When the economy tanked, my personal finances followed suit. Winter of 2009 approached, and I was digging the spare change out of the couch cushions, Coinstar-ring the grocery runs, and rationing shampoo. Bills were paid at the last minute, if not late, and I was reminded of my dad’s philosophy for forestalling unneeded acquisition: Can I do without? Can I use something else? Can I fix what I’ve got? If yes to any of the foregoing, don’t buy it.

We’ve all been there, many of us dwell there regularly. I wasn’t quite terrified—I have family and friends—but I was, shall we say, anxious. Very anxious.

Also too broke to buy books.

Off to my keeper shelf I did go: Mary Balogh’s entire Slightly series, start to finish came first, then my wonderful Judith Ivory collection. From there I mined my very favorite Loretta Chase titles, my Julie Anne Long’s, and whatever I had on hand from Jo Bourne, Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Carolyn Jewel.

This was… bliss. A reunion of old friends, and a recollection of all the times in my life when I’ve turned to books for solace and fortification. One of my all time favorites is Loretta Chase’s “Not Quite A Lady,” which is not a big book, but it’s a book with a big heart.

“Not Quite A Lady” has a simple premise: A marquis’ daughter who managed to deliver a secret baby at age sixteen has made a career out of discouraging the attentions of appropriate men, lest any of them learn of her lapse. When Darius Carsington moves in next door, Charlotte is equally attracted to and exasperated by him, wanting very much the passion he offers, but unable to trust him to protect her confidences…

Darius is a hyper-rational natural scientist who views reproductive urges as so much biology, until Charlotte’s courage and vulnerability engender feelings he eventually admits are worthy of the label, “attached.” And once he falls, Darius becomes Charlotte’s champion in all things, even to healing the loss she endured years earlier.

The book is tender, humorous, steamy, and fast paced. I find something new to admire about it every time I read it.

And that was just one of the old friends I found on my keeper shelf. I’ve decided the word “keeper” does not refer to my maintaining ownership of favorite books. The term refers to the books that have kept me sane, coping, hoping, and functioning at times in my life when all temptation was to the contrary.

I have keeper poems, keeper songs, and keeper movies, but late at night when the moon is full and the thermostat turned way down, it’s my keeper books I’ll reach for to keep my heart warm.

What about you? What’s the book that never fails to cheer you along, to provide consolation in the tough times, and new pleasures in each reading?

To three commenters, I’ll send copies of “Not Quite A Lady,” and please recall that if you left a comment on my blog about Sarge a couple weeks ago, I’ll send you a copy of “The Bridegroom Wore Plaid,” if you’ll send me your snail mail addy.


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55 comments on “Keepers

  1. I haven’t heard of any of these books but they sound amazing! I’m looking forward to getting a chance to read these great authors. Thanks for the chance to win!

    • Books in general make me happy, but if I had to choose it would be……. Either Dark Lover by J.R. Ward or Captured By the Highlander by Julianne MacLean.

      • I buy JR Ward in hardback the day her books come out. I read through the BDB series such as it was then too.

        If you’ve NEVER heard of the books listed, then you’re either young (go you), or you don’t read much historical romance, which is understandable when there’s so much good stuff to choose from all around.

  2. It makes me smile to see so many of the same authors on your “keeper” shelf that occupy mine! One who isn’t on your list: Liz Carlyle. I find myself returning to many of her books, admiring her ability to create complex characters who still intrigue me after several reads.

  3. @Alicia -the list that Grace gave truly is amazing, and definitely ‘keepers’ in every sense of the words. They are books I read over and over again.

    • Judith Ivory in particular is dear to me. She broke a lot of rules, wrote beautifully, and came in for some difficult criticism nonetheless. I love the courage and creativity in her books, not to mention the sheer brilliance of the prose.

  4. One keeper I return to over and over is Valentine by Jane Feather, originally published in 1995. As with most of my favorites, it’s the characters who win me over.

