It’s Top Ten Tuesday. This week, we’re posting a list of ten books that defied our expectations and turned out to be pleasant surprises.
Top Ten Tuesday
It’s Top Ten Tuesday, where we post a list of 10 of our best/favorite/most important book-ish-related items, depending on the theme of the week. Thank you to That Artsy Reader Girl for providing us with this feature and creative ideas.
“Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.”
This Week’s Theme
For September 5, the theme is “Books That Defied My Expectations.” These should be:
“Books you thought you wouldn’t like that you loved, books you thought you’d love but didn’t, books that were not the genres they seemed to be, or in any other way subverted your expectations!”(Submitted by Sia at everybookadoorway.com)
We’ve been so disappointed by so many books in our reading histories! Plus, we’re trying not always to be so negative. So this Tuesday, we will limit this list to only positive subversions of expectations.
The Top Ten Tuesday List
For this Top Ten Tuesday, we list ten romance novels that defied our expectations. These books turned out to be pleasant surprises that we thoroughly enjoyed.
1. The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts, 1972
Although I am a horror fan and a romance reader, I’m not typically drawn to creepy Gothic romances. However, The Curse of Kenton surpassed my expectations with its well-crafted storyline and engaging heroine. The strong characterization and the vivid atmosphere took me by surprise, making me rethink my assumptions about this genre.
2. Temporary Wife by Roberta Leigh, 1974
As I’ve often talked about in Sweet Savage Flame, Temporary Wife is a category romance novel that unexpectedly delighted me. What made it particularly surprising was its protagonist, Emily Lamb, whose complexity and agency were much richer than the standard fare often encountered in short escapist fiction.
3. Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald, 1988
I had initially dismissed Smoke in the Wind as just another Harlequin title but was stunned by the depth of character development and the intricate plot twists. It offered much more substance and complexity than I had anticipated, making it a memorable read.
4. Lovefire by Deana James, 1985
With a name like Lovefire, I was prepared for a clichéd, over-the-top love story. However, the novel’s emotional depth and the characters’ growth arcs were completely unexpected. The story hit much harder than I thought it would, offering a surprising and engaging piece of historical fiction.
5. Midnight Bride by Kathleen Drymon, 1991
The cover and the blurb led me to believe that Midnight Bride would be another mediocre Zebra romance. I was entirely unprepared for the elements of mystery and suspense that made it a much richer experience than I’d expected. This American Revolution-era take on the Scarlet Pimpernel was a fun blast.
6. Passion by Lisa Valdez, 2005
I prefer my romances to be light on erotica. But I had heard so much about the controversial book Passion by Lisa Valdez that curiosity made me read it. Despite some ludicrous elements like the hero’s penis being so huge it bursts through the heroine’s cervix, to my surprise, Passion was more than just sex. This is a well-researched period piece with depth, substance, emotion, and, yes, lots of passion.
7. Patience by Lisa Valdez, 2010
For the sequel to Passion, I had high expectations, but even those were surpassed. The character development and emotional nuances in Patience make it a standout, even in a genre saturated with compelling narratives.
8. A Lady Awakened by Celia Grant, 2011
This book defied expectations through its unique approach to the genre. Far from the light-hearted or overly dramatic romances I was used to, A Lady Awakened showcased a deeper, more complex narrative that immediately drew me in. The awkward, unpleasant sex between the cold and calculating heroine and the free-spirited hero allows them to focus on building emotional closeness instead.
9. When Passion Rules by Johanna Lindsey, 2015
Knowing Lindsey’s reputation, I was expecting an enjoyable but typical romance. However, this novel delivered much more. The interplay of historical elements with an intricate plot made it a far more engrossing read than anticipated.
10. Transcendence by Shay Savage, 2014
Initially, the book’s premise made me hesitant; it’s not often you come across prehistoric romance. But Transcendence defied every expectation with its original storyline and emotionally resonant characters, making it a unique but thoroughly enjoyable experience in the romance genre.
What do you think of our picks for the top ten list? Were there any titles on this list that also defied your expectations? If not, what book has impressed or surprised you?
As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!