20 Best Historical Romance Books of All Time

Historical romance books are some of the most popular books in the romance genre, and this book list gives you the 20 best historical romance books of all time. I love to read historical romance novels because they offer rich character development and such descriptive prose that you’re immediately transported back in time and feel as though you are interacting with the books’ characters yourself.

If you are looking to be transported back in time with a historical romance, then you’re going to want to add all of these books to your must-read list. The books below are my favorite historical romance books of all time that are sure to make you fall in love with this genre.

For even more historical romance books, check out these book lists as well:

Be sure to also listen to my podcast episode, The Best Historical Romance Books of All Time:

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The Best Historical Romance Books

What I Did for a Duke is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

What I Did for a Duke
by Julie Anne Long

I love it when a man in a romance book becomes totally taken with the female, especially when it’s the last thing he expected or wanted.

When the Duke of Falconbridge is crossed, he chooses to take his revenge by seducing the sister of the one who crossed him. He just didn’t anticipate falling for her, her wit and her passion.

I absolutely loved the developing relationship between Genevieve and Alexander and seeing their strength and honesty. Definitely one of the best historical romances to read!

A Kingdom of Dreams is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

A Kingdom of Dreams
by Judith McNaught

Judith McNaught is hands down one of the best historical romance authors and her book, A Kingdom of Dreams, was the first historical romance book that I read.

Jennifer Merrick is abducted by the Duke of Claymore but she is no wallflower in this engaging story. I love headstrong heroines and the tension between Jennifer and Royce in this book was off the charts making it difficult to put down.

I consider any Judith McNaught historical romance a must-read but this one is one of the best romance novels of all time.

Truce is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

by R.L. Mathewson

Truce is not only one of my favorite historical romance books but it’s one of my all-time favorite romance books as well, it’s just that good!

This book is part of Mathewson’s Neighbor from Hell series which includes all contemporary romance books with the exception of this one and it is WONDERFUL!

It’s an engaging enemies to lovers story that is super HOT and has you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen between Elizabeth and Robert.

A woman who’s desperate for her inheritance and a second son with nothing to offer – can these childhood enemies find love?

I adored this book and reread it at least once a year. You won’t be disappointed. It also made my list of best erotic historical romance books.

Devil in Winter is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

Devil in Winter
by Lisa Kleypas

Lisa Kleypas is yet another name synonymous with historical romance whose popularity is rightly deserved given all of her wonderful works.

One of her most popular historical romance series is The Wallflowers and Devil in Winter is my absolute favorite.

Evangeline is forced to approach Sebastian, a known rake, and ask for his hand in marriage in order to save her inheritance.

Evie may come across as shy and awkward but Sebastian, the known womanizer, easily falls for her. I loved Evie but Sebastian might just be one of Kleypas’ best and most beloved characters.

A must-read for any historical romance reader and a great pick for someone exploring the genre.

An Offer From a Gentleman is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

An Offer From a Gentleman
by Julia Quinn

Another must-read historical romance author is Julia Quinn whose entire book list in the Bridgerton series is wonderful.

My favorite in the series is An Offer From a Gentleman, which is a Cinderella retelling . Sophie is a servant who attends a ball and dances with the dashing Benedict. Benedict is determined to find and wed the woman from the ball but he meets the maid Sophie and begins to fall for her.

I just loved this pair and you will too. After reading this book you can watch these characters come to life in the Netflix series, Bridgerton!

After you read this novel, check out my list of books like Bridgerton, plus the list of all the Julia Quinn books in order.

The Bride is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

The Bride
by Julie Garwood

I can’t believe I’ve only read two Julie Garwood books so far because they have been phenomenal. I love historical romances like The Bride that start off with a man needing to marry and the woman he chooses is anything but thrilled by the prospect.

Alec Kinkaid is a Scottish Laird forced to marry an English bride and he picks headstrong Jamie. She may be young but she holds her own against Alec but soon loses her heart to him despite her best efforts.

You won’t be disappointed with this popular historical romance novel.

Related: Best Arranged Marriage Romance Books

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

by Diana Gabaldon

I couldn’t have a best historical romance book list without including Outlander even though Gabaldon doesn’t consider her book a romance novel.

That’s OK because there is no denying that one of the best parts of this book (besides the writing and the historical references and the time travel!) is the relationship between Jamie and Claire. It’s a slow burn relationship that develops into something that sizzles!

