The Folio Society is known for lavish, beautifully illustrated editions of classic books – you can buy the full Jane Austen from them, or TS Eliot or Thomas Hardy or any of the Brontës. They also publish more recent fiction, such as The color purple, and numerous mysteries, thrillers, and SF/Fantasy. They have a partnership with Marvel and produce fan favorites such as Spider Man and Captain America, and they’re working on a wonderful set of George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice novels. But despite the success of their genre titles, they hadn’t published a romance until recently, when they ventured into the field with Georgette Heyer’s Veniceoriginally published in 1958.
Although romantic novels sell like hot cakes, the genre struggles to gain respect. Could it be that the books are mainly written and read by women? I’m very glad the Folio Society is adding romance to the canon, but I wish they hadn’t felt the need to signal that the genre should be taken seriously by having one man – Stephen Fry – write the introduction and that Fry that hadn’t done. t started like this:
“From the absolute horrible Cover art that has violated her books since she was first published, you’d think Georgette Heyer is the tackiest, hideous, cute, sentimental, and trashy author ever to put pen to paper. But never fear, dear reader! Fry goes on to say that “her stories meet all the requirements of romantic fiction, but the language she uses, the dialogue, the ironic awareness, the satire and the insight – these are way beyond the genre.” Ah, the old “beyond the genre” trope, which is as much a cliché as any other cliché the writer can get his nose up at.
But it’s Valentine’s Day and maybe you’re ready for a dose of reading pleasure, whatever Stephen Fry may be thinking. You might get a kick out of a book cover featuring a smoldering woman in a fur-trimmed dress, and Julie Anne Long’s Palace of Rogues series would be a great place to start. The first part, Lady Derring takes a lover (Avon, 2019), introduces Delilah Swanpole, Countess of Derring, whose husband leaves her penniless upon his death, save for a mysterious abandoned building near London’s harbour. Delilah sells her jewelry to raise money and, for reasons that make perfect sense in context, works with Angelique Breedlove, her late husband’s mistress, to renovate the building into a guest house that she will call The Grand Palace on the Thames. to mention. And then of course Delilah finds love, just like Angelique in the next book, Angel in the arms of a devil (Avon, 2019). The third and fourth book, I’m only bad with you (Avon, 2021) and After Dark With the Duke (Avon, 2021), follow the guests of the Grand Palace as they mate, first a rambunctious young aristocratic woman with a self-made American man, then an outrageous opera singer with a stiff military hero who is also (surprise!) a duke.
If the Regency period isn’t your thing, try Seressia Glass’ The Love Con (Berkley, December 14), about an aspiring customer who entices her best friend to pose as her boyfriend during a cosplay contest. Our starred review says: “Kenya is a heroine who firmly refuses to exist on the sidelines, fighting to prove she deserves every ambition she dreams of achieving.” Or Anita Kelly’s Love other disasters (Forever, Jan. 18), which takes place on the set of a TV cooking competition and is described in our starred review as “a ravishing gay romance.” In Sara Desai’s The Singles Table (Berkley, Nov. 16), “promises a funny lawyer he’ll play matchmaker to a gruff (but smoking hot) businessman,” according to our starred review, who calls it “a beautifully told rom-com full of laughter,” heart, and scorching sexual tension.” Just what you need to warm up another pandemic winter.
Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.