The best historical romance novels that are off the beaten path

Minerva Spencer Author Of The Footman
By Minerva Spencer

The Books I Picked & Why

To Have and To Hold

By Patricia Gaffney

Book cover of To Have and To Hold

Why this book?

I personally love this book because I can identify with the characters, who are both flawed and genuine. All too often I’ve started reading a romance only to discover that both characters are gorgeous, billionaires, and have IQs over 180. I find such perfection uninteresting.

The two leads in To Have And To Hold, Sebastian and Rachel, are both train wrecks, although it is initially easier to see Rachel’s problems as she is currently a convict who is being released from prison. Sebastian’s behavior steps over the line. Way over the line. And the tension in most of the book will give you white knuckles. I have never forgotten these characters and their journey toward love was all the more rewarding for how hard-won it was.

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The Proposition

By Judith Ivory

Book cover of The Proposition

Why this book?

Wow, this book! Although it is a Pygmalion tale, that’s where any similarity ends to the original. London rat catcher Mick Tremore is truly from “the other side of the tracks” from heroine/linguist Lady Edwina Bolash. The differences between these two—cultural, social, sexual—make for oodles of fun right from the moment they crash into each other in a tea shop. 

It’s actually difficult to choose a favorite from Judith Ivory’s books as every single one of them is a unique work of historical romance art. Her writing is so clever and intelligent that you will learn while you’re being entertained. And her skill with character development is awe-inspiring. 

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By Sherry Thomas

Book cover of Delicious

Why this book?

My third book is Sherry Thomas’s Delicious, which features a female chef who ends up being the lover of two brothers who can’t stand each other. Once again, it is difficult to choose a favorite among Thomas’s books, but Delicious has such a fascinating series of side stories to go along with the main romance. Verity Durant, the heroine, is truly a strong female character and has paid a considerable societal price for her strength. It’s also nice to have protagonists who are in their thirties. There is just a touch of magical realism in the book when it comes to the meals that Verity cooks and their impact on Stuart, the hero. This book will give you all the feels!

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Dancing with Clara

By Mary Balogh

Book cover of Dancing with Clara

Why this book?

Mary Balogh is truly the grand dame of modern historical romance. Not only is she a reader favorite, but she has done her share of pushing the envelope when it comes to writing new and unusual romances. Dancing With Clara tackles a couple of taboos in romance—addiction and infidelity. The hero in the story is riddled with faults, and you will rip out your hair as you watch him undermine himself—and his marriage to Clara—over and over again. 

I’ve read criticisms of Clara—that she is a doormat—but I think Ms. Balogh accurately represented a Regency woman when she wrote Clara’s character. Especially a woman who was confined to a wheelchair and without even the meager options wealthy women had during the era. Don’t worry! There’s a happily ever after, but Clara and Freddie will bleed on the pages before they get it.

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The Only Gold

By Tamara Allen, Cory Clubb

Book cover of The Only Gold

Why this book?

I’ve read this m/m romance multiple times for many reasons. First, it takes place in NYC. Second, both characters are working men (no dukes or millionaires!!) and Third, it is a hot, hot, hot enemies to lovers romance that gives the reader a vibrant picture of both the banking business at the end of the nineteenth century, but also tons of fascinating details about daily life and work culture. 

My favorite part of this story is the development of the relationship between the two leads. Both Jonah and Reid practically leap off the page. I love having an anal-retentive control freak paired with a charming, easy-going rogue.

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