A former combat nurse reunites with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone circle. She’s thrust back in time to 1743 and a Scotland torn by battle where she meets a young Highlander.

This book seriously has it all – from an intriguing story to great world-building and amazing characters. This story truly captivates and will have you reading the entire book series!

Check out the entire list of Outlander books in order so you can what comes after this amazing book.

Related: Best Time Travel Books

Romancing the Duke is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

Romancing the Duke
by Tessa Dare

This was the first book by Tessa Dare that I read and I absolutely loved it, solidifying her work on my TBR list. It definitely falls into the category of unputdownable books because I lost sleep over it when I kept saying just one more chapter.

We meet poor Izzy when she barely has anything to her name and is just about out of luck until she receives a notice of a possible inheritance. Hoping for just a small fraction of money to get her by, she actually inherits a dilapidated castle which happens to have a Duke already living in it!

This historical romance novel is so beautifully descriptive – just the way Dare describes the castle made it come to life and even their first kiss was described in such a beautiful way. Fans of historical romance should definitely read this book as it is one of my all-time favorite romance books!

Check out my book review of Romancing the Duke.

Related: Best Grumpy Sunshine Romance Books

Heartbreaker is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

by Sarah Maclean

Sarah MacLean is a star when it comes to historical romance and after reading this book I understood why.  Heartbreaker was not only such a well-written book with great pacing and storytelling, but it’s characters totally stole the show.

This is the story of Adalaide Frampton, part of the Hell’s Belles, she works to protect women and children and society as a whole from abuses of power. As the Matchbreaker, she also helps women escape unsuitable marriage matches.

In Heartbreaker, she sets off to find a woman who’s set to marry the Duke of Clayborn’s brother only to find herself traveling with the Duke of Clayborn himself to find the pair because she has something in her possession that he wants back.

Historical romances with strong heroines are the absolute best and Adalaide was just that and then some. Henry was a dashing duke and just as captivating as was the strong female friendships and the bit of suspense that kept the story moving.

Check out my book review of Heartbreaker.

Related: Sarah MacLean Books in Order

Something Fabulous is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

Something Fabulous
by Alexis Hall

I have to hand it to Hall who created a historical world where love is love (no matter with who) and where EVERYONE is queer.

Valentine Layton, the Duke of Malvern is trying to fulfill his father’s wish that he marry Miss Arabella Tarleton. Unfortunately, a marriage of convenience will not do for the romantic and she flees into the night determined never to set eyes on Valentine again.

Valentine then finds himself on a chase to Dover with Arabella’s twin brother, Bonny, by his side. But being with him makes Valentine question everything he thought he knew. About himself. About love. Even about which Tarleton he should be pursuing. 

While there is a bit of ridiculousness to the story, I was all about Valentine’s awakening and Bonnie’s sweetness and overarching joyousness. It was simply fabulous to read and one of the best gay romance novels worth reading.

Related: Alexis Hall Books

I’m Only Wicked With You is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

I’m Only Wicked With You
by Julie Anne Long

Long’s The Palace of Rogues series’ stories center around a hotel and the characters who find love there and Lillias and Hugh’s story is so moving and eloquently written with tension filled conversations that the sparks between those two just hooked me!

Nothing and no one can stand in the way of Hugh Cassidy’s drive to build an American empire until he meets the sheltered darling of London, Lady Lillias Vaughn.

When they meet, sparks ignite and lead to an inevitable indiscretion. Hugh’s proposal salvages Lillias’ honor but ends their dreams for their futures…until they arrive at a plan that could honorably set them free.

The best parts of this historical romance novel are the amazing, clandestine, unplanned meetups where it’s just the Lillias and Hugh and their simmering attraction.

Lillias is suffering from a broken heart when she meets Hugh but he makes her feel unlike anything she’s ever felt before. While neither are looking for a soulmate, that is what they both found in each other.

There were so many passages that I highlighted because the depth of feeling shared was so strong or the dialogue was just so amazing. Plus, it has such a terrific epilogue!

Check out my book review of I’m Only Wicked With You.

Hit Me With Your Best Scot is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

Hit Me With Your Best Scot
by Suzanne Enoch

This historical romance book made my list of most anticipated romance books of 2021 and it did not disappoint!

This is book three in the Wild Wicked Highlanders series but can be read as a standalone. The series follows three Scottish brothers who are forced to London to find English wives in mere weeks in order to save their family’s land from ruin.

