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All Historical Romance Coverage

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

The delightful Book Lovers both dismantles and celebrates the “career woman” archetype.

Book Lovers

A Curse of Queens by Amanda Bouchet

In her fourth Kingmaker Chronicles book, Bouchet continues to strike a perfect balance between world building and romance.

A Curse of Queens jacket

Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola

This enemies-­to-lovers romance set on a British university campus hums with Bolu Babalola’s energetic, intelligent voice.

Honey and Spice jacket

Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey

This fabulous friends-to-lovers rom-com feels authentic every step of the way.

Hook, Line, and Sinker jacket

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall 

The king of the rom-com conquers the Regency with an angsty historical romance.

A Lady for a Duke

Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly

The only bad thing about Kelly’s wonderful foodie romance is that after you’ve gulped it down, you’ll want more.

Love & Other Disasters jacket

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Jimenez’s special blend of humor and angst is polished to perfection in the fairy tale-esque Part of Your World.

Part of Your World jacket

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

Subversive yet satisfying, Sebastian’s latest breaks new ground for historical romance.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes jacket

The Redemption of Philip Thane by Lisa Berne

Berne’s Groundhog Day-inspired love story is a clever addition to the canon of “rake redemption” romances.

The Redemption of Philip Thane jacket

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

Emezi’s first romance novel is a hot and sultry exploration of love and grief.

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty

Discover more of BookPage’s Best Books of 2022.

2022 was a year of spectacular debuts, groundbreaking historical romances and, of course, HEAs aplenty.
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Never Rescue a Rogue

Virginia Heath’s Never Rescue a Rogue is a sophisticated Regency gem. In this second entry in the Merriwell Sisters series, world-weary nobleman Giles Sinclair battles ennui by trading barbs with journalist Diana Merriwell, his best friend’s sister. Though their charming family and friends think they would make a perfect pair, they both disagree and are firmly entrenched in their singleness. But when Giles becomes a duke, a discomfiting lack of information on his real parentage could spell disaster. There’s no one better at uncovering the full truth than Diana, so Giles enlists her help—and subsequently loses his heart. Giles introduces the jaded Diana to passion and she steadily overcomes her fear of losing her independence, all while their slow-burn attraction blooms into steamy love scenes. The dialogue is delightful and the wordplay a pleasure to read, and the well-developed and heart-tugging backstories of both leads give this romance an authentic heft.

Better than Fiction

A woman reexamines her ideas about love in Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin. Drew Young’s self-deprecating, humorous, first-person narration lets readers know unequivocally how she feels about her late grandmother (admiration and loyalty, which explains Drew’s determination to keep open the bookstore her grandmother left her) and about love (doesn’t trust it an inch, thanks to her deadbeat dad who left Drew and her mom for another family). When successful and sexy romance author Jasper Williams arrives for a special event at the bookstore, Drew is sure he’s too good to be true. But he’s also too attractive to resist. As they become better acquainted, Martin revels in the requisite rom-com scenes, including the delicious fan favorite that is “There’s just one bed.” Romance readers will feel vindicated by Drew’s growing appreciation of feel-good fiction, and will root for her and Jasper to get a happy ending equal to those in his novels.

Some Dukes Have All the Luck

Some Dukes Have All the Luck, the first entry in Christina Britton’s Synneful Spinsters series, stars a most unlikely pair. Ash Hawkins, Duke of Buckley, travels to the Isle of Synne to reclaim his wayward young wards after they flee London. Once there, he encounters naturalist Bronwyn Pickering, who has always been more interested in beetles than becoming a bride. The striking and sexy Ash ignites something in Bronwyn, and when he offers a marriage of convenience—promising she can continue her scientific studies, something her domineering parents have tried to prevent her from doing—she seizes her chance at greater independence. Of course, the marriage is soon complicated by feelings, Ash’s recalcitrant wards and a roaring sexual attraction. Bronwyn is easy to admire, especially as she overcomes her social awkwardness to care for the three girls entrusted to her. Ash is a classic “I’m not good enough for anyone” hero; it’s always gratifying when they’re proved wrong. With its bookish heroine, brooding hero and smoking love scenes, Some Dukes Have All the Luck is sigh-worthy fare.

Bookish meets brooding and optimist meets cynic in these opposites-attract love stories.
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In The Gentleman’s Book of Vices, Jess Everlee’s soul-stirring debut, a fan obsessed with an illicit book finds true love with his favorite author.

Handsome Charlie Price is a respectable accountant by day and a “finely dressed and finely drunk” rake by night. When his exploits land him under a mountain of crushing debt, he makes a deal with his parents: If they pay what he owes, he’ll do whatever they ask.

Since that compromise, almost nothing in Charlie’s life has been of his choosing, not his comfortable London town house, not the servants who spy on him, not his bank job and not even his sweet fiancée, Alma. Until his wedding, Charlie’s committed to taking pleasure in two things: cultivating his collection of erotica and spending his free time with his gaggle of devoted friends at his hedonistic gentleman’s club, The Curious Fox.

The circumspect and cautious Miles Montague also leads two lives, albeit much more quietly than Charlie. Heartbroken and shaken by an experience that Everlee keeps mysterious at first, Miles runs a respectable bookshop but writes England’s most infamous erotica in his off hours under the nom de plume of Reginald Cox. 

Cox happens to be Charlie’s favorite author, so when Charlie learns Cox is an unassuming bookseller, he visits the shop to ask him to autograph his most infamous novel (and Charlie’s most treasured possession): Immorality Plays. In 1883 London, being exposed as the author of an explicit text would mean legal and life-threatening danger, so of course, Miles assumes anyone asking for him by his pen name must be a blackmailer. It’s the queer Victorian version of a meet-disaster turned meet-cute. Miles and Charlie’s attraction is electric. Even though both know their relationship has a firm expiration date, love blooms in the blissful interregnum between their meeting and Charlie’s impending wedding. 

Fans of KJ Charles, Cat Sebastian and Alexis Hall will find much to enjoy here. There are shades of Charles’ Unfit to Print (pornographer/bookseller lead) and A Seditious Affair (the well-wrought BDSM and the tightknit circle of friends centered on a private gentleman’s club) as well as Hall’s Something Fabulous (the slapstick humor, mistaken identities and genderplay). While the characters are a bit slow to develop and the plot isn’t as distinctive or refined as the best works in the subgenre, Charlie and Miles’ chemistry is sweet, and Everlee’s writing reaches its peak in their love scenes, which soar with emotional intensity. With its potent blend of queer eroticism, found family and unabashed swoon, this romance is a resonant winner.

An erotica devotee and an infamous author form an electric connection in Jess Everlee’s emotionally resonant queer Victorian romance.
Best HistRoms 2022
STARRED REVIEW

October 12, 2022

Get swept away

Calling all lords, ladies and gentlefolk: The year’s standout historical romances eagerly await your presence.

