Like everything else, romance genre popularity is cyclic. I feel that at the moment, historical romance is down... I have no doubt it'll eventually reach the top again. In the meantime, it did leave us with many good recommendations :)
Oh, by the way, I'm a regency historical reader... That's why all of my picks are from that sub-category ^_^;
Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
The Ideal Wife by Mary Balogh
And Then He Kissed Her by Laura Lee Guhrke
My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria Alexander
The Accidental Wedding by Anne Gracie
Lisa Kleypas and Mary Balogh are two big names in historical romance and should be included in every starter kit in my opinion. It's also interesting to see the contrast of their writings which probably stems, in part, from the publishers they are with. I find Avon to be a bit more permissive and probably why Ms Kleypas' style is a bit more fluid. Ms Balogh's style is more restrictive and in my mind, portrays the time period a bit better. Anyway, Devil in Winter is a great book and was part of a hero duel back in the blogging days :) Funnily, Ms Kleypas' next book, Devil in Spring, will be featuring the son of Devil in Winter's couple as its hero :) As for The Ideal Wife, it's one of my favorite books by Ms Balogh. It was first published in 1991 and I read it in 2011 and enjoyed it a lot. I said earlier that Ms Balogh's style was more restrictive. It's also timeless which probably explains her long and steady writing career :) One of the few authors that consistently published her historical books without fail.
I'm a huge fan of Laura Lee Guhrke and that's because I find her books to be different from the typical regency historical romance. She tends to set her stories in the 1890s-1900s... that time period where everything is on the cusp of change. Where the nobility has to adapt to new realities, where the "normal" people are having more opportunities, etc. And that's why I chose And Then He Kissed Her.
My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria Alexander features a happily married couple, something you don't often encounter from the first pages of a historical romance. It has great banter and also, features spies in a different light :)
The Accidental Wedding by Anne Gracie is another favorite of mine. The hero is a nobleman and for once, upstanding. Not a scoundrel or a rake. Heroine has backbone and is independent. Also, you need to enjoy kids because she's the guardian of her 4 half-siblings. Again, the feel and storyline are refreshing compared to most regency historical romance.
Books/Authors I considered:
Loretta Chase - I'm just not a huge fan of hers like many are. She wrote some books that could be considered as classic when it comes to historical romance... but I feel her career has been waning a bit ^_^; So I chose Ms Balogh instead.
Lorraine Heath - One of my favorite historical authors and on my auto-buy list. I left her off from this starter kit mainly because I was already featuring two authors from Avon and I wanted a bit of variety in the starter kit.
Caroline Linden - She's my up and coming historical romance author. Weird to say that from someone who's been published for 11 years, but while I enjoy her writing and books a lot, I feel she hasn't written THE book that will mark her career yet. I'm looking forward to it :) Also, another author from Avon.
Your thoughts? :)