Goodbye - Farewell 2016!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

December 19, 2016
"Hello, I must be going.
I cannot stay,
I came to say
I must be going.
I'm glad I came
but just the same
I must be going.

For my sake you must stay,
for if you go away,
you'll spoil this party
I am throwing.

I'll stay a week or two,
I'll stay the summer through,
but I am telling you,
I must be going."
- Animal Crackers (Groucho Marx)

Farewell 2016

Goodbye my dear Jo Beverley and Roberta Gellis. We will remember your voices through the words you have left behind for us.

Some debut authors who have crossed my radar: Abbie Roads, April Hunt, Cat Sebastian, Anna Bennett, Lexi Eddings, Emma Hornby, Melissa Marino, Lisa Jones Baker, Jessica Linden, Brianna Labuskes, Laurel Blount. Congratulations.

This has been a tough year for books which I consider outstanding. There have been weeks and weeks when I've had to retreat to my oldies but goodies pile. As we all know, memory sometimes plays tricks on us but sometimes our memories of good old books work. So, thanks to some hefty support from my older books here is my Outstanding Romance Novels of 2016 - in no particular order.

1. Tessa Dare - Do You Want to Start a Scandal
2. Julia Quinn - It's in His Kiss - 2005
3. Julia Quinn - Romancing Mister Bridgerton - 2002
4. Julia Quinn - The Viscount Who Loved Me - 2000
5. Julia Quinn - The Duke and I - 2000
6. Anne StuartShameless - 2011
7. Anne Stuart – Ruthless - 2010
8. Anne Stuart - The Houseparty - 1985
9. Elizabeth Hoyt - Sweetest Scoundrel
10. Madeline Hunter - Tall, Dark and Wicked
11. Laura Lee Guhrke - And Then He Kissed Her - 2007
12. Eloisa James - A Gentleman Never Tells
13. Lisa Kleypas - Marrying Winterborne
14. Elizabeth Hoyt - Duke of Sin
15. Madeline Hunter - The Wicked Duke
16. Marguerite Kaye - Strangers at the Altar
17. Eva Leigh - Temptation of a Wallflower
18. Courtney Milan - Her Every Wish
19. Jo Goodman - If His Kiss is Wicked - 2007
20. Eloisa James - My American Duchess
21. Loretta Chase - Dukes Prefer Blondes
22. Grace Burrowes - The Laird - 2014
23. Karen Ranney - My Beloved - 1999

Disappointment List. Before I even begin, let's make sure we understand that whether you like a book or not depends on many things. You may even love a book and then 15 years later have thoughts cross your mind, like “what the crap was I thinking! Is this a classic or isn’t it?” Maybe you’re just not in the right mood, or maybe the book just stinks. Whatever the reason, its allll very subjective. I may not like a book which everyone else in the entire book world loves, loves, loves. Will I stop reading an author who has made my disappointment list? Just look at the authors on this list, a number of them were on both lists. So much for favoritism. These are my disappointments and not anyone else's. In no particular order.

1. Julie Garwood - The Wedding - 1996
2. Julie Garwood - The Bride - 1989
3. Cathy Maxwell - A Date at the Altar
4. Sarah MacLean - A Scot in the Dark
5. Julia Quinn - On the Way to the Wedding - 2006
6. Anne StuartBreathless - 2010
7. Mary Jo Putney - Once a Soldier
8. Cathy Maxwell - The Fairest of Them All
9. Jo Goodman - All I Ever Needed - 2003
10. Ashlyn MacNamara - To Lure a Proper Lady
11. Sally MacKenzie - How to Manage a Marquess
12. Stacy Schiff - The Witches (yes, I know it's not a romance - don't care)
13. Kasey Michaels - A Scandalous Proposal
14. Jo Goodman - Let Me Be the One - 2002
15. Tracy Anne Warren - Happily Bedded Bliss
16. Grace Burrowes - Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight - 2012
17. Grace Burrowes - The Duke's Obsession Bundle - The Heir – 2010, The Soldier – 2011, The Virtuoso - 2011
18. Elizabeth Hoyt - Duke of Pleasure

