Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Gateways Into Historical Romance


The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is top ten books I’d give to readers who’ve never read X. Thinking about how to fill the topic got me thinking about what genres are kind of new to me as a reader. One is mystery/thriller–but I’m really only reading two or three specific authors right now. The other is romance–I’m rediscovering how much I used to enjoy the crazysauce that is the bodice ripper. So these are ten books I’d give to readers who’ve never read historical romance. But only a few clearly fit in the “romance” tag, others are fantasy or literary or whatever you might want to classify them as. They are all stories where I think the romance is as important as the historical setting, though, and I think are good gateways into the genre.

134899221. Courtney Milan- The Heiress Effect Every time I get my hands on a new Courtney Milan book, I just squee and generally flail. But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be The Heiress Effect. Oliver and Jane are cute, sure, but it’s the background characters and their relationships that make it work for me. Milan’s writing is fun and sparkling, but she’s not afraid to address serious issues, and the history is as important as the romance. There’s also some serious trope dismantling going on.


2. Mary Robinette Kowal- Shades of Milk and Honey 8697507Alternate history totally counts. In the most basic sense, this book is a Jane Austen novel with magic, but it definitely rises above the potentially silly premise. Jane and Vincent’s romance is subdued, especially in this first volume of the series, because they are subdued people, but it’s fascinating to watch their relationship grow and mature. Anyone who loves Jane Austen will love this, even if you don’t think you like fantasy.





3. Erin Lindsay McCabe- I Shall Be Near to You This is a fantastic Civil War drama that explores the roles of women in the war through one courageous character. But the central romance is also really potent.



4. Elizabeth Hoyt- Notorious Pleasures 8597949 I started reading Elizabeth Hoyt because I was about to be stuck on an airplane without a book, and Duke of Midnight was literally the only thing I could find in the airport bookstore that looked remotely interesting (He’s Batman, guys. Regency romance Batman.) Anyway, I really dig her writing style and I’m currently making my way through her Maiden Lane series. I’m actually learning a lot of things I didn’t know anything about, because her characters go to some unusual places for regency romance. And so far Notorious Pleasures has been my favorite, because I just loved the characters.

130561595. Laura Moriarty- The Chaperone moving on to the 20th century, The Chaperone is a great peek into turn of the century life in the Midwest, and life in 1920s New York. The romance (or, I guess, romances) at the center are definitely unconventional, which I quite enjoyed. It gives way to sap at the end, but some people like sap.


6. Helene Wecker- The Golem and the Jinni 15819028If you haven’t read this book: YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. Just magical and wonderful and beautiful. On the historical side, it really captures the many facets of turn-of-the-century New York City. On the romance side is one of the most unexpected and heartwrenching relationships I’ve ever read.



7. Rainbow Rowell- Eleanor & Park On the one hand, it really hurts to classify a book set when I was a toddler as “historical romance”. But on the other hand: yeah, I’m an old fart, and yeah, the 80s actually were a really long time ago, so there. As good as Rainbow Rowell is at swoony romance (and she is. Reading these characters fall in love, I feel like I’m in love), she’s also really great at conveying a sense of time, through music and movies and clothes.

8. Anna Lee Huber- The Anatomist’s Wife 13542496Much, much more mystery than romance, but it’s really the romance that keeps me with this series. Currently Kiera and Gage are stuck in an endless will-they-won’t-they, which is definitely my personal catnip. There’s lots of neat insights to 19th century “forensics,” too.






9. Judith McNaught- Something Wonderful Oddly enough I can’t stand Judith McNaught, except for this book. I’ve tried a few others, and they’ve left me anywhere from ‘meh’ to ‘RAGE’. But something about this one is so dramatic and insane and ridiculous that I just love it. It’s like a template of what people think of when they think historical romance. Crossdressing heroines and random deadly danger and all kinds of insane stuff.

10. E. M. Forster- Maurce 3103Even though Maurice was written in 1913, making it roughly contemporary to the subject matter, it wasn’t published until the seventies, so I’m totally counting it as historical fiction. It’s the story of a young, average, middle-class man confronting his homosexuality, as he is torn between idealistic, platonic love and true passion with someone who is outside his class. It’s gorgeously written, and most important (and revolutionary, for the time), Maurice and Scudder get a happy ending. The movie is fantastic too, one of my all time favorites.



Filed under Book Talk

15 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Gateways Into Historical Romance

  1. Nice! I like the idea of non traditional “romance” novels as recs here to get into historical romance.

    • hlmorris85

      Thanks. For a long time I was quite snobby about romance, but then I started realizing that the romantic relationships were some of the most important/memorable parts of some of my favorite books and started giving it another chance. I think it’s a good way to approach any new genre, to start in with transitional books that you know you’ll probably enjoy rather than diving right into trope city.

  2. The only one on this list that I’ve read is The Golem and the Jinni. I picked it on a total whim and really ended up liking it! Awesome list 🙂

    Here are my Top Ten!

    • hlmorris85

      It’s definitely one of my favorite books of the past year. I feel like I don’t see it mentioned enough, so I’m glad to see you liked it too!

  3. This is an awesome list! I’ve been looking to get into Historical Romance without the goop (if that makes sense), so thanks for the list!

  4. I haven’t read any off your list – BUT – I do have the Golem book on my kindle and I keep meaning to pick up a copy of Shades of Milk and Honey.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Lynn 😀

    • hlmorris85

      Kowal’s Glamourist Histories series is one of those rare book series where every single book is better than the one that came before. I really love it.

  5. I haven’t read Shades of Milk and Honey, but it does look interesting.

  6. Interesting list. I read historical romance, but have only read a couple of the authors you have listed. Will have to try the others!

    Here is our Top Ten books for people who’ve never read horror.

  7. Well I’ll be–I would have never expected E&P to be categorized under historical fiction! (I think I’ve basically seen everyone raving over it being contemporary YA, though.) But that’s interesting…and maybe I’ve finally found an easier introduction into the whole historical fiction/romance thing!

    joey via. thoughts and afterthoughts

  8. Nice spin on the topic. I really enjoy historical romance but don’t read them that often. Courtney Milan is high on my list to try.

    • hlmorris85

      I definitely think she’s a must read. I recommend her to all my friends who don’t read romance, because I just find her books so much fun.

  9. Loved Elanor and Park but as an old fart I am gonna strongly resist calling it historical fiction just yet

  10. I haven’t read historical romance much and any of these books aren’t familiar to me, but I’m certainly looking into them in a near future! Actually, I’ve read very few historical books which is a shame. I should totally read them more often 🙂

    Great list, I enjoyed it 🙂

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