The 16 Best Historical Romance Novels That You Must Read

Romance novels have long been one of the most popular genres of fiction. So many readers like to escape from their own lives by reading about the love lives of fictional characters.

Best Historical Romance Novels That You Must Read

Romance novels always bring a depth of emotion with them and can make you both laugh and cry.

One of the most successful sub-genres of romance is historical romance. These books take the emotions of romance novels and set them in the past to create a wonderfully immersive story.

There is no better way to escape the modern world than by diving into a book set hundreds of years ago.

History has always fascinated us. Learning how our ancestors lived and the problems they faced has been the basis of many popular novels.

History and romance are a perfect marriage so it’s no wonder that historical romance has become such a lucrative and popular genre.

If you’re looking for your next must-read historical romance novel, then this list is for you. I have recommended the 16 best historical romance novels that you must read.

I’ve picked a variety of time periods and novel lengths so whatever you’re looking for, there is sure to be a book for you.

Outlander By Diana Gabaldon


My first choice is one of the most popular historical romance series of all time.

The Outlander series contains nine bestselling novels written by Diana Gabaldon and has also been made into a popular TV show.

The first book in the series was released in 1992 and has thrilled readers ever since.

The story begins in the Scottish Highlands in 1945. Claire Randall was a nurse during World War II and is enjoying a second honeymoon with her husband after returning from the war.

When Claire walks through an ancient stone circle, however, she is transported to Scotland in 1743.

This Scotland is very different from the Scotland of Claire’s time as it is being torn apart by wars between the numerous clans in the country.

Claire is lost in a dangerous and unknown time and her only chance of surviving comes in the form of the young warrior Jamie Fraser.

She becomes torn between a man in the past and the husband in her present and must try to find her way home.


  • When the story gets going it is full of action and interesting twists
  • An intriguing premise and setting
  • The romance between Claire and Jamie is believable


  • Very slow start before the actual story kicks in

Themes: Love, sex, femininity, loyalty, marriage, power, duty

To Have And To Hoax By Martha Waters

To Have and to Hoax: A Novel (1) (The Regency Vows)

To Have and to Hoax is the first book in The Regency Vows series. It is followed by To Love and to Loathe, To Marry and to Meddle, and To Swoon and to Spar.

All four novels were written by Martha Waters and although they are part of a series they are self-contained novels.

There are some references to previous novels but they do not make one single story.

All of the books are set in Regency England. To Have and to Hoax focuses on the married couple of Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley.

The pair met five years ago and quickly fell in love and got married. However, the married bliss was short-lived and after a year of marriage, they had an argument and now barely speak.

That is until Violet receives a letter saying that James has had a serious accident.

She rushes to his bedside only to discover that he is perfectly fine and relaxing with drinks in a local tavern.

Angry at the deception, Violet resolves to get revenge on her estranged husband and the pair start to try and outdo each other with their lies, manipulation, and anger.

Can a couple like Violet and James have a future together or is their marriage doomed to fail?

To Have and to Hoax is a romantic comedy full of absurd situations and heartwarming scenes.


  • Genuinely amusing and funny at times
  • Interesting and fun premise
  • An entertaining cast of characters


  • Some of the arguments and drama are a little contrived

Themes: Marriage, truth and lies, forgiveness, stubbornness, jealousy

The Bronze Horseman By Paullina Simons

The Bronze Horseman (The Bronze Horseman, 1)

This book is the first in The Bronze Horseman trilogy and is followed by Tatiana and Alexander and The Summer Garden: A Love Story.

All three novels are works of romantic fiction and were written by Russian-born American author Paullina Simons. There are also a couple of prequel novels set in this universe as well.

The story begins on June 22, 1941, the same day that the German army invaded the Soviet Union.

The lead character is Tatiana Metanova, a 17-year-old girl that is given the task of getting food and supplies for her family during the first outbreak of the war.

While she is waiting for the bus home, she meets Lieutenant Alexander Belov.

Tatiana is enamored with Alexander and he helps her to buy some food from the Officer’s store.

They grow closer together and a love begins to blossom but love isn’t that easy when there is a war raging.

Tatiana’s city feels the negative effects of the war harshly and Alexander has a dangerous secret that can destroy everything.


