It seems like everyone’s been watching the hit romance series Bridgerton. It’s been making headlines and breaking records. Even my dad had his theories about who Lady Whistledown might be. I was thrilled when I heard the Bridgerton books by Julia Quinn were becoming a Netflix show, as I read and enjoyed the series several years ago, and regency romance novels are one of my favorite sub-genres. I’m delighted to see how much people have enjoyed the show, and I hope it serves as a gateway for viewers to get to know the wide world of romance novels and HEAs (happily ever afters). So just in time for Valentine’s Day, here is a list of recommendations if you just can’t wait for more Bridgerton.
Do you want to find out what happens next?
If you’re absolutely dying to find out who Anthony ends up with, or whether Penelope finds her happy ending, you don’t have to wait for the next season to show up on Netflix. Season One was based on the first book in the series, The Duke and I, but if you need to know what happens next you can spoil yourself and read ahead.
The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
Anthony’s book is the second in the original Bridgerton series. After meddling in Daphne’s love life, it’s his turn to dip his toes into the marriage mart. In fact, he’s already picked out the perfect wife for a Viscount. Unfortunately, his betrothed’s sister, Kate, is determined to put a stop to the match. Even worse, Anthony finds himself becoming increasingly preoccupied with Kate. Pick this one up and discover what happens between Anthony and Kate, and also what the significance was of that bee in the closing scene of Season One...
Do you want to read more diverse historicals?
Bridgerton made waves for more than it’s steamy scenes. It also had people talking about diversity and race. Julia Quinn’s original series didn’t have the diverse cast that the show does. However, there are many amazing authors who have been writing inclusive historical romance for years. A couple of these are set in the regency era, but they span a variety of different settings and time periods.
The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan
If you want both dukes and diversity, this one’s for you. Both the hero and heroine are of Chinese descent (as is Courtney Milan). In this book, Milan takes on the popular trope of childhood sweethearts, reunited. The Duke of Lansing is back in town, with the intent to woo his childhood friend. Except Miss Chloe Fong has no time for nonsense, or the man who disappeared three years ago. And there’s another problem: Chloe doesn’t know her old sweetheart’s real identity.
Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole
Alyssa Cole is a powerhouse in both historical and contemporary romance. Her historicals are set in several different American eras, but this novella is set in 1961 in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. Sofie, a Black woman, has always been prim and reserved, but the nonviolent protests springing up across the south have inspired her and brought out her inner activist. Ivan, a Jewish white man, is a boxer. But his family escaped from Europe at the start of WWII, and he feels compelled to help fight injustice in his new country. In a tumultuous time, will these two be able to find love? (They will).
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
If you have your heart set on regency and diversity, Waite brings us a delightful story of two women who like science and fall in love. With each other. Although f/f (female/female) romance can be hard to find, the past few years have seen the genre expanding. Since I do love regency, this was one of my favorites. The Countess of Moth wants to finish her late husband’s work on the translation of a French book on celestial mechanics. But given that she doesn’t speak French, she hires Lucy Muchelney to help her with the translation. This is the first book in Waite’s Feminie Pursuits series, and I personally can’t wait to get my hands on the second and third books.
Rebel by Beverly Jenkins
The winner of 2017’s RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, Beverly Jenkins has been writing wonderful American historical romance novels for over twenty-five years. It’s almost impossible to pick just one title to recommend, so I opted to go with her most recent title. Rebel is the first book in Jenkins’ new series, Women Who Dare. This one is set in New Orleans, during the 1860s Reconstruction. Valinda is a northern Black woman, who has ventured south to help the newly emancipated community. But freedom can be dangerous in the south, and when things go wrong she ends up running into the arms of Captain Drake LeVeq. Though the Reconstruction south was harrowing, the love story between Val and Drake is tender and completely swoon-worthy.
Soldier’s Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian
Sebastian writes primarily m/m (male/male) historical romances, most of which are set in the regency era. This one is the first in her Turner series, introducing readers to Jack Turner, who grew up in the slums of London. He’s a true scoundrel, who has no qualms about resorting to crime if it means he can support himself and his siblings. Oliver Rivington, on the other hand, is a gentleman, and a soldier who has been wounded in the war. This unlikely pair is drawn together when mystery surrounds Oliver’s sister. Can they ever make it work between them? (They can).
Do you want to read more regency romance novels?
Was it the escapades of the ton that drew you into Bridgerton? If the courtly dance of the beau monde and the marriage mart is what left you wanting more, you’re in luck! The regency era in England was only from 1811-1820, and yet it’s the setting for a multitude of romance novels. If you like exploring the social season, the balls, and the morning calls, plus a little bit of steaminess, these books should have just what you’re looking for.
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
Dare is my personal favorite regency writer. She has a light and engaging style, and frequently makes me laugh out loud. Her books tend to have an injection of modern sensibilities in them, so your enjoyment may depend on how you feel about that. Personally, I love her smart and opinionated heroines, and her depiction of enthusiastic consent. The Duchess Deal is the first book in her Girl Meets Duke series. A marriage of convenience, a common regency plot, brings together a brooding Duke and a seamstress. You’ll have to read it yourself to find out if they fall in love along the way. (They do).
The Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
When I first started reading regency romance, one title I kept coming across was The Lord of Scoundrels. Even though it’s technically the third book in a series, this was the title that was recommended everywhere I looked. This is the oldest book on the list, published in 1995, but it continues to be considered one of the best regency romance novels for its sparkling wit and well-developed characters. It’s a regency retelling of Beauty and the Beast (though not the only one!), with a rakish hero and a bluestocking heroine struggling between their disagreements and their attraction to each other.
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean
This is the first regency romance novel I ever read, based on a recommendation from a well-read friend. MacLean is perhaps the first writer to embrace the current trend of modern-leaning regency romances, which I mentioned with Tessa Dare above, and Nine Rules to Break was her first big success. In the first book in her series Love By Numbers, rule-abiding Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has grown tired of always doing what’s expected of her. She makes herself a list of rules to break and sets out to find the right rake to teach her how, but finds more than she bargained for in the Marquess of Ralston.
A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh
Mary Balogh has been writing romance for decades, and doing it well the whole time. Her books are part of a gentler sub-genre of regency, where the intimate scenes are fewer and less explicit than some of her contemporary counterparts. Whether that’s a pro or a con for you, rest assured that her love stories are some of my absolute favorites. I started with her Slightly series, which I also recommend, but my absolute favorite of her works is A Matter of Class, a short novel. However, I’m not going to tell you what it’s about. If you trust me, don’t read the back or google a summary, just dive right in. I promise it’s worth the read!