The Best Historical Romance Novels: 22 Steamy Picks

The best historical romance novels

Historical romance novels used to be referred to as bodice rippers and were not commonly discussed or recommended in public.

But thanks to popular shows like Bridgerton and Outlander, the genre has gained a new level of respect — and popularity!

Gone are the historical romance novels of the past that featured simmering damsels in distress. Now are heroines as clever and headstrong as their suitors.

These modern historical romance novels are likely to have a dash of feminism thrown into the steamy plot lines making them both fun and thought-provoking reads. Below, you’ll find our favorites of the bunch.

This post fulfills a prompt for the 2023 reading challenge! It’s not too late to join!

*The historical romances post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you.

The Lady Tempts an Heir and more historical romance novels.

Best Historical Romance Novels of 2023

davenports and more beach reads 2023

The Davenports by Krystal Marquis

What a fun read! I was eager to start a new Historical fiction romance series and the cover of this one drew me right to it.

The Davenports is a Gilded Age story about a successful Chicago Black family who made a name for themselves after slavery was abolished. Now the talk of the season, the three Davenport children are all looking for their spouses and trying to buck societal norms in the process!

Be warned! This YA historical romance book ends on a cliffhanger and the book is perfect for our list of beach reads 2023.

ana maria and the

Ana María and the Fox by Liana De La Rosa

Ana María and her sisters have been sent to London to hide from the conflicts in Mexico. As she tries to adjust to London’s high society, she finds herself enamored with a no-nonsense politician.

Gideon and Ana María’s love story was a breath of fresh air. Typically regency romances don’t address the diverse members of the ton. Witnessing Ana María’s struggles to fit in made me realize how much depth many historical romances set in this time period lack.

It is possible to have a searing love story set in a romanticized time period while still addressing the social issues of the day. I’m looking forward to the rest of the Luna sisters’ love stories.

Best Historical Romance Novels of 2022

To Marry and To Meddle and more historical romance novels.

To Marry and To Meddle by Martha Waters

Lady Emily and Lord Julian have come to an arrangement. He needs a wife to help his theater appear more legitimate in the eyes of society, she needs to escape the strain of living under her parent’s thumb.

So they decided on a quick wedding whilst staying with friends in the country. But when they get back to London, Julian realizes he might not want the perfect wife and Emily might just want to explore her freedom by finding her backbone.

Adorable and charming, this historical romance novel is perfect for our books like Bridgerton book list.

The Lady Tempts and Heir  and more February 2022 Novel Ideas

The Lady Tempts an Heir by Harper St. George

The third book in the historical romance series that is giving me the gilded age book vibes I’ve been craving since watching the new HBO series.

Max, the heir to the Crenshaw fortune, is being forced to marry or risk his sister’s newest project. He decided to enter into a fake engagement with Lady Helena that turns into a lust-fueled relationship.

I loved the push-and-pull of their hearts and heads. We know where this historical romance novel is ending, but the journey was oh-so-good.

Always Be My Duchess by Amalie Howard

Always Be My Duchess by Amalie Howard

I have a thing for historical romance books like Bridgerton, so I knew I had to read the first in the Taming the Dukes series that Amalie Howard wrote.

Lord Blackstone needs a faux-fiance to secure a land deal, and he stumbles upon the perfect partner in out-of-work ballerina, Geneviève. We all know what happens in faux-dating romances, and yet, it’s still satisfying when the couple falls in love EVERY TIME.

I’m looking forward to the next one in this series and is a perfect pick for our ultimate list of beach reads 2023!

Best Historical Romance Books to Watch on Screen

Duke and I

The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1) by Julia Quinn

I watched the show and LOVED it so much. I previously read some of the others in the series but I really wanted to read this first book in the Bridgerton book series and I have to say, it was my favorite.

There is something about Daphne and Simon that I adore. This book is a perfect historical romance. The Netflix book adaption smashed records and caused a boom in book sales.

Daphne Bridgerton is the fourth of eight children and is beginning her first season in the ton. As young women of marrying age search for a husband, Daphne is not quite like other girls.

When the eligible Simon Bassett suggests they begin fake dating to allow them both a chance to breathe. However, things do not always go as planned. To make matters more complicated, Lady Whistledown always seems to know the truth and the information ready for everyone to read. This is one of our fake dating books of all time.

Are you a fan of Bridgerton? We’ve got a list of books like Bridgerton you will love! And if you love romance books, we have Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton Books in Order: Complete Guide to 20 Books.

outlander

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

How do we love Outlander? We cannot count the ways.

This epic story begins in 1945 when Claire Randall and her husband take a second honeymoon to the Scottish Highlands to celebrate being reunited after the war. When Claire touches one of the standing stones, she is transported to 1743.

This is when the real story begins. In order to stay safe as an English women in Scotland, she must depend on Jamie Frasier for protection. Amazing history, magical realism, romance and witches overflow in this iconic epic saga.

If you like historical romance books like this, we’ve got an entire list of books like Outlander for you to enjoy!

