Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rogues and Scoundrels (Or this is not your mama's bodice ripper.)

It’s not a secret that I read romance.  I write it and I’ve loved the genre for years.  Even as a child, I was drawn to love stories and the happily ever after. My favorite book growing up was a version of Cinderella, from the original fairy tale by Perrault, that was translated and illustrated by Marcia Brown.  It was a beautiful book, but more than the award winning illustrations, I was drawn to the story.  I believed in finding Prince Charming.  So years later—me and romance—it was a perfect fit.

I fancied myself a contemporary romance reader, especially when I really started devouring the books in the late 1990’s.  Sometimes I threw in romantic suspense, but I never read historical.  I’d tried.  I wasn’t drawn in by Kathleen Woodwiss or Victoria Holt.  I knew what they meant to the genre, but the books weren’t for me.  I was pushed away by the stereotype.  You know the one--the book with a long-haired, shirtless rogue staring hungrily at a maiden in a low-cut gown.  I never felt like I could be the cowering maiden in the picture, so I didn't read about her.  Instead, I learned to love the genre reading Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Barbara Delinsky.  Modern women, modern sensibilities.  Historical and regency romances were not for me…until now.

I’d been seeing these names pop up—Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan and Victoria Dahl.  I heard their books were fabulous with great writing, heroes to die for and heroines that knew their own minds.   I was not disappointed.  I started my new secret love affair with One Dance with a Duke, by Tessa Dare. Plain Amelia is blessed with a great mind, but she’s a spinster who one night is swept off her feet at a ball and ultimately has to marry to save her reputation and her family.  It may seem like Spencer, the aforementioned Duke, has all the power in the relationship, but don’t be fooled.  Amelia is smart and knows what she wants and she wants Spencer.  (Hold onto your wonder bras, these books will have you running for a cold shower!) There are the usual complications…the lack of faith in each other, the inability to completely commit, the lies and misunderstandings, but in the end I got my sweeping love story and a happily ever after.

So what was different about these books? I think what I found in all the books was a commitment to the heroine.  The stories belonged to them and ultimately they had control over their fate.  Oh, there may have been a marriage of convenience or the saving of one’s honor, but unlike the romances of the past, the women in these historicals had choice and it was this modern twist that converted me.

There are the requisite heaving bosoms, bare chested men on horseback and in one the hero had been a privateer, which means he was, kind of, a pirate.  (Don’t laugh; the book was awesome!) There are gowns and governesses, breeches and boots, waistcoats and afternoon tea.  The settings are sumptuous, meticulously researched and fun.

I have four still unread books in my Kindle and I’m saving them for an afternoon when I need a break from reality.  Because honestly, is there anything better than a gorgeous rogue on horseback to take your mind off the everyday? I think not.

Of course, I have some recommendations.  Give these books a try; you won’t be sorry:
Tessa Dare
Stud Club Trilogy
One Dance with a Duke
Twice Tempted by a Rogue
Three Nights with a Scoundrel (available next month)

First Trilogy
Goddess of the Hunt
Surrender of a Siren
A Lady of Pursuasion

Courtney Milan
Proof by Seduction

Victoria Dahl has a number of good books, check her out at:


  1. Jeannie - I write contemporary romance but ADORE reading today's historical. I'm with you - never could get into historicals in the 1980's or 90's but the last few years there has been a bounty of great authors.

  2. Ooh, thanks for these excellent suggestions! I'm in the middle of my first Victoria Dahl novel right now, and I've got Courtney Milan lined up next in the queue. I'll have to scope out some of these others on your list. Thanks!


  3. OK...I have to confess....I do not read romance at all. I'm not going to say I didn't EVER read a Danielle Steel book (does that even count?) at the beach. I really enjoy reading humor, non-fiction, and (ok, so I admit it) chick lit! I will say, I'm all about girl aka heroine power! So maybe I will venture out this summer upon your recommendation!

  4. JV-It's amazing how the genre grew up with women isn't it. There's another new book called Not Quite a Husband that's supposed to be great.

    Tawna-You're welcome. I am in love with Tessa Dare's books. (and her name...I think she has the best romance novelist name ever)If you read anything good let me know.

    MTM-Romance is all about empowering women. Have fun and if you need more recommendations scroll down to my post called "My Favorite Things."

    Thanks for reading, ladies.