Cheers all! So far this week, we have examined the “Standards” and the “Comedians” of historical romance. I’ve saved my favorite category of historical romance for last. Considering that the other genre of romance that I read regularly is paranormal, it should be no surprise that I LOVE dark and edgy historical romance. Danger, fighting, slightly twisted sex scenes, and anti-heroes that make you wonder if they can ever be redeemed; these are the components that make me swoon. If you combine historical romance with paranormal or fantasy, I am in heaven, but that is another blog post altogether. Without further ado, here are my top picks for “Edgy” historical romance.
Hoyt is pretty much the reason I created this category. It’s hard to pinpoint what I love the best about her Maiden Lane series which is set in Georgian London and ping-pongs between nobility and the slums of St. Giles. This class struggle which allows for a wider variety of couples than you would think possible also keeps the dirt and danger close to the surface at all times. The sex scenes are edgier than you’d expect in historical romance with a little BDSM thrown in here and there for fun. Anti-heroes abound with one of the most irredeemable characters I’ve ever read as hero in “Duke of Sin”. (Unlike some, I loved him) I think I read more Hoyt this year than any other author, so I had some trouble selecting which Maiden Lane book to recommend…
Recommended: Thief of Shadows
Again, I had so much trouble deciding, but eventually I settled on this tale with a virgin hero who acts as a vigilant at night. The heroine a wonderfully confident woman; she’s the kind of woman I am thrilled to read about and kinda wish I was more like. Seriously though, start at the beginning or anywhere you choose. I have not been disappointed by a book in this series yet, and I am anxious to finish it. (Except for the fact, of course, that I would be done with my favorite series I’ve read in historical romance. Sigh.)
I don’t think historical romance can get much more dark and twisted than Kerrigan Byrne. Victorian romances that kick off with a bang: asylums, train robberies, undercover prostitutes…you never know WHAT you will find in a Byrne book. During my first read of hers, I literally stopped about 1/3 of the way through and went “WHAT?! How’s that gonna work?” But it did. Because that is what she does: create crazypants, wonderful plots and then make her couple fall in love in the middle of all that insanity. Once again, I had trouble picking a recommendation, so I cheated and selected two.
Recommended: The Duke AND The Scot Beds His Wife
“The Duke” is the original Kerrigan Byrne that made me wonder how in the world the story would work out. I found it wonderfully captivating and dark. It is a page turner in the truest sense. Her new book that is coming out next month, “The Scot Beds His Wife” isn’t quite as dark as “The Duke”, but it still keeps the drama and intensity that are synonymous with Byrne at this point. I particularly LOVED the hero (he has the hottest Scottish accent…) So, my suggestion is to read “The Duke” now, and “The Scot Beds His Wife” next month. If you like twisty, intriguing romance, you won’t be sorry!
For months I had been reading historical romance and saw people recommending Courtney Milan everywhere I looked. Finally, I bit the bullet and sat down to one of her books and was immediately hooked. Next thing I knew, I had flown through a couple more. While Milan’s style isn’t dark and twisty like the authors I mentioned above, I still categorize her as edgy because of her obvious intelligence and the brazen way she tackles social issues in her books. These are what I would call the “thinking woman’s books”, but while they make you think, they also make you swoon and sigh and laugh and cry. I am at my most feminist when I read Courtney Milan.
Recommended: The Duchess War
I feel like this is the best place to start with Courtney Milan. It is the perfect introduction to her style and characters. Set in the Victorian period, it is rife with material for social issue exploration but is also steamy as all get out. Loved it! And once I read the prequel novella for this book, it made me love it even more. Milan weaves her characters and backgrounds together in ways you wouldn’t expect. So good!
My final “edgy” author pens some of the best spy/adventure/mystery historical romance I’ve read. I considered putting her on the comedian list for her wit, and while she is a funny lady, what really sets her apart is the way she constructs a suspenseful scene. You hear the lock click, you smell the blood dripping, you feel the breath of your pursuer on your neck. Galen is the master of setting a scene and making you feel like you are there. Whether it is the poorest hovel in London or the bloody streets of Revolutionary France , she uses real historical places and events to great effect.
My Recommendation: Earls Just Want to Have Fun
A little bit “Oliver Twist”, a little bit “Pygmalion”, this one was a lot of fun, but also kept me on the edge of my seat. There’s danger, mistaken identity, a wonderful rogue hero, fast-paced action…all my favorite elements of a historical romance. There’s also some wonderful humor here. Now, if you want something a good bit darker and more suspenseful, go for her newest release, Traitor in Her Arms. It is a romance set in the world of The Scarlet Pimpernel, blood and gore and all. I was on the edge of my seat, biting my nails. I cannot wait to read more Shana Galen.
For my honorable mentions, I want to throw a little love to the darkest of historical romance: historical paranormal!!! I will be writing a full blog post on this at some point in the near future, but for now, I have to say that I love the intensity and intrigue of two of my fave authors: Bec McMaster and Juliette Cross. McMaster is famous for her steampunk series (which I LOVE), but also has an excellent historical magic series that starts with the book “Shadowbound“. Juliette Cross has crafted a historical fairytale world with vampires in which she retells beloved classics in new and twisted ways. Her newest addition to this series is “The Red Lily” which is a super-dark and sexy spin on Little Red Riding Hood. The third book, “The White Lily” releases next month and I cannot say enough about how she has turned the Snow White tale on its head.
Okay peeps! This concludes my ode to historical romance. While I feel like it is a great place to start, I know there is so much wonderful historical romance out there that I still need to read. If you have suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them. And, obviously, I love to review historical romance, so feel free to check out the myriad of in-depth reviews on this blog. Cheers!