  • A well-developed and dramatic love triangle
  • Moving look at life in a war zone during World War II
  • The flawed characters feel more real because of their flaws


  • The first part of the novel is very slow-paced and can be repetitive

Themes: War, trust, human nature, forbidden love, family, loyalty

Devil’s Bride By Stephanie Laurens

Devil's Bride: A Cynster Novel (Cynster Novels, 1)

If you want a lengthy historical romance read, this book is a great place to start.

Devil’s Bride is the first book in the 15-novel Cynster series and is sure to keep you busy for a few weeks.

The author of the series is Australian author Stephanie Laurens and she has written a large number of romance novels.

The Devil’s Bride is a Regency romance that features The Duke of St. Ives, known as Devil Cynster by those closest to him.

The Cynsters are one of the most powerful families in England and when Devil’s cousin is found murdered, he becomes determined to investigate and discover the murderer.

However, Devil keeps getting distracted by a governess named Honoria Wetherby. She’s smart and beautiful and becomes his partner in investigating the murder.

As they work together to solve the crime they grow closer despite the danger they’re inching closer to.


  • Well-constructed romance that drives the writing
  • Both Devil and Honoria are solid and likable characters
  • The regency setting is used to great effect


  • The central mystery is easy for the reader to predict

Themes: Passion, control, society, class, power

The King’s Man By Elizabeth Kingston

The King's Man (Welsh Blades)

The King’s Man is the first entry in the Welsh Blades trilogy. It was released in 2015 by American author Elizabeth Kingston and is followed by Fair, Bright, and Terrible (2017), and Desire Lines (2019).

Kingston has written a variety of historical romance novels but this trilogy is my favorite.

The titular King’s Man is Ranulf Ombrier, a master swordsman and favorite assassin of King Edward I.

Ranulf’s skills have earned him many riches and titles but eventually, his violent deeds catch up with him and Ranulf begins to feel guilty.

In order to soothe his conscience and prevent any further sins from being added to his already lengthy list, Ranfulf leaves the King and heads to the wilds of Wales.

While there, he meets Gwenllian of Ruardean after one of her men nearly kills him.

Ranulf and Gwenllian have a prior connection and must navigate this while also dealing with the consequences of their actions.


  • Ranulf’s character is well-constructed and given plenty of depth and character growth
  • Interesting and three-dimensional supporting characters
  • Fun premise and setting


  • Slow start to the story and romance

Themes: Revenge, vengeance, guilt, remorse, morality

The Duke And I By Julia Quinn

Bridgerton [TV Tie-in] (Bridgertons Book 1)

Although this book is called The Duke and I, it’s more famously known as the first book in the Bridgertons series.

Written by American author Julia Quinn and first published in 2000, the novel has since been adapted by Netflix as the popular series Bridgerton. There are eight books in the Bridgertons series for you to enjoy.

The series is set in Regency England and focuses on Daphne Brigerton, a young woman who is in search of a husband.

She is popular with the gentlemen of London but none of them consider her wife material as she is too honest and opinionated.

She’s also unwilling to follow the rules set out to help a lady snag a husband.

The Duke of Hastings, on the other hand, is not as well-liked. Simon Bassett has recently returned to England and has no interest in the expectations placed on him by society, or in society itself.

However, it’s not that simple to take yourself out of the dating game so Simon and Daphne agree to a fake courtship.

The deal works for both of them as it means Simon no longer needs to seek a wife and it will help Daphne’s status.

Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t work as smoothly as Simon and Daphne intended.


  • The dialogue is witty and fun to read
  • Simon is a very likable character
  • The romance develops in an enthralling way


  • Little character development throughout the book

Themes: Marriage, society, expectations, duty, loyalty

Last Christmas In Paris: A Novel Of World War I By Hazel Gaynor And Heather Webb

Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I

Last Christmas in Paris was first published in 2017 and was written by the authors Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb.

Gaynor is a British writer that has several historical novels to her name, although many of the others are not romances.

The book is set during the First World War and begins in 1914 when Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas, depart for the war.

It’s the early days of the war and the general assumption is that the war will be finished in only a couple of months, however, this does not come to pass.

Both Evie and Thomas have their own independent parts to play in the war effort and they keep in contact through a series of letters.

As they write and share details of their lives, they begin to fall in love. But is it possible to love during such harsh circumstances?


