Day 26, In which I talk about favorite books

First, the daily treat.  Don't forget to enter for a brand new Kindle Paperwhite at Amazon.  And for today, we're giving away ten sets of the Russell Sisters books:  NEVER KISS A RAKE, NEVER TRUST A PIRATE, NEVER MARRY A VISCOUNT, to be sent out as soon as NEVER MARRY A VISCOUNT becomes available (late August).

So, favorite books.  You don't need the down and dirty details of my unpleasant childhood -- suffice it to say I survived by disappearing into a book, and I thought I'd share some of my absolute favorites.  I'll do it chronologically, starting with the earliest ones I remember loving. After all, it was books that made me want to write, made me want to create my own worlds.

The earliest was probably the Bartholomew Cubbins books by Dr. Seuss.  That was well before the Hop on Pop stuff, and it involved a castle and a brave page boy, so I guess I was primed to love historical romance even back then.  By the time I got into chapter books I was hooked on the Twin Books by Lucy Fitch Perkins (they were very very old even when I was young) and The Secret Garden and A Little Princess.  Those are obvious.  But were others.  I had a weakness for historical books set in classical times, preferably with a hint of romance, such as MARA, DAUGHTER OF THE NILE (which is still available and still holds up), THE LOST QUEEN OF EGYPT, UNWILLING VESTAL, JULIA VALERIA.  Maybe it was my grandfather's blood coming through my veins (he was a classics professor at Princeton).  I loved early fantasy -- BEYOND THE PAW PAW TREES and LORETTA MASON POTTS (written by the author of Harvey, Mary Chase) and the Borrowers, especially once Arietty got a boyfriend when the Borrowers went afield.  I didn't like Mary Poppins -- she was too mean, nor The Hobbit (no girls), nor horse books, though I liked Nancy Drew, particularly Old Skool (this was the 1950s and I liked the ones set in the 1930s that hadn't been updated).  Those Verney Girls by Gwendoline Courtney, the Sadlers Wells Ballet books by Lorna Hill (didn't like Ballet Shoes by Noel Streating, though). I was very picky.  No, that's not true -- I read constantly.  But there were books that many children loved that left me cold. Yes to Winnie the Pooh, no to Beatrix Potter.

I was reading adult books by third grade -- and I soon became enamored of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt -- in fact, it was MISTRESS OF MELLYN that made me want to be a writer.  I was much more broadminded in my teens -- I didn't insist on books with a romance or written by a woman, though I think I tended to prefer them.  I didn't switch over to mostly female authors until I spent time with a friend of my brother-in-law, who asked me what I read.  When I told him he sniffed and said he didn't read female authors.  I thought I could at least return the favor.

In fact, i can list the male authors I read on one hand, and most of them are dead now.  John D. MacDonald and the Travis McGee novels, Tony Hillerman, Dick Francis, Jonathan Gash.  I also noticed early on that when men wrote under a woman's name, writing gothics, they usually stank on ice. Just try a Deanna Dwyer if you can find one (Dean Koontz).  

It's easy enough to list my ten favorite writers nowadays (though I'll deliberately avoid my close friends like Crusie).

1. Laura Kinsale (I've been listening to her audiobooks and remembering all over again why I adore her)

2.  Judith Ivory/Judy Cuevas 

3.  Loretta Chase

4. Joanna Bourne (damn, do I love that woman!)

5.  Linda Howard

6.  Lisa Kleypas 

7.  Sherry Thomas

8.  Meredith Duran

9.  Susan Elizabeth Phillips

10.  Eloisa James

Then there's the next round, like Katie McGarry, Elizabeth Hoyt, Ilona Andrews, Kelley Armstrong, Patricia Briggs, Nalini Singh, Jeaniene Frost, Diana Gabaldon (she probably belongs in the top ten), Deborah Harkness, Darynda Jones.  So many wonderful books out there.

Of course, ruler of them all are Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer.  In a perfect world I'd be a cross between the two of them, probably why I like to alternate Regency era historicals with romantic suspense.  I suspect my books would make both those fine British ladies faint (and Mary Stewart is still with us).  God, and I forgot to mention Elizabeth Peters, and the Fever Books by Karen Marie Moning, and ...

Last but not least, there's my favorite book from the last ten years,, one I loved so much I just sat and hugged it when I finished it.  A book without sex.  Or without a love scene -- sex just breathes from the pages, though the author would probably be highly offended by the notion.  That's SUNSHINE by Robin McKinley.

You may have noted there tend to be more than a few vampires on my list, and very little romantic suspense apart form Linda Howard.  Modern romantic suspense, good as it is, is filled with good guy heroes.  FBI agents, soldiers, US Marshalls.   I have a weakness for bad guy heroes, in case you haven't noticed.  I think I need to persevere with the current crop of romantic suspense writers -- there's great writing there, and once I find a story that works for me I'll be their slave forever.

This isn't one of those stupid questions one asks at the end of a blog in order to make people comment and the blogger is supposed to sound like she's interested.  If you want the three book set, including first crack at book #3, which is the best, then you gotta comment anyway, and I really want to know.

Do you remember the books you absolutely adored as a child?  Do you remember the earliest books with a romance that you read?  Do you still have copies of them?  So many of my beloved ones were library books and I could only run away with so many.

Oh, and speaking of stolen library books, I forgot Mary Elgin and the three books she wrote (all of which I stole from the library -- when it comes to books I'm amoral and ruthless.  Plus I was a lot younger and there was no ebay or ABEbooks.  I know, I'm evil.)

So, tell me what you loved, and if they still hold up.  (Mara held up for me, Julia Valeria not so much).