From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
Happy New Year’s Eve dear readers!
2021 proved to be a fabulous year in the historical book arena. From creative Austenesque variations, to Regency romances upending tropes, to reimagined gender-switched classics, to compelling historical fiction and mystery, we have been duly entertained and enchanted. A big thank you goes out to all of the authors and their publishers for keeping us supplied with so many stories to binge during these challenging times.
Of the 46 books that were reviewed here last year by our dedicated staff, several were outstanding and will remain favorites. Here is a list of our highest-rated and most cherished of 2021. Follow each link to read the full review.
Many thanks to my fabulous review staff: Katie Patchell, Tracy Hickman, Sophia Rose, & Katie Jackson for all of their dedication to the historical genre and their passion for reading.
Cheers, Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Austenprose
The Year in Between: A Sense and Sensibility Variation, by Christina Morland
“…a sweet historical fiction/romance continuation that shines with gentle pace and heartwarming tone that I can recommend.”— Sophia Rose
Explore the untold year in the last chapter of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility after Marianne Dashwood discovers the falsehood of her own opinions and learns to love Col. Brandon, and Elinor’s relationship with Edward is challenged. Brava to Morland for brilliantly and imaginatively filling in the gap year in Austen’s narrative.
Faults of Understanding: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Jennifer Altman
“What began as a solid four-star story, however, soon evolved into a full five-star, completely unputdownable tale. I found myself intrigued by the unique mystery, riveted by the action, and heartbroken by past tragedies.”— Katie Jackson
Altman spins a new tale inspired by Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Elizabeth Bennet receives two proposals of marriage in a day—one from her odious cousin Mr. Collins and the other from a man she despises, Mr. Darcy. Readers will need to “disarm reproof” and overlook some un-canon-like characteristics, but the ride to the end is fully satisfying.
Nine Ladies: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Heather Moll
“…the ultimate wish-fulfillment for Jane Austen fans and one of the best Austenesque novels I have read in quite some time. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.”— Laurel Ann Nattress
Time travel enables a modern Elizabeth Bennet to meet Regency era Mr. Darcy at his estate in Derbyshire where ancient stones have transported passengers for centuries. Moll does a great job of amping up the plot with conflict and tension between our two famous protagonists by multiplying their differences over the centuries.
Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion: An Austen-inspired Tale of Pride, Prejudice, and Persuasion, by Cass Grafton & Ada Bright
“This book had all of the best elements of an unputdownable tale: romance, mystery, villains, tense confrontations, humor, and admirable relationships of all kinds. A reader could not hope for a more satisfying way to immerse themselves in a book.”— Katie Jackson
A cross-over novel inspired by Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion, finds Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy seeking respite after their friction at the Netherfield Ball by traveling to Somersetshire to stay with friends. Unknowingly, they both land in the same household and back in each other’s company. Characters from two novels written by two authors. Now that is intriguing!
The Price of Pride: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Abigail Reynolds
“Abigail Reynolds masterfully weaves an uplifting love story for the ages through what might otherwise be a dreadfully disheartening tale.”— Katie Jackson
After Mr. Darcy failed proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, he is determined to prove himself a better man. He never imagined that would mean supporting his brother’s engagement to the women he loves. Meanwhile, Elizabeth longs for the brother she rejected. Whoa, that is a mind bender plot that raised my eyebrows and hooked me from the first page.
Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words, by Shannon Winslow
“…an enjoyable opportunity for Pride and Prejudice enthusiasts to have a cozy tête-à-tête with their favorite fictional gentleman.”— Katie Jackson
Relive Austen’s Pride and Prejudice through the point of view of one of the most iconic heroes in literature, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Winslow lets us walk a mile in Darcy’s big black Hessian boots! Need I say more?
The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh (A Pride and Prejudice Novel), by Molly Greeley
“This story is told with beautifully descriptive prose that has an almost lyrical flavor at times… shin[ning] a beam of hazy sunlight into the dark shadows where a sheltered, unloved creature has been hiding in oppressive, cold stillness, waiting to be awakened with warmth.”— Katie Jackson
Intended from birth to be the bride of Mr. Darcy, the sickly Anne de Bourgh is sadly addicted to opium, prescribed to quell a fussy baby, and then throughout her life. When her father dies leaving her a vast fortune, she sees an escape from her overbearing mother and a marriage to man who she does not love. Greeley’s masterful prose is dazzling and her understanding of Austen and her times rewarding.
The Indebted Earl: Serendipity & Secrets (Book 3), by Erica Vetsch
“Through her skillful ability to capture the right words and her painter’s eye for overlooked details, Erica Vetsch has created characters with life and breath, and a world so real and genuine to our own, that its spring rain, crash of waves, and colorful wildflowers feel only a step away.”— Katie Patchell
A marriage of convenience proves challenging to the former fiancé of a military compatriot of an honorable man arrested on suspicion of smuggling. Vetsch weaves an intricate tale of duty and earned devotion.
Charming Artemis, by Sarah M. Eden
“I laughed, cried, smiled, and sighed. The story was so immersive that I didn’t want to put it down, and I valiantly attempted to pace myself so that I could savor it because I didn’t want it to end.”— Katie Jackson
After being caught in a scandalous situation, two childhood adversaries are faced with being labeled, “ruined,” and a “rake,” and are forced into a marriage of inconvenience. In the seventh and final novel in the Jonquil Brothers series, Eden proves again why she is the master of the genre.
