The best books about aristocracy

3 authors have picked their favorite books about aristocracy and why they recommend each book.

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Frederica

By Georgette Heyer,

Book cover of Frederica

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.


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.

Once a Duchess

By Elizabeth Boyce,

Book cover of Once a Duchess

Divorce is good fodder for drama and can be employed in different ways in fiction. In this second-chance Regency romance, the reunited lovers are divorced. Convinced by his duplicitous mother of his wife’s infidelity, the hero, a duke divorced his wife and left her penniless. The heroine’s only income is an allowance from her brother, which he ends in a fit of pique when her scandal impacts his marital prospects. (Divorce in this era might shame the entire family). Forced to earn a living, the heroine takes employment as a cook at an inn, where her former husband encounters her and is shocked at how far she has fallen. Read this book to see how the perils of divorce—and remarriage—are dramatized by a skilled romance writer. 


Who am I?

I’m a writer of Regency Romance fiction with a perfectionist’s zeal to get the details right. Most Regency Romances are tales of aristocrats falling in love and marrying—or marrying and then falling in love! But in real life, romantic love was often not an essential aspect of courtship in this era. Aristocratic families might ensure that a couple was “suited”, but they arranged unions for bloodlines and wealth, and the ties were almost impossible to break. Enjoy these true tales of marriage and divorce, and the two novels of heartbreak, divorce, and happy-ever-after.


I wrote...

Fated Hearts: A Love After All Retelling of the Scottish Play

By Alina K. Field,

Book cover of Fated Hearts: A Love After All Retelling of the Scottish Play

What is my book about?

Plagued by hellish memories and visions of a coming battle, a Scottish Baron returning from two decades at war meets the daughter he denied was his, and the wife he divorced, and learns that everything he’d believed to be true was a lie. What he can’t deny is that she’s the only woman he’s ever loved and when passion flares, it burns more hotly than ever it did in their youth.

They soon discover, it wasn’t fate that drove them apart, but a jealous enemy who played on his youthful arrogance and her vulnerability. Now that old enemy has resurfaced, more treacherous than ever.

The Leopard

By Giuseppe Di Lampedusa,

Book cover of The Leopard

E. M. Forster famously described Lampedusa’s solitary work as “one of the great lonely books.” It is a masterpiece that simultaneously captures both the peculiarity of Sicily within the experience of the wars of Italian Unification while brilliantly portraying characters confronting universal human emotions of love, loss, and struggle in times of momentous change. Lampedusa based the book’s protagonist, the Prince of Salina, on his own grandfather. The story, told in a series of episodes across half a century, while fictionalized, captures the essential elements of the birth of the modern Italian state, the rise of a new class of elites at the expense of the old, landed aristocracy, and the often-fraught attempt to create a unified Italian identity. There is a well-known film with Burt Lancaster in the starring role along with Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale that really evokes the visual power of the subject, but the book…


Who am I?

I'm a historian who teaches strategic studies at the National Defense University and Georgetown University in Washington, DC. I'm fascinated by how we write and teach history, how we interpret it, and how we use it. To use history, we have to “get it right,” but we also have to think about how the past impacts the present. One of the foremost challenges confronting historians is how to write the history of their particular subject well while making it applicable (and interesting) more universally. The following books are all particular to the region I study most closely—the Eastern Mediterranean—but their grasp of humanity is profound. Their power and perspectives ring true across millennia.


I wrote...

Restoring Thucydides: Testing Familiar Lessons and Deriving New Ones

By Andrew R. Novo, Jay M. Parker,

Book cover of Restoring Thucydides: Testing Familiar Lessons and Deriving New Ones

What is my book about?

In the world of strategic studies, there are few books more widely studied than Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides’ work is difficult to teach and study because it's long, dense, and substantive. Thucydides was ambitious in hoping that his work would be a “possession for all time.” My co-author, Jay Parker, and I tried to peel away the layers of cliché and oversimplification to get at the “real” Thucydides. Our approach was simple: read the whole book and explore Thucydides’s own time to understand both his historical context and the context of his History. The result is a book that tries to challenge preconceptions and simplified interpretations of Thucydides’s work, but also how we read any “great book” with lessons meant to satisfy existing agendas.

