Regency Romance for the YA Audience: Historical Romance Reader's Advisory for Teensreading a LOT of Regency Romance recently and began wondering about the younger teen who might be interested in this type of book. The early Stephanie Laurens romance novels, what she terms her Regencies, would be great for them (only the later Cynster, Bastion Club and Black Cobra series are sexually explicit - the early seven or eight novels are quite light and very tasteful in terms of alluding to the physical intimacy) but what else is out there?
Irish author Cora Harrison published a fun, well-researched novel, I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend, published by Delacorte Press in 2010 that would be ideal for an audience interested in romance but minus the more explicit content. Harrison took the documented knowledge that Jane Austen's cousin, Jane Cooper, attended the same boarding school and lived with the Austen family for a time, later marrying a wealthy sea captain, and created a novel that brings the Austen family to life. Changing her name to Jenny (a nickname for Jane during the period) and making her a few years younger was a device that allowed Jenny to be a little closer to Jane, offering the reader more opportunities to see Jane as her letters and other first-hand accounts depict her as a teen. The romance between Jenny and Captain Harrison is extremely well-done. It's a light, sweet novel that would be a nice read for any fan of Jane. Harrison followed it up with a UK second book (not apparently published in the US, but you can buy it used), Jane Austen Stole My Boyfriend, in which Jane and her cousin go to Bath after Jenny becomes engaged and have adventures. I'm not a fan of how the title uses a modern colloquialism (it seems pretty flippant to me and actually more like one of the modern reinterpretations of her work, like Prom and Prejudice), so we'll see if I read it. This one was just great on its own.
The Season by Sarah MacLean. Alex, Ella, and Vivi are well-born daughters of the ton and about to have their debut, an event they are approaching with some trepidation. But fiery Alex, surrounded by her handsome older brothers, has learned to not live life by other people's rules, and when it seems like neighbor and friend Gavin, Earl of Blackmoor, is a target for a traitor, she gets involved. Gavin takes one look at Alex's new dresses and upswept hair and realizes that his feelings are no longer brotherly, and he doesn't want Alex placing herself in danger.
MacLean crafted a good little mystery here which provides a wonderful backdrop for her deft writing about the period and about the lives of these three girls, all of whom read as bold three-dimensional characters yet seem at home in their time period. Her Regency chops are excellent, with lots of accuracy and appropriate language use, and there is serious heat between Gavin and Alex (which doesn't go beyond kissing and hugging for the YA audience). Lack of more sexual intimacy aside, this book still feels like a true Regency romance, with a little less focus on the male lead than you might have in one of those books. It would be a terrific introduction for any middle school or younger high school girl ready to enter the world of romance.
Sarah MacLean is definitely an author to watch. I've ordered her adult Regency romances, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord, and Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart (just published in May 2011). Her website is FABULOUS (I have a serious pet peeve with difficult author websites, although I'm empathetic that so many obviously have to figure it out themselves) and clearly reflects her background in public relations, which she thankfully left to pursue a romance novel career. Thank you for your personal choices, Sarah!! She seems to be a great and witty interview based on her blog interviews (Writing and Ruminating Blog, Romance Bandits, and The Romance Dish). (Be sure to look at her author recommendations - this is a woman who knows her romance authors and isn't afraid to share her knowledge!)
So let's not leave those young newbies to the Regency romance novel to flounder, but introduce them to the delights of the genre. It's the start of a long, and utterly delightful, road on which they will not lack for enthusiastic company.