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So, you made your way through not only “Bridgerton” but every other historical miniseries you could get your hands on, and now you’re faced with the daunting task of picking out a Regency romance novel from approximately one million titles. Don’t worry—we’re here to help. There are tons of terrific books out there, and because the subgenre has more variety than you might expect, we’ve added a complementary television series to each recommendation below to help you scope out the vibe.

A Duchess by Midnight

Miss Drewsmina “Drew” Trelayne is determined to make a name for herself as a guide for young debutantes embarking on their London season in A Duchess by Midnight by Charis Michaels. When her newly royal stepsister, Cynde, uses her connections to secure Drew’s first paying client, Drew has her work cut out for her. How can she teach the Duke of Lachlan’s troubled nieces proper deportment and etiquette when she can’t seem to stop herself from breaking all the rules with the irresistible, scandal-ridden duke?

Read if you loved “The Baby-Sitters Club”

Yes, we’re really comparing a Regency romance to a TV show based on a series of chapter books, and here’s why. Both A Duchess by Midnight and the recent Netflix adaptation of Ann M. Martin’s popular series, which launched in 1986, take a story that had grown a bit stagnant in our imaginations and make it feel fresh without losing the magic of the original. Drewsmina is a Regency version of the stepsisters from Disney’s Cinderella, and through her, Michaels breathes new life into a slightly dusty fairy tale. Far from being a two-dimensional figure, Drewsmina becomes the fully realized heroine of her own story by being willing to grow and change. Her less-than-perfect past makes her the ideal person to reach the lonely, isolated duke and his two wary girls in this charming twist on an age-old story.

Nobody’s Princess

Kunigunde “Kuni” de Heusch is determined to become the first Royal Guardswoman of Balcovia. She can’t get distracted by anyone or anything—not even Graham Wynchester. But when Graham interferes with her mission at the beginning of Erica Ridley’s Nobody’s Princess, Kuni ends up falling in with the astonishing Wynchester clan—going on adventures, learning acrobatic skills and discovering a brand of heroism and service that is like nothing she’s ever known. Her time in England is limited, and the future of her dreams is waiting for her in Balcovia. She’ll soon have everything she ever wanted . . . except for a certain remarkable man.

Read if you loved “The Umbrella Academy”

Unlike the characters in the comic book-inspired Netflix series, the Wynchesters don’t have supernatural powers, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to make the world a better place. These adopted siblings use their fortune to right wrongs and protect the innocent. They bicker with and tease and aggravate one another, while still coming together when there’s an enemy to face. It’s lovely to see Kuni fall for not only the eminently lovable Graham but also his entire family and their appreciation of and support for one another. Ridley’s take on the Regency period is quirkier and broader than the norm, but that just makes Nobody’s Princess all the more compelling and fun.

The Rake’s Daughter

In Anne Gracie’s The Rake’s Daughter half sisters Clarissa and Isobel Studley have no one but each other—and if their father had had his way, they wouldn’t even have that. Isobel is the illegitimate daughter whom the unscrupulous baronet had no interest in raising, and only Clarissa’s stubborn loyalty kept the girls together through childhood. They cling to each other even tighter when their father dies and they are sent to London to live with their new guardian, Leo Thorne, the Earl of Salcott. Because his opinion of Isobel stems from her father’s viciously cruel descriptions, Leo is appalled by his instantaneous and fierce attraction to her. As they both try to shepherd Clarissa through her first season, the fiery Isobel challenges Leo to see past his preconceptions.

Read if you loved “The Good Place”

Gracie takes a warmer, sweeter view of Regency high society; there are still challenges and prejudices, but there are also examples of extraordinary kindness, devotion and compassion. Like Eleanor and Michael in the afterlife-set TV show, the characters in The Rake’s Daughter have vibrant, rich personalities that make it easy to root for them. Leo has a particularly impressive character arc, starting off almost as an antagonist before becoming the hero he always had the potential to be. And it’s not just the lead characters who will steal your heart: Loyal, kind, insightful but insecure Clarissa is reminiscent of Chidi from “The Good Place,” and one can only hope she gets her own book soon.

★ A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting

Kitty Talbot, the heroine of Sophie Irwin’s A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting, is left with four sisters to care for and an ocean of debt after her father dies and her fiancé jilts her. The only thing left of value is herself, so it’s off to London and the marriage mart to find a rich match. Luck seems to be on her side when she’s able to catch the eye of sweet, easily manipulated Archie de Lacy, but her hopes are punctured when his disapproving older brother, Lord Radcliffe, comes to break up the match. Desperate to the point of recklessness, Kitty manages to convince Radcliffe to make a trade: She’ll leave his brother alone if he helps her find another match. But what starts out as a grudging alliance blooms into something more, something built on growing respect, admiration, attraction—and maybe even love.

Read if you loved “Inventing Anna”

If you loved the high-wire tension of the miniseries featuring Anna Delvey’s con artist exploits, then this is the Regency romance for you. But unlike Anna, Kitty is a heroine you can genuinely like, even as you marvel at her audacity. She’s clever and cunning, but she’s also wry, funny and refreshingly honest, with admirable reasons for her manipulative fortune-hunting. From the start, her sharp mind and ruthless practicality make the story relentlessly readable, charging scenes with terrific tension and biting wordplay. Crucially, however, there’s so much more to Kitty than her diamond-hard facade. She’s not a cipher but a vivid and relatable character. The more Radcliffe understands her, the more he loves her—as will readers.

Overwhelmed by the amount of Regency romances out there? Let us be your guide to this season's best reads.
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In Remember Love, Mary Balogh kicks off a new Regency-era series that will center on Ravenswood Hall, an ancestral estate.

Caleb Ware, the handsome Earl of Stratton, lives at Ravenswood with his wife, Clarissa, and their five children. By all accounts, the tightknit family is happy and prosperous. Gwyneth Rhys, whose family lives next door, has been in love for years with the earl’s oldest son, smart and serious Devlin Ware, who is fresh out of Oxford.

During a party at Ravenswood, Gwyn discovers that Devlin has been pining after her in turn. For one dreamy night,they dance and stroll in the moonlight and everything is perfect. But then Devlin’s discovery of Caleb’s philandering changes the trajectory of their lives. He calls out his father for his ungentlemanly behavior and is subsequently cast out of the family.

Balogh tells the story in two parts: The first section takes place before Devlin learns of his father’s infidelities; the second is set six years later, after Caleb has died and as Devlin returns home to take his place as earl after serving in the military. Having his idealized vision of his family shattered changes Devlin, and Balogh’s structure firmly underlines this. Young, hopeful and naive in the first section, Devlin is ruled by his sense of responsibility in the second, to the point that he’s confident there’s no room in his life for the frivolity of love. But Gwyneth, drawing on their lifelong friendship, can see right through Devlin, and fans of second-chance romances will be delighted as she slowly draws him out, reminding him of all the love he was once able to give.