    What I liked about the hero and shero’s relationship is that, in general, they’re both very much up-front with each other about their feelings and reactions (although the hero IS secretive about his motivations,and the truth does not come out until maybe the halfway point). Nevertheless, even though the shero initially views the hero as an unwelcome intruder and is very resentful of his presence, she also instinctively recognizes that he is, at the core of him, a nice man. There’s an instant sexual attraction between them, and while he’s not above using that attraction to help lure her in, he’s not at all callous or unfeeling. And the shero, for her part, is honest enough to admit that part of her hesitancy to accept the hero’s suit is due to the fact that she fears he will swallow her up…that she’ll lose her identity and sense of Self as his wife. But it’s clear that that’s not something he wants. He WANTS them to have a partnership and not a relationship in which he dominates.

    This is one of those books in which I turn the last page and immediately began imagining what the rest of their life would be like together. I have no doubt that that there would be respect and friendship and deep mutual love, punctuated by moments of temperamental fireworks. Which all in all, I guess, sounds just wonderful.

  5. OH, your keepers reflect mine, too! I found Loretta Chase a bit late in her game and I adore her male characters. I find myself returning also to Amanda Quick (JAK) historicals, specifically her medievals like Desire. I still find them very entertaining and memorable. For contemporaries, I enjoy rereading Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

    • I also came across Loretta Chase well into her career, and what a happy day that was. She was a staff pick at an indie bookstore near my parent’s house, and finding her was the highlight of an otherwise trying visit to the ‘rents.

  6. Oh, Gone with the Wind! Best book ever and I’ve read it so many times I should have it memorized. I also have returned to Anne of Green Gables time and time again. I’ve only recently (as in the last two years) began reading historical romance novels again. I’m finding authors, like Lucinda Brant and Cynthia Wright, that I seek out because I know they are always worth my time.

    • Sabrina, my first pass at GWTW was in sixth grade. I was much too young to understand the social commentary in the book, but I surely did perk up when old Rhett was in the page. I’m still not comfortable with the ending, though, and I do not like Scarlett. I respect her, given the culture of the day, but I never warm up to her.

  7. Ihave a wonderful book case full of my keeper books. Your have been added to this “stash” as well. Some of my favorites are Cheryl Brooks, Laura Kinsale, Sarah McCarty, Loretta Chase, Sabrina Jeffries, Monica McCarty… just to name a few. I do LOVE to read.

  8. I think the one book that I will reread is called A Time to Love by Gail Symmonds. It is a Scottish time travel that I found by accident and I can’t tell you how many times I have read it since I downloaded it from Amazon.

  9. I must admit I very rarely reread a book although I have many keepers just in case. I have reread some series when too much time has passed between books. Only once have I been without reading material and I swore it would never happen again. I had moved to another state while my husband was in the service and he was away for 3 weeks training. I didn’t know anyone and did not drive but I had bought a huge James Michener book to tide me over. Unfortunately, it was a travelogue on Spain. Our tv got zapped so I was desperate and since we had just moved there, I had no other books. I learned more about getting around Spain than I ever wanted to know lol.

    • Michener supposedly spent months doing his research, soaking himself in all kinds of sources and authorities relevant to his subject, then cranked out those huge, sprawling tomes of his in a matter of weeks. He’s the first author I can recall whose use of setting was described as rising to the level of character.
      And yet, I’m not sure I’d turn to him to tide me over in case of a snow storm…

  10. My keeper is Highland Ecstasy by Mary Burkhardt. The hero- Ian- has to stay hidden as his family has lost their lands and he is presumed dead. The heroine is Myrtle, her father got the land from the king. She is supposedly not very pretty and a bit heavy. Ian pretends to be very slow and tries to get her to leave, but it is a very funny and sweet story. And Sheryl- I just found that book in a used-book store on Sat.

  11. I love how you describe your keeper books Grace. That is exactly how I feel about my keeper books too. My keeper book is Christina Dodd’s “Saving Grace.” This beautiful woman both inside and out started in an abusive relationship and through outrageous courage and an amazing support system she finds herself again. This book is my go to every time I feel hurt or sad or lost.

