The Jazz Age was a time of social upheaval, lawlessness, and changing morality. It certainly had its dark underbelly, especially regarding violence and racial discrimination, but it was also a time of hope, when people believed that things long set in stone could be changed.
Such a tumultuous time makes it a perfect setting for a romance—although you’ll find that there aren’t very many set in that age. Fortunately, the ones that do exist are excellent and, bonus, they are all set in different cities that were at the heart of the Jazz Age: San Francisco, Chicago and New York City.
Bitter Spirits (Roaring Twenties Series #1), by Jenn Bennett
Set in 1920s San Francisco, this book has a supernatural edge, as the heroine, Aida is a medium who can call and banish ghosts. That’s how she first encounters the hero, Winter Magnusson, who is being haunted by a ghost following him around. Getting rid of the ghost is easy; and watching over Winter while he’s naked in a spell-infused bath designed to release the curse is arousing, but the real problem this couple has is that they’re not just independent, they’re determined to push people away because of the losses they’ve suffered.
I tend to be indifferent to a lot of sex scenes, but Winter and Aida’s scenes were excellent, concentrating on how the sex released so many emotions between the two of them, with the added quirk of his adoration of the freckles that cover her all over.
I wanted more of the supernatural but that may be the fantasy reader in me. Romance readers will love how the focus stays squarely on the romance. The best part? There are two more books in the series, each featuring a member of the Magnusson family.
Romancing the Rumrunner, by Michelle McLean
Chicago is the city of the big shoulders, where anything goes during the 1920s, and if you’re an enterprising woman who needs to make a living, you run a speakeasy that rotates locations out of your deli, and never let anyone know that the male owner is fictitious.
I already liked the setup here and the cleverness of our heroine, Jessica, and as a bonus, this romance features the “enemies to lovers” trope, as the private eye hired to take down the speakeasy is instead enthralled by it (and its fetching owner). But happy endings aren’t easy in Chicago, and this one has to be well-earned.
The Gin Lovers, by Jamie Brenner
New York City is in the midst of the Roaring Twenties, and you’d think a society woman would have her pick of fun adventures, but Charlotte is stuck in a loveless marriage. Until, that is, the arrival of her younger sister-in-law turns out to be her entry into the hidden speakeasys of the city and an answer to finding love. The story is great journey into this long-ago period and is sprinkled with appearances of some of the real people from the era, and it breathes life into various fascinating worlds in 1920’s New York.
This was originally published as a serial novel, which means the pace is refreshingly brisk. It’s also about something I love in romances: the heroine coming to realize her own strength.
The Ashford Affair, by Lauren Willig
Yes, I know, this one is not strictly a romance, but the parallel stories of the past in the post World War I period and modern-day Manhattan make it just too good not to recommend. Plus, Willig has a knack for historical adventure and mystery, as seen in The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.
An American Duchess, by Sharon Page
A classic marriage of convenience, done 1920s style, with an American heiress who cannot access her fortune unless she marries and, of course, there’s a lord of the English realm who needs to shore up his crumbling manor with that fortune. The plan is, of course, for them to get divorced with money in both their pockets. But things don’t always go according to plan…
What Jazz Age romances have you loved?