100 books like Sex in an Old Regime City

By Julie Hardwick,

Here are 100 books that Sex in an Old Regime City fans have personally recommended if you like Sex in an Old Regime City. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France

Anne J. Cruz and Mihoko Suzuki Author Of The Rule of Women in Early Modern Europe

From my list on women who ruled in early modern Europe.

Why are we passionate about this?

Mihoko and Anne first met at the University of Miami, where Mihoko was a specialist in early modern England and Anne, in early modern Spain. Sharing their interests in gender studies, literature, and history, and combining their expertise, they team-taught a popular course on early modern women writers. Anne’s publications range from studies of women in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, female rogues, and religious women to early modern Habsburg queens. Mihoko has published on the figure of Helen of Troy in classical and Renaissance epic; and women and politics in early modern Europe, especially in the context of the many civil wars that upended the political and social order of the period.

Anne's book list on women who ruled in early modern Europe

Anne J. Cruz and Mihoko Suzuki Why did Anne love this book?

Catherine de Medici has been reviled as an evil and power-hungry queen mother of three French kings, and as the architect of the St. Bartholomew’s Day’s Massacre—the most infamous episode in the decades-long French Wars of Religion. She was even slanderously accused of murdering another queen by sending her poisoned gloves, in keeping with her “Machiavellian” Italian extraction. Leonie Frieda’s biography corrects the “Black Legend” of Catherine and provides a vivid portrait of the complex woman who wielded unprecedented power as queen regent in France, where Salic Law prohibited women from exercising sovereignty in their own right, as did her contemporary Elizabeth I. She shows that from her husband Henri II’s unexpected death in a gruesome accident through the reigns of her sons, who unfortunately did not inherit their mother’s ability, Catherine displayed “intelligence, courage, and an indefatigable spirit” in exercising political power and acting as an exceptional patron of…

By Leonie Frieda,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Catherine de Medici was half French, half Italian. Orphaned in infancy, she was the sole legitimate heiress to the Medici family fortune. Married at fourteen to the future Henri II of France, she was constantly humiliated by his influential mistress Diane de Poitiers. When her husband died as a result of a duelling accident in Paris - Leonie Frieda's magnificient, throat-grabbing opening chapter - Catherine was made queen regent during the short reign of her eldest son (married to Mary Queen of Scots and, like many of her children, he died young). When her second son became king she was…


Book cover of Portraits of the Queen Mother: Polemics, Panegyrics, Letters

Kathleen Wellman Author Of Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France

From my list on women in early modern France.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of early modern France and a professor at Southern Methodist University, I have taken students to Paris on a study abroad program for more than twenty summers. Students were invariably intrigued by the relationship of Henry II, Catherine de Medici, and Diane de Poitiers. The young prince married Catherine de Medici at the age of fourteen but the thirty-six-year-old Diane de Poitiers became his mistress when he was sixteen and remained so for the rest of his life. The complexities of that relationship and the significance of both women led me to conclude that the history of the Renaissance could be told through the lives of the queens and mistresses.

Kathleen's book list on women in early modern France

Kathleen Wellman Why did Kathleen love this book?

From her arrival as a fourteen-year-old bride to her death as queen mother fifty-five years later, Catherine de Medici was praised as a devoted wife and mother and able ruler but also condemned as a foreigner, a poisoner, and murderer of Protestants. This rare collection of primary sources translated into English allows readers to become familiar with the sources of such positive and negative assessments of this controversial queen. The letters included here, selected from her many volumes of correspondence, reveal her concerns as a mother and as a political figure.

Excerpts from Venetian ambassadors' gossipy reports bring to light principal figures of the French court--their character, their motives, and political interests. Other sources in the collection extravagantly praise the character and actions of the queen. The several polemical sources included in the collection offer a sharp contrast. The vehement charges leveled against Catherine allow readers to recognize and understand…

By Catherine de Medicis, Leah L. Chang (translator), Katherine Kong (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Portraits of the Queen Mother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Catherine de Medicis was portrayed in her day as foreign usurper, loving queen and queen mother, patron of the arts, and Machiavellian murderer of Protestants. Leah L. Chang and Katherine Kong assemble a diverse array of scathing polemic and lofty praise, diplomatic reports, and Catherine's own letters, which together show how one extraordinary woman's rule intersected with early modern conceptions of gender, maternity, and power.


Book cover of Marie Antoinette: Writings on the Body of a Queen

Kathleen Wellman Author Of Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France

From my list on women in early modern France.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of early modern France and a professor at Southern Methodist University, I have taken students to Paris on a study abroad program for more than twenty summers. Students were invariably intrigued by the relationship of Henry II, Catherine de Medici, and Diane de Poitiers. The young prince married Catherine de Medici at the age of fourteen but the thirty-six-year-old Diane de Poitiers became his mistress when he was sixteen and remained so for the rest of his life. The complexities of that relationship and the significance of both women led me to conclude that the history of the Renaissance could be told through the lives of the queens and mistresses.