Faye Dunaway - "Mommie Dearest"
 No More Wire Hangers!!! The Mommie Dearest Award. Ewwwwww those evil step/mothers/brothers/fathers/uncles/sisters/brothers. Yes, this award goes to all those creepy family members who barter the heroine off into the hands of the villain and sometimes even the hands of the hero. It could be the heroines’ family who is loathsome, but then again sometimes it is the hero who must survive his obnoxious family members. Most of these relatives cause tons of angst in both our heroes and heroines. Often these relatives come close to being villains. Whether they are villains or just conniving relatives they are still awful, but we the reader are drawn to them – it’s almost hypnotic. For your perusal, here are my nominations for the 2016 Mommie Dearest Award:

1. From It's in His Kiss by Julia Quinn. Richard St. Clair, a father who isn't really a father. Yes, my little Petunia's, Gareth's father isn't his birth father. And, boy does he make his son very unhappy because of his wife's infidelity. I can even understand the initial problems with being presented with a son who isn’t really yours, but the hatred this man generated toward an innocent child was scary. Gareth became an angst-filled hero because of his father. In this case, Gareth’s boo-hooing was justifiable.  

2. Another Julia Quinn book, An Offer from a Gentleman has the evil step-mother Araminta. She would make a perfect Disney villain. I can just see her zooming around the countryside looking for spotted dogs.

3. Julia Quinn must have been on a roll with her Bridgerton family. From The Duke and I, another father who is so wrapped up in his title, his prestige, his consequence that he hides his stuttering son away. Simon, the hero of the story can never forgive his father for his callous treatment. Simon’s response to his father’s treatment is what this wonderful story revolves around.

4. Sometimes in Romanceland a character doesn't have to be mean/petty/loathsome to grab my attention. No there are other reasons for landing in the Mommie Dearest category. Being oblivious. From Tall, Dark and Wicked by Madeline Hunter comes the self-centered father of Padua. Padua didn't deserve all the pain this guy put her through just to earn a tiny bit of affection from him.

5. Oh those brothers who gamble away their sister. This theme is left over from the pot-boilers/bodice-ripper days of yore. In The Price of Desire by Jo Goodman, Alistair (the brother) leaves Olivia (the heroine) as a marker for his gambling debts to Griffin (our hero). Here was an example in which the heroine forgave her brother way tooooo quickly. 

6. Eva Leigh brings in the dominating father - the Earl of Hutton in Temptation of a Wallflower. Your sons are grown up! Your sons are grown up! This guy just cannot believe his sons are adults with lives of their own. He's a horribly dominating man.

I had a hard time deciding on the winner of the Mommie Dearest award. We had two really loathsome creatures to choose from. One was the father of Valentine from Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt. Not only was he a member of the Lords of Chaos, he also murdered Valentine's beloved pet. This was his way of controlling his son. After that, Valentine had a hard time giving affection to anything. He knew anything he loved would be destroyed.  The second loathsome person is the father from How to Manage a Marquess by Sally Mackenzie. This guy didn't think twice about embarrassing his daughter, making her feel small and doing other hurtful things. Gut win. I think I'm going to have to go with my gut and say that the winner for cruelty above and beyond goes to Valentine's creepy dad.

Steve Morgan Bonehead Hero Award. Now it's time for the award given to a hero who exhibits Bonehead qualities. These guys are supposedly the heroes of our books but I wouldn't want any of them hanging around me. They can be jealous, obsessive, possessive, cruel, insulting, unfaithful, self-absorbed, and oblivious - you name it. Any of those little things which irritate. If they do apologize it's in the last three pages and then never enough. I usually get very angry with these guys and sometimes I write really long rants. Here are my nominations for the Steve Morgan Bonehead Hero Award of 2016.

