When you read historical romance novels, you already know what you’re in for to a certain degree: you know they’re going to get together by the end of the novel, and there’ll probably be at least… kissing.
As a reader, I know that sometimes I am in the mood for a certain type of story: the friend-before-lovers arc, or the ugly-duckling trope, or the managing-female-meets-her-match line… but I don’t want to read just ANY example of that trope, so below are lists of best-of, organized by trope!
How Do I Define This Trope? (Because really, the lines are blurry!)
I think this is usually done three ways, only two of which I really count:
1. They’ve been friends and/or associates who just never thought of one another that way. This can mean that their families were friends, they were friends-of-siblings, or any other association where they’ve known one another, but for one reason or another, have never thought of the other person in that way.
2. They previously had a relationship or almost-relationship but were separated for one reason or another (parents disapproved, some huge misunderstanding, war, etc). The difference in this version is that usually, they fell in love (at least for the first time) off the page, and we’re not really reading as much about them falling in love with one another, but re-falling… I do NOT count books where they are united, and then separated, during the course of the novel.
3. They were introduced to one another, and perhaps don’t really know one another, in other books, or in a way that doesn’t matter to the story. There would be just too, too many to count if I were to organize this way (think of ALL the books where either the hero or heroine is introduced in book #2 of a 5 book series…). Sometimes, there are even interactions between the characters (like Lisa Kleypas, who introduced us to Lillian and Marcus in It Happened One Autumn, but has them already squabbling in Secrets of a Summer Night or Stephanie Laurens and her Cynster series… where the Earl of Chillingworth shows up as background in #4, and then gets his own novel, etc etc etc). So, if they’ve been introduced, or even have interacted in another book, but it’s not really germane to their story together, I’m leaving that out of this category.
So, What Have I Read?
Courtney Milan’s: Trial by Desire (this almost doesn’t count, but I think the amount of interaction they have in the previous novel makes it barely make it into this category)
Jenna Peterson’s: The Unclaimed Duchess
*I almost didn’t include Again the Magic because most of the story happens on the page; even though they are separated, we get to see them before and after… but I think it still qualifies… mostly. Similarly, I didn’t include Kleypas’s Love in the Afternoon, because the main characters meet, correspond, and then meet again, so everything happens on the page (not at all a bad thing, just makes it not really qualify for this category).
I decided not to include Eloisa James’s When the Duke Returns, because I didn’t feel as though any action really happened outside of the book since they’re married by proxy, so they’re estranged, but not really reunited as they’d never met to begin with; I disqualified Lisa Kleypas’s Somewhere I’ll Find You for more or less the same reason.
I also didn’t include Amanda Quick’s Scandal. She falls in love with him based off of letters that we’re told about, and they’re never actually separated… nor do they really get to know one another through these letters, which Blade only writes in order to seduce her (for revenge of course).
My TOP Recommendations for This Trope:
Tempting the Bride — creative and interesting, smart and witty. You really, really believe that Hastings has always been in love with Helena, and has just managed to muck up almost every interaction he’s ever had with her. The amnesia twist (at the near-beginning) is totally trite, yet you completely don’t care because it’s just so astonishingly well-written and engrossing.
A Secret Love — sensual, with all of the emotional tension that you could expect from a story like this. The fact that she’s in disguise really heightens the tension, and really, it’s just a great example of Stephanie Laurens, as well as a great example of the friends-first love story. This one is particularly interesting because it’s not that the two protagonists are friends so much as their families are friends, because they’ve always been perhaps a little attracted to one another, they have an almost antagonistic friendship that only is allowed to develop because our heroine is in disguise.
Scandal in the Spring — if you want a lighter version of this story, this is the keeper. The final overly-dramatic twist near the end isn’t terrible, it just isn’t as good as the rest. Matthew Swift is kind of an adorable hero who’s always been practical on the outside, and secretly in love with the hopelessly fanciful Daisy on the inside. Their story is touching, and filled with fun (saving birds and silly lawn game competitions fun).
What Else is Worth Reading?
As you’ll see from my reviews, I think that Romancing Mr. Bridgerton and Again the Magic are both very worthy reads that just have a few flaws…
What Have I Missed?
We’re creating this section so that it’ll be easier for people to find the recommendations they really want, and to read the books they’re really interested in…therefore, if there are books you would classify as this trope, this genre, that aren’t listed, feel free to drop us a comment and make us a recommendation. We’ll read it and try to add it to the list!