Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How We Got to Where We Are Today: Modern Historical Romance Over the Last Several Decades, or A Recommended Reading List for the Uninitiated

Sometimes when I talk to fellow readers of historical romance, or even authors, and I mention a name from the past, an author who helped shape the genre, like Kathleen Woodiwiss or Rosemary Rogers, I get a blank stare in return. It occurred to me that as lovers of a genre it might be helpful to read some of the classics to see where we’ve come from and to enjoy the greats who have contributed so much to the craft.

I’m not going as far back as Ivanhoe or Jane Eyre. I’m not even reaching back to the seminal novels of Georgette Heyer in the early 20th century. Except for two novels of note in earlier decades, I’m starting in the 1970s when the bedroom door was flung open never to close again. And while I may not have included your favorite author, by reading the romances on this list, you’ll have a good idea of our beginnings and what so many wonderful authors have done for the genre. Think of it as an education in modern historical romance.

So, here’s the list of the historical romances I recommend you read. Each has something to show you. Some may require you to shop online for a used book though many are available as eBooks. Some that are out of print can be downloaded online. I’m not saying they will all be your favorites, or that they are all mine, and I know that some readers will think I left off one I should have included.

This is a sampling meant to give you a picture of how the genre has developed over time. Most are novels I’ve rated 5 stars, so I promise you won’t be bored. 

Included because of their significance…

·                Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas (1954)
·                Bond of Blood by Roberta Gellis (1965)

The 1970s: The Pioneering Years

·                The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss (1972)
·                The Wicked Marquis by Barbara Cartland (1973)
·                Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers (1974)
·                Love’s Tender Fury by Jennifer Wilde (aka Tom Huff) (1976)
·                Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain (1977)
·                Caroline by Cynthia Wright (1977)
·                Love’s Wild Desire by Jennifer Blake (1977)
·                A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey (1978)
·                The Rainbow Season by Lisa Gregory (1979)

The 1980s: The Explosive Years

·                Lady Vixen by Shirlee Busbee (1980)
·                The Flesh and the Devil by Teresa Denys (1980)
·                Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small (1981)
·                Devil’s Embrace by Catherine Coulter (1982)
·                Rose of Rapture by Rebecca Brandewyne (1984)
·                Stormfire by Christine Monson (1984)
·                Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught (1985)
·                The Wind and the Sea by Marsha Canham (1986)
·                Mountain Mistress by Nadine Crenshaw (1987)
·                The Hawk and the Dove by Virginia Henley (1988)
·                Capture the Sun by Shirl Henke (1988)
·                Nightwylde by Kimberleigh Caitlin (aka Kimberly Cates) (1988)
·                Sweet Savage Eden by Heather Graham (1989)
·                Heartstorm by Elizabeth Stuart (1989)

The 1990s: The Developing Years

·                Dark Fires by Brenda Joyce (1991)
·                The Wind Dancer by Iris Johansen (1991)
·                Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale (1992)
·                Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1992)
·                Untamed by Elizabeth Lowell (1993)
·                The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson (1997)
·                Night in Eden by Candice Proctor (1997)
·                Kilgannon by Kathleen Givens (1999)

The 2000s: The “Standing On The Shoulders of Giants” Years

·                By Possession by Madeline Hunter (2000)
·                Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry by Amanda Hughes (2002)
·                The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole (2003)
·                Laird of the Mist by Paula Quinn (2007)
·                Broken Wing by Judith James (2008)
·                My Lord and Spymaster by Joanna Bourne (2008)
·                The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran (2008)
·                Raeliksen by Renee Vincent (2008)
·                Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell (2010)
·                Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner (2011)


  1. A great honor to be included on this list. Thanks so much, Regan. I think I have read them all except the first two.

    1. I love your books, Judith! You well deserve to be here and I feel you have move the genre forward. Your book, Broken Wing is one of my keepers!

    2. Judith James," Broken Wing", is on my top three list best books I've ever read - no matter what genre or decade written. I keep hoping and wishing and crossing my fingers to see your newest out soon.

    3. Delta, Judith tells me The Highwayman is coming this summer!

    4. Judith, "Broken Wing" fills a special place in my heart...Regan, thank you for sharing the wonderful news! And, as always, your list is very enlightening.

    5. You are welcome, hiro! I thought Broken Wing was not just an amazing story but contributed to the genre because of what it brings to the world of historical romance.

    6. Thanks so much for the kind words Delta! It's people like you that keep me writing ! I will be re-issuing the first two books in my English Restoration series over the Summer and Then The Highwayman, probably early August.

    7. Thank you Hiro! Some of you may not know that Hiro did an amazing job of translating Broken Wing into Japanese! Her translation received wonderful reviews and I am proud to call her a co-author of that edition.

  2. So much amazing talent on this list! Barbara Cartland, Diana Gabaldon, Judith McNaught, Bertrice Small ... added some nice sparks to life over the years, and your blog has introduced me to others, Kaki Warner for instance, that keep feeding that spark. (On another, weird, note ... did you realize that yesterday, the 28th, your blog and email appeared to have been removed and unavailable???) As always, thank you for your work.

    1. Thanks, Barbara for the compliment on the blog. I did have an issue with one of my email accounts yesterday and I had to sign into my blog again. Don't know what caused that. But I think it's ok now. A cyber attack perhaps?

  3. Another day made a whole lot brighter, thanks to you, Regan. What an honor to be on this list. I can't thank you enough for the boosts over the years!

    1. You deserve it, Amanda. Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry was a whole new kind of historical romance which, in my opinion, moved the genre forward.

  4. What a great list, and I've read nearly all of them! They're all still in my collection. Flowers From the Storm is at the top of my beloved books list. So glad to see it included here. And I must be the only person on the planet who hasn't read Outlander. I see it recommended everywhere, so I'm to add it to my TBR pile!

    1. Kat, this is a unique list. It's not the "best of the best" or anything like that. It's the books that I felt influenced the genre or contributed to moving it forward. I'm sure I've missed some that belong here I have yet to read (and that's why I update it each year). Outlander is one that did influence the genre for its depth and unique storyline. I don't typically read time travel romance but that one was unique and definitely historical.

  5. Thanks Regan!!! Being included on this list is THE BEST!!!

  6. I've been looking for this list! It has a lot of my favorites.

    1. I am so glad, Angelyn! I worked very hard on this list and hope it is a resource to readers.