Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” (letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675-76). I haven’t read romance for almost forty years without coming across some giants, or giantesses, as the case may be.
The first was Judith Ivory, then writing as Judy Cuevas. I was at the end of a miserable pregnancy, on complete bed rest, in bed on my left side, trapped in a little apartment with My Mother the Registered Nurse, and scared to death of impending motherhood. Into this slough of despond dropped a little book called, “Starlit Surrender,” an earlier incarnation of “Angel in a Red Dress.”
I devoured it, and for the first time in my reading experience, went right back to the start and devoured it all over, right then and there. It is my all time, best ever, favorite book. Drug addiction, divorce, intrigue all in a historical package (Georgian, technically, though the feel is Regency). And the writing—sumptuous, glorious, wonderful writing, and she does it in every one of her books. If ever there was an author whom I wish were more prolific, it is she.
Then there’s Mary Balogh, author of one of this year’s Publishers Weekly Best Romances, “The Secret Mistress.” A big portion of my keeper shelf is Mary Balogh, with the Simply’s having pride of place. And the whole time I’m reading her books, in the back of my mind, I wonder, “Is it because she’s Welsh that the language is just so exactly right? Does Welsh origin give one a spectacular touch with sexual tension? ARGH. How does she do this?” (And when can I start dating Welshmen?) I buy Mary Balogh hardbacks the day they come out, without reading the flap. Have to have them. And when I go to heaven, Bewcastle is going to give me that smile that’s worth waiting three hundred pages to see. He is.
Eloisa James is another must have. She has the knack of sketching a character’s internal landscape in little, deft strokes, even as the overall image emerges lush, nuanced, and perfectly meshing with the other characters. I could eat these books up with spoon. And I heard her speak at a national conference. For the words, “Love heals shame,” I will dwell eternally in her debt.
J.R. Ward, for many, many reasons is on this list too. I think she more than any other author has hit the nerve of men’s loneliness for each other, of their need for fathering, and brothering, and purpose shared with other men. This is touching stuff, occasionally profound, and it requires a very confident, daring hand. When it’s wrapped up in paranormal creativity, vampire libido, and alpha-dawg dialogue, it’s irresistible. I periodically read through the whole Black Dagger Brotherhood series from start to finish.
There are many other authors about whom I will gush at another time–Joanne Bourne, Carolyn Jewel, Loretta Chase, Meredith Duran, Julie Anne Long, Jennifer Ashely, to name a few. These are some of the ladies who are mega-vitamins to my motivation. For me, their books function just as effectively as pharmaceutical stimulants, (about which, more later), and you can’t overdose on them. To these writers, I cannot offer enough thanks. If I never put fingers to keyboard in pursuit of publication, I would still owe these women for the relief from loneliness, boredom, fatigue, and frustration their works have given me.
It’s a wonderful world when for just a few bucks you can stand on the shoulders of giantesses such as these, again and again and again. Now, if you will excuse me, my keeper shelf is calling me, and not even for a hot Welshman will I ignore that.
So whose shoulders do you like to stand on, hmm?