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Top 25 Best Historical Romance Books

The Best of the Historical Romance Genre

Do you love romances set on the backdrop of history? Do you enjoy period romances, all corsets and polite society, teeming with old time romanticism and wonder? Then you’ve come to the right place! Get ready to travel back in time as we present to you 25 of the best historical romances around.

We begin our travel back in time with a nice literary mystery of sorts, enveloped within the pages of a sumptuously written romance novel. A.S. Byatts Possession is a novel of outstanding beauty and tangible substance, a story of two romances, an alleged clandestine affair between two Victorian-era poets, and the coupling of the two researchers studying them decades later. The story is told through a multitude of voices and mediums; letters, poems, criticism, biography, and journal entries as well as the prose of the main narrative.

Byatt didn't just write some poems to go in her novel; she also created two major Victorian poets, fitted them exactly into a time and a place, and made them completely believable as actual historic figures. The two intertwined love stories laced throughout this wonderfully romantic literary mystery tale are precise, believable and engrossing. This is a book for people who love books, people who love books about love, and people who love books about loving books. Basically, its a lotta love, and a lotta books, whats not to love about that?!

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Next we have a true classic, everyone has heard of Pride and Prejudice, regardless of whether or not theyve read it, but everyone should! Jane Austens inimitable tale of love in upper class England is a descriptive treasure, lush, engaging and truly brilliant; the story of the romance between the instantly captivating Elizabeth Bennet and the dashing Mr Darcy, two characters so likeable and so meant for each other that their names are known far and wide. Austen could not have made these characters any greater if she had tried.

It is often argued that Austens masterpiece is trivial and tedious, but as an upper class woman herself, she wrote about the world and the morals that she knew, weaving complex love triangles into this seemingly picturesque backdrop. Watching the battles of love and loss within these rigorously placed constraints of social propriety is almost like watching a (albeit somewhat dull) car-crash, you just cant look away. And any male members of the audience out there who think youll not enjoy Pride and Prejudice, give it a chance, you may be surprised! Many a man has unknowingly fallen under Austens literary spell - immerse yourself fully in it, and its a reading experience youll never forget.

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Next is another powerhouse of classical romance, Emily Bronts Wuthering Heights is a gothic masterpiece, the romantic tale of an orphan of unknown origins raised in a sheltered household and falls in love with his playmate. What ensues is a tale of mistreatment, rejection by the woman he loves, and retribution. It is hardly the most perfect piece of literature ever written; its filled with cheese and flawed people, bolstered by a flawed structure. Its awkwardly framed and the beginning is a pretty hard to wade through. In spite of all of these flaws though, the meat of the novel, the delicious middle bits are just rich, sweet and utterly delectable and highlight that Emily Bront did in fact possess a real talent for writing.

Its textbook gothic fare; mysterious disappearances, vengeful seductions, whispered conversations and overheard gossip, puppy murder, death, swooning, ghosts and moors, it goes on and on. The relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff is a twisted one, narcissistic, possessive and makes both them and everyone around them miserable; their influence is a powerful one. Nonetheless, the dynamic is strangely compelling, the romance centred in this novel may not be a typically wistful one, but its dark, layered and symbolic nature makes it particularly satisfying.

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Now Emily Bronts sister takes the reins in her contribution to period romances, Jane Eyre. This novel sees the titular character orphaned, subject to a cruel school regime and yet stalwart in spirit. Our independent heroine yearns for a richer life, and takes on the post of governess at a manor house, falls in love with the master of the house and has to face the barriers to their relationship. Jane suffers terribly, but she is a very strong and persevering woman not beautiful, but we are shown that beauty is more than skin deep and that it is her strength and inner qualities that make her the beautiful and admirable woman that she is.

Rochester is a tortured hero, dark and enigmatic, and loves little plain Jane with a burning intensity. Charlotte Bronts great triumph is that she created a truly passionate romance without having to ever require any sex scenes. Jane Eyre is a novel that transports you to the time in which it was written and into the shoes of a woman who you cant help but admire, in the midst of a romance that wont fail to make you swoon. Jane Eyre is a classic for a reason, and fans of historical romances, especially period ones, shouldnt miss out on it.