  12. My keeper book is “Broken Wing” by Judith James. I have a lot of them, but that one is my #1. I love how books can take you away from your every day problems. Maybe only for an hour or so, but having the break is very nice.

    • Mary, I call this one a “Sleeper Keeper,” because people may not recall the title, but when you start recounting the story, even just the premise, they immediately know exactly which book you’re talking about. Made sense to me that Judith James is a counselor.

  13. My never-fail, brings-me-to-heaving-sobs-because-it-touches-me book is Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm. I have not had the chance to go back read Loretta Chase’s Carsington books, but I have heard so many good things about them. Would love to win Not Quite a Lady.

    • Diane, my editor publishes Laura’s list now. I met my editor for the first time when I pitched her at a conference, and she said she was looking for another “Flowers from the Storm.” I told her one of my favorite lines from any book was, “He was not mad, he was maddened.” and off she went, quoting Christian’s whole “who will be my duchess?” speech from the end of the book.

      Maybe I’m published now because I’ve never been able to forget that one line of Laura Kinsale’s story?

  14. Most of my “keeper” books are series and from several genres. I reread Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters, everything from Guy Gavriel Kay, Katie MacAlister’s Dark Ones series and her Aislin Grey books. I’m on the last BDB book, thanks to your recommendation, and can’t wait for the next one! I also reread Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion and Emma at least every couple of years.

    • Denise, I’m pretty sure if there’s a Venn diagram of people who know their P&P and can also debate the relative merits of the Butch and V’s subplot, you and I are the only names in the overlapping area.

  15. I have a keeper bookcase… The ones I always turn to though are Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean, Splendid and The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn, Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Goddess of the Rose and Goddess of Spring by P.C. Cast. These are just the ones that come to mind first out of my physical books… I love all of them though or I wouldn’t have kept them.

    • Julia Quinn’s books are so… comforting. I have the sense when I pick up a JQ, that I’m in good hands. She never disappoints, and that’s saying something, considering the size of her list.

  16. Until about 6 months ago, I basically only read Johanna Lindsey (and to be honest, with absolute decreasing interest). Then I – totally by accident, I was looking up something totally different on google or so – discovered you, some later some of your recommendations on your blog, and have been reading, reading, reading since.
    So, one of my keepers used to be Rowena’s and Warrick’s story by J. Lindsey (I haven’t got the English title).
    Now there are a books like Maggie’s story, J. McNaught’s Paradise and Almost heaven (why hasn’t anyone mentioned her yet?), Lord Ruin by C. Jewel (and also her Immortal series).

    Than you for bringing up that topic, as there are so many more authors mentioned I now want to read!

    • Conny, I love Judith McNaught–Whitney, My Love, vintage Judith McNaught. It’s sweet, creative, good prose, unusual premises, and faultless execution. The contemporaries, though, being romantic suspense, are grittier, and not as much to my taste. Though I’d heard she’d resumed the historicals…?

  17. Well, I have a bunch of romance novels on my shelf that I would never get rid of and have read multiple times, but I also have a section of books I’ve had since junior high that are special to me. Good old Scholastic books published lots of good novels, and one that I have read twenty times or more is called “A Long Way Home”. I don’t even know the author off hand. But it’s the story of three kids under ten who are separated from their parents due to odd circumstances, and they travel six hundred miles on foot by themselves to get
    home. Talk about perseverance! I cry every time I read it. Might be a book for young folks, but it had a great message.

    • Sounds like “The Incredible Journey” but not just a pair of dogs and a cat traveling the distance. I think many of us would consider “A Wrinkle in Time” a keeper, but then too, I can pretty much recite, “Goodnight, Moon,” and “Where the Wild Things Are.” I loved books before there was a romance genre.