  • The history is well-researched
  • The story develops skillfully through the medium of letters
  • A fascinating look at the role of women during the war


  • The epistolary format of the novel is not to everyone’s tastes

Themes: Duty, war, long distance, gender

The Bride By Julie Garwood

The Bride

The Bride is the first of a duology of novels known as the Lairds’ Brides series and is followed by The Wedding.

Both books were written by the American New York Times Bestselling author Julie Garwood.

Scottish laird Alec Kincaid is informed by the King of Scotland that he must take an English bride.

He meets the daughter of Baron Jamison and immediately wants Jamie for his own.

However, Jamie is not as enamored with the match. Alec is too rough and arrogant for her tastes and she has been warned against marrying a man like him.

She can’t deny the chemistry between them though, no matter how hard she tries.

While Jamie and Alec try to find some common ground there is another mystery lurking in the background that could spell danger to them both.


  • Complicated characters and relationships between them
  • A strong heroine in a patriarchal society
  • An interesting mystery behind the romance


  • The history is not well-researched

Themes: Duty, desire, mystery, gender, society

Romancing The Duke By Tessa Dare

Romancing the Duke: Castles Ever After (Castles Ever After, 1)

The Castles Ever After series consists of three books beginning with Romancing the Duke. The other books in the series are Say Yes to the Marquess and When a Scot Ties the Knot.

The series was written by American author Tessa Dare who is a New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA award.

Isolde “Izzy” Ophelia Goodnight is the daughter of a famous author and has heard romantic tales of honorable knights and beautiful maidens for her entire life.

She fully expected her life to be a fairytale as well but as she grows older, she begins to fear that maybe there is no storybook ending for her.

By the age of 26, Izzy is living in poverty and has never been kissed.

Thoughts of storybook romance have never been further from her mind as she’s more concerned with having somewhere to live.

However, maybe giving up on a brave knight is a little premature after all.


  • A variation on a Beauty and the Beast tale
  • The characters and historical period are well-crafted
  • The disability and trauma of the male lead are dealt with well


  • The history isn’t well-researched and can break the immersion at times

Themes: Beauty, disability, poverty, trauma

The Wisteria Society Of Lady Scoundrels By India Holton

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels (Dangerous Damsels)

Like many other novels on this list, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is the first book in a trilogy.

It is followed by The League of Gentlewomen Witches and the Dangerous Damsels trilogy concludes with The Secret Service of Tea and Treason.

The three novels were written by India Holton and are the only books she has written to date.

To the public, Cecilia Bassingwaite is an ordinary and respectable Victorian lady.

However, she’s also a member of the Wisteria Society crime sorority and is a master thief. She regularly travels around England to steal treasures by any means necessary.

When Captain Morvath decides to destroy the Wisteria Society, he sends the assassin Ned Lightbourne on Cecilia’s trail. However, Ned falls in love with Cecilia despite his orders to kill her.

Can Cecilla and the Wisteria Society survive the plans of Captain Morvath and where do Ned’s loyalties lie?


  • A fun and entertaining story
  • Full of witty banter between the characters
  • The story has many twists and turns


  • The plot is a little convenient and contrived at times

Themes: Morality, deception, family, sisterhood, crime, justice

Where The Lost Wander By Amy Harmon

Where the Lost Wander: A Novel

Where the Lost Wander was originally published in 2020 and is a standalone novel written by Amy Harmon. She has written numerous novels and is a New York Times Bestselling author.

Where the Lost Wander is set on the infamous Oregon Trail during 1853. Naomi May may only be 20 years old but she is already a widow and is eager for a fresh start away from her grief.

Along with her family, she begins the long journey to the west of the country.

While on the Trail, she meets John Lowry. He is half-Pawnee and is struggling to fit into both sides of his heritage.

As Naomi and John grow closer, their journey only becomes more and more dangerous.

Can they make it to their new life and will the experiences bring them closer or tear them apart?


  • Some vivid descriptions of life during those times and the difficult journey
  • The tension between the different races was handled sensitively
  • A very atmospheric and engaging story and setting


  • Many of the side characters are shallow and difficult to remember

Themes: Travel, grief, racism, hardship, overcoming difficulties

Bluebird By Genevieve Graham

Bluebird: A Novel

Canadian author Genevieve Graham has written several historical novels and Bluebird is a standalone historical romance.

