Welcome to Smugglivus 2011! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2011, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2012.
Recent Work: This year, Rose has published her second novel, A Lily Among Thorns.
Please give it up for Rose!
Four of my favorite historical romances of 2011:
This was so incredibly difficult. I read a lot more this year than I did last year, and I read dozens of amazing, amazing books. So many books narrowly avoided making this list, I’d start an honorable mention category if I thought I’d be able to stop listing.
1. The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin.
I’ve already raved about this book all over the internet, but it was one of those rare books that is completely perfect, where every moment feels like a revelation and you wouldn’t change a single line. I absolutely love the non-European historical setting (8th century China), which Lin portrays lushly and vividly. Plus I’m a sucker for characters with control issues and these were two tightly controlled people (the late Emperor’s courtesan consort, and the late Emperor’s enforcer, who must team up to fight for their survival and to avert civil war) who had never been able to really let anyone inside. Watching them learn to be happy was amazing. And as if all that wasn’t good enough, there’s a scene where he massages her feet, AND a scene where he gives her a tattoo. This book is understated in a way that just makes everything–especially the chemistry between the hero and heroine–feel more charged.
What are you waiting for? Read it!
2. Season for Temptation by Theresa Romain.
This is Theresa Romain’s debut, and I am so excited for the rest of her career! She has a completely unique voice that simultaneously recalls the best of bantery old-school Regency romances while being totally fresh. The book is hilarious, witty, good-hearted, and really sexy, and–okay, this isn’t a major point, but it made me so happy–it has brilliant chapter headings in the “In Which” format! I cannot adequately express my love for “In Which” chapter headings. Chapter 1 is headed “In Which an Unbelievable Number of Biscuits are Consumed,” and the book goes from there.
Julia is one of those awkward, quirky, enthusiastic heroines who says whatever comes into her head, which is a type I love, but I’m not sure I’ve EVER seen it done so convincingly, organically, and charmingly as it is in this book. I wanted her to be my friend within five seconds of her walking onto the page. And the author managed something very delicate–a hero who’s engaged to the heroine’s sister–while still keeping the hero and heroine nice, upstanding people.
Plus, it’s set during Christmas, so it’s perfect for a holiday gift!
3. Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn.
I love Julia Quinn, but this book was above and beyond even for her. If you are a Quinn reader, you’ll remember the Smythe-Smiths and their appallingly terrible musicales. This is the first book in a series about them! It’s also a girl-and-her-brother’s-best-friend book! Are you sold yet? I was.
Honoria and Marcus were adorable and sweet and everything you want from a comforting, wonderful comedy of manners story. But I also really enjoyed the darker stuff in the book–it ripped my heart apart, then sewed it back together, then warmed it! Marcus’s yearning for family and finding it with the Smythe-Smiths (he came to every one of their terrible musicales and pretended to enjoy himself) made me cry more than once. Honoria’s troubled relationship with her mother was amazingly done, and I love everything that’s been set up with her brother and the other girls in the quartet. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
4. Twice Tempted by a Rogue by Tessa Dare.
Okay, I’m cheating with this one. I’m a cheating cheater who cheats. This is a 2010 book–but I only read it a few months ago, and it was easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I have to tell you all about it! (But if you are set on 2011 books only, Dare’s new A Night to Surrender is also amazing.)
Meredith’s had a crush on the local lord’s heir for as long as she could remember. But when tragedy strikes and he leaves her village in the dust, she’s the one who holds the town together, financially and emotionally, running the local inn and teaming up with the local smuggler.
I love working heroines, I love heroines who are used to being in charge, I love heroines who can sometimes be distracted from sex by the lovely scrollwork on the ceiling of the hotel room that would look so lovely in her own inn…I freaking love Meredith in this book.
But it’s Rhys that grabbed my heart and would not let go. I have a not-so-secret love for heroes who don’t think they’re worth anything, especially if it ties into father issues, and Rhys was one of the best I’ve ever read. There’s a scene partway through the book where Meredith and Rhys are vacationing in Bath and run into the brother of one of Rhys’s dead army friends. The interaction is awkward and Meredith immediately assumes that it’s because he knows she is Rhys’s lower-middle-class mistress.
This is Rhys’s explanation: “It’s hard, sometimes, for men like him to greet me. I understand it; it can’t be helped. When Corning and I cross paths, naturally I remind him of the brother he lost. I can see it in his eyes, when he looks at me. He’s asking himself why a man like me survived when his brother did not. It’s a question I can’t answer. There’s no satisfactory answer at all.”
Two of my favorite TV romances of 2011:
1. Emily Thorne and Nolan Ross on Revenge.
Okay, so they aren’t technically a couple. I know in my soul that they will be! Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow–but soon, and for the rest of their lives. Emily is ruthless and bent on revenge, and Nolan is a socially awkward software billionaire who gets in way over his head helping her but is there for her all the way (but he’s not your standard TV geek either–he’s a really unique and awesome character with plenty of sharp edges and I love him to death). So far nothing explicitly romantic has happened between them, but their relationship is very intense and they fit together in such an unexpected, amazing way.
What I love most about the two of them is that Nolan is the only person Emily can be mean to. Everyone else in her life she has to pretend to be nice to as part of her plan, and then she can see him and say, “Shut up, Nolan, and don’t get in my way, oh and by the way here’s a list of things I need you to do,” and you can tell how much both of them enjoy it.
2. Jarrod and Brandi on Storage Wars
Okay, this is a reality show, so maybe they don’t belong on this list. But I absolutely love watching Jarrod and Brandi. At the start of the show, I was a little uncomfortable with how viciously they would bicker. But they were going through some really tough financial times, and as things started to even out for them, it became clear why they were a couple.
They love each other, like each other, laugh uproariously at each other’s jokes, even if they drive each other nuts sometimes. They are a team 100%. Even when they fight and one-up they accept each other’s decisions, and I love that the show doesn’t force Brandi into the uncomplicated role of nagging, humorless babysitter wife and Jarrod into the role of laid-back overspender husband like some Judd Apatow movie. One week Brandi bids on a storage locker Jarrod hates for more money than he’s comfortable with, and the next week it’s the other way round. They just love to give each other shit. Plus they’re both so adorable!
Five of my most anticipated 2012 books:
1. At Your Pleasure by Meredith Duran: I’ve loved all her books so far, and it looks like this one takes place during the 18th century!
2. Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas: EEEE I’ve been waiting! Sherry Thomas writes some of the most intense romances I’ve ever read.
3. A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant: The heroine is a mathematician/hard-edged gambler! I can’t even deal with how happy this makes me. (Grant’s debut, A Lady Awakened, is out this December 27th and I can tell you first-hand that it’s AMAZING, and so incredibly sexy.)
4. Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan: Two amazing authors co-writing a book about a human girl whose best friend starts dating a sexy vampire? Count me in.
5. Black Heart by Holly Black: The (I think) final book in the Curse Workers series! I’ve been loving these books (con artists + magic + fucked-up families + confused teenagers + social prejudice + geeky best friend +++++++) and I cannot WAIT to see what’s next.
What was your favorite romance of 2011 (TV, movie, book, celebrities, your own…)?