Phaetons & Petticoats; Wallpaper or Detailed? Who, what, when, where?
When I first really dove into reading romance I did it by binge reading Julia Quinn, Mary Balogh, Stephanie Laurens, Christina Dodd, Amanda Quick and Lisa Kleypas, whose English Regency and Victorian-set romances, were immediately accessible to me as reader of Austen & Bronte and avid watcher of many British-set costume dramas. As I read these I accumulated little tidbits of shared world-building, from Brummell's fashion-setting ways to the vagaries of the English postal system. These tidbits might or might not have been historically accurate but they read as if they were and thus they informed how I read the next book and the one after that. Eventually I had read one too many and I needed a break and I fled into contemporaries.
But I kept trying, for a year I challenged myself to at least read one Historical Romance a month, which led me to finally break out of my Regency rut and read something set in another time and place and not featuring aristocrats. It helped me realize that I wasn't done with Historical Romance but instead need to read new voices.
Now my historical reading is more varied. I read in many more eras and about different kinds of people. I fell for Jeannie Lin's Chinese Tang dynasty-set romances & Courtney Milan's feminist vision. I found that I could love westerns like Victoria Dahl, Edie Harris, Beverly Jenkins, and Molly O'Keefe's if they didn't gloss over ugly parts of our expansionist history. Alyssa Cole interracial historical romances span eras from the Civil rights period to Medieval (Agnes Moor's Wild Knight) and they just get better and better. I am currently reading her most recent, An Extraordinary Union, set during the Civil War and I highly recommend it. Piper Hugley Reconstruction-era romances, wrestle with faith and hope in unsettled times, and Emma Barry & Genevieve Turner's Space-Race set romances are fascinating and fun read in a little explored era. Other new favorites include K.J. Charles & Cat Sebastian, whose queer stories, are beautifully written and rich in historical detail; Elizabeth Kingston's Medievals are full of political intrigue and genuine emotion, Erin Satie's heroines are flinty and ambitious, and Rose Lerner & Joanna Bourne continually prove that you can still tell fresh-stories in familiar settings, when you focus on people outside the Ton and the Regency is no exception. And when I do feel like reading about Lords and Ladies, it is Tessa Dare I turn to because it has to be fun and just a little meta.
If you haven't yet tried some of these authors, please give them a try!