It was originally published in 2022 and was an instant hit due to its setting and sweet romance.

If you’re Canadian and would like to know more about Canada during the early 20th century, this is a great choice.

Cassie Simmons is a modern-day museum curator that begins to research the booze runners of the Prohibition era. Her research leads her to the Bailey family and a story set in 1918.

Captain Jeremiah “Jerry” Bailey is wounded during World War I. His wounds are treated in a Belgian field hospital by the nurse Adele Savard, a “Bluebird” nurse of the Canadian army.

Jerry and Adele are from the same part of Canada and they soon begin to bond as Jerry’s wounds heal. However, Jerry is sent back to the front line and the pair have to say goodbyes.

By the end of the war, Jerry and Adele are back in Canada and they reconnect. Prohibition has arrived in their home city of Windsor and this leads to both opportunity and danger.


  • Full on interesting information about prohibition in Canada
  • The author makes you care for the main characters
  • Great insight into conditions during World War I


  • The sections set in the present day are not as interesting as the historical ones

Themes: War, trauma, prohibition, nursing, care, Canadian history

My Fake Rake: The Union Of The Rakes By Eva Leigh

My Fake Rake: The Union of the Rakes (The Union of the Rakes, 1)

This is the first book in The Union of the Rakes trilogy by American author, Eva Leigh. It is followed in the series by Would I Lie to the Duke and Waiting for a Scot Like You.

Although this is a series and there are some characters that feature in more than one book, the main plots in each novel are independent of each other.

The lead character in My Fake Rake is Lady Grace Wyatt, a Regency-era wallflower who prefers science to finding her perfect husband.

However, when she spots a handsome scholar she wants to step into the spotlight and be noticed.

Her plan is to make him jealous by turning her plain colleague, Sebastian Holloway, into a distinguished gentleman she can have on her arm.

Grace instructs Sebastian in all of the lessons he needs to be flirtatious, dashing, and the perfect candidate for a husband.

It’s all fake, of course, as Sebastian’s only purpose is to help Grace nab the man she really wants.

Or at least, that was Seb’s purpose at the beginning of the scheme. As Grace and Seb begin to work together, the plan begins to change.


  • An amusing premise that turns a popular trope on its head
  • The characters are easy to like
  • The characters develop well as the story progresses


  • The story is very predictable

Themes: Beauty, change, society, identity, public appearances

Whitney, My Love By Judith McNaught

Whitney, My Love (1) (The Westmoreland Dynasty Saga)

Judith McNaught is a very popular writer of historical romance novels and The Westmoreland Dynasty Saga is my personal favorite of her works.

It begins with Whitney, My Love, and continues with A Kingdom of Dreams, Until You, and Miracles.

Whitney Stone returns to English society after spending some time in Paris.

Upon her return, she planned to marry her childhood sweetheart and live happily ever after, but she is horrified to learn that her father has given her hand in marriage to Clayton Westmoreland, the Duke of Claymore.

This is not Whitney planned or wanted and she refuses to accept the marriage meekly.

She still dreams of her ideal marriage with her childhood sweetheart but she can’t deny the passion that Clayton is stirring within her.

Can Whitney find happiness with Clayton or will she chase her dreams?


  • Good use of the enemies-to-lovers trope
  • The characters are three-dimensional and have their own flaws
  • The development of the romance is well-constructed


  • Some of the early tension and anger between the two romantic leads can be difficult to move past

Themes: Family, duty, marriage, dreams, passion

Gentle Rogue By Johanna Lindsey

Gentle Rogue (Malory-Anderson Family Book 3)

This is the third book in the 12-book Malory-Anderson Family series.

I’ve jumped straight to this book as although the novels do share some characters and minor plotlines, the main romance in Gentle Rogue is new and doesn’t require the previous two books to be read to understand.

It’s my favorite of the series and is an example of the author, Johanna Lindsey, at her best.

Georgina Anderson is desperate to return to the United States but she has no means to do so.

That is until she sneaks aboard the Maiden Anne ship while pretending to be a cabin boy. Georgina meets James Mallory, the ship’s captain, and this dangerous ex-pirate soon takes a shine to her.

James had committed himself to a single life on the high seas but that commitment is tested by Georgina’s wit and beauty.

With nowhere to hide during the long voyage home, will Georgina and James be able to resist each other?