Kathleen's book list on women in early modern France

Kathleen Wellman Why did Kathleen love this book?

This collection of articles offers an intriguing approach to the topic of women, power, and sex by focusing on the many uses of Marie Antoinette. The essays, by prominent historians, art historians, and literary scholars, examine Marie Antoinette as a “site of history” where political and cultural contests occurred. The authors analyze pamphlets, archival materials, portraits, French Revolutionary pornography, and modern films to consider the central questions Marie Antoinette raised about her identity as a foreign queen, woman, wife, mother, and political figure.

She embodied the contradictions in old regime politics, culture, and gender identity and has been used subsequently to address political and gender issues to the present. Each essay offers a distinct, intriguing perspective on the reciprocal influence of this queen and the history of France. The collection reveals the wealth of purposes this queen served and the rich variety of interpretations she provoked.

By Dena Goodman (editor), Thomas E. Kaiser (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marie Antoinette as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marie-Antoinette is one of the most fascinating and controversial figures in all of French history. This volume explores the many struggles by various individuals and groups to put right Marie's identity, and it simultaneously links these struggles to larger destabilizations in social, political and gender systems in France.

Looking at how Marie was represented in politics, art, literature and journalism, the contributors to this volume reveal how crucial political and cultural contexts were enacted "on the body of the queen" and on the complex identity of Marie. Taken together, these essays suggest that it is precisely because she came to…


Book cover of Minerva's French Sisters: Women of Science in Enlightenment France

Kathleen Wellman Author Of Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France

From my list on women in early modern France.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of early modern France and a professor at Southern Methodist University, I have taken students to Paris on a study abroad program for more than twenty summers. Students were invariably intrigued by the relationship of Henry II, Catherine de Medici, and Diane de Poitiers. The young prince married Catherine de Medici at the age of fourteen but the thirty-six-year-old Diane de Poitiers became his mistress when he was sixteen and remained so for the rest of his life. The complexities of that relationship and the significance of both women led me to conclude that the history of the Renaissance could be told through the lives of the queens and mistresses.

Kathleen's book list on women in early modern France

Kathleen Wellman Why did Kathleen love this book?

This book focuses on another group of influential women. They are six women of significant scientific accomplishment who have been almost entirely written out of history. Through painstaking research, Gelbart brings these women vividly to life. She reveals their extensive scientific work and significant accomplishments as well their influence on male scientists and intellectuals. She also notes the obstacles they faced and the sacrifices they made to do their work.

The reader walks with Gelbart through the streets of Paris as she gives her figures a rich personal and professional context in time and space. She illuminates the scientific context of the Enlightenment by bringing these women into our historical understanding of the period. Her empathic treatment exposes the difficulties faced by women who pursued science, many of which continue to plague twenty-first-century female scientists.

By Nina Rattner Gelbart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Minerva's French Sisters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating collective biography of six female scientists in eighteenth-century France, whose stories were largely written out of history

This book presents the stories of six intrepid Frenchwomen of science in the Enlightenment whose accomplishments-though celebrated in their lifetimes--have been generally omitted from subsequent studies of their period: mathematician and philosopher Elisabeth Ferrand, astronomer Nicole Reine Lepaute, field naturalist Jeanne Barret, garden botanist and illustrator Madeleine Francoise Basseporte, anatomist and inventor Marie-Marguerite Biheron, and chemist Genevieve d'Arconville. By adjusting our lens, we can find them.

In a society where science was not yet an established profession for men, much less…


Book cover of Birdsong

Deborah Carr Author Of The Poppy Sisters

From my list on World War One that live rent free in my head.

Why am I passionate about this?

I discovered my passion for the First World War when researching my great-grandfather’s service history in the cavalry. I also write historical fiction with several of my books being set during the First World War and have spent thousands of hours over the past twenty years researching different aspects of this period, both from the point of view of the V.A.D.s, wounded soldiers, medical staff treating them, as well as grieving families. The stories I’ve come across never fail to haunt me and I can’t imagine I’ll ever tire of wanting to discover more about the people who survived these experiences, or stop needing to write books about them.

Deborah's book list on World War One that live rent free in my head

Deborah Carr Why did Deborah love this book?

A brilliant, shocking read but one I’ve read several times, and each time I read it the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped underground leaves me feeling breathless.

Although graphic in places, this is a beautifully written novel that I know I’ll return to time and again. As an author of World War One fiction, I aim to bring a sense of how it felt to be my characters and this book achieves that perfectly as far as I’m concerned.