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Our next tale of love in past eras takes place during the Second World War. The peaceful lives of the inhabitants of a small Greek island are disrupted by an invading Italian army. The local doctor, and his daughter, Pelagia are forced to provide lodgings for the armys commander, Captain Corelli. Despite trying to make life difficult for their forced friends in the army, Pelagia becomes rather enamoured with the enigmatic Captain, and they embark upon a steamy affair (despite Pelagia being an engaged woman).

Whilst Corelli doesnt appear until halfway through the novel, he makes up for his late arrival by being instantly likeable and providing instant and undeniable sparks between himself and the lovely Pelagia. Louis de Bernires has a wonderful style of writing, interlacing the main thread of the story with what seem at first sight to be unconnected anecdotes, but ultimately turn out to be extremely relevant. The only drawback of Captain Corellis Mandolin is that it had the terrible misfortune of being made into a Nicholas Cage movie Do yourself a favour, avoid the film, read the book you wont regret it.

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Back to broody romances now as we join two iconic characters, Rhett and Scarlett, during their romance set on the backdrop of the Civil War. A word of warning: Gone with the Wind, whilst being an amazing piece of literature is extremely depressing, and is one of the most tragic, upsetting and emotionally disturbing romances to ever be penned. Nothing particularly good or uplifting ever happens, few of the characters are actually nice or likeable, and all of them are unendingly tragic.

Even so, they are all intricately and beautifully constructed, and the impact of the Civil War and its horrors are framed in a way that is both shocking and meaningful. The relationship between our two protagonists is especially interesting for how their individual natures interact. Scarlett is one of the greatest tragic heroes of literature; simultaneously complex and shallow, hypocritical, strong, manipulative (and frankly, a bit of a bitch), and Rhett is dashingly handsome rapscallion who often calls out Scarlett on her bullshit (and is pretty much the only person who can). Their romance is a sweeping and engrossing one, perfect for anyone who wants epic love framed in tragic historical context.

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Were offered another insight into the upper classes of Georgian England once again with our resident guide to the period, Jane Austen. Like most of Austens novels it is filled with pretty much all the same ingredients; mysterious strangers, false friends, faades, social customs, love and marriage, and yet there is something quite different about Persuasion. Rather than featuring a pretty, charming teenager looking for a perfect husband with money and culture, our protagonist is in fact a mature and composed 27 year old (whoa, so ooold 'gasp'). Eight years earlier our respectable heroine spurned a young sailor to whom she was engaged on the extremely flawed advice of a friend that the match was no good.

Now the sailor has returned as the dashing and respectable Captain Wentworth, who still harbours some resentment against Anne, who retains her affection towards him, but must maintain a certain level of social propriety (so she cant just jump on him). Anne is a very well-mannered and proper woman, so thank Austen that she is not narrating the story otherwise itd be pretty boring we are instead told this story by a wonderfully quite sarcastic narrator that gives fantastic insight into the characters and the setting, even if the sarcasm still pretty much conforms to the sensibilities of 19th century England. Often described as autumnal, with good reason, Persuasion is classically elegant, and yet bittersweet, best for those who are already fans of Austen who can appreciate the more subtle nuances of this love story as opposed to all her others.

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Gabriel Garca Mrquez now brings us a love story of a very different kind, set around the Caribbean in the late 1800s; two people meet and fall passionately in love in their youth. Despite their passion, the woman, Fermina Daza, decides to marry a wealthy doctor instead of the poor Florentino Ariza. For the next fifty years, Florentino conducts over 600 affairs with other women, but maintains his love for Fermina he is determined that one day they will be back together. Its a story of enduring love, but not necessarily that it is a good thing.

Our protagonist, Florentino is not a particularly likeable man; he has many flaws, is very peculiar, and clearly emotionally and psychologically unstable, having fixated on this one woman for half a century, completely unable to let her go. Nonetheless, for believers in all-enduring love, this is sure to be a treat, beautifully written, if a little dense at times it is a testament to the skill of Mrquez that in a book in which the main character beds over 600 women it seems like so much more than just meaningless sex it is a beautiful, precious, necessity of life. Its a difficult read, and not one that can be entered into lightly, but for those with the patience to bear with it, and the ability to wade through it will be all the better for it.

