Classic Romance - Which One First? Judith McNaught Edition

When I was in high school, I signed a somewhat-friend's yearbook, and I noticed that her best friend had signed the inside cover with a huge paragraph wherein she'd somehow included the title of every Judith McNaught novel (this was in 1993 so there were plenty of them) because they loved those books and read them over and over. That was my introduction to McNaught, and I started with Once and Always.It was all downhill from there.

I love Once and Always for the tortured hero, even if he's a big ol' jerkface in some scenes. Also, I think that's one of the very few times I've encountered a historical hero named “Jason.”



This picture shows my copy of A Kingdom of Dreams, and beneath it is my copy of Perfect. If you open Perfect, it will fall into two pieces, so I rarely touch it. Clearly, these two women in high school were on to something, because once I read those books, I had to read all of them.

And my reaction was the same with Perfect and Paradise: jerkish hero mends his ways, often with a grand gesture that left me in a puddle of sighs.

McNaught is one of the classic names in romance, and I know so many people who have an all-time favorite of hers on their shelves.

Which is your all-time favorite? If you were recommending a McNaught novel to someone who had never read her books, which would you recommend?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Daisy says:

    A Kingdom Of Dreams definitely and then Almost Heaven or vise-versa.  IMO these two are hands down her very best books.

  2. 2
    Killian says:

    My copies of “Paradise” and “Whitney, My Love” are in about the same condition, but all of my McNaughts are in different stages of falling apart, poor things.

  3. 3
    Emily says:

    This is hard!  I’m a bigger fan of her contemporaries.  Perfect is just well… the title speaks for itself. The emphasis of adult illiteracy was really educational without being too preachy.  It’s an important theme and reminded me as a youngster that not everybody gets to have what you have (a love and a passion for reading.) Paradise is amazing also. I’m in the minority but I really like Night Whispers also.  Interesting characters and the introduction of Courtney who appeared in “Someone to Watch Over me.”  If JM writes another book it needs to be Courtney’s.  I guess if I have to pick a historical, A Kingdom of Dreams.

  4. 4
    Cakes says:

    I’ve only ever read Once and Always and just could not deal with all the rape. He rapes her on her wedding night and then feels like a schmuck only because he realizes she was a virgin. Because raping non-virgins is ok?! And then he forces her again later?! I’ve never read another one of her books, even though I liked a lot about the book. But, I could not ever admire the “hero.”

    Are her others rape-free?

  5. 5
    Amitatuq says:

    Perfect was the first of hers that I read and I loved it SOOOO much.  Because I’m OCD I’d probably want someone to read Paradise first (also loved it) because I like things in order.

  6. 6
    Rose says:

    Almost Heaven is by far the best one. I’m not a huge fan of any of her other novels; too many jerk heroes who believe all women are evil (especially in her historicals) and dated-even-when-they-were-published contemporaries.

  7. 7
    ShellBell says:

    Double Standards was the first Judith McNaught book I ever read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but Almost Heaven and the revised edition of Whitney, My Love are my absolute favourites. I am always disappointed when I read Miracles because it is a novella and I always thought that Nicky deserved a novel!

    Whenever I reread Whitney, My Love I also have to read Stephanie Stevens’ Defiant Angel because it is pretty much the same story all over again and I love them both!

  8. 8
    Kaetrin says:

    My first and favourite McNaught was/is Something Wonderful. I still remember the scene where Jordan was embarrasedly trying to explain to Alexandra how babies were made and she exclaims “oh, you don’t know either!”

    I realise that there is a bit of love/hate for this book (and this author’s work generally) but I love it. It’s on my keeper shelf.

  9. 9
    Nicolette says:

    “Double Standards” was my first McNaught, borrowed from a friend.  And then I found “Whitney, My Love” in the library.  But my favourites are “Almost Heaven” (there’s a good reason my son is called Ian) and “Paradise”. “Remember When”, a book nobody else seems to have read, or liked, comes a distant third in my favourites list.

    I’ve gone off her more recent books, to the extent that I never even bought “Every Breath You Take” and wouldn’t have read it if my mom hadn’t brought a second hand copy home when she came back from vacation one year.

  10. 10
    Lynn M says:

    My favorite McNaught has to be “A Kingdom of Dreams” followed by “Whitney My Love”, although I think WML gets that honor only because it was not only one of the first McNaughts I ever read but probably one of the first romances I ever read (along with the entire Woodwiss oevre). While KoD stands the test of time and still is a keeper for me, I have a harder time reading WML now due to the level of Big Mis and Alpha-jerkness of the hero. I actually have copies of both the original edition where Clayton spanks Whitney as well as rapes her along with the newer, PC version of the book. It’s funny to me that a writer actually did cave to fan pressure and re-issued the book with more acceptable scenes.

  11. 11
    Taylor Reynolds says:

    I know I’ve read quite a few of her other books, but “Paradise” is ‘the one’ for me. Now I have to add all the others to the TBR pile so I can remember if I liked them or not!

  12. 12

    I liked the writing in Double Standards but the blatant (even by romance standards) sexism in the workplace really turned me off.  I’d have to go with Paradise and Perfect.

