Friday, February 17, 2006

Romance novels "starter kit"

After our comments in a previous post (about “converting” Ms. Random Musings into a romance genre lover), we’ve received several emails from other readers who want to know what books they should begin reading romance with, and many others wanting general recommendations about books we like.

At the end of each week, we’re going to grade the books we’ve read (see sidebar). This way, readers will have an idea of how much we liked or disliked *g* a specific selection. In the mean time, I’ve put together a romance novel “starter kit.” These I’ve chosen, not only on personal taste, but have also checked many top ten lists in Amazon, the RWA site and some bulletin boards.

Honor’s Splendour - Julie Garwood

Scottish Highlands:
The Bride - Julie Garwood

Something Wonderful - Judith McNaught
The Duke and I (part of the “Bridgerton” series) - Julia Quinn
Bewitching - Jill Barnett

Lord of Scoundrels - Loretta Chase

The Promise of Jenny Jones - Maggie Osborne

Lady Be Good - Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Paradise - Judith McNaught
Bet Me - Jennifer Crusie

Chick Lit:
Rachel’s Holiday - Marian Keyes
Confessions of a Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella
Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

I think anyone wanting to start on romance has to give at least three of these recommendations a try. Romance can be “love at first read” for some, but an acquired taste for others.

A lot of these books are personal favorites, one I don’t even like (*cough* Bewitching *cough*), but I’ve tried to be objective and give you a diverse group of choices for all tastes, in which you’ll surely find more than one book that will probably end up in your keepers shelf.

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31 comment(s):

Blogger Harlot said...

Have to agree with Trollop's recs. But i think SOMETHING WONDERFUL and PARADISE should be at the top of anyone's list. :D

Also want to add, A KINGDOM OF DREAMS (another one by JM) for the medieval category, and Gaelen Foley's PRINCESS for regency. Judith Ivory is another one that shouldn't be missed!

2/17/2006 09:39:00 AM  

Blogger Grace said...

Oh Harlot, I definitely agree with your tastes! SW and Paradise are two of my all time favourites! There is just something about Jordan Townsende and Matt Farrell that makes them so darn appealing! Oh, and I can't forget Ian Thornton from Almost Heaven. He's simply divine too! :D

Vicious Trollop, the romance novels starter kit looks great. I've enjoyed so many of those books on the list! And the books I have yet to read, I've added to my TBR list. Thanks for that! :)

2/17/2006 09:40:00 AM  

Blogger Harlot said...

Oh Grace, i ADORE Jordan (and Alex for that matter--don't you think they're just the loveliest couple?). My all time fave romance, no question about it, SW.

But the thing is, i love Matt Farrell. *sigh* LOL Definitely my ideal man. :P

2/17/2006 09:59:00 AM  

Blogger Vicious Trollop said...


I had Almost Heaven in the list, but then took it out b/c SW is more popular, but Ian is one of my fave heroes.

Glad you like it :D


Re: AKOD I have to read that book again, b/c there was nothing memorable about it. All I can remember is a hero who abducted heroine. Heroine who killed a horse. Two sisters in a tent, and some sort of round walls in a castle? Dunno. And that Albert was nothing to write home about either.

2/17/2006 10:03:00 AM  

Anonymous ALE said...

There goes my tbr list, exploding again. The Bitches have never steered me wrong before so I'm just going to dive in. I've read several of these (SEP, JC, MK, HF). I'm looking forward to the ones I haven't.
P&P is my favorite book, started my love of reading.
As for Paradise, which I am just over halfway through, I have one tiny complaint (explaination in fabb).
LOVE LOVE LOVE MATT! VT, you mentioned sharing him. I'll take you up on that!
Great idea with the "starter kit" and good picks!

2/17/2006 10:12:00 AM  

Blogger Malicious Strumpet said...

I tend to devour authors - I'd say start with any early Judith McNaught, or any SEP novel and you can't go wrong.

My fave romance ever is Perfect by Judith McNaught. Zach is one of my favorite heroes of all time.

Also, Brenda Joyce's "Deadly" series (starting with Deadly Love) is fantastic (there is some rather raunchy sex in some of the books, though...just as a warning). Calder Hart is another of my absolute favorite fictional men.

2/17/2006 10:28:00 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did someone say something about "raunchy sex"? Brenda Joyce's Deadly series?...I'm game;)


2/17/2006 11:54:00 AM  

Blogger Dylan said...

Ooh great list there, ladies...I've read plenty of those and am adding the ones I haven't read to my list, thanks for the pimps!

Paradise is such a great book and Matt Farrell is an even better hero, just ask my Matt obssessed friend, Grace! LOL.

