Buried Under Romance 25/4/19
The great thing about the current roster of historical romance writers is that there are so many of them. The frustrating thing about those very same historical romance writers is, you guessed it, that there are so many of them. While it’s not possible for every reader to read every writer (would that it were!) it is, indeed possible for a devoted lover of historical romance, aka yours truly, to have come this far without reading four of the big names in the genre today. Which writers and why not, you ask? Good questions. Read on to find out, and weigh in on the important question: which one first?
Julia Quinn: I did meet the Mother of Bridgertons, at one of her first book signings, in Enfield, CT, at a Waldenbooks (oh the memories) and had a splendid (pun intended) time chatting about romance novels and reading and all that good stuff. I bought her book, Splendid, and she told me a bit about its companion, Everything and the Moon, which I still think is a gorgeous title, but have I read them yet? Alas, I have not.
Sarah MacLean spoke at a meeting of the New England Romance Writers of America chapter, and she was funny and smart, and professed a love of old school historical romance, which instantly won me over, and I am a member of her Old School Romance Book Club group on Facebook, but, again, have I read her? I have not. Part of me is eyeing her lone YA historical, The Season, which I may yet pick, but would that be an accurate introduction to her adult romance? There’s the question. I do love a good standalone, which I think this is (please correct me if I am wrong) so it may be the one..
Tessa Dare: I do own her first book, Goddess of the Hunt, which I bought when it was brand new, and, for some reason, thought she was going to be deeply emotional, but all I’ve heard is that her books have a lighter tone, which can often be a hard sell for me, but then again, s lighter touch does not preclude deeper emotion, so there is only one way to find out, and that is for myself.
Eloisa James: I did once sit at the same table with her, at an RWA chapter function, and we chatted a little about the series she was going to write, which was Desperate Duchesses. I have read several articles she’s written, and skimmed through a few of her titles, but, so far, have only stuck a toe in the waters. I love that she is a Shakesperean professor, and will forever hold out hope she might try a book set in that era (though I completely understand her reasons for not doing exactly that.)
Here are the books I have chosen to start with each writer:
Julia Quinn, Because of Miss Bridgerton. I have to read in order. Have. To. Also, I can never have enough Colonial American historical romances. I did try Splendid, her first ever novel, which I bought at that signing, and I still have that copy, though it’s in storage. I remember trying a more recent title, with a prologue that had the school-age hero cleaning up after his drunken father, but saw that was in the middle of a (Bridgerton?) series, so put it back on the shelf. I have had suggestions about the Wyndham duology, but it’s the colonial setting that is the clincher for me
Sarah MacLean, Nine Rules To Break When Romancing a Rake. Main reason I have not read this yet, especially knowing that the author and I both share a love of old school historical romance, is that cute, rhyming, or punny titles are a hard sell for me. It’s the start of, I believe, all of her series, so beginning at the beginning is a must for me, especially when multiple series intertwine…unless they aren’t in chronological order, in which case I’d start at the earliest story.
Tessa Dare: Goddess of the Hunt. Although I have the original paperback, it is, unfortunately, in storage. I figure I can’t go wrong starting at the beginning of an author’s oeuvre, and it circumvents my nagging fear that I would get the Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After books in the wrong order. Fun note: Dare is the one author of this bunch with whom I have not had a personal encounter. To my knowledge. Yet. Romance writer conferences are a many splendored thing, and it is entirely possible to ask the person across the table what they write, have them answer “historicals,” and only then does one notice the Name on their nametag. Were it socially acceptable to spend the rest of the meal under the table, I might have taken that option.
Eloisa James: Desperate Duchesses. James was the hardest author to pick a point of entry for, because she has so many books out, multiple series, some of them I believe, interweaving. I had thought, at one point, to start with her Potent Pleasures, which had two different instances of buzz; first, when it was originally released, and then when the author took the books back and redid them. I also considered the fairy tale series, because, like Eloisa James, I loved Andrew Lang’s fairy books, but the Georgian age is one of my favorite settings, and I need to find out how the books Ms. James envisioned turned out, so I am starting with Desperate Duchesses.
Alternate, pressed for time option: The Lady Most Likely, by Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, and Connie Brockway. I have read some Connie Brockway, back in the 90s, so I won’t be in entirely unfamiliar territory, but it might be a good way to dip a toe in the waters, and I am interested to read other romance collaborations, to see how others do it.
Common sense tells me there’s no bad choice from the options above, but, when faced with such tempting options, what’s a romance reader to do?
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Which of the above authors should I try first? Did I choose the right points of entry, or do you know somewhere better to start? Is there a big name author you’ve never read so far, but would like to try? Pull up a chair in the comment section, and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.