The best classic historical romance novels

The Books I Picked & Why

Faro's Daughter (Regency Romances, 5)

By Georgette Heyer

Faro's Daughter (Regency Romances, 5)

Why this book?

Georgette Heyer is the queen of Regency romance. My mother gave me my first Heyer when I was about eight and I’ve loved her work ever since. Witty, beautifully written, romantic, glamorous, her books were the perfect introduction to historical romance. I’m currently in the middle of my fifth re-read of all her books and this time 'round, I think my favorite is Faro’s Daughter. This pairs the very rude and unromantic (but irresistible!) Max Ravenscar with clever, independent Deborah Grantham, a well-bred lady brought low by financial trouble who now runs her aunt’s gambling house. When Max sets out to rescue his beef-witted cousin from Deb’s clutches, the stage is set for a clash of titanic proportions. This book sparkles like good champagne, and it always makes me laugh.  


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Lord of Scoundrels

By Loretta Chase

Lord of Scoundrels

Why this book?

Lord of Scoundrels regularly tops polls for the best romance ever written. I can see why – it’s got everything you want in a historical romance. It’s witty, sexy, and romantic, and it also tugs on the emotions. It’s one of those books where you laugh often, but you may also surprise yourself by shedding the occasional tear. One of my favorite tropes in historical romance is the marriage of convenience – divorce was almost impossible before the modern era, so when people married, they tended to stay that way. The marriage in Lord of Scoundrels is cobbled together out of scandal, although it’s perfectly clear that the big, bad Marquess of Dain and feisty Jessica Trent are made for each other. The fun for the reader is watching as Dain and Jessica eventually reach the same conclusion! 


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The Proposition

By Judith Ivory

The Proposition

Why this book?

Judith Ivory has one of the most distinctive voices in historical romance. I wish she was still releasing new work! The Proposition is a fun take on My Fair Lady, where Henry Higgins is a down-on-her-luck duke’s daughter and Eliza Dolittle is a charming rat catcher. Yes, you heard that right. We’re a long way from the usual historical romance fare of dukes and rakes. Not only that, Mick Tremore, the rat catcher in question, has the most wonderful dog Win who threatens to steal the show every time she’s on the page. Charming, clever, witty and full of delicious sexual tension, this is a compelling read – and it has a serious message about how often the greatest barriers to our dreams are those our minds place on us. 


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A Countess Below Stairs

By Eva Ibbotson

A Countess Below Stairs

Why this book?

This is my favorite comfort read, the perfect book for days when life has too many sharp corners. I must have read this one at least twenty times. It has all the virtues of a classic fairytale: a pure-hearted, brave heroine; an honorable, steadfast hero; and a happy ending earned through suffering and effort and against all the odds. It tells the story of Countess Anna Grazinsky, a young refugee from the Russian Revolution, who finds work as a maid at a stately home in the English countryside, where she falls in love with the gallant war hero who owns the house. But the Earl of Westholme is promised to another woman. Heartwarming, triumphantly romantic, wise, and funny, A Countess Below Stairs is one of those rare books that makes the world seem a better place.  


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Flowers from the Storm

By Laura Kinsale

Flowers from the Storm

Why this book?

Laura Kinsale is another magnificently individual voice, and her unusual, complex, emotional stories are among the best in the genre. Flowers from the Storm is probably her masterpiece. I’m in awe of how she brings off this heartrending story of a humble Quaker girl and a duke. Maddy’s religious conviction is woven into her personality in a way that’s true to the time but rarely explored in romantic fiction. Even more unusual, while rakish dukes are a staple of the genre, rakish dukes who suffer a stroke and end up in a madhouse are less common! What lifts this Cinderella story above most entries in the category is how true to life it is, how the characters genuinely suffer to achieve their happy ending, and how Kinsale leaves her characters no easy choices. 


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