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It's no surprise that the Netflix hit Bridgerton (opens in new tab) has paved the way for diverse representation in TV period dramas. Based on the series of novels by Julia Quinn, the show's creative team, led by media mogul Shonda Rhimes, changed the originally white cast of characters to include different races and ethnicities, with British-Zimbabwean actor Regé-Jean Page leading season 1 and British-Indian actress Simone Ashley (opens in new tab) starring in season 2.
Of course, romance novel fans have been reading novels with diverse characters since way before Bridgerton hit screens. Beloved authors have been writing these heroes and heroines for years, with both contemporary (opens in new tab) and historical plots that take readers on heart-racing journeys. Here's some historical romances with POC and LGBTQ+ characters that are must-reads for fans of Bridgerton.
Readers looking for historical Black love stories need look no further than Jenkins, who has been writing critically acclaimed novels since 1994. Start with Rebel, the first book in her latest series 'Women Who Dare.' When teacher Valinda Lacey is targeted by vandals in Reconstruction-era New Orleans, she seeks refuge in the arms of Captain Drake LeVeq, an architect who also works to rebuild the newly emancipated city, and who finds himself admiring the determined Valinda.
Chloe Fong is a list-loving woman who has no time for nonsense, and when her childhood sweetheart Jim confessed his feelings, she told him that he can only court her if he plans to be serious. That man, Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, spent three years trying to become serious before realizing he can't change his mischievous nature. Now three years after Chloe's ultimatum and his disappearance, Jeremy has returned to her village to woo her as his full trickster self.
The latest book in Lin's 'The Lotus Palace Mysteries' series takes place amidst a murder spree in the capital of China's Tang Dynasty. Lady Bai Wei-wei, the intelligent, forgotten daughter of a wealthy family, is enlisted by her older brother in investigating a high-profile assassination. Gao is a hired enforcer who helps Wei Wei link the murder to another of an unidentified victim in the city's pleasure district. As the unlikely duo investigates a conspiracy that could go all the way up to the Emperor, they also have to navigate their attraction, though their vast class difference means it can be nothing more.
We've been vocal about our love of Cole's contemporary novels, and her historical romances are just as thrilling. This Civil War-era series follows Elle Burns, a former slave who returns to the south as a Union Army spy, and Malcolm McCall, a detective for Pinkerton’s Secret Service with a mission to infiltrate a Rebel enclave in Virginia. The two spies team up to stop a plot that could lead to a Confederate victory, all while fighting their forbidden love.
This M/M Regency romance sees a reclusive aristocrat and a retired boxer turned pub owner find love in the middle of a crime. Harley Sedgwick rarely leaves his inherited home, after his secrets became the subject of salacious gossip. Sam Fox, owner of The Bell, agrees to find and destroy a scandalous painting of his best friend, Kate. When his search leads him to Harley's door, Sam would rather steal the heart of the lonely man than the painting in his house.
Julia Quinn herself is a fan of this multicultural Regency romance, which is also the perfect chased for season 2. When her English husband dies under mysterious circumstances, West Indian heiress Patience Jordan loses everything, including her son and her freedom. She ends up posing as her son's own nanny to reunite with him, working under the miliaristic ex-rake Busick Strathmore, Duke of Repington. As they break down each other's walls, they also have to deal with enemies and obstacles toward the future they dare to dream of together.
This book is the perfect start for a deep dive of Waite's W/W romances. Lucy Muchelney, the daughter of a famous astronomer, is employed by Catherine, the Countess of Moth to translate a French astronomy text. When she arrives at the widowed Countess' home, the two women fall for each other. After they get closer, sabatoge and old baggage threaten their love.
Scottish philanthropist Jonathan MacLean travels all over seeking adventure and escaping his past, until a blizzard traps him in a mountaintop village with jeweler Angelica Parker. The talented woman has just landed the project of her dreams, with contract anchoring her in place for seven years, when a drifter comes through town and takes her heart. This book is also the 10th of a 12-book series filled with dashing dukes, so feel free to read all the rest once you fall for Ridley's writing.
Lara Ramsey, the orphaned daughter of a British colonel and his Indian wife, is the ward of a benevolent aristocrat, who's nephew in Tristan Wentworth, Duke of Wolverton. The pair have been at odds since Lara was taken in, with her rebellious nature irking Tristan's proper ways. When the duke catches Lara and his younger sister at a scandalous masquerade, he demands that she find a husband within six months, or a match will be decided for her. Of course, the only member of the ton who she's interested in is Tristan himself.
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