My best novels for thrilling, chilling, romantic, blush-free reads

Who am I?

I feel like I’ve read all of my life—though I know at some point someone had to teach me—but stories and storytelling are in my DNA. The first four books were my writing “primers.” I learned more about storytelling from them than any how-to book. They also fueled my passion to write in different genres. You will notice the words “blush free” in some of my recommendations. That is because I love well-told stories that live between prim and steamy, books where I don’t have to flip past the steamy stuff to get back to the story. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!


I wrote...

Relatively Risky: The Big Uneasy Book One

By Pauline Baird Jones,

Book cover of Relatively Risky: The Big Uneasy Book One

What is my book about?

Get lost in the no-holds-barred Big Uneasy, blush-free romantic suspense series! Enjoy the rapid pace and humorous stories filled with lovable characters that will have you taking an armchair trip to the mysterious city of New Orleans! 

The books I picked & why

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Ice Station Zebra

By Alistair MacLean,

Book cover of Ice Station Zebra

Why this book?

I know an action-adventure novel by Alastair Maclean is an odd choice for someone who thrives on romantic suspense, but I have loved his books since I came upon them in the library. His words, his stories grabbed me from the first sentence. The hard part was picking which book to recommend. I have loved most of his books, but Ice Station Zebra holds a special place in my heart. I grew up in Northern Wyoming, where the winters are cold and “ice station zebra” became a catchphrase for really cold in my family. And every time I used the catchphrase, well, I had to go re-read the book again. And if it is a hot day? I promise it will make you shiver with cold.

Ice Station Zebra

By Alistair MacLean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ice Station Zebra as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A classic thriller from the bestselling master of action and suspense.

The atomic submarine Dolphin has impossible orders: to sail beneath the ice floes of the Arctic Ocean, and somehow locate and rescue the men of weather-station Zebra, gutted by fire and drifting with the ice-pack somewhere north of the Arctic Circle.

But the orders do not say what the Dolphin will find if she succeeds - that the fire at Ice Station Zebra was sabotage, and that one of the survivors is a killer.


The Moon-Spinners

By Mary Stewart,

Book cover of The Moon-Spinners

Why this book?

I found The Moon-Spiners through a Disney movie of the same name (book was better). When I found out it was also a book, I went hunting at my local library and fell in love with the way Stewart immediately pulled me into her stories, evoking awe, fear, laughter ,and romance. She wafted me away to exotic places, and into exciting and romantic adventures with strong female characters. I went on to read all her books, even the Arthurian ones, but her romantic suspense books remain my favorites and the ones I turn to when I need a comfortable visit with old fictional friends. 

The Moon-Spinners

By Mary Stewart,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Moon-Spinners as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Impetuous and attractive, Nicola Ferris has just arrived in Crete for a holiday when she sees an egret fly out of a lemon grove. On impulse, she follows the bird’s path into the White Mountains. There she discovers a young Englishman who, hiding out in the hills and less than pleased to have been discovered, sends Nicola packing with the order to keep out of his affairs. This, of course, Nicola is unable to do, and before long events lead to a stunning climax among the fishing boats of Agios Georgios Bay.

            In this bestselling novel, first published in 1963…


Above Suspicion

By Helen MacInnes,

Book cover of Above Suspicion

Why this book?

Helen McInnes books made their way into my family via those Readers Digest Condensed books that used to come in the mail. They were hard bound and heavy to hold, but it was fun to open them and explore new books. The only one I remember, though, is one by Helen McInnes. I had to go find the complete book because when they condense? You miss a lot. I recommend starting with her first book, Above Suspicion. I loved her characters right off. This isn’t one of those stories that starts with a big bang. The tension rises very slowly and you don’t realize you are being wound up like a spring until it’s too late to put it down. And cool factoid, the author was in the OAS in World War II. She knew her stuff. 

Above Suspicion

By Helen MacInnes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Above Suspicion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nazi Germany, 1939. Von Aschenhausen sat on the edge of a large desk, his eyes fixed on the man standing over the girl roped to a chair. "You fool. You stupid little fool. Can't you see I must, I will find out? My patience is limited. Kurt, try some more of your persuasion." The girl felt a hand of iron on her aching shoulder. She struggled weakly against the ropes that held her, but they only cut deeper...

Envious Casca

By Georgette Heyer,

Book cover of Envious Casca

Why this book?

I first fell in love with Georgette Heyer's books when I found her rightly famous Regency novels, but I don’t think her mysteries get enough acclaim. They have the same elements that make the Regencies so fun: great characters, pitch-perfect settings, and in the case of the mysteries, a fun puzzle to explore. 

Envious Casca is a locked room mystery with an ingenious ending and a touch of romance that doesn’t make you blush. It also has Inspector Hemingway, who appears in some of her other mysteries. It is always fun to follow him as he untangles the murder. This book has gone from comfort read to comfort listen of the audiobook version. So. Much. Fun.

Envious Casca

By Georgette Heyer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Envious Casca as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Tis the season—to be dead...

A holiday party takes on a sinister aspect when the colorful assortment of guests discovers there is a killer in their midst. The owner of the substantial estate, that old Scrooge Nathaniel Herriard, is found stabbed in the back. While the delicate matter of inheritance could be the key to this crime, the real conundrum is how any of the suspects could have entered a locked room to commit the foul deed.

For Inspector Hemingway of Scotland Yard, the investigation is complicated by the fact that every guest is hiding something—throwing all of their testimony…


Wreck of the Nebula Dream

By Veronica Scott,

Book cover of Wreck of the Nebula Dream

Why this book?

This recommendation is a little different from the others on my list. This “Titanic in Space” story really caught my imagination. It’s intense, romantic, and wildly believable. It does have romantic tension, but nothing steamy—the characters don’t have time or the safety for messing around. That is also another reason for my recommendation. It is an action and adventure story that includes great world-building and character interactions that make sense. I also love the author’s other books, but they aren’t blush-free. I do have to flip some pages to get past the steam. But it’s the Titanic! In space! Super fun read.

Wreck of the Nebula Dream

By Veronica Scott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wreck of the Nebula Dream as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A reimagining of the Titanic disaster set in the far future among the stars…

Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, space marine Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.

All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, the upper class, and the arctic?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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