We've all been there. We've had a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day. All we want to do is escape with a nice hot bubble bath, a nice glass of wine, and an old reliable go-to romance from our keeper shelf. Old favorites that we go back to again and again because we just know it's going to give us the feel good happy ending and HEA that we've craving. Don't get me wrong, discovering new authors (or new-to-me authors) is fantastic and something I strive to do, but there are times when we need the comfort of the familiar to cure what ails us and say hello to old friends. Like a warm blanket, it's soothing, and you know what you're getting.
So, what books do I turn to when I'm having one of those days and need a pick me up? My top 10 in no particular order:
1. The MacGregor Grooms by Nora Roberts
La Nora was my gateway into romance, and it was her MacGregor books that sucked me in. I love the entire series, but The MacGregor Grooms has a special place in my heart, especially Ian and Naomi's story. Ian is the "Harvard Hunk" who works at his family's law firm and falls in love with shy awkward bookstore owner Naomi Brightstone. Thanks to this story, I'll never look at cabernet sauvignon the same way again. The MacGregor Grooms is a collection of three novellas staring the grandsons of family patriarch Daniel MacGregor, who is an irrepressible matchmaker, and sets up the dominoes for said grandsons to fall flat on their faces in love by placing the right women in their paths without any of them knowing. A special honorary mention to All The Possibilities. I love Alan and Shelby, a U.S. Senator falling in love with a free spirit artist. (It was right up my ally as a political junkie/geek)
2. A Week To Be Wicked by Tessa Dare
Anyone who knows me knows I'm a Tessa Dare fangirl. The folks at Avon once called me a Tessa Dare Superfan. O.o I love everything she writes, but AWTBW is at the top of the list, with a bluestocking who makes a deal with the devil and goes on a crazy roadtrip to Scotland with a charming rake who is the bane of her existence. Or is he? What I love most about Tessa's books is how light and humorous her books are, but always anchored with so much heart and emotional depth so it never goes off the rails. This book will make you laugh and cry, and want to find someone who'll give you compliments like Colin. To be honest, I would recommend ALL the Spindle Cove books.
Fun fact: I once said that in case of a fire, my autographed and personalized copy of AWTBW is the book I'd grab on my way out. I was told quite sternly by Tessa to get out of the house and she'd get me a new book! lol
3. A Lot Like Love by Julie James
I love Julie's books for so many reasons: smart writing, witty sharp banter, hot heroes, and smart heroines you'd want to be friends and have a glass of wine with. And Julie is a fellow lawyer-turned-writer so we have that in common as well. I love her whole U.S. Attorney/FBI series, which is set in Julie's hometown of Chicago. Julie's love for her hometown shines through on every page, and the city becomes a character in its own right. Again, while I recommend every book in the series, I'm picking A Lot Like Love because this book has everything: a hot FBI agent hero with a "Don't Fuck With Me" face and definite opinions, wine, the Napa Valley, and a billionaire heiress heroine who can trade snark and witty retorts with the best of them.
4. Trade Me by Courtney Milan
Trade Me stars Blake and Tina and is the first book in CM's Cyclone series. Tina is a broke college student and Blake is the son of a tech billionaire, and the two of them make a bet and switch lives. This book hits all the marks for me, and there were multiple times I couldn't breathe and had to set the book down because Courtney was writing way too close to home. I related to Tina in so many ways that it hurt. I felt and understood everything she was going through and feeling. This book is AMAZING.
5. The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan
I am not a sports person at all, but at a friend's recommendation, I started Kristen's Game On series and loved it. Only she could make me fall in love with a bunch of football players. The Game Plan is the third book in the series, and Dex won my heart completely. A gentle giant who fell in love with the heroine Fi at first sight, he is determined to make her his. What makes this story especially delicious is how long Dex has waited for Fi. Literally. Two words: Male. Virgin. And Kristen totally makes it work!
6. Mad About the Duke by Elizabeth Boyle
This book is a fun rompy novel that is a pure joy to read. There is nothing like seeing a proper stuffy duke fall face first in love, and all the crazy antics that ensue. The book starts with James being obliged to help deliver a litter of puppies and the heroine Elinor mistaking him for a solicitor, and it takes off from there. This book had me laughing from beginning to end.
7. Secret Desires of a Gentleman by Laura Lee Guhrke
I am a sucker for a great battle-of-the-sexes story and this was a great one. But really, it wasn't much of a battle. Phillip has been in love with Maria since they were teens and has been fighting it ever since. He even sent her away because of the intensity of his feelings. Laura wrote a great uptight hero in Phillip (think Mr. Darcy) and it was so great to see how being forced into Maria's proximity tested the limits of his control and When his control finally snaps, a volcano of emotion and passion is unleashed and it is irresistible. Basically this is Phillip the entire book:
8. Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole
This amazing novella was part of the The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology. But Alyssa has since published it separately. Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, it is both a reunited/second chance romance, and a coming of age story as both Sofie and Ivan navigate the forces of change that is sweeping the nation. Alyssa puts you right in the middle of the action, and you are on the edge of your seat, hoping and praying Sofie and Ivan get the love and happy ending they so richly deserve. Your heart will swell as they find the courage to stand together to fight through all the obstacles and overcome their differences to make the world a better place. And I guarantee you the scene when Sofie sings the song that inspires the title of this novella, you'll be ugly crying just like I was. This story is beautifully written, heartbreaking, inspiring and gives you much needed hope in a dark and bleak time.
9. Paradise by Judith McNaught
Judith is one of the Grand Dames of the genre and queen of Old Skool romances. Judith is a master of putting her heroes and heroines and the readers through the emotional wringer, and writing heroes that push the alpha envelope. But I can't resist Meredith and Matt's story, despite how problematic elements of the story are, now that I'm reading it with a more critical lens. This IS Old Skool romance after all. You'll love the story of how a sheltered department store heiress and a steel worker from Indiana meet, fall in love, get cruelly separated, and find their way back to each other.
10. Inner Harbor by Nora Roberts
I know it's probably cheating but it's La Nora. Of course she's gonna show up more than once on the list. While the MacGregor series is arguably the best of her Silhouette category days, her Chesapeake Bay/Quinn series is beloved by many readers too. No one writes family dynamics and brothers like Nora and this series shows why. The series center around three brothers-Cam, Ethan, and Phillip- who's lives get turned upside down when their beloved adopted father Ray dies in a horrible car accident and leaves 11 year old Seth in their care. Brothers not of blood but in heart and every way that matters, they come together to honor Ray's final wish to look after Seth, and find the three perfect women to complete their lives and stand with Seth in the meantime. Inner Harbor is Phillip and Sybil's story and is the third book, but it's my favorite because I just love Phillip. Such an interesting study of contrasts- urbane and sophisticated, but with plenty of street smarts and edge, lover of fine wine and cuisine who can put in hours of manual labor at the boat yard and scarf down fried chicken. He enjoys keeping Sybil on her toes, and it's such fun to watch these two characters who try to lead with their heads finally learn the wisdom of leading with their hearts.
There are SO many other books and authors I'm leaving off this list that I'm going to have to do a Part 2 sometime soon. Possibly a Part 3. In the meantime, tell me: what books are your top fave comfort reads? What books would you grab on your way out of a fire? Let me know in the comments down below!