Lakeshire Park

By Megan Walker,

Book cover of Lakeshire Park

There is something alluring about the regency era that makes you want to curl your hair and go to a ball. The genre is full of beautiful, well-written books. Lakeshire Park stands out in the crowd thanks to its gentle honesty, delightful prose, and believable romance. Sprinkled with comedic scenes, regency-era details, and a couple you can’t help rooting for! I read this one in one sitting and didn’t want to come back to reality. 


Who am I?

My fascination for historical novels began long before I ever penned one of my own. As a child, I often sought out books that took me back in time. Before I was even a teenager I began gravitating toward historical novels with romantic threads (give me all the sweet romance). My love of all things historical has only grown through the years. My children have come to expect our vacations to include stops at museums and historical sites. I have four published novels (as of 2021), files of future ideas, and stacks of novels beside my bed ready to take me for a historical ride.


I wrote...

A Lady in Attendance

By Rachel Fordham,

Book cover of A Lady in Attendance

What is my book about?

Five years in a New York state reformatory have left a blemish on Hazel's real name. So when she takes a job as Doctor Gilbert Watts's lady in attendance in 1898, she does so under an alias. In the presence of her quiet and pious employer, Hazel finds more than an income. She finds a friend and a hope that if she can set her tarnished past in order, she might have a future after all. As Gilbert becomes accustomed to the pleasant chatter of his new dental assistant, he can't help but sense something secretive about her. Perhaps there is more to this woman than meets the eye. Can the questions that loom between them ever be answered? Or will the deeds of days gone by forever rob the future of its possibilities?

Rachel Fordham pens a tender tale of a soft-spoken man, a hardened woman, and the friends that stand by them as they work toward a common purpose–and perhaps find love along the way.

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

By Sarah MacLean,

Book cover of Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

Little is more adventurous than a woman who owns a gambling hell, who has forged a path to success, and dares Society to judge her. I love Sarah’s depth of characterization and how she infuses her characters with a background and motivations that make their actions, even the questionable ones, understandable and believable. I find she always takes an insurmountable conflict and uses it to drive the characters toward change. I so admire Sarah’s ability to carry me on a journey that always ends with a sigh of satisfaction, and often a few tears.


Who am I?

I am the bestselling author of more than 46 romance novels. I love history, enjoy research, and am always looking for little-known facts to make my stories more authentic. Some of those facts have revealed that women in the 19th century often took on occupations, hobbies, or causes that challenged them and sometimes placed them in danger. Although seldom acknowledged as such, women in the 19th century were a force to be reckoned with, although their contributions were often overlooked. But through reading personal accounts, letters of the time, biographies, and nonfiction accounts about various women’s roles, I have gained a greater appreciation for how daring women have been throughout history.


I wrote...

The Return of the Duke: Once Upon a Dukedom

By Lorraine Heath,

Book cover of The Return of the Duke: Once Upon a Dukedom

What is my book about?

When his father, the Duke of Wolfford, is hanged for an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria, Marcus Stanwick is stripped of everything. Vowing to return honor to his family, he seeks to expose the others involved in the treasonous plot. His search forces him to turn to a woman he despises for her unforgivable betrayal.

Harboring secrets, Esme Lancaster has her own reasons for wanting to discover who’s behind the conspiracy that’s still afoot. As their hunt for the truth leads them into danger, they’re unable to deny their growing desire for each other. But giving in to temptation comes at a cost, and they must decide if love is worth the risk of losing their one chance for redemption.

Aristocrats

By Stella Tillyard,

Book cover of Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832

This book is a fascinating insight into the sisters of the 3rd Duke of Richmond and their lives played out among the country houses of England and Ireland. They were all brilliant letter writers, and although they were separated for long periods, kept up a constant correspondence. After reading it, I felt I knew the sisters personally, even though they had lived 250 years ago. It became an instant bestseller when it first came out over twenty years ago and was made into a film, with Julian Fellowes playing the 2nd Duke of Richmond. 


