When Julia Quinn announced that her next book will be a return to the Bridgertons, much discussion ensued among a group of online friends with some cheering for more Bridgerton books and speculating on what we might get and others expressing the opinion that perfection was best not tampered with. I belong to the former group. I love family groups in my historical romances, and the Bridgertons are longtime favorites. I count another thirty family series among my historical keepers, but my top five are books to which I keep retuning again and again, falling in love with the characters more deeply with each reading.
1. Eloisa James's Essex Sisters
Only Austen and Heyer outrank Pleasure for Pleasure, the final book in this series, on my list of all-time favorite romances. It’s a measure of how much I love the series that it holds first place on this list despite the third book which features the third sister Imogen, one of the two Eloisa James characters whom I dislike. Fortunately, a wonderful hero saves the book for me (Taming of the Duke). I adore the other three sisters: the maternal Tess, who feels responsible for her sisters’ happiness (Much Ado About You); the practical Annabel, whose HEA arrives via apparent disaster (Kiss Me, Annabel); and witty, vulnerable Josie who grows up during the series (Pleasure for Pleasure). I also adore all four heroes: luscious Lucius, honorable Ewan, sweet, reforming Rafe, and particularly the rakish Garret Langham, Earl of Mayne, whose character arc across five novels I find endlessly fascinating. I’m also sentimental enough to cherish this series especially because it was my first EJ series. The first book was current when I read “A Fine Romance,” an op-ed piece that appeared in the New York Times under the author’s real name, Mary Bly. In two sentences, she defined my reading experience: