During lockdown I was in a Twitter Georgette Heyer readalong group. It was great, we had some excellent discussions and made real-life friendships. We're not currently reading together but a lot of us are still in touch. A book was also born out of this group - Emma Orchard is one of us, and we are the Heyer ladies she dedicates the book to who kept her sane through lockdown.
There will be more Emma Orchard books, and maybe more novels to come from other Heyer ladies - Emma spent a good bit of lockdown writing fan fiction and I know others from the group did too and I'm hopeful.
I probably wouldn't have bought or read this one if I didn't know Emma - she made it clear that it would be quite a smutty book (certainly by my very mild standards) and she didn't mislead me. There is more sex here than I'd normally want to read - there are few things worse in a book than sex you don't find sexy, it's a risk I prefer to avoid. Fortunately this isn't badly written and it's not overly graphic so even as a relatively prudish reader I was quite happy. It's not the easiest thing to find a regency romance that I really like outside of Georgette Heyer, but this one hits the mark.
What really made the book for me though was both the strength of the characterization of both the main and secondary characters and acknowledgment of the practicalities that too often get ignored because they're not romantic. Emma's characters sometimes need to go to the toilet, or think about when they're getting their periods (don't worry, there are no details, it's just enough to get a passing mention and not to spend half the book worrying that the heroine is likely to develop cystitis).
If her Benedict and Kate can't keep their hands off each other then it feels entirely natural that a 25-year-old woman who's never been able to mess around and a 30-something man who's not been sleeping around whilst he looks for a wife, on finding each other attractive would be like this. It was also refreshing to have a hero who explicitly doesn't sleep around and is able to assure his new wife that he doesn't have any STD's (this is the kind of thing we discussed at length in the readalongs).
There's also laugh out loud funny moments, an intriguing mother-in-law, a plot where even the villains get a little sympathy and nuance, and altogether a lot of fun. This is romance for the discerning reader who likes things to make sense, wants to laugh, and prefers healthy relationships over glamourised toxic ones. There's a second book due in November and I cannot wait to read it.