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Off to the Regency period now, and an on-the-shelf spinster at the age of 28, Lady Calpernia Hartwell, is getting pretty fucking fed up with her life. Shes plain, and as her younger sister falls in love, she decides that shes tired of sitting on the side-lines she decides to no longer play by the rules and go for what she wants in life, and to find pleasure. She thinks of nine daring things she wants to do, things that women never do or could damage her reputation, and sets out to do them all.

As she starts out with her first thing a kiss she impulsively plants one on a guy shes had a crush on for years, who is intrigued by her new passionate side, and agrees to help her with her list. And so the relationship between Callie and Gabriel begins, and boy is it a good one! Its both romantic and steamy, theres sexual tension in buckets, and some very stimulating love scenes. With everything you could ever want in a historical romance: an engaging story, witty dialogue, comedy, drama, and lots of sex, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake is a fantastic read.

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Okay, were back with the inimitable Austen again (yes, yes I have relied upon her heavily, but her period novels are among some of the greatest historical romances ever written, so deal with it!), for one of her more unusual novels. The novel centres on the life of the beautiful Emma Woodhouse, an intelligent, rich, single woman who sees no reason to get involved in any romantic endeavours, no need for love or marriage. Her favourite past-time however, is to interfere in the love lives of other people. To put it plainly, Emma is one of Austens more irritating heroines, she annoys everyone around her; shes snobbish and manipulative with a superiority complex, an inflated sense of her own importance and morals and is always convinced that her aims are noble.

She is a character that Austen believed no-one but herself would really like, but is her flaws that make Emma such an interesting character how could such a superior woman surrounded by a whole host of lesser mortals who are nothing but unlucky in love, not try to improve their lives? The chaos incited by Emmas meddling is both frustrating and funny in equal measure, but she is genuinely kind at heart, trying to do nothing more than spread the love and make people happy even if it doesnt always go quite to plan. Sharp, under-rated and at times patience-testing, Emma is an exceptionally written romance that is slightly off the beaten track for Austen, but is all the more wonderful for it, it showcases her skill for subtle, witty romance and is one that all romance fans especially Austen fans should read.

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Vanity Fair is a novel that is also known as The Novel Without a Hero, a satire of society in Britain in the early 19th century. It has a lot of elements that make it fairly typical: its a tale of war, love, family, money and betrayal everything you need for an epic romantic novel. However it is the way in which the events of the novel unfold that make it something altogether more special. Every character in Vanity Fair is satisfyingly deep and complex, and it is often very hard to judge their motivations. This is most true of the woman who could be considered the main character, Becky Sharp. Vanity Fair may be a noel without a hero, but it could be argued that it definitely has a heroine.

Constantly pushing societal boundaries, scheming Becky is as sharp as her name. Kind, selfless, cutthroat and cruel in equal measures, it never possible to tell whether she is a villain or not, and this is what makes her a figurehead for cheering on as she navigates the minefield of societal norms, trying to claw her way to the top. For those of you who really want some actual history too, this book has an especially long, detailed, and thoroughly researched description of the Battle of Waterloo a little much for casual readers, but history aficionados are bound to love Thackerays devotion to the battle and the consequences and the reactions to it. For a wonderfully satirical insight into British society in the 1800s, a ruthless heroine and gloriously rich detail of historical context, all tied in with love, affairs and marriages, Vanity Fair should be your first port of call.

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We now take a step away from all the period romances, and into something deliciously more exotic. Memoirs of a Geisha begins in 1920s Japan, where we meet Sayuri, a child in a poor fishing village who is sold to the representative of a geisha house in Kyoto. The nine year old begins work to pay off the price of her purchase through training to become a geisha. We learn of the struggles of geisha life, as Sayuri encounters lots of men, and vindictive fellow geisha. The details of geisha life are interesting and beautifully told and the plot is consistently well-paced, and though the book is often criticised for being shallow in its depictions, it still makes for an evocative and enchanting read as distant and alluring as the women and the world it portrays. Seeing this often unseen world through the eyes of Sayuri as she encounters beautiful-but-evil rivals, the oppressive women who practically enslave young girls and the patrons of the geisha is a vivid and dazzling experience. It is a tale of Sayuri as she struggles to find her place in an alien society, but at the same time follow her heart and find love.

