A League of Extraordinary Women, Evie Dunmore (2019- )
Evie Dunmore’s books, Bringing Down The Duke, A Rogue Of One’s Own and Portrait Of A Scotsman, follow a group of friends who meet during the early years of the Suffrage movement in the late 1800s. Queen Victoria is on the throne, women are allowed to attend Oxford but not get degrees, and marriage laws are very much against them. Annabelle, Lucie, Hattie, and Catriona become fast friends as they navigate protests and misogynistic male professors and classmates at Oxford. The romances are searing, and the intrigue fun (though the third one doesn’t quite meet expectations). The protagonists, too, are much more independent than women usually are in historical romances and have strong opinions about the kind of life they should be able to lead.
The Bedwyn Saga, Mary Balogh (2003-04)
This series is the one closest to the Bridgertons in that it too is about siblings and their love stories. Each story is a romance worth reading, starting with Aidan, who is forced to protect a woman due to a battlefield-promise, down to Wulfric, the cold and stern Duke. It’s easy to get interested in the family; they are close and fond of each other, though underlying tensions exist. The drama comes in the form of custody battles, memory loss and, of course, fake lovers.
Pennyroyal Green series, Julie Anne Long (2008-15)
In the town of Pennyroyal Green are two families, the Redmonds and the Everseas, who have been rivals since time immemorial. They compete in business and personal affairs, and when the eldest Redmond boy, Lyon, falls in love with Olivia Eversea, things don’t go well. We hear about Lyon and Olivia in the first book, though it is only in the final one that they finally get together. The Pennyroyal Green series has the best subplots. There are pirates, child rights, class issues, motherhood outside of marriage, and family dynamics at play, all in the middle of the romances.
The Wallflowers Series, Lisa Kleypas (2004-2006)
The Wallflowers series is about four girls in Regency England: Annabelle, Lillian, Daisy and Evie. They form a friendship in the corners of the ballroom, where they promise that they will help find one another a husband. Kleypas’ dialogue is hilarious, and she makes you feel for the characters. The Wallflowers also appear in Kleypas’ Ravenels series, set a generation later. The Ravenels are a family known for their ferocious anger. When Devon inherits the earldom, he’s not prepared for the responsibilities that come with the position or the fact that he has three young girls as wards. The
Ravenels are delightful in their camaraderie and in their desire to be their own person with individual thoughts and interests, even in the midst of a large family.
The Merridew Sister Series, Anne Gracie (2005-07)
Prudence is the eldest of five sisters, all named after Christian virtues (Charity, Faith, Joy and Grace). After the death of their parents, the sisters are forced to stay with their grandfather—a man who is conservative and strict, almost to the point of madness. The girls escape to London, where they are adopted by another family member and find themselves falling in love. Also called The Perfect Series (because the books are called The Perfect Rake, The Perfect Waltz, The Perfect Stranger and The Perfect Kiss), the books are not only fun but also explore issues like PTSD, family and freedom.