Reading Pathways: Cat Sebastian
If you’re a fan of queer and/or historical romance and you have yet to discover the joy of Cat Sebastian books, you are in for a rare treat. Cat Sebastian writes queer historical romance of many persuasions. So far, her work includes stories centering M/M, F/F, M/F, and M/Nonbinary romances. The thread running through them all is: funny, feminist, and queer as hell. Even her most angsty and serious novels manage to include plenty of warmth and delight.
Her work is full of rich historical detail and fantastic secondary plots—whether it’s a murder mystery, the invention of the telegraph, or Regency bookselling. Queer family often plays a central role, and even the books that center men have feminist themes and secondary female characters with agency and real personality. You’ll be rooting for her characters from page one, even when they seem intent on getting their love lives hopelessly tangled up.
If you’re not sure where to start with Cat Sebastian books (short answer: read them all), use this reading pathway as your guide.
Start With Her Debut
The Soldier’s Scoundrel (The Turners #1)
This novel remains one of my favorites, and it’s a great introduction to Sebastian’s work. Jack Turner grew up on the streets of London; now he’s something of a fix-it man, providing the sort of assistance to those in need that only someone with questionable morals can. His main concerns are protecting his siblings and avoiding the nobility at all costs. So when Oliver Rivington, a gentleman and disabled war veteran, waltzes into his office, he is not especially pleased. They clash…until they don’t.
This is an enemies-to-lovers romance full of warmth and adorable banter. It’s got everything I love about Cat Sebastian books. It’s deeply feminist—the non-romance plot centers around Jack’s work, and Oliver’s realization that women’s lack of power in society often means finding unconventional solutions to their problems. The characters are flawed and have to overcome a lot of real (and internal) obstacles in order to get together. It’s angsty but it’s also incredibly tender. The sex scenes have a lot of emotional depth and momentum. Basically, this book has all I could ever want from queer historical romance. Which is what I’ve come to expect from Cat Sebastian.
Good luck reading this book and not immediately picking up the others in the series: The Lawrence Browne Affair, The Ruin of A Rake, and A Little Light Mischief.
Next, Bask in the Glory That is Queer M/F Romance
A Delicate Deception (The Regency Imposters #3)
This is the third book in a series, but I read it before I read the other two, so I guarantee it works as a standalone. It’s also a fantastic introduction to Sebastian’s talent at writing queer M/F romance. And it’s got one of the most satisfying and unconventional HEAs I’ve come across in historical romance.
Amelia fled society in London for a quiet cottage in the countryside. She doesn’t love being around people, so she’s not that excited when a man starts interrupting her daily walks. Sydney is about as thrilled to be where he is as Amanda is to see him there: not very. Awaiting word from his friend the Duke at the country manor he inherited, Sydney has more time than he wants to grieve the horrible circumstances that led to his inheritance in the first place.
This is a slow-burn romance, and though there is some angst, it’s quieter and sweeter than some of Sebastian’s other books. But there’s a lot going on under the surface. Sydney is grieving and Amelia is trying to create a life for herself in a world that doesn’t understand her. Both Amelia and Sydney are queer, and they find comfort with each other in that shared identity. The book is also full of fabulous queer secondary characters, and watching queer family form around Amelia and Sydney is almost as satisfying as watching them fall in love.
I also highly recommend the other two books in this series, Unmasked by the Marquess and A Duke in Disguise.
Mix It Up With Something Completely Different
It’s always a delight when a beloved author does something unexpected, and that’s exactly what Sebastian does here. Until Hither, Page came out in 2019, all her books were set in Regency England. Hither, Page is a cozy murder mystery, spy story, and romance set just after the end of World War II.
James returns from the war with PTSD, determined to live a quiet life as a doctor in the village where he grew up. Leo is a spy working for a particularly shady branch of the intelligence service, sent to James’s village to cover up a murder. He and James are thrown together by circumstance and end up falling for each other as they work to solve the case. This book is remarkably different from most of Sebastian’s other work. The mystery is central to the plot, and the tone is more somber. There’s a sense of sadness and isolation that gives the book a serious feel, but also makes the romance even more satisfying.
It pained me not to include the Seducing the Sedgwicks series on this list. If you enjoy single-parent romances, It Takes Two to Tumble is a fantastic alternate way into Cat Sebastian books. And you should obviously follow that with A Gentleman Never Keeps Score and Two Rogues Make a Right (out June 23).
If you’ve read all the Cat Sebastian books out there, chances are you’ll love K.J. Charles’s work, too. Luckily, we’ve got a reading pathway for her to get you started. And while you’re at, check out our reading pathways for Beverly Jenkins, Lisa Kleypas and Tessa Dare for some more historical romance awesomeness.