Long title I know, but all the shorter versions didn’t really cut it! Two weeks ago for Recommendsday we had Reformed Rakes in honour of Anthony Bridgerton. Today’s post is in honour of Kate – who in the book is 26 and on the shelf, but in the TV series is putting her younger sister first. So I went looking for historical romances with characters who are unmarried and trying to save someone important to them from marrying someone they think is unsuitable (and end up marrying the unsuitable person themselves) Before I get to my suggestions, I’ve read a lot of articles with reaction to the Sharma family in series two Bridgerton and what it means for South Asian representation – among them this one from Bustle and this from Glamour. Well worth a look. Anyway, to the books!
And it turns out it’s actually really hard to find heroines who aren’t desperate to jump off the shelf and who are saving someone from their heroes. I thought this was going to be a walk in the park – after all, I’ve read a lot of romances over the years. But I’ve put in proper time on this and unless I’m missing some super obvious options – or my search strings are out – it’s a tougher ask than I thought! I can find plenty of spinsters who want one night to find out what passion is (but aren’t expecting it to go beyond that), or who enter marriages of convenience because it’s the least bad option and then fall in love. But not a lot of Kates. But maybe that’s why the Bridgerton series are special?
In The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting, Sir John Hartlebury is definitely not a spinster but he is uninterested in marriage and High Society – so KJ Charles’s novel is actually quite close – Hart is trying to rescue his niece from dashing fortune hunter Robin Loxleigh, but ends up falling for Robin himself. There’s a slight Pretty Woman type situation that ends up going on, but handled well and without many of the pitfalls of that sort of thing.
The Georgette Heyers that are closest are probably Black Sheep or Lady of Quality – the key difference from The Viscount Who Loved me being neither of them end up marrying the man they’re trying to save their relation from. In Black Sheep our heroine, Abigail, is busy saving her niece from a fortune hunter when she falls in love with the fortune hunter’s uncle – just returned from India having made a packet. In Lady of Quality, Annis rescues a runaway heiress and falls in love with the heiress’s guardian. Ok so they’re not quite the same, but it’s closer than some of the other options – Frederica is trying to get her sister a dashing match and ends up falling for the cousin who has agreed to help them (rather than stopping her sister from marrying him), Hester in Sprig Muslin is an older heroine who is not expecting to marry, but she’s not trying to save anyone from Gareth – in fact she turns down his first proposal because although she (secretly) loves him, he doesn’t love her and Mary in Devil’s Cub is not so much determined to not to marry as doesn’t like the options she’s got, and although she does marry her sister’s original beau, he wasn’t planning on marrying her sister just absconding with her (Vidal, such a dastardly rake until he falls in love. Ahem).
In other slightly tenuous options, you could also probably count Alexa Tarabotti, the heroine of the Parasol Protectorate is a confirmed spinster at the start of the series in Soulless – but she’s not looking or trying to save anyone. Ditto Amelia Peabody in Crocodile on the Sandbank – whose age ends up being quietly reduced once it’s clear it’s gong to be a series and we’re going to keep going through til Ramses is an adult… Phyrne Fisher is also determinedly unmarried, but it doesn’t stop her from having as many boyfriends as she wants, so it really doesn’t count for this purpose!
And there you have it. An awful lot of work on my part, for not a huge amount of results. Tell me all the books that do this that I’ve forgotten about – or that I should have read – in the comments!