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Aug 7 2016 12:30pm

If You Like Mary Balogh... Try Edith Layton, Jo Beverley, and More!

A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh

What should you read after you've ready every Mary Balogh? Try...

When someone asks me to recommend a Regency romance, the author I’m most likely to suggest is Mary Balogh. She’s been an autobuy for me since I first read A Precious Jewel in the early 90s. That novel broke new ground in the Regency genre, offering a hero and heroine unlike others we’d seen in a format that could be stiflingly formulaic—Jewel had a heroine who willingly prostituted herself, and a hero who wasn’t very bright or socially adroit. It was a game changer for many readers.

Balogh paints in subtle colors but the finished picture glows. Many of her books offer antagonists who turn out to be not the people the protagonists—or the reader—expect them to be. She’s also skillful at character development across a series. When readers are newly arrived to her Bedwyn books (Slightly Married, Slightly Dangerous, etc.) I tell them, “Watch Becky!” A minor secondary character travels through the series and interacts with one key character, each time revealing more about that other person. 

Over the years people ask me what I like about Balogh and there are many points that stand out: her sparing use of adjectives, her unreliable narrators who hold back information until it’s necessary for the reader to know it, her attention to detail, and her craft at not dumping too much backstory or exposition up front. 

But one cannot read a single author, no matter how talented. That would be like only eating chocolates when there are also gingersnaps and almond cakes to enjoy. So when people ask me who else I would recommend if they enjoy Balogh, a few names come to mind:

SEE ALSO: Not Your Usual Historicals: Best Bets for July 2016

Edith Layton—Ms. Layton was taken from us far too soon, but she left behind a body of work that lives on. The Duke’s Wager is an example of a classic modern Regency which strays beyond the conventions, giving us a questionable hero whose true self is only revealed in small glimpses as the story unfolds.

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne

Joanna Bourne—Bourne burst onto the scene with The Spymaster’s Lady only eight years ago, but she’s already earned a spot for herself as one of the more intriguing Regency authors. Her books delving into the spycraft of England’s fight against Napoleon show complex characters in all their shades of gray, along with an attention to detail that makes them noteworthy. 

Jo Beverley—Another writer whose death was a loss to the romance community, but one who left behind a body of work enjoyed by new readers. While Beverley wrote in different periods, her website lists her traditional Regencies, including RITA award winner Deidre and Don Juan.

SEE ALSO: Remembering Jo Beverley

While each of these authors has a unique voice, they all exemplify what draws readers to the Regency romance. The stories have solid characterization, strong attention to place and detail, excellent writing and satisfied readers. Mary Balogh continues to produce novels that keep readers involved with her characters across their interwoven lives, the most recent series being her recently concluded Survivors’ Club and its seventh novel, Only Beloved. Fortunately, her backlist is being reissued and will allow a new generation of readers to discover why her books, and the other authors listed, continue to satisfy fans.

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Learn more about or order a copy of the books mentioned in this post:

A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh
Slightly Married by Mary Balogh
The Duke's Wager by Edith Layton
The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne
Deidre and Don Juan by Jo Beverley

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Darlene Marshall writes award-winning historical romance about pirates, privateers, smugglers and a possum or two—and while she knows how to cook a possum, she’s glad she doesn’t have to since they’re definitely not kosher.

 

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12 comments
georgina cowell
1. pudge
Enjoyed this post. Thanks for ideas, have ordered the D&D by JB. I am a huge fan of Joanna. Not least for that wonderful cover!
willaful
2. willaful
Balogh was my first historical love, and Beverly my second.

Another author I recommend for Balogh fans is Gayle Wilson. Her historicals have a somewhat similar tone.
hww
3. hww
And yet there are more. Patricia Veryan is a superb writer, mostly Georgian but truly lovely books. Also, C S Harris has a wonderful series going with Sebastian StCyr as well as Ashley Gardner's Captain Lacey series. All of the above have excellent historical backgrounds and plausible plots.
Janga
4. Janga
Great list! All the authors you mention are well represented on my keeper shelves. I'd include Mary Jo Putney as well. I began reading her, Jo Beverley and Mary Balogh very early in their careers (first books for Beverley and Balogh, second for MJP). Three decades later, I find that their early books are still treasures, and their more recent books are new favorites. I'm so glad that we have one more Beverley book to add to her impressive body of work.
Darlene Marshall
5. DarleneMarshall
Thanks, everyone, for the comments! This is how we help spread the word about great authors.
Kareni
6. Kareni
A couple of authors Balogh fans might also like are Carla Kelly and Jo Goodman.
Darlene Marshall
7. DarleneMarshall
@Kareni--Yes to Goodman. I thought about including Kelly, who's a personal fave but her historical details fall short. She has even admitted that she's less concerned about getting the Regency right than she is in her story and characters.

That's OK, but part of what makes Balogh a must read for me is her focus on getting the details correct.
hww
8. hww
Took your advice and read all of Joanna Bourne's books. Right in a row. Wish I had gone to her web site first. Didn't realize they were not really in the order they were written. No problem. Read them all again and she is one of the best of the best. These were great books and binge reading them was fantastic. What next. Can't wait. Thanks again for the tip. All the others you mentiioned I have on my keeper shelves and have reread many times.
Darlene Marshall
9. DarleneMarshall
When people enjoy my book recommendations it makes me want to break into my happy dance that embarrasses the dog. Thank you for sharing that, and I'm so glad you enjoyed Joanna's books. She's a gem of a writer.
hww
10. CarolineHse
I love a lot of these recommendations, and am a fan of many of Balogh's books, but can I be honest about my surprise? I would probably not personally describe her as unusually historically accurate, or significantly more historically accurate than Carla Kelly. In fact I somewhat often find Balogh's books to contain interactions, characters and relational dynamics that seem to me very unlikely to have taken place in their day, whereas when I read Carla Kelly, it often has a feeling of accuracy in the interactions between the characters, and the ways they are constrained by their time and place.

I do not doubt that Balogh is accurate in terms of forms of address and so on (which is no small thing, given how often authors don't get it right) but quite often her relationships seem contemporary in tone to me in a way I actually find less the case with other authors, including (sometimes) Kelly. Can I ask on what you base on your sense that Balogh is a writer of unusual historical accuracy?
Darlene Marshall
11. DarleneMarshall
Perhaps it's one of those "Your Mileage May Vary" situations, but for me, Balogh hits high marks in her descriptions of place, setting, details of clothing, food, and yes, forms of address, as well as her characters and writing. Kelly's characters are interesting, but too often mistakes in historical accuracy interrupt the story For example, ISTR that Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind hinged on whether the presumed heir to a title was actually fathered by the man listed as his legal father, and that this might make a difference in his inheritance. Now, I'm not an attorney, but my understanding is it wouldn't matter. In the days before paternity tests, the children of a legitimate marriage are presumed legitimate. When the entire plot hinges on something this important, it changes how one enjoys the story.

Also, a character talked about moving to Melbourne, Australia, a city that didn't exist in the time of the story.

So I'll still enjoy Kelly for the characters, and I understand her American historicals are quite accurate, but I'll take Balogh for story and craft.
hww
12. Janie Weaver
Oh, y'all, if you like Joanna Bourne, terrific writing and an utterly different hero than I've ever read about, try the recently released "The Duke of Sin," by Elizabeth Hoyt. It is heaven on a stick. I've read it four times. I couldn't believe how Hoyt pushed the boundaries and conventions of the genre. Valentine Napier is my new favorite hero of all time. Ian Mackenzie of "The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie," by Jennifer Ashley, is my second. And Hawker, who is in several of Joanna Bourne's spy novels, is my third. Have fun!
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