I told my sister I needed to post something on my blog today, but wasn’t sure what to do and she suggested, “Books that Have Helped You Survive Adulthood.” I laughed because my idea of surviving adulthood is running from my problems so I’m #TheWorst for this one. I told her that it would really just be me recommending romance novels that I hide in when the world gets too hard. “That works,” she said, so here we are.
So my plan was simple, a Top Ten post of my Top Ten favorite historical romance novels. Only I realized that what I was actually doing was trying to decide which books of a few select authors should make it on the list because, if we’re being completely honest, I’ve mostly just fallen down a rabbit hole of reading the backlists of five authors and select romances from like four others. Thus, this post is going to be an author spotlight for five (well, six, kinda) authors and then books or series that would be part of my Top Ten if I wouldn’t fill it exclusively with the authors books that I’m spotlighting. I’m talking about them in the order I discovered them, by the way, because I cannot rank them. They’re all auto-buys for me.
1. Sarah MacLean
I used to read romance novels when I was younger (like probably too young for the genre) and I would download free romance novels on iBooks and they were usually completely forgettable (though not always) and I would move on and everything was fine. Except then my friends introduced me to Sarah MacLean and suddenly I knew what I was missing. Her novels have feisty feminist heroes who have personality and flaws and ask for what they want. Her novels make me think that if this is what I’d grown up reading my life might have been different. I actually cannot recommend her novels highly enough. They’re funny and clever and also she’s an excellent person to follow on Twitter (so therefore probably in real life). Also, also, her author website is my favorite because she has a whole page of romance novel recommendations that I’ve been slowly but surely working my way through (until I get distracted by reading the entire backlist of an author I discover from the list).
You should start her novels with Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake and read the series and then start The Rules of Scoundrels series once you’re finished and read that entire series and then move on to the Scandal & Scoundrel series (to which The Day of the Duchess belongs). Once you’ve fully caught up, it’ll probably be time for her new series to start because she has indicated a Spring 2018 release for that and we can enjoy squealing over how amazing she is together. Also, as you read, please feel so free to comment, email, text, call, tweet, send smoke signals about your feelings because I am always happy to talk about my faves.
2. Tessa Dare
Once I finished Sarah MacLean’s backlist, I dove in on Tessa Dare. It turns out I’ve missed two series, but shh, that’s fine. I’ll get there. I started with the Spindle Cove series and would highly recommend. That makes your first book A Night to Surrender and you can read to book four, but then you have to switch over to Castles Ever After and read that series to book three so that you can read Do You Want to Start a Scandalwhich might be my favorite for a thousand reasons, most of which are spoilers.
Technically, you could read both series out of order, but I promise you, you’ll enjoy them more if you do go in order (and read the companion novellas!).
However, if that feels like an insurmountable amount of reading to you, never fear! The August Book of the Month is Tessa Dare’s newest release, which I finished today, and it is amazing. The Duchess Dealis the start of her new series Girl Meets Duke and Emma and Ash are fascinating and truly excellent characters. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to posting my full review this weekend!
3. Courtney Milan
My next discovery was Courtney Milan’s The Brother’s Sinister series and, let me just gush about how amazing Courtney Milan is real quick. A) She clerked for two SCOTUS Justices, B) she writes amazing feminist historical romance and amazing feminist contemporary romance, C) she’s another excellent follow on Twitter, and D) I just love her, okay? She’s wonderful. Actually, all of these ladies above are wonderful.
Anyway, so I started with Brothers Sinister, which has a novella, The Governess Affair, to set up the story and I would encourage you to start with that. I genuinely cannot recommend Courtney Milan enough. The Countess Conspiracyis one of my favorites, but I adore The Heiress Effect for so many reasons, not the least of which is the romance between Jane’s sister and an Indian man.
Because, in case you didn’t know, there is a reason there’s so much Indian food in Britain and there’s a huge, complex fascinating history there and it was awesome to see that represented in a historical romance. Also, also, the novella Talk Sweetly to Me!!! A scientist heroine. A black, scientist heroine IN A HISTORICAL ROMANCE NOVEL. And how could we not talk about The Suffragette Scandal? We can’t possibly, but now I’ve pretty much talked about all of them. Whoops.
I’ve also really enjoyed her other series and am trying to patiently wait for, well, all of her upcoming books.
4. Lisa Kleypas
I think I found Lisa Kleypas through Sarah MacLean’s website, but I’m not 100% sure. I’ve read sixteen Lisa Kleypas romance novels this year. The first one was Secrets of a Summer Night, which is the first book in her Wallflowers series. I really enjoyed that one, but wasn’t 100% in love with it. However, when I read Devil in Winter, I, um, lost my mind and started reading everything by Lisa Kleypas I could get my hands on (except her contemporaries). And then, and then, I found Devil in Spring (from the Ravenels series) and y’all. I was lost. The closer you get to the present in Lisa Kleypas’s novels, the better they get. However, I highly recommend you start with The Wallflowers series because Devil in Spring is about Gabriel, who is the son of Eve and St. Vincent, and trust me. Just trust me.
I’m also obsessed with The Hathaways series and honestly cannot recommend highly enough. But I”m highly anticipating Hello Stranger, due out next year, and book four in The Ravenels series.