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Next up we have something more decidedly dark and malicious than your standard historical romance, but is still as delightfully romantic in its own twisted little way. Its pretty much your typical Cinderella-type story; a poor young girl with a drive to succeed pulling herself up to the higher life. Our protagonist, whose name is never revealed (but it is definitely not Rebecca), is negative, spineless, indecisive and has to be spoon-fed like a child, but by god will you respect her by the end of this novel. She attracts the attentions of a man much older and much higher in social standing than herself, and falls hopelessly, head over heels in love. The pair marry, but something is not quite right Our nameless heroine lives in the shadow of her husbands previous wife, whose life and death are shrouded in mystery. Du Maurier has captured perfectly within her romance the perfect air of mystery and malice, making even the e most mundane day-to-day occurrences drip with sinister tension. Rebecca is a masterwork, a historical fiction that fuses romance, mystery and suspense in a heady mix that will have you biting your nails down to the quick by the end.

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This next dose of historical romance has honest-to-god time travelling in it, so hold onto your hats! It is 1945 and a former combat nurse comes back from the war, walks through a standing stone in an ancient stone circle and bam! Shes now in Scotland, in 1743. Her new past-life is a dangerous one, ravaged by war and tinged with desire in the form of James, a Scottish warrior. Forgetting about her husband in the future, Claire commences a steamy affair with the hunk (after all, her husband hasnt really been born yet, so its cool right?).

The love story is an epic one, dramatic and wholeheartedly romantic even though on the surface the book looks a little suspect, it sounds cheesy and practically screams bargain bin, but it is a story that involves the reader fully and pulls them right back in time with Claire. The characterisation is solid; rich, deep and far from the typical caricatured romance novel tropes, Claire is sharp-tongued and the fights between her and her highland lover are convincingly written. Not to mention that this book cranks up the steam like crazy if youre looking for a good dose of super-hot sex in the midst of your historical romance, thisll definitely give you your fix. Overall, Outlander is a steamy and sharp time-travelling-historical romance that shows deep insight into the true inner workings of relationships. It is an engaging and unpredictable romance that is extremely well-researched and masterfully written.

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We go back even further now, to 1497, where a young Scottish beauty is stolen away from her convent school by an English Duke. Jennifer and her captor, Royce, are at odds to begin with, but she is soon overcome by an irresistible hunger and the two of them become very, very familiar. Despite bad first impressions, Royce actually turns out to be a pretty great hero; hes one of those guys that slowly grow on the reader (despite the fact that hes a complete brute in the beginning).

Jennifer on the other hand is a bit of a mixed bag, sometimes youll love her, sometimes shell anger you, but overall shes likeable. Following these two characters on the emotional rollercoaster that is their rocky relationship, and the setting in which it takes place couldnt be better. McNaught writes it skilfully, and brings more than a surface level reality to the medieval setting. Fans of historical romance who have never read anything by Judith McNaught are severely deprived of something wonderful and should seek help immediately in the form of A Kingdom of Dreams!!

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Our next tale of time-worn love comes from Lisa Kleypas, who transports us to 1800s England where we follow the story of Amelia Hathaway, the head of a newly elevated family. She finds out that their newfound level of aristocracy is difficult to navigate, especially with a whole new challenge to deal with: her attraction to the gorgeous Cam Rohan. The chemistry between the pair is electrifying, Cam is a true alpha male in every sense of the word, once he sets his sights on Amelia he is determined to have her, and she is near-powerless to resist his unmistakeable charm. Kleypas writing is addictive, all nicely drawn characters and a low-key storyline, nicely augmented by deliciously erotic love scenes that arent overly descriptive and yet still manage to be hot and toe-curling.

The only drawback to Mine Till Midnight is a strange random supernatural element that pops up every once in a while, its a little awkwardly shoved in, but can easily be ignored if its not quite your cup of tea. For a racy romp through 1800s society, pick up Mine Till Midnight and youll probably end up like the rest of Kleypas readers, a hopelessly and completely devoted fan.

