The Regency era in British history is probably best known now by the works of Jane Austen. Austen's novels have captivated minds for generations afterwards with their vibrant female characters and humor. As a result, many writers have been influenced by Austen's strong women, marriage plots, and distinct setting, to write romances set in her time. Here are some of my favorites!
Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
The most famous Regency romance writer is Georgette Heyer - she basically invented the historical romance genre as we know know it. A great introduction to her works is Cotillion
, the story of Kitty Charing, who is determined to marry her rakish cousin Jack. She travels to London and becomes involved with the romantic travails of many friends - and of course her own - in a great introduction to Regency historical romances.
I, personally, am a sucker for a series. I like learning more about side characters who I'm already attached to! That's part of what makes Julia Quinn's books so engaging. This book is about Daphne, the fourth of the eight Bridgerton siblings, who concocts a plan with her brother's best friend Simon to make her seem like a more desirable prospect on the marriage mart and keep him off of it by pretending that they are on the verge of marriage. The Bridgerton family is loving and funny and each of the siblings has a great story, but I recommend starting at the beginning with Daphne.
MacLean's romances, like Quinn's, are also enhanced by their connections but also stand as entertaining novels on their own. This book is the technically the first of the "Love by Numbers" trilogy, but also related the "Rules of Scoundrel series". Lady Calpurnia is sick of following the rules and decides to enlist noted rule-breaker, Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston, to help her in her new mission to enjoy what life has to offer. These books may be slightly less historically accurate than some others, but only in order to make the characters easier to identify with and enjoy.
But history is decidedly more than merely pretty clothes and quaint customs. During the regency period, England was busy fighting the Napoleonic wars, and that conflict had an impact on the lives of many. This book is the second in Balogh's "Survivor's Club" series, about a group of nobles injured by the war. The lead man in this story is Vincent Hunt, a Viscount who was blinded in the war and arranges a marriage of convenience with the destitute Sophia Fry, who saved him from a marriage trap.
Emma by Jane Austen
And of course, I can't write this list without encouraging you to read Austen herself. While I could write (and probably will someday!) a whole other list about Austen adaptations, the real deal holds up! Emma is a rich, spoiled girl who thinks she can order the world to her liking, and this book manages to make you like Emma while simultaneously bemoaning her. Plus, this book is the inspiration for Clueless
, which I could argue is one of the greatest adaptations of a classic ever!