Today we have historical romance author Isobel Carr here to share her list of Five Books. We’ve come to know each other through Twitter, and I love her choices here.
It’s an interesting process to go about thinking about what five books I think everyone should read. On the one hand, it would be easy to pick non-fiction stuff. I love it, and being well informed never hurts (stuff like Craze, Salt, The History of the World in Six Glasses, Tongue First, Amphibious Thing). But then I tried to think of what books really formed me as a writer, stuck with me over the years, and that I would hand to my friend’s niece or nephew without reservation and say, “These. Read these!”
So here we go:
HOW CAN ONE GIRL SAVE AN ENTIRE WORLD?
To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright.
But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . .
I think I was eight or nine when I read this for the first time. I loved that Lessa was strong, crafty, manipulative, and a consummate survivor. She was the girl heroine of my young dreams. And as I got older and reread it many, many times, I saw new things and had new insights into the character and her world, but I never lost that love for Lessa (with all her glorious flaws).
In the first book of the Kencyrath, Jame, a young woman missing her memories, struggles out of the haunted wastes into Tai-tastigon, the old, corrupt, rich and god-infested city between the mountains and the lost lands of the Kencyrath. Jame’s struggle to regain her strength, her memories, and the resources to travel to join her people, the Kencyrath, drag her into several relationships, earning affection, respect, bitter hatred and, as always, haunting memories of friends and enemies dead in her wake.
I love this whole series. I’ve been following it since I was twelve. There was a decade plus gap between books at one point, and I never forgot about this series, this heroine, or this world. Jame is similar to Lessa (strong, crafty, a survivor, someone with a terrible backstory), but Jame is also wildly independent and truly heroic (in the traditional sense of the world) as she sets out to meet her destiny.
(Can you tell I was a SFF kid? When I wasn’t reading SFF I was reading historical stuff like Rosemary Sutcliff or Elfquest comics.)
From the author of The Seduction comes a sizzling tale of intrigue, stolen pasts, and secret identities, as two people with something wicked to hide unwillingly surrender to the blazing passion of love.
It was the last thing he expected…to catch a beautiful intruder disguised as a man, rummaging through his bedroom. The fair lady claimed she was stealing one of his cravats for a wager, but Robert Sinclair Dovenby- known throughout fashionable London as Dove-suspects there is far more to “George” than meets the eye.
Little does Dove imagine, however, that Sylvie Georgiana, Countess of Montevrain, is an agent hired to determine whether he’s guilty of treason. To uncover his well-guarded secrets, Sylvie finds herself having to stay dangerously close to her mischievous adversary. But when the masquerade comes undone, will she be able to betray the one man she thinks she could love?
This is probably my all-time favorite romance. Beautifully written, with a delicious hero and a heroine to die for. Even the villain of the piece is well drawn, well-motivated, and ultimately heartbreaking. You really can’t go wrong with any of Ross’s books, but his one in particular stands out for me. And yeah, I might now hand this to the kids just yet, but I wouldn’t hesitate when I think they’re old enough for the material.
Popular novelist and Countess of Gorham Marina Wyatt knows her public scandals help sell her romances. Her latest novel coincides with the arrival of her lover’s uncle, Jasper James Hedges-an antiquarian who sees a priceless work of art in Marina. For all of her passionate works, none compare to the erotic adventure that Jasper promises…
I really like all of Rosenthal’s books (disclosure, she’s a friend of mine), but the combination of a staid professor and an unrepentant voluptuary heroine is my catnip on every level. The reverse is fairly easy to find (bored rake, bluestocking heroine is a standard of the genre), but this, this book is pushing all my buttons. Add in that Rosenthal writes beautifully and is a major research wonk, and well, this is just about the pinnacle of historical romance in my opinion.
Based on the troubadour culture that rose in Provence during the High Middle Ages, this panoramic, absorbing novel beautifully creates an alternate version of the medieval world. The matriarchal, cultured land of Arbonne is rent by a feud between its two most powerful dukes, the noble troubador Bertran de Talair and Urte de Miraval, over long-dead Aelis, lover of one, wife of the other and once heir to the country’s throne. To the north lies militaristic Gorhaut, whose inhabitants worship the militant god Corannos and are ruled by corrupt, womanizing King Ademar. His chief advisor, the high priest of Corannos, is determined to irradicate the worship of a female deity, whose followers live to the south. Into this cauldron of brewing disaster comes the mysterious Gorhaut mercenary Blaise, who takes service with Bertran and averts an attempt on his life. The revelation of Blaise’s lineage and a claim for sanctuary by his sister-in-law sets the stage for a brutal clash between the two cultures. Intertwined is the tale of a young woman troubadour whose role suggests the sweep of the drama to come.
This may well be my all-time favorite BOOK. Like all of Kay’s book, it’s beautifully written, politically complicated, has a rich, fully realized world and characters you truly care about. But there’s something about the hero of this one that just undoes me. Blaise is amazing. If I had a book boyfriend (and I don’t, because I hate that term), it would be Blaise. If only this would come out as an eBook … sigh.
So there you have it, my reading world in five books. Have any of you read these?
Isobel Carr is the best-selling author of the Georgian-set League of Second Sons series. She grew up participating in a wide variety of historical re-enactment clubs, which has given her an unusually personal perspective on history, along with a deep knowledge of the history of clothing. Currently, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her Mastiff, Clancy, in a 1916 bungalow that she has no time to restore. More about her and her books can be found on her website: www.isobelcarr.com.
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