Time to collect all the recommendations you made for various Linda Howard books, designed to tempt the reader who is curious but perhaps intimidated by the breadth of her backlist.
I want to start by reprinting some of Angela James' recommendations, along with your comments, and then I'll feature the other books you recommended so heartily.
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.
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.
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.
Others in our comment thread agreed about this series. Lisa J says, “I LOVE Mackenzie’s Mountain. My sister and I very rarely agree on books and even she (a woman with mostly poor taste in books – because she doesn’t agree with me) loved this series. It’s one of the few we agree on.”
Erica H says the Mackenzie series as a whole is awesome. Cayenne agrees: “I loved the Mackenzies, especially Zane: alpha-not-alphahole, SEALs, and Benghazi before it was A Thing. Plus sexytimes in questionable locations.”
Karin says she's read Mackenzie’s Pleasure, “like a dozen times, it’s so full of my catnip. Linda Howard may have started the whole Seal Team genre with this book. The heroine has been kidnapped by terrorists and she gets rescued by Mackenzie and his team. The hero is alpha, but he’s not a douche. And his Seal Team buddies are adorable. I like the other Mackenzie books too, including a novella about the only Mackenzie sister, “Mackenzie’s Magic”. IMO, the only Mackenzie who’s a douche is Chance, the hero of A Game of Chance.
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!
Mr. Perfect had a lot of fans in our comment thread as well. Cate wrote, “I love Mr Perfect… that’s a cracking LH starter, but I also love a lot of her older books, Son of the Morning, Dream Man, her CIA series featuring the luscious Kell Sabin, some of the Mackenzie series, and All the Queens Men. She [Howard] may well be the marmite of the romance world, but that’s fine with me, because I love marmite!”
Amelia adds, “I love Mr. Perfect! It is one of my favorites and one I recommend to people all the time.” Des Livres agrees: “I adore Open Season and Mr Perfect. They are both hilarious.”
After the Night
Several recommendations for After the Night were made in our original discussion. Lynne Connolly says it has “the hottest, funniest public bathroom scene I have ever read. The hero might not be to everybody’s taste, but oh, mama, I’ll take him off your hands!”
Bev QB wrote, “As for the hot and heavy books, the two that stick in my mind are After the Night because they actually joked around in bed. GASP! And there were some weird-ass twists in the story.”
Here's the cover copy:
FAITH DEVLIN: A poor, outcast child in Prescott, Louisiana, she'd always adored the town's golden boy from afar. But he called her white trash that sultry Southern night when his rich, respected father disappeared, along with her pretty Mom. Now Faith wanted to hate Gray Rouillard…not to feel a powerful surge of desire. But she couldn't quench her passion, any more than she could hide the truth about the past she had waited so long to unravel.
GRAY ROUILLARD: Even when he raised hell, he did it with style. Reckless, charming, and backed by Rouillard money, Gray controlled the town of Prescott — and Devlin was a name he never wanted to hear again. But when he gazed at Faith Devlin, all he saw was a swirl of tangled sheets and her silken flesh beneath him. To care for her was impossible, unthinkable…because Gray Rouillard planned to use all his power to ruin her.
Cry No More
There were so many recommendations for this book, it's amazing. But be ye warned: ugly cry book ahoy! Darlene Marshall says, “I’d have to add Cry No More to the list. It’s wrenching, well written, and the hero stands out as different from so many others. He’s quiet, wears his seat belt, he’s a registered voter, and he can kill you without blinking. James Diaz is also Mexican-American. Given the massive numbers of Latino residents in the United States, I’m only surprised we don’t see them more often in romance novels. I think we’re moving in this direction, but Howard was there years ago.”
Erin K wrote, “Cry No More is the only Linda Howard book I have read. You and Jane mentioned it on a podcast at one point and I listened to it on audiobook. It nearly killed me. So heart wrenching.”
Jace agrees: “Cry No More should’ve been on this list. The heroine is strong, and kicks ass, while the hero is a hitman but is also kind and supporting. And hot.” BevQB adds, “Cry No More made me ugly-cry SOB… loudly. It was so heart wrenching, both sad and happy, that I’ve never been able to read it again. And I’ve never forgotten it.”
RavenA says, “No matter how many times I start this book all I do is cry – I’ve never been able to make it all the way through…I think her ability to write so effectively about the destruction the loss of a child causes is incredible. (Seriously, I’m tearing up just thinking about that story).”