Balogh doesn’t add in any superfluous conflict, allowing readers to luxuriate in her lush descriptions of the Regency era and sigh as Devlin and Gwyneth overcome the troubles of the past to find their way back to each other.

Mary Balogh's Remember Love is a lush and heart-tugging Regency romance that illustrates the poignancy of second chances.
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The Bride Goes Rogue

Joanna Shupe sets the pages on fire in the passionate Gilded Age romance The Bride Goes Rogue, the third entry in her Fifth Avenue Rebels series. Romantically minded Katherine Delafield has always looked forward to marriage, even though her own union has been arranged by her father. Her intended, New York City tycoon Preston Clarke, is a man she’s only seen from afar, and she’s stunned and humiliated when she learns that Preston has no intention of honoring his agreement with her father. Intent on making up for lost time, Katherine attends a scandalous masquerade ball and enjoys an exciting dalliance with a masked man—who turns out to be none other than her ex-betrothed. Despite their shock at discovering each other’s identity, neither truly regrets that steamy encounter . . . and all the other ones that follow. The ruthless Preston proves to have a heart after all, and despite being a naive ingenue, Katherine surprises him with her ardent desires. Shupe skillfully brings the opulent setting to life, and Katherine and Preston’s love story will leave readers with racing hearts and satisfied smiles.

From Bad to Cursed

The peace of the magical town of Thistle Grove is threatened in From Bad to Cursed by Lana Harper. Four supernaturally gifted families live side by side in relative harmony in this Illinois community. The paranormal citizens make a living providing exciting, supposedly fake experiences to tourists, aka “normies”—at an occult superstore, for instance, or a haunted house. But during one of the town’s celebrations to mark the festival of Beltane, a mysterious curse nearly strips young witch Holly Thorn of her powers. Holly’s upstanding cousin Rowan Thorn and town wild child Isidora Avramov are ordered to investigate. Rowan and Issa have been enemies for years, but as they hunt down the person who cast the curse, their antagonism morphs into a surprisingly strong mutual attraction. From Bad to Cursed is an all-senses escape into a vivid and inventive world. Written from Issa’s snarky first-person perspective, this paranormal rom-com is sure to delight.

Something Wilder

Readers are invited along on an exciting adventure in author-duo Christina Lauren’s Something Wilder. Lily Wilder leads tourists on fake treasure hunts through the beautiful desert landscapes of Utah. It’s a career path made possible by Lily’s infamous treasure hunter father, Duke Wilder—and made necessary by her late father’s lack of financial planning. To her unpleasant surprise, Lily’s latest group of clients includes Leo Grady, the man who got away (or, more specifically, left her) 10 years ago. Even as they grapple with their past and what drove them apart, unforeseen danger requires Leo and Lily to combine their reserves of courage and cleverness to survive. The authors clearly hold the red rocks and canyons of Utah dear and describe them in loving detail throughout. Something Wilder is laden with suspense, intrigue and fun as its main couple faces down danger and learns to love again.

These three romances by Joanna Shupe, Lana Harper and Christina Lauren are perfect seasonal reads.
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Cat Sebastian returns to the Georgian-era setting of 2021’s The Queer Principles of Kit Webb with The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes, a charming story about two chaotic bisexuals who cross each other’s paths while pursuing their criminal endeavors.

It’s hard to be sanctimonious when you have to rely on the man blackmailing you. That’s exactly the situation Marian Hayes, the Duchess of Clare, finds herself in after shooting her husband. The only person she can think to turn to for a quick exit strategy is Rob Brooks, the cheerful highwayman and con artist who’s blackmailing her. If she could reach her own rear end, she’d kick it. And thus starts another highly enjoyable romance from Sebastian.

Sebastian’s prose is playful, and she sets a fast, jaunty pace as Marian and Rob ramble around the countryside, trying to figure out their next moves. She has a knack for making her characters relatable to modern audiences while still ensuring that they feel like people who live in 1751 and thus have to grapple with a rigid class system. Rob is an impulsive, reckless career criminal with an enviable resume of robbery, counterfeiting and horse theft. His secret is that he’s recently become the heir to a dukedom that he doesn’t want, seeing as he is firmly opposed to the aristocracy on a philosophical level. Meanwhile, the quick-witted and courageous Marian married a duke in order to ensure her family would be taken care of, but she soon learned that the price of the title was too high to pay. Unlike many historical romances, wealth never gets the characters of The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes anywhere: It never makes them happy, and it never truly changes the circumstances of their lives.

The couple’s mutual (and initially grudging, on Marian’s part) fondness morphs into a sweet romance moored by their shared practicality and humor, and by the quiet wounds of loneliness that echo in each of their hearts. Rob loves Marian almost from the beginning, and even though she struggles to open her heart in return, she always treats his love as the precious treasure that it is.

If you’re not already a fan of historical romance, you will be when you’re done reading this one.

If you're not already a fan of historical romance, you will be when you're done reading The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes.
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Following the Battle of Waterloo, Viola Carroll abandoned her previous identity, as well as her aristocratic title, to finally embrace life as a trans woman. Allowing the world to believe she had been killed in action, Viola took on the role of companion to her sister-in-law, Lady Louise Marleigh.

But Viola’s dearest friend, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood, is not coping so well. He drowns himself in alcohol and opium to cope with his despair over Viola’s death, the lingering pain of a war injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Louise determines that she and Viola must intervene, and so they travel to Gracewood’s ancestral home, Castle Morgencald.

The term “slow burn” doesn’t begin to capture the agonized pining of this romance, which is absolutely suffused with yearning. Hall poignantly depicts Viola’s tangled mix of relief and sadness upon being reunited with Gracewood. Viola has nurtured a quiet hope that their connection to each other would be undeniable—that Gracewood would know and accept her without a second’s thought. But if he doesn’t, she agonizes over telling him that she’s the friend he’s long thought dead, knowing that revealing her identity could ruin the new life she’s built for herself. Some of the most emotionally fraught scenes in the novel are when Hall focuses on Gracewood’s inner turmoil, empathetically portraying a once powerful, nearly untouchable man who is overwhelmed by trauma.

How Alexis Hall is seizing his moment.

Hall adds some levity with flirtatious banter between his main couple, moments when readers can see the dark cloud hovering over Gracewood become a little lighter. There’s also a robust and interesting cast of side characters, which could mean (fingers crossed) A Lady for a Duke is but the first book in a series.

Hall first hit the bestseller list in 2020 with Boyfriend Material, a contemporary rom-com, and his fanbase has been growing ever since. Now that the British writer has hit it out of the park with this emotionally resonant, character-driven Regency romance, readers’ biggest question (besides “Is there anything Alexis Hall can’t do?”) will be “What will Alexis Hall think of next?” No matter what it is, it’ll be nuanced, swoony and a stellar example of what romance can do—just like A Lady for a Duke.

