Contemporary romance is great in its own right, but there’s just something about a historical romance that makes us yearn for a time of rules and restrictions that were made to be broken. We’re talking longing looks from across the ballroom, scandalous late night meet-ups, and throwing all sense of propriety out the window.
From transporting readers back in time and nailing societal norms to writing tantalizing love scenes, these nine authors do it best. And though you might just think of Jane Austen-style Regency romances when you hear “historical,” there’s so much more to the genre! Including Western, Civil War, Victorian—in addition to Regency—romances, there’s something for everyone on this list. Who’s your favorite historical romance author? Let us know in the comments!
Marry Me by Sundown
With over 50 historical romance books to her name, author Johanna Lindsey is an incredibly popular bestselling author. Known for her 12-book Malory-Anderson Family series, the author recently expanded her Callahan-Warren series (also known as the Montana series) with Marry Me by Sundown.
The series currently features three standalone books that each follow intertwined characters, usually a Callahan brother. Marry Me by Sundown is no exception, and centers on Morgan Callahan—who left his family’s cattle ranch to make it on his own as a miner—and Violet Mitchell, a London socialite who returns to America to help her struggling family. Though these two are initially at odds, Morgan soon finds that this “thorn in his side” may actually be the woman of his dreams.
Lindsey wrote her first book, Captive Bride, in 1977, and shows no signs of stopping. From her Regency novels to those set in Medieval England, we hope this author continues to provide us with addicting romance reads.
Though she doesn’t publish books as frequently as most romance authors, Kinsale has been publishing her work since her first novel in 1987, titled Uncertain Magic. Holding a Master of Science in Geology from the University of Texas at Austin, she previously worked in the petroleum industry before being published. The author is the winner of two RITA Award, which are presented by the RWA (Romance Writers of America). She won the 1991 Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements for The Prince of Midnight, and the 2005 Long Historical Romance award for Shadowheart.
Her debut work, Uncertain Magic, is a fantasy romance novel set during the Regency Era. Roddy Delamore is gifted, or cursed—as she sees it, with the ability to read minds. How can she ever expect to find a husband when she’s privy to all her suitors’ deplorable thoughts? But when Lord Faelan Savigar comes along, and she can’t read his mind, Roddy jumps at the opportunity to marry him. Confused by her proposal, what with his bad reputation, he soon comes to give her his heart in this delightful romance.
The Reluctant Highlander
With a Master’s in History, it’s no surprise that Amanda Scott does her research when writing her beloved Scottish romance. Before she took the plunge into writing historical romance sagas, she published Omaha City Architecture—a coffee-table book. Her first romance book, The Fugitive Heiress, was published in 1981, and since then she’s written over 60 novels—mostly historical, and many of them Scottish romance.
Her latest book, The Reluctant Highlander—which has a sequel, The Kissing Stone, to be published at the end of this month—tells the story of Lady Fiona Ormiston, who at first resists her husband-to-be, the rugged Sir Adham MacFinlagh, before realizing how passionate he really is. But with his family secretly an enemy of the king, Adham will have to decide whether he’s loyal to the wife he’s fallen madly in love with or with his allegiance to bring down the crown.
Come the Morning
Author Heather Graham, who sometimes writes under the pen name Shannon Drake, is one of the most well known figures in the romance community. Writing both contemporary and historical romance novels, Graham has published over 150 novels and novellas. After the birth of her daughter, the author quit her job working at a dinner theater and instead wrote romance and horror stories in her spare time. In 1982, her hard work paid off and she sold her first romance novel: When Next We Love.
In the years since, Graham has written everything from holiday romance stories to romantic suspense—winning a Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA in 2003. The first book in her Graham Clan series, Come the Morning, introduces us to Waryk de Graham—who defeated the Normans as a boy and has been the Scottish king’s charge ever since. Ten years late, King David arranges a marriage between Waryk and Lady Mellyora MacAdin of Blue Isle. But neither one of them are amenable to the forced nuptials, as both have other lovers they’d rather marry. First published in 1999, this book is just the first in an addictive 7-book series.
