One book to recommend, and one author (and her books) to recommend.
I finally got around to reading Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material, and it is exactly as charming as all the reviews say. But it’s also got protagonists with genuine problems slowly working their way to bettering themselves. Luc is the proverbial train wreck, but he’s a self-aware train wreck which keeps him readable. And Oliver’s issues are slipped into the story so slowly that by the time he reveals how very not all right he actually is with his life, it’s devastating. But overall, it’s just a joy to read, balancing angst with ridiculous good humor. I particularly loved Luc’s co-workers, super-posh Alex Twaddle, and displaced Welshman Rhys. Alex fits right in with Wodehouse’s upper class, and he’s a delight on the page.
I also read Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater, then immediately turned around, bought, and read Ten Thousand Stitches, then pre-ordered Longshadow. (October 2021–so far away, are you kidding me?!?!? Wah!) These are nominally regencies, but in a very fantasy fairy-tale style. They’re romances, but sensible ones in the vein of the Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevermer Chocolate Pot series. What I particularly loved about them is the kindness and decency at their core. They’re really akin to Terry Pratchett in that way. In one of his books with the witches, Pratchett had a bit that went something like “Sin is treating other people like things.” which really spoke to me. And so far Atwater’s series is built around treating people with kindness and dignity and respect. The first book is a screed against the injustice of the regency era workhouses and the willful blindness of those people more concerned with pretty manners than with justice. It’s also got one of the most gleefully cinematic romantic ballroom scenes I’ve read in ages. The second book is concerned with classism, poverty, and justifiable anger as a virtue. It’s also got a feckless fairy lord who’s trying his best but doesn’t really understand humans at all even as he decides to “help” maid Euphemia Reeves win the heart of her employer’s handsome son.