The kicker is that the deal forcing them into these marriages was struck between their father and their mother (whom they haven’t seen in 17 years since she fled Scotland).

With both his brothers wed or betrothed, it’s now on Coll’s shoulders to find an English lass and marry her in 27 days!

Then one night he hides backstage at the playhouse to escape the latest set up by his mother and runs into actress, Persephone Jones and is instantly taken with her. The problem – she’s an actress, a commoner not suited to the titled Scotlander, and one who has no interest in marriage in the first place.

Coll was the absolute best part of this romance. There were so many lines he spoke that just gave me all the feels which is honestly why I gave this historical romance 5 stars. I just loved this man.

Persephone was equally appealing. She is no wallflower but is a woman who knows her worth, can speak her mind and is just overall extremely likeable.

I highly recommend this book to all historical romance lovers. Check out my book review of Hit Me With Your Best Scot.

Related: Best Scottish Romance Books

Where the Lost Wander is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

Where the Lost Wander
by Amy Harmon

I find Harmon’s writing to be so eloquent and descriptive and that is exactly what she delivered in this romance novel and it did not disappoint.

Naomi and her family set out on the Oregon Trail for a better life in California where she meets and falls for a half-Pawnee man. But life on the Trail is filled with hardship and staying together may be the toughest thing of all.

This amazing historical romance novel consumed me for days. I had to read it so slowly so that I wouldn’t miss a single detail. Harmon’s words are so captivating that you feel like you are on the wagon trail along with them.

I loved Naomi’s boldness and John’s quiet confidence too. I highly recommend this to all historical romance fans.

Check out my full book review of Where the Lost Wander.

The Duke I Tempted is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

The Duke I Tempted
by Scarlett Peckham

Scarlett Peckham really turned up the heat in this historical romance book that kicks off an amazing series of must-read book.

He’s controlled. Meticulous. Immaculate. No one would expect the proper duke to be a member of London’s most illicit secret club. Least of all: his future wife.

The Duke of Westmead is controlled. Meticulous. Immaculate. No one would expect the proper duke to be a member of London’s most illicit secret club. To secure his holdings he must produce an heir which means he must find a wife who won’t discover his secret craving to spend his nights on his knees.

Poppy Cavendish is an ambitious self-taught botanist who seeks to secure her hard-won independence. She wants the capital to expand her exotic nursery business—not a husband. But when an accidental scandal makes marriage to the duke the only means to save her nursery, Poppy worries she wants more than the title he is offering.

I loved this historical romance as Peckham’s writing captivated me with these amazing characters. Poppy is a fantastic, strong heroine who doesn’t shirk away at her attraction to Westmead. Westmead is a hero hiding a secret that once out to his wife becomes a uniting interest instead of a divisive one.

If you love a great slow burn romance with a bit of steam, this is the historical romance for you!

Check out my full book review of The Duke I Tempted.

Related: Best Erotic Historical Romance Novels

The Duke of Shadows is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

The Duke of Shadows
by Meredith Duran

This is a historical romance book I picked up because of another author’s recommendation and I loved it!

Sick of tragedy, done with rebellion, Emmaline Martin vows to settle quietly into British Indian society. But when the pillars of privilege topple, her fiancé’s betrayal leaves Emma no choice.

She must turn for help to the one man whom she should not trust, but cannot resist: Julian Sinclair, the dangerous and dazzling heir to the Duke of Auburn.

This book took me to a completely different world and time period that I had never read before I became instantly consumed.

It also felt like a second chance romance given the time and distance between them before they reunited and healed their hearts.

This is one striking debut novel that should not be missed.

Slightly Dangerous is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

Slightly Dangerous
by Mary Blalough

I jumped into the Bedwyn series with this historical romance book because I love stories about dashing heroes who are brought to their knees.

All of London is abuzz over the imminent arrival of Wulfric Bedwyn, the reclusive, cold-as-ice Duke of Bewcastle, at the most glittering social event of the season.

And the one woman to catch the duke’s eyes is Christine Derrick who is intrigued by the man until he invites her to become his mistress.

This is such a sizzling story about two opposites: an irresistible, high-and-mighty aristocrat and the impulsive, pleasure-loving woman who shows him what true passion is all about. It definitely fits in the category of unputdownable books and deserves a spot on your TBR list.