Historical Romances Set During War

bronze Horseman

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

This epic love story can almost rival that of Jamie and Claire in Outlander. This saga takes place over decades and all over the world. This is an epic love story that begins in Leningrad during WWII.

Tatiana Metanova meets Alexander, an officer of the Red Army. Amid the terror of the war, the two fall in love, but Alexander is keeping a secret that can devastate them all.

This is a fantastic story from a historical fiction perspective because of the attention to detail. I learned a lot about everyday life in that era. Like Outlander, it’s a whopping 1000 pages but I couldn’t stop!

Find this book in Historical Romance / Books About WWII / Books Like Outlander / Cozy Books / Books with Colors in the Title

The Last Christmas in Paris and more historical romance novels.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Written entirely in letter form between two friends during WWI, you will fall in love with the characters as they fall for each other.

Evie is struggling to find a way to help out during WWI, while Thomas, her brother’s best friend, is struggling with the realities of battle.

This historical romance book also made our list of books for fans of Downton Abbey.

THe lovely war and more greek mythology retellings

Lovely War by Julie Berryir?source=bk&t=beyondth06 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=3d6ee39d2b5d0e26bc7f578d95ac9cb4& cb=1601478566491

This book’s premise had me a little skeptical, Greek Gods telling a love story set in WWI? I didn’t think it was up my alley. I must have had it recommended to me almost a dozen times now, and now I’m the one recommending this young adult fantasy novel.

It was two, sort of three, love stories in one historical romance book, but it touched on racism, PTSD, and the sacrifices of war. It was so well handled that I was sad to see it end.

Steamy Historical Romance Novels Set in Scotland

an english bride in scotland

An English Bride in Scotland by Lynsay Sands

The arranged marriage of the English lass to the Clan chieftain in this romance novel was very reminiscent of Claire and Jamie’s wedding….and wedding night.

This is a steamy rom-com book set in Scotland that focuses on the newlyweds finding how their relationship will mesh while navigating the terrifying person hellbent on hurting them.

When A Scot Ties the Knot

When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare

This historical romance is equal parts sexy and funny. A London heiress invents a Scottish betrothed to get her out of social obligations.

She writes to her intended, Captain MacKenzie, but when a real-life man comes to her home, letters in hand, things get interesting. This is one of a few romance novels set in Scotland from our list and we love it.

My ladys choosing

My Lady’s Choosing: an Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

What is so great about this book is that it can go anywhere you want it to. Choose your adventure…and choose your own man. It’s exactly like those books we all loved as children, except with VERY adult content.😉

You can pick as many or as few stories as you want. Personally, I found my happy ending with a Scottish man who was clearly modeled after Jamie Frasier! This is a perfect pick for books like Briderton as well as books like Outlander. If you are looking for steamy romance novels set in Scotland, this is your pick.

Love the books on this part of the list? Look for more Romances set in Scotland here.

Bringing Down the Duke and more historical romance novels.

Historical Romance Series

Devils Bride

Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens

Much like the many Bridgerton siblings, Stephanie Laurens’ Cynster series is a set of historical romances about a large brood of Cynster siblings. Each book is about the love story of a different sibling.

The first one is my favorite in the series as Devil has to woo Honoria after being found in a compromising position with her. If I recall, it involved hunkering down in a wooden shack during a storm where a couple out for a stroll found them the next day.

They need to marry, but Honoria wants none of that. Devil proceeds to attempt to convince her in some with some moves that live up to his name. These books like Bridgerton have the same feel, but with a different set of siblings.

Romancing the Duke

Romancing The Duke by Tessa Dare

Tessa Dare’s stories are some of my favorite historical romances. She always finds ways to inject humor into her books. This particular book is the first in a series in which a man dies and leaves a castle to each of our heroines, who are known spinsters.

In this story, Izzy wants to be a writer so retreats to her castle to write her novels. Meanwhile, Ransom shows up at the castle he still believes is rightfully his. Hilarity and romance ensue. I loved this grumpy sunshine romance novel based on Beauty and the Beast and it is another perfect pick for books like Bridgerton.

to have and to

To Have and To Hoax by Martha Waters

If you loved the Bridgerton book series then you will love this book. Lady Violet Grey and her husband Lord James Audrey fell in love and got married in a whirlwind romance.

Five years later, they barely speak because of “the Argument”. ⁣ When Lady Grey receives a letter that says her husband is unconscious after being thrown from a horse, she rushes to his side only to find him awake and drinking in a tavern. She decides to teach him a lesson. This is one of the best romantic comedy books I have read. ⁣

The story is a quick-moving battle of wills that will have you simultaneously rooting for them and wanting to smack some sense into them. Will they get their second chance at love? ⁣This is a rom-com book at its finest. It’s perfect for fans of Jane Austen and will not disappoint.

Historical Romance Novels with Feminist Heroines

The Heiress Gets a Duke 1

The Heiress Gets a Duke by Harper St. George

Like most of the rest of the world, I binged Netflix’s Bridgertons on Christmas Day. The regency romantic drama ended and I needed more! I immediately turned to this book to fill my need for a historical romance. It takes place in the Gilded Age when a Duke needs to marry an American heiress to get her dowry to help restore his estates to their former glory.

