Apr 26 2012 4:30pm

Romance in the Ruins: Archaeology and Adventure Romances

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth PetersSun, 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.

Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee GuhrkeMany 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 BrockwayAs 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

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Thanks for the recs! I really enjoyed Birthright and look forward to reading another archaeology romance. (Can't believe I still haven't read As You Desire...must get on that, as I know so many people love it!)
Amber McMichael
2. buriedbybooks

When I whittled down my NR collection, Birthright was one I kept! I really liked that book.
Shauna B
3. Shauna B
Thanks for putting these up!! I majored in archaeology in college so its a passion of mine. I have read some of the Elizabeth Peters books and am looking forward to the rest of these. Thanks again!
Amber McMichael
4. buriedbybooks

