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!
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Best Historical Romance Novels of 2022 (so far)
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 third book in the gilded age series 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 story is ending, but the journey was oh-so-good.
I have a thing for 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!
Best Historical Romances to Watch on Screen
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 and I have to say that it was my favorite. There is something about Daphne and Simon that I adore. This book is a perfect historical romance.
Are you a fan of Bridgerton? We’ve got a list of books like Bridgerton you will love!
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.
We’ve got an entire list of books like Outlander for you to enjoy!
Historical Romances Set During War
This epic love story can almost rival that of Jamie and Claire. This saga takes place over decades and all over the world. An epic love story set in WW2 Leningrad.
It was a fantastic story from a historical fiction perspective because I really learned a lot about everyday life in that era. Like Outlander, it’s a whopping 1000 pages but I couldn’t stop! This is one of the best books about WWII for romance fans.
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 book also made our list of books for fans of Downton Abbey.
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 it.
It was two, sort of three, love stories in one 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
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 love story that focuses on the newlyweds finding how their relationship will mesh, while navigating the terrifying person hellbent on hurting them.
This historical romance is equally parts sexy and funny. A london heiress invents a Scottish betrothed to get her out of social obligations.
She writes to her intended, one Captain MacKenzie, but when a real-life man comes to her home, letters in hand, things get interesting.
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 that you want. Personally, I found my happy ending with a Scottish man who was clearly modeled after Jamie Frasier!
Love the books on this part of the list? Look for more Romances set in Scotland here.
Historical Romance Series
Much like the many Bridgerton siblings, Stephanie Laurens’ Cynster series is all 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 are like Bridgerton with a different set of siblings.
Tessa Dare’s stories are some of my favorite 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 to the castle he still believes is rightfully his. Hilarity and romance ensue. I loved this romance novel based on Beauty and the Beast.
I loved this hilarious read. 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.
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. It’s perfect for fans of Jane Austen.
Historical Romance Novels with Feminist Heroines
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 fiction 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.
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.
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 enemies-to-lovers books are up your alley, this book is perfect for you and it is perfect for a list of books like The Love hypothesis.
This set-up is the same as Outlander but in reverse! In the first part of the book, Dougless 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 7 Tantalizing 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
A historical fantasy 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.
Sweet, Not Steamy Historical Romance Novels
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 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 one to their TBR list and check out our list of books like the crown!
I read this book in only a few days because I loved it so much. This is another book that I read this month that is perfect for fans of 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?
Taking place first in the hospital tent of the great war and then in Canada during prohibition, this historical fiction story was totally captivating!
I loved learning about the rum-runners during prohibition in Canada. It was a part of history I’d never considered before. Additionally, 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.