The best historical mystery novels with women sleuths and a touch of romance

Who am I?

Reading historical mysteries with a touch of romance is a delicious chocolate dessert after a day of work. I’m the author of 16 romantic suspense novels. Why not double the excitement with both romance and mystery/suspense. I began reading mysteries because my mother read them. Once I’d read all the Nancy Drews, I moved on to Erle Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie. I wrote a few mystery manuscripts that remain in a box in the attic, but then all-grown-up me discovered romantic suspense novels and found my niche. I love throwing the hero and heroine together under extraordinary circumstances and pitting them against a clever villain.

I wrote...

Primal Obsession

By Susan Vaughan,

Book cover of Primal Obsession

What is my book about?

After hitting rock bottom, former Major Leaguer Sam Kincaid returned home to guide canoe expeditions in the Maine wilderness. He needs to make this gig a success. He can't let himself be distracted by an ambitious, obsessed female, even if she's sexy, witty, and smart. Annie Wylde, an investigative journalist, embarks on the canoe trip to keep a promise to her friend, murdered by a notorious killer called the Hunter. She struggles with nature’s challenges and fights her attraction to Sam, considering him just another egotistical jock.

When the trip turns deadly, they realize the Hunter has followed Annie into the wilderness. With her life on the line, Sam faces the challenge of his life because she’s become much more than a client to him.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Mistress of the Art of Death

Susan Vaughan Why did I love this book?

This book, introducing a female sleuth in Medieval England, grabbed me from the beginning.

Who would believe King Henry II would hire a female forensics expert trained in Salerno, Italy to come to the backwater town of Cambridge in 1171 to conduct an investigation? But this author makes it believable with deft characterizations and a colorful cast of characters.

Adelia’s search into the deaths of Cambridge’s Jewish population leads to high-placed secrets and danger amid the lively doings of the population. This and the other four in the series offer a rich tapestry of a fascinating time. I recommend them all.

By Ariana Franklin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Mistress of the Art of Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14.

What is this book about?

Winner of the CWA Best Historical Crime Novel of the Year

'Great fun! Franklin succeeds in vividly bringing the 12th century to life with this cracking good story' KATE MOSSE

Medieval England. A hideous murder. Enter the first female anatomist...

Adelia Aguilar is a rare thing in medieval Europe - a woman who has trained as a doctor. Her speciality is the study of corpses, a skill that must be concealed if she is to avoid accusations of witchcraft.

But in Cambridge a child has been murdered, others are disappearing, and King Henry has called upon a renowned Italian investigator…

Book cover of A Useful Woman

Susan Vaughan Why did I love this book?

Another first in series, this book, set in 19th century London, introduces Rosalind Thorne.

Nearly ruined after her father abandoned the family, she makes her living by managing the affairs of society women. There are probably more murders in these stories than among the ton in reality, but the mysteries keep things lively.

And the romance? Attractions to her old love, now a duke, and an attractive Bow Street investigator add deliciously to the intrigue. I have just read book 4 and need to find the next. Enjoy!

By Darcie Wilde,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Useful Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inspired by the novels of Jane Austen, this new mystery series set in 19th-century London introduces the charming and resourceful Rosalind Thorne, a woman privy to the secrets of high society—including who among the ton is capable of murder...
The daughter of a baronet and minor heiress, Rosalind Thorne was nearly ruined after her father abandoned the family. To survive in the only world she knew, she began to manage the affairs of some of London society’s most influential women, who have come to rely on her wit and discretion.
So, when artistocratic wastrel Jasper Aimesworth is found dead in…

Book cover of Maisie Dobbs

Susan Vaughan Why did I love this book?

In this the first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs is an investigator in 1929 England, trained by a retiring detective who recognized her intuitive gifts. We meet her family, the aristocrats who took her in, and various London police detectives. I find it fascinating how Maisie manages to uncover clues and suspects without the benefit of modern techniques and equipment. The story involves a case related to World War I, in which Maisie was a nurse. In the series, most of the cases she investigates relate to one of the world wars in one way or another. Her romances, friendships, and other relationships add to the richness of the characterization and the story. Later books in the series take readers from 1929 to the early years of World War II. To show you how much I’ve enjoyed this series, I just finished reading #17!