The Devil in Her Bed is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

The Devil in Her Bed
by Kerrigan Byrne

Intrigue, deception, debauchery and tortured characters – what’s not to like in this wonderfully written historical romance?

This was my very first Kerrigan Byrne book and I was definitely impressed. Though this is the third book in the series, I easily read this as a standalone and got instantly caught up in this story.

Francesca is a countess by day and stalks her prey—those responsible for taking her family away from her—by night. Only the Earl of Devlin himself, one of the Crown’s most dangerous weapons, may stop her if she doesn’t lose her heart to him first.

This was such a well-written book that it swept me away even though the storyline was a bit darker than my typical read. Francesca is such a strong heroine set on revenge no matter the costs.

The flashback to Franscesca’s youth totally set the stage for what was a story filled with just the right amount of suspense and the perfect amount of heat that simmered between Francesca and Chandler.

If you like historical romances with strong heroines and heroes with wounded hearts like I do this one is for you.

Check out my full book review of The Devil in Her Bed.

Never Love a Highlander is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

Never Love a Highlander
by Maya Banks

I never turn down a historical romance with a Scotsman and Maya Banks writes several must-read romances featuring hot Highlanders.

Never Love a Highlander is my favorite of the McCabe brothers trilogy although all are wonderful reads. We have a jilted bride and a brother determined to redeem himself in this whimsical historical romance that had me glued from page to page.

It’s full of action and intrigue as well which makes the story all the more interesting. Check this one out and all of Banks’ Highlander historical romance novels.

Into the Wilderness is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

Into the Wildnerness
by Sara Donati

I’ll admit that I first picked up Donati’s Into the Wilderness because I read that Claire Fraser from Outlander made a character appearance and I just adore her.

But once I started reading I was hooked by the world that Donati’s prose painted and the characters that filled that world.

We find an Englishwoman living in New York who soon finds herself falling for an American frontiersman.

It’s an epic love story but so much more is packed into this book. It’s a fascinating story of frontier life and a look into the strife between villagers and the Mohawk Nation.

I had to move on to the second book right after finishing this enthralling historical romance novel.

To Tame a Highland Warrior is one of the best romance books of all time according to romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

To Tame a Highland Warrior
by Karen Marie Moning

I said that I was a fan of historical romances with Highlanders, didn’t I?!

I have read almost all of Moning’s Highlander series with To Tame a Highland Warrior as my favorite. This is a story of a love once denied but fate has Jillian and Gavrael crossing paths once again.

Moning’s stories weave in a bit of paranormal to them which was a first for me but I loved it. Be prepared to be swept up into another world with this one.

The Stigma of Historical Romance Novels

Even if you are a fan of romance books, you may turn a blind eye to historical romance novels thinking they are all bodice rippers or simply full of women in corsets falling at the heels of men in a patriarchal society.

This is far from the truth, at least where my favorite historical romance authors are concerned.

I find that historical romance novels often showcase the strongest of women, perhaps fighting uphill battles but fighting nonetheless, or at the very least showing their spine.

Historical Romance Book Covers

Of course, the book covers of historical romance novels traditionally haven’t helped this stigma.

Fabio became a household name as the type of male model who would grace the cover of a historical romance book. His flowing long hair, chest revealing shirt with his woman draped across his arm may have been the standard book cover but things have changed.

These days my favorite historical romance covers have the heroine gracing the cover in beautiful gowns or many have received a modern upgrade.

Regardless, historical romance novels shouldn’t be judged and dismissed simply by their book covers.

The Appeal of Historical Romance Novels

Part of the appeal for me with historical romance novels is the sneaking around, the hidden glances, or the slightest of touches that evoke such passion and intimacy among the heroes and heroines of the stories.

Often the intimacy is not thrown in your face but stews under the surface and I love it! That’s not to say that historical romance novels can’t also be high on the steaminess level which many are as well.

There’s also something to be said of the varied historical romance heroes.

I am equally a fan of the rakes and the rogues as much as the Dukes and Lords though I have a real weakness for the Scottish Highlanders.

Many historical romance novels are also a part of an entire historical romance book series so you can follow beloved characters through multiple books.

If you love to read romance books that get you into the holiday spirit, there are Christmas historical romance novels as well!

Or, if you want to heat things up check out my list of steamy historical romance novels and my list of erotic historical romance novels!

