Loretta Chase

Loretta Chase is considered one of the best romance fiction writers of all time. I have loved her books for years and have recently taken on the enjoyable task of rereading all her novels.

Reading all of an author’s works in order can be a recipe for contempt. Reading one novel after another can show repetitions, systemic weakness in story structure, and word choice fatigue. Also, familiarity can breed contempt in fiction as in real life.

Aside from a series she just finished about dressmakers, I have enjoyed every single one of her novels. The dressmaker series was a very good idea but the first novel’s premise never quite made sense to me and the rest of the series suffered, at least for me. That being said, the series as a whole did very well. What I did enjoy about the series were the heroines of the series. They were sisters, businesswomen and con-artists. These sisters were not the common misses fresh from the schoolroom who had never so much as felt the touch of man’s hand anywhere on bare skin. That trope gets stale fast.

That being said. Chase’s early novels were Regency romances. I will turn to wikipedia to define the genre, since whoever wrote the definition is a genius:

Regency romances are a distinct genre with their own plot and stylistic conventions. These derive not so much from the 19th-century contemporary works of Jane Austen, but rather from Georgette Heyer, who wrote over two dozen novels set in the Regency starting in 1935 until her death in 1974, and from the fiction genre known as the novel of manners. In particular, the more traditional Regencies feature a great deal of intelligent, fast-paced dialogue between the protagonists and very little explicit sex or discussion of sex.

Chase wrote six novels that fall squarely into the category and I think they are all excellent. Well, Isabella is a bit slow but it is her first published novel and she introduces us to Basil, the pattern for many of her later villains turned heroes.

There are problems with the novels, uninvestigated issues of colonialism, racism, sexism and many others. Be aware that there are enormous and purposeful blind spots in the novels since they were written as genre fiction for an audience that had, and many members still have, zero interest in investigating where fiction ends and reality begins. Do you need to do a deep dive on the socioeconomic background of every time period you read in? No. Should you have a general idea how all these fabulously rich people earned their money? Yes. It will enrich your experience and your knowledge of history. Trust me, even if the authors didn’t put that information in their books, they knew. Historical romances are some of the most meticulously researched books on the shelf (or in the kindle store as it were.)

Readers of historical fiction will cut a bitch if she gets it wrong.

Chase has reams of research and a pinterest page you might need to follow, let me go find the link. Here it is!

Also, for 9 years she and Susan Holloway Scott wrote a blog, Two Nerdy History Girls, that is a treasure trove of interesting information as well as places on the internet to get lost in, historically speaking. The blog is no longer ongoing but with 9 years of posts, there’s enough to keep anyone entertained for quite some time. Their pinterest is good, too!

Where was I?

Oh, the books. My favorite Chase regency novel is The Sandalwood Princess but you will likely find your own to adore.

Chase moved into mainstream historical romances in 1992 with The Lion‘s Daughter a novel whose beginning is set in Albania, a complete and utter no-no in mainstream historicals. There is London and country houses and that is it. Chase gets away with it because she is incredibly good. Also, she set the beginning of one of her regencies in Albania (The English Witch) and that had to have worked in her favor when lobbying for a setting that wasn’t Almack’s.

She worked pretty consistently from 1992 until 1998 (during which time she wrote Lord of Scoundrels, found on pretty much every Top 10 Romance Novels of all Time lists) and then there is a break of almost 6 years. For any other author that might very well have spelled the end of a career. Instead what happened was the Carsingtons, a series of 5 books that ends with Last Night‘s Scandal. My favorite of that series is Mr. Impossible. Rupert Carsington is a god among fictional men.

And then Chase broke one of the great rules of mainstream romance. She made her heroine a courtesan in Your Scandalous Ways. Now, in today’s novels that isn’t as much of a pearl-grabber but at the time is was a thing. The fact of the matter is, Chase’s heroines had been moving ever farther from the standard starting point of teenage innocent but it was still a shock for many loyal fans.

I cannot recommend Loretta Chase enough. Poke through the links below, see if anything lifts your skirt and give it a whirl. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I will list my favorites (in no order because I can’t decide) first and then I will recopy the list found on Chase’s excellent webpage.

My favorites:

All novels in order of publication, for reading order refer to Loretta Chase’s webpage

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