12 historical romance novels to read — Brit + Co
Our steamy, cheeky, glamorous, outrageous historical fantasy show, concocted by Shonda Rhimes is back! We all fell in love Bridgerton Julia Quinn books when they came out, and when they debuted on Netflix, the Bridgerton the craze reached new heights as it instantly became the hot topic of conversation with friends and colleagues for weeks. Do you remember episode 5? Yeah! We can only imagine what Season 2 has in store for us, so in the meantime, we thought we’d create a list of our favorite new and upcoming historical romance novels and fiction books to quench our thirst for Bridgerton.
If you also like Downton Abbey and The Crown, Hotel Portofino will give you everything you love: a ravishing historical drama from the Roaring Twenties about a British family who deal with political scandal, marriage troubles and a complicated romance while running an upper-class hotel on the Italian Riviera. Now being adapted to series on PBS, Portofino Hotel is a story of personal awakening in a time of global upheaval.
This liberating novel about the chosen queer family is beautifully detailed and filled with heart. Set in Vienna from 1910 to 1946, we follow Julia and Eve, two women madly in love who have just found solace in a more bohemian and liberal part of town. When Julia yearns for a child, she and Eve will redefine what it means to have a loving family and break free from the confines of society.
Another historical fiction series that inspired a hit TV show, Foreigner tells the story of Claire, a World War II combat nurse who somehow finds herself in 1700s Scotland following an accidental time trip. When she meets Jamie Fraser, a young Scottish man from the Highlands, they form an alliance that eventually leads to an age-old romance that travels the world. Throughout the series, their journeys lead them from the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland, to the Parisian palaces of the 18th century, passing through colonial America.
Leslie Johansen Nack goes where no author has gone before with this vibrant period novel that brilliantly reimagines the life of legendary movie star, Marion Davies. When 18-year-old Marion met William Randolph Hearst in 1915, she was immediately drawn to the possibilities of fame, success, wealth and passion. While still married, they continue their courtship in secret and even cover up the fact that Hearst is the father of Marion’s baby girl whom she gave birth to in 1919. As her star rose and she began to living a lavish lifestyle in Hollywood, she began a secret love affair with Charlie Chaplin. But at the height of the Depression, Hearst fell on hard times with his finances and declining health. When Marion lends her $1 million, she is then driven to confront the film that threatens to invalidate everything she has worked for: Citizen Kane.
Bloomsbury Girls is a book lover’s absolute dream. Written by the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, this captivating and heartwarming read is set in post-war London at the iconic Bloomsbury Books store. Enter: three employees who are about to take the male-run bookstore (and the world around them) into the future. Each of them had their own dreams and aspirations, and as they interacted with important female literary figures of the time – including Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell) – and even more, they begin to envision (and build) a better future than society can even imagine.
This beautiful epic novel follows three generations of a Chinese family as they experience war, Japanese invasion, migration and dislocation. Beginning with his young wife Meilin in 1938 China, she is forced to flee her home with her four-year-old son, Renshu. Years later, we see the effects of the migrations through the eyes of Renshu who settled in America as Henry Dao. His daughter yearns to understand her heritage, but Renshu struggles between keeping her family safe in a new land and protecting the legacy where they come from.
Connecting the beginnings of the Vanderbilt dynasty in 1914 to a panicked family in today’s southern United States, The wedding veil is an impressive novel about four generations of women bound by a sacred wedding veil. In the 1900s, socialite Edith Vanderbilt struggles to groom her free-spirited daughter Cornelia to run the Biltmore Estate, and in the present, Julia Baxter faces a heartbreaking revelation that prompts her to call off her wedding moments before the start of his filming. As each timeline unfolds, we see four women changing the course of their lives forever, determined to freely create the life they truly want for themselves.
This glamorous, sun-kissed read takes us to the Hamptons in June 1957, with a cast of colorful socialites who will take you into this decadent world. And just when you think you’ve settled into the ultimate summer fantasy, a shocking event changes everything. As we watch New York socialite Everleigh “Lee” Farrows navigate the tactile terrain of high society, she quickly discovers that everything she thought she wanted might not be worth it after all.
Fans of Emma Donoghue, MJ Rose and Hannah Kent will love this gripping historical thriller set in the 1860s. When sixteen-year-old Annie Moore becomes pregnant out of wedlock, she is sent to live in a women’s convent. fallen. After giving birth, she discovers that the nuns have taken her baby. Determined to escape and reunite with her daughter, Annie turns to sex work and becomes the most in-demand escort, Bessie. Inspired by a true story, readers are transported to a time when opportunities for women are scarce, and our heroine does what any woman would do to get her daughter back. Including revenge.
What to do with a young woman when your favorite sister is none other than Queen Marie-Antoinette? And then when you realize you’re the queen your sister wanted to be all along? In this luxurious and powerful coming-of-age tale, we meet Charlotte, tenth daughter and one of sixteen children of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. As she navigates an arranged marriage, political upheaval and a threat to the monarchy, she must find a way to hold on to herself and everyone she loves.
This deliciously eerie historical fantasy series is sure to bring some magic to your reading nook. As the second installment of Freya Marske’s beloved The last binding trilogy, we go from the story of Robin to that of her sister Maud, ready to embark on a new adventure. What she actually finds is a corpse, a rude parrot, and an enchanting stranger named Violet who she eventually teams up with to solve a murder and uncover a conspiracy that began years before them.
Atonement tells the story of 13-year-old Briony, who in 1935 witnesses a naughty exchange between her older sister and a family friend. Her naivety about matters of the heart has a ripple effect that changes the family’s lives forever. In the aftermath of the event, Briony navigates the 20th century, including the horrors of World War II, and she struggles to come to terms with her mistake. This bestselling novel, adapted for the big screen and become an award-winning film, tells his story.
Which historical romance novels are you most looking forward to reading? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for recipe ideas, book summaries and DIY tips!
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