Alexis Hall takes on the Regency with his angsty new historical romance, A Lady for a Duke.
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★ Never a Duke

In Never a Duke by Grace Burrowes, a determined lady teams up with an almost-gentleman to search for women who have gone missing in Regency London. Ned Wentworth, who was adopted into a wealthy ducal family as a child, is intrigued to receive a note asking for aid from Lady Rosalind Kinwood, known for her dedication to charitable causes. Instinct urges him to demur, but Rosalind’s beauty and her fear for her missing lady’s maid calls to him. As Ned and Rosalind meet to discuss his investigation, a slow-burn romance full of understated yet heart-aching yearning begins. Burrowes’ writing style evokes classic Regency romance with its witty repartee and loving attention to clothing. Tortured-yet-tender Ned is an unforgettable hero who learns to value himself as much as those around him do. This is the seventh entry in Burrowes’ Rogues to Riches series, and fans will revel in glimpses of past couples and feel delighted that the worthy Ned has found love at last.

Mad for a Mate

MaryJanice Davidson pens a furiously paced, full-of-fun shifter romance in Mad for a Mate. Magnus Berne, a brown werebear of Scottish extraction, is surprised when Verity Lane washes up on the beach of his private island. He’s fascinated by her presence, then even more fascinated to learn she’s a squib—a werecreature that cannot shift—and is part of a club that takes dangerous dares to prove their worth to the world. When fellow club members begin dying, Magnus worries about the lovely Verity, and though usually reclusive, he opens himself up to her world and heart. Nimble-minded readers will delight in Davidson’s almost stream-of-consciousness style and occasional authorial interjections. She never spoon-feeds readers the rules of her paranormal world, which keeps the pace brisk and suits Mad for a Mate’s all-around quirkiness.

When She Dreams

Amanda Quick returns to the glamorous 1930s resort town of Burning Cove, California, in When She Dreams. Intrepid Maggie Lodge resolves to discover who is trying to blackmail her employer, a popular advice columnist. As part of her investigation, she travels to a conference in Burning Cove along with her newly hired (and newly minted) PI, Sam Sage. The conference’s subject intersects with one of Maggie’s personal interests: lucid dreaming, a state in which dreams can act as a conduit to psychic abilities. After a conference attendee’s suspicious death and an encounter with a scientist who is obsessed with Maggie’s abilities as a lucid dreamer, the pair realize this might be much more than a case of simple blackmail. Maggie’s can-do attitude finds a perfect complement in ex-cop Sam’s world-weariness. Falling in love is an unexpected delight for both of them, but longtime fans will not be surprised by Quick’s imagination and mastery of storytelling, which never fail to entertain.

Tired of gloomy vampires and brooding werewolves? Two lighthearted, fizzily fun paranormals, plus a truly unforgettable Regency hero, await you in this month’s romance column.

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Calling all lords, ladies and gentlefolk: The year's best historical romances eagerly await your presence.
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A Curse of Queens

The world continues to roil with the whims of the gods in A Curse of Queens, the action-packed fourth installment in Amanda Bouchet’s Kingmaker Chronicles. When her pregnant sister is cursed, gifted healer Jocasta concocts a plan to lift the magic. A team is assembled to embark on the dangerous quest, and Jocasta is both thrilled and dismayed to learn that Flynn of Sinta will be part of the expedition. Jocasta has loved him since childhood, and unbeknownst to her, his heart belongs to her as well. But after losing his entire family, Flynn believes he protects them both from inevitable pain by not declaring himself. Bouchet excels at developing grounded characters with relatable frustrations and desires, even amid the adventure and magic of fantasy romance. Flynn’s longing for Jocasta is tender and touching, and Jocasta’s determination to succeed is understandable and admirable. Bouchet strikes a perfect balance between evocative Greek mythology-inspired world building and grand romance in this fabulous adventure.

The Belle of Belgrave Square

Romance blooms within a marriage of convenience in The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews. Socially awkward heiress Julia Wychwood dreads balls and parties. When her manipulative parents make it clear that they intend to marry her to a widower she feels nothing for, Julia impulsively turns to the only man she does feel something for: the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt. He’s known for being the Hero of Crimea . . . but also for his illegitimate children and the dark rumors surrounding his family estate. Julia elopes with him anyway, and they try to build a life together in the quiet Yorkshire countryside, but Jasper’s murky past stands between them. His secrets ignite Julia’s curiosity, and the man ignites her in other ways, too. Will Jasper reveal enough of himself to win her love? A bookish heroine readers will identify with, subtle love scenes and some impish children make this romance a true delight.

Bad Girl Reputation

Author Elle Kennedy explores what happens when a party girl and her bad boy first love grow up in Bad Girl Reputation. After her mother dies, Genevieve West temporarily returns home to the small coastal town of Avalon Bay, which she’d fled a year before to escape her self-destructive lifestyle. Having remade herself in the time since then, Gen doesn’t dare fall back into bad habits—especially her ex, Evan Hartley. She knows they’re bad for each other, but she can’t seem to stop having hot and heavy hookups with him while she’s in town. As she becomes further enmeshed with family and friends, Gen wonders if she can stay in Avalon Bay and stay true to her new, better self. These imperfect, honest characters are trying to figure out life, and their vibrant personalities burst onto the page. Thanks to Kennedy’s easy, breezy dialogue, readers will feel like they’re elbow-to-elbow with Gen and Evan at the bar and the poker table in this vibrant, feel-good and fresh romance.

True love is hard won but all the more precious in this month's best love stories.
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Ruby Fever

In Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, the world is dominated by magical families known as Houses. Catalina Baylor is the Deputy Warden of Texas and a Prime, an extremely powerful magic user. She’s moving her House and her fiancé, assassin Alessandro Sagredo, into a new compound when an important politician is killed and a powerful family friend is severely injured. An assassin kingpin is responsible for both events, and now he has his sights set on Alessandro. Can they stop him before he succeeds? Ruby Fever starts with a bang and races on from there. This installment has everything Andrews’ readers love: a large cast of magical characters, fast-paced plot and dialogue, and imaginative scenes of electrifying combat described in technicolor detail. Told in Catalina’s engaging first-person voice as she capably handles all that’s thrown at her, this superlative romance doesn’t have a single dull moment. Sit back and happily immerse yourself in Andrews’ unparalleled paranormal world.

Do You Take This Man

The central couple of Denise Williams’ Do You Take This Man doesn’t really have a meet cute. In fact, it’s more of a meet mad. RJ Brooks is a high-powered, ambitious divorce attorney with a surprising side gig: She officiates marriage ceremonies. Which is why she keeps meeting and mutually antagonizing event planner Lear Campbell again, and again, and again. The enemies-to-lovers trope is a romance fan favorite for a reason, and when RJ and Lear finally succumb to their attraction, their love scenes sizzle. There’s enough authentic angst between the two, both of whom have been hurt badly in the past, to keep the reader doubting and wishing for their happily ever after in equal measure.

