As of this writing, Amazon’s Kindle store lists 9,008 new romance releases–in the last 30 days! A few minutes later, that number, which includes includes novellas and boxed sets, had already increased by two. Back in the day, I used to think I was keeping up with the books I wanted to read, even though I had to physically visit a store and/or a library to get them. Today, the number of books old and new that are available for instant consumption is overwhelming.
Though there are so many great new books, I thought I’d share my favorite old books. Years ago, once these oldies-but-goodies left the shelves, they were gone unless you could borrow from a friend or library or find them at a used book sale. Now, many of them are available online so new readers can discover and enjoy them.
I don’t remember how I got my hands on it, but I think Kathleen Woodiwiss’ Shanna was the first romance novel I read. That amazing book led me to her others, including one of my all-time favorites, The Wolf and the Dove. I also liked Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers. Because I love (and now write) medievals with actual history in them, I devoured Roberta Gellis’ Roselynde Chronicles. My favorite was Alinor (book 2). Is there anyone who doesn’t love A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux? Then I discovered Judith McNaught. I liked the perennial classic Whitney, My Love, but prefer A Kingdom of Dreams. Next I found Julie Garwood…nine of her books remain on my keeper shelf, including The Prize, The Secret and Honor’s Splendour.
I couldn’t put down Barbara Erskine’s 700+ page medievals, Lady of Hay and Kingdom of Shadows. Other keeper shelf worthy books were Susan Wiggs’ Vows Made in Wine. One part (I don’t remember which) made me cry. Not just because the story was moving, but because I knew I could never write anything that good. Susan King’s Raven’s Wish and two of her Maiden series--The Stone Maiden and The Swan Maiden made the list. And Mary Jo Putney’s Shattered Rainbows. Later, I made room for Madeline Hunter’s medievals, including By Arrangement, on my shelves.
These are some of the books I still remember, though I read them many years ago. Are any of these books new-to-you, or are they among your keepers? What’s your favorite oldie-but-goodie?
Could she defy her king for love?
England 1453: King Henry VI sends Sir Nicholas Gray to protect the recently widowed Lady Amice Winfield from undesirable suitors. Though Nicholas intrigues her, she yearns to run Castle Rising without a man’s control.
Nicholas has no interest in marriage, but can’t deny he’s attracted to Amice. He’s surprised to finally find in Castle Rising a place he feels at home. A kiss sparks desire neither can ignore, yet serving opposing factions seeking to govern England threatens to pull them apart.
At court, the king and queen reject Amice’s pleas and choose a new husband for her, a highly-ranked lord who’ll provide connections and coin for the king’s depleted coffers that Nicholas cannot. How can she follow the king’s command when she’s a scribe for his rival? How can she marry another man when she’s falling in love with Nicholas?
AT HIS COMMAND:
Excerpt: Chapter 1
Norfolk, England — April 1453
Sir Nicholas Grey’s scout leaned forward in his saddle, holding up two fingers to let the others know two horses approached. Nicholas heard only the slight jangling of harnesses blended with wind rattling through the trees, but relied on his scout’s uncanny ability to hear what no one else could.
He and his eight men sat alert, deep enough in the forest to avoid being seen while maintaining a clear view of the road through leafless branches. Nine armed men could frighten travelers. ‘Twas best to let them pass.
Each man watched, each horse sinking deeper into chilling mire as a mud-covered, black palfrey plodded over the rise in the road, its long mane whipping in the frigid winds.
“No rider,” Martin, the scout, murmured.
“Look again,” Nicholas replied. At first he too had thought the horse was riderless. Now he could see a woman collapsed on the animal’s back. Her dark hair draped down its flank, mingling with the horse’s mane. The palfrey placed each step as if trying not to jostle its burden.
Another horse, this one a brown rouncey ridden by a thin, balding man, galloped after the palfrey. A look of triumph brightened the man’s face as he spotted the horse ahead of him. He bent forward, extending his hand. Fingers like talons grasped the woman’s tangled hair.