1. Say it ain't so. This was supposed to be joyful. I was going to kick-back, put my feet up and enjoy an old classic. I picked up The Wedding by Julie Garwood. Geewillikers did Connor step on every inch of my nerves. This know-it-all is oblivious to his wife’s charms. And, there was what I could only categorize as a forced seduction early on in the book. This classic book turned out to be a bodice-ripper - oh not a Rosemary Rogers bodice-ripper, but the consummation scene showed its age.

2. Gavin, from A Date at the Altar by Cathy Maxwell. I was very disappointed that a great secondary character from the previous book in the series didn't get the story he deserved. Somewhere along the line he lost his honor.

3. Piers from Tessa Dare's Do You Want to Start a Scandal. This was an odd one, because Piers wasn't necessarily a bonehead allll the way through the book, just when he sets fire to a couple of small rooms to prove he's not worthy. That little bonehead stunt created a "What The Hey" moment for me.

4. Gregory Bridgerton from On the Way to the Wedding by Julia Quinn. This guy had a back-of-the-head fetish. He falls in love with women when he sees the back of their heads. One right after the other. He luvs the back of women's heads. Yep, he does. Besides that, he’s fickle.

5. Benedict from An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn. For a moment I thought I was copying myself because Cathy Maxwell's Gavin and Benedict have the same problem. They just want to ask the woman they love to be their mistress instead of a wife. Benedict was especially puzzling because he's a Bridgerton and he should know better. There was no apology for the seduction either. 

6. Gabriel from Happily Bedded Bliss by Tracy Anne Warren. Talk about an arrogant, self-pitying, cold-hearted guy. He uses his experience to bed our heroine, then when someone mentions they think he's in love with his wife - he leaves. He leaves our heroine to fend for herself - no words, no note, no nothin'. Then he turns into a jealous maniac when his wife finally shows up. He was another "hero" who came really close to the old bodice-ripper days.

7. King from The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean. Just when one starts to like a guy they turn hurtful and crush ones hopes and dreams - deliberately. That's what our hero Kingscote - King - did to our heroine, Sophie. He jumps to conclusions, seeks revenge and hurts people - a real creep.

And the winner of this year’s 2016 Steve Morgan Bonehead Hero award goes to Jack from The Fairest of Them All by Cathy Maxwell. Where to begin, where to begin. Jack runs away at the age of 15. Why? Because he can no longer live with being the second son. Oh - glad for the explanation. His family thinks he dead, they mourn him - deeply. He's gone for fifteen years, makes money, marries, and is widowed. Never in all of that time does he make any contact with his family. Then because he's on a diplomatic mission he shows up at his parents’ house, crashes their party, and falls in love with his brother's fiancĂ©. For me, it wasn't so much his action toward the heroine but his callous treatment of his family - which made this guy a big bonehead loser for me.

Sidekicks aka Secondary Characters aka Supporting Cast.  
Lucy and Ethel. "I Love Lucy" - "Job Switching" episode.
Yes, it’s the scene stealers' time to step into the spotlight. Sometimes they are already in the spotlight - and, sometimes they are the only thing one can remember from a book. They can make us laugh and cry - they tell jokes, they get drunk, and they are snide, sarcastic, and wise. They are always there for the hero to talk to. They give advice, and sometimes they are even listened to. The best sidekicks support our main characters, leaving us the reader screaming for more (hopefully not to be disappointed later). Here is my batch of second bananas for 2016.

1. From Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare. Ms. Dare did a wonderful job of conveying a deep friendship between our heroine Charlotte and her friend Delia. Delia was a wonderful secondary character, with an abundance of human frailties. The friendship between Charlotte and her second banana Delia was a piece of wonderful writing. 

2. After rereading the Bridgerton family series, I kicked around the idea of nominating an entire family. But, I didn't. For me there were two characters in this series who stood out.

They were Hyacinth and Lady Danbury. When these two were in a scene they took center stage. Striking fear in the hearts of all the manly men in the Bridgerton series, they made me laugh.   

3. Sometimes a secondary character isn't pleasant, which is the case of the two - count them two - "bad seed" children from To Sir Phillip with Love by Julia Quinn. 