By Jacqueline Winspear,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Maisie Dobbs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A favorite mystery series of Hillary Clinton (as mentioned in What Happened, The New York Times Book Review, and New York Magazine)
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Agatha Award Winner for Best First Novel
Macavity Award Winner for Best First Novel
Alex Award Winner

Fiercely independent Maisie Dobbs has recently set herself up as a private detective. Such a move may not seem especially startling. But this is 1929, and Maisie is exceptional in many ways.

Having started as a maid to the London aristocracy, studied her way to Cambridge and served as a nurse in…

Book cover of The Girl Who Knew Too Much

Susan Vaughan Why did I love this book?

Amanda Quick writes a variety of fiction, all of which include romance—romantic suspense, historical romance, and historical mysteries.

This is the start (you guessed it, right?) of a series set in 1930s California at an exclusive resort enjoyed by Hollywood stars. The heroine sleuth, a rookie reporter, hopes to get a scoop on a new leading man from an actress, but instead finds her dead in a swimming pool.

With the handsome owner of the hotel, she investigates, and finds that this glamorous paradise hides dark and dangerous secrets.

By Amanda Quick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Girl Who Knew Too Much as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Amanda Quick, the bestselling author of 'Til Death Do Us Part, transports readers to 1930s California, where glamour and seduction spawn a multitude of sins ...When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It's where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool ...The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn't resist - especially since she's just a rookie at a…

Book cover of The Rose Code

Susan Vaughan Why did I love this book?

Just to confuse you, this is not the first in Kate Quinn’s series about the World Wars.

The Rose Code is book 3 of 4. But I wanted to continue ahead in time. This book flashes back and forth between 1940 and 1947. This is a heart-stopping, totally gripping story of three women, so different from each other, in Britain’s Bletchley Park, where they’re trained to break German military codes.

War, loss, romance, and secrecy tear them apart, but a traitor brings them back together. Witty, edge-of-my-seat suspense, danger, and romance made it impossible to put down.

By Kate Quinn,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Rose Code as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network returns with another heart-stopping World War II story of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park and the spy they must root out after the war is over.

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything-beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses-but she burns to…

You might also like...

The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

Book cover of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

Susan Rowland Author Of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Part-time celt Modern alchemist Myth hunter Jungian

Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A traditional mystery with a touch of cozy, The Alchemy Fire Murder is for those who like feisty women sleuths, Oxford Colleges, alchemy, strong characters, and real concerns like trafficking, wildfires, racism, and climate change. This book especially works for those fascinated by myth and witches in history. Read for a seventeenth-century alchemist in Connecticut, a lost alchemy scroll stuck in a California Museum, and a blizzard in Los Angeles.

Murder ensues when an intern is attacked after making a momentous discovery with Mary Wandwalker, an inexperienced detective commissioned to recover the treasure vital to the survival of her Oxford college, St Julian’s. When the young man’s brother is falsely accused, Mary has to step in.

The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

What is this book about?

Former Archivist Mary Wandwalker hates bringing bad news. Nevertheless, she confirms to her alma mater that their prized medieval alchemy scroll, is, in fact, a seventeenth century copy. She learns that the original vanished to colonial Connecticut with alchemist, Robert Le More. Later the genuine scroll surfaces in Los Angeles. Given that the authentic artifact is needed for her Oxford college to survive, retrieving it is essential.

Mary agrees to get the real scroll back as part of a commission for her three-person Enquiry Agency. However, tragedy strikes in Los Angeles. Before Mary can legally obtain the scroll, a young…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in private investigators, celebrities, and London?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about private investigators, celebrities, and London.

Private Investigators Explore 276 books about private investigators
Celebrities Explore 35 books about celebrities
London Explore 753 books about London