Friday, June 07, 2013

Friday Reading Assignment: Romancing the Romance

A good romance novel can be a lot of fun.  The key word here is "good."  Indeed, there are so many terrible romance novels out there, that you might want some guidance in picking out the good ones.  I worked as a page in the public library in high school and read my way through most of the historical romances in the collection.

Jean Plaidy:  I haven't actually read any Jean Plaidy since high school so I can't really vouch for her, but she dominated the romance novel scene in the 1950s and '60s.  She's definitely worth looking into.
This book taught me all I know about Margaret of Anjou

Norah Lofts: I remember that I liked her a lot, but no specific titles come to mind.
Looks promising

Anya Seton:  I loved Anya Seton's novels.  Her two best, in my opinion, are The Winthrop Woman, about Elizabeth Winthrop, daughter in law of John Winthrop, and Katherine, about the mistress of John of Gaunt, whose descendants eventually became the Tudor kings of England.  I still reread Katherine once in a while.  Another one of hers that I haven't read since high school, but has stuck with me is Dragonwyck, a sad and spooky novel set in a Hudson River Patroon family in the 1840s.

My mother's copy had this book jacket

Georgette Heyer:  The queen of the regency romance.  Her novels are witty, rather than gothic.  Try The Grand Sophy.  It's the one that got me hooked on her.

Mary Stewart: Wrote some cracking suspenseful romances.  The Ivy Tree is a good one to start with.  It's a contemporary romance,  if you can consider 1960 "contemporary."  This one had a plot twist that I totally did not see coming.  I also liked My Brother Michael.  Her novel The Moon-Spinners was made into a movie starring Hayley Mills. (Love her!) Mary Stewart also wrote a very good King Arthur trilogy and The Little Broomstick, one of my favorite children's novels.

Kathleen Winsor: Forever Amber.  As far as I know, this is the only thing she ever wrote, but it's so much fun to read.  Forever Amber is notorious for being banned in fourteen states and listed on the "Index"--the list of books that Catholics were not allowed to read.   I think I've written about it before, as an example of what a trashy book ought to be.  What's really impressive about Forever Amber is the dialogue.  Set in the 1600's when the English language was rich in colorful insults, which all get used in this book.
Awesome Vintage Cover

What are your thoughts on romance novels?


  1. My mother loved the Mary Stewart King Arthur Trilogy. She tired giving them to me to read, but I never got into them. She was also a huge Taylor Caldwell fan and I do recall reading some of those eons ago.

  2. One likes the idea of reading books you are not allowed to read. My parents had a copy of Forever Amber that I would have read if I had known it was banned.

  3. I read a lot of these and still have my collections.

  4. Definitely Anya Seton. I loved "Katherine" back in the day and I re-read it every so often.

    I also like Rosamunde Pilcher, although she's less romance and more just, oh I don't know, purely fluffy Brit lit.

  5. I like modern chick lit--like Wendy Holden, and Rosamunde Pilcher or Maeve Binchy for more traditional...but my MIL has TONS of the books you mention (they belonged to HER mother) and I did just snag a couple Heyer novels a couple months ago when we were there. To get a sense of what the big deal was all about back in the day!

  6. I have just recently--like, the last six months--developed a sort of addiction to romance novels. Particularly Regency romances, for some reason. I think I enjoy the formula. I love Georgette Heyer, btw. But I also like the trashy stuff. I can't help it. I do. They are like the potato chips of books. I think I must read Forever Amber.

  7. I wonder if the blogger Forever Amber knows about that book.