Two years ago, romance was an occasional genre for me. Historical fiction was my second most-read genre, after general/literary fiction. In between 2021 and now, I joined an in-person romance book club. My number one genre is now romance.
Besides forcing me to read more contemporary romance, this club’s fearless leader, whom I’ll call Charlotte, is the queen of historical romance. She seems to know of every historical romance ever published, every trope — and she reads at lightning pace. I was intimidated.
Historical romance, to me, had always seemed so…stuffy? Grandma-ish, in a way. No offense to grandmas, but I didn’t think this subgenre was for me. I was wrong.
Historical romance, like contemporary romance, is a place for love stories just as much as it is a place for explorations of difficult themes, well-rounded characters, and detailed research: all the things I loved about reading in historical and literary fiction. I’m still new to historical romance, still finding tropes and authors I like. It’s a big bookshelf with room for everybody. I dare you to check out the boxes of old romance novels at the next garage sale you stumble across. You never know what you might find.
So Charlotte, this is a tribute to you. Thank you for being my friend and inviting me to the world of historical romance novels.
Where to Get Started with Historical Romance Novels
Always Be My Duchess by Amalie Howard
If you like ’90s romcoms, you’ll love Amalie Howard’s exciting and hilarious historical romances. Always Be My Duchess is inspired by the classic Pretty Woman. When out of work ballerina Geneviéve Valery accidentally saves the life of Lord Lysander Blackstone, she expects the boot. Instead, he proposes she act as his fake fiancée to help him secure a business deal and keep his reputation in check. The pining! The banter! The friendship groups! The silliness! This novel is fast-paced fun that’s easy to jump into.
Get Thee Off My Lawn by Daria Vernon
This novella is the perfect length for trying out historical romance. Charming, a bit ridiculous, and very sexy, Get Thee Off My Lawn is a bit more than a one-night stand. April’s swans keep escaping to her neighbor’s pond. When she rescues Gerald the swan again, she meets Leopold, her tall, handsome neighbor. According to Gerald, it’s all over from there.
Ana María and the Fox by Liana de La Rosa
History geeks will love this swoony, forbidden love story between Ana María, heiress of the powerful Luna family, and Gideon, a member of British Parliament. Set during the French occupation of Mexico, this novel explores class, race, family, and freedom, with a love story that will sweep you away.
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
This tender, slow-burn romance is just as much about embroidery and art as it is science. Burnt out on love, Lucy is more focused on continuing her father’s astronomy work. A letter from the Countess of Moth calls for Lucy’s work. When Lucy seeks out a sponsor, she finds the attention of recently widowed Catherine, whose embroidery work rivals the stars themselves. As they let their insecurities fall away, Lucy and Catherine find they are a perfect match.
A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera
Rum heiress Luz Alana has traveled all the way to Paris to sell her family’s rum, in order to secure her fortune and future. After a discouraging start, Luz meets James Sinclair, a Scottish Duke and whiskey entrepreneur. To save his new business and her family’s fortune, they strike up a deal that could cost them everything or save them both. Fierce and thought-provoking, this book delivers on both history and romance.
A Lady For A Duke by Alexis Hall
Need a book that will smash you to pieces and put you back together again? This sweeping, tender romance does just that. After faking her own death, Viola is free to live as herself, but without title or her best friend, Justin de Vere, Duke of Gracewood, at her side. When they reconnect years later, Gracewood is a shadow of himself. As Viola and Gracewood get reacquainted, their care and respect for each other blooms again. Filled with beautiful friendships, hope, and heart-aching yearning, this book is one you won’t want to put down.
Through The Storm by Beverly Jenkins
Where do you start with Beverly Jenkins? This 1998 classic is a swoony marriage of convenience story steeped in historic detail. Set during the Civil War, this novel follows Major Raimond LeVeq and Sable Fontaine. After escaping slavery, Sable meets Raimond at a Union camp and their attraction is instant. When Sable flees north, Raimond’s heart is broken. Years later, they reconnect, and Raimond’s mother suggests Sable as the perfect wife for him. Will Sable’s compassionate spirit and Raimond’s loyalty be enough to bring them back together? Jenkins’s dedication to history brings this story to life.
Kit McBride Gets A Wife by Amy Barry
Had enough of all the dukes and ladies and fancy tea parties? This hilarious historical romance takes place in 19th century rural Montana. The McBride brothers are setting up Buck’s Creek, but their little sister, Junebug, has a surprise: a mail-order bride for Kit! Maddy arrives from Ireland and must work to win Kit’s rugged and bashful heart. You’ll want to book a trip to the dentist after this candy-sweet romance that will have you kicking your feet in delight.
What Souls Are Made Of By Tasha Suri
If you’re a fan of classics, this YA novel is a dreamy, atmospheric take on Wuthering Heights. Suri’s Heathcliff is the son of an Indian sailor, left behind in Yorkshire. He makes his way in an unfriendly estate. When he meets Catherine, the daughter of the estate owner, there’s an instant connection. They share friendship until Catherine’s father dies and things change for the worse. Intense longing, Gothic Vibes, and a beloved story from a different cultural perspective? Sign me up!