Classic Romances - Which One First? Linda Howard Recommendations

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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. 


Kill and TellKill 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.

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Dream Man - Linda HowardDream 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.

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Mackenzie's LegacyMackenzie's Heroes 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.

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.

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Mr PerfectMr. 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!

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.”

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After the Night

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.

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Cry no More

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.

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Heart of Fire

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.”
“My attitude?”
“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….

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Midnight Rainbow

Midnight Rainbow

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.”

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo



Son of the Morning

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.'”

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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.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    MarieC says:

    Love Linda Howard’s older stories!

    In addition to Angela’s recs, I’d add “All the Queen’s Men” (sort of a sequel to “Kill and Tell”)and “Open Season”.

  2. 2
    Lisa J says:

    McKenzie’s Mountain was the first Linda Howard book I read.  I just reread the whole series for the bazillionth time.  I love those books.  Almost Forever is another good old skool Silhouette.

  3. 3
    Amanda says:

    I loved Mackenzie’s Mountain but hadn’t realized more books came after it.  Maybe I will give them a try but hard to imagine they will live up to the first one.

  4. 4
    Fran says:

    Some great recs, but Open Season also needs to be there.  I cackle every time, and it’s one of the few books with a makeover and a considerably inexperienced heroine that don’t make me cringe. Dying to Please is my second favorite, probably. I pick it up when I want to cry a little bit before the HEA.

  5. 5
    Karin says:

    @Amanda, oh but they do! Also wanted to add, if you love Dream Man, Now You See Her is another good one with a slightly psychic heroine and uber-macho hero.

  6. 6
    jean wilson says:

    MacKenzie’s Mountain is one of my all time favorite books.  I’ll always remember the opening line:  “He needed a woman, bad.”  What a hook.

  7. 7
    Lindleep says:

    I’m also not a fan of Kill and Tell and Son of the Morning didn’t do anything for me. Otherwise I agree with every rec here. However, I am SHOCKED that Open Season is not on the list. It’s hilarious and one of my Linda Howard favs. It’s worth reading for the “which condom from the Party Pac?” scene alone.

  8. 8
    ReneeG says:

    Thank heavens for libraries! I’m definitely scenting some catnip in the air!

  9. 9
    Julie Brannagh says:

    WHAT? No OPEN SEASON? Hunky chief of police, shy librarian, makeovers and jumbo boxes of condoms and creepy villains, oh my.

    I’ve read and re-read it over the years. What a great book.

  10. 10
    Amanda says:

    @Karin, The more I think about it the more I want to try the rest of the series.  Since they don’t seem to come in kindle versions the library or maybe a used bookstore will be in my near future

  11. 11
    Diana says:

    I love all of these titles, but the one that still haunts me is Cry No More. It was gut-wrenching, honest, and beautiful, and the heroine was one of the most courageous mothers you could ever hope to meet.

  12. 12
    Erin Burns says:

    For anyone looking to read into Linda Howard’s backlist, there is quite a variety available on openlibrary. You know, for anyone like me who doesn’t want to spend money, or you know, even waste time leaving the house.

  13. 13
    Ova says:

    Dream Man is one of my favorite Linda Howard novels. Another one, with a somewhat similar heroine, is Now You See Her, which had a description of a “kick-ass blue” sky that I never forgot. Howard’s got a kink for man-sweat that I don’t really share, but I like her heroines.

  14. 14
    anngeewhiz says:

    While I love “Mr. Perfect,” I ADORE the Blair Mallory set. If you don’t like first person—don’t read them. But these are go to make me laugh and feel better books. I reread them at least twice a year!

    “To Die For”
    “Drop Dead Gorgeous”


  15. 15
    DonnaMarie says:

    @Amanda, you must read the rest of the Mackenzie books! Or at least up to Zane, the prototype for all Navy SEALS who came after. He kicks ass, saves the girl and he has PREGANCY RADAR!! Yes, he can sense the pg vibe from thousands of miles away!!

    @anngeewhiz, I agree. I adore the Blair Mallory books. He stopped dating her because he got the sense that she was high maintenance. BWAHAHAHAHA! So funny!! I want a Blair ready to go into labor book. I’ve been lobbying for it, but so far, no luck.

    And, cause I love it so much, here’s more Heart of Fire which I reread right after the Which One First post since I had it in my hand and all.

    ‘What do you mean, you’ve never had sex in a hammock? You told me specifically that you had. We’ve discussed it at least twice. Are you saying you’ve been lying to me all along, just to make me jealous?’
    ‘I never told you I’d had sex in a hammock.’
    ‘Yes, you did. On our first night aboard the boat.’
    ‘You asked if I’d ever ‘done it’ in a hammock. Since we had just settled down to go to sleep and you didn’t specify what you meant by ‘it,’ I put my own interpretation on it and assumed you meant ‘sleep.’ The you asked where I ‘did it’ in a hammock, and I said on my balcony. End of discussion.’

  16. 16
    Kate Pearce says:

    Duncan’s Bride :) bitter cowboy/rancher, mail order bride old skool Harlequin. A heroine who just wipes the floor with her hero (the chicken dinner scene) until he has to grovel in front of the whole town. One of my top ten best romances ever and a regular re-read.

  17. 17
    Sandy C. says:

    From her category romances, I’d like to add “The Cutting Edge”.  It rips your heart out due to the hero’s determination to believe the worst of her, but I still loved it.  And yes, “Open Season” should have definitely made it onto that list! Daisy was sweet, sensible, and she didn’t take any nonsense. In fact, come to think of it, she’s one of my favorite heroines of all time.

  18. 18
    Thel says:

    Cry No More… yes! Jesus… I read this book mostly at work and got to The Scene (those who have read it know exactly which one I’m talking about) while on my lunch break one day. My supervisor walked in on me in my ugliest cry ever, he was seriously concerned that someone had died. I still get a huge lump in my throat whenever I reread it, it’s just so utterly heart breaking every time.

  19. 19
    LizzieBee says:

    I totally voted for ‘Son of the Morning’ Here, but two of my favourites are a bit off the beaten track for “favourites – book to introduce Linda Howard to a friend”.

    “Cover of Night”
    Is a bit different, but the pace of this book and the way the protagonist just steps in and completely takes control of the issue, after he’s been portrayed as the strong-and-silent type who-doesn’t-say-boo-to-the-heroine, is awesome.

    “Shades of Twilight”
    Is a book I constantly go back to, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it to a friend to read as their first LH book though. It stuffs with my head a bit, but I think that’s why I re-read it so much.

    But I re-read these at least once a year. WHO KNOWS WHY. It’s Linda Howard. I’m addicted.

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