I read a lot. I also give away a lot of books, otherwise I'd end up being one of those people you read about who died but it took forever for someone to notice because he/she was buried under a giant pile of books. What this means is that I have to be very selective about what I keep once I've finished reading it. Sometimes it's an individual book or sometimes it's everything by a specific author.
Jennifer Crusie has a spot on my "keeper shelf," as do Jill Shalvis and Jill Mansell (and a number of non-romance authors, like Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi and Ian Rankin). The really sad thing is that I'm starting to run out of room but keep adding authors and books that I really love. And, now, two of my keeper-shelf authors have compounded my dilemma by publishing new works this summer.
Loretta Chase has been keeper material for a while now, and her newest, Silk Is for Seduction, was just another reminder as to why she's earned that coveted spot. It's full of Chase's trademark wit and clever, snappy dialogue, but there's an undertone of melancholy that actually led me to believe that it was possible our hero and heroine would not get a traditional Happily Ever After. And, the real surprise was, I was okay with that, which says a lot about Ms. Chase's skill as a writer. The journey these two take to love is so mature and adult that it's easy for the reader to believe that they would sacrifice their own happiness for that of the other, as well as that of the people around them -- which totally makes this sound like a downer. It's not. It's just not light and fluffy. You have to work for the happy ending, but it's very, very worth it.
Confessions of an Improper Bride by Jennifer Haymore is another that isn't an easy trip to the HEA, but it's very worth it. Let's get the ridiculous plot out of the way first. There are twins. One has a scandal. They are sailing home, and one gets pulled overboard. (Of course, it's not the scandalous twin.) Mama keeps up a correspondence with the good twin's beau, and he eventually proposes. Scandalous twin must return to England and marry good twin's love. While there, she naturally hooks up with the man who was the cause of her downfall. Things get messy. Wow. It sounds even more ridiculous when summarized that way. But Haymore makes it work, and work well. Like Chase, she makes the reader doubt that the hero and heroine will get their HEA because they're the kind of people who are all too willing to sacrifice for those they love. This is the first book in a series, and I'm really hoping that the good twin (whose body was never recovered) turns up alive and healthy and slightly feral from living away from society in some tropical island paradise. I have faith that Haymore could make that ridiculous plot work, too.