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Time for romance down under now (minds out of the gutter, please!) as we head to Australia in 1915, as we get acquainted with the Cleary family, and one member in particular, Meggie. This family saga covers the span of fifty years as we follow the story of the family, but most importantly Meggies life and the man that she loves yet she can never possess - what with him being a priest and all. The priest, Father Ralph, has fallen for Meggie too, and its a painful struggle for him trying to choose between his love and his vows, so much so that it is difficult not to share in his pain. Meggie and her fellow thorn birds are so lovingly created that even those people who exasperate and anger you are ones you feel like you know after only a short time, and they really get under your skin.

McCullough does a fabulous job of depicting the arid setting, with the descriptions about the heat and the dryness being extremely well-written, if a little overbearing in their sheer endlessness, create a strong impression of the Australian climate, and you can almost feel it radiating out from the pages themselves. This is an epic and tragic novel, with its share of heartbreak, loss and tragedy, and a strong recommendation for anyone who enjoys tales of tragic, forbidden love.

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Warping back to Medieval England now where a young woman is overjoyed to hear that her abusive husband is dead. The joy is short-lived however, when she finds that by the order of the King she is to be married to another barbaric man all seems lost. That is until her foster brother suggests another bridegroom for her: the rugged and handsome Scot warrior Gabriel MacBain. The two are worlds apart, Johanna is timid and genteel, but is tired of being constantly stepped on and mistreated, and MacBain is a gruff alpha male who always gets his way and hates all things English. The two bicker constantly, especially during the wedding arrangements, but a clear spark between the two ignites, and watching their relationship grow from what is practically enmity to love is fun, exciting and ultimately quite sweet.

Its important to note that under its quite shallow seeming and quite trashy exterior, the novel does actually deal with the issues of physical and psychological abuse in a way that is tactful and relatable. The overall storyline is enjoyable and fairly believable, leaving you both satisfied and yet yearning for more of Garwoods delectable writing and plotting if you have never read a Garwood book before, youll be in for a real treat if you love historical romances!

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North and South is a love story painted on the backdrop of the class conflict between the North and the South of England in the 1800s, and the mill owners and trade unions at the time. It all begins with crisis of faith that leads a parson of a church in the South to uproot his family and move to Milton, in the North. The ex-parsons daughter begins on an impassioned relationship with one of her fathers new tutees, John Thornton they hold extremely opposite views in regards to his treatment of his employees, which Margaret does not hesitate to call him out on, but their arguments simply conceal a deeper attraction to one another.

The passion and legitimacy of Gaskells characters is astounding, they have such strong, complex emotions, and those of Thornton especially are so strong and so vividly portrayed that they almost leap from the page. It is this strength of characterisation that makes North and South such a great novel, in spite of its tendency to be melodramatic, and have a slightly unbelievable plot, it has characters that live on in the mind, a love that you yearn to succeed and that continues to linger in the mind long after the book is finished.

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Our next recommendation is set in 1792 during the French Revolution when, if youre not exactly up to scratch on your history, the French people rose up in revolt and began to execute their wealthy aristocracy, and is the perfect setting for a romantic adventure! In comes the beautiful young Lady Marguerite Blakeney, a French woman married to one of the richest (and generally thought to be one of the stupidest) men in England. All the while there is a mystery man known only as the Scarlet Pimpernel spiriting aristocrats away from their bloody fate and into the safety of England, for whom Marguerite has much admiration. Ill leave the plot details there so as not to spoil the story, so pick it up yourself if you want more.

Onwards, there is a bittersweet love between Marguerite and her husband, and watching their relationship dynamics ebb and flow is interesting as they have to work through their misunderstandings and learn to trust one another in order to be happy. Whilst the novel is a little bit slow on the pacing side, it builds tension well and is extremely engrossing. Marguerite is a great character who, whilst not always making the best decisions, cuts a sympathetic figure. To make it even better, in having a character such as the Pimpernel who is essentially the 1700s version of Batman in that he is a masked hero who has no actual powers other than wealth and intelligence adds a certain level of nerd-cred to The Scarlet Pimpernel. So, if you like an added caped crusader vibe in the midst of your historical romances and want to see the early inspiration for Batman, read the Scarlet Pimpernel, for all your romance, history and vigilante needs!

