Mysteries and romances are my two favorite genres. An excellent romance can sweep me away from the existential drudgery of everyday life. A good mystery can keep me guessing and engaged with awesome characters. But only mystery romance novels can engage my mind and emotions.
There are basically two kinds of mystery romance novels: romances with mystery subplots, and mysteries with romantic subplots. But whichever one you prefer, the BEST type of mystery romances are the ones where both elements are perfectly balanced to tell an incredible story.
The following are just a few of my favorite mystery romances, but I know there are a ton more out there, so hit me up with your recommendations! And if you want more mystery OR romance, check out our mystery channel, our romance channel, and our podcasts.
Romances with awesome mystery plots
Non-Stop Till Tokyo by K.J. Charles
The mystery is more of a thriller, but! The hero is an ex-sumo wrestler, and the heroine works in a hostess bar. Plus the descriptions of Tokyo are awesome.
Into the Fire by Anne Stuart
If romantic suspense is your jam, Anne Stuart should be on your go-to list. Into the Fire is one of my favorites by her, but if you want more recommendations, check out my post on where to start reading Anne Stuart.
Spellbound in His Arms by Angel Sefer
The most popular mystery romance novel on Goodreads. An investigative reporter and a Special Forces Officer meet on the Greek island of Corfu. I haven’t read it, but I took a gander at a sample and it’s very fast-paced.
Fatal Affair by Marie Force
You can’t talk about romantic suspense without mentioning Marie Force! Washington, D.C., police Detective Sergeant Sam Holland meets Chief of Staff Nick Cappuano after his boss, Senator John O’Connor, is murdered in bed. The twist? She had a one-night-stand with Cappuano years earlier.
A Brother’s Honor by Brenda Jackson
The first in Jackson’s popular Grangers series about a group of brothers who return to their family to face “a legacy of secrets.”
Treacherous Intent by Camy Tang
Tang has a whole series of Love Inspired Suspense novels set in California, like this one where two people team up to save a woman and escape a drug gang.
Hard As Ice by Raven Scott
The first in a series about a group of devastatingly handsome former government agents who protect the rich and famous. Evan de Costa has to investigate the theft of stolen jewels and becomes entangled, so to speak, with his number one suspect.
Black Hat Hacker by Soraya Naomi
Most mystery romance heroes fall into the detective/spy/government agent category, which is why I’m excited to read this NA book, whose hero is a crime syndicate hacker with a Dark Secret. I love me some books about geeks.
Contracted Defense by Piper J. Drake
Buttoned-up security agent Victoria Ash meets easygoing new guy Adam in the third Safeguard novel, where a supposedly cake assignment takes a turn for the FUBAR when Adam realizes there’s a traitor at the company.
Forged in Desire by Brenda Jackson
An ex-con is hired protect a woman who served on a jury that sent a dangerous gangster to prison in this latest romantic suspense novel from Brenda Jackson. The book was a finalist for the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards.
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
The murder mystery in this historical romance is very well done and kept me guessing until the very end, but that’s not the only mystery in the book. Ashley does an excellent job of stringing the reader along with questions like, “What is up with these Mackenzie brothers, why are they all so crazy?” and then throwing in twists and turns at just the right moment. An awesome story with unusual characters that I wish I’d read as soon as it came out!
Think of England by K.J. Charles
An Edwardian-era country house mystery that harkens back to the style of writers like E. Phillips Oppenheim and H. Rider Haggard, with a m/m romance thrown in for good measure. Bonus: one of the male characters, Daniel, is obviously modeled off of Oscar Wilde and I love it. The perfect novel for those of us who are book nerds and history nerds.
Spectred Isle by K.J. Charles
If KJ Charles had written the script for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it would probably have been a lot like this book (and, I daresay, a better movie). Even though it’s a story of two men whose lives have been utterly destroyed by the First World War, this is a super fun romp of a book with a little magic thrown in.
Charmed and Dangerous by Jane Ashford
A sweeping story of espionage set during the Napoleonic Wars that travels from remote Mediterranean islands to glittering ballrooms in Vienna. Anyone who’s a sucker for books set in Vienna [insert hand raise emoji here] will want to read this asap.
The Scarletti Curse by Christine Feehan
Generally I’m not that into Christine Feehan’s novels, but the gothic setting for this one really brought out the best in her writing. It’s a classic young woman/old house gothic mystery where the heroine must figure out the deep dark secret her hubby is hiding from her.
