The Best Historical Romance Novels You Have to Read

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One of my favourite romance genres is historical romance. So, I want to recommend some of the best historical romance novels I have read. The ones that have me head over heels for the genre. I’ve written a load of lists where I talk about the best historical romance books within a certain trope or set in a specific time period. But this time I am taking all those filters away and focusing on the historical romance books that transcend trends and time and have made a permanent home in my heart.

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What do you mean best historical romance novels?

These historical romance books are, in my opinion, the best. But, naming something as the best, or a favourite can be fairly subjective. So, I thought I would define exactly why I think these titles are the best historical romance novels. For the books to get on my list I made sure that:

  • I rated it 5 stars when I read it
  • It transcended time and fads, by which I mean I have reread the book and loved it just as much the second, third, fourth time
  • They had that special *something* that’s hard to define. The characters speak to me, the romance seems inevitable and the pacing, plot and other elements were superb

Not sure what makes a book a historical romance novel rather than part of another genre, for example, steampunk or a mystery? Take a look at our Historical Romance Genre Guide. We go into the definition, exceptions, tropes and characters you’re likely to find.

Lets get to it: The best historical romance novels

Okay, so maybe I cheated a little bit. Some of the entries on this list aren’t singular books, but rather a series. What can I say? Sometimes my love of these historical romance novels can’t be contained within a singular title and instead explodes out and covers the entire series. However, if I do have a favourite in a series, I will let you know which book it is.

secrets-of-a-summer-night-by-lisa-kleypas-best historical romance novels
Book 1

The Wallflower series
by Lisa Kleypas

READ THIS series IF YOU WANT…

female friendship | witty banter | rakes and wallflowers

To say I love Lisa Kleypas is a massive understatement. I could have populated this list with her books alone. However, I have restrained myself to just two entries. The Wallflowers series focuses on a group of four very different ladies, who begin the series as wallflowers. But, sick of lining the walls of ballroom all over London, they develop a close friendship and help each other through the trials, tribulations and absurdities of husband hunting.

It’s hard to talk about why I love this series, not because there isn’t a lot to say, but because there is too much. In my head it’s a chorus that ends up just screaming: I LOVE IT. But, if I examine that chorus, I can conclude that it’s Kleypas’ mixture of excellent writing, the way she develops not only the romantic relationships but also the friendships in the series and her flawlessly penned characters. It all comes together to create books that expertly play on your emotions whilst being funny and masterfully building up the sexual tension.

We have done a fantasy cast and series guide for the Wallflowers series, what do you think?

The Wallflowers series by Lisa Kleypas reading order:

the-raven-prince-by-elizabeth-hoyt-best historical romance novels
BOOK 1

The Raven Prince
by Elizabeth Hoyt

Series: Princes Trilogy #1

READ THIS book IF YOU WANT…

ugly hero | class disparity | love in the workplace | freinds to lovers romance

Elizabeth Hoyt is another fantastic historical romance author. Her books tend to be a little darker, with a slightly gothic vibe. The Raven Prince is one of my favourite books by her, and certainly the one I have reread the most.

The reason I come back to this book again and again is because I love the characters and the way the romance builds up. Edward isn’t your typical hero, he’s ugly and bad tempered and Anne is plain and impoverished, but stubborn and resourceful. They make a compelling pair as they start to see past each other’s exterior and develop and deep and abiding connection. It’s delicious. And sexy as well. Also, if you like a hero with a hairy chest…Edward is your man.

The princes trilogy by elizabeth hoyt reading order:

Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie-byjennifer-ashley-best historical romance novels

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie
by Jennifer Ashley

Series: Mackenzies and McBrides #1

READ THIS book IF YOU WANT…

neurodivergent hero | murder mystery | scottish hero | heroine is a widow

I adore this whole series, but this book is definitely my favourite. Although The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie never makes any diagnosis it seems likely that Ian is on the autistic spectrum. He feels sensations acutely, has difficulty with eye contact and finds emotions difficult. This makes him a unique character who is unabashedly honest and has had the horror of experiencing the 1800s version of mental health treatment: an asylum where he was subjected to barbaric treatments.

But, it isn’t just Ian who makes this book a regular on my reread list, but Beth, our heroine as well. Beth’s humour and practical nature as well as her empathy, make it easy to fall in love with her. Beth and Ian’s delicious chemistry make this a sexy read as well as an emotional one. To add a cherry on top of the sundae, it also has some compelling family dynamics between Ian and his brothers that will have you reaching for the next book as soon as you finish this one.  

