Contrary to stereotype, there is certainly plenty of sex and scandal in Austen’s novels–teenage pregnancy, elopements, extramarital affairs–they just take place offstage. Austen didn’t write romance novels, either, given that the genre as we define it didn’t really exist during the Regency. But thanks to Austen and the historical novelist Georgette Heyer, the Regency has become one of the most popular settings for historical romances.
If you’re looking for a fun, racy Regency-set historical novel (well, technically a bit later than that, since the story doesn’t really get going until 1828, several years after the ascent of George IV), Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels fits the bill. It was first published in 1995 and has become a bodice-ripping classic in its own right. This is thanks largely to its heroine Jessica Trent, the sharp-shooting, quick-witted heroine, who is determined to save her brother from ruin at the hands of the dastardly Lord Dain. Jessica is poor, but worldly, with sophisticated knowledge of boxing and art, unlike her foolish brother. Dain has a reputation honed since his years at Eton of being a brutish, womanizing lout. Of course, Jessica ends up falling for Dain herself. After ending up in a compromising position with him, she ends up marrying Dain (who can hardly keep his hands off of her until the wedding night). This solves the problem of her family’s poverty, as Dain is fabulously wealthy, but can Beauty tame the Beast?
Of course she does, and the majority of the book is Jessica helping Dain work through his daddy issues and encourages him to forgive his young Southern European mother for leaving him in drafty England and running away from his abusive father. The book is great fun, and was somewhat unusual at the time in its portrayal of the romantic couple. Although the heroine was still a virgin, she was frankly curious about sex and wanted the hero just as much as he wanted her. The hero also has more body image issues than the heroine, as he was told from a young age he was ugly (mainly because of his size and un-English appearance).
So if you’re looking for a fun romantic read that’s a classic of a different kind, Lord of Scoundrels might be your cup of spicy tea!