“Mine!” he cried.
* * *
Amice Winfield jerked awake. Agony forced her head back, allowing her to see the man who gripped her hair as though he’d perish if he let go.
She screamed. Arrows of fear pierced her as she clawed at his fingers. Her horse bolted, leaving her dangling from Harry’s hand by a small clump of hair. The long strands held for a few seconds, then tore from her head.
Pain seared her scalp. She dropped into a puddle. Stunned by her fall and her stinging head, Amice could only stare at her tormentor while freezing water soaked her clothes. How she hated him. How she regretted her desperate flight from home. But what other choice did she have?
Harry gaped at the dark tresses hanging from his hand. He threw them to the ground as she struggled to rise. Panic gripped her as his hostile glare changed to a slow, confident smile.
“There’s nowhere to run. I’ll catch you if it’s the last thing I do,” he vowed. He leapt off his horse.
Amice tugged her sodden skirts, trying to haul them out of the puddle. Where was her mount? Too far away to reach without being caught, weighted down as she was. Sprays of water flew as she heaved her skirts over her arm. Heart racing, she ran for the trees. A branch snagged her. With a cry of frustration, she pulled the wet wool until it wrenched free.
Ignoring twigs tearing at her skin and icy mud that sucked away one of her shoes, she forged ahead. She gasped for air as she plunged into a tiny clearing, then came to an abrupt halt at the sight of a group of mounted men. Slimy hair slapped her face and clung to her cheek.
Panting, cold air stinging her throat, she sought a path to escape the strangers. Alarm coursed through her. She focused on the man at the head of the group. Anxiety and uncertainty warred within her though she sensed an almost tangible power emanating from him. The wind tossed his chin-length black hair as he stared down with a stern expression.
Will he help me? Am I better off with him or…? Before Amice could decide, branches snapped behind her. Harry ran into the clearing. Instinctively she moved closer to the commanding stranger.
“I am Sir Nicholas Grey,” he announced, his voice deep. Confident, yet reassuring. “And you are?”
Harry’s pointy nose wrinkled. She knew he wondered if he could get away with a lie. “This miscreant is my daughter. She’s running away because she refuses to marry the man I’ve chosen for her,” Harry said.
“He lies,” Amice protested. “Harry Winfield was my husband’s cousin. He wants to marry me now that my husband is dead, which all know is against—”
“This is none of your affair, Sir Nicholas. ‘Tis a mere family misunderstanding,” Harry said. His spindly fingers closed over her wet arm, sending a shiver of revulsion through her. “Come, sweeting, ‘tis time to go home.”
Silence reigned while she twisted free. Amice hoped Harry’s friendly tone didn’t fool Sir Nicholas. If necessary, she’d beg him to help her. All Amice wanted was to go home and live her life in peace. Without Harry. Without any husband. One had been quite enough.
Sir Nicholas studied her, clearly assessing the veracity of her tale. Something flickered in his piercing blue eyes. The intensity of his gaze unnerved her, but she couldn’t look away. When Sir Nicholas broke their connection, she felt colder than before.
“I come on the king’s business.” He opened his cloak to reveal King Henry’s badge of a chained antelope. “Which makes whatever I choose my affair.”
Had Harry met his match?
Ruth Kaufman is a Chicago author, on-camera and voiceover talent and freelance writer, editor and speaker with a J.D. and a Master’s in Radio/TV. She loves peanut butter and chocolate milkshakes, singing in a symphony chorus and going to the theatre.
Writing accolades include Romance Writers of America® 2011 Golden Heart® winner and runner up in RT Book Reviews’ national American Title II contest. Her true, short story, “The Scrinch” is in the St. Martin’s Press anthology The Spirit of Christmas, foreword by Debbie Macomber.
Credits include roles in indie features, short films, web series and national and local TV commercials, and voicing hundreds of explainer videos, e-learning courses and assorted characters.
Blog Gainfully Unemployed www.rjkaufman.blogspot.com
Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Ruth-Kaufman/e/B00JH7Z40S