Aphrodite and the Duke

First loves try to get it right the second time around in J.J. McAvoy’s “Bridgerton”-esque Regency romance, Aphrodite and the Duke. Aphrodite Du Bell can’t help but feel her acclaimed beauty might be something of a curse. The only man she ever cared for, Evander Eagleman, the Duke of Everely, married someone else. In the four years since, she’s retreated from society. But when it’s her sister’s turn to hunt for a husband, Aphrodite gets dragged back to the London season. There, she’s reunited with Evander, who’s newly widowed and immediately begins to pursue Aphrodite. She thinks she’d be mad to trust him again with her heart, until he reveals what prompted his first marriage and they begin to work through their differences. However, new dangers await the couple. The characters’ somewhat formal voices lend a verisimilitude that balances the enjoyable escape of McAvoy’s Regency world of balls, gowns and romance.

Ilona Andrews' Hidden Legacy series returns! Read our romance columnist's review of Ruby Fever.
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So, you made your way through not only “Bridgerton” but every other historical miniseries you could get your hands on, and now you’re faced with the daunting task of picking out a Regency romance novel from approximately one million titles. Don’t worry—we’re here to help. There are tons of terrific books out there, and because the subgenre has more variety than you might expect, we’ve added a complementary television series to each recommendation below to help you scope out the vibe.

A Duchess by Midnight

Miss Drewsmina “Drew” Trelayne is determined to make a name for herself as a guide for young debutantes embarking on their London season in A Duchess by Midnight by Charis Michaels. When her newly royal stepsister, Cynde, uses her connections to secure Drew’s first paying client, Drew has her work cut out for her. How can she teach the Duke of Lachlan’s troubled nieces proper deportment and etiquette when she can’t seem to stop herself from breaking all the rules with the irresistible, scandal-ridden duke?

Read if you loved “The Baby-Sitters Club”

Yes, we’re really comparing a Regency romance to a TV show based on a series of chapter books, and here’s why. Both A Duchess by Midnight and the recent Netflix adaptation of Ann M. Martin’s popular series, which launched in 1986, take a story that had grown a bit stagnant in our imaginations and make it feel fresh without losing the magic of the original. Drewsmina is a Regency version of the stepsisters from Disney’s Cinderella, and through her, Michaels breathes new life into a slightly dusty fairy tale. Far from being a two-dimensional figure, Drewsmina becomes the fully realized heroine of her own story by being willing to grow and change. Her less-than-perfect past makes her the ideal person to reach the lonely, isolated duke and his two wary girls in this charming twist on an age-old story.

Nobody’s Princess

Kunigunde “Kuni” de Heusch is determined to become the first Royal Guardswoman of Balcovia. She can’t get distracted by anyone or anything—not even Graham Wynchester. But when Graham interferes with her mission at the beginning of Erica Ridley’s Nobody’s Princess, Kuni ends up falling in with the astonishing Wynchester clan—going on adventures, learning acrobatic skills and discovering a brand of heroism and service that is like nothing she’s ever known. Her time in England is limited, and the future of her dreams is waiting for her in Balcovia. She’ll soon have everything she ever wanted . . . except for a certain remarkable man.

Read if you loved “The Umbrella Academy”

Unlike the characters in the comic book-inspired Netflix series, the Wynchesters don’t have supernatural powers, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to make the world a better place. These adopted siblings use their fortune to right wrongs and protect the innocent. They bicker with and tease and aggravate one another, while still coming together when there’s an enemy to face. It’s lovely to see Kuni fall for not only the eminently lovable Graham but also his entire family and their appreciation of and support for one another. Ridley’s take on the Regency period is quirkier and broader than the norm, but that just makes Nobody’s Princess all the more compelling and fun.

The Rake’s Daughter

In Anne Gracie’s The Rake’s Daughter half sisters Clarissa and Isobel Studley have no one but each other—and if their father had had his way, they wouldn’t even have that. Isobel is the illegitimate daughter whom the unscrupulous baronet had no interest in raising, and only Clarissa’s stubborn loyalty kept the girls together through childhood. They cling to each other even tighter when their father dies and they are sent to London to live with their new guardian, Leo Thorne, the Earl of Salcott. Because his opinion of Isobel stems from her father’s viciously cruel descriptions, Leo is appalled by his instantaneous and fierce attraction to her. As they both try to shepherd Clarissa through her first season, the fiery Isobel challenges Leo to see past his preconceptions.

Read if you loved “The Good Place”

Gracie takes a warmer, sweeter view of Regency high society; there are still challenges and prejudices, but there are also examples of extraordinary kindness, devotion and compassion. Like Eleanor and Michael in the afterlife-set TV show, the characters in The Rake’s Daughter have vibrant, rich personalities that make it easy to root for them. Leo has a particularly impressive character arc, starting off almost as an antagonist before becoming the hero he always had the potential to be. And it’s not just the lead characters who will steal your heart: Loyal, kind, insightful but insecure Clarissa is reminiscent of Chidi from “The Good Place,” and one can only hope she gets her own book soon.

★ A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting

Kitty Talbot, the heroine of Sophie Irwin’s A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting, is left with four sisters to care for and an ocean of debt after her father dies and her fiancé jilts her. The only thing left of value is herself, so it’s off to London and the marriage mart to find a rich match. Luck seems to be on her side when she’s able to catch the eye of sweet, easily manipulated Archie de Lacy, but her hopes are punctured when his disapproving older brother, Lord Radcliffe, comes to break up the match. Desperate to the point of recklessness, Kitty manages to convince Radcliffe to make a trade: She’ll leave his brother alone if he helps her find another match. But what starts out as a grudging alliance blooms into something more, something built on growing respect, admiration, attraction—and maybe even love.

Read if you loved “Inventing Anna”

If you loved the high-wire tension of the miniseries featuring Anna Delvey’s con artist exploits, then this is the Regency romance for you. But unlike Anna, Kitty is a heroine you can genuinely like, even as you marvel at her audacity. She’s clever and cunning, but she’s also wry, funny and refreshingly honest, with admirable reasons for her manipulative fortune-hunting. From the start, her sharp mind and ruthless practicality make the story relentlessly readable, charging scenes with terrific tension and biting wordplay. Crucially, however, there’s so much more to Kitty than her diamond-hard facade. She’s not a cipher but a vivid and relatable character. The more Radcliffe understands her, the more he loves her—as will readers.

Overwhelmed by the amount of Regency romances out there? Let us be your guide to this season's best reads.
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In Remember Love, Mary Balogh kicks off a new Regency-era series that will center on Ravenswood Hall, an ancestral estate.

Caleb Ware, the handsome Earl of Stratton, lives at Ravenswood with his wife, Clarissa, and their five children. By all accounts, the tightknit family is happy and prosperous. Gwyneth Rhys, whose family lives next door, has been in love for years with the earl’s oldest son, smart and serious Devlin Ware, who is fresh out of Oxford.

