The best Regency books that showcase women who have more on their minds than romance

Karen J. Hasley Author Of Claire, After All
By Karen J. Hasley

Who am I?

The 17th and 18th- century female poets who were the focus of my master’s degree thesis in English inspired me to write several true-to-life historical novels with strong, intelligent, and engaging heroines. When I wrote Claire, After All, however, I needed and thought readers might welcome something more light-hearted. Life can be grim and the nightly news distressing. How about a break from all that drama? So as a longtime Georgette Heyer fan and as homage to her delightful romantic heroines, I created Claire Penwarren, a woman who loves her family, makes mistakes but fixes them, and eventually lives happily ever after. No soap boxes. No surprise endings. Just fun. 


I wrote...

Claire, After All

By Karen J. Hasley,

Book cover of Claire, After All

What is my book about?

Claire Penwarren, an organized, intrepid woman, has three assignments in England: 1) Ready Loden Hall for her widowed father, the new earl. 2) Find a husband for her beautiful sister. 3) Acquire a tutor for her rapscallion brothers. At twenty-eight, Lady Claire has had years of experience running her father’s household in India, and these tasks should present no challenge. Older. Wiser. That’s Claire. But to Claire’s bewilderment, nothing and no one cooperates with her sensible plans. Only with the unexpected involvement of her neighbor, the Marquis of Symonton, will Claire discover that while maturity and experience are all well and good, neither is as valuable or as vital as love. 

Claire, After All is a light-hearted tribute to the romance novels of Georgette Heyer.

The books I picked & why

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Frederica

By Georgette Heyer,

Book cover of Frederica

Why this book?

Georgette Heyer, often called the “Queen of Regency Romances,” was a skilled writer, who crafted nearly thirty Regencies, and her Frederica is not just my personal Heyer favorite but my personal Regency favorite of all time. Bar none. I’ve read it often. It’s literate, entertaining, funny, and satisfying. Romantic, too, but subtle, with only one very gratifying kiss at the end. Yet the slow simmer as Alverstoke shifts first from self-absorbed libertine to a man involved in Frederica’s life and family and finally to a man deeply and selflessly in love is brilliant. Unexpectedly sexy, too.  Dialogue is always intelligent, lively, and authentic. Situations are true to the time. I especially love that Frederica is no great beauty and Alverstoke not very heroic, yet they still end up as the perfect match. And make Frederica the perfect Regency romance.


Emma

By Jane Austen,

Book cover of Emma

Why this book?

Of Jane Austen’s six completed novels, only Emma made me interrupt my reading numerous times to thump my head with the heel of my hand and groan “Oh, Emma, no!” Emma Woodhouse is a contradiction: a spoiled, well-intentioned, bright, unobservant, sometimes ridiculous, shockingly thoughtless, and yet often attractive young woman. I can’t say I loved her, but she was terrifically entertaining. For its sharp-eyed, diverting take on people and society and for the vivid and wonderful creation of Emma Woodhouse, a young woman so wrong and still so endearingly right, Emma is my favorite of Austen’s novels. I’ve read it more than once and laughed (and head-thumped) each time through.  


Death Comes to Pemberley

By P. D. James,

Book cover of Death Comes to Pemberley

Why this book?

What do you get when you combine the great 20th-century mystery writer P. D. James and the great 18th-century social commentator Jane Austen? You get Death Comes to Pemberley, that’s what. Austen’s beloved Darcy and Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice are happily married living at Pemberley with their children until along comes that dastardly George Wickham (also from P & P) who has the nerve to get murdered, leaving it up to Lizzy to figure out the culprit! A Regency whodunit is the best of both worlds.  


A Useful Woman

By Darcie Wilde,

Book cover of A Useful Woman

Why this book?

I don’t enjoy many Regencies written by contemporary authors—too much 21st century finds its way into the story, for my taste—but I loved everything about this one! Because of a family scandal, Rosalind Thorne lost her standing in society, but she understands the complexities of social propriety and supports herself by advising and assisting influential families. There’s a neat murder (at the famous Almack’s, no less!) which Rosalind helps solve, but while I liked the puzzle, I loved the book because of Rosalind herself. She struggles believingly with having to work to survive in a world where “proper” women were considered only ornamental. As the story progresses, Rosalind finds her independence increasingly attractive, and when two prospective suitors appear, she must decide where her personal satisfaction truly lies. A Useful Woman is entertaining, thoughtful, well-plotted, and carefully researched, as is the whole series. Book five will be out December 27, 2022, and I’ve got the date marked on the calendar. 


A Brazen Curiosity

By Lynn Messina,

Book cover of A Brazen Curiosity

Why this book?

A Brazen Curiosity made me laugh out loud. Often. Seriously, it’s that funny. The heroine, Beatrice Hyde-Clare, simultaneously discovers bodies, insults the aristocracy, and solves crimes, all with the help of a duke who’s fallen in love with her (inexplicably, in Beatrice’s frank opinion.) Her family’s pretty awful and her self-esteem’s a little low, but Beatrice is a unique and delightful Regency miss with a sense of humor and a realistic perception of the world around her. A Brazen Curiosity has more satisfying romance thrown in than the other books on my list, but romance is seldom on Beatrice’s sharp and sensible mind, and that’s what made it—and her—a favorite of mine.   


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