Who am I?

I have loved visiting country houses ever since I was a child. There is something unique about the combination of art, architecture, and people. Over my lifetime, I have been privileged to visit all sorts of houses and castles. I used to work at Christie’s and during that time I visited many country houses, some of which were completely private. It was a natural progression when I moved to Goodwood and became the curator of the art collection, enjoying the house as part of my daily life. The view from my office looks out through the columns of the portico, across the park, with the sea glinting in the distance. What could be better?  


I wrote...

The English Country House: New Format

By James Peill, Foreword by Julian Fellowes,

Book cover of The English Country House: New Format

What is my book about?

The country houses of England are among her crowning glories. The English Country House describes ten outstanding examples, all still in the hands of descendants of the original owners. They range from Kentchurch Court, a fortified medieval manor house that has been in the Scudamore family for nearly 1,000 years to a delightful Strawberry Hill-style Gothic house in rural Cornwall, the ducal palace of Badminton to Goodwood, England’s greatest sporting estate. Many of the houses are not open to the public and some have not been featured in a book before. The beautiful atmospheric photographs by James Fennell capture the essence of each unique property. 

Between the Devil and the Duke

By Kelly Bowen,

Book cover of Between the Devil and the Duke

An adventurous lady gambler. I enjoy stories where the heroine is taking on the role usually belonging to the hero. Kelly Bowen is so skilled at giving us characters to care about and root for. This story was a delicious read with a heroine equal to the task of taming the hero. I love Kelly’s writing style and how smoothly her stories flow.


Who am I?

I am the bestselling author of more than 46 romance novels. I love history, enjoy research, and am always looking for little-known facts to make my stories more authentic. Some of those facts have revealed that women in the 19th century often took on occupations, hobbies, or causes that challenged them and sometimes placed them in danger. Although seldom acknowledged as such, women in the 19th century were a force to be reckoned with, although their contributions were often overlooked. But through reading personal accounts, letters of the time, biographies, and nonfiction accounts about various women’s roles, I have gained a greater appreciation for how daring women have been throughout history.


I wrote...

The Return of the Duke: Once Upon a Dukedom

By Lorraine Heath,

Book cover of The Return of the Duke: Once Upon a Dukedom

What is my book about?

When his father, the Duke of Wolfford, is hanged for an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria, Marcus Stanwick is stripped of everything. Vowing to return honor to his family, he seeks to expose the others involved in the treasonous plot. His search forces him to turn to a woman he despises for her unforgivable betrayal.

Harboring secrets, Esme Lancaster has her own reasons for wanting to discover who’s behind the conspiracy that’s still afoot. As their hunt for the truth leads them into danger, they’re unable to deny their growing desire for each other. But giving in to temptation comes at a cost, and they must decide if love is worth the risk of losing their one chance for redemption.

The Perks of Loving a Wallflower

By Erica Ridley,

Book cover of The Perks of Loving a Wallflower

I just finished reading this book and if you love witty banter then run don’t walk to grab this. I think it may very well feature the very best banter I’ve yet to read in a historical romance. And the banter is not just between the two heroines! No, Erica Ridley has written in an entire Umbrella Academy-esque family of rogueish, rascally siblings who live double lives. On the one hand, they manage to be an accepted part of the Regency ton (good society) and on the other they’re more comfortable on the rough and tumble streets, doing daring feats of rescue and other good deeds.

Did I mention there are baby hedgehogs? And a mission to bring down the patriarchy?


Who am I?

I grew up in a religion and family where being gay was most definitely more than frowned upon. Now as a queer author and parent (and former academic who studied queer lit and video games!), I’m thrilled to be bringing a “book baby” into the world during Pride Month that is pure historical romantic fantasy in which two women embrace who they are and one another. When I first started reading queer fiction, much of it was gritty and realistic, sure, but also extremely grim. I think we desperately need a balance of the grim and the gleeful and that is what I hope this little list gives you! Happy endings are possible in fiction and reality. Happy Pride Month, dear readers! 