The mackenzies and mcbridges series by jennifer ashley reading order:

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nine-rules-to-break-when-romancing-a-rake-sarah-maclean-best historical romance novels
BOOK 1

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
by Sarah Maclean

Series: Love by Numbers #1

READ THIS book IF YOU WANT…

fat heroine | wallflower and rake | romantic comedy | older heroine

How often do you write a to do list…then actually do it? If you’re like me, then never. I write the list then immediately ignore it. For Lady Callie Hartwell, our wallflower heroine she writes a list of all the things she wants to do but can’t. Like going to a gentleman’s club, having a drink at a pub, smoking a cheroot…having her first kiss. She doesn’t think she’ll do them. Yet, somehow in the dead of the night Callie finds herself at the door of her long-time unrequited crush and infamous rake the Marquess of Ralston and demands that he kiss her.

I love this one for laughs. Okay, so I like it for more than that, but the laughs definitely factor in. What has always made me love this book is that Callie is the star of the show. Usually, I love a book where I am swooning over the gorgeous hero, but in this book, I am swooning for Callie. She dares to step outside the boundaries set by society and herself and claim the life she wants. Swoooon

The love by numbers series by sarah maclean reading order:

eyes-of-silver-eyes-of-gold-by-ellen-oconnell-best historical romance novels

Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold
by Ellen O’Connell

Available on Kindle Unlimited

READ THIS book IF YOU WANT…

native american hero | marriage of convenience | friends to lovers romance | Stoic hero

Welcome to the wild wild west. Most of my books are set in the UK, but I do love a Western romance. Johanna Lindsey’s and Wyoming series introduced me to it and I haven’t looked back. Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell is my favourite Western historical romance. We have Cord, our Native American hero and Annie, our white heroine. They are forced into marriage after they were both violently assaulted by bigots from their small town.

From that awful event, these two relative strangers start building a relationship. This is a slow burn, friends to lovers story where the hero and heroine face the odds and obstacles together as a team and find a deep abiding love. It’s a lovely story that I come back to time and time again.

Dreaming of You-by-lisa-kleypas-best historical romance novels
BOOK 2

Dreaming of You
by Lisa Kleypas

Series: The Gamblers of Craven’s #2

READ THIS book IF YOU WANT…

spinster heroine | self made man | writer heroine | tortured hero

Why do I love this book? Derek Craven. An icon in the historical romance genre. Born in the London gutters, now the owner of the best and most exclusive gaming hell in London. He’s rough round the edges, ruthless and felled by a bespectacled spinster from the country. This whole book is delicious, full of intense emotion, sexual tension and a pinch of humour.

It’s the perfect book. If you are going to read a singular book from this list, pick this one.

The Wallflowers series by Lisa Kleypas reading order:

A Night to Surrender-by-tessa-dare-best historical romance novels

Spindle Cover series
by Tessa Dare

READ THIS series IF YOU WANT…

witty banter | wallflowers | smart heroines

It’s time to recommend another series. I tried really hard to narrow it down to my favourite, but it was too hard! This series contains a number of books featuring my favourite tropes, if you’re in the mood for a charming, sunshine hero paired with a bookish, sharp-witted heroine, you have to try A Week to be Wicked. Or, if you want a class disparity then give Beauty and the Blacksmith or Any Duchess Will Do a try. Meanwhile if you’re a fan of a silent but intense hero, you can’t go wrong with A Lady by Midnight. But what all these books have in common, is their sense of fun.

Tessa Dare’s has given us a series packed with beautifully wrought characters and humour. It also has a really lovely way of talking about women’s autonomy and right to make decisions about their lives without jamming it down your throat. The whole series is brilliantly done and well worth giving a go.

The spindle cove series by tessa dare reading order:

ruthless-by-anne-stuart

The House of Rohan series
by Anne Stuart

READ THIS series IF YOU WANT…

sex club shennanigans | rakes | darker tone

If you fancy a moody and sensual historical romance, filled with wicked rakes, an infamous sex club and heroines who don’t let convention constrain them, this is the series for you.  It follows three generations of the scandalous Rohan family as they fall in love. Whenever I am in the mood for a historical romance with a slightly darker and spicy tone, this is a series I turn to.

My personal favourite of the series is the first book, Ruthless, set in France our heroine is on the edge of poverty. Then she meets Frances, Lord Rohan. A former Scottish lord exiled to France after the horrors of Culloden. Now the leader of the Heavenly Host the notorious sex club. He doesn’t believe in love and frankly after her life, neither does she. It. Is. Delicious.

The house of rohan series by anne stuart reading order:

What do you think are the best historical romance novels?

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Amy R

Thanks for the post, will be checking some of these out.

Great list. I’ve read a lot of them and also loved them.