During a party at Ravenswood, Gwyn discovers that Devlin has been pining after her in turn. For one dreamy night,they dance and stroll in the moonlight and everything is perfect. But then Devlin’s discovery of Caleb’s philandering changes the trajectory of their lives. He calls out his father for his ungentlemanly behavior and is subsequently cast out of the family.

Balogh tells the story in two parts: The first section takes place before Devlin learns of his father’s infidelities; the second is set six years later, after Caleb has died and as Devlin returns home to take his place as earl after serving in the military. Having his idealized vision of his family shattered changes Devlin, and Balogh’s structure firmly underlines this. Young, hopeful and naive in the first section, Devlin is ruled by his sense of responsibility in the second, to the point that he’s confident there’s no room in his life for the frivolity of love. But Gwyneth, drawing on their lifelong friendship, can see right through Devlin, and fans of second-chance romances will be delighted as she slowly draws him out, reminding him of all the love he was once able to give.

Balogh doesn’t add in any superfluous conflict, allowing readers to luxuriate in her lush descriptions of the Regency era and sigh as Devlin and Gwyneth overcome the troubles of the past to find their way back to each other.

Mary Balogh's Remember Love is a lush and heart-tugging Regency romance that illustrates the poignancy of second chances.

Most epic:

Properties of Thirst by Marianne Wiggins

Many of us have an aversion to novels that claim to be the next American epic in the tradition of John Steinbeck, particularly when they’re about World War II. These novels, purporting to be the next necessary heart-wrenching tale of wartime heroism, are seemingly everywhere, but rarely do they live up to expectations. Properties of Thirst defies, dispels and demolishes those expectations and biases in the best way. Read our review.

Sister Mother Warrior by Vanessa Riley

The complexity of Sister Mother Warrior suits the complicated, difficult history of the Haitian revolution, which Vanessa Riley brings to life through the stories of a soldier and a future empress. Read our review.

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford

Exploring the bonds that transcend physical space, The Many Daughters of Afong Moy is an enthralling, centuries-spanning tale, a masterful saga that’s perfect for fans of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende and The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain. Read our review.


Wrath Goddess Sing

Best ancient tale for acolytes of Madeline Miller:

Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deane

Some prior knowledge of the Iliad will maximize the enjoyment of this novel, if only to provide some context for Maya Deane’s beautifully realized Mediterranean landscape and her depiction of the Greek gods as vivid, often malicious beings. Wrath Goddess Sing is a mythic reinvention for the ages that asks questions about topics such as trans identity, passing and the politics of the body. Read our review.


Best perspectives on the American West:

Fire Season by Leyna Krow

Leyna Krow plays fast and loose with the tropes of the frontier novel, leaning in to the notion of the unsettled West as a place where people could reinvent themselves. Read our review.

Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Woman of Light retains a mythic quality while following the stories of five generations of an Indigenous North American family, from their origins, border crossings, accomplishments and traumas to their descendants’ confrontation and acceptance of their family history. Read our review.


Horse book cover

Best for book clubs:

Horse by Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks returns to themes she explored so well in previous works, such as her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, March, which chronicles many of the injustices that occurred during America’s Civil War. Loosely based on a true story, Horse involves a discarded painting and a dusty skeleton, both of which concern a foal widely considered “the greatest racing stallion in American turf history.” Read our review.


Most glamorous subterfuge:

The Lunar Housewife

The Lunar Housewife by Caroline Woods

Caroline Woods’ historical thriller, set in the final days of the Korean War and the onset of the Cold War, spins a tale of big-city intrigue as it follows a promising young waitress-turned-writer and the increasingly disturbing secrets she uncovers. The result is an addictive binge of a read that’s equal parts intelligent introspection and nail-biting suspense. Read our review.

The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin

Madeline Martin is known for her deeply researched historical fiction and romance novels, and The Librarian Spy is a delight as we follow the World War II adventures of an endearing, quiet bookworm. Read our review.

Last Call at the Nightingale by Katharine Schellman

Vivian Kelly, the protagonist of this Prohibition-era mystery, is a seamstress in what we would now consider a sweatshop, and by night she is a regular at the Nightingale, a Manhattan speakeasy of some note among Jazz Age cognoscenti. When Vivian stumbles upon a dead body in the alley behind the club, the speakeasy’s hitherto bon vivant ambiance begins to melt away, revealing something altogether more sinister. Read our review.


A Lady for a Duke

Best love stories in historical settings:

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall

Alexis Hall takes on the Regency with his angsty new historical romance. Following the Battle of Waterloo, Viola Carroll abandoned her previous identity, as well as her aristocratic title, to finally embrace life as a trans woman. But Viola’s dearest friend, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood, is not coping so well. He drowns himself in alcohol and opium to cope with his despair over Viola’s death, the lingering pain of a war injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. The term “slow burn” doesn’t begin to capture the agonized pining of this romance, which is absolutely suffused with yearning. Read our review.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

Cat Sebastian returns to the Georgian-era setting of 2021’s The Queer Principles of Kit Webb with The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes, a charming story about two chaotic bisexuals who cross each other’s paths while pursuing their criminal endeavors. Read our review.


Joan

Best picks for Hilary Mantel fans:

Joan by Katherine J. Chen

This Joan of Arc is hungry, earthy and scrappy—a natural fighter. For readers who love Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy or Lauren Groff’s Matrix, Joan offers similar pleasures with its immediacy and somewhat contemporary tone. It’s an immersive evocation of a character whose name everyone knows, all these centuries later, but whom, perhaps, none of us knows at all. Read our review.

Learning to Talk by Hilary Mantel

Sure, it’s a little on the nose, but these seven stories, arranged chronologically, offer an unusual and ultimately fascinating amalgam of fact and fiction as two-time Booker Prize-winning British author Hilary Mantel sorts through the puzzle pieces of her past. As Mantel reflects loosely on her English childhood, she explores, as she writes in the preface, “the swampy territory that lies between history and myth.” Read our review.


Best supernatural or magical touches:

Briefly, a Delicious Life by Nell Stevens

In 1838, the French novelist George Sand (pen name for Aurore Dupin) decided that a winter away from Paris would be good for her, her two children and her ailing lover, Frédéric Chopin, who had tuberculosis. This is where the debut novel from Nell Stevens begins, and she quickly reveals an inventive, imaginative approach to historical fiction, full of comic moments but also sorrow, violence and beauty. Her ghostly narrator is full of life, a wonderful guide to another time and place. Read our review.

Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro

The first in a planned trilogy, Ordinary Monsters traverses 19th-century America, England, Scotland and Japan before eventually landing at the Cairndale Institute outside of Edinburgh, where Talents are learning to control and hone their powers. J.M. Miro (the pen name of a literary novelist) plays off the well-loved and well-worn tropes of chosen ones and magical institutions for children, but freshens things up with a large, sweeping scope and a likable, diverse cast of characters. Read our review.


