldn't get into it!), but I think my personal sensibilities and preferences just didn't match up with Kinsale's/FFTS. *shrug*

    I think that happens to all of us sometimes. Animals do show up in all of Kinsale’s books and sometimes (as with the piglet in Uncertain Magic and the hedgehog in Midsummer Moon) it gets a little bit too cute for my personal taste. I don’t know if it’s a conicidence or not, but my favorites of her books are the ones that have animals that don’t have much of a cuteness factor (TSATS-shark, FMLH-falcon, TDH-horse).

    From the descriptions offered above, it sounds like I may have started with the wrong book (for me). Maybe I'll give The Prince of Midnight or For My Lady's Heart a try. The cynical heroine is a bit more my speed.

    Melanthe from For My Lady’s Heart is one of my favorite heroines ever. She’s my definition of an alpha heroine — cynical and shrewd and calculating, always looking for a way to take control of her own fate. She’s surrounded by potential assassins who want to kill her so that others can take control of her lands in Italy. Melanthe has to tell a lot of lies to get out of that situation — there’s a great line where she thinks of herself as a fox escaping to earth.

    Another line that I love comes at the end of the book, when Ruck is angry at her for something she did in an attempt to save his life, and she tells him that she would do it all again, “I would do it once again, and lie and cheat and steal the same, so be it, to save thee.” She’s probably the strongest and most ruthless heroine I’ve come across in the romance genre. I remember reading an interview with Kinsale in one of the bookstore newsletters when FMLH came out, and if I’m not mistaken, Kinsale said something along the lines that she’d written the book partly in response to a criticism of her earlier heroines for not being strong enough.

    Leigh in The Prince of Midnight is also very cynical but in her case she’s much younger and her bitterness is the result of a tragedy. I’m sure there are some fans of TPOM here who can put in a good word for Leigh and S.T., but it’s not my personal favorite among Kinsale’s books. If you like cynical heroines think the Middle English sprinkled though some of the dialogue won’t interfere with your enjoyment, I recommend trying For My Lady’s Heart next.

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  48. Jorrie Spencer
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:15:45

    I finally bit the bullet last year and bought the perpetual favorite of reviewers everywhere: Flowers from the Storm. It's a DNF for me.

    I had a friend who enjoyed The Shadow and the Star, but couldn’t finish Flowers From the Storm. So it’s possible that another Kinsale might work for you. And of course there are readers who simply don’t enjoy Kinsale!

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  49. Kalen Hughes
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:16:04

    Thanks for the suggestion, Janine! I’ll give My Lady's Heart a try. I like strong heroines. And if they’re unrepentant at the end, all the better! This is one of the reasons I really liked Loretta Chase's latest book. I don't want my bad girls to be reformed (or not too reformed, anyway).

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  50. Kalen Hughes
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:28:26

    So it's possible that another Kinsale might work for you. And of course there are readers who simply don't enjoy Kinsale!

    Her writing is amazing, I just utterly failed to connect with the heroine in FFTS. I've been holding off trying a second book, because I wanted to be able to come to it with an open mind (and I wanted to make sure I tried one that might be more “me” if that was an option). Sounds like it might be. Yea!

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  51. Janine
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 15:49:04

    And of course there are readers who simply don't enjoy Kinsale!

    Yes, and that’s perfectly okay too. We can’t all love the same authors. And these discussions would be a lot less interesting if we all agreed on everything.

    Her writing is amazing, I just utterly failed to connect with the heroine in FFTS. I've been holding off trying a second book, because I wanted to be able to come to it with an open mind (and I wanted to make sure I tried one that might be more “me” if that was an option). Sounds like it might be. Yea!

    I hope FMLH works for you, Kalen.

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  52. Selene
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 01:20:38

    Janine–

    I know what you mean, but I don't feel that way myself.

    Oh, of course, everyone’s interpretation of a book is different (that is one of the great things about books). I hope I didn’t come across as implying my interpretation was the correct one or anything.

    I read more romance than fantasy because I need the happy endings and the love stories, but if you know of fantasy books that have that, as well as “more conflict and more tough choices,” I would be happy to have some recommendations. Esp. if they write anything like Kinsale.

    You may enjoy Laura Resnick’s trilogy starting with “In legend born”. It has a love story (though it develops over all three books), wonderful characterizations, an intriguing plot and no Great Evil Lord (one of the tropes of fantasy I tend not to like). Plus, the plot takes some unexpected turns…

    Kushiel’s Dart that was mentioned upthread is also fantasy with a love story and hard choices, although in writing style it is not much like Kinsale, IMO. The internal conflict (which is a part of the love story) is great, although it would be spoiler-ish to say what it is. :-)

    Another one I like which has a romancs as the main plot is Juliet Marillier’s “Daughter of the forest”. It’s a celtic fantasy which also has good characterizations and what I’d call “lush” prose.

    Selene

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  53. Janine
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 10:02:42

    Thanks, Selene! And no, I didn’t think you were coming off that way at all.

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  54. Michelle
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 14:38:00

    This was great to read.

