I have a secret and I hope you won’t judge me too harshly! I love to read (no, that’s not the secret). As a child reading came as naturally to me as breathing. In school, I was given free choice of the extensive libraries and my imagination was allowed to run wild. From Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton to Jane Austen and J.K Rowling, I was a real life ‘Matilda’ and didn’t care who knew it! I lived for English class, tales from Dickins and Shakespeare and poems by Blake, I revelled in the imaginary worlds into which the writers pulled me, the warm sense of comfort from truly enjoying the place to which your mind takes you. But, I digress, I told you I had a secret to share, and here it comes. For all the truly brilliant writing, the skilled intellectual stories, woven with grit and honesty, my guilty pleasure (such as it is) is that I love nothing more than a good old fashioned bodice ripper! I need a hero (as Bonnie Tyler so eloquently put it). A rake on horseback, arrogant and handsome! I need a heroine, strong and beautiful! I need a villain, discovered and brought down at the last moment! I need passion, I need history and (preferably), I need a grand society wedding with a detailed description of the bridal gown to bring events to a satisfactory conclusion!
Now I suppose the purpose of this long winded ‘explanation’ of my guilty pleasure is to point out that my choice of reading material is exactly that…my choice. I hold an A Level in English Literature (an A grade but you know, who’s getting defensive) and a degree in Law…I am certainly capable of reading something, shall we say, a little more intellectually challenging. However, the simple fact is, I choose not to. The sheer excitement and escape I get from a good historical romance is unparalleled and I’ll be damned if I’m giving that up to immerse myself in psychological thrillers, or gory horror stories…I get enough of that from The Daily Mail website (another guilty pleasure but let’s not get into that)!
In a recent interview, Radio and T.V Presenter Anita Rani said that there is so much culture and literature in the world that you simply don’t have time in your life to waste it reading ’50 Shades of Grey’. This got me thinking (and stewing, definitely stewing). It was about time I launched an impassioned defense of cheesy ‘mum porn’ and put my ‘affiliations’ out there. So Anita…I wholeheartedly disagree. How can something that gives this much pleasure (not physical pleasure, get your minds out of the gutter) possibly be a waste of my time or indeed my life? Now, ’50 Shades Of Grey’ wasn’t my favourite (not enough in the way of ballrooms and breeches for me) but, the millions that EL James is now sitting on tells me that perhaps, just perhaps, I am not alone in this ‘peculiarity’ as some would term it. I am absolutely certain that there are other smart women (as opposed to teenagers who I suppose would be the traditional demographic) out there who secretly enjoy a harmless slice of escapism!
Now my plan was to present you my three favourite authors but in all honesty, I can only come up with two that make me tingle from fingers to toes. Both authors (particularly the second) have enough material to keep me going until approximately 2056. Does the fact that they churn out these novels at breakneck speed concern me as to their quality or the care in which they are written? Does it heck. In my eyes, they are nothing short of brilliant! My name is Jessica and I am a hopeless romantic! I am no longer prepared to bashfully stand by feeling guilty about my guilty pleasure! Life, Anita is indeed too short!
Jane Feather is the US based New York Times Bestselling Author of the ‘Duncan Sisters’ Trilogy aka, where my guilty pleasure began! I don’t want to get too far into the ‘meat’ of the books…I’ll leave that for another day if, as I suspect, there are more hopeless romantics out there who would enjoy a series of book reviews on this topic! This trilogy focuses on three High Society sisters (one book for each sister) who take the running of the household finances into their own hands after their father loses his fortune on a bad investment. They are set in Edwardian London and have a strong Suffragist storyline woven through. Essentially, each book sees a sister meet her match, finding love in the unlikeliest of places. I cannot count how many times I have re-read these books (I’m sure Anita Rani would be hugely disapproving of the many hours I’ve lost to this particular trilogy)! There’s just something about the period details and the strength of these three women who lived in a time where the odds were stacked against them by the simple fact that they were born female.
- The Duncan Sisters Trilogy – The Bachelor List, The Bride Hunt, The Wedding Game
- The Blackwater Brides Trilogy – Rushed to the Altar, A Wedding Wager, An Unsuitable Bride
Stephanie Laurens, another New York Times Bestselling Author is the woman behind The Cynster’s! A little bit of context. The Cynsters are a family – a very old, noble family, the head of which is The Duke of St Ives – Sylvester aka ‘Devil’ Cynster. Oof I’m getting all the feels just thinking about it! The first book lays out who the Cynsters are, placing them within society in the period not long after the Napoleonic Wars. The following books tell the tales of his brother and male cousins before moving on to his female cousins. All have one common thread…Cynsters are fated to marry for love. This fact seems to be accepted readily by the female family members and vociferously challenged by the males (funny that)! Now clearly there are other facets to these books. It can’t all be bodice ripping and declarations of undying devotion! There’s plenty of mystery, intrigue and yes the occasional murder to keep you on the edge of your seat and coming back time and time again, devouring novel after novel. Stephanie Laurens has enough content to keep me going for, well let’s just say quite a while…a cursory glance at her website lets you view the Cynster ‘family tree’ and with each and every member having their own tale to tell and new generations coming along faster than you can say ‘love & marriage’ I am relieved to be able to say, she’s got my guilty pleasure covered for some time yet!
My heart lies with the Cynsters. I so want to be a Cynster! I love each and every book on its own merits but yes there are a few stand outs…
- Devil’s Bride(the original, the seminal!)
- The Cynster Sisters Trilogy – Viscount Breckenridge To The Rescue, In Pursuit Of Eliza Cynster, The Capture Of The Earl Of Glencrae
- The Curious Case of Lady Latimer’s Shoes & The Masterful Mr Montague (both Cynster spin offs)
- Devils Brood Trilogy – The Lady By His Side, An Irresistible Alliance, The Greatest Challenge Of Them All
- What Price Love?
(Don’t you just love those titles! Cheese central in the best, most entertaining way!)
So, if I haven’t completely and utterly embarrassed myself can I humbly ask for your thoughts? Are you partial to a bodice ripper? Maybe an action packed crime caper is more your cup of tea? Do you have any romantic recommendations for me based on my (perhaps too revealing) account of my own guilty pleasure? Let me know in the comments below but please, be kind…it’s an affliction!