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    Friday, July 19, 2024

    Binged ‘Bridgerton’ already? Read these historical romances next.

    Netflix released the first half of the third season of “Bridgerton" in May. But viewers won’t see Colin, the third Bridgerton son, and Penelope Featherington, a wallflower hiding her secret identity as the gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, get their happily ever after until June 13.

    Fortunately for anyone pining for more historical romance, there are tons of books featuring dukes, spies, political intrigue and more.

    1. ‘Ana María and the Fox’ by Liana De la Rosa

    When Ana María Luna Valdés flees to London in the early 1860s after Napoleon III’s invasion of Mexico, she hopes to enjoy a break from her controlling father and bolster the British elite’s view of her home country. Gideon Fox, a rising political star trying to ban the Atlantic slave trade, needs to focus on work but finds it increasingly difficult when he keeps crossing paths with the alluring Ana María. A perfect mix of slow-burn romance, geopolitical maneuvering and sisterly antics. Read it now before the sequel, featuring Ana María’s sister Isabel, comes out in June. (Berkley)

    2. ‘The Duke Who Didn’t’ by Courtney Milan

    Three years before Milan’s story begins, its protagonist, Chloe Fong, gave her childhood sweetheart, Jeremy, an ultimatum: Grow up or leave her be. He disappeared hours later but has returned to the small English village where Chloe lives, and he’s harboring two secrets. First, he’s in love with Chloe and stayed away to become the responsible man she wanted. Second, he’s the town’s absentee duke, a fact he’s hidden from everyone for years. Over three days, Jeremy tries to come clean to Chloe and win her for good. “The Duke Who Didn’t” shows us why Milan is one of the reigning queens of historical romance. (Independently published)

    3. ‘Earls Trip’ by Jenny Holiday

    Readers who adore the banter between the “Bridgerton” brothers will want to grab “Earls Trip,” starring three longtime male friends and the pair of sisters who crash their annual vacation in the early-19th-century English countryside. Despite the interruption, Earl Archibold Fielding-Burton rekindles his childhood friendship with Clementine Morgan. When Clementine, determined not to marry, asks Archibold to teach her about “carnal pleasure” before she settles into spinsterhood, he says yes — out of politeness, of course. Holiday, a veteran contemporary romance author, brings her trademark humor to her first historical novel. (Kensington)

    4. ‘Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend’ by Emma R. Alban

    While plotting in Victorian-era London ballrooms, friends Gwen and Beth think they’ve found a solution to all their problems: They need to convince Beth’s penniless mother to marry Gwen’s wealthy, rakish father. Then, all three women will have the protection that comes with riches and a title. As they try to set up their squabbling parents, their friendship grows. But when an affluent viscount begins to court Beth, the women realize their feelings for each other run deeper than mere friendship. A Victorian-era “Parent Trap,” with two romances, “Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend” is a strong debut from Alban. (Avon)

    5. ‘Hotel of Secrets’ by Diana Biller

    “Hotel of Secrets,” set in the lush world of 1870s Vienna, includes sparkling gowns, dazzling balls, deadly spies and plenty of scandal. Eli Whittaker, an uptight U.S. Treasury Department investigator, expects to arrive in Vienna, identify a double agent and return home. Instead, he saves Maria Wallner’s life from an assassination attempt — twice. Maria, the owner of the hotel where Eli is staying, just wants to restore her business to its former glory. But she finds herself distracted both by the threats to her life and by the intriguing investigator. (St. Martin’s Griffin)

    6. ‘The Midnight Bargain’ by C.L. Polk

    Polk puts a magical twist on regency courtship rituals in “The Midnight Bargain,” which takes place in a society that makes all married women wear collars that repress their natural magic powers. Beatrice Clayborn dreads the prospect, and despite societal expectations — not to mention the cost to her family — she is committed to becoming a full-time magician. Then, Ianthe Lavan, a businessman who sees her for who she is, throws her plans into disarray. Polk weaves a compelling love story with a strong message about reproductive rights. (Erewhon Books)

    7. ‘Never Blow a Kiss’ by Lindsay Lovise

    The first in a new Victorian-era series about a clandestine ring of governesses who spy on their corrupt employers, “Never Blow a Kiss” establishes Lovise as a romance writer to watch. The winsome Emily Leverton is a member of the network of governesses who hopes exposing wrongdoing will make up for the sins of her past. Her work intersects with an investigation that Zach Denholm, a former railroad tycoon now working for London’s Metropolitan Police, is conducting into a serial killer targeting sex workers. When he discovers her secret, it threatens not only to undermine their budding relationship but also to turn both their lives upside down. (Forever)

    8. ‘A Shore Thing’ by Joanna Lowell

    Since transitioning, trans artist Kit Griffith can’t paint and instead spends his days selling bicycles along the sea in 1880s Cornwall. He agrees to pick up his brush again, though, after botanist Muriel Pendrake hires him to illustrate her seaweed collection — on one condition: Muriel must demonstrate to an all-male cycling club that women can bike as well as men. As Kit teaches Muriel to ride and they spend days bicycling around the city, their flirtation grows into something more. A refreshing reminder that the Victorians weren’t quite as Victorian as we pretend. (Berkley, June 18)

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