A New Reading Obsession: Historical Romance

*all links will take you to the VPL catalogue where you can check out these books for yourself!

If you’ve read any of my previous posts then you know that my main reading expertise is graphic novels, contemporary romance or anything to do with reality TV. Lately though, I have found myself more and more into historical romance. Now, I can’t say that I’ve never read the genre (any self-proclaimed romance nerd has read at least one!) but I always read one or two a year at most. Over the last few months however, I found myself binge-reading more than one series and I’ve quickly caught up on some major backlist books for a few authors.

Unmasked by the Marquess (Regency Imposters, #1) by Cat SebastianOne of my favourite authors is Cat Sebastian. In the past, I read her Seducing the Sedgewicks series which are all gay historical romances. Of course, there will always be skeptics who think that such series are far too frivolous or historically inaccurate, but any queer person will tell you that LGBTQ+ people have existed for centuries, it is merely the labels that are now more modern. One title from Sebastian’s latest series that I recommend is Unmasked by the Marquess. The marketing and cover promo align more with mainstream historical romances and despite that, I enjoyed the fact that the main character, Robin, was non-binary (though such language was never outright said, as the term is definitely more modern than when the novel takes place). Though the mainstream historical romance reader may find such titles a bit too scandalous, I think that Sebastian’s writing is sure to win anyone over as she is an expert in writing characters that anyone will want to root for, regardless of who those characters may be.

I think the thing I enjoy about these series is the guarantee of a Happily Ever After (or a HEA for those that speak romance like me!). The HEA is my favourite part of any romance, because even though the characters may struggle and falter, I know that they will get their happy ending. Such a guarantee is not possible in life so I’m happy to find it where I can. This is true for all romance novels but I think it’s especially necessary in historical romances because the realities of the time (for example, in a romance between a duke and his ward’s governess) may make it seem that the couple’s love can never happen but the HEA guarantees that no matter what, our characters will find a way to be together.

I will admit that in the past, I was skittish about the genre. As a person with modern sensibilities about equality, I was not sure that I could handle books that take place in a time filled with inequity. This is also a trick of any skilled writer of the genre, balancing out the historical accuracy without being harsh or insensitive to modern readers. While there are lots of books that can’t solve the issues around racism and xenophobia, I think most authors are surprisingly feminist (with the caveat that this feminism seems to really only apply to white women). One author that does this well is Tessa Dare. I started with her more recent series, Girl Meets Duke, and I even went back to read more than a few of her backlist titles such as A Night to Surrender and  A Week to be Wicked. Regency Romance was not usually my cup-of-tea but I always love that Dare’s characters are independent women who want to live their lives the way they want, even if society doesn’t allow them to. The characters definitely have to do this within the confines of their society at the time but I think it’s clear that even within those bounds, the characters are acting in the interests of themselves and their future aspirations.

I know this genre isn’t perfect, as I’ve spent more than a few words laying out its overall flaws, but I think new writers to the scene are aiming to explore these issues and are generally more aware of them. This is a genre I had my misgivings about, but there are definitely more than a few authors that I find myself gravitating towards anyway.  Now I can confidently say that if you’re looking for some escapist guaranteed good times, you can’t go wrong with the books I recommended above.

If you are looking for even more recommendations, check out my accompanying list in the library catalogue: VaughanPL: Adult: Historical Romance!

About Shelly

Shelly is an Information Assistant II (Youth). They love novels with great characters and a plot that transports you, whether it be in real life or in fantasy worlds.  |  Meet the team

4 thoughts on “A New Reading Obsession: Historical Romance

  1. While I don’t usually read historical romances, I have to say I’ve been gravitating towards romance this year as well – the certainty of a happily-ever-after definitely plays a big part!

  2. I was taken Shelly by your noting that you were a bit skittish about the genre. But you persisted which is very commendable.

    I remain skittish entirely. In fact, I have to say that, a while back, when VPL’s Bathurst Clark branch moved this genre of books out of a seperate section into the main fiction section, it felt that it took away from the seriousness and appeal of the fiction section. These “pot boilers” cluttered the main fiction section with many book that have a “light” Harlequin Romance type feel.

    I agree that this genre does have a very uncomfortable feel when it comes to portraying women as intelligent beings. The cover art is also a turn off generally.

    Thanks for your blog post Shelly. It is interesting to hear your analysis!

    1. Hi Miriam,

      Thank you for your comment, I’m glad you found my analysis interesting!

      I will say that I too was taken aback by the covers & general feel for the books when I first decided to try and expand my reading. I come from a literature studies background so I do find that these books look as if they go against those instincts, but my librarian background tells me that all books have some value. So perhaps that is why I was able to get over said skepticism. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that (especially in newer releases) that the women are more feminist and more outspoken than I thought they’d be. If you do ever take the brave step of reading these books, I think you will be pleasantly surprised as well!

      Thank you for your thoughts, I really enjoyed reading them! 🙂

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