Discover more historical fiction here!

Summer reading allows us to get away from it all—and with transportive historical fiction, we can go really, really far away. Discover the season’s best historical novels!
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Maggie Moves On

Maggie Moves On by Lucy Score is a rom-com that will especially delight lovers of HGTV and will charm practically everyone else. Happy-to-wander Maggie Nichols makes a living as a house flipper and documents her success on a popular YouTube channel. When she selects a mansion in Kinship, Idaho, as her next fixer-upper, she meets hunky landscaper Silas Wright and promptly loses her heart. Can she learn to settle down with a man who’s firmly rooted in his charming hometown? An Old West-style myth (lost gold!) adds to the fun, which also includes hilarious family group texts and a real standout of a hero. Silas oozes confidence and charm, especially when he’s crooning impromptu with his stepmother on a bar stage. Maggie Moves On is a sexy, sweet and easy read, but readers may still find themselves wiping away sentimental tears at its unabashed and all-encompassing happily ever after. Relax and enjoy this one while dreaming of dream houses, blissful blended families and Idaho finger steaks.

You Were Made to Be Mine

Julie Anne Long offers a historical romance to savor with You Were Made to Be Mine. Former British spy Christian Hawkes is fresh out of prison and out of funds. For an exorbitant fee, he agrees to find Lady Aurelie Capet, the Earl of Brundage’s runaway fiancée. Christian has his suspicions about the earl, suspicions that prove horribly true when he tracks down the beautiful Aurelie, who has taken a new name and is hiding out at the Grand Palace on the Thames boarding house in an effort to escape from her wicked fiancé. As with the four previous novels in the Palace of Rogues series, this book is teeming with fascinating characters, and every paragraph crackles with life. Long’s third-person narration allows for entertaining glimpses into the cast, from would-be footmen to the delightful proprietresses of “TGPOTT” (as embroidered on signature handkerchiefs). Christian and Aurelie are a couple that is eminently worth rooting for, and their desperate yearning and aching tenderness are sure to linger long in readers’ hearts.

The Romance Recipe

Two women deal with career, family and romantic turmoil in The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett. Amy Chambers, the owner of struggling restaurant Amy and May’s, and Sophie Brunet, the restaurant’s chef, are each harboring a secret crush on the other. Sophie has recently realized that she’s bisexual, and Amy’s confidence in herself makes her as intimidating as she is alluring. Amy isn’t wont to open up to anyone, especially someone like Sophie, who Amy worries might be looking for new experiences instead of commitment. But even as they attempt to keep things between them casual, Amy and Sophie’s potent physical chemistry draws them together. Sensual feasts abound, both in luscious culinary creations and detailed sex scenes, as Barrett masterfully portrays the sensation of infatuation growing into true love.

Dive into two romances that are as emotional as they are steamy, plus a sweet and sexy rom-com for HGTV lovers.
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After years of growing his increasingly passionate fanbase with independent and digital-first novels, Alexis Hall achieved mainstream popularity—and hit the bestseller list—in 2020 with the witty London-set rom-com, Boyfriend Material. The equally successful Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake followed a year later, and now the British author is conquering historical romance with A Lady for a Duke.

Being presumed dead after fighting in the Battle of Waterloo gave Viola Carroll the chance to live as the woman she has always been, but it came at the cost of her best friend. Two years later, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood, is still devastated by Viola’s supposed death and has become a recluse. Viola travels to his estate to try and help him, even though doing so could destroy the new life she’s built. We talked to Hall about the thorny questions that come with writing about queer characters in a historical setting and why he’s such a prolific author. (A Lady for a Duke is his second release in 2022, with two more to come!)

It’s been a busy few years! Do you ever sleep?
Well, I don’t sleep much, and I have no social life. I kind of joke about this, but it’s genuinely not sustainable for me. Basically, because the market changed quite a lot and quite quickly in terms of how receptive people are to queer romance, this is sort of the first time in my career that these kinds of opportunities have been possible for me. So I did what any reasonably neurotic person would have done and said yes to everything. Which does mean my life is temporarily on hold. I’m hoping to get to a more sensible pace in a year or two.

Are you a fastidious organizer when it comes to drafting or is it a more chaotic process?
This feels like a nonanswer but sort of both? The answer I usually give to the plotter versus pantser question is that it fails to take into account that pretty much all books go through multiple drafts and you need to use different techniques at different parts of the process. Like, I’ll usually have an outline for the first draft, but then the first draft is itself kind of the outline for the second draft. And there have been books that have looked, in their final form, quite similar to how they looked when they started, but there are others that are almost unrecognizable. So I guess I’m organized when I need to be organized and chaotic when I need to be chaotic. To be fair, I’m sometimes also chaotic when I need to be organized.

“It was important to me . . . that neither the text nor really anyone in the text should meaningfully question that Viola is a woman.”

A Lady for a Duke takes place after the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, which Viola fought in and after which she was presumed dead. Why did you choose to make Waterloo the pivotal turning point in her life?
Firstly, and most simply, Waterloo is a big, iconic, central feature of the Regency, and I wanted to engage with it in a meaningful way. It was kind of one of the most devastating military conflicts that Europe had ever seen, so that feels . . . significant? Otherwise, it would be like setting a book in 1916 and never mentioning the First World War.

The other reason is a bit more narratively focused. It was important to me from very early on in the conception of the book that neither the text nor really anyone in the text should meaningfully question that Viola is a woman because, frankly, I don’t think anyone benefits from fiction legitimizing that particular “debate.” And so that meant I needed Viola to have transitioned and to be comfortable in her identity from the moment she arrived on page. In that context, Waterloo gives depth to the life she lived and the choices she made in the past, while providing a source of conflict between her and Gracewood that’s not related to her gender identity.

Viola’s first interactions with Justin are some of the most emotionally fraught moments in the entire book. How did you ensure the poignancy of these moments without slowing down the pace?
I always feel bad about these crafty kinds of questions because I feel like people are expecting a more insightful answer than I actually have. I mean, the short answer is “I don’t know, and I suspect some readers will think I didn’t.”

But I think some of it, partially, is just trusting my audience. One of the hardest (and most freeing) things about writing genre romance is that people recognize that the emotions are the plot. I mean, you can have other plots as well, but it’s not like you’re ever going to get a romance reader saying, “Nothing happened in this book except some people got together, where are the explosions?”

Read our starred review of ‘A Lady for a Duke.’

How is writing about queer love in the Regency era different from writing a contemporary queer romance?
In some respects, it isn’t. The philosophy I tend to take about writing in a historical setting is to keep clear sight of the fact that I’m still a modern writer writing a modern book for a modern audience. And how far I’ll steer into that will vary quite a lot. For example, my other Regency series is unabashedly, absurdly modern in pretty much all of its sensibilities, and some readers don’t like that, and that’s fine. But I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with writing historical fiction like A Knight’s Tale instead of The Lion in Winter.

