If you’ve been glued to Bridgerton on Netflix, you may be hankering for another dalliance with the Quality. Julia Quinn’s novels are a good place to start (The Duke and I covers the events of season one), but if you want to discover some new diamonds of the first water, get your dance (and library) card ready and check out these 15 books.
1. Frederica, by Georgette Heyer
Georgette Heyer is the Mother of Regency Romance. Her novels crafted a fantasy vision of the era, full of balls, banter, dashing heroes, and headstrong heroines, inspiring a whole subgenre. Frederica introduces us to the Marquis of Alverstoke, a bored aristocrat fed up with his freeloading family. So when a distant relative asks him to launch her gorgeous sister into society, he jumps at the chance to spite his obnoxious sister and plain nieces. But Frederica brings two irrepressible little brothers, a dog, and her own wit and charm with her so, for once, Alverstoke is anything but bored… Its slow-burn romance, loveable cast, and witty repartee make Frederica one of Heyer’s best and funniest novels.
2. Watch the Wall, My Darling, by Jane Aiken Hodge
After Heyer, Jane Aiken Hodge is one of the grandest of grand dames in the Regency Romance stable. She wrote over 30 novels, and Watch the Wall, My Darling was only the fourth. The title is a reference to an old smuggler’s song, because this is a Regency Romance with smuggling action! With the Napoleonic Wars just over the horizon, our young heroine Christina Tretton returns to her estranged family at their gothic ancestral home and whips it back into shape. This also involves taking the reins of their smuggling business, all while choosing between two suitors. With its Regency love triangle and well-to-do criminal enterprise, what’s not to love?
3. An Angel for the Earl, by Barbara Metzger
In case you were wondering, we are talking about literal angels here. Poor Lucinda is in a coma, poised between life and death. The fate of her soul also hangs in the balance, but she can earn a place in heaven by reforming Kieren Somerfield, the Earl of Stanford. Unfortunately, Kerry is an unrepentant rake who’s gambled away his inheritance. Worse still, he isn’t at all impressed by Lucinda’s dire warnings… but he won’t say “no” to angelic assistance in winning back his fortune. Lucy and Kerry are a great “odd couple,” and their inevitable romance is peppered with plenty of banter and surprisingly sweet moments. An Angel for the Earl deserves a mention for its originality and irreverent take on the afterlife, which is a mix of The Good Place and Just Like Heaven.
4. A Civil Campaign, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Do you love Regency Romance, but are you getting a bit tired of the same old formula? If so, A Civil Campaign may be the book for you! Part 12 of the Vorkosigan Saga, it reads like a Regency Romance set in space as Miles Vorkosigan, an invalided veteran and heir to a great family, attempts to court Ekaterin Voroisson, a lovely widow. Its story beats will feel familiar to fans of the genre and it’s even named after A Civil Contract, one of the author’s favorite Heyer novels. Lois McMaster Bujold has carved herself a place in the Sci-fi Hall of Fame, so if you’re contemplating branching out from historical romance, A Civil Campaign is a great place to start.
5. Nicola and the Viscount, by Meg Cabot
The author of The Princess Diaries has also penned a fair few historical novels, and Nicola and the Viscount is the first of her two YA Regency Romances. Headstrong heiress Nicola Sparks is convinced she’s met the love of her life, whatever her best friend’s annoying brother might say. But does Nathaniel Sheridan actually have a point? Is Lord Bartholomew really a gold-digger? Spunky heroines and love-hate relationships are what Cabot does best, and Nicola and the Viscount doesn’t disappoint. Kidnapping plots and railway-based intrigue add some extra excitement and an interesting reminder that the Regency period was more than just balls and gowns.
6. The Wedding Journey, by Carla Kelly
Carla Kelly is known for her historical research, military history, and down-to-earth protagonists. The Wedding Journey follows in this grand tradition as Captain Jesse Randall, a shy assistant army surgeon, falls hard for Nell Mason, a camp follower and nurse. When Nell’s useless father decides to marry her off, Jesse steps in to offer her a better option. But their marriage immediately gets off to a rocky start when the army’s retreat leaves them behind to care for the injured. With no one but each other to rely on, will the newlyweds and their ragtag band of survivors make it to safety? If you like lovesick heroes and couples bonding through adversity, you’ll love The Wedding Journey.
7. Something About Emmaline, by Elizabeth Boyle
It may not have the most plausible plot, but that’s part of the charm of Something About Emmaline. Alexander Denford, Baron Sedgwick and inveterate rake, is blessed with the perfect wife. She patiently tolerates his bad habits and doesn’t actually exist. So Alexander is understandably perturbed when “Emmaline’s” bills start finding their way to him. But his fake wife is here to stay and she’s determined to worm her way into high society… and his heart. “Emmaline” is the perfect nineteenth century conwoman, cunning and feisty and more than a match for our disreputable hero.
