Five romance novels made the Publisher's Weekly Best Books of 2010 list -- a listing of the top 100 books of a given year by the PW staff.
The yearly list always makes me think about what makes a good book for me, and that changes a little each year. Mostly it is characterization, but I've come to realize that whether a story grabs my attention for the characters or the plot, it's really about the details.
The way the hero is hard on the outside but squishy on the inside - maybe he has a rescued mutt or maybe he donates millions to charity or maybe he just holds open doors. Or maybe all three.
The way the villian makes no sense and yet is totally sensible and believable.
The way the heroine grows to become the woman she maybe thought she already was.
Those details keep me turning pages long past midnight, sometimes make me forget to start dinner and always make me sigh...and hope that I'm doing the same in my books.
Oh, back to the list, here are the romances that made it:
The Forbidden Rose, Joanna Bourne (Berkley Sensation)
In mid-revolution France, a noblewoman and a spy are torn between wartime practicality and headstrong passion. The gripping espionage story and wry voiceovers from the heroine will win hearts.
The Iron Duke, Meljean Brook (Berkley)
Brook's fabulous steampunk tale has an iron-boned war hero and a half-Asian detective inspector matching wits and wills on airships and battleships and in smoke-choked London as England recovers from 200 years of Mongol rule.
The Heir, Grace Burrowes (Sourcebooks Casablanca)
Burrowes pulls off an improbable Regency affair between a spoiled ducal heir and a housekeeper with a secret.
Barely a Lady, Eileen Dreyer (Grand Central/Forever)
The wartime amnesia romance is as old as the hills, but RWA Hall of Famer Dreyer (aka Kathleen Korbel) makes this one work.
Trial by Desire, Courtney Milan (HQN)
Modern readers will be as intrigued by the Victorian-era political issues as they are by the central story of a man trying to reconnect with the wife he abandoned.