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Our next historical romance is set in the mid 1800 in the gold country region of California, in which a devout Christian man believes that God wishes him to marry Angel a young woman working in a brothel and struggling to forget the many horrors of her past. It is actually a re-telling of a Bible tale, but thankfully for a Christian themed story this book refrains from ever being overly preachy and instead errs in the inspirational side instead.

Even so, the story is pretty damn depressing, making it far from a light read, make all the more so by the fact that Rivers writing style is so perfectly on point that it brings her characters very vividly to life. It is very inspiring to read this story of a man capable of unconditional love, able to see past all of the details of Angels past and instead wishing to marry her, love and care for her and constantly show remarkable compassion and tenderness. Redeeming Love is an intense and emotionally charged story of faith, hope and love that will leave you completely and utterly captivated.

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Katherine is based on the true story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster from 14th Century England. Katherine was a beautiful woman, but with little else going for her marries Sir Hugh Swynford which places her directly in the path of the Duke. Following the death of her husband the pair begins their long-awaited love affair. This relatively simple plot takes place in a decidedly more complex time and place; during a time in which there is plague, war, riots and political battles, and all of this historical context is written in glorious rich detail, but not too much so as to overwhelm.

It sucks in the reader, transporting them back to medieval England and incites a strong curiosity to learn more about the time period, as historical fiction should. Watching Katherine grow from a young, nave, love-struck teen into a mature, intelligent and aware young woman is a delight, and whilst John can be extremely arrogant at times he is redeemed by moments of unbelievable tenderness. The relationship between the two is a very slow-developing one, but it makes for a sweet and worthwhile payoff in the end. For a tender historical romance with its roots in true history, Katherine is a perfect choice.

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We have a really unusual historical romance here, one that may get a few feathers in a flap, but lets do it anyway shall we? Okay, so Prisoner of my Desire starts out with something very strange; set in the Middle Ages it opens with... Our so-called heroine raping our male protagonist. Yeah It does make a big change from a raped woman falling for her rapist; Ill give it that, but just swapping the genders? Not necessarily original and it is dangerous territory. Nonetheless, it all works out, kind of.

Our hero is ashamed that his body betrayed him during the rape, and so vows to get revenge, but with our heroine feeling a lot of remorse and accepting the punishments that she deems to be fair, it doesnt quite work out how he wanted. Its all scandalous, a little bit bondage at times, and dubious sexual consent issues not to mention the overuse of the word manroot , a pretty cringe-y word 'shudder'. Even so, in spite of all of its flaws, Prisoner of my Desires is actually really good, especially for those who are looking for something a little less Love me tender and more I like it rough in their historical fiction.

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In the midst of the Dark Ages, we are introduced to a fierce and vicious warrior, Ranulf, known as The Black Lyon. Ranulf believes not in love, nor does he trust women following a pounding that his heart received from a previous lover. Enter Lyonene (what a coincidental name!), a gorgeous innocent beauty who wins his heart and tames the beast. Its quite a clichd story, but its still a great read, filled with jealousy, angst and cheese.

Sizzling chemistry pervades throughout, and manages to maintain despite no explicitly portrayed sex scenes. This is historical fiction for those who prefer it to be light on historical detail, theres no real historical content, but the actions, thoughts and attitudes of the characters do reflect what you would expect of the time, women are treated harshly, men are brutish, and its all so medieval! For a fast moving plot, strong characters and bodice-ripping action and arent put off by a little violence (against women) pick up The Black Lyon!

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And to end, a Regency romance in the same vein as your well-known Beauty and the Beast type stories. A scarred hero with a bad reputation meets an intelligent young woman who is somewhat of a geek by Regency standards. Shes obsessed with collecting animal fossils, and when the two get stuck in a cave together overnight they get along famously. He sees the plain girl as beautiful, and she has a lot of faith in him. Gideon is not exactly a typical romance hero, he is never mean nor does he ever take out his anger on Harriet, in fact despite a little arrogance he is very tender and proud of her right from the start.

Their love blossoms nicely amid the plot which is actually quite funny and fast paced, a little quirky, but it works. Theres a slight mystery element, though you may not be surprised to find out the identity of the master villain but this is easy enough to overlook, this being a historical romance novel, not an actual mystery. All in all, Ravished is a great read, entertaining, sweet and humorous, perfect if you like your historical romance enmeshed with a little quirkiness.

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