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My Top Ten Historical Romances of All Time!

Here is the story, my dear readers.
I've discovered StumbleUpon only this week, and one video gave a much needed boost to my inspiration. Here it is...

Through Phil Hansen who said "cease the limitations to your creativity" I've discovered the amazing ideas of TED. I must have been living under the rock before! This is such my thing, I'm enjoying it immensely.    
 But where this all leads? you would ask.   
Historical Romance is my first true love, but I often neglect mentioning the books I read in this genre on this blog. I asked myself WHY NOT? Maybe some of you like it just as much as me, maybe some of you would like to try something new. Here it is,

my top ten books in historical romance

  “If this is how it's going to be -you getting all broody and distracted every time you fall in lust with somebody -well, I haven't the stomach for it. I won't put up with it, not for a dukedom. Not for three dukedoms. I deserve better than the role of a quietly accepting wife. I'm an interesting woman. I read. I have opinions. I appreciate poetry. I have a sense of humor."
"I know all that. I've always known."
"I deserve to be loved, truly loved -mind, body and soul. And in case you haven't noticed, there's a line of men ready to give me all that. Why on earth should I settle for a man who can't give me anything but friendship. Why should I settle for you?” Loretta Chase, Silk Is For Seduction

This is an open discussion, so you are welcome to add your recommendations.

1. The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne (Spymaster #4)

Summary   
 He is her enemy. He is her lover. He is her only hope. Someone stalks agent Justine DeCabrillac through London's gray streets, stabs her under cover of the rain. Sh staggers to the door of the one man who can save her. The man she once loved. The man she hated. Adrian Hawkhurst. Adrian wanted the treacherous beauty known as "Owl" back in his bed, but not wounded and clinging to life. Now, as he helps her heal, the two must learn to trust each other to confront the hidden menace that's trying to kill them — and survive long enough to explore the passion simmering between them once again.
  I've already sung praises to this gorgeous and complicated story. Simply put, if you are interested in French Revolution and Napoleonic wars, Joanna Bourne knows her sh*t. Her books are like no other in terms of research and absolutely remarkable poetic atmosphere. Read the whole series!  

2. What I Did for A Duke by Julie Anne Long (Pennyroyal Green #5)

Summary
For years, he's been an object of fear, fascination...and fantasy. But of all the wicked rumors that shadow the formidable Alexander Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge, the ton knows one thing for certain: only fools dare cross him. And when Ian Eversea does just that, Moncrieffe knows the perfect revenge: he'll seduce Ian's innocent sister, Genevieve—the only Eversea as yet untouched by scandal. First he'll capture her heart...and then he'll break it. But everything about Genevieve is unexpected: the passion simmering beneath her cool control, the sharp wit tempered by gentleness...And though Genevieve has heard the whispers about the duke's dark past, and knows she trifles with him at her peril, one incendiary kiss tempts her deeper into a world of extraordinary sensuality. Until Genevieve is faced with a fateful choice...is there anything she won't do for a duke?  
Julie Anne Long is an absolute darling. Her books are always sweet, ironic and subtle. In this case two deeply misunderstood people meet up through a pure chance and just click. The chemistry is phenomenal, and the book itself is bittersweet. 

  3. Silk is For Seduction by Loretta Chase (The Dressmakers #1)

Summary   
 From the Design Book of Marcelline Noirot: The allure of the perfect gown should be twofold: ladies would die to wear it . . .and gentlemen would kill to remove it! Brilliant and ambitious dressmaker Marcelline Noirot is London's rising star. And who better to benefit from her talent than the worst-dressed lady in the ton, the Duke of Clevedon's intended bride? Winning the future duchess's patronage means prestige and fortune for Marcelline and her sisters. To get to the lady, though, Marcelline must win over Clevedon, whose standards are as high as his morals are . . . not. The prize seems well worth the risk—but this time Marcelline's met her match. Clevedon can design a seduction as irresistible as her dresses; and what begins as a flicker of desire between two of the most passionately stubborn charmers in London soon ignites into a delicious inferno . . .and a blazing scandal. And now both their futures hang by an exquisite thread of silk . . . 
I ADORE Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels. This one was even better. A MUST READ.  

4. His at Night by Sherry Thomas

Summary 
 Love is hottest in the darkness before dawn. Elissande Edgerton is a desperate woman, a virtual prisoner in the home of her tyrannical uncle. Only through marriage can she claim the freedom she craves. But how to catch the perfect man? Lord Vere is used to baiting irresistible traps. As a secret agent for the government, he’s tracked down some of the most devious criminals in London, all the while maintaining his cover as one of Society’s most harmless—and idiotic—bachelors. But nothing can prepare him for the scandal of being ensnared by Elissande. Forced into a marriage of convenience, Elissande and Vere are each about to discover that they’re not the only one with a hidden agenda. With seduction their only weapon—and a dark secret from the past endangering both their lives—can they learn to trust each other even as they surrender to a passion that won’t be denied?  
I think this book will stay with me for a long time. I've read it few years ago, and this was basically a fabulous rendition of The Scarlet Pimpernel where a girl saves herself.   

5. Unveiled by Courtney Milan (Turner #1)

Summary
Ash Turner has waited a lifetime to seek revenge on the man who ruined his family--and now the time for justice has arrived. At Parford Manor, he intends to take his place as the rightful heir to the dukedom and settle an old score with the current duke once and for all. But instead he finds himself drawn to a tempting beauty who has the power to undo all his dreams of vengeance.... Lady Margaret knows she should despise the man who's stolen her fortune and her father's legacy--the man she's been ordered to spy on in the guise of a nurse. Yet the more she learns about the new duke, the less she can resist his smoldering appeal. Soon Margaret and Ash find themselves torn between old loyalties--and the tantalizing promise of passion....
Ash was impossible not to fall in love with. So sweet and ruthless and fair. This book is full of common sense and decency and I love it to bits.