Happy Friday!

2/17/2006 01:56:00 PM  

Blogger Isabel said...

i've read most of those books. Great pics.

2/17/2006 03:09:00 PM  

Blogger Marg said...

I've only read three of these!! More books added to the TBR list!

I was somewhat surprised not to see Outlander on the list though

Marg - ducking and running!!!

2/17/2006 04:47:00 PM  

Blogger Vicious Trollop said...


You naughty girl, lol.

I actually debated adding it to the list, but in all honesty I don't think of Outlander as a romance.

Actually I wonder what genre it really falls on. Maybe historical fiction?

Which are the three you've read babe? Is Paradise in there?

2/17/2006 04:51:00 PM  

Blogger Harlot said...


How are you? Did you see the message i left you?

Oh you know how much i lurrve OUTLANDER. LOL

2/17/2006 04:57:00 PM  

Blogger Grace said...

I'm not Matt Obsessed..okay, maybe only a little. Okay. A LOT Matt obsessed, are you happy now? Hehe.

You're absolutely right. Jordan and Alex suit each other so well!

And Matt Farrell? Hon, you can talk to me about Matt Farrell ALL day long because he is THE hero for me. *dreamy sigh* LOL.

Oh and you've read DG's Outlander series? Oh My, how much do you love Jamie Fraser!! Have you by chance read A Breath of Snow and Ashes? I've been meaning to read that ever since it came out, but so far, no luck. I just can't seem to pick it up. :(

2/17/2006 07:16:00 PM  

Blogger Marg said...

Hey girlies!!

I've been having issues with my computer but they are all resolved now I think!! No more dial up...woo-hooo!!

VT, I think that Outlander qualifies more as historical fiction for sure...but with a double helping of sex scenes!! I have seen it referred to as fantasy as well, but don't go with that for the book..only for Jamie!

The three I have read are Gone With the Wind, Bridget Jones' Diary and Lord of Scoundrels.

Harlot...what message?

Grace, I have tried to read ABOSAA and just have not been able to get it into it. I have tried reading it and didn't get past the first 100 pages, and then I tried listening to it and got about a quarter of the way through but then my CD player broke. I will pick it up again once the CD is fixed. It's really disappointing actually because I really devoured the other books in the series!

2/17/2006 07:34:00 PM  

Blogger Marg said...

Oh, I lied!!

I've read Bet Me as well!!

2/17/2006 07:38:00 PM  

Blogger Grace said...


Me too! I couldn't read the first four books quick enough! I was just so caught up in the books, it was crazy! The 5th I had some trouble finishing, I'm not exactly sure why. It took me months to read! But I did finish it. I think it's my least fav in the series.

Although, Jamie sure does come up with the sweetest things to say to Claire, don't you think?

2/17/2006 08:30:00 PM  

Blogger Marg said...

Indeed he does!!!


Marg - sighing deeply

2/17/2006 11:49:00 PM  

Blogger Marlene D. Malone said...

Ladies, once again I simply HAVE to go to the bookstore to check some of these out! I have some time on my hands since my temp job has ended, waiting for the next job assignment.

Anyway, on a different subject...I know you ladies are pissed off about James Frey, but I simply could not help myself at my local BAM last night. I bought the infamous book out of curiosity. I know it's all a falsehood, but admittedly it is a good read. Did you all know he's come out with another book called My Friend Leonard? Yes I bought that one too!

I've also discovered an author by the name of Toni Morrison. I saw the movie Beloved on tv last weekend and have become obsessed with her work. I've finished the book Beloved and bought Jazz last night.

Looks like I have some good reading material for my week off :o)

2/18/2006 04:03:00 AM  

Blogger Harlot said...

I was kidding about loving OUTLANDER. LOL Never liked it. Actually, you'll see that Trollop and i made fun of that book even from the beginning of our blog. :P LOL But Tart liked it. I guess with OUTLANDER, it's either you love it or you hate it.. Different strokes and all that. :D

I wrote you a letter weeks ago. *sniff* Wonder what happened.. If you have time, could you please email me? Thanks babe!

2/18/2006 05:04:00 AM  

Blogger Harlot said...


I myself haven't read that James Frey infamous book yet. He really is an asshole, no question about it. But before all the fiasco, many people found that book inspirational. Oh, do tell us what you think after reading it, ok?! :D

2/18/2006 05:12:00 AM  

Blogger Bawdy Babe said...

Marlene, I read Sula by Toni Morrison a few years ago. It is an excellent read, but I felt uncomfortable with some of the subject matter and plot. But despite that, I is impossible to forget that book. It seems to crawl under your skin.

