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100 Must-Read Historical Romances

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Jessica Tripler

Staff Writer

Jessica Tripler is an academic who lives in Maine. Follow her on Twitter @jessicatripler.

While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Tuesday, January 3rd.

This post originally ran July 20, 2016.

Regency England is probably romance’s best known setting, but historical romances span the centuries and continents. With this list, I tried to represent that breadth, but I barely scratched the surface.

If you don’t normally read romance, consider trying one of these. Be aware that in a genre romance novel, the focus is on the relationship, and the setting has to serve that. I think the best historical romances offer a vibrant, evocative setting that conveys the spirit of the age. The setting helps make the characters who they are, and the characters embody the setting, but their relationship is the key to the book.

If you are a romance reader, I apologize. I have without doubt left off your favorite author or book. Please share the names and titles in the comments: like most romance readers, I believe there’s no such thing as a scary TBR pile.

Also, I hope you can take a moment to share the pride I felt putting this list together. We are lucky to read a genre that is elastic enough to include such a wide range of characters, plots and settings. And all without losing sight of what brings readers to it in the first place: to bear witness to and savor the triumph of romantic love and renewed hope for peace and justice in this world.


My Fair Concubine, Jeannie Lin (Tang Dynasty, China)

Medieval – Elizabethan

The Conqueror, Brenda Joyce (England 1069)

Prisoner of My Desire, Johanna Lindsey (England)

Keeper of the Dream, Penelope Williamson (Welsh border)

Brothers of the Wild North Sea, Harper Fox (Dark Ages)

Fires of Winter, Roberta Gellis (12th Century England/Dark Ages)

What A Scoundrel Wants, Carrie Lofty (12th century/Robin Hood)

The King’s Man, Elizabeth Kingston (13th century Wales)

The Secret, Julie Garwood (Scottish Highlands, 1200)

Alinor, Roberta Gellis (Europe, 1206)

The Saint, Monica McCarty (early 14th century Scotland)

A Bed of Spices, Barbara Samuels (Strassburg, 1348/Plague)

By Possession, Madeline Hunter (14th century England)

For My Lady’s Heart, Laura Kinsale (1360s/70s, Northwest England)

Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight, Alyssa Cole (early 1500s Scotland)

Skye O’Malley, Bertrice Small (Elizabethan England and Europe)


Eighteenth Century Britain and Europe

Laird of the Mist, Paula Quinn (17th century Scottish Highlands)

Thief of Shadows, Elizabeth Hoyt (1730s London)

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon (1740s and 1940s Scottish Highlands)

These Old Shades, Georgette Heyer (1755-6 France)

A Most Unsuitable Man, Jo Beverley (1760s England)

False Colours, Alex Beecroft (1762, The Georgian Age of Sail)

The Sergeant’s Lady, Susanna Fraser (Peninsular War, Spain)

Ruthless, Anne Stuart (1760s Paris)

The Forbidden Rose, Joanna Bourne (Reign of Terror, France 1793)


Revolutionary War/Colonial US

Rising Wind, Cindy Holby (Colonial Georgia/ early 1700s)

The Turncoat: Renegades of the American Revolution, Donna Thorland (1777 Philadelphia)

Be Not Afraid, Alyssa Cole (Revolutionary War)

Untamed, Pamela Clare (New York, French and Indian War)



Rogue Spy, Joanna Bourne (1802)

All Through the Night, Connie Brockway

The Notorious Rake, Mary Balogh

Unveiling Love, Vanessa Riley 

Thunder and Roses, Mary Jo Putney (Wales)

Venetia, Georgette Heyer

To Love A Thief, Julie Ann Long

Flowers From the Storm, Laura Kinsale

Bound With Love, Megan Mulry 

Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander, Ann Herendeen 

The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn

All I Ever Needed, Jo Goodman

Beau Crusoe, Carla Kelly 

More Than A Mistress, Mary Balogh

The Duke’s Wager, Edith Layton

Mr. Impossible, Loretta Chase (1821, Egypt)

Enlightenment, Joanna Chambers (trilogy) (1820s Edinburgh)



The Rogue Not Taken, Sarah MacLean

A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal, Meredith Duran

The Magpie Lord, KJ Charles (includes bonus magic)

Never Too Late, Amara Royce

Loving Leonardo, Rose Anderson 

To Have and to Hold, Patricia Gaffney

Devil in Winter, Lisa Kleypas

Private Arrangements, Sherry Thomas

The Proposition, Judith Ivory

The Duke of Shadows, Meredith Duran

A Lady Dares, Bronwyn Scott

The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie, Jennifer Ashley

My Beautiful Enemy, Sherry Thomas 

The Duchess War, Courtney Milan

Winter Garden, Adele Ashworth

Black Silk, Judith Ivory


19th Century US: Civil War/Reconstruction/Old West/Frontier

Sunshine and Shadows, Roberta Gayle (19th century Colorado)

Forbidden, Beverly Jenkins (Nevada)

Indigo, Beverly Jenkins (Michigan)

Kissing the Captain(1876, California) 

Passion’s Furies, Altonya Washington (1821, Charleston)

Backwards to Oregon, Jae (1830s)

Nowhere To Run, Gay G. Gunn (1849 South/California)

The Wives of Bowie Stone, Maggie Osborne (Kansas)

Sam’s Creed, Sarah McCarty (1858 Texas)

Seduced, Molly O’Keefe (1860s West)

Gold Mountain, Sharon Cullars (1865 California)

Destiny’s Embrace, Beverly Jenkins (19th century California)

His Secondhand Wife, Cheryl St. John (19th century Colorado)

Harlot, Victoria Dahl (1875 Colorado)

Dancing on Coals, Ellen O’Connell (1881 Arizona Territory and Northern Mexico)

The Preacher’s Promise, Piper Huguley (1866 Ohio)

The Bridegroom, Linda Lael Miller (1915 Arizona)


Gilded Age- Mid-Twentieth Century (mostly US)

Beast, Judith Ivory (Gilded Age cruise ship/France)

Somebody Wonderful, Kate Rothwell (1882 New York)

The Portrait, Megan Chance (New York, 1885)

Tempted Tigress, Jade Lee (Qing Dynasty, late 19th century China)

Tiffany Girl, Deanne Gist (1893 Chicago)

Think of England, K.J. Charles (1904 England)

Simple Jess, Pamela Morsi (Ozarks, 1906)

A Company of Swans, Eva Ibbotson (1910s Europe and South America)

A Spear of Summer Grass, Deanna Raybourn (1920s Africa)

Whistling in the Dark, Tamara Allen (1919 New York)

Black Gold, Anita Richmond Bunkley  (1920s Texas) 

Jazz Baby, Lorelei Brown (Boston)

Taffy, Suzette Harrison (1935 South)

Unhinge the Universe, Aleksandr Voinov and L. A. Witt (WWII)

Blood Moon Over Britain, Morag McKendrick Pippin (WWII)


Vintage Contemporary (these were contemporaries when they were published but almost feel historical now)

The Ivy Tree, Mary Stewart (1961 Northumberland)

The Honey is Bitter, Violet Winspear (1967)

Sister Peters in Amsterdam, Betty Neels (1969)



Gambled Away: A Historical Romance Anthology, Joanna Bourne, Isabel Cooper, Rose Lerner, Jeannie Lin, Molly O’Keefe

Through the Hourglass: Lesbian Historical Romance, edited by Sacchi Green and Patty Henderson

The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology, by Kianna Alexander, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, Piper Huguley