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Loved Bridgerton? The best historical novels to escape into another world

From Regency romance queen Georgette Heyer to a novel about the search for Tutankhamun’s tomb, author Harriet Evans picks her favourites

Along with the rest of “the Ton” I am enjoying the Netflix adaptation of Julia Quinn’s series of Bridgerton novels. What makes it so good is not a strict adherence to historical facts (guys, it’s not and never will be “Your Dukeship”) but producer Shonda Rhimes and her team’s understanding of storytelling. Had it been given a more traditional British costume drama treatment, Bridgerton wouldn’t work. Instead, in an early episode, the string quartet at the ball of the season strikes up with a version of Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next”. Underlining the savagery of the Regency marriage mart, Bridgerton exposes the double standards for men and women and the casual brutality and hypocrisy of life at that time.

If you want to fully immerse yourself in the era I would urge you to start with the all-time queen of Regency romance: not my fellow Bath-based novelist Jane Austen, but the peerless Georgette Heyer. Heyer loathed being thought of as a frothy, “feminine” writer and it’s a shame that all too often she’s labelledas one. She is as effective as Patrick O’Brian at depicting the same times but shamefully not as celebrated, because she wrote about women in drawing rooms, not men at war. Heyer’s novels are delicious: meticulously researched, deftly plotted and hugely romantic, but never sentimental. I devoured her as a teenager but she works at any time of life. Start with my favourite, Venetia, or else try Bath Tangle, Frederica, or Regency Buck, where the heroine has her own #MeToo moment with the Prince Regent.

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