To follow Megan's example, I have chosen ten seminal Regency Romances for you. These are not my top ten best Regencies but books that have had an impact on the genre. In fact, if I were trying to convert a reader to Regency Romance there are one or two here I would not recommend. And believe me, it was not easy to hold this to ten.
10. Judith McNaught, Whitney My Love
This is a love it or hate it book (I hated it). Here at Heroes & Heartbreakers people have both loved it and hated it. Regardless of your response, however, it’s a book that elicits strong reactions and is a classic example of the 1980s “bodice ripper.” If you're going to talk about the evolution of Historical Romance, you should probably include this book.
9. Stephanie Laurens, Devil's Bride
The first of Stephanie Laurens's Cynster Books (and, in my opinion, the best) is a first-rate example of the sexually insatiable alpha hero. Of course, Devil Cynster is also totally irresistible so any priapism is immediately forgiven. Published in 1998, this was the precursor of many, many hot Historicals.
8. Laura Kinsale, Flowers from the Storm
Probably the best Historical Romance written with a disabled lead character. If you haven't read the story of the Duke of Jervaulx, who has suffered a debilitating stroke, and Maddy Timms, devout Quaker and daughter of a mathematician, who loves and saves him, you should. Laura Kinsale, one of my favorite writers of angst, does a superb job of portraying illness, genius, frustration, and the power of love.
7. Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me
The Viscount Who Loved Me is the second book in the Bridgerton series, but it certainly stands on its own. I chose this one because Julia Quinn's trademark humor shines throughout and, like many of Julia Quinn's books, it is a master class on writing sparkling dialogue.
6. Lisa Kleypas, Dreaming of You
Lisa Kleypas at her Historical best. Neither the hero nor heroine is titled and the hero, Derek Craven, is so alpha I can hardly stand it. The melt-down precipitated by his falling in love could only happen to someone as tough and hard as Derek Craven. It's a classic of its kind.
5. Carla Kelly, Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand
You can't talk about Regency Romance without talking about the Traditional Regency, and you can't talk about the Traditional Regency without talking about Carla Kelly. Everyone has a favorite Carla Kelly book. I have several. I've chosen Mrs. Drew because, as Cheryl Sneed has noted in her post, Mad for Trad, “The title of the book alone is almost a synopsis for any of Kelly's books. She writes about real, relatable people, dealing with real problems and who just get on with it, without whining or blaming others. They play the hand they've been dealt with grace and dignity, humor and love. What is better than that?”
4a. Mary Balogh, The Obedient Bride
Mary Balogh is the other name that is immediately associated with Traditional Regencies. She is the Trad's breakout author, taking on the taboo subject of sex when no one else was doing it. There are many books I could name in which she does so and I imagine many would choose The Notorious Rake. But The Obedient Bride exemplifies Balogh's ability to use sex to define and determine the growth of a relationship.
4b. Mary Balogh, Slightly Dangerous
Maybe I'm cheating, but I think Mary Balogh needs to appear twice on this list because she is, in my opinion, the trad writer who most successfully made the transition to Regency-set Historicals. It is as if this was what she was meant to write all along. I have chosen Slightly Dangerous, a wonderful retelling of Pride and Prejudice as my book, although it is the final book in a series and I urge you to read all of them.
3. Mary Jo Putney, Thunder and Roses
This is the first book of Mary Jo Putney's Fallen Angel series. In the early nineties both she and Jo Beverley began a series of books based on a group of friends. I'm not sure whether these were the first such series but, in my opinion, they were the best. Ultimately, I preferred Mary Jo Putney's Fallen Angels to Jo Beverley's Company of Rogues (marginally), probably because I simply liked the characters better. I suggest you read both Putney and Beverley.
2. Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels
Although I adore Loretta Chase and do love Lord of Scoundrels, it's not my favorite of her books. But it needs to take pride of place here as it is the book most often mentioned as a “conversion” or “gateway” book to this genre. It should be read and, I assure you will be glad you did.
1. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
It is with some reluctance that I include Jane Austen on this list. I don't consider Pride and Prejudice either a romance (although it certainly includes one) or a Historical. But it is claimed by many to be the mother of all Historical Romances and, when all is said and done, you can't go wrong reading Jane Austen.
Myretta is the co-founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.