  18. You are for sure on my keeper shelf, which is vast.In fact, I just re-read your entire Windham series last week. I read my first Loretta Chase book (Silk is for Seduction), was immediately hooked to her voice and went out and bought every one of her past writings I could get my greedy paws on. Sometimes I just get in a mood, like I will see a hockey story on the news and I go right to Rachel Gibson’s hockey series or I see something about sports agents and I go right to SEP Match Me If You Can which then leads me to read her others. But I think my ‘go to’ book has always been SEP Breathing Room. Something about the character touching her bracelets to center herself. I have a large number of keeper books in print and a larger number in Kindle format. Bless the Kindle, I’ll never run out of room!

  19. What got me into historical romances (and actually romance in general) was Julia Quinn’s A Night Like This. This book isn’t one of my favorites, but it left me a great impression on the genre that six months later, I am still fervently catching up to all that the historical romance genre has to offer; my favorite being Regencies. I’m not the type to re-read books, but here a few favorites have made me read them over and over. Those are Connie Brockway’s Bridal Season, Julie Anne Long’s Pennroyal series (especially What I Did For the Duke and How the Marquess was Won), Lisa Kleypas’s Devil in Winter,Tessa Dare’s A Week to be Wicked, and Sherry Thomas’s Ravishing the Heiress.

    Those are my 5-star favorites, but I also love books by Loretta Chase, Joanna Bourne, Jo Beverley, Anna Campbell, and many more HR authors. I love humor and adventure in a book, but also for the love to be passionate yet sweet, with a heart wrenching quality and a love that surpasses all odds. For reasons, you’re one of my favorite authors too. 🙂

    • Julie Anne Long just gets better and better, if you ask me, and Sherry Thomas’s writing is amazing when you consider English is not her first language. I’d heard at a conference that Sherry’s trying her hand at Young Adult, and my, won’t that be an interesting read?

      • As English is my second language also, Sherry Thomas is a great role model as a romance author and I hope to one day publish historicals as well. 🙂

        It’s really awesome how authors can go back and forth between genres and write splendid works.

  20. I was first introduced to regency, historical novels in the 90’s by a book no other than that of Judith McNaught. I do not exactly recall which one but I loved it so much that I went thru her back list quick. I was hooked but the books I come back most written by her are Until You and Kingdom of Dreams.

    Julie Garwood was also an author that I discovered quickly after JM. Saving Grace is my first taste of her work and it is still a favorite re-read and one that I highly recommend. Prince Charming and For the Roses deserve special mention. I have read all her works, past and present.

    I will not neglect Elizabeth Lowell’s Untamed, Forbidden and Enchanted. They are magnificent medieval romance novels. Her “Only” Series are also worth keeping. I remember the pain I felt of leaving them when I moved and was unable to bring them with me. I purchased another set a few years later. And in these modern times, they are now all stored in my e-device.

    Need I elaborate that I love going back to the Bedwyn Series of Mary Balogh? The prequel books, Slightly and Simply Series
    have special place in my library. I am very partial to Christine and Wulfric but then again Kit and Lauren are also often visited.

    I will not neglect to mention the Windham family by one miracle worker penning under the name of Grace Burrowes. I first discovered the story of St. Just and Emmaline. I swooned and when I recovered, I bought The Heir and was so smitten with it that I could hardly wait for Lord Valentine’s story but Lady Sophie’s had to come out first – it was not a disappointment. OH, please stop me. I could go on and on here!

    Needless to say, when I find myself unsatisfied with a series of books I am struggling to connect, re-reading my favorite books is my way of comforting myself. It is like visiting old friends, getting to know them once again before I move on. And there’s that joy of knowing that they will always be there to keep me company when I go and visit for another time.

    • Sapphire, don’t you feel a little sorry for all the readers who will never stumble upon the treasures on your keeper shelf? Yes, they will have their own keeper shelves, but for me, having certain books associated with certain times of my life–I was new to romance when Julie Garwood was too–make them extra special.

  21. A book I seem to go back to every other year or so is the gem “The Blue Castle” by L.M. Montgomery, the wonderful author of “Anne of Green Gables”. It’s one of only two books she wrote for an adult audience, but like all her novels, full of heart, humour and beautiful descriptions of the natural world in which her characters live. Close runner-ups are “Wicked Intentions” by Elizabeth Hoyt, “Unclaimed” by Courtney Milan, “Once an Angel” by Teresa Medeiros and any from Lisa Kleypas’ Hathaway series.

    • You mention a quartet of wickedly talented historical authors: Elizabeth Hoyt (who seems to be at home in any historical period), Courtney Milan, Teresa Medeiros, and Lisa Kleypas. I defy any avid historical romance reader to put together a keeper shelf without at least one of those four authors represented.

  22. My a-category “keeper” books are all my books, I love books and when I buy books they end up on the shelf or on a lovely book tower/pile and in times of low cash I will turn to them. My b-category “keeper” books are some that I re-read, mainly from the library. I read the back or the inside (intro) and like it, I take them home and notice after the first page usually that I have read them. Amongst them are Lynsay Sands Argeneau series and Sherrilyn Kenyons DH/WH/DrH series. Since I became a member of goodreads I actually have a means of keeping a record of the books I have read and the books I want to read and noticed that I have quite a few re-read books on my list. Love novels or historical romance is another where I notice that I come back to the same books over and over again, mainly Mary Balogh and Stephanie Laurens but also Karen Hawkins, Christina Dodd and Johanna Lindsey. The c-category of “keeper” books that I come back to over and over again (the book for the heart and soul) hasn’t been filled yet as there are far too many books that I still have to read. One day I will probably find the one and then I let you know.

    • I forgot to mention Kresley Cole. I read a few of hers twice. (I even have a handful of books twice – that was before I written down the books and authors I have and carry that with me all the time 😉 )

      • I first stumbled on Kresley Cole on the strength of some of her covers. Wowza! You’ve brought another quartet to the party in Karen Hawkins, Stephanie Laurens, Johanna Lindsey, and Christina Dodd (another protean talent). They are each wonderful writers with huge lists, and deservedly loyal followings. Maybe I grow up to be just like them.

  23. My keeper bookcase is closely related to all of the ones mentioned – full of Kleypas, Chase, Hoyt, Laurens, old Lindsay’s, old Nora Roberts. The newer ones are yours Grace, Carolyn Jewel, Carol Linden, Patricia Briggs and CE Murphy. Noticing the paperback keepers are replicating in e-book format for instant comfort, no matter where I am.
    Haven’t read the Indiscretion, am currently pestering the library to acquire it in a format other than audio.

  24. Thanksgiving is mine in reading this long blog entry/response conversation. What gold you all have given to those who benefit from this kind of list. Kicking up my heals, here, in more ways than one.

  25. Keepers. I have so many. Your list for sure. My others include Lisa Kleypas, Mary Jo Putney, Jude Deveraux. As a deaf adult I read more than most. When money is tight my three bookshelves an Nook reader are well used. I’ve just discovered you and am so enjoying your book. I look forward to catching up with your titles
    My reading covers many genre. I started at age 14 with harleguin romance, moving right along to reading Nora Roberts, Linda Howard. Jayne Ann Krentz, iris Johanson, Kay Hooper.
    A book is a wonderful place to learn, enjoy and escape. Thank you for being a wonderful author.

    • Sue, I will be particularly interested in what you think of Morgan and Archer’s story, which ought to be out in Fall 2013. And I wonder how many of us got our romance reading start with the Harlequins… and how many of our moms read them first.

  26. I have a huge keeper shelf…um shelves. And we are in that boat that you were in back 2009, so I’ve been rereading my favorites and also downloading lots of freebies on my kindle, thank heavens for that! I am getting to discover all new Authors this way. Anyway, back to my keeper shelves. My biggest re-reads are The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Harry Potter series. I am on 2nd and 3rd copies of all these books. I read them until they just fall apart and then go buy new copies of them. Also on my shelves are books by Susan Wiggs, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Dorothy Garlock, plus so so many others.