I wrote...

The Bluestocking Beds Her Bride

By Fenna Edgewood,

Book cover of The Bluestocking Beds Her Bride

What is my book about?

Some call Fleur Warburton cold and hard-hearted. Even ruthless. Scarred by a traumatic past that destroyed her family, Fleur believes she has found the man ultimately responsible for her unhappy fate and is out for vengeance. But when the beautiful Lady Julia Pembroke gets in her way, Fleur is soon entangled in a scandal of a different sort. With Julia by her side, Fleur enters a world of tempestuous desires and rebellious hearts.

The Bedding Proposal

By Tracy Anne Warren,

Book cover of The Bedding Proposal

Yes, that says “bedding” and not “wedding”! In this Regency Romance novel, the heroine is a scandalous divorcee who’s sworn off romance. She has some income of her own and isn’t penniless. Dipping a toe into society again, she’s wooed by a determined young rake who wants only to bed her. But when he falls in love and proposes, she has to say no. [Spoiler alert] Her abusive former husband paid a man to perjure her as an adulteress so he could divorce her. The story shows the vindictiveness a spurned husband might employ in this era: the divorce decree leaves her forbidden to remarry. Read this book for a different take on the perils of divorce by another skilled romance writer.


Who am I?

I’m a writer of Regency Romance fiction with a perfectionist’s zeal to get the details right. Most Regency Romances are tales of aristocrats falling in love and marrying—or marrying and then falling in love! But in real life, romantic love was often not an essential aspect of courtship in this era. Aristocratic families might ensure that a couple was “suited”, but they arranged unions for bloodlines and wealth, and the ties were almost impossible to break. Enjoy these true tales of marriage and divorce, and the two novels of heartbreak, divorce, and happy-ever-after.


I wrote...

Fated Hearts: A Love After All Retelling of the Scottish Play

By Alina K. Field,

Book cover of Fated Hearts: A Love After All Retelling of the Scottish Play

What is my book about?

Plagued by hellish memories and visions of a coming battle, a Scottish Baron returning from two decades at war meets the daughter he denied was his, and the wife he divorced, and learns that everything he’d believed to be true was a lie. What he can’t deny is that she’s the only woman he’s ever loved and when passion flares, it burns more hotly than ever it did in their youth.

They soon discover, it wasn’t fate that drove them apart, but a jealous enemy who played on his youthful arrogance and her vulnerability. Now that old enemy has resurfaced, more treacherous than ever.

Former People

By Douglas Smith,

Book cover of Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy

Beautifully written, the book follows the lives of Russia’s two great aristocratic families in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution. Their fate was typical of the entire Russian aristocracy. It is a story of the Bolsheviks' cruelty and a painful survival of their many victims.


Who am I?

History has always been my passion. Since I was 16, I tried to understand the world around me and the forces that shaped it. I thought that history as a discipline provided the best answers. In the 1970s, because of the official anti-Semitism, it was impossible to get into the history department programs at the Soviet universities. Nonetheless, I resolved to study history after my emigration to the US in 1979 and joined a graduate program at the University of Chicago. For four decades I have been writing about Russian history, although I also read, teach, and write on global history.


I wrote...

Russia's 20th Century: A Journey in 100 Histories

By Michael Khodarkovsky,

Book cover of Russia's 20th Century: A Journey in 100 Histories

What is my book about?

Michael Khodarkovsky's innovative exploration of Russia's 20th century, through 100 carefully selected vignettes that span the century, offers a fascinating prism through which to view Russian history. Each chosen microhistory focuses on one particular event or individual that allows you to understand Russia not in abstract terms but in real events in the lives of ordinary people. Russia's 20th Century covers a broad range of topics, including the economy, culture, politics, ideology, law, and society. This introduction provides a vital background and engaging analysis of Russia's path through a turbuturbulent 20th century.

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