With Love, Louisa: Larkhall Letters (Book 3), by Ashtyn Newbold
“Read this enchanting novel. With Love, Louisa is a beautifully written story of imperfection, forgiveness, and passion.”— Katie Patchell
A letter written by the penniless heroine to her aunt requesting to live with her lands in the hands of the present tenant—an unhappy, disgruntled gentleman—who while in his cups invites the young lady to live with him. A forced marriage saves their reputations, but… Newbold manages to make Regency tropes sing anew with charming characters and a delightful story.
Love and Lavender: Mayfield Family (Book 4), by Josi Kilpack
“Love and Lavender deserves every one of its five stars, and if there was a higher amount to give, I would give a constellation.”— Katie Patchell
In Regency England, an unconventional heroine and an equally unique hero agree to an arranged marriage for financial security. Kilpack turns a conventional romance trope into a work of wonder and delight.
Georgana’s Secret, by Arlem Hawks
“With its stirring romance and powerful vision of life at sea in the Regency-era, Georgana’s Secret hits all the marks for a five-star read.”— Katie Patchell
A young woman hiding from her past as a cabin boy aboard a Royal Naval ship is befriended by one of the ship’s officers. As they face a mutiny and other daily challenges aboard ship, he discovers her secret and their relationship changes. Hawks uses the Twelfth Night trope to great advantage as the characters face their demons and their growing affection for each other.
The Merchant and the Rogue: The Dread Penny Society (Book 3), by Sarah E. Eden
“As a tale of suspense and mystery, The Merchant and the Rogue captured this reader’s attention with every new clue and revelation. As a story of love and hope, this novel is the book equivalent of a warm hug.”— Katie Patchell
In Victorian London, a penny dreadful reader, and a writer, join forces to thwart a growing criminal enterprise in their community while learning to trust each other with dangerous secrets. The third novel in this series proves to be the best so far.
The London House, by Katherine Reay
“The London House ticked every historical fiction box for me, delivering a richly satisfying experience that I think will resonate with many readers.”— Tracy Hickman
In the present day, an American woman uncovers her families’ darkest secrets from WWII England and must learn from the past to forge her future. Reay’s skill and confidence in storytelling is evident in her handling of the emotional weight of the narrative and dual-timeline format.
In Royal Service to the Queen: A Novel of the Queen’s Governess, by Tessa Arlen
“Arlen is an underappreciated historical fiction author who should find elevation from this beautifully written, impeccably researched, penetrating story of another underappreciated personality, Marion Crawford.”— Laurel Ann Nattress
Marion Crawford, Queen Elizabeth II’s childhood governess is brought vividly to the page recalling her sixteen-year experience in the inner-circle of the Royal family. Filled with insightful observations and exquisite historical detail, readers will never think about the Windors again in the same light.
The Barrister and the Letter of Marque, by Todd. M. Johnson
“It hit all the right notes leaving me satiated but yearning for more mysteries and courtroom battles for William and his friends to solve.”— Sophia Rose
In post Napoleonic War Regency London, a barrister advocates for the poorer classes against the powerful until a struggling heiress, Lady Madeleine Jameson, arrives at his door upending his altruistic plans by choosing to investigate her adversaries and solve her dilemma.
John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow, by Mimi Matthews
“Reader, I loved it. Matthews has crafted a compelling and addictive tale that I was tempted to immediately click back to begin reading again.”— Sophia Rose
In this clever gender-switched reimagining of Jane Eyre, a disgraced former schoolmaster arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, wards of his new alluring, mysterious employer, Bertha Mason. This eerie and enchanting novel abounds with brilliant twists and captivating characters.
The Curse of Morton Abbey, by Clarissa Harwood
“I enjoyed how the twists and turns built-up to a breath-taking and emotional climax before offering an equally absorbing denouement to the end.”— Sophia Rose
In Victorian England, a young women’s experience as an employee at an ancient Yorkshire abbey reveals mysteries, secrets, and romance. Harwood gives us all the classic Gothic chills in this homage to two classics: Jane Eyre and The Secret Garden.
The Vanishing at Loxby Manor, by Abigail Wilson
“…a splendid and suspenseful romantic historical that will tantalize readers with its gothic flavor and mysterious tone. I recommend it to those who enjoy sweet historical romance and mystery.”— Sophia Rose
A young woman must face her difficult past by returning home where the disturbing disappearance of guest and the return of the man she was assured would not be there, challenges her to face all her fears to solve unexplained events and the true story of broken relationship.
A Longbourn Entanglement: A Comic Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Monica Fairview
“Although the synopsis sounds quite serious, I assure you, dear readers, that this story is full of ample amusement. What a storytelling skill, to be capable of mixing some heartbreaking angst in the midst of some humorous antics!”— Katie Jackson
The Bennet family household is thrown into chaos by the illness of the mistress, compelling Mr. Darcy to assist, placing further complications on his budding relationship with Elizabeth Bennet. In this showcase for Fairview’s comedic talents, readers will be amazed at her creativity and levity.
A Seaside Summer: Timeless Regency Collection, by Josi S. Kilpack, Martha Keyes, & Heather B. Moore
“A Seaside Summer traverses the rocky shore of romantic attachments to reach the serenity of happily-ever-after.”— Katie Jackson
In this collection of three novellas by bestselling historical romance authors set by the seaside in Regency England, the characters discover that a marriage of convenience can be more than expected; a crushing social failure is never a complete failure; and wishing can become a reality, but often, the price is an even heavier thing to pay.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Have you read any of the books on our list? What were some of your favorite reads of 2021? We would love to learn about what you read and what you can recommend.
Have a Happy New Reading year!
We received review copies from the publishers in exchange for an honest review or purchased the books for our own enjoyment. Cover images compliments of the respective publishers who hold the © 2021; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2021, Austenprose.com