Sun, sand, mysteries from times long past... There’s just something so inherently romantic about archaeology. Sure, it’s a lot of tedious digging, but it’s also a field where each discovery changes the way we think about ourselves and our history. And there’s nothing sexier than a hunky guy who is also smart and passionate about his work
I first became obsessed with archaeology romances when I read Elizabeth Peters’s Crocodile on the Sandbank. While the Amelia Peabody series is definitely a mystery series, the first book is also a romance.* A newly wealthy spinster travels to Egypt and meets a surly (but quite handsome) Egyptologist. Together, they uncover a mystery set among the tombs of Amarna. Elizabeth Peters studied Egyptology in college, which gives her authorial cred, but she’s also Barbara Michaels, who wrote romantic suspense novels filled with gothic elements. For me, the interplay between Emerson and Amelia are what kept me reading the series.
Many of the archaeological romances are historicals set during the 19th century or beginning of the twentieth. Perhaps my favorite one is Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Guhrke. We usually think of travel and exotic lands when we consider archaeology, but this book is set in England, about an excavation on English land of old Roman ruins. What is so fun about this book is that it combines the archaeology plot, a workplace romance, and an ugly duckling story.
In addition to the books that are about archaeology, there’s a second group of stories that can be just as fun: adventure romances. Often, there’s a bit of archaeology going on, too, but these fall more in line with Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider. They are quests, often for specific objects rather than for knowledge. And there’s usually some swashbuckling, danger, or mystical component.
Zoë Archer’s Blades of the Rose series is a perfect example of this latter group. In the series of four books, an organization called the Blades of the Rose are tasked with keeping magical “sources” (artifacts imbued with power) from people who want to control that world’s magic for their own nefarious reasons.
Warrior, the first in the series, takes place in Mongolia; Scoundrel, book two, is set in Greece. The books are filled with danger, adventure, and the detective work necessary to locate long-hidden artifacts and protect them.
Whether you read them for the sense of place, the history, or the adventure, archaeology and adventure romances provide wonderful escapes and a touch of the exotic. It’s no wonder they’re so popular with readers around the world.
More Archaeology and Adventure Romances:
Birthright by Nora Roberts features an American archaeologist and her ex-husband who are reunited when a set of old bones show up during construction of a housing development.
Die for Me by Karen Rose features an archaeologist assisting a homicide detective with an investigation.
As You Desire by Connie Brockway is a reader favorite set in Egypt that features a love/hate relationship and lots of banter.
Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase, also set in Egypt, has a heroine obsessed with cracking the hieroglyphics. When her brother is kidnapped, she teams up with a man she springs from a local jail to institute a rescue.
The Book of Seven Delights by Betina Krahn is an historical romance featuring the heroine on a quest for the Great Library of Alexandria.
Another historical romance, Who Will Take This Man? by Jacquie D’Alessandro features a hero who has returned from his adventures to discover that a “curse” from an ancient stone tablet has rendered him unmarriageable.
Stolen Fury by Elizabeth Naughton has an archaeologist heroine on a quest for the Three Furies, a set of Greek reliefs.
Monica Burns’s Order of the Sicari novels combine archaeology, secret societies, and a touch of the paranormal. In Assassin’s Honor, the heroine works at Chicago’s famous Oriental Institute.
The Fifth Kingdom by Caridad Piñeiro is a contemporary romantic suspense novel about an archaeologist who goes missing and her daughter’s attempt to find her.
Special thanks to the readers on Twitter who helped compile the list of archaeological reads.
If there are any more titles you can think of, please share in the comments!
*Editor’s note: For more about another Elizabeth Peters mystery series with romantic elements, the Vicky Bliss series, check out author Alaya Johnson’s guest post.
Amber McMichael, Romance and Mystery Reviews, Buried By Books