In an earlier post, I had written about my disappointment at not finding the true literary heir of the highly popular novelist, Georgette Heyer. Having given it more thought, I feel I may have overstated my case, because I know of a few novelists who can do justice to her writing, even though – IMHO – they lack her consistency. Ms Heyer could churn out book after book with amusing characters who got caught in outlandish scenarios. Her books were laugh-out-loud funny. Others writing in the same genre have had some success with that style, but their books can be hit-and-miss. Since I’ve read so many of them, I’m listing out the ones I enjoyed so you can steer clear of the bad ones.
With romance novels, a popular way of categorisation is to classify them as either closed-door or open-door. The latter is the category where the door to the bedroom is open, meaning the sexual content is high and the book contains mature themes. Closed-door romances give a hint of what happens behind bedroom doors and leave the rest to your imagination. To make your choice easier, today I’m listing only the open-door romance novels.
So, in the order of popularity, here is my list –
Julia Quinn – The Bridgerton series
One of the most popular series in the genre of Regency Romance, this one is about the eight Bridgerton siblings who are trying to find true love in the marriage obsessed world of Regency England. Full of funny and enjoyable chatter between brothers and sisters (aptly named by their parents alphabetically from A to H), this series is worth a read. Each sibling gets his or her own book, so all characters are well fleshed out. A special feature of the books is Lady Whistledown – the Gossip Girl of Regency England – and her choice witticisms liberally scattered through the books.
You will especially enjoy reading this series because Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal) is converting it into a Netflix series to be aired in December 2020. On the audiobook front, Rosalyn Landor seems to be the go-to narrator for most romance novelists. However, if you’re interested in listening to a swoon-worthy voice, I recommend Simon Prebble’s reading of On the Way to the Wedding (Book 8). I promise you’ll thank me for it!
Lisa Kleypas – The Ravenels
Lisa Kleypas writes both historical and contemporary romance novels, however, I’ve only read the former. The Ravenels series doesn’t strictly fall in the genre of Regency Romance since these six books are set at the onset of the Industrial Revolution in England, which makes them even more interesting. These books are about a mixed group of siblings, cousins, half-sisters and half brothers. Out of the six, I most enjoyed Cold Hearted Rake (Book 1) and Devil’s Daughter (Book 5). If you like audiobooks, Mary Jane Wells – she is so great with accents – does a fabulous job of narration here.
Tessa Dare – Castles Ever After series
Tessa Dare’s novels reflect her great sense of humour. Her heroines are sassy and no-nonsense, which is what you want from your heroines. This four-part series is about three ladies who receive castles as bequests at the death of a godfather they had in common – the fourth lady gets connected to the series through another character. With the castles also comes love from unexpected quarters and everything ends Happily Ever After. I enjoyed the first two books the most – Romancing the Duke and Say Yes to the Marquess – but by Book 3, things got repetitive. Carmen Rose is another great narrator and does justice to these books with her rich and textured voice.
Mary Balogh – Bedwyn Saga
Mary Balogh does not make it to too many lists of Regency Romance writers. Quite surprising since she is a prolific writer with several series to her credit. Her most popular one is the Bedwyn Saga – six books about six brothers and sisters, with a strict yet loving Duke as the eldest. I think the Bedwyns do camaraderie as well as the Bridgertons, which is why they deserve as much love from us. I enjoyed the stories of Freyja (Book 3 – Slightly Scandalous) and Wulfric (Book 6 – Slightly Dangerous) the most. I think you can start anywhere in the series because the later books let you know what happened earlier so you don’t miss out on anything. You have Rosalyn Landor again as the narrator for the audiobooks.
Eloisa James – Fairy Tale Series
Eloisa James is a Shakespearean Scholar, and her literary prowess is clear in her writing. I haven’t read too many of her books, but I have read the entire Fairy Tales series. Ms James has reinterpreted some of the most popular fairy tales – such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Pea, the Ugly Duckling and Rapunzel – and placed them in the world of Regency England. It is an arduous task and I admire her for taking it up. She has succeeded with the first two books. When Beauty Tamed the Beast (Book 2) is especially brilliant, with the hero modelled after none other than our dear Dr House ( of the TV show House M.D.). However, the next three books in the series were so disappointing that I almost left her name off this list. The only reason I didn’t do that is because When Beauty Tamed the Beast deserves an entry in any list of the best Regency Romances. Susan Duerden does a decent job of narrating this series.
Phew! I feel as if I have been writing forever and yet haven’t even scratched the surface as far as the best open-door Regency Romances go. There are so many talented writers such as Sarah Maclean, Courtney Milan, Mary Jo Putney, who deserve a mention here. Maybe, just maybe, I will attempt another list with more writers in the future.
Hope you enjoy reading these books. Let me know the books or authors you love or hate. And wait for my closed-door Regency Romance list (now online). Till then, ciao!
(First published on Momspresso.com on 19th October, 2020 and can be accessed here)
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