    I tend to read for story and not style, so when I think of folks comparable to Kinsale, I don’t think of the stylists as much as others may.

    Do you think it is so hard to find comparable authors to Laura Kinsale because nobody balances the high highs with the low lows like Kinsale does? Her characters – particularly in my “big three” of Kinsale: Flowers From the Storm, The Shadow and the Star and Seize the Fire – experience really tragic lows – and she shows this at some point during her stories, and she shows them struggling to overcome these tragedies. For me, that makes the highs so much higher and more satisfying. I can’t think of anyone else who goes for those tragic lows over the course of her stories.

    Well, now that I say this, I can think of a few examples of stories containing/showing tragic lows – but from authors with different voices – and surprisingly several U.S. set historicals and not surprisingly longer novels than are published today.

    Lorraine Heath’s Always to Remember
    Mary Jo Putney’s – One Perfect Rose, The Rake and the Reformer, The Burning Point, The Wild Child, The Bartered Bride
    Judy Cuevas’s Dance
    Megan Chance’s Fall from Grace
    Catherine Anderson’s older, historical westerns such as Keegan’s Lady, Cheyenne Amber, Annie’s Song
    SEP’s Fancy Pants
    Mary Balogh’s A Precious Jewel

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  55. Gini
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 14:54:07

    Glorious post Janine, I haven’t read any Kinsale yet, but I’m going to now. I love lots of the alternative authors you and others have prescribed.

    I’ll second Selene’s recommendation of Juliet Marillier’s “Daughter of the Forest”. It’s a very grim fairytale but breathtakingly beautiful (grim as in, proving it through trials of life and not like the horror you find in Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels). It has loads of Kinsale attributes that you say appeal to you, including loads of angst, emotional involvement, truly heroic characters and it’s so beautifully written. Fantastic book.

    Kat said:
    “I think I'm probably one of the few people who was left unsatisfied by the romantic plot of Shinn's Archangel”

    You and me both then Kat. For me, it needed lots more H and H interaction and dialogue for the romance to be satisfying. A developing love match shown by lots of sulking and avoidance of each other does not make a satisfying romantic read, despite the fabulous romantic “aahhh” ending. IMO.
    The same goes for the romance in Sunshine by Robin McKinley IMO, far too much of the heroines thoughts about him and them together and not enough real interaction between the two of them. Apart from being unsatisfying romances I thought both books were otherwise great.
    From what you’ve all been saying I’m hopefully thinking Kinsale will give me plenty of focus on the H and H’s interaction in the “show” not “tell” format.

    I just love this series!

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  56. Janine
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 15:06:37

    Thanks, Michelle and Gini. Those are some good recommendations, Michelle. And Gini — I’ve been recommended that Marillier book a few times now and really should read it!

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  57. If You Like Jennifer Crusie hosted by Morgan S | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Sep 08, 2008 @ 04:01:05

    [...] is true of other great romance authors as well, but they are incomparable in other ways. I read Janine's description of Laura Kinsale's novels as I was writing this, and was continually reminded of the famous Monty [...]

  58. Review: Seize The Fire, Laura Kinsale « Racy Romance Reviews
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 22:51:31

    [...] If you are wondering what all the fuss is about Laura Kinsale, read Janine’s “If You Like” article at Dear Author or Keishon’s retrospective at Avid Book [...]

  59. Victoria Roza
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 22:45:03

    Thanks for this series. I’ve referred to it more than once when I get frustrated with the dearth of Kinsale-quality writing out there. One author I’ve not seen mentioned is Elizabeth DeLancey. Her writing is intelligent, and I can get through an entire book without cringing. (Dubious praise, I know, but I’ve found few historical romances that pass the no-cringe test!) And Georgette Heyer’s novels deserve mention: character driven, exemplary dialog . . . the only drawback is that you have to create the sex scenes yourself.

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  60. Lori Johnson
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 01:49:09

    Laura Kinsale is the best. For me, no one yet has matched her work. When I think an author has come close, this feeling peters out after one or two books. It is depressing to watch promising authors deteriorate into run-of-the-mill, formula, bad romance writers. My list of “comes close” books includes a few older, hard to find authors. Only the book titles I mention are on my keeper shelf. Hope you can find some of these gems. Don’t base your opinion on their later works!
    1. Anita Mills medievel series: Lady of Fire, Fire and Steel, The Fire and the Fury, Hearts of Fire
    2. Christine Monson: Surrender the Night, Rangoon
    3. Joan Druett: A Promise of Gold, Abigail
    4. Jennifer O’Green: Royal Captive
    5. Rebecca Ryman: Olivia and Jai
    6. Elizabeth DeLancey: Touch of Lace, Sea of Dreams
    7. Jane Feather: Virtue
    8. Marsha Canham: The Wind & the Sea
    9. Laura Parker: Beguiled, Impetuous, Caprice

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  61. Janine
    Mar 07, 2009 @ 17:35:50

    Somehow I missed these last two posts here.

    Victoria — I’ve never read Elizabeth DeLancey — will have to check her out. Georgette Heyer’s books are wonderful but a lot more humorous than Kinsale’s and don’t have the same angst.

