Judith McNaught is one of the romance authors whose books have been read by so many, for so many years, she's a mainstay in terms of reader best-of lists. Some readers couldn't say enough amazing things about McNaught's novels, while others struggle with the old-skool heroes, particularly those who rely on the “all women are evil” trope to justify some really shitful behavior.
So compiling a list of reader favorites and recommendations for someone who hasn't tried McNaught proved a bit tricky. Based on reader comments, there are some that are loved without reservation – while those same titles are equally hated by other readers. Here's the list of recommended books, and one caution.
Recommended by Daisy, Lauren Willig, and many others. 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!” Kiersten wrote, “McNaught was one of my first keeper authors. I knew every book would break my heart in the middle (seriously, actual pain in my chest during AH courtroom scene) but that the resolution would be amazing and the characters would stay with me forever…and they have.”
Emily says, “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.)” Elyssa agrees: “I'd definitely go with PERFECT for the contemporary romance reader.”
Amitatuq also loved Perfect, as did Wmc216: “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.”
Maura says, “The first Judith McNaught book I ever read was Perfect. I loved it so much that as soon as I read the last sentence, I flipped to book back to the first page and read the whole thing again.”
Some readers didn't like it at all, while others, like Kaetrin, adore it. Kaetrin says, “I still remember the scene where Jordan was embarrassedly trying to explain to Alexandra how babies were made and she exclaims “Oh, you don't know either!”
Kara says, “I read Whitney My Love and Something Wonderful almost obsessively. I was 13 the first time I read them, and a LOT of what was going on was over my head. Now, going back over them, I realize how rapey these books actually are. But, my gosh, I can't through Something Wonderful without weeping buckets.”
Many readers also warned that while “Whitney, My Love” is a classic and often the first romance that some readers experienced, it's also difficult to enjoy – especially if you read the original version. Lynn M put it best when she said, “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.”
Some readers were turned off entirely by the original edition of Whitney, and nearly turned away from the genre based on that introduction. Pamelia wrote: “Whitney My Love lives in my “WTF was that??!” pile— I thought it was terrible :rapey, melodramatic with an unforgiveably jumps-to-wrong-conclusions-hero who has to be the worst I've ever encountered (and I'm a BIG fan of Kathleen Woodiwiss books so that should give you some idea of the high level of ass-hattery I can tolerate.)”
In the comments of the last “Classic Romance: Which One First?,” a suggestion was floated that if I do another edition for another author, I include a poll that allows folks to vote which one they like best. I'm totally open to doing that except (a) I worry that I'd forget a book, and (b) it wouldn't allow you to select more than one (I think). But for the next one I do, I'll try to do a poll and see how it works out. Any suggestions of which author with a hefty, healthy backlist I should request recommendations for next?