By Sebastian Faulks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER • A mesmerising story of love and war spanning three generations and the unimaginable gulf between the First World War and the 1990s

In this "overpowering and beautiful novel" (The New Yorker), the young Englishman Stephen Wraysford passes through a tempestuous love affair with Isabelle Azaire in France and enters the dark, surreal world beneath the trenches of No Man's Land. Sebastian Faulks creates a world of fiction that is as tragic as A Farewell to Arms and as sensuous as The English Patient, crafted from the ruins of war and the indestructibility of love.


Book cover of An Unofficial Marriage: A Novel about Pauline Viardot and Ivan Turgenev

Hilary Poriss Author Of Gioachino Rossini's The Barber of Seville

From my list on nineteenth-century divas.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with opera history as an undergraduate exchange student in Vienna and went on to pursue my passion in graduate school. Rather than writing about opera composers and their music, I chose the unusual path of studying famous singers from the nineteenth century, especially the prima donnas who exerted extraordinary authority over composers, theater directors, and spectators. In my books and articles, I focus on the power of divas to thrill audiences and to shape the musical culture of which they are an integral part. The books I am recommending explore the lives and careers of some of the most fascinating prima donnas of the nineteenth century.

Hilary's book list on nineteenth-century divas

Hilary Poriss Why did Hilary love this book?

Pauline Viardot (1821-1910) was one of the most celebrated prima donnas of the nineteenth century, but she was much more than a typical diva. She was also one of the most versatile artists of the era, a talented composer, arranger, teacher, autograph collector, entrepreneur, salonnière, and promoter of early music. While fictionalized, this novel sticks closely to historical events of her life, focusing on her marriage to Louis Viardot, her long-lasting affair with Russian author Ivan Turgenev, and the unconventional and loving bonds that formed between these three extraordinary artists. If you’re looking for historical fiction about one of the most fascinating divas of the nineteenth century, An Unofficial Marriage is a great choice.

By Joie Davidow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Unofficial Marriage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For Fans of Alexander Chee's best-selling novel, The Queen of the Night and opera fans everywhere.

Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous events of 19th century Europe, An Unofficial Marriage dramatizes the equally tumultuous real-life love affair of two great artists—the famous Russian author, Ivan Turgenev, and the celebrated French opera singer, Pauline Viardot. From the moment he encounters her on the St. Petersburg stage, Ivan falls completely for Pauline. Though Pauline returns his feelings, she is bound by her singular passion for her art and her devotion to her gentle, older husband, Louis. Nevertheless, Ivan pursues Pauline across…


Book cover of Beautiful Bastard

Emma Perle Author Of Much Ado About Benedict

From my list on romance to make your toes curl and your heart race.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a British writer and avid reader of a wide range of genres who’d harbored a life-long ambition to be an author. It wasn’t until I became addicted to seductive romance that I found my own writing flow. I love books that have the power to transport you. Indulging in an adult ideal for a few minutes (or hours) in a day, when your body reacts viscerally to the words on a page, makes you swoon, your cheeks flush and your heart race is my reading and writing heaven. I hope you will experience the same delicious escapism in my book choices as I have. 

Emma's book list on romance to make your toes curl and your heart race

Emma Perle Why did Emma love this book?

This was my first steamy romance read, the one that got me hooked on erotic romance and still one of my favorites. From the moment Bennett’s hand landed on Chloe’s thigh in the boardroom my pulse spiked and didn’t stop racing until the last page. Bennett and Chloe’s chemistry is a masterclass, enemies to lovers hot.  

By Christina Lauren,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Chloe Mills is intelligent, hardworking, moments away from her MBA and starting a successful career. The only thing standing in her way is her boss, Bennett Ryan. He's exacting, blunt, inconsiderate and... completely gorgeous - a beautiful bastard. She's determined to ignore him, do the best job she can, and move on to her bright future. Bennett has been trying to ignore his gorgeous, infuriating assistant for months. He's never been one for a workplace dalliance, especially not with one of his employees. But Chloe is so tempting he's willing to bend the rules - or smash them, if it…


Book cover of Paris is Always a Good Idea

Ann Claire Author Of A Cyclist's Guide to Crime & Croissants

From my list on reading trip to France.

Why am I passionate about this?

Until recently, my lovely in-laws kept a home in southern France near where my father-in-law grew up. Their hilltop village was everything my summer-in-France fantasies could imagine: red-tile roofs, overflowing flower boxes, croissants on every corner (or at least four), bustling markets, and palm trees framing a snowcapped peak. Downsizing in their eighties meant selling the house, but some of my fondest memories will always reside there. This summer most of my travels will take place from my garden in Colorado. I plan to trek the world through books. These are some of my favorite reads for an armchair trip to France through romance, mysteries, exploration, and cooking.  

