Stop Hiding that Romance Novel!
Do you find yourself hiding the cover of the book you're reading? Or bringing a stack of books with hearts on their spine to the checkout desk and saying "they're for my mother?" Maybe you hide your eReader from friends and family? Then chances are you are a secret Romance reader. Why the secrecy? Smart, strong people read Romances every day. And there's a lot of great Romances out there!
My sisters and I grew up on Regency Romance novels. Before I had ever heard the name of the amazing Jane Austen I was devouring Georgette Heyer. My favorite of Ms. Heyer's is Venetia, a story about a witty young woman who, at 25, is definitely "on the shelf." In a nod to Miss Austen's Emma, Venetia is a big fish in a small pond. She rules her small corner of rural England with grace and verve, but when a learned rakehell moves in next door she wonders if being virtuous is all it's cracked up to be.
If you are looking for something a bit more racy than hand-holding and meaningful glances in your Regencies, my sisters and I recommend Lisa Kleypas, Elizabeth Hoyt and Eloisa James. Kleypas doesn't stop after the "happily ever after." She goes one step further to show you how tough but rewarding marriage to your true love can be. And Eloisa James is a professor of English Literature in her other life. Her books are filled with humor, joy of language, and references to classic literature. She's created one of my favorite heroes: The Duke of Villiers. Villiers (from her Desperate Duchesses series) is brilliant and dissolute. He doesn't care what Society has to say about him--until he realizes he is responsible for a passel of children. And until he falls in love.
My sisters also enjoy Mary Balogh (rhymes with "Kellogg" as in the breakfast cereal). She's been writing Regencies since the 80s and provides a great sense of place, whether it is a rural estate or a ton ballroom. Personally, her heroines are a bit too tragic for me. And her heroes are always banishing villains to the Continent (with all those villains banished to the Continent in Regency Romances, I've begun to think the Continent must be one interesting place. But I digress...).
I am a fan of Loretta Chase, though my sisters are not. I think Chase gives us very flawed and humorous characters. For example, Marcelline in Silk is for Seduction will do anything to keep her sisters' dressmaker business afloat--even if it means seducing her sisters' favorite client's fiancé.
There is so much out there to enjoy. Why limit your reading material because "others" will not approve? Pity those people: they don't know what they are missing!
I've only touched the surface of great Romance novels and novelists. Whom do you recommend? Please share in the comments.