Regency romances were among the first romance novels I read, because my mother read them, but I'd sort of drifted away from them in recent years for no particular reason. And then a few weeks ago, Rose Lerner rereleased her first book, In for a Penny, and a whole bunch of people I follow on Twitter whose tastes I trust recommended it. I bought the Kindle version, read it on vacation last week, and enjoyed it so much that I started wondering why I'd stopped reading Regencies in the first place. Really, I'm not sure there's higher praise than "made me want to read a bunch more of its genre."
Quick background for those unfamiliar: the "Regency" in Regency romance technically refers to Great Britain between 1811 and 1820, when the future George IV ruled as Prince Regent for his father King George III, who had been deemed unfit to rule. In a cultural sense, the term is often used more broadly, encompassing from the late 1790s until the beginning of the Victorian era in 1837. When it comes to romance novels, this is one of the most popular settings, and it means books set roughly in the world of Jane Austen. They've often taken the standard form of lords and ladies falling in love in ballrooms, but some writers are doing some new and interesting things in the genre. (You could say that about any genre, really. They all have good and bad and mediocre.)
In this one, the hero is an immature aristocratic rake who needs to reform after the sudden death of his father (and the discovery of his father's debts), and the heroine is an extremely practical and competent new money heiress. He proposes to her because he needs to marry a fortune to keep his family's estate intact, but it turns out that she's also very good at math and making lists and he's SO INTO IT. Together they set out to turn his estate profitable again, and they end up encountering the social change that results from the changing agricultural methods of the time.
This book incorporates a lot of tropes - most prominently the marriage of convenience in which both parties secretly fall in love with their spouse - but that's one of my favorites when it's well-deployed, which it is here. There's a fair amount of melodrama, but the fresh and interesting characters balance it well. And I LOVE when romances deal frankly with the class system and other historical issues and make their landed gentry actually deal with their positions, rather than just go to parties all the time. This was a total delight to read and would make a great introduction to the genre.
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