8. Mine Till Midnight, by Lisa Kleypas
A half-Romany hero and a nouveau riche heroine star in Mine Till Midnight by romance superstar Lisa Kleypas. After her brother unexpectedly inherits a title, Amelia Hathaway is at her wits end, trying to adapt to her new status and take care of her family, especially the newly minted viscount. So she has no time for romance, and certainly not with Cam Rohan, the suave, half-Romany manager of her brother’s gambling haunt. For his part, Cam is sick of the ton, but he can’t help taking an interest in the struggling family, especially it’s strong-willed matriarch. Cam and Amelia’s “outsider” status offers an interesting perspective on the era. More importantly, the romance is hot and their chemistry sizzles.
9. Loving a Lost Lord, by Mary Jo Putney
Mary Jo Putney is a Big Name in the genre and this entertaining “amnesia” romance shows us why. Loving a Lost Lord is on the sexy end of the Regency Romance scale, and its leads have real chemistry. Just don’t think too hard about the scenario. When Adam, Duke of Ashton, washes up sans memories on a beach, he accepts without question that his gorgeous savior is his wife. Little does he know that Mariah Clarke is a stranger using him to put off unwanted suitors. But could a fake marriage turn into a real one? Shipwrecks, fake relationships, temporary amnesia; you can tick them all off on your trope bingo card.
10. Sweet Disorder, by Rose Lerner
Political marriages are pretty commonplace, but marrying for politics? That’s the choice facing Phoebe Sparks, who’s recently widowed but has the power to make or break the next election–if she remarries. Suddenly, party representatives on both sides are at her door, and none are more troublesome than the Honourable Nicholas Dymond, son of the local lord. He’s promised his politics-mad family that he’ll find a husband for Phoebe and he’ll do anything to make it happen. Election fever and oodles of belligerent sexual tension turned to love make Sweet Disorder a real treat. If you’re a fan of the “marriage of convenience” trope, the rest of the Lively St. Lemeston series is also well worth a look.
11. Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho
Jane Austen meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown. English magic is in decline and it’s up to Zacharias Wythe, England’s first black Sorcerer Royal, to put it right. Faced with mutiny within the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers and government pressure to contribute to the war effort, the last thing he needs is a magical female demanding his help. But Prunella Gentleman has made a discovery that could revolutionize English magic, and together they could change the course of history. Familiars, ghosts, and fairies rub shoulders with balls, wigs, and the Quality. Cho’s worldbuilding is rich and detailed, and her “Regency” tone is pitch perfect throughout, making this an excellent gateway into the “fantasy of manners” subgenre.
12. The Lawrence Browne Affair, by Cat Sebastian
Mad aristocrat meets a con man with a heart of gold. It’s a tale as old as time. Cat Sebastian is a master of funny, diverse romances, and she’s on top form in The Lawrence Browne Affair. Apart from having an excellent title, it introduces us to the Earl of Radnor, Lawrence Browne, a “mad” scientist who believes he’s genuinely insane. He keeps to himself, but reluctantly accepts the arrival of his new, devastatingly handsome secretary. For con artist Georgie Turner, masquerading as a secretary should be a piece of cake, especially if it means he can lie low in the countryside. But madness might be contagious because he can’t help falling for his very off-limits employer. The Lawrence Browne Affair has wit and charm, and you can delve into the rest of the Turner series for more lovable rogues falling in love.
13. The Duchess Deal, by Tessa Dare
The Duke of Ashbury is deeply scarred, both physically and emotionally. Having sustained horrific injuries at Waterloo, he’s convinced that no one could ever love him, but he needs an heir. So the serendipitous appearance of Emma Gladstone, disgraced vicar’s daughter and seamstress, inspires a most indecent proposal. He’ll make her his Duchess, and in return she’ll give him a son. They’ll meet nightly until the deed is done, and then they’ll never see each other again. But unbeknownst to Ash, Emma has some ambitions of her own. Despite its titillating premise and many sex scenes, The Duchess Deal is heartfelt and sweet. And if a lively supporting cast, entertaining subplots (three words: “Monster of Mayfair”), and a couple you can root for aren’t enough, Dare’s comic timing and neat turn of phrase will seal the deal.
14. Wanted, A Gentleman, by K. J. Charles
Connoisseurs of the genre will know that every Regency Romance should have at least one elopement or crazy plot twist. In Wanted, A Gentleman thwarting an elopement is the whole premise. Theodore Swann runs a Lonely Hearts-style gazette for Georgians looking for love. (Fun fact: these did exist.) But when one such advert results in a runaway marriage, Theo is hired by Martin St. Vincent, a respectable merchant and freed slave, to help track down his former master’s missing daughter. It’s hate at first sight, but Theo and Martin will have to work together, and a lot can happen on a madcap dash to Gretna Green… Expect complicated emotions, a high speed (for the time) chase, and “There Is Only One Bed” in another keeper from K. J. Charles.
15. The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, by Olivia Waite
Women in STEM? In the Regency period? Falling in love? Sign me up! The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics gives us a peek into the fascinating world of astronomy along with yearning and forbidden love. Lucy Muchelney has dedicated her life and considerable talents to helping her father with his astronomy research. In the wake of his death, her career seems to be over, since no one would believe a woman could accomplish what she has. But when her father’s patroness, the widowed Countess of Moth, writes asking for help translating a French masterwork, Lucy knows she’s up to the challenge. She’ll just have to convince the countess… and the all-male Polite Science Society. Women scientists shyly romancing each other and proving bigots wrong—what more could you want?