Regency Remixed: New Twists on a Familiar Genre
By Crystal Hicks, Collection Services Manager
Since “Bridgerton” first took Netflix by storm in 2020, there’s been a renewed surge of interest in Regency romances. On screens, there’s been “Bridgerton” season two, a similarly-cast adaptation of “Mr. Malcolm’s List,” a second season of “Sanditon,” and a remake of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion.” In print, there’s the usual steady stream of Regency-set romance novels, but a growing swath of these focus on narratives that have thus far been decidedly outside of the mainstream.
“The Truth about Dukes” is the first book I’ve read by Grace Burrowes, but it won’t be my last. Robert has had epilepsy since he was a child, and his father sent him to an asylum and even pretended he had died. Years later, Robert has become Duke of Rothhaven and is courting his neighbor Constance, who has a scandalous past of her own. The plot of this book largely revolves around a lawsuit to find Robert mentally unfit because of his epilepsy, with a basis in similar historical legal proceedings. This book is the fifth in its series, but it can be read as a standalone.
Vanessa Riley’s “A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby” focuses on Patience, a West Indian heiress who is imprisoned and separated from her baby after her husband dies. After escaping Bedlam, Patience disguises herself and sneaks back into the house to care for her baby, where she meets her child’s new guardian, Busick, her husband’s cousin. Though Busick has his own war wounds to heal from, he becomes attached to both Patience and baby Lionel, and together Busick and Patience oust the uncle who sent Patience to Bedlam. Riley continues her Rogues and Remarkable Women series with “An Earl, the Girl, and a Toddler” and “A Duke, the Spy, an Artist, and a Lie.”
Erica Ridley’s newest book about the sprawling adoptive Wynchester family, following the delightful sapphic romance “The Perks of Loving a Wallflower,” is “Nobody’s Princess.” When Kuni de Heusch arrives in London, she’s secretly on a reconnaissance mission to ensure the King of Balcovia’s safety on his future visit; unfortunately, Graham mistakes her for part of the Balcovian royal family and decides she’s a damsel in need of his help. Both Graham and Kuni are Black; one of Graham’s brothers is Black, and he has sisters with hearing loss and chronic illness. For more fun from the Wild Wynchesters series, look for Ridley’s tie-in novellas on Sunflower eLibrary.
Unlike the previous two authors, who set their racially-diverse series within a more-or-less-historically-accurate Regency England, J.J. McAvoy goes for an alternate Regency England in “Aphrodite and the Duke,” one free of racism, like the “Bridgerton” adaptation. Biracial Aphrodite was the diamond of her first season, but unforeseen circumstances and family secrets left her abandoned by her betrothed, Evander. Years later, both of them return to the marriage mart to support family members in their debut seasons. This time, widower Evander hopes to win Aphrodite back, but can he regain her trust?
Prolific romance author Alexis Hall (of the fabulous books “Boyfriend Material” and “Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake”) turns to Regency England with “A Lady for a Duke.” When Viola was presumed dead at the Battle of Waterloo, she seized the opportunity to live life on her own terms and transitioned to living as a woman. Back home in England, Viola acts as paid companion for her sister-in-law and tries to forget about her childhood best friend, Justin. Justin, meanwhile, hasn’t recovered from the loss of his best friend at Waterloo and has fallen into a deep depression, so his sister calls on Viola’s family for aid. When Justin and Viola reconnect, they share an attraction even before he recognizes her, and it only deepens from there.
An honorable mention goes out to Adriana Herrera’s “A Caribbean Heiress in Paris,” since it’s not a Regency book, but instead takes place at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Luz Alana travels from Santo Domingo to expand her family’s rum business, planning to avoid love and focus on business. Of course, she captures the attention of James, an earl in Paris to sell his whisky, and a marriage of convenience—plus love—blossoms. Let’s hope this is the first in a series!
Whether romance is your thrill or another genre gets your heart pounding, the library has plenty of new books to satisfy every reader. Stop on by to see what new books we have on the shelf!