Historical romance novels are some of the most popular books in the romance genre.
This book list highlights the appeal of historical romance novels and offers recommendations for the best books worth reading to make you fall in love with this genre.
*Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Affiliates program so if you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The Best Historical Romance Novels to Make You Fall in Love with the Genre
Even though I read a lot of contemporary romance books, I also love historical romance novels.
My favorite historical romance novels in this list written by some of THE best historical romance authors are the reasons why I fell in love with this genre.
These books may be the reason you become a historical romance junkie yourself.
Not only do historical romance novels take a deep dive into the history of the era or time period the book is set in, but they often 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.
Before I get to the books, let me give you a quick look at what historical romance novels are and why you’d want to read them.
What Are Historical Romance Novels?
Romance books categorized as historical romance novels are books with a story line that takes place before 1950.
Of course, this leaves a wide range of time periods and parts of the world to explore in a historical romance novel.
The good news? There is such variety to choose from that this romance genre can meet many readers’ interests.
Eras & Time Periods in Historical Romance Novels
These are the most prevalent and popular time periods and eras in history that are featured in historical romance novels:
- Medieval Period
- Viking Age
- 17th Century Scottish Highlands
- Colonial America
- Regency England*
- Victorian England
- American Civil War
- American Western Expansion
- Early 20th Century
*A note on Regency Historical Romance Novels
Regency historical romance novels are considered a sub-genre to romance books all to itself. They include stories between the time period of 1811-1820, during the Regency Era of England, though some books in this category may expand the time period anywhere between 1795-1837.
All books in the romance book genre meet two criteria: one – the main story is centered around a relationship and two- this central love story ends with a happy, optimistic ending.
Regency historical romance books however are a bit different.
In regency historical romance novels, the emphasis of the story is more on society of the times and the dialogue of that time period.
There are of course relationships in the stories but these are also traditionally lower on the steaminess scale of romance.
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 among patriarchal society.
This is far from the truth, at least where my favorite authors are concerned.
I find that historical romance novels often showcase the strongest of women, perhaps fighting uphill battles but fighting none the less, 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 or sexual tension 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 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!
Historical Romance Books Worth Reading
This book list starts with my ten most favorite historical romance novels that I guarantee will turn the most skeptical reader into a lover of the genre.
Pick one up and let me know if it indeed did the trick!
What You’ll Find on This List:
- 10 Best Historical Romance Novels
- Book Recommendations by Historical Time Period
- Best Selling Historical Romance Authors’ Best Novels
*Alternate covers may exist for these historical romance novels.
10 Best Historical Romance Novels
I consider the historical romance novels below some of the best books worth reading. They have amazing characters, outstanding writing and story lines and they transport you back in time making you feel like you are a part of the story.
If you are new to this genre and just checking it out for the first time, you can’t go wrong with reading one of these historical novels.
I couldn’t have a best historical romance novel 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 slowburn relationship that develops into something that sizzles!
A former combat nurse just back from the war 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 war where she meets a young Highland warrior.
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!
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!
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 difficulty to put down.
I consider any Judith McNaught historical romance a must read but this one was my favorite.
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.
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 beloved characters.
A must read for any historical romance reader and a great pick up for someone exploring the genre.
Another must read historical romance author is Julia Quinn whose entire book list in the Bridgerton series is a must read.
My favorite of the series is An Offer From a Gentleman, which is a Cinderella-retelling story. 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!
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.
I never turn down a historical romance with a Scotsman and Maya Banks writes several must read romances featuring sexy 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.
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 onto the second book right after finishing this enthralling historical romance novel.
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 supernatural to them which was a first for me but I loved it. Be prepared to be swept up into another world with this one.
Historical Romance Novel Recommendations by Time Period
These are book recommendations for historical romance novels by time period to help you find the book most appealing to you.
Where possible I included a romance book different from my top 10 list to give you more options.
Medieval Historical Romance Novel (5th-15th Century Europe)
Gwenllian of Ruardean is the Welsh daughter of a powerful Marcher lord who’s more comfortable training as a knight and leading her men than wearing a dress and acting as lady of the manor.
When she rescues and nurses Ranulf, King Edward I’s favorite killer, back to health, their lives become forever entwined.
This book had so much going for it. Characters with inner struggles, a slow burn passion, a marriage of convenience story as well as cunning, intrigue and suspense.
I loved disappearing into Kingston’s medieval world and found Gwenellian and Ranulf to be two compelling characters.
Vikings Historical Romance Novel (Middle Ages 793-1066)
Lady Brenna was abducted by Viking invaders but vowed that no barbarian would enslave her noble Celtic heart until Garrick Haardrad, the proud and powerful son of a ruthless Viking chieftan, claims her.
Scottish Highlands Historical Romance Novel
Judith leaves her English home to be by her childhood friend’s side in the Scottish Highlands when she gives birth. She didn’t anticipate falling for Ian, Lord of the clan, but it’s her secret that could destroy their love.