Small wrote over 50 fantasy, historical, and erotic romance novels in her lifetime. Though the author passed away in 2007, her legacy as a great romance author has lived on. Some of Small’s most famous series include The O’Malley Saga and Skye’s Legacy, and she was also the recipient of numerous awards from Romantic Times.
In Darling Jasmine, the first book in the Skye’s Legacy series, we meet Jasmine—a woman who has already been forced into marriage twice. And when the king demands a third arranged marriage—this time, to Jemmie Leslie (the fifth earl of Glenkirk)—she flees to France with her husband. Enraging the court, Jemmie sets off to find her. But what they don’t realize is that he’s the man that Jasmine secretly desires…and it’s going to take more than a night of passion to tie her down in this romance set in 17th-century Europe.
The Duke and I
Author Julia Quinn didn’t always know she wanted to be an author. After attending Yale University for her undergraduate studies, Quinn decided she wanted to become a doctor and spent two additional years taking the required science courses in order to enroll in medical school. During that time, she began writing historical romance novels as an escape from studying—publishing three books by the time she started medical school. The rest is history, as the author decided to pursue her career as an author instead of a doctor.
Her wildly popular Bridgerton Family Series consists of nine novels, with each book focusing one of the eight Bridgerton siblings. The ninth and final novel in the series serves as a “Second Epilogue” to each of the stories—telling readers what happened after each of the novels. The first book in the series, The Duke and I, follows Daphne Bridgerton. Rumor has it the very eligible duke Simon Basset is about to propose to her…but it’s really all a sham to get society mothers hoping to marry off their daughters at bay. But as Daphne twirls around ballroom after ballroom with the handsome Simon, something begins to change…and she just might be willing to make their fake arrangement very real.
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
A popular Regency romance author, MacLean was a literary agent before publishing her first novel in 2009. That book was her one and only young adult romance book, The Season, which took place as young girls navigate their first season out in society—hoping to find a good marriage.
Since then, MacLean has focused on adult historical romances, including Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. The book is the first in her Love by Numbers series, and follows a Lady looking for a more exciting life. Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules…and it’s left her bored and unmarried. Hoping to shake things up, she enlists a partner—the wickedly handsome Marquees Gabriel St. John. But if she’s not careful, she’ll break the most important rule of all: Don’t fall in love.
Wilde in Love
If you’re a fan of historical romance, then Eloisa James needs no introduction. The Fordham professor is the author of numerous bestselling Regency and Georgian romance novels. Though her first three books, the Pleasures Trilogy, were published in hardcover starting in 1999, she soon switched publishers so that her books could be published in mass market paperback.
Still publishing books today, the third book in her The Wildes of Lindow Castle, Born to Be Wilde, is being released later this month. The first book in the series, Wilde in Love, is set in Georgian England and follows Lord Alaric Wilde who has just returned home after years of dangerous adventures. What he doesn’t expect is the mob of screaming ladies that meets him—unaware of his reputation. He escapes to his father’s castle and encounters Miss Willa Ffynche…who wants nothing to do with him. But she soon becomes the only woman he’s ever truly wanted in his life, and she certainly isn’t going to make it easy.
An Extraordinary Union
Though Alyssa Cole writes historical, contemporary, and sci-fi/fantasy romance, her historical romance book, An Extraordinary Union, put her at the center of the genre when it was published in 2017. The first book in The Loyal League series takes place during the Civil War when a former slave Elle Burns trades her freedom to return to the South as spy for the Union. At the same time, Malcolm McCall is a detective for Pinkerton’s Secret Service—risking his life infiltrate Rebel territory. The two join forces, and start a passionate romance. Though they’ll do anything to preserve the Union, what if that means losing each other in the process?
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Featured images (from left to right): Alyssa Cole, Johanna Lindsey, and Eloisa James