Anyone who knows my reading tastes knows that I live for 1) any setting that involves bonnets and 2) a good romantic storyline. Put those two things together, and I am basically in bookworm bliss.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why exactly I’m so drawn to these books in particular. Yes, I enjoy a good contemporary romcom (listen, just get me started on Well Met), but historical romance and classics of the swoon genre will always have my heart. From Jane Austen to the latest Courtney Milan, I love these books not just for their characters and storylines, but for the setting and time period they evoke. There’s something particularly enchanting about being transported, not just into a wonderful love story, but into a different time altogether.
Obviously there’s a reason why I feel uncomfortably seen by the movie Austenland.
But truly. Why is the happily ever after so much more satisfying when cravats are involved?
For me, part of the appeal is the wish fulfillment of immersing myself in all the details of a time period I have always been fascinated with. The etiquette around social calls and tea, the maneuvering and intrigue that can take place in a ballroom, the romantic notion of riding in a carriage or cantering across a field on horseback. The gorgeous manor houses. The clothes.
Plus, there’s the added delight of a setting where the odds are high that at least one moment of crackling sexual tension will stem entirely from the fact that our main couple brushes hands *gasp* without gloves!
A large part of the escapist fun comes from imagining myself in the place of the heroine. I get to sit and complain about how, “Mother can’t make me marry him! I don’t want to be a Duchess!” while my long suffering lady’s maid spends hours curling my hair and dressing me in the height of fashion. I get to gossip with my wallflower friends at the ball until the Dowager Duchess of Noodlingshire demands that I dance with her grandson (yes, that would be the current Duke of Noodlingshire).
Oh dear. He is VERY handsome.
But until my time machine is finally complete, I can’t actually go back in time and attend a Regency country dance or waltz about a Victorian ballroom. I can’t go riding through Hyde Park attired in my finest velvet riding habit. And I can’t engage in witty repartee with a reformed rake of a Duke who is secretly enchanted by my bluestocking tendencies.
And honestly, I’m FINE with it. Well, maybe I’m a little sad about the Duke part. The banter really was excellent. And I’ve heard his country estate is straight up Pemberley.
But the truth is, as someone whose everyday fashion sense can be best described as “frump chic” and whose approach to socializing can be most optimistically categorized under “awkwardly delightful,” I don’t actually have any desire to live the lifestyle of my favorite romance heroines.
Elaborate gowns that require assistance just to put on? Please. I don’t even like to put on real pants to leave the house. And the idea of a daily schedule that requires multiple outfit changes, plus a constant whirl of social calls, dinners, and balls? I feel a stress rash coming on.
But WOW do I love reading about it.
And that’s the magic of historical romance for me. I’ll never spend my days wandering my vast country estate or hosting elegant dinner parties at my impressive London townhome. And I’m not going to exchange my car for a carriage and horses. But I can swoon over a romantic love story while also disappearing into a world that feels almost fantastical in how removed it is from my own daily existence.
Because let’s be honest. Do I actually want to live in a time before antibiotics? Definitely not. But do I want to read a romantic storyline where our hero has to pull through after being wounded during a duel?
“He’ll be fine, as long as we can prevent infection from setting in,” the surgeon said gravely as I grasped the Duke’s hands tightly in mine.
YES, YES I DO.
The best part about escaping into the fictional past? You get to experience all the fun of bonnets, cravats, ballrooms, and clandestine carriage rides – all while embracing your modern athleisure wear lifestyle. And with zero smallpox!
There’s a pair of stretchy pants, a historical romance, and a couch with my name on it, and I’ve got a date to keep.