Are you a fan of The Gilded Age? Check out this post of books just like it!

The Heiress's Guide to Deception and Desire and more historical romance novels.

An Heiress’s Guide to Deception and Desire by Manda Collins

While this story was billed as historical fiction, it’s also a romance and a mystery! Viscount Valentine Wrackham and Caroline Hardcastle were once secretly betrothed and now can’t stand each other.

But when Caro’s friend is kidnapped and Val’s cousin is implicated in the crime, they must work together to find the real culprit and try not to catch feelings.

It was a well-done mystery, the social commentary on women’s rights was excellent, but the romance was duller than dishwater.

Bringing Down the Duke 1

Author: Evie Dunmore

Year: 2019

Genre: Political Romance

More info: Book 1 of 4 from A League of Extraordinary Women

Spice Rating:💋💋💋

Age Range: 18+

Evie Dunmore’s debut novel spanned a series of badass women during the Suffragette era. While the story is a romance, don’t let that fool you! You’ll get a history lesson on the suffrage movement in English History as well as a lesson on Estate and Inheritance laws — which were still of utmost importance a few decades later when Downton Abbey takes place.

Annabelle Archer has the scholarship to be one of the first women to study at Oxford. In order to keep it, she must spy on the Duke of Montgomery and try to persuade him to the suffragette’s cause.

The chemistry between these two crackled off the page in this romance. If books are up your alley, this book is perfect for you. I loved Dunmore’s portrayal of strong women who stuck to their guns.

Find this book in: Enemies-to-Lovers Books / Books Like The Love Hypothesis / Historical Romance Novels / Books like Bridgerton / Fiction Books About Women in Politics

A Knight in Shining Armor

A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux

This setup of this time travel romance is the same as Outlander but in reverse! In the first part of the book, Douglass accidentally summons an Earl from the 16th century to modern England!

Dougless vowels to help return Nicholas to his own time, but not before trying to help him figure out who framed him for treason in his own era. But when he’s sent back and nothing changes, Dougless needs to head back to his time and try to save his life.

The attention to detail in the 16th century was reminiscent of Diana Gabaldon’s work. It’s a total must-read for fans of Jamie and Claire’s love story. You can find this one on our list of Time Travel Romance Books as well as 29 Books like Outlander for Fans of the Hit Series.

A love story that spans time is an easy pick for the best romance novels of all time

ther wisteria Society

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

A fantasy historical romance about pirate assassins with magical powers? SIGN ME UP!

I gravitated toward this story because of the gorgeous cover, but I was hooked from the first page. I loved all the women in The Wisteria Society. I loved how they could fly around their homes like ships, how they stole and plundered with abandon, and how they did it all while making sure they were the picture of polite womanhood.

The love story was charming, but it was the antics of Cecilia and her quest to save her fellow society members that kept me turning the pages. This cozy book has a little bit of everything. We recommend this book to anyone who loves The Princess Bride.

Sweet, Not Steamy Historical Romance Novels

davenports and more beach reads 2023

The Davenports by Krystal Marquis

What a fun read! I was eager to start a new Historical fiction romance series and the cover of this one drew me right to it.

The Davenports is a Gilded Age story about a successful Chicago Black family who made a name for themselves after slavery was abolished. Now the talk of the season, the three Davenport children are all looking for their spouses and trying to buck societal norms in the process!

Be warned! This YA historical romance book ends on a cliffhanger and the book is perfect for our list of beach reads 2023.

before the crown

Before the Crown by Flora Harding

After all the royal reads I’ve read over the years, I can’t believe this is my first story about The Queen’s romance with Prince Philip. With the Jubilee coming up now in England, this was a perfect fictionalized biography to read!

I was wondering about how Philip won the heart of then Princess Elizabeth, and this fictional story filled in some fun details. Think of it as a prequel to the first episode of The Crown in the best way!

Every royal-obsessed person needs to add this pick from Books about Queen Elizabeth II to their TBR list and check out our list of books like the crown!

the rose garden

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

I read this book set in Cornwall in only a few days because I loved it so much.  This is another book that I read this month that is the perfect pick for books like Outlander.

After Eva’s sister dies, she heads back to Cornwall England to find peace and rest.  What she discovers is more than she expects when she finds herself inexplicably back in time.  As her heart begins to feel again, can she find a way to heal her broken heart and find love? This is a wonderful time travel romance book that you will want to read again and again.

bluebird

Bluebird by Genevieve Graham

Taking place first in the hospital tent of the great war and then in Canada during prohibition, this historical fiction story was totally captivating!

The love story between Jerry and Adele during prohibition and the search for the truth of their story and their descendant in the present provided the perfect balance of mystery and romance.

Why We Liked It: I loved learning about the rum runners during prohibition in Canada. It was a part of history I’d never considered before.

Find this book in WWI Books / Jazz Age Novels / Historical Romance Novels

Did you find any historical romance novels to add to your to-read list?

Love Romances? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List Best Romance Books– carefully divided trope.

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