Ann's book list on reading trip to France

Ann Claire Why did Ann love this book?

The title says it all—Paris is always a good idea! My now-husband romantically invited me to meet him in Paris, way back when, so it’s a special place for me. So is this book, which is a fun, emotional story about love, wanderlust, and finding one’s self.

Chelsea Martin threw herself into work to cope with her mother’s death. Seven years later, her father announces he’ll remarry, prompting Chelsea to examine her own life. She plans a trip to Europe to retrace the last time she remembers being happy.

I adore Chelsea for her bravery and this book for transporting me to gorgeous places, from Paris to Ireland and a vineyard in Italy. 

By Jenn Mckinlay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Paris is Always a Good Idea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of Popsugar’s Best New Books for Summer 2020

A thirty-year-old woman retraces her gap year through Ireland, France, and Italy to find love—and herself—in this hilarious and heartfelt novel.

It's been seven years since Chelsea Martin embarked on her yearlong postcollege European adventure. Since then, she's lost her mother to cancer and watched her sister marry twice, while Chelsea's thrown herself into work, becoming one of the most talented fundraisers for the American Cancer Coalition, and with the exception of one annoyingly competent coworker, Jason Knightley, her status as most successful moneymaker is unquestioned.

When her introverted mathematician father…


Book cover of Beauty: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast

Charlotte Brothers Author Of Creatures of Habit

From my list on romance with quirky heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always had a fondness for the quirky heroine because I find her so relatable! As a child, I was overly sensitive and obsessed with animals. I liked to read and draw, but was dreadful at organized sports, and for the most part I didn't feel as if I fit in with the expected social norms of my peers. The quirky heroines in books and literature comforted me, and showed me that first, I wasn't alone, and second, that I could find love and acceptance in a world with which I often felt out-of-step.

Charlotte's book list on romance with quirky heroines

Charlotte Brothers Why did Charlotte love this book?

Beauty is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast which gives us a practical, irregular heroine who redefines beauty. I’ve reread this book multiple times because the magical setting, colorful descriptions, and character development are heartwarming and unique. This is a story of transcendent love between two people (some more human than others!) who come to know each other's thoughts and quirks thoroughly—and to love each other for them. 

By Robin McKinley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Beauty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

When the family business collapses, Beauty and her two sisters are forced to leave the city and begin a new life in the countryside. However, when their father accepts hospitality from the elusive and magical Beast, he is forced to make a terrible promise - to send one daughter to the Beast's castle, with no guarantee that she will be seen again. Beauty accepts the challenge, and there begins an extraordinary story of magic and love that overcomes all boundaries. This is another spellbinding and emotional tale embroidered around a fairytale from Robin McKinley, an award-winning American author.


Book cover of Three Little Things

Joy Neal Kidney Author Of Leora's Early Years: Guthrie County Roots

From my list on family history.

Why am I passionate about this?

As the fourth “oldest daughter” in my motherline, and my interest in genealogy and family history, my trajectory was set decades ago to become the keeper of the family letters, telegrams, photos, pilot logbooks, and stories. After researching what happened to the three brothers lost during WWII, I also have casualty, missions reports, and more. Before publishing the first book, I had bylines in newspapers and magazines, and I’ve blogged regularly for several years. Because of the wealth of historic photos and stories, I began history Facebook pages for three Iowa counties, as well as one for cousins to share memories and photos. If you enjoy family stories, you’ll enjoy the books on this list.

Joy's book list on family history

Joy Neal Kidney Why did Joy love this book?

Set during World War I and inspired by letters of the author’s grandparents, this delightful novel is filled with a fetching cast of characters and borne along by the author’s entertaining sense of humor. The narration reminds us that many folks were suspicious of people with German ancestry during the war, even though they were American citizens and even using the common term “gesundheit,” and that children of German immigrants were drafted to fight against their parents’ former countrymen.

Young Iowa men were trained into soldiering, where there were still rivalries—some about girls back home, some about German sympathies—and sent across to fight the Kaiser’s troops in France. Some didn’t return home, some came back with broken bodies. There is a compelling scene with wounded veterans in a local hospital, at least one scarred on the inside and fighting his own private battle.

This winsome story also carries themes of…

By Patti Stockdale,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Three Little Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "I fell in love with Aron and Hattie!" - Debbie Macomber ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"A well-drawn cast of supporting characters creates a strong sense of community, and colorful colloquialisms ("whip-thin and homely as a cow pie") add flavor. Lovers of G-rated historical romance will be charmed by the earnest, emotionally vulnernable connection between these young lovers." - Publisher's Weekly
One forbidden love. Two broken hearts. Three little things.
Hattie Waltz should forget the troubled neighbor leaving for boot camp in 1917. He forgot about her ages ago. It had always been the Waltzs…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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