By the time you read this, Justine’s UK research trip should be well under way. If things go to plan, we’ll have spent Friday in Brighton exploring the Royal Pavilion and other Regency landmarks with 8LW friend Rachel Beecroft, and Saturday investigating the narrow streets and smugglers’ haunts of the ancient Cinque Port of Rye. Today? If it’s Sunday, it must be Dover!
Justine will be following in the footsteps of a generation of US historical romance authors, walking the terrain of Kent and Sussex to soak in a million tiny details that she’ll use to give her stories an authentic and unique feel. There’s a strong tradition of quality historical romance writing in the US, and I’m constantly impressed by the way the authors skillfully mix historical accuracy and characters with agency to create novels that feel credible but appeal to a 21st-century reader. I especially love stories that go beyond Dukes and governesses and gowns – some of my favorite historicals may have Almack’s and corsets, but they also have spies, soldiers, suspense, mysteries, politics, business-people, dancers, actresses, and social change.
I’m really looking forward to reading the 8 Ladies’ contribution to this excellent tradition – Justine’s Three Proposals, Elizabeth’s The Traitor, and Nancy’s new series – but while they write, edit, polish and pick new titles, I’d like to celebrate some of my favorite US historical romance writers and (if I’m lucky) collect some new recommendations.
Off the top of my head, how about:
Loretta Chase: OK, I talk about Lord of Scoundrels even more than Micki talks about Bujold, but I love Loretta Chase’s voice, her characters and their sizzling chemistry. She’s brilliant at making me care about her people. My greatest catnip is a hot hero who falls like a ton of bricks for the heroine, hides behind smart-assery and snark, but does all the right things, and Loretta Chase writes those guys like nobody else. Her books, especially LoS, The Last Hellion, and the Carsington family series are some of my favorites evah.
Julia Quinn: don’t take my word for it. If you aren’t already a fan, read this post from Nancy about the Bridgerton series. Clever, fun, generous, kind and as deliciously feel-good as a warm bath and a glass of wine.
Eloisa James: very intelligent, fun romances with clear concepts (Shakespeare, fairy tales, Desperate Duchesses).
Julie Anne Long: Another auto-buy author for me. I love the world of Pennyroyal Green – two wealthy, feuding families in one small English village. Julie Anne Long writes very likeable characters who’re self-made rather than blue-blooded. The stories are an interesting mix of larger-than-life plots (pirates!) mixed with real problems, credible business and social issues.
Courtney Milan: super-smart, tightly-written stories with strong heroines and plots driven by interesting social and political issues.
Sabrina Jeffries: One of her The Duke’s Men stories was in the goody bag at last year’s RWA, and I enjoyed it so much I had to read the other books in the series immediately. A tightly-knit community, unusual characters, humor, plenty of mystery, and characters dealing intelligently together with none of that Big Misunderstanding nonsense. I plan to read all the rest of her books, and I’m happy to say there are lots.
Grace Burrowes: I read her Captive Hearts trilogy, enjoyed it (even the one that made a hero of the villain) and wrote about it here. She says on her website that she wrote two million words of romantic fiction before she got published and loved every one of them, and that joy shines through in her stories. No wonder she has two books shortlisted for RITAs this year. I’m planning to read a lot more of her back-list.
Sarah MacLean: clever, complex, tightly-plotted and very well-written. Powerful conflicts (maybe a little bit too powerful for me sometimes, but I can be a wuss).
Tessa Dare: Wonderful concepts (Castles Ever After!), opening scenes that bring the story roaring to life super-fast (wish I could do that), and lots of delicious details. The conflict is often gentle rather than gut-wrenching, but I’m very happy with that (like I said, I’m a wuss).
Jude Deveraux: I’ve only read her most famous book, A Knight In Shining Armor. Like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (see below) it’s different, a stand-out book. It’s deeply romantic and I can see why it was such a huge hit, but it’s a time-slip story, which doesn’t usually do it for me, and while it’s cleverly wrapped up, I prefer a more traditional HEA. I’m wondering whether I should try another of her many best-sellers. The Black Lyon, a medieval, gets lots of good book noise on the interwebs. Maybe that might be one to sample next.
There must be lots more (yay!).
Diana Gabaldon? Kat’s an Outlander aficionada. I read the first book and stopped – I was okay with the contentious Jamie-and-Claire scenes but the world was too robust for me (a little too realistic?). Loved Jamie but was too squeamish to deal with sadistic Black Jack Randall. It was worth reading it just to join in the arguments among the 8 Ladies though 😉 .
Who else? Recommendations, please! Thank you very much!