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

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.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Frederica

Karen J. Hasley Why did I love 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.

By Georgette Heyer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Frederica as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times bestselling author Georgette Heyer's beloved tale of an entertaining heroine stumbling on happiness when her marital machinations for her sister go awry.

Determined to secure a brilliant marriage for her beautiful sister, Frederica seeks out their distant cousin the Marquis of Alverstoke. Lovely, competent, and refreshingly straightforward, Frederica makes such a strong impression on him that to his own amazement, the Marquis agrees to help launch them all into society.

Normally Lord Alverstoke keeps his distance from his family, which includes two overbearing sisters and innumerable favor-seekers. But with his enterprising—and altogether entertaining—country cousins chasing wishes and…


Book cover of Emma

Karen J. Hasley Why did I love 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.  

By Jane Austen,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Emma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Her masterpiece, mixing the sparkle of her early books with a deep sensibility' Robert McCrum, Observer

Although described by Jane Austen as a character 'whom no one but myself will much like', the irrepressible Emma Woodhouse is one of her most beloved heroines. Clever, rich and beautiful, she sees no need for marriage, but loves interfering in the romantic lives of others, until her matchmaking plans unravel, with consequences that she never expected. Jane Austen's novel of youthful exuberance and gradual self-knowledge is a brilliant, sparkling comic masterpiece.

Edited with an Introduction by FIONA STAFFORD


Book cover of Death Comes to Pemberley

Karen J. Hasley Why did I love 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.  

By P. D. James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death Comes to Pemberley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A rare meeting of literary genius: P. D. James, long among the most admired mystery writers of our time, draws the characters of Jane Austen’s beloved novel Pride and Prejudice into a tale of murder and emotional mayhem.
 
It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy’s magnificent estate. Their peaceful, orderly world seems almost unassailable. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. They have two fine sons, Fitzwilliam and Charles. Elizabeth’s sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; her father visits often; there is optimistic…


Book cover of A Useful Woman

Karen J. Hasley Why did I love 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. 

By Darcie Wilde,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Useful Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inspired by the novels of Jane Austen, this new mystery series set in 19th-century London introduces the charming and resourceful Rosalind Thorne, a woman privy to the secrets of high society—including who among the ton is capable of murder...
 
The daughter of a baronet and minor heiress, Rosalind Thorne was nearly ruined after her father abandoned the family. To survive in the only world she knew, she began to manage the affairs of some of London society’s most influential women, who have come to rely on her wit and discretion.
 
So, when artistocratic wastrel Jasper Aimesworth is found dead in…


Book cover of A Brazen Curiosity

Karen J. Hasley Why did I love 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.   

By Lynn Messina,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked A Brazen Curiosity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nothing ruins a lovely house party like bloody murder.

At the decrepit old age of six-and-twenty, Miss Beatrice Hyde-Clare has virtually no hope of landing a husband. An orphan living off her relatives' charity, her job is to sit with her needlework and to keep her thoughts to herself.

When Bea receives an invitation to an elegant country party, she intends to do just that. Not even the presence of the aggravatingly handsome Duke of Kesgrave could lead this young lady to scandal. True, she might wish to pour her bowl of turtle soup on his aristocratic head - however,…


You might also like...

The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

Book cover of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

Susan Rowland Author Of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Part-time celt Modern alchemist Myth hunter Jungian

Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A traditional mystery with a touch of cozy, The Alchemy Fire Murder is for those who like feisty women sleuths, Oxford Colleges, alchemy, strong characters, and real concerns like trafficking, wildfires, racism, and climate change. This book especially works for those fascinated by myth and witches in history. Read for a seventeenth-century alchemist in Connecticut, a lost alchemy scroll stuck in a California Museum, and a blizzard in Los Angeles.

Murder ensues when an intern is attacked after making a momentous discovery with Mary Wandwalker, an inexperienced detective commissioned to recover the treasure vital to the survival of her Oxford college, St Julian’s. When the young man’s brother is falsely accused, Mary has to step in.

The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

What is this book about?

Former Archivist Mary Wandwalker hates bringing bad news. Nevertheless, she confirms to her alma mater that their prized medieval alchemy scroll, is, in fact, a seventeenth century copy. She learns that the original vanished to colonial Connecticut with alchemist, Robert Le More. Later the genuine scroll surfaces in Los Angeles. Given that the authentic artifact is needed for her Oxford college to survive, retrieving it is essential.

Mary agrees to get the real scroll back as part of a commission for her three-person Enquiry Agency. However, tragedy strikes in Los Angeles. Before Mary can legally obtain the scroll, a young…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in London, Jane Austen, and choosing a mate?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about London, Jane Austen, and choosing a mate.

London Explore 753 books about London
Jane Austen Explore 84 books about Jane Austen
Choosing A Mate Explore 15 books about choosing a mate