  • Good humor throughout the book
  • A believable romance between the two main characters
  • The sea and ship setting is very fun


  • Many side characters that aren’t given space to develop

Themes: Identity, secrets, passion, adventure

The Black Lyon By Jude Deveraux

The Black Lyon

The Black Lyon is the first book in the Montgomery/Taggert series which consists of 15 novels.

All of the books were written by American author Jude Deveraux who has written over 40 different historical romance novels.

The Black Lyon was first published in 1980 and the final book in the series, A Knight in Shining Armor, was released in 1989.

Ranulf de Warbrooke is the Black Lyon, a fierce and handsome conqueror that has captured many lands.

The Black Lyon had never met his equal until the day he met Lady Lyonene, a spirited woman that could match Ranulf every step of the way.

A whirlwind romance leads to the pair getting married but their relationship never runs smoothly.

Eventually, it becomes too much for Lyonene, and when she leaves for Ireland and steps into mortal danger, Ranulf has to save her.

It was dark secrets and plots that drove them apart and if the Black Lyon can stop these dastardly schemes, then maybe Ranulf and Lyonene still have a chance.


  • The whirlwind romance at the beginning is easy to believe
  • Characters that are realistic to the time period
  • The story can be very intense and enthralling at times


  • Some very lengthy passages without much happening

Themes: Passion, mystery, deception, marriage,

Buying Guide

Before you choose the best historical romance for you, there are a few factors that you should take into consideration.

The Time Period

Historical romance can be set in any time period in the past. It can be a few decades ago, a few centuries ago, or even millennia ago.

The historical setting will have a great impact on the world-building of the novel, the characters, and the plot so choosing a setting that appeals to you is very important.

Setting a book in a historical setting can bring in many social and political issues that aren’t as relevant in modern society.

If these are something you want to avoid as you prefer a lighter read, make sure you check the synopsis and some spoiler-free reviews before you crack open the book.

In many cases, patriarchal societies and poor treatment of women are integral to the events that occur.

Series Or Standalone

When an author hits across a successful and rich story, they often can’t tell the entire story in just one book.

Many historical romances such as Outlander stretch across multiple novels so if you want to get the full story and a conclusive ending, you may need to read the entire series.

For many readers, reading a series is exactly what they want. You won’t need to worry about your next book for months if you find a series that grips you.

However, if you don’t have the time for a long series and just want a self-contained story then opt for a standalone novel.

I have included whether each choice in this list is part of a series or a standalone book.

Spice Level

The word “romance” can mean many different things to many different authors.

Many authors keep their romances strictly PG or PG-13 and will write stories full of sweet moments that don’t progress any further than a few kisses.

However, many other romance authors like to turn the spice level much higher and can become graphic in their descriptions of the relationship between the romantic leads.

If you want to avoid books like this, I would recommend looking at some of the reviews.

It is usually difficult to tell from a cover or synopsis how spicy a book will be but previous readers will note how intense the passion is. This is especially the case in negative reviews!

Final Thoughts

In this article, I listed the 16 best historical romance novels that you must read.

Many of the books on this list are my personal favorites and I tried to pick as wide a variety of novels as possible.

There are many standalone novels on this list such as Bluebird and Last Christmas in Paris but just as many that are part of longer series, such as Devil’s Bride, which is the first of 15 books.

You will also find a wide range of different time periods represented in these novels.

Although Regency England is a very popular time for historical romance thanks to the success of books such as The Duke and I, there are also stories set in such diverse periods as World War I and even on the Oregon Trail.

Despite all the different time periods, every book on this list shares one feature as they all have a fascinating and exciting romance at their heart.

Before you make any purchases, however, I would recommend checking out some reviews to ensure that the book you choose isn’t spicier than you are comfortable with.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about historical romance novels.

How Historically Accurate Are Historical Romance Novels?

All authors of historical romance do copious amounts of research to ensure that their setting is correct but as the books are fictional, events and characters can be changed to fit the plot.

Expect a relatively accurate account in most cases but not one that is the quality of a history textbook or should be relied on.

How Long Does It Take to Read a Historical Romance Novel?

The average reader takes around three hours to read 100 pages, although this can vary greatly depending on how quickly you read and how difficult the text is.

Many historical novels can be completed in around 10 hours but others can take much longer.

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Anna Davis