The best historical romance books to make you wish you lived in the past (until needs for modern conveniences arises)

The Books I Picked & Why

Glory and the Lightning: A Novel of Ancient Greece

By Taylor Caldwell

Book cover of Glory and the Lightning: A Novel of Ancient Greece

Why this book?

I read this years ago; it's one of the reasons I began writing historical romance novels. It's the story of Aspasia, a woman in ancient Greece. She's educated in a selective school for courtesans, beautiful, groomed for pleasure, and bought by a Persian man who comes seeking a courtesan from this famous establishment. He takes Aspasia back to Persia. Eventually, she is freed and returns to Athens, where she meets Pericles. Inspired in part by his love of Aspasia, Pericles initiated the building of the famous Acropolis in ancient Greece. 

I was fortunate to visit Athens after reading Glory and the Lightning, and standing on the Acropolis, I found myself thinking of Pericles and Aspasia, real people who lived and loved over 2,000 years ago. (And yes, I may have gotten a lump in my throat and one or two tears threatened.)

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To Dance with Kings

By Rosalind Laker

Book cover of To Dance with Kings

Why this book?

This is also a book I read long ago, and it made me want to write historical fiction novels. This is an astounding story of a young peasant woman who is swept up into the Parisian society of King Louis XVI.

The author's attention to historical details in the construction of Versailles and the French Revolution is a standard that I have judged most novels by. It's a beautiful multi-generational story of love and loss, and I'll admit to tears when reading this book. I usually avoid sad books. I want love to never end. Having said that, I'm so glad I read it, and I was amazed at how much French history I learned!

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The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah

Book cover of The Nightingale

Why this book?

I loved this book, but it is a heartbreaking story, so beware. I'm passionate about history, and this is the story of two sisters in Nazi-occupied France during WWII. The book begins with one of the sisters, now an old woman, recalling her life. I'm always very emotional when reading a story that begins with the hopes and dreams of youth and leads me through the character's life to the end when the effects of time and living have taken their toll. Despite the sadness I felt, it was a spectacularly-crafted novel and, in my opinion, the best novel this acclaimed author has written. 

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By Diana Gabaldon

Book cover of Outlander

Why this book?

If you haven't read this outstanding book, you're missing out on one of today's most talented authors of historical romance. Add a blend of adventure and time travel into this book as well. A young woman in post-WWII is accidentally transported to 1400s Scotland. The book is rich in Scottish history and a love story that spawned a TV series and eight more books that continue the life and love of Claire and Jammie.

I have always loved history, and I fell in love with this book (as did millions of other readers). Yes, the book is long, but don't let that dissuade you. It's well worth it!

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A Stitch in Time

By Kelley Armstrong

Book cover of A Stitch in Time

Why this book?

I love historical fiction that adds an element of fantasy, magical realism, or time travel. I like the expansion of the mind that accompanies appreciation of these novels. (Yes, I admit that appreciation guided me in writing one of my series in the historical/romance/fantasy blended genre.) A Stitch in Time is a time travel novel of romance in which the heroine slips through time to the Victorian English countryside. She moves back and forth from the present to the past. The story is complete with a haunted manor house, ghosts, mystery, and love unbounded by time.

If my description seems banal, I apologize, for this is an intelligently crafted story. The author's sentences are beautifully written, leading the readers into the inner thoughts of the character. I just recently discovered this prolific author, and I'm a big fan!

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