Mary Balogh was the writer who lured me into my love of historical romance.  I started with Lord Carew’s Bride, and after that first wounded beta hero, I went on a Balogh-binge.  I bought her entire backlist and read them all, and have bought every book since.  Mary Balogh has the ability to transport me to my idealized view of rural, Regency England. The stone cottages, the small churches, the manor house of the wealthiest family in the village—no one conjures that landscape like Mary. The way in which her heroes and heroines adhere to Regency manner and custom, while still achieving their relationships, is always such a delight to read. I liken reading Mary Balogh to settling into my seat at a live theater—another of my passions—and knowing a favorite actor or actress is going to step on stage. You can just relax and enjoy, because you know she’s gonna be great.  Mary Balogh is the gold standard.

Tessa Dare writes funny, hapless, talented, relatable women like no one else. The skill in how she paces and plots her stories is remarkable. There’s an effervescence to her books that make me forget my workday and smile (and sigh).  The heroines are the stars of her stories, and I’ve always thought one of Dare’s greatest talents is creating just the right hero to shove into the heroine’s path.

Elizabeth Hoyt. What can I say about Elizabeth-take-all-my-money-Hoyt?  I pre-order her books faster than any other author’s, because she hooks me with her openings like no one else, and keeps me hooked.  Hoyt writes characters as Characters—unique and multi-faceted and eccentric. I fell in love with her hero Harry Pye, in The Leopard Prince. The hero is a common-born land steward who falls in love with an aristocratic Georgian lady, and the first line is my favorite for a class-crossing historical romance: “After the carriage wreck, and a bit before the horses ran away, Lady Georgina Maitland noticed that her land steward was a man.”

Jennifer Ashley. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. Enough said.

There is so much I admire about Courtney Milan. Before I had the good fortune to meet her, I’d read all her books, and thought them so beyond the realm of the historicals I’d been reading. But since I’ve embarked upon the business of publishing, I’ve witnessed how she embodies the best spirit of the writing community.  She is a brilliant, fierce, outspoken champion for inclusiveness.  She flings open doors left and right for so many authors who are writing in all sub-genres of romance—almost daily, it seems. Her books are among the cleverest historicals being written, but I have to count her among my favorite writers knowing the extent to which she guides (and drags and pushes and compels) authors and publishers into shaping a better publishing landscape for all writers and readers. 

Originally posted at HART'S ROMANCE PULSE, August 29,2016

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