A commenter asked for some reading recommendations. If you’re just getting into historical fiction and regencies, it can be a bit daunting to face the romance section in your local library or bookstore and try to pick out the ones that are interesting and amusing over those that might be to prurient or insipid or “Please tell me that isn’t REALLY Fabio on the cover….”
My author suggestions will mostly come from the longer types of romances, those running about 350 pages. This is not to imply that there are not many valuable authors in 180-220 page category, but I read those by the pound. I don’t tend to grab a particular author (with one notable exception), I grab a publisher and put everything the library has on hold, ten books at a time.
Those publishers are:
Fawcett (Coventry Romances or Crest or something other of that nature)
They aren’t the only ones but those are the most prominent amongst the 40 or so I just had a quick look at in the living room. You’ll get to where you recognize the cover formatting, more than anything else.
I don’t read the Harlequin Historicals. I have read a few and they were decent, but there seemed to be a focus on getting a sex scene into what was a relatively short story. When 1-5 pages has to be sacrificed to the obligatory “then they went to bed together” with all of the accompanying euphemisms, it annoys me.
So, onto those author suggestions.
Georgette Heyer: Heyer gave us Regency Romance and so no list should begin without her name. She’s known for her historical descriptions, her inclusion of detail, and her fine style. Her books tend to read like the shorter Regencies but be of the length of the longer ones. I’ve only read a couple of hers but more are definitely on my list. These are ones, I’m told, that have convinced skeptical male readers that there might be more to these books than petticoats, balls, and “purple patches.”
Julia Quinn: Quinn is my absolute favorite and I back that with my checkbook, having bought every single one of her titles, a couple of them more than once when my copies went missing. She is witty, her characters have depth, and she tends to break out of the oh-so-typical formulas that I am gently mocking. She spins new twists with a wonderfully ironic sense of humor. I recommend starting with The Duke and I and reading through the Bridgerton series. Those are, in my humble opinion, her best work.
Eloisa James: James is a tenured Shakespeare professor and a NYT best-selling author of romance. It somehow was a surprise to me, when I heard her speak, for her to point out that she writes about marriage. Not about engagements and happy endings that stop at a march down the aisle, but what happens five, ten, fifteen years later, when things have gone awry from misunderstanding, people growing and changing, miscommunications, etc. Her books are well-researched and rich in detail. Jemma is her most vibrant character, but certainly not the only one with whom one can or wants to identify. I would say start with either Duchess in Love or An Affair Before Christmas.
Celeste Bradley: Bradley was recommended to me by a dear friend in Chicago. Upon discovering that the other read historical romance, she and I went through author names until we found ones we’d not heard before. Bradley writes strong heroines, active women, and for that I grab everything with her name on it eagerly. Her books are also humorous, often I chuckle aloud at a description or turn of phrase. Witty dialogue, fun characters, and she tends to write in groups of three or four, which make for a pleasant, but not overwhelming cluster of books to take on for a trip, weekend, or however long. Best to start though with The Pretender. I read the books out of order, but it’s helpful to get them in sequence.
Michelle Martin: Here is the exception to the short-Regency author rule. Martin wrote The Hampshire Hoyden, a book known between the Incredibly-Patient-Mother and Sibling-the-Elder and I for having made all three of us cry for laughing so hard. It’s out of print, so you’ll need to look for a used copy and they aren’t the easiest to come by. I have one and no, you may not borrow it. Her others are amusing but not as good, in my opinion.
I have another half dozen authors to suggest, but I’ll leave you with these for the interim.
**Note: Some people like to know in advance, all but the Heyer books (and Martin’s) have sex scenes in them and some of those are pre-marital. None of them tend to put dialogue in those scenes that “can’t be missed or you’ll never understand the rest of the book.” As a result, once I’ve read how an author does the scene once, I usually can skip right over them in the rest of the books. They are there but they aren’t obnoxious. And with rare exceptions, all of their books meet the no-sex-in-the-first-100-pages rule.