5. Julia Quinn
Speaking of authors that I’ve devoured their backlist this year, Julia Quinn has quite obviously taken over my imagination of late. My first post on this blog was “The Definitive Ranking of The Bridgerton Series.” I love every book in that series, although I will say that I did not read them in order and kind of wish I had. Too bad you can’t have a do-over, ya know? So far I’ve read fifteen of Julia Quinn’s novels and have enjoyed each of them. Like Lisa Kleypas, I do feel like she keeps getting better and better (although her most recent is my least favorite, but that’s just because I don’t like the trope!).
I really, really loved The Smythe-Smith series, which you may have noticed because I’ve reviewed them all in my Wrap-Ups. I also loved Because of Miss Bridgerton, which was the first of her latest series Rokesbys. Julia Quinn is kind of a staple of the romance world, so I was very late to the party, but I really enjoy her books.
6. My American Duchess by Eloisa James
Now we’re switching to books as opposed to authors because I haven’t had time to deep dive into any other authors entire backlists (in historical romance, I’ve definitely read or bought all Sarina Bowen with the two most recent chilling in my TBR folder on my Kindle because I have a PROBLEM, but that’s a post for another day).
My American Duchess is one of my favorite historical romance novels because Eloisa James writes really excellent books. Merry Pelford is not impressed by the Duke of Trent and he is fascinated. Unfortunately for him, she’s already engaged… To his brother. She’s also absolutely determined that she’s making it to the altar this time because she’s already called off two engagements and she can’t keep doing that. But she also knows she probably shouldn’t have accepted that proposal… Too late though.
This book is remarkably well written. I really enjoyed both Merry and Trent. Although the beginning of this novel was a little slow (according to Goodreads reviews), to me, the end more than made up for anything I didn’t love. I just really enjoyed the development of their relationship and I wish I could have kept following them around forever to see their antics.
7. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
This is a series and IT’S BECOMING A TV SERIES ON TNT. Do you have any idea how excited I am about this? No, probably not, but you’ll soon get tired of me telling you this because Y’ALL, I’m going to do a re-read. Do I have like at least a hundred books that I need to read? Yes. Am I going to re-read these anyway? Also yes. Also, probably going to re-read Harry Potter.
Now, about Matthew and Diana. DIANA is a WITCH and a historian and a professor and AMAZING. I love her, y’all. I just… She’s amazing. I adore her. People have squabbles about her character throughout the series, but I felt like she was a realistic character with a lot of flaws, which contributes to her realistic characterization. Anyway, so she’s at this library in Oxford and she pulls this alchemy book and this sets a lot of things in motion. Including her getting to meet Matthew, who is a vampire.
Yeah, yeah, vampires are lame, blah blah blah. Forget everything you know about vampires, okay? Haven’t you always wondered what the heck a vampire does in their ridiculously long lifespan? I know it isn’t just me. Well, you actually get to learn so much about Matthew’s life in this series and it’s amazing.
I don’t really know how to sum up this book in a short way, but basically Diana winds up being in danger and Matthew is trying to keep her safe. SO GOOD.
8. A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen
This book is the second in a series, but is the first one that I read. I love this series so much. It’s basically Scandal set in historical Regency era, so there’s really nothing not to like.
In this one Elsie is assigned to locate the missing Duke of Ashford who has been missing for a very, very long time. Fortunately, Elsie is really good at her job and conveniently stumbles right into him when she enters this small town. Is it extremely convenient? Yes. But like… Y’all. If you can’t let that go, I’m not really sure why you’re reading a post on romance novels. Or really, reading books at all. Anyway, Elsie has such a great history and it was so cool seeing her reveal herself to Noah slowly. It was fascinating seeing Noah’s complete reluctance to embracing his heritage and learning his reasons. I really, really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading everything Kelly Bowen writes in the future.
9. The Wicked Wallflower by Maya Rodale
I love this book. It’s the first in a series by Maya Rodale and I’ve read all of them, but this is the one that really stands out to me. Emma accidentally announces her engagement to someone she’s never met in a newspaper that everyone in the Ton reads. Someone who is a Duke.
Oddly enough, the Duke of Ashebrooke decides to go along with this ridiculous farce because he needs to convince his aunt to leave him her fortune. His aunt is an eccentric fabulous lady and character and I loved all of the scenes where Emma and the Duke are competing in The Fortune Games.
Goodreads has reminded me that this book is not incredibly historically accurate and also the language is apparently more modern than a lot of people prefer. I am not a person that bothers, so… I loved it.
There are many books that could take this place, but I wanted to give this spot to an author whose books I own, but haven’t read yet because I’m awful and binged Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn instead. But Alyssa Cole is basically everyone‘s favorite and I know she’ll be one of mine as soon as I stop staring at them on my Kindle and actually get into it.
Alyssa Cole writes historical fiction set in America that occur during various times. I recently started An Extraordinary Union, which is a book about a former slave turned Union spy during the Civil War. I keep getting distracted from this book, not because I’m not enjoying it, but because I have a hundred books to read and my library books KEEP BEING DUE. Someone tell them to stop that. I look forward to updating you in a wrap up when I finally finish this book, which fingers crossed, will be soon.
Also, I’m beyond excited for her upcoming release, A Princess in Theory, because the cover of it is beyond gorgeous and also the idea behind it is FASCINATING.
If you pick up any of these or have thoughts about authors or books I should be reading, please let me know in the comments. If you want to squeal about any or all of these covers, please do that in the comments as well. What are your favorite historical romance novels?