The historical romance genre is a category of fiction wherein the plot is set in a historical time. Popularized by Walter Scott in the early nineteenth century, the genre is packed full of dukes and duchesses, extravagant dresses, and of course, charm and sensuality.
One good thing about historical romances is that they always come with a happy ending, making it a great option if you need a retreat from the modern world. Regency England is one of the most common time periods that historical romances use, but almost every era also has its own share of stories.
The best historical romance novels are usually very well-researched, making them a notch above the normal romance novel. You not only get your love story fix, but you also get a glimpse of life in another time, such as 1870s Colorado, or even the Han Dynasty in China.
Also, many books in the genre come in a series, allowing you more time to bond with your favorite characters, celebrating their triumphs and empathizing with their sorrows.
Classic Historical Romance Novels
The classics feature their share of historical romance, albeit with less-steamy scenes than today’s reads. Still, you will definitely enjoy these books in our list:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This timeless classic follows Elizabeth Bennet and her prejudice against Mr. Darcy’s pride. The sparring between the two makes for sparks all the way through, until Elizabeth realizes her rather hasty conclusion about Mr. Darcy’s character.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Orphan girl Jane Eyre ends up as a governess in the home of the enigmatic Mr. Rochester. She falls in love with him, only to find out later that he has a dark secret lurking in the attic.
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Margaret Hale moves with her family to the north of England, where she learns of the injustice that the local mill workers suffer. Her desire for social justice meets head-on with her chaotic relationship with John Thornton, the mill owner.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
This story follows the life of the Earnshaw family, who adopt a third child, Heathcliff. The oldest son Hindley is jealous of the new addition, and his father sends him off to college.
When the elder Mr. Earnshaw dies, Hindley comes back to Wuthering Heights to claim it with his new wife, and a complicated love story ensues between Heathcliff, Catherine, and Edgar Linton, whom Catherine marries.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
This historical romance set in the time of the Civil follows headstrong, spoiled Scarlett O’Hara as she tries to keep her family from poverty. Through it all, she keeps an obsession over childhood lover Ashley Wilkes, even through her marriage to the enigmatic Rhett Butler.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Should a lady marry for love or for money? This is the question that haunts Marianne Dashwood and her sister Elinor, especially when Marianne falls in love with John Willougby, dashing but unsuitable for her social standing.
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
This story, which was later made into a musical, follows the young Swedish lady Christine Daaé, whose famous musician-father dies, leaving her raised in the Paris Opera House, with the promise of an angel of music to help her.
She eventually starts to hear a voice that trains her to sing, but who later turns out to be the jealous, murderous deformed Erik.
Contemporary Historical Romance Novels
If you’re looking for your next historical romance read, here are some contemporary options that are sure to please:
My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh
This novel sees Lady Grace Wyatt give her friend Sebastian, an anthropologist, a complete makeover into a gentleman—all to stir up the jealousy of another man. But what if, when Sebastian emerges a transformed man, Grace ends up taking a second look?
Arabella by Georgette Heyer
Georgette Heye’s detailed dedication to research helps bring this historical romance, set during the British Regency, to life for readers.
The story follows Arabella, a young lady visiting London to find a suitor. She meets one of the wealthiest men, Robert Beaumaris, who assumes she wants to trap him into marrying her. When she overhears his comments, she bluffs about being rich herself, which leads to a series of amusing mishaps.
The Beast of Beswick by Amalie Howard
Lady Astrid Everleigh agrees to marry Lord Thane Hart in her sister’s stead. The man is wealthy but is known for having an ugly appearance and an uglier temper, giving us a modern retelling of the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast.
Something Like Love by Beverly Jenkins
Olivia Sterling’s father pressures her into marrying someone she doesn’t love, so she decides to run away. Along the way, her train gets hijacked by Neil July and his group of outlaws. But why does she end up wanting this wanted man?
Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas
The story follows Amanda, a 30-year-old spinster who dives into a love affair with the handsome and wicked Jack Devlin—who also happens to be her publisher. What happens when you mix business with pleasure?
Devil’s Daughter by Lisa Kleypas
Beautiful Phoebe is a widow. Based on West Ravenel’s ugly reputation, she already hates him before their meeting. But when she finally does cross paths with him, everything changes with that first jolt of inexplicable attraction.
Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt
Silence Hollingbrook is a widow with a child in her care, the daughter of a river pirate for whom Silence feels a definite antagonism. But when Mickey pays her tender attention, her hatred is challenged to turn into love.
Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin
This historical romance is set during the Tang Dynasty in China, and follows the life of 19-year-old Ai Li, the Emperor’s only daughter.
She runs away from home to escape an arranged marriage, and enlists the help of a foreigner named Ryam to protect her. The unique setting of the story also comes with an ample supply of sword fight scenes.
Unmasked by the Marquess by Cat Sebastian
Robert Selby shows up at the doorstep of Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke, to help ensure his sister married off well, and Alistair is strangely attracted to him.
But Robert is actually a housemaid in disguise as a man for the past six years. When Charity’s masquerade is discovered, Alistair has to deal with the idea of marrying a woman in breeches, while Charity herself has no plans of living as a respectable lady.
Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey
Georgina Anderson boards Captain James Malory’s ship disguised as a cabin boy to get safe passage home to America. But the rake captain sees through her instantly, and although he once swore never to get married, Georgina’s presence on the high seas challenges his every resolve.
The Stranger I Married by Sylvia Day
Isabel, still stinging from the pain of her first marriage’s conclusion, marries Grayson, a rake in love with somebody else. Their marriage is one of convenience, and they neither want nor expect faithfulness in their union. But Grayson goes missing one day, and comes back four years later wanting a real marriage with Isabel.
Unveiled by Courtney Milan
The novel follows Lady Margaret Dalrymple, the only daughter of the Duke of Parford who is currently ill. With her father’s instructions, she disguises herself as a servant in order to spy on the heir, Ash Turner.
An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
Set during the Civil War, this novel follows Elle Burns, a free woman pretending to be a slave in order to spy for the Union army. She and Malcolm McCall, a spy pretending to be a Confederate soldier, connect while in Virginia, with the challenge of moving past their pretenses.
A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare
Book 2 in the Spindle Cove series, this novel follows bookish Minerva Highwood, a spinster obsessed with science, who goes to Edinburgh to join a geology symposium. The rakish Lord Payne accompanies her, and they both set off on a road trip across the country.
Venus in Winter by Gillian Bagwell
Set in Tudor England, this story is based on a real woman in the court of King Henry VIII. Bess of Hardwick, whose survival hinges on marriage, goes through four marriages in one single book.
Reading Historical Romance Novels
If you already love reading romance novels, try expanding your horizons by trying one of these historical romances.
You’ll get your thrilling twists and feel-good endings while also learning more about a different place and time in history!
Do you have a favorite historical romance novel? Share it with us in the comments below!
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Yen Cabag is the Blog Writer of TCK Publishing. She is also a homeschooling mom, family coach, and speaker for the Charlotte Mason method, an educational philosophy that places great emphasis on classic literature and the masterpieces in art and music. She has also written several books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her passion is to see the next generation of children become lovers of reading and learning in the midst of short attention spans.