Must-Read Monday: Give Me Your Old School Romance Picks

I have a confession to make. Despite my love for the romance genre now, I didn't grow up reading classic romance. My mom wasn't a romance reader. So for the longest time, I didn't even realize that the genre existed. But anything I read--suspense, YA, horror--it was the relationship parts that always drew me the most. So when I finally discovered romance, I was hooked.

But what this means is that I missed out on a lot of those "classic" romance authors from the 80s and 90s. And I still haven't read a Nora Roberts. So when my romance friends are discussing their all-time favorite old school romances, I have no frame of reference. Therefore, I am fixing this. : )

This past week I read Whitney, My Love  by Judith McNaught (published in 1985). I had originally picked this one up because it is always referred to as one of the notorious "bodice rippers" that let a hero get away with a rape. And yes, that happened. It was not "forced seduction" that is sometimes used in historicals. It was rape. Period. The hero even calls it such. And even when I knew it was going to happen, I still found myself hoping the hero would stop at the last minute. I will note that the author has since released a revised version that changes that scene and a few others (including a riding crop/punishment scene that I actually thought was hot and would be sad to see go--but I write BDSM so take that for what it's worth, lol.)

This is the current/revised version.

This is the original 1985 version I read.

But despite that scene, the story itself had me freaking captivated. I couldn't stop reading. It was intense and spanned so much time that the whole thing felt epic. So I "got" it. I got why this book was so popular. And it made me go buy a few more McNaught's (based on recs from friends on their favorites, which I have been assured are not "rape-y".) So even with the things that wouldn't be kosher in books today (head-hopping, "big misunderstanding" conflicts, and a hero committing an irredeemable act), I still loved the book. 

And it got me in the mood for more old school romances. So I went to the used bookstore this weekend to scan the shelves. I was overwhelmed, though, because I don't know which is good and which isn't, etc. I ended up leaving with nothing. But when I walked out, I saw that outside they were selling romance flats for 15 dollars. (42 romance novels for 15 dollars!!!) Because my TBR pile is out of control, I forced myself not to buy them. It was painful to walk away, but I was trying to be a good girl. : )

Later, I tweeted about the books and how much I really wanted them. My dear hubs (@TheMrLoren) saw my tweet. He was downstairs, and I was upstairs with kidlet at the time. Well, he snuck out of the house, drove back to the bookstore, and bought me both flats to surprise me. When I came back downstairs, he was walking in with two giant boxes of old school (and some new) romances. In my world, this is more romantic than getting a diamond ring or something, lol. Best. Hubs. Ever. 

Aren't they pretty?

(click here if you want to see bigger pic to read titles)

So now I have a treasure or 84 romances by mostly NYT bestsellers and have no idea where to start. Authors included are Nora Roberts, Jude Deveraux, Catherine Coulter, Julia Quinn, Susan Wiggs, Mary Balogh, Fern Michaels, Johanna Lindsey, Amanda Quick...

The mind boggles.

This is where YOU come in. Old school romance readers, I want to know your favorites, not just from this list.

  • What are your favorites of all time, those books you still remember from years or decades ago?
  • What should be on my syllabus for catching up on the great romances of the last few decades?