The fourth season of Downton Abbey is winding down and by now adventuresome romance readers are looking for something to tide them over until the next season—you know, next year. It’s a sad state of affairs when a reader’s interest in a period or place is aroused and then there’s nothing easily available to fill the void. You’d think among thousands of books being published daily there’d be at least one romance set in the ’20s worth finding. I don’t feel I’m asking for too much—just a simple story of growing love between two people set in the manors of England or the City. The characters can be from different classes or even the same—I’m not too picky, really I’m not.
But alas it’s not so. Or at least I haven’t found any worth passing on to my reading buddies. Instead I fall back on old standbys like Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries, or Georgette Heyer mysteries. They were written in the 1920s and 1930s, so they have the right setting, but not the full-blown romances some readers may require. Although I do remember rooting for Lord Peter Whimsey and Harriet Vane to hook up after solving the mystery of the death of Harriet’s former lover in Strong Poison (1930). I suggest starting with Gaudy Night (1936). Although Gaudy Night is not the first book starring Harriet, a mystery novelist, and Lord Peter, an aristocrat and amateur sleuth, you’ll find the book is the best of the series in terms of romance. Harriet decides to attend her Oxford reunion, and although she expects it to be a prim and proper event, it ends up being full of menace as pranks and threatening notes pile up. Harriet requires not only her own skills at detection but also those of Lord Peter’s to solve the mystery. Along the way, the two fall into a bit of closed-door love. Fortunately, you’ll be able to find copies of these stories as publishers continue to reissue the novels. And Sourcebooks has recently reissued Georgette Heyer’s mysteries. And if you’re looking for a television show, dig up the old Masterpiece Theatre version of Sayers’ mystery series. It’s delightful to watch and will be right up your alley if you’re a Downton fan.
But what about new romances set in the Roaring ’20s? It was a time of excitement and fast changes. The ladies’ hems rose, alcohol was hard to come by in the U.S. and cocktails became a sophisticated device for covering up the bad taste of poorly distilled liquor. It was a time of economic shift as well, as more and more people left the farm and starting work in a big city. Women were cutting their hair and the men who had survived the war were going a little wild. So don’t you think this would be a perfect setting for romance? We have classic books from the period from authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. But why not have some lighter romance reading set at a similar time? I’ve been looking a long time for more of these stories.
But there is a title I can recommend. Jamie Brenner’s The Gin Lovers. is an adventure that mixes the ’20s and all its vices with some hot romance as a woman finds herself. Fresh Fiction called it one of our Top 13 in 2013 books: "If you take Downton Abbey and combine it with Fifty Shades of Grey, you have Jamie Brenner's The Gin Lovers." In the book, Charlotte Delacorte’s whole world is skewed after the death of her mother-in-law and husband who’s changed. Her search for love is erotic and makes for an excellent read if you want something from this era set in the U.S. A warning should come with the book: You won’t want to put it down until you’re finished.
If you want some more recently published mysteries that share a bit of Downton’s flavor, you may try Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series starring intrepid Lady Georgiana Rannoch. A compilation of the first three books is available this February titled A Royal Threesome (Berkley, February 2014). Although set in the 1930s, the stories still have the right feel—but the focus is really on solving murders and not on budding romance.
So do you have any romances you’ve read that would be a perfect pairing with Downton Abbey? I’m in the market to read and would love some suggestions.
Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com, a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors Adventures in Fiction in February, an annual author reader tea in June, a readers conference in November, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.