The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin
Aristocratic playboy Bai Huang and street-smart maidservant to courtesans, Yue-ying, must team up to solve a murder. An intriguing twist on the uptown girl/downtown guy romance set in Imperial China.
John Pickett Mysteries by Sheri Cobb South
And speaking of uptown girl/downtown guy romances, I give you the John Pickett Mysteries! Absolutely delightful series set in Regency England featuring young Bow Street Runner John Pickett and the older and wealthier woman of his dreams, Lady Julia Fieldhurst. These two are so adorable together I can’t even.
Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig
Combine spies, adventure, historical romance, academic mystery, and a modern-day love story, and you have this series. Each book focuses on a different spy working to save England from Napoleon á la The Scarlet Pimpernel. Tying the whole series together is an overarching narrative set in the present day, where scholar Eloise slowly pieces together what happened in the past. Normally books that go back and forth between different time periods don’t work for me, but each timeline in these novels is so compelling it’s impossible to put the books down.
Captives of the Night by Loretta Chase
One of my favorite romances of all time! Leila Beaumont, an artist living in 19th century Paris, is married to Francis, who has the hots for a mysterious and dashing man named the Comte d’Esmond, who in turn is secretly in love with Leila. What a tangled web we weave. Leila doesn’t want to have anything to do with either her hubby or the Comte, however, until Francis is killed and she has to team up with the Comte to solve his murder and clear her own name. Not only is the romance in this book completely swoon-worthy and Leila a total badass, the mystery is perfectly done. I had no idea who the killer was until Leila and the Comte figured it out, and once they did I couldn’t believe I hadn’t solved it sooner.
No True Gentleman by Liz Carlyle
Just skirting the balance between proper mystery and historical romance, what I enjoy most about this fantastic book is the chemistry between the hero, Maximilian de Rohan (how’s that for a name!) and Lady Catherine Wodeway. They have a Bogey and Bacall vibe going on that’s irresistible. This is a very layered, well thought-out book that’s perfectly paced, where even the secondary characters are memorable. Definitely one of Carlyle’s best novels.
Mysteries with swoon-worthy romances
Megan Clark series by D.R. Meredith
D.R. Meredith gets mystery romances done right. This series is solidly bookish (the main characters belong to a cozy mystery book club), with a May-December romance between a young archaeologist, Megan Clark, and her BFF Ryan who’s secretly in love with her but doesn’t want her to know BECAUSE REASONS. A little frustrating because Meredith never finished the series, and therefore the romance was never resolved, but nonetheless one of the most memorable mystery romances I’ve come across.
Vicky Bliss series by Elizabeth Peters
An art thief falls in love with an art historian and they travel the world together solving art crime—when he’s not on the run from the law, that is. Question: why can’t this be my life???
The Salaryman’s Wife by Sujata Massey
Rei Shimura is a half-Japanese, half-American twenty-something struggling to make it in the big city of Tokyo. Her life takes an unexpected turn when she spends a few days holidaying in a mountain ryokan, where she meets an incorrigible Scotsman and discovers the dead body of a salaryman’s wife. I loved the peek into Japanese culture and life in Tokyo this book provided. The ending is an improbable delight, and the Scotsman in question is just the right combination of infuriating and attractive.
Charlotte Holmes series by Brittany Cavallaro
The descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson go to boarding school together. It’s inevitable that they become besties, but will they ever be more than just friends? A clever and amusing twist on the classic duo with plenty of Easter eggs for Sherlockians.
Naked in Death series by J.D. Robb
A wildly popular mystery romance series penned by the wildly successful Nora Roberts. Not my cup of tea, but plenty of other people disagree.
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
The first in another best-selling series that blends mystery with romance and comedy. If you haven’t started reading the Stephanie Plum books by now, maybe you should.
The Adrien English series by Josh Lanyon
Josh Lanyon is one of my favorite m/m romance authors, not least because her books frequently have mystery plots. The Adrien English series is closer to a traditional mystery series than romance, with a bookseller (the eponymous Adrien) who occasionally helps out a way-deep-in-the-closet detective. With mysteries and other things. The books get better as the series goes on!
Sex, Murder, and a Double Latte by Kyra Davis
Mystery writer solving crimes alert! Thriller scribe Sophie Katz thinks she’s being stalked by a crazy fan who is sneaking into her apartment to reenact scenes from her books. Is her mysterious new love interest, Anatoly Darinsky, her number one suspect or her number one savior? This series has a fun, chick-lit vibe.
The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett
This academic mystery is a bibliophile’s delight. About half of it takes place in a library filled with medieval manuscripts, and the other half is the protagonist WISHING he was in a library. Plus, can you ever go wrong with Grail mysteries? NO YOU CANNOT.
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
Susanna Kearsley writes old-school romantic suspense, and I mean that in the best way possible. If you spend your time rereading Mary Stewart novels, thinking they don’t write books like that anymore, well, Kearsley does! This novel takes place in Paris, with an amateur codebreaker hired to crack an 18th-century journal full of Jacobean intrigue.
Nell Sweeney Mysteries by P.B. Ryan
My favorite mystery romance series of all time! Nell Sweeney works as a governess for a Boston Brahmin family with Issues, not the least of which is their estranged eldest son, William, scarred physically and emotionally by his experiences during the Civil War. These books have it all: fascinating characters, intensely memorable scenes, well-researched history, and slow-burn forbidden romance.
Patriot’s Dream by Barbara Michaels
Barbara Michaels (also known as Elizabeth Peters) is a go-to author for mystery romance novels. Patriot’s Dream is one of my mom’s favorites, but if you want more recs check out my Best of Michaels/Peters/Mertz reading list.
Silent in the Grave by Deanna RAYBOURN
If Robert Downey Jr is your favorite Sherlock, you’re sure to develop a crush on Nicholas Brisbane, the “private inquiry agent” who helps Lady Julia Grey solve the murder of her husband. Also: talking ravens.
The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James
This book is super spooky, with a surprisingly sexy romantic subplot. In 1920s England, Sarah Piper joins paranormal investigator Alistair Gellis on a ghost hunt. Think The Haunting of Hill House, but with an actual ghost, sexytimes, and a much better ending.
A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
Imagine The Kingsmen, except set in the Victorian Era and all women, and you have a pretty good idea of the set-up for this novel. I have to admit the love interest annoyed me because I thought he was a jerk. But hey, some people like jerky heroes. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
Not released yet, but I’m looking forward to it! The setting and protagonist are like nothing I’ve encountered in a mystery before: 1920s Bombay and one of India’s first female lawyers, who’s “devoted to championing and protecting women’s rights.” (Soho Press, January 9th)
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
Another Sherlock adaptation, this one with a more adult tone. Charlotte Holmes adopts the nom de guerre of Sherlock and hits the mean streets of London in order to stop a killer and restore her family name.
What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris
There are three things you need to know about Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin: he has freakishly good eyesight, his OTL (one true love) broke his heart, and he has enemies. Which is probably why someone’s framed him for murder. There’s a lot of walking and talking in this book (has anyone else noticed how much fictional detectives love to walk and talk?), but the characters make it worth it.
A Lady In the Smoke by Karen Odden
One of my favorite reads from last year. It has all that I could ask for in a novel: trains, aristocratic ladies hiding their true identity and sneaking out of the house, family secrets, scrappy pickpockets, crusading journalists. Not to mention one of those Victorian romances where hand touching is akin to getting to third base. Odden’s a terrific storyteller and definitely a writer to watch.
O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King
Why did I pick this book out of all the books in the Mary Russell series for this list? I personally think it’s the most romantic, given what we know happens between Russell and Sherlock Holmes later on (chronologically speaking, not in order of publication). But you’ll want to read the previous books in the series first to decide for yourself.
The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Mary Roberts Rinehart is often called the American Agatha Christie, but The Man in Lower Ten has more of a Hitchcock vibe to me. There’s a train accident, a female journalist who may or may not be a femme fatale, cocktails, someone whose legit hobby is amateur detecting, “like in books” (his exact words), and a loveable but occasionally hapless hero. It’s a surprisingly modern novel for something published in the Edwardian era.
[Note this book contains a few instances of what modern readers would consider racist language.]
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The quintessential gothic mystery romance! To be honest I’ve never been able to get through this book, but it would be criminal not to include it on a list like this.
Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
I used to spend my summers reading and rereading my mom’s Mary Stewart books, and it’s because of her that I developed a taste for mystery romance novels. Nine Coaches Waiting is perfect for those of you who love Jane Eyre: a young woman travels to France to work as a governess in a chateau filled with secrets and family drama. It’s a Cinderella story with a gothic edge.
Want even more Stewart reading recommendations? Check out my Mary Stewart Reading Pathways list!
Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
The Lord Peter Wimsey series is a must-read classic mystery series even without the romance between Peter and his better half, Harriet Vane. But let’s be honest, the relationship between Peter and Harriet is 90% of why we love it.
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