My Love Affair With Romance Novels

As many of you may have surmised, I am an avid reader. I often go through periods where I tear through a book a day (sometimes more). Then I crash and burn because I have ignored my children for too many days in a row or my DVR is near to bursting or Hapa Papa can no longer stand my disappearing from the family anymore and last (and certainly least), I’m exhausted from lack of sleep.

People are often incredulous when they hear how much and how quickly I read. They ask, “How do you find the time?”

Well, the truth is, I’m a very fast reader (~80 pages/hr). However, the main reason I can read so much is because I make time. Any spare moment or second, I have my nose in a book or on my phone’s Kindle app. Of course, it is at the expense of other activities, (confer above) so every now and then, I have to resurface and take care of all the stuff I’ve pushed to the back burner in order to finish a particularly gripping series.

Now, long-time readers know from books I’ve recommended that I am a big fan of Sci-Fi/Fantasty and the YA genres (particularly SFF and the current dystopian craze). I’ve always loved fairy tales, myths and legends of King Arthur, and stories from 1,001 Arabian Nights so SFF was not really that big of a leap for me. I blame the gateway books of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series. I mean, fairy tales have magic, good vs. evil, some type of quest, and lots of fantastical elements. I also loved the Chinese epic, Journey to the West and Chinese myths that my mother read to me.

Anyhow, I digress. What I meant to say is that though I often expound on my love for these genres, I rarely mention that I love Regency Romances. LOVE. They are my guilty pleasure. (Pun intended.) My Goodreads friends know I love romances because my updates are often flooded with them after I go through heavier series. When I’ve chewed through door-stopper books that are each part of a trilogy or heptalogy, I need a dose of fluff. (Heh.) Also, you can read out of order and most books are standalone and you always know how the book will end. Sometimes, all you want is a happy ending. (Heh.)

As a kid, especially in junior high, I was obsessed with romance novels. I was obsessed with sex and these novels were a gateway into understanding my body – that it was built with a capacity for physical pleasure and the romance sure didn’t hurt. When I look back on the novels I read, I wasn’t particularly discerning. In fact, the writing was quite bad. But I didn’t care. I was definitely ashamed, though. I would sneak the books out of the library versus check them out. I was afraid the librarians wouldn’t let me borrow the racy books. (For you young people, this was pre-self checkout stations.) One of the minor benefits to being an adult now, I guess.

Here’s the thing: I only like Regency romances. (I’ll allow for the occasional Georgian or Victorian period since they bookend the Regency period, but that’s just minor quibbling.) I abhor Medievals and can barely tolerate modern romances. Westerns are ok, but I really don’t find them enjoyable due to the spectre of slavery and genocide and sadly, I don’t like real history harshing my mellow. (Most often, the books don’t even allude to slavery – which is what annoys me. Or they have the hero or heroine be the one family with no slaves. In the South. You know, like Mel Gibson’s family in The Patriot. Like seriously? Please do NOT insult me or conveniently paper over an entire people’s suffering.)

Mostly, I just like Regencies because the time period is just close enough to ours such that the rumblings of women’s suffrage, industry, and class revolt are just beginning. But not so recent that sex on a first date (or dating at all) is possible. I particularly like marriages of convenience or “scandal” or spies. OKOK. I like spy stories in any time period.

Of course, the stories are 99% focused on the wealthy and peerage (ie: dukes and duchesses – you’d think they were a dime a dozen) but heck, it is a fantasy. I do find I enjoy glimpses into the lower classes as well, but as you can imagine, far fewer books on romances between the lower classes and if they’re mentioned at all, it’s a wealthy earl marrying the governess or something.

The irony is, now that I’m old enough to read these books with impunity, I don’t care about the sex scenes anymore. Incidentally, the love scenes have gotten steamier than I recall from when I was a kid. And now that I’m old enough to have sex, the sex scenes do not appeal nearly as much. In fact, I often skim the scenes or skip them entirely.

Don’t get me wrong. I still quite enjoy the love scenes. (They were quite helpful for the begetting of three children, after all.) But on the whole, I actually read the romances for the story. You know. Like you do with Playboy. 

Hey, I still enjoy PWP types (Plot, what Plot?) of books, but again, now that I can have sex, written porn has limited appeal. (Oh, come on. We all know that’s what romance novels are!)

Anyhow, this is just a long preamble to what I actually wanted to write about today: My Favorite Regency Romance Authors. So, in no particular order, here are a few of my favorites and some recommendations. (All links are affiliate links.)

My Favorite Regency Romance Authors

1) Mary Balogh – It is evident that Balogh is head and shoulders above all other romance writers. Balogh consistently writes romances that are deeply moving and I love her writing and her vividly portrayed characters. But most importantly, I love the truth that is present in her stories. Of course, all good writers tell truth via lies, (after all, isn’t that what fiction is?), but Balogh is vastly superior. Her stories are imbued with warmth, love, and sincerity. Dare I even say, even sweetness?

Bonus: Balogh has an extensive backlist. As a reader, there is nothing worse than finding a good author and then realizing they only have two books written. That makes readers have a sad.

Start With: Huxtable Quintet or Mistress TrilogyChoose anyone in any of these two series to start. No need to go in order. After all, we all know how the books end.

2) Julia Quinn – Most noted for her Bridgerton family series, Quinn is definitely the Nora Ephron of Regencies. Her books are hilarious, goofy, and a joy to read.

Bonus: Quinn quit Harvard Medical School to write romances. I heartily approve.

Start With: The Duke and I (the first of the Bridgerton series), When He Was Wicked (personal favorite of the series)

3) Eloisa James – Most known for her Desperate Duchesses series set in the Georgian period, James often has long, over-arching B-plots that span a series.

Bonus: James is a Shakespearian professor in her day job and it shows in her liberal use of Shakespeare and her excellent writing.

Start With: Once Upon A Tower (part of her fairy tale series)

4) Joanna Bourne – Bourne is the least prolific of my favorite writers and it is a crying shame. In particular, because she writes fantastic banter, sexy spies, and makes me love the French. She has a total of five books out (so consider yourself forewarned). Choose a random one and it will be excellent and funny and sly. I just finished her most recent one and I am already sad it’s over. As far as I know, Bourne was never a spy, but man, she makes you believe!

Start With: Oh, just pick a book of hers and it will be excellent. But if you must, why don’t we go in order of publication and start with The Spymaster’s Lady.

5) Courtney Milan – Milan is an author that only recently came (heh) to my attention via Bookbub (a great site for free or cheaply priced ebooks). It was a free ebook download and I’m all about free! I immediately exhausted my library and LinkPlus’s selection and broke down and spent actual money to buy her ebook novellas and the books I haven’t read. She does have a few clunkers, but for the  most part, her books are highly intelligent with a lot of detailed science that doesn’t sound dumbed down or fake.

Bonus: That’s because Milan has a graduate degree from UC Berkeley and went to law school at University of Michigan (summa cum laude). She also clerked for some SCOTUS judges and was a law professor. She quit to write romances full time. I also heartily approve of this decision.

I appreciate how Milan includes people we often don’t see included in Regencies. She also tends to have excellent stories without resorting to ridiculous tropes.

Start With: The Duchess War

Skip: Proof by Seduction (utterly abysmal)

Also, she has novellas in packs so you don’t have to buy them individually. Hey. You can save one whole dollar!

Ok. This was a super long (heh) post. I realize this may only attract a certain subset of my readers but whatever. I enjoy these authors. I hope you do, too.

What are some of your favorite romance authors?

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