    Lori –I think the only books on your list that I’ve read are Monson’s Rangoon and Feather’s Virtue. I enjoyed both, and Virtue was a keeper for me. I did try Ryman’s Olivia and Jai once, but it didn’t grab me and I found the length (700+ pages, IIRC) intimidating, so I never finished. I have not heard of all the authors on your list, so it’s good to learn about them.

    Thank you both!

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  62. Corey
    May 06, 2009 @ 12:53:19

    Thank you for this post. I just finished Kinsale’s The Shadow and the Star and was blown away by its beauty. I agree wholeheartedly with you on Megan Hart’s Broken, which has become one of my favorite books ever, regardless of genre.

    If you’re looking for amazing character development, Robin Hobb’s trilogies, The Farseer Trilogy, Liveship Traders Trilogy, and the Tawny Man Trilogy do it for me. Which leads me to this point: some authors use plot development and constant action to drag their readers through their stories. Although I can get caught up in the action, these books usually leave me feeling a bit empty at the end. It’s a rare author who can combine deep character development along with exciting action. I did not feel empty at all at the end of Hobb’s books; in fact, they’re the first books ever to make me cry.

    And here’s my final point. Kinsale’s TSATS and Hart’s Broken are two books that don’t require boatloads of action to fill up the story (although you could say that the erotic aspects of Broken are plenty of action, but really are entirely necessary to understand the complexities of the characters). I never felt like either story was being driven by a plot. In my mind, both books achieved a certain stillness that permitted me to relish each word, and deeply explore the subtleties of the characters.

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  63. Jess
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 19:03:13

    i am just glad there are other Kinsale lovers out there. I love romance, but so prefer her “show don’t tell” style to other authors’ overblown prose… though i’ve enjoyed some sharon shinn (the mystic/rider series), loretta chase (particularly scandalous ways which i thought was awesome), mary jo putney (the one with robin and max was lovely), mary balogh (her tone can grate after several books but i still did love slightly dangerous), and yes i admit it, i have an affection for jennifer blake, queen of new orleans high emotional drama.

    but i do find it so interesting that so many folks’ favorite is FFTS! i love all her books but i think the dream hunter, for my lady’s heart, and shadowheart have to be my faves… though POM is up there as my first intro to her, serendipitously picked up in a Florida bookstore devoted to used romance novels. bless the person with that business plan and bless whatever cosmic hand guided me to Kinsale that day…

    but most of all i want to say THANK YOU so much to everyone on this little chat for giving me some great leads to follow up on and reviving my faith in the genre. i think we can all agree that LK stands alone but yes, i do need something to read until the publishing industry comes to its senses and gets her latest out there! many many thanks!

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  64. Lori Johnson
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 23:42:46

    Hey all
    Have you heard? A new book from Laura Kinsale comes out February 2010 called: “Lessons in French”. Mine is preordered!

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  65. Silvia
    Nov 24, 2009 @ 16:31:54

    Can anybody tell me what is “Lessons in French” about? I really like Laura Kinsale. Love from Spain

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  66. Carito
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 15:34:46

    I loved this post… although it was not all easy to read because of language difficulties. I live in a small town in Patagonia, Argentina, and it´ll be very difficult to find the books here recomended…bUt I´ll try my best.

    THE SHADOW & STAR is one of the books I read more times. Recently I could read FLOWERS IN THE WIND and THE DREAM HUNTER and I absolutly loved them. They really are gutwrenching and beutifully poingnant. The H are real. Well, I think you all described perfectly the feelings she evocates when you read them.

    One author I began to admire very very much is Sherry Thomas. her NOT QUITE A HUSBAND overwheld me with emotions.

    I searched my keeper´s shelves to see wich author & books I coul recommends to someone who “likes” LL, and these I selected:

    ADELE ASHWORTH Winter garden
    LORETTA CHASE Abandonada a tus caricias & Toda una dama(I don´t know the english title)
    DEBORAH SMITH The beloved woman
    KAREN ROBARDS Nobody´s angel
    JESSICA DOUGLASS All my heart can hold
    JENNIFER BLAKE Southern rapture
    MEAGAN MCKINNEY Fair is the rose

    There is an argentinian author that I think yo´ll enjoy: CRISTINA BAJO.

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  67. Janine
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 18:15:34

    @Carito: Thanks! Meagan McKinney has a contemporary romantic suspense that I loved, A Man to Slay Dragons. Not really in the same vein as Kinsale, but I thought I’d mention it because I saw McKinney on your list and I love that book.

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  68. Lori Johnson
    May 26, 2011 @ 20:12:06

    Not to be too greedy but any word of another novel after, “Lessons in French”?

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  69. mayamae
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 19:57:43

    Meredith Duran’s Duke of Shadows and especially At Your Pleasure were absolutely gutwrenching for me in the best way. I’ve already reread them several times. I also like Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series and find them pretty intense.

    I also would add Galen Foley’s Ascension trilogy – especially The Pirate Prince.

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