Wednesday, 21 August 2013

RARM: My Favourite Romances #2

I did say I was indecisive. After reading over my last post I noticed that I hadn’t included any historical romance, what an oversight! So, since it’s still Read-a-Romance Month, and will continue to be so until the end of August, I thought I’d sneak another wee favourites post in.

Historical romance is undoubtedly one of my favourite sub-genres of romance and I am clearly not alone. Historical romance takes us back to a time when the heroes were dashing, the heroines witty and sharp and the clothes simply divine – I mean, who doesn’t love a good cravat? Anyway, with no further ado here are (some of) my favourite historical romance novels.

Outlander – Diana Gabaldon: Despite the fact that Gabaldon herself doesn’t consider her Outlander series a romance there are many fans who would disagree, and while it may be the case that the series, certainly in the later novels, is more easily categorised as historical fiction, one of the mainstays of the books is the relationship between Jamie and Claire. The unconventional beginnings and time travel elements have put some readers off but the book is well worth persevering with, I promise. During her second honeymoon, former World War Two nurse Claire Randall is transported back 200 hundred years to 18th century Scotland, a country torn by war and on the brink of rebellion.

The research Gabaldon put into her novel is more than evident and the rich detail serve to make it one of the best historical novels, romance or not, around. Undoubtedly the spark that ignited the Highland Romance flame you can never beat the original. The fact that the book is only the beginning of the series is another plus point as it gives you eight (soon to be) wonderful novels to track Jamie and Claire after their initial HEA, a truly epic romance. Interestingly Outlander is soon to be a miniseries on Starz (anyone else cautiously excited?).

North & South – Elizabeth Gaskell: I don’t think I could do any romance collection justice without including a classic and my classic of choice is one of the best and most well known novels by the less well known Gaskell. Arguably an unashamed rehashing of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Gaskell’s novel will be known to a few due to its hugely successful BBC adaptation (if you haven’t seen it, go. Go now and thank me later), but as usual the book has considerably more depth. Heroine Margaret Hale is uprooted from her idyllic home in the south to the industrial north where she meets mill-owner John Thornton.

North & South is the epitome of Victorian literature, much darker and more overtly socially conscious than its Regency counterpart. Gaskell’s novel appeals to me more than the traditional P&P due impart to this social commentary. The Victorian era has always been a favourite of mine and Gaskell highlights all that makes it both the best and worst of British history. I also believe John Thornton and Margaret Hale to be much a more relatable couple than Darcy and Bennet, a contentious opinion at best. If you’re a fan of the classics and are looking for something new I heartily recommend giving Gaskell a try, she may not beat out Austen for you but she’s undoubtedly a change.

The Leopard Prince – Elizabeth Hoyt: Picking a favourite from Hoyt wasn’t easy and I’ve reviewed another contender for the top-spot here. Hoyt is, I believe, one of the better historical romance authors out there today. Her novels manage to be both substantial and entertaining whilst also containing some of the best love stories. Initially weary of the plot Hoyt’s attention to detail soon won me over and The Leopard Prince is truly one of my favourite romance novels. Similar to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Leopard Prince is the story of Lady of means, Georgina Maintland, and her land steward Harry Pye.

Hoyt manages to bring together lush historical pieces with enough empathy that the characters are instantly relatable. Her novels are on the spicier side but without the seemingly superfluous sex scenes thrown in somewhere near the middle. Despite the somewhat difficult trope of the servant/landed classes romance, Hoyt manages to pull it off in a realistic manner, remaining faithful to her era and her characters. I find Hoyts novels to be a bit meatier than the likes of James and Quinn but they still have plenty of wit and are sure to give you a wee flutter at the resolution.  

Kiss at Midnight – Eloisa James: James is a well-established name in the historical romance genre and is surely one of the greats. Again, picking a favourite was no mean feat and I decided to eventually plump for Kiss at Midnight due to the fun that James clearly had with the novel that easily transfers to the reader (for the record the runner up was Much Ado About You). James’ novels aren’t always the best for strict historical accuracy, but then again I’m sure that’s not her main intention. What they are is entertaining and sexy romance reads. Kiss at Midnight is the first in James’ fairy tale series and is her twist on Cinderella.

James’ fairy tale series gives her ample opportunity to craft a fun and sweeping romance with more than the usual artistic license. Kiss at Midnight is playful and witty whilst maintaining plenty of substance. All of James’ books are entertaining and sexy but I really enjoy her fairy tale series as I feel that they are more fun and light than the rest. Not everyone’s favourites I know, but if you want a sweeping romance that you can loose yourself in, I heartily recommend any of James’ novels.

The Duke and I – Julia Quinn: Ok, so I am kinda cheating with this one, my favourite of Quinn’s novels is pretty much the entire Bridgerton series, of which The Duke and I is the first. The Bridgertons probably don’t need an introduction to most; Quinn’s best selling novels revolve around eight of the most charming, alphabetically named siblings you’re likely to meet. Simon Bassett needs help fighting off the ambitious mothers of the ton; Daphne, almost on the shelf, needs to reignite the interest in her hand, together they decide to stage an engagement.

Quinn is well known for her light, witty romances and the Bridgerton series is surely the best of the best. The family that you want to become a part of they’re all delightfully charming, amusing and different enough to keep you enticed throughout the entire series. The Duke and I is the perfect introduction to the family and they’re sure to worm their way into your heart as soon as you start reading. Lighter than most, Quinn’s novels are sure to entertain and warm the cockles of your heart.

Have you read any of my selected historical romance novels? Let me know some of your favourites and recommend a good historical read in the comments below.

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