Colonial America Historical Romance Novel (1607 to 1776)
Elizabeth has left her home in England to join her family in a remote New York mountain village. Once there she falls for a white man who lives with the Mohawk people even though she is promised to another.
Regency Historical Romance Novel (1811-1820)
In one of the most popular romance novels of all time, opinionated Elizabeth Bennet, one of five Bennett sisters, clashes with the proud, aristocratic Mr. Darcy.
Victorian Historical Romance Novel (1837-1901)
Annabelle’s family is dependent upon her marrying a wealthy man but her most persistent admirer is a wicked rogue. Try as she might to ignore Simon’s advances her attraction to him may be her family’s undoing.
Civil War Historical Romance Novel (1607 to 1776)
Elle and Malcolm both find themselves as spies sent to infiltrate the Confederacy. Joining forces to fight a common enemy, will they be able to preserve the Union and their forbidden love?
American Westward Expansion Historical Romance Novel (1807-1910)
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 death and staying together may be the toughest thing of all.
Early 20th Century
Anne travels to Ireland to scatter her late grandfather’s ashes and finds herself transported to Ireland of 1921 with the country on the edge of war.
She’s drawn into the conflict alongside Thomas where she’s faced with the choice of letting go of the life she knew or the man she’s come to love.
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Best Selling Historical Romance Authors & Their Best Books
When I think of historical romance novels, several well-known authors come to mind.
These women are considered the best of the best in historical romance and their most popular historical romance novel (according to Goodreads) is highlighted below.
Judith McNaught is one of my all-time favorite romance book authors and I adore her historical romance novels. This was the first historical romance novel that I ever read:
Headstrong Scottish lass, Jennifer Merrick, is abducted from her convent school by The Wolf, the fierce English warrior. Though both are proud, passionate and sworn enemies, their attraction is soon undeniable.
Lisa Kleypas is another one of my all-time favorite romance book authors. She writes the best historical romance book series so you won’t be able to stop with just one book!
An unexpected inheritance elevates Amelia’s family forcing her to navigate life among the ton. She appeals to Cam for help who becomes blindsided by his attraction, making London society a lot more interesting.
Julia Quinn is yet another one of my all-time favorite romance book authors. Her historical romance book series, Bridgertons, is being made into a TV series on Netflix so read them all and then binge watch the show!
Simon and Daphne’s courtship is real to everyone but them. He’s desperate to escape the meddling mothers while Daphne hopes his association will draw worthy suitors. But with all the scheming and pretending, Daphne finds she’s falling for the Duke.
Georgina Anderson is desperate to return home to America, so she disguises herself as a cabin boy, aboard the ship under Captain James Mallory, never expecting to fall for the ex-pirate.
The king’s edict has forced Scottish laird, Alec Kincaid to take an English bride and his choice is Jaime, the youngest daughter of a Baron who has sworn to herself to never love the Highlander.
But forces unknown threaten her more than her growing desire for her husband.
No one could match the fierceness of the English conqueror Lyon until he met Lyonene. But after a whirlwind romance, jealous and lies tear them a part and only the Black Lyon can save his beloved.
Pride and Prejudice is not only Austen’s most popular work but it is one of the most well-known romance novels.
Opinionated Elizabeth Bennet, one of five Bennett sisters, clashes with the proud, aristocratic Mr. Darcy and both must overcome their assumptions to discover a most precious love between them.
Izzy may have grown up with romantic stories of love but she’s long since given up on finding love and romance for herself.
With barely a roof over her head, she learns she has inherited a dilapidated castle which happens to have a Duke already living in it.
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, but that’s only left her unmarried and unsatisfied. With the help of the Marquess of Ralston she’s determined to break all the rules and discover all she’s been missing.
Rhine Fontaine’s success depends on his ability to pass for White but if he wants a relationship with Eddy, he may just have to give up everything.
Julie Anne Long
No one crosses the Duke of Falconbridge, but when Ian Eversea does just that, Moncrieff plans to take his revenge on Ian’s sister Genevieve. He just didn’t expect her passion or her wit and now his plans must change.
Linnet has always been told she’s beautiful so of course she’s betrothed to a beast. The Earl of Marchant won’t be charmed by any woman but Linnet is not just any woman.
The widowed Anna is in dire financial straits and the Earl of Swartingham is in a need of a new secretary who won’t be driven off by his bad temper and boorish behavior. Anna not only takes the job but also plans to make him her lover.
Aislinn’s lands have been ravaged by the Norman savage, Iron Wolf. Enslaved by him, she is set on his destruction yet also burns for this touch.
The Duke of Bewcastle has arrived in London and he’s looking for a mistress. Christine turns down his offer, but Wulfric will not rest until she is his.
Do you have a favorite historical romance novel? Share in the comments below!
Related Book Lists:
- Best Historical Romance Series to Devour
- Christmas Historical Romance Novels to Read During the Holidays
- Best Erotic Historical Romance Novels That Will Steam Up Your E-Reader
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