We have a semi-regular feature wherein we develop recommendation lists for authors with extensive backlists, so extensive they might be a bit daunting to anyone who hasn't read that author before. It's called Classic Romance- Which One First?, and we've done a few, including Elizabeth Lowell, Johanna Lindsey, Julie Garwood and Jude Deveraux.
Thanks to many, many awesome suggestion on Facebook, we've got a fun edition: Linda Howard!
Here's the thing: I don't actually like Linda Howard's backlist. I dislike romantic suspense, and I really dislike insta-love, presumptuous alpha heroes, and …well, that's a lot of the Howard backlist right there.
My dislike of the Howard backlist has caused very (VERY) heated meal discussions in restaurants wherein I rightfully defend my position that a dude who puts the condom on a half hour before sexxytimes and dances around his balcony with a rubber on beneath his pants is NOT excused from such presumptuous behaviour by the fact that he has ferns and hairy toes. FERNS do NOT MAKE IT OK.
My most frequent sparring opponent in the Linda Howard debate is Angela James, so I asked her for her Linda Howard recommendations – and of course she had many. Here are Angie's recommendations:
If you don’t like alpha males, most of these Linda Howard recs probably won’t be for you. I happen to like my contemporary romances with a bossy, protective alpha male and a small side of crazy in the story (what I like to call contemporary crack), and I like them to be fast-paced and not overly angsty. Because of how I like a little over-the-top in some of my contemporary romances, I recognize that Linda Howard isn’t for everyone.
But now that you know what I like in my Linda Howard books, here’s where I think readers new to her should start.
Kill and Tell (Book one of CIA’s Spies): Also known as the book that Sarah and I can’t discuss without arguing about it. This book has it all: A hot, protective New Orleans detective who’s just a little bit of an ass and a whole lot of sexy; a heroine in distress who may be in distress but is still no idiot; and just enough of a suspense plot to keep things snappy and give the reader a fast-moving story.
(Sarah adds unintelligible noises of frustration at this time. Also, true story, Kill and Tell is one of the reasons this site came to exist – I had to find a way to vent because the hero pissed me off so badly, and because I'd paid $8 for the book.)
Dream Man: Detective Dane Hollister may be one of my favorite Howard heroes. He is seriously bossy and just kind of moves in and takes over making sure nothing happens to the heroine. It’s delicious seeing this big, macho guy who really doesn’t want to be into a woman he thinks is an attention whore—she’s psychic, but don’t worry, that doesn’t make this book read as a paranormal, it just works to make the emotional conflict supercharge—but he sees something in her he just absolutely feels driven to protect and cherish. I’m telling you…delicious.
Mackenzie’s Mountain: With this one, I’m going truly old school. This Howard book, which you can find now in a 2-in-1 called Mackenzie’s Legacy is representative of some of the best of the category romance of its time (from the Silhouette Intimate Moments line). One of those loner hero saved by the spunky heroine stories. Wonderful for the sense of believing that these two people were made for each other. And even more excellent: Howard went on to write stories about the adult children of these two characters, stories that are equally as old school and prove that this series is like Pringles—you can’t read just one.
Mr. Perfect: This last rec is for people who know they’ll absolutely hate the first three recommendations. Linda Howard started writing what felt like a different type of book about fifteen years ago or so, and Mr. Perfect is probably the best example of this new type of book. Less of the bossy, alpha male, even more focus on the heroine, and a different type of suspense feel. I admit I prefer the older Linda Howard style, but there are plenty of fans of the new style, and this would be my top recommendation for those who don’t want to try the other three!
Last, just for fun, if you want to base your choice on book cover, my daughter would recommend Drop Dead Gorgeous. I had a mass market copy of this book, with its hot pink cover, when it first released. My daughter (who now calls pink her mortal enemy), was three at the time I owned it and carried that mass market around for nearly six months calling it “my book”. She loved it so much, she’d take it to bed, she’d clutch in her arms while watching TV, she didn’t want anyone else to touch it.
That should be enough to get us started. And Linda Howard's backlist is rather extensive, for sure. This might be a tough list to build, I think.
Which Linda Howard novel would you recommend a new reader try first, and why?