I’ve been doing some book review for this site, which is very fun. I’ve also been plowing through two tomes on personal finance, which is not very fun. And then there’s holiday and family stress, and I decided I needed a break.

This year, those kind of reading/mental breaks have been spent with Eloisa James.

Eloisa James is the pen name for Mary Bly, a Shakespeare professor at Fordham. I interviewed her back in 2009 for a story I wrote on the real lives of romance writers. I’d never read her books before, but included her because of her fun story, and because she lived in New Jersey. She was incredibly friendly and smart – a great interviewee. I read one of her books for the story, and enjoyed it, which surprised me because she writes historical fiction. Most of her books take place mostly in the Regency time period (1811-1820).

Historical romances were never really my thing, probably because my first experiences with these books were sneaking reads from the big tower of romance novels at the Camden County Library in the early 1990s. Most of those books are what Smart Bitches call Old Skool where the hero was such an asshole that he sometimes raped the heroine.

But the book I read – A Duke of Her Own
– and the novels thereafter – were really smart. No simpering heroines. These women usually said “eff you” to trends of the time period, and there’s always some female character – whether the main one or someone in the supporting cast – who actually enjoy sex. Big different from ye olde historic romances of yore.

In When Beauty Tamed the Beast, which I just finished, Linnet Thynne is a beauty who is “ruined” because she flirted with the Prince. That in itself isn’t so bad. But she showed up in public in a dress that made her look pregnant, so of course, everyone in the ton assumed she was a giant hussy, and since she was below the Prince in rank and he couldn’t marry her, her father decides that she’s worthless.

Until he meets with the father of Piers Yelverton, an earl she’s told was harmed in a childhood accident and can’t have children. So Linnet’s father cooks up a plan to marry her off to Piers so that he’ll have an heir, even if it’s not his – and remember now that Linnet isn’t even pregnant. He’s also a surgeon and, apparently, not very nice. Hence the beast.

Linnet sees this to her advantage. She can get married (which she HAD to do in that time period) without having to sleep with her husband. Her mom slept around, so she figured she can too if she wants.

See? Not so typical.

Sure, there’s some sex, but it’s not the focus of the book, and it’s more about two really different and stubborn people, and I learn something about a time period that I didn’t know much about. And no one was raped. Take THAT Old Skool romances.

This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on Nora Roberts. No way. But I’m up to date on most of her books (the ones I want to read – I don’t like the books she writes as J.D. Robb). I bought a bunch of James book during the Borders going out of business sale. So whenever I need that break? There’s a treat waiting for me in my library.

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

Leave a Comment