Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Year That Was 2011: Best Category Romance

My reading psychology has two very distinct personalities: 1) Category Romance and 2) Everything Else.  For the sake of looking back at my best reads of 2011, I've decided to take these split personalities and give them each their own blog posts.  First up, a look back at some of the really great category romance I read last year.

Title links will take you to full reviews.

His Wife For One Night by Molly O'Keefe (Harlequin SuperRomance 2011)
  • One of my two A reads for this year and a book so good I wanted to have babies with it.  Friends-to-lovers, marriage-in-trouble, and a spitfire heroine who is tired of taking the self-absorbed hero's crap.  Seriously, so good I had to remove this book from my desk and put it in a storage tub because I kept picking it back up to skim large chunks of it.  Have I mentioned how much I loved this book?  Squee-worthy, danger danger Wendy's getting more obnoxious than usual.....
Mommy Said Goodbye and Revelations by Janice Kay Johnson (Harlequin SuperRomance 2004)
  • Johnson's strength as a writer, in my opinion, is in her conflict.  She writes such fantastic conflict that I really think Harlequin is missing a cash cow by not packaging her in trade paperback to snag the Book Club Crowd.  This is a connected duet.  Mommy Said Goodbye didn't really work for me as a romance, but the story was so frackin' good that I didn't care.  Revelations featured my very favorite sort of heroine, and was stronger on the romance front.
The Big Guns by HelenKay Dimon (Harlequin Intrigue 2011)
  • This is actually the last book in Dimon's Mystery Men series and, while it was my favorite, I'm also putting it on the list to represent the whole series.  Great plotting, page-turning action, with steamy romances.  Granted I'm not widely read in the Intrigue line, but Dimon is the one author that I pick up without even reading the back cover copy.
A Man of His Word by Sarah M. Anderson (Harlequin Desire 2011)
  • A debut Desire that reminded me so much of why I used to love this line - well, it made me a little bereft.  A real hero-worthy hero, a haunted heroine, and so much's really accomplished.  I met Anderson briefly at RWA, which is the sole reason why I picked up this book - and oh man, so glad I did.  A one-sitter kind of a read.
Honeymoon with the Ranger by Donna Alward (Harlequin Romance 2011)
  • I read several books by Alward this year, all of which I enjoyed, but this was the stand-out.  A lovely setting (Argentina!) and a heroine who has to find herself again after a relationship goes bust.
Molly Cooper's Dream Date by Barbara Hannay (Harlequin Romance 2011)
  • A total throw-back kind of read, the kind of book I would equally love to share with a grandmother or a teenage girl.  Couple agrees to a home-swap vacation and end up falling for each other through their e-mail exchange.  A little old-fashioned, a whole lot sweet - it was just downright lovely.
Mr. Right There All Along by Jackie Braun (Harlequin Romance 2011)
  • A charming friends-to-lovers story featuring a young woman who is still haunted by high school and a hero with abandonment issues.  Just flat-out nice characters, and a nicely drawn New York setting. 
The Army Ranger's Return by Soraya Lane (Harlequin Romance 2011)
  • Lane had three books out this year, and this - her second release - was my favorite.  Hero and heroine meet through a pen-pal program for military personnel.  When he returns home thanks to an injury, he meets the heroine in the flesh - which is scarred by her fight with breast cancer.
Heart of a Hero by Barbara Wallace (Harlequin Romance 2011)
  • An opposites attract kind of story.  Hero is surly ex-military and moved to a tiny island to escape people.  Instead he gets stuck next door to the heroine, who needs a handyman (he's the only one on the island!) and has an obnoxious dog that won't stay in its own frackin' yard.  Loved the way the author handled the issue of the hero's PTSD.  No pat solutions and no miracle recovery once he falls in lurve.
And those are the highlights in category romance.  It really was a strong year and it was fun to go back over my spreadsheet to revisit them.  Of course now I want to reread them all.  Next up?  The best of everything else that wasn't category.....


Jill said...

Thanks for recapping your category year. Some good ones here I'd like to read!

nath said...

I remember you reviewing Soraya Lane... and Leslie send me one of them. I should check her out :)

Susan F. said...

Great choices. I've read most of them and completely agree that they were great!

SarahT said...

I read (and enjoyed) several of the books on your list. One author I keep meaning to try is Soraya Lane. Need to remedy that. Thanks for the recap. You're my go-to person for category romance recs.

Wendy said...

Jill: It was a really strong year for me in category romance!

Nath: Of the three books Lane had out this year, her military-hero books were the strongest for me. Both were good, but the one I listed here was my fave.

Sarah: I strongly recommend her first two books. She had a cowboy hero book out late last year that, sadly, didn't work as well for me. But she's an author on the move. Pretty sure she has two more books for HR in the pipeline....

Wendy said...

Susan: Sorry, I just noticed this afternoon that you got sucked into Blogger's spam filter! Weird. A good reminder for me to check that more often....