Red ornaments on display in an open-air Christmas market in Germany.

10 Great Historical Romances to Gift Your Favorite Reader

This is the season for holiday shopping, and I have compiled a list of 10 wonderful historical romances to gift your favorite reader this year. Some are classics, some are brand new, a couple are seasonal, most are not. The key is they are all good reads, with a little something for everyone.

So, without further ado, here are some nifty shopping tips for your favorite reader. And if you are your own favorite reader, shop to your heart’s content. Your secret is safe with me!

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

An obvious classic. Whether your favorite reader has binged the show on TV or not, this is a great book. Even better, it is the first in a great series. It is a long one, so it’s perfect for long winter days when the weather outside makes hot chocolate and book far more appealing than…anything else, really. The super-brief overview: she is an English World War II nurse who was transported back in time when visiting a circle of standing stones (think a Stonehenge-type structure) in Scotland. He is an 18th century Scott, living in a clan that is not his own. Both are outsiders, neither quite understands the other, but oh my, it is gripping the entire way. Complex characters and high action and adventure. For folks who think they don’t like romance, but love historical adventure – you will love this one. And for romance readers – oh yes. Very much yes.

Into the Wilderness, by Sara Donati

This is another classic, and one that Diana Gabaldon apparently found inspirational as she wrote Outlander. Into the Wilderness takes place in my favorite historical stomping grounds of northeast colonial America. I first read it as an audio book while I was training for a marathon. It was so exciting that I kept finding myself running faster than I was supposed to (which for me is still objectively slow), especially when the characters were running for their lives or fighting bad-guys. The story: she is a recent arrival from England who doesn’t like to play by rules she doesn’t agree with. He is an American who has been living with the Mohawk and is suspicious of most settlers. Think of this as being like Last of the Mohicans if the book were more like the Daniel Day Lewis version of the movie. Again, complex characters and high action and adventure. And again, a great book for both romance lovers and lovers of historical adventure. Oh, and again the first in a series!

The Heiress Hunt, by Joanna Shupe

I love Joanna Shupe’s books because they are 1) very good, and 2) take place in Gilded Age New York City, which is not a run-of-the-mill setting for historical romances. It is, however, a perfect setting for glitz and glamour, and of course, romance. This one is the first in Shupe’s Fifth Avenue Rebels series, so there is more yumminess to come after this one. Quick story overview: she is a tennis player, which is a nice twist for the era, and he is a prodigal son returned home to find his late father bankrupted the family. It is a friends-to-lovers story where she has to help him find an heiress to marry. As with any story of this trope, it is how they get there that makes the story.

The Duke Who Didn’t, by Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan is probably my favorite regency author, in large part because her characters are so often not your standard regency cast. And because the stories are really good. Yeah, can’t forget that part! My inner history nerd usually balks at regencies because the history is, er, not very historical. But Milan squeezes in a lot more real history than most regency authors, giving a much more realistic view of the regency population of England, and she does the standard regency tropes with a fabulous flair. This is one of my favorites because it keeps the fun of a regency and adds the reality of a diverse cast. The heroine is a entrepreneur, and the hero is trying to enjoy her company without letting her, or the rest of the town, know who he is. Fun and refreshing.

An Extraordinary Union, by Alyssa Cole

Oh my goodness, I love this book. This is the first book I read by Cole, and I have since devoured every historical she has written. My inner romance reader and my inner history nerd are equally in love with these stories. I do love me some historical high adventure with lives on the line! This is the first of Cole’s Loyal League Civil War novels, and it is quite the introduction. Quick story set-up: she is a formerly enslaved spy, and he is a Pinkerton secret agent of Scottish background, and both find themselves spying on the same Southern plantation, and oh boy to sparks fly! I love how Cole brings in real history to create serious drama. It is easy to do that poorly, but she does it exceptionally well. Excellent story.

Come Back, by Melissa Maygrove

I found this book while looking for a historical romance that was set in early America and wasn’t a mail-order-bride western (too much of any single trope makes me itch, no matter how well done). Such stories are hard to find, so I grabbed this when I saw it. It starts on a wagon train going west to California, and has some very realistic conflict and drama. The heroine, in particular, is well-drawn and has very believable changes of fortune and understanding of her situation. I was happy to discover this author and will be reading more of her work.

Hamilton’s Battalion, by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole

I found this looking again for historical romances set in early America. The stories all revolve around Alexander Hamilton’s battalion in the Revolution. The first story, by Lerner, has a woman in disguise serving as a soldier who arrests her estranged husband as a spy in camp. Fabulous! The second is a story of two men from opposite sides in the war and their adventures, both romantic and otherwise, on the long walk home after it ends. And the third is about two women who, each in their own way, are helping the widowed Mrs. Hamilton compile a history of those who served under her husband. Juicy stories with diverse casts of characters. I loved Milan’s and Cole’s work already, but this introduced me to Lerner’s, and now I love her work too!

Devil in Our Hearts, by Lizzie Jenks

Yes, this is my own book, and it was a case of “if you can’t find the book you are looking for, then you need to write it.” So I did! It takes place on the Maine frontier in the tumult after King Philip’s War. In a time when witchcraft was a capital crime, our heroine is a healer and accused witch, and our hero is the witch hunter sworn to restore order. Together they discover a consuming passion that could tear the settlement apart and get them both killed. If you, too, love strong heroines, virgin heroes, and life-or-death stakes, then this steamy historical romance is for you! And don’t worry, the Amazon embedded preview hasn’t been updated to handle the latest ePub files, but the Kindle and Amazon sales page preview have been updated, so the formatting only looks funny in the embedded preview!

How the Dukes Stole Christmas, by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, and Joanna Shupe

This is an anthology of stories that are fun seasonal romps. They are mostly regencies, but Shupe’s is set in New York. Great for a busy season when you want to get into a holiday mood with some lighthearted romance, but don’t have time to settle in with a full-length novel. In general, I tend to like some grit and danger in my fiction, but for the holiday season, this hits the mark perfectly. It is also a great introduction if you haven’t read all of these authors so you can find a couple you like and explore their full-length novels when you have more time.

Christmas Revels, by Mary Jo Putney

This another anthology, but all five novellas are by Mary Jo Putney. Most are historicals (fun Christmas fare), and one is a lighthearted contemporary. The stories are from a broad span of Putney’s career, so you get a sampling of different periods of her writing. Again, perfect for a busy season when you want no-stress fun in a novella-length package that you can fit in between all your holiday festivities or during a post-holiday food-coma.

What historical romances would you add to this list?

I am always looking for good books to read, especially historical romances. While I tend to lean toward novels set it in early America, if it’s good, I will read it no matter where it is set or when it was written. Please add your suggestions in the comments below!

Like non-fiction about history?

Check out the Research page on my website to take a look at some wonderful non-fiction books about colonial New England Witchcraft and about the Seven Years War, which is the setting for my upcoming historical romance series.

Image by G.C. from Pixabay

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2 Comments

  1. Great picks. I’ve put Into the Wilderness on my buy list. I love early American/Wilderness settings. Have you ever read any of Cindy Holby’s books? Published several years ago. I really liked them. I love the early history of the French Quarter and working on a series set during the War of 1812, slowly and surely. LOL.

    1. Oooo, thank you for the tip, Patricia. I have not read of Cindy Holby’s work, but I will check it out. And I would love to hear more about your work set during the War of 1812. Juicy times!

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