Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Classics List: 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 three 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 just a sampling meant to give you a picture of how the genre has developed. 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)
·                Sleep in the Woods by Dorothy Eden (1960)
·                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)
·                The Kadin by Bertrice Small (1978)
·                A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey (1978)
·                Bonds of Love by Lisa Gregory (1978)

The 1980s: The Explosive Years

·                Lady Vixen by Shirlee Busbee (1980)
·                Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small (1981)
·                Devil’s Embrace by Catherine Coulter (1982)
·                The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys (1984)
·                Rose of Rapture by Rebecca Brandewyne (1984)
·                Stormfire by Christine Monson (1984)
·                The Windflower by Laura London (aka Sharon & Tom Curtis) (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 Irish Johansen (1991)
·                Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale (1992)
·                Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1992)
·                Untamed by Elizabeth Lowell (1993)
·                Princess of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham) (1994)
·                Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson (1996)
·                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. Oh my I've read so many of these. Back in the day before Amazon my mother would visit my aunt in south Carolina and I'd give her A list with j devereaux. J Mcconaughey. J Lindsay. My aunt use to call them Julie's 3 j. or my aunt would visit

    1. Julie, that's a wonderful memory. I only discovered romance in 2009 and read my first historical in 2010 and wrote my first novel in 2011. I am now a passionate fan of the genre as you can see!

  2. I've read most of these and have been through all the changes. The historicals are finally getting the credit they deserve.

  3. Great list! But "Windflower" was published well before 2003. The edition I have is from 1994 and it was a reprint even then. (Still a great book though!)

    1. Linda, thanks for letting me know. I just found a 1984 edition. I'll change it's position on the list!

  4. I used to own all (that were out at the time) of Kathleen Woodwiss, Barbara Cartland, Rosemary Rogers, Johanna Lindsey. But being in the USAF as an Airmen and then a Spouse it got to hard to packing and repacking for each transfer. Boy do I miss having them I would love to read them again. It took my 5 years to be able to collect all of Bertrice Small's books after we settled. I think I may need to start with one and do the same thing with each one because I love them all.

    1. Joni, I so understand. I have a Kindle Paperwhite and love it but there is nothing like pulling one of my "keepers" from a shelf and diving into it. And I still read many in paper. You can find the used ones on eBay and Amazon and sometimes in inexpensive bundles.

  5. Great list. Thanks for sharing. I'll definitely check them out. Caroline xx

    1. Thanks, Caroline. I am happy to do this. It helped me, too, to see how the genre developed over time.

  6. The Flame and the Flower. The first full-length romance novel I ever read. I named my daughter Brianna after Heather Brianna in the story.

    1. That's a great story, Collette--and a lovely name.

  7. All in all, a great list, Regan. I agree that others may have books to include or quibble about the inclusion of some, but you've created a good place to begin a discussion of the literature. Such a discussion would be fruitful.

  8. Great list, Regan! I still enjoy my copies of those books written in the 70's and 80's, and some of those authors are still among my favorites.