  13. 13
    Lauren Willig says:

    “Almost Heaven” was my first McNaught and my favorite, although it had some stiff competition along the way from “Double Standards” (blonde heroine named Lauren? sign me up!) and “Kingdom of Dreams”.

    I’d also like to thank McNaught for getting me through my 1L year of law school.  I re-read every single one of her books that first term!  (Except “Tender Triumph”.  That one never made it onto the re-read shelf.)

  14. 14
    Wmc216 says:

    ‘Double standards’ was my first JM too! I love all her historicals, but ‘Until You’ is my favorite. I’m not one to cry when I read books or watch movies but ‘Paradise’ and ‘Perfect’ both bring a tear to my eye. And the HEAs leave you with such a warm and fuzzy feeling that you don’t feel the need to pick up another romance for a few days after reading these two.

    PS: I agree that Nicky (and Julianna) deserved a whole novel (and IMHO, a much better journey to their HEA)

  15. 15
    cleo says:

    I’m with Cakes – I couldn’t handle the rape and abuse in the one and only JM I read – Whitney My Love.  I know that a lot of people love, love WML but the rape and general WTF abusive behavior was enough to put JM on my standing Do Not Read list.  Are there any JMs without asshole heroes and without rape?

  16. 16
    Killian says:

    Cleo and Cakes – I’ll admit that there is a scene in Whitney that to this day I just roll my eyes at a skip ahead, even though it is a favorite of mine. Try her contemps maybe? Paradise doesn’t have anything objectionable like that that I can recall off the top of my head…

  17. 17

    Ah! Once and Always was my first romance ever. I was fourteen and my mother had it on the coffee table. I didn’t even know what a romance was when I read it. I’d read a few of mom’s Jackie Collins by then but they weren’t like this! I loved it. Despite it’s flaws -jerky Jason antics, Mary Sue Victoria perfection- I still love it. How can you not love your first romance?

    I’d start with her historicals, Once and Always, Almost Heaven, Kingdom of Dreams, Something Wonderful… and embrace the old skool, over-the-top, classic romance angst.

  18. 18
    Karenmc says:

    I have to go with “A Kingdom of Dreams”. I read “Whitney My Love” and did NOT put it on my keeper shelf.

  19. 19
    Donna Alward says:

    Almost Heaven and Something Wonderful were my two favourites! I cut my Romance reading teeth on Judith and LaVyrle!

  20. 20
    Elyssa says:

    I’d definitely go with PERFECT for the contemporary romance reader. I love that book. And for historicals: UNTIL YOU or ALMOST HEAVEN. I’ve reread UNTIL YOU so many times that I think I wore the book out; the grovel in that book is delicious.

    And I would LOVE if McNaught’s books were available digitally. One day.

  21. 21
    Jeannie Smith says:

    Perfect for the contemporary and A Kingdom of Dreams for the historical (but Something Wonderful is a close second).

  22. 22
    Kristi Davis says:

    Whitney My Love for historical, and Paradise for Contemporary. All of her books are sigh-worthy though and I keep checking on her bulletin board every year for news of this mythical Clayborne contemporary novel supposed to be out ‘sometime’ but I have about given up hope!

  23. 23
    Asia Morela says:

    Having only read Whitney, My Love, Once and Always, Remember When, Perfect, and Double Standards…

    I have to vote for Perfect! Also, though I’m a lover of both contemporary and historical romance, I globally like all of McNaught’s contemporary novels better than her historicals.

  24. 24
    Greeneyelia says:

    I love Double Standards, it was probably the first romance story I ever read. Despite the flawed male lead, in Lauren it also had a strong heroine.

    I misplaced my copy and hadn’t reread it until the beginning of this year and was pleased to find that the story hadn’t lost any of its PTQ, though I have to say that with a cigarette-addicted male lead and a workplace without computers, it pretty much felt like reading a historical :-)

  25. 25
    FarrahRochon says:

    Whitney, My Love for historical romance lovers, and Paradise for the contemporary folks. Although it’s hard for me to decide between her early books, save for Tender Triumph (sorry, Ramon and Katie), W,ML and Paradise are the two that stand out. Have to do a reread soon.

  26. 26
    Noelle says:

    I cannot live without Almost Heaven, A Kingdom of Dreams and Remember When.  I adore most of her historicals and many of her contemporaries, but these three are tops for me!

  27. 27
    Anonymouse says:

    Most of them are. Whitney, My Love has a rape in it. I stopped reading at that point.

  28. 28
    Reberens says:

    I ADORE Remember When… it’s #3 for me after Paradise and Almost Heaven!

  29. 29

    Is there any way you can put this to a vote for those of us who are to lazy to
    A) write a comment
    B) tally up the results ourselves

    the other “Which one first” have over 60 comments each, and I knew the answers to those :)

  30. 30
    Kelly says:

    My first McNaught was a novella, Double Exposure, from a collection my mother bought on holiday in the US as a gift for me. I loved the character of Corey and that lead me onto Remember When, the story of her sister Diana. Then I read the Miracles novella and finally I started on her full historicals with Whitney My Love due to the presence of Nicki.

    My favourite story is the novella I first read, followed by Once And Always then A Kingdom Of Dreams. I always wanted more on Brenna’s story. The one book I didn’t like was Until You – I thought Stephen deserved a much better story than that.

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