Here's the cover copy:
Count your blessings; they can be snatched away in an instant. It is a sentiment Milla Edge knows too well. With an astonishing blend of savvy, instinct, and passion, Milla displays an uncanny gift for finding lost children. When all seems helpless, desperate souls from across the country come to her for hope and results. Driven by an obsessive desire to fill the void in other people's lives, Milla throws herself into every case–all the while trying to outrun the brutal emotions stemming from a horrific tragedy in her past.
Traveling to a small village in Mexico on a reliable tip, Milla begins to uncover the dire fate of countless children who have disappeared over the years in the labyrinth of a sinister baby-smuggling ring. The key to nailing down the organization may rest with an elusive one-eyed man. To find him, Milla joins forces with James Diaz, a suspicious stranger known as the Tracker who conceals his own sinister agenda.
As the search intensifies, the mission becomes more treacherous. For the ring is part of something far larger and more dangerous, reaching the highest echelons of power and influence. Caught between growing passion and imminent peril, Milla suddenly finds herself the hunted–in the crosshairs
of an invisible, lethal assassin who aims to silence her permanently.
Heart of Fire
This novel also some recommendations, including one that includes some hilarious dialogue.
Juliana K wrote, “Linda Howard was one of my first forays into romance reading. Her backlist is hit & miss for me, and I don’t read much of her now, but Heart of Fire (alpha hero, archaeologist heroine, Amazon rainforest = crack) and Dying to Please ( A | BN | K | ARe | iB)(the “You want me to fight you for it?” scene in the basement!?!) are guilty pleasures that just won’t die.”
Donna Marie: her first half dozen Pocket Star stand alones are absolute keepers for me, with Heart of Fire being my absolute favorite. OMG, do Ben & Jillian make me laugh:
“It’s just…you attitude gets on my nerves.”
“Don’t sound so bewildered. Your attitude. You know, the attitude that you’re God’s gift to women and can have any woman you want, whenever you want.”
He crossed his arms. “I pretty much can.”
She crossed her arms. “Except me.”
“So that’s it,” he said slowly. “You’re doing it just for spite.”
It’s like she listened to all our problems with her alphole heroes, took Ben to the outer limits of assness and then gave him a woman who couldn’t stop calling him on his shit, and certainly didn’t take any.
Here's the cover copy:
A fabulous lost Amazon city once inhabited by women warriors and containing a rare red diamond: it sounded like myth, but archeologist Jillian Sherwood believed it was real, and she was willing to put up with anything to find it — even Ben Lewis. Ruffian, knock-about, and number one river guide in Brazil, Ben was all man — over six feet of rock-hard muscles that rippled under his khakis, with lazy blue eyes that taunted her from his tanned face.
Jillian watched him come to a fast boil when she refused to reveal their exact destination upriver in the uncharted rain forests — and resolved to stand her ground. Neither of them could foresee what the days ahead promised: an odyssey into the fiery heart of passion and betrayal, and a danger that would force them to cast their fates together, immersed in the eternal, unsolved mysteries of love….
Laura T wrote, “I think this might be one of her category romances. I “borrowed” it from under my mom’s bed and read it at a very impressionable age. Maybe that’s why it looms so large in my memory. But I loved it and read it over and over!”
Barb in Maryland agreed: “Midnight Rainbow has already been mentioned and the other three—Diamond Bay, Heartbreaker and White Lies are equally fabulous.
Taylor R echoed their comments and said, “I read Midnight Rainbow when I was in high school and have been hooked ever since. I could go to a desert isle with *only* Linda Howard books and be perfectly happy marooned for years.”
Son of the Morning
This is a reader favorite for many. Vandy J said, “I love Son of the Morning and re-read it yearly.”
BevQB wrote, “Son of the Morning is on my all time favorite books list. The blurb doesn’t do it justice so just pick up this time travel/murder mystery/suspense/thriller/Highland Romance/Da Vinci Code mash-up book and you won’t be able to put it down until it’s done. I stayed up till 4am even knowing that I had to get up with 4 little ones the next morning. It was that good!”
And Dibs said, “As a long-time romance reader, I really enjoy the books where she takes a chance and plays with the genre: Son of the Morning and Shadow Woman. In both of these Howard creates fascination between the H/H without the standard 'cute meet, getting to know you, and slow tumble into bed.'”
If you're curious about this feature, wherein we develop recommendation lists for authors with extensive backlists, you can check out all the Classic Romance- Which One First? posts. We've done recommendation lists for Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell, Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood and Jude Deveraux, and many others.