Anything by Amanda Quick. They're kind of repetitive, but they're lower in misogyny, most of the female characters either have careers or are bluestocking and scholars, the heroes tend to be decent guys in general outside of the Regency mold and some are illegitimate sons of the higher aristocracy, which is new and interesting for a hero. Some are also very gay positive--one heroine was raised by her lesbian aunt and her partner (this later plays into a second plot where she assists two female lovers) and another, though again, it's been a while, involved a male partners (I think; I went through a hard Regency period (and um, Star Trek profic) period when I was pregnant with Child and then again about eight years ago, so it's been a while). They're also a lot of fun, light, frothy, caper-filled, and weirdly hilarious and sensible. They also, from my memory, keeping in mind Georgette Heyer, lack explicit racism, but it's been a while (about eight years) since I read them, so the implicit I can't be sure of.
Most by Catherine Coulter. She tends to have a memorable plot, my favorite being The Wild Baron with its supernatural/religious/Holy Grail aspects and a heroine who is not a virgin. Yes, I know! There are also cat races, which is just cute.
For sheer wtf entertainment and horror, anything by Virginia Henley. She made me read about Eleanor, sister of Henry III, and the huge variety of sexual capers everyone gets up to, not always vanilla, always in purple prose, and Simon de Montfort wears a special black leather penis sheathe--yes, a sheathe--to protect his huge massive horse-like cock (seriously) during battle (seriously). Think about that one. It's the equivalent of a very purple Nifty story. This is porn. This is long ass porn. Sometimes, you will be surprised by a priest giving someone drugs and having sex in the confessional, then there might later be a threesome and you don't know how you got there and suddenly you're on Crusade in Italy and the cock sheathe is back. Dropping acid first might help.
Judith McNaught - the only reason I like her is that her plotlines, while predictible, tend to be fun, but it's very typical contemporary romance, albeit not purple and is very well written. There will be in this order a.) dislike b.) falling in love c.) a tragic and horrific misunderstanding and d.) someone groveling. For variety, women usually keep their careers or some kind of outside interest than keeping house.
Marsha Canham - it's been years since I read her, but I remember vividly she came after my nightmare with Virginia Henley and was a refreshing change from Jude Devereaux. Pride of Lions is set during--God, the Jacobean uprising? It's pre-Regency, there are kilts, and the plotline is fascinatingly complicated sometimes and has some small but interesting politics and historical facts.
Feel free to drop your recs in here if you have any.
Looking For This Book, Help?
There is this novel and I only remember a few things about it, so here they are; one, the practical, common-sense female character is not interested in the male character, who has issues, they get caught in the garden making out, her reputation is ruined when he in a fit of temper thinking she was trying to compromise him then says he compromised her, and she sent him a bill stating what income she expected since she was his mistress and he better pay the fuck up. Then they get married. I think she has a brother (don't they all?). The male character has a best friend who is blond and hot and is infatuated with a married blond woman who is super hot and they get a book of their own later after her husband died or something.
I know this is not unique, but I remember this one because it was actually really funny, especially her detailing out what income she expected and what kind of apartment to get her in her new position as mistress. She was one of the first Romance heroines I read without an overly large chest and who was surprisingly uninterested in marriage.
God, Why Was This Book Written?
And randomly, but okay: has anyone ever finished Maia by Richard Adams? I have tried for years and years and I only get halfway through before I am so bored it hurts me. I originally got it in my teens and was thrilled by the surprisingly unvarnished sexual content but then gave up when it became a sleep aid. I made it through goddamn Anna Karenina finally, so it's not like I don't know how to read just to prove I can damn well do it. Is it just me? Does it get like, really good in the second (endless five million page) half?
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