That said, I think there are some decisions you have to make consciously that, in contemporary fiction, you’re allowed to make unconsciously. Readers often have quite specific expectations about how being LGBTQ+ should be presented in a historical setting, and those aren’t always expectations I’m going to agree with or play into.

I think one of the more subtle questions it’s important to address in writing a queer love story in a historical environment is whether you are going to use modern perceptions of identity or, as best you can, historical perceptions of identity. On the one hand, it is correct to say that relationships and experiences that we would today attach specific labels to have always existed. But, on the other hand, neither those labels nor the often quite complex set of assumptions that go with those labels would have made sense to people in a historical setting.

My general take comes back to what I said about keeping in mind that I’m writing for a modern audience. It’s ultimately more important to me that my queer stories resonate with modern queer readers than it is for them to portray what I think a person at the time might actually have perceived their identity to be. Not least because that’s unknowable.

“One of the hardest (and most freeing) things about writing genre romance is that people recognize that the emotions are the plot.”

A Lady for a Duke

Both the cover model for Viola and the audiobook narrator of A Lady for a Duke are trans women. Why was it important to you to involve trans women in the process of bringing this book to life? And how did you feel the first time you saw its gorgeous cover?
Who can represent whom and in what media is a complex question that doesn’t necessarily have clear generalizable answers. For example, I’m not sure I could readily articulate why I felt it was important to have a trans woman narrating Viola (or why I tend to feel that it’s important to have POC voice actors narrating books with POC protagonists) but haven’t felt so strongly about having voice actors who match the identities of my gay or bisexual characters. I’m also deeply aware that this isn’t a topic that I have authority to pontificate on, and in many ways I am just kind of guided by instinct. For what it’s worth, I do have another book (The Affair of the Mysterious Letter) in which the trans male narrator was portrayed by a cis man in the audiobook because, at the time, I couldn’t find a British trans man to do it. Ultimately I think that was an acceptable second best, and the voice actor did a great job, but I think I’d have felt bad if I could have had a trans voice actor for A Lady for a Duke but gave the job to a cis person anyway.

One of the things I wanted to do with A Lady for a Duke (and I’m far from the first person to do it) is to contribute to the normalization of trans people within romance in general and historical romance in particular. And perhaps I’m wrong, but I hope having Violet looking gorgeous as Viola on the cover and Kay Eluvian doing a fantastic job narrating the audiobook helps to communicate that trans people belong here as much as cis people do.

And yes, the cover is perfect and I love it.

Tell us about the research you did for this book. What did you learn that surprised you?

The first thing I’d say is that it’s worth remembering that the Regency is an incredibly tiny bit of history both spatially and temporally. Like, not only did it cover just nine years of actual time (1811–1820), but if we’re talking about the specific community that people are usually talking about when they’re talking about the Regency, we’re talking about the 10,000 richest people in England. And, in fact, if you narrow it down to the subset of people that historical romance tends to focus on (which is to say, dukes and people who directly interacted with dukes), you’re getting into the low hundreds.

On top of that, there’s the broader issue that I’ve loosely touched on already, which is that the language we use to describe LGBTQ+ identities and experiences in the present day only really applies to the present day. So, for example, we do know a certain amount about molly houses, which were brothels/social clubs in the late 18th century (which, honestly, were kind of fading out by the Regency) where men would go to have sex with each other, sometimes cross-dress and sometimes do sham weddings and even sham births. But none of that can necessarily be assumed to map onto any specific identity as we understand it today.

“I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with writing historical fiction like A Knight’s Tale instead of The Lion in Winter.”

Similarly, there have always been people who have lived as a gender that is not the gender they were assigned at birth (although, obviously, the only ones we know about are the ones who were outed, either during their lives or post-mortem), but we can’t necessarily know how those individuals understood their identities. It gets particularly complex when you’re talking about people who were assigned female at birth and lived as men. Hannah Snell, for example, dressed as a man to fight in a war but afterward told her own story in a way that very strongly framed her as a woman who had dressed as a man to fight in a war. But there are also people like Dr. James Barry who lived as men during their lifetimes and made it very clear that they wanted to be thought of, known and remembered as men after their deaths.

An ongoing problem with queer history in general and trans history in particular is you can’t prove how a person really thought about themselves, and mainstream culture tends to demand a very high burden of proof. Dr. James Barry is a really good example. Here we have a man who lived as a man, explicitly stated he was a man and wanted to be remembered as a man, but most of his biographies present him as a woman who cross-dressed to access privileged male spheres. And while I’m not a historian, as a human being my personal feeling is that if someone says they’re a man, you should, like, believe them.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing A Lady for a Duke?
In any romance book, you need an emotional nadir of some kind, because otherwise the journey toward the happily ever after can feel like it lacks stakes or tension. This usually happens at 70% into the story, but that didn’t feel right for this book.

I knew the main source of conflict was going to be what happened at Waterloo, but the idea of having that hanging over the book, the characters and the reader for 200 to 300 pages was just super grim. Viola and Gracewood also have a lot to work through both personally and socially, and I didn’t think I’d be able to squoosh that into the last third of the book. All of which meant that I actually hit the emotional nadir at about (spoiler) 30% or 40%. And because of that change in structure, it took some finessing to make sure the rest of the book still felt like it had something to say and the characters had somewhere to go.

What have you been reading lately?
I recently read a phenomenal contemporary rom-com called The Romantic Agenda by Claire Kann. It’s kind of a riff on My Best Friend’s Wedding, but it centralizes two asexual characters who are navigating their complicated relationship with each other while falling in love with other people. The heroine, Joy, is an absolute joy. And I think it’s just one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read.

I also loved The Stand-In by Lily Chu, another contemporary rom-com. This one has a zany “Oh, you look exactly like a famous film star” premise, but it’s actually incredibly grounded and tender, exploring the importance of all kinds of relationships, not just romantic ones.

Oh, and Siren Queen by Nghi Vo is breathtakingly good. It’s a magical, dark fairy-tale take on pre-code Hollywood about a queer Asian American film star who makes a name for herself playing monsters, since she won’t faint, do an accent or take a maid role. It’s incredibly intense but, at its heart, exquisitely kind. One of those books you feel genuinely humbled to have read.

We spoke with Alexis Hall, master of the contemporary rom-com, about what it was like to take on the Regency era in A Lady for a Duke.

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Leif Enger’s third novel, Virgil Wander, centers on the eponymous protagonist who lives in the quaint, rustic town of Greenstone, Minnesota. By day, Virgil begrudgingly works as the town clerk, but by night, he is the proprietor of the Empress, a fledgling movie theater that specializes in projecting its exclusive and illegal film collection. During a drive one snowy evening, Virgil’s car skids off the road and crashes into Lake Superior. Luckily, he is a saved by Marcus Jetty, the owner of the local junkyard. Virgil emerges from the accident with a fleeting grasp of language and flickering memories of his former life.

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