6. A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

Summary  
Just in time for Valentine's Day, from New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh comes yet another classic historical tale that sizzles with romance and unforgettable drama. Reginald Mason is wealthy, refined, and, by all accounts, a gentleman. However, he is not a gentleman by title, a factor that pains him and his father within the Regency society that upholds station over all else. That is, until an opportunity for social advancement arises, namely, Lady Annabelle Ashton. Daughter of the Earl of Havercroft, a neighbor and enemy of the Mason family, Annabelle finds herself disgraced by a scandal, one that has left her branded as damaged goods. Besmirched by shame, the earl is only too happy to marry Annabelle off to anyone willing to have her.Though Reginald Mason, Senior, wishes to use Annabelle to propel his family up the social ladder, his son does not wish to marry her, preferring instead to live the wild, single life he is accustomed to. With this, Reginald Senior serves his son an ultimatum: marry Annabelle, or make do without family funds. Having no choice, Reginald consents, and enters into a hostile engagement in which the prospective bride and groom are openly antagonistic, each one resenting the other for their current state of affairs while their respective fathers revel in their suffering. So begins an intoxicating tale rife with dark secrets, deception, and the trials of love—a story in which very little is as it seems.  
Such a clever little book! The incredible twist in the end makes you reevaluate all that you've just read.   

 7. Bliss by Judy Cuevas (de Saint Vallier Brothers #1)

 Summary  
 Hannah Van Evan was a young American who wished to learn about the world and to make her way in it. She was determined to improve herself, but was often baffled by exclusive turn-of-the-century high society. Nardi de Saint Vallier was a gifted young Frenchman of noble blood who had given up his passion for sculpting. Hell-bent on self-destruction, he resigned himself to a life without beauty—and an engagement without love. Then Hannah came into his life. They met during a Normandy summer on the grounds of an old French chateau. Hannah was cautious, but intrigued by the somber Frenchman. Nardi thought the American girl hopelessly naive. But slowly her indomitable spirit cast a ray of light upon the darkness in his soul—and opened both of their hearts to the infinite possibilities of love. 
  I love this book! Old french chateau, a half-crazed sculptor bent on destruction and a lovely independent American girl who wants to work in an auction house selling antics. This is a bestselling author, Judith Ivory, writing under her real name. 

  8. Beyond Seduction by Emma Holly (Beyond Duet #2)

Summary
  To avoid marriage, Merry Vance has concocted a sinfully scandalous scheme: to pose for Nicolas Craven, London's most sought-after artist. No man in his right mind would marry a woman who posed nude for this notorious rogue. But Nicolas has his own plans for the fiesty young woman. And Merry has no idea how hot it can get in an artist's studio.  
 OK, you probably know that Emma Holly writes mostly contemporary erotic romances and this is one of her very few historicals. Nicolas is an artist, and his interactions with Merry are intensely erotic and very raw emotionally. He draws her as Lady Godiva and through the portrait shows how beautiful she truly is.  I've read this years ago and still can't forget it.  

 9. When Beauty Tamed The Beast by Eloisa James (Fairy Tales #2)

Summary 
  Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne is a Beauty . . . Naturally, she's betrothed to a Beast. Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, lives in a castle in Wales where, it is rumored, his bad temper flays everyone he crosses. And rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl immune to the charms of any woman. Linnet is not just any woman. She is more than merely lovely: her wit and charm brought a prince to his knees. She estimates the earl will fall madly in love—in just two weeks. Yet Linnet has no idea of the danger posed to her own heart by a man who may never love her in return. If she decides to be very wicked indeed . . . what price will she pay for taming his wild heart?  
What I love about Eloisa James is  wicked humor and charm in her books. Piers here is 19th century version of Dr. House, grumpy, unaware of anything beyond his call, sharp. Linnet is just as sharp and reading through their sparkling dialogues is pure joy!  

 10. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures #1)

Summary  
The year is 1881. Meet the Mackenzie family--rich, powerful, dangerous, eccentric. A lady couldn't be seen with them without ruin. Rumors surround them--of tragic violence, of their mistresses, of their dark appetites, of scandals that set England and Scotland abuzz. The youngest brother, Ian, known as the Mad Mackenzie, spent most of his young life in an asylum, and everyone agrees he is decidedly odd. He's also hard and handsome and has a penchant for Ming pottery and beautiful women. Beth Ackerley, widow, has recently come into a fortune. She has decided that she wants no more drama in her life. She was raised in drama--an alcoholic father who drove them into the workhouse, a frail mother she had to nurse until her death, a fussy old lady she became constant companion to. No, she wants to take her money and find peace, to travel, to learn art, to sit back and fondly remember her brief but happy marriage to her late husband. And then Ian Mackenzie decides he wants her .
Here is the thing, Ian Mackenzie suffers from Asperger's, he has no idea how to show his emotions and how read them in other people among other things. Despite all that his interactions with Beth are heart-wrenching and beautiful. This is another one of those books which stay with you forever. 
 * * *  
 Here it is, my top ten. I intentionally didn't mention books I read before last decade, because the style of Historical Romance as genre changed in so many ways, a lot of my previous likes became obsolete.  
 
Now, I'm very interested in your favorites and why they are your favorite. Please, discuss!
As an incentive I'll randomly choose ONE commenter who can  then choose any book from this list or from your comments, and I'll send it to them (providing it costs under $10).
Open to ALL, ends 22/07/12.
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