The Season Sarah MacLean
Alex and her friends are not overly excited about the prospect of their first season. Sure, they are beautiful and come from excellent families but they aren't the type of girls who are delicate flowers, waiting to be courted by boring men old enough to be their fathers. Alex's brothers didn't have to get married at 17, so why should she?
Add in a mystery of a murdered Earl, and the boy (well, Earl) next store suddenly becoming more than your brothers' good friend, maybe.
The Season has headstrong girls who are still believable in their time periods. And! When things get really bad they ASK ADULTS FOR HELP! Not only headstrong, but actually SMART! Plus, there's a your rake/rogue boy, but Alex can handle him without issue. So refreshing. This is a definite favorite.
The Luxe Anna Godbersen
I've referred to this as Historic Gossip Girl. There are the lies, the back-stabbing, the romance, the society, the clothes, and the parties, and the indecorous behavior, just all happening in New York in 1899 instead of 2005.
Like Gossip Girl, you have a book decadent and scandalous enough to be the perfect beach read, but layered enough and long enough that it's something you can actually sink your teeth into. The action follows multiple characters, and chapters start with and are studded with newspaper articles, book excerpts, and letters. The type of book that is actually challenging reading, but with a plot exciting enough that you don't notice how hard it is.
Unlike Gossip Girl, you have characters you actually like and when you root for them, you don't need to feel bad about it. The characters in The Luxe create plenty of their own drama, but enough also comes from the outside, things they can't control to make the characters not nearly as annoying.