Vicious, how can you dislike Bewitched? That book is enchanting. Do you have ice water running through your veins or what?

Have to say that I thought Watermelon by Marian Keyes to be a better read than Rachel's Holiday.

In the contemporary catagory, I would remove Paradise, yeah I know guys, but that book didn't seem to hold up on reread. If Matt and Meredith were so smart shouldn't they of realized who the bad guy was? Come on, it just didn't make sense that these two moguls couldn't see the truth. Huge plot hole, IMO.

And certainly there should be room for Judith Ivory on this list. Where is Sleeping Beauty?

But all in all a good list. Good work guys.

2/18/2006 06:03:00 AM  

Blogger Vicious Trollop said...


I've actually heard frey's book is wonderful :D Please please let me know how you like it?

Bawdy *gasp* please do not take paradise's name in vain! lol You can call meredith anything you want, but Matt is smart *sniff* you take that back ya' hear me? *sniff* he was really hurt by your comment *sniff*

2/18/2006 07:52:00 AM  

Blogger Bawdy Babe said...

Oh honey, I think JM bb may have been bad for your brain. Matt is FICTIONAL, k?

But granted he is a dreamy hero. No question about it. And yes, Paradise is fun book, but that hole in plot really did bother me on reread. The old man IS Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. hee hee

2/18/2006 12:16:00 PM  

Blogger Marlene D. Malone said...


I am halfway through the book. I can't put it down! I know Frey is a liar, but having been through rehab 11 years ago he is dead on with his descriptions! It's quite uncanny, really.

I have not started Jazz by Toni Morrison yet, but I have heard all of her books have a great deal of controversy to them. Nevertheless, I love controversy. I am a HUGE fan of Alice Walker and have been told she and Morrison are a bit alike. I've also heard Morrison compared to Falkner with the whole stream of consciousness thing going on.

This is a great weekend to get caught up on my reading. I am sick and finished my temp assignment for work so I am loving being able to read.

2/18/2006 06:42:00 PM  

Blogger Grace said...

LOL! You're right though, people either hate it or love it. And it seems to me that you and I belong in different camps on this one. Hehe. But at least we're in the same one for Matt Farrell! ;o)

Bawdy Babe,
I have to defend Paradise here, well, more importantly Matt that is. Hehe. Even after all my re-reads of Paradise, I still believe him to be exceptionally smart. The fact that he didn't realise who the true villain was until much later didn't bother me (possibly because the direness of the situation and the raw emotions could have clouded his judgement) and when he did realise his mistake, he moved to correct it.

But I'm thrilled to see that you still think he's very dreamy! *grin*

2/18/2006 09:36:00 PM  

Blogger Marlene D. Malone said...

Just finished In A Million Pieces by James Frey. An excellent read! As I said earlier, it may be fiction but his descriptions are dead on. I think he should be shot for portraying this has his own actual story, but if he had billed it as "based on true events" people would not be so upset with him.

2/18/2006 10:20:00 PM  

Blogger Malicious Strumpet said...

I'd actually love to read A Million Little Pieces, despite my disregard for the way that Frey and his publisher (this is where the blame really lies for me) marketed the book.

But I totally refuse to buy it retail and I'm not much of one for going to the library. So perhaps I'll have to find it second hand or at a garage sale, or something.

2/19/2006 10:03:00 AM  

Blogger Marlene D. Malone said...

Luckily for me I had my BAM discount card so I got it for $7 plus sales tax. Now that I did not mind. But you're right I would not pay full price.

2/19/2006 11:16:00 AM  

Blogger Random Musings Of My Life said...

Hey Ladies,
Thanks for the "shout out"
I am going to pick something up from Jennifer Cruise she seems to come up a lot.
I will let you know how its going.
As per the Mcfrey thing going on, I want to read his book soooo bad but I refuse to buy it regular price.
Look out garage sales/ swap meets

2/19/2006 03:37:00 PM  

Blogger Tart said...

Yep, I'd agree with most of that list (personally, I don't like Julia Quinn books LOL).

Haven't read Paradise for years, Could do with a re-read I guess, I just hope it stands the test of time LOL.

2/20/2006 12:37:00 AM  

Blogger Gina M. said...

I'd like to add Whitney, My Love to the historical list only because it's my favorite historical of all time.

Uh hemm, Bawdy Babe, I'll tell you again that my Philip is the likeness of Paul Newman, LOL! (thinking of Mr. Burns...*shiver**gag*)

2/24/2006 02:51:00 AM