4. Hattie from A Gentleman Never Tells by Eloisa James. You don't necessarily have to have a full length novel for characters to shine. Hattie was one funny, scene-stealing character and I hope we are going to see more of her in the future.

5. Secondary overload. Here's a math puzzle. We have a gazillion great secondary characters in Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas, but we don't have enough books left in the series for all of them. Ms. Kleypas, just how are you going to solve that?

6. It's always nice when an author can write about deep friendships. And, that is what we have in Strangers at the Altar by Marguerite Kaye, in the form of Felicity. I'm hoping Ms. Kaye can whip up a book about Felicity.

7. As I said earlier, some secondary characters are not so charming. Let’s take a look at  How to Manage a Marquess by Sally MacKenzie. This book was full of loathsome people. Supposedly there was a great friendship between Jane, Cat and Anne, but I thought their treatment of each other was downright nasty. The only decent characters in this book were two boys, ages 5 and 7.

8. Another Julia Quinn book with a couple of secondary standouts. From Because of Miss Bridgerton we have Georgina and Andrew. Both of them have fully developed depth just waiting to be explored in their own books.

9. Nameless secondary characters. From Courtney Milan's Her Every Wish we have the vibrant, memorable woman with a flower in her lapel and the red-haired little girl. Both of them forced me to want more. 

10. In Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal by Grace Burrowes there is an example of secondary characters who are written better than the leads. I loved Percy and Esther. I think one of the reasons for the attachment to these two was that we were privileged to view them in other books in the series. They were allowed to grow and change. Also, maybe they look so much better because the heroine was such a nit-wit.

And the winner of the secondary character award this year is "lemonade". Yes my little Petunia's this year my award goes to an inanimate object - a liquid – something yellow that you drink. I have never seen so much lemonade consumed as I did in Grace Burrowes’ The Duke's Obsession Bundle (The Heir - The Soldier - The Virtuoso). There would have had to have been a gazillion lemon trees growing in England for this much lemonade to be made - to say nothing of all the sugar. Tons of it. It was phenomenal and it was what I will always remember about these books. I may not remember the titles, but I will remember the books which had alllll the lemonade drinking in them. I can see myself sometime in the future asking: “Hey remember those books that had people drinking lemonade allllll the time? What were the titles of those books? Who wrote those? Man, what a lot of lemonade.“

Garlic Breath award. A lot of times, villains in Romanceland are recognizable because they are fat, greasy, have yellow teeth and eat garlic. But sometimes an author writes a villain who is a surprise - someone you didn't see coming. Some of them have been written so well by the author that they are truly chilling. And, some are memorable for the opposite reason – some are written so badly I wonder what the author was thinking. My Garlic Breath Award goes to the villain or villains who have stayed in my mind long after I've closed the book.

My nominations for this year’s plethora of evil doers are:
1. Sometimes we have cross-overs between the Mommie Dearest awards and the Garlic Breath - this year we have Valentine's father from Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt. Not only is he a nasty father, he's just a nasty guy and he belongs to a group of nasty people, the Lords of Chaos. Ms. Hoyt did some mighty vivid writing with this character and there is never any question as to why our hero Valentine is the way he is. 

2. I never saw this one coming. Yes, there is a surprise villain in Madeline Hunter's The Wicked Duke. The "who killed Percy" mystery was well written and had a satisfying ending. And, I'm not telling who did it.

3. A boat load of villains were in Jo Goodman's depressing The Price of Desire. And, none of the villains got what they deserved, especially the father. It was the Island of Misplaced Villains for them.

4. The missing villain. Kasey Michaels presents us with a villain we never see in A Scandalous Proposal. For me this was a case of lazy writing - really why even have a villain in the story if we don't ever see or hear them.

5. From If His Kiss is Wicked by Jo Goodman, we have a villain who I was never sure if they were a villain or not. Until it was proven they were. The character of Marisol is a fully developed person who might be just be able to slither across a floor. Subtle writing make for a detestable woman.

The winner for the 2016 Garlic Breath award goes to a villain who was well-written and realistically portrayed. And, I long remembered Angus after I put the book down. From The Laird by Grace Burrowes we are presented with an outwardly very charming man who also happens to be a child molester. Angus knows all his victims weaknesses' and he uses them to his advantage. Ms. Burrowes writes with a sensitive hand when revealing the pain of the victims. A truly abhorent villain, realistically drawn and he gets what he deserves. The only problem I had with this story was that the heroine waited too long in confronting the villain of the piece.

Gus award. The Gus award was established for all the well-deserving animals who are present in Romanceland. This year however, I only came across one animal and that was the bee from Julia Quinn's The Viscount who Loved Me. And, I suspect that bee bit the dust after stinging our heroine’s boobs. So, there isn't really any animal out there this year who was memorable enough to win. Sorry Gus.

And now for the big kahuna. Yes, it's time for all those Mr. Toad's to step forward for perusal. Whether they're long, fat, purple, heavily-veined or have hairy partners, they always capture our attention one way or another. There are always a couple of authors out there I can count on for my Timothy Toad Award of 2016. Let’s take a look at this years busy guys.

1. Elizabeth Hoyt's Sweetest Scoundrel. Asa's Mr. Toad has some helping partners in that long dark carriage ride home. Yes, there were some really vivid hand-jive moments accompanied by moaning and groaning. All of it done under the wide-eyed stare of the heroine. This was one vivid hot, steamy - pass the ice moment. 

2. I had to do it! I had to issue a G.G.A.G. Alert (Gigantic Girth and Growing) for Lisa Kleypas' Marrying Winterborne. Anytime a heroine's fingers cannot touch while circling a Mr. Toad is news-worthy (and bloodcurdling). Everything about this guy was big, big, big. This created large saucer-shaped eyes in our heroine's face (another medical condition which should be looked into). Anyway,
Saucer-eyebyphobia seems to be abundant among heroines in Romanceland. Lucky for us we know the cause. Saucer-eyebyphobia is known to be caused while staring at big giant planks, which in this case belonged to our hero, Rhys

3. In Happily Wedded Bliss by Tracy Anne Warren. We had to call in the can-openers to make sure that Gabriel's big humongous Mr. Toad would fit into our heroines itty-bitty love tunnel. All that prying, poking, and spreading made me rather ill.

4. Sometimes no matter how much I love a book there is just waaay toooo much Mr. Toad action. For instance in Tall, Dark and Wicked by Madeline Hunter, Ives' Mr. Toad was one heck of a hyper-active guy. He was always up and ready to go anywhere on a moment’s notice - and he did. Chairs, floors, walls, tables, stairs, etc. He and his finger-puppets were one energetic inventive group of performers.

But even with all these entertaining guys we have one who stood out among all of his brothers. The winner for this year’s prestigious Timothy Toad Award of 2016 is from the otherwise dismal How to Manage a Marquess by Sally MacKenzie. Not only is Nathaniel's Timothy Toad big, enormous, huge - he's also chatty. He talks, he tells jokes, and he’s an all-around great conversationalist. In fact he talks so much, I didn't even notice when the big wonka-donka moment occurred. Rumor has it that he has since joined Toastmasters.

Funny moments. Usually, I don't give out awards for being funny, but there was one book that had one of the biggest laugh-out loud moments of the year when I read it. I laughed so hard I giggled afterward. The wonderful mother/daughter explanation about the birds and bees using vegetables as props from Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare is a must read.

2017. Well another year is on the horizon. I'm not sure what I'm looking forward to. I do know I'm sad the last of Maiden Lane series will be coming in 2017. There are also a couple of historical writers, Julie Anne Long and Elizabeth Hoyt who are penning contemporary romances. That always makes me anxious for the historical romance world. I, of course, am always on the lookout for authors to glom and have recently found one by the name of Emily Larkin who writes with a touch of paranormal mixed in her historicals. I'm also waiting for another Courtney Milan. Wondering why Karen Ranney isn't on my auto-buy list. And, authors, keep those Timothy Toads coming.

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