Do you have a favorite historical romance novel? Share in the comments below!

Related Book Lists:

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Discover the best historical romance books of all time in this book list from romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.
Leslie Murphy is the owner and writer of She Reads Romance Books.

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Leslie is the founder, writer, and producer of She Reads Romance Books (and the She Reads Romance Books Podcast), an online book community focused on romance books and the readers who love them because life is better with a love story.

Leslie reads 150 romance books a year and has been called a "book expert" by CNN. Reading romance is her passion and she cultivates her book lists with the best books worth reading in the genre. Leslie graduated magna cum laude from Davidson College where she honed her writing skills and also holds two Master's degrees. Join her community in the She Reads Romance Books Reader Lounge.

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21 thoughts on “20 Best Historical Romance Books of All Time”

  1. I love historical romances and like many of your pics. However my favorite author is Karen Robards. Have you ever read any of her historical romances? They are wonderful!!

  2. Great lists. You should
    check out Carla Kelly. She writes both regency romances and historical romances. Most are slow burns. I’ve loved every one of hers that I’ve read so far. She’s great.

  3. I started out reading Barbara Cartland – I read them all, more than once. Decades later, I met the authoress Amanda Scott at a Scottish Festival near Sacramento, California. I got hooked on her fabulous books! If you enjoy the Highlands, you’ll love Amanda Scott!

  4. Have you read some of Anne Gracie’s books??? I recommend the “Devil Riders” series and her newest ongoing series “Brides of Bellaire Garden”

  5. Thank you so much for this list.
    I live on the Gold Coast in Aus and it’s been raining for weeks and finding your list came at just the right time. I just read ‘What i did for a duke’ loved it.

  6. I love Mary Balogh and the Bedwyn saga best of all with Wulfric story my go to re read.
    Recently I tried a new and very different author-Alice Coldbreath – an English author so the vocabulary is excellent even though it’s set in an imaginary though it’s set in an imaginary world that feels like 15c U.K. Brilliant feisty heroines and delicious hero’s in excellent world building story!

  7. Hi! I really enjoyed your thoughts and summations of favorite historical romance books. I began reading historical romance novels in the late ‘70s (I know! I’m really dating myself). One of my absolute favorite me-time activities is to get lost in a used bookstore that has a dedicated romance section. OMGOSH!! The best! It’s amazing how some stories stay with you through the years, but, to me, that is the mark of a great writer. Kathleen Woodiwiss was a favorite at the time, but there were other superlative authors from that era that have stuck in my memory. Cynthia Wright is one. She wrote many stories set in the American Revolution. I treasured them all, and still have a couple that I consider in that top echelon of stories. Susanna Davis is another author I always read. The Master’s Bride is one of my all-time favorite historical romances. When I read her stories, I ALWAYS felt as if I’d stepped through a curtain and was actually living in the world of her characters. Laurie McBain was another author whose books left an impression. I will always be a fan of historical romance, as it is a timeless genre, and offers a period favorite for everyone. Happy reading!

  8. I have to say, I’ve ready nearly every single book on your list in the past, and I agree these are the best books! I think The Fires of Winter series by Johanna Lindsey is also very special.

  9. Ahh! So many great authors and their wonderful books!
    What really got me reading historical romance was “A Knight in Shining Armor “ by Jude Deveraux!! I’m happy to see her on your list!! You have 10 other favorites of mine on the list, too.
    And a few I haven’t heard of! So I’m off with you list to look for more favorites. Thanks for sharing!

  10. My favorite romance novel is Ransom by Julie Garwood. I loved it. Garwood, along with Jude Deveraux and Johanna Lindsey are my favorite romance authors.
    I also read Lisa Kleypas, Eva Leigh, and Joanna Shupe.

  11. “I really do love this sub-genre of romance. There’s just something about people finding love in a different time period that I love so much.”
    I love this statement. I have always read romance and I always will. But I have been branching out and reading other genres, but I always come back to romance.
    Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsey, Jude Deveraux, Joanna Shupe, Lisa Kleypas, and Eva Leigh are a few of the many, many authors I love.
    I have read most of Lynsay Sands Immortal series, but I just recently started reading her romance. Love Is Blind was such a great story and I liked The Highlander’s Promise.
    Sometimes I read books by authors I have never tried, but if the story appeals to me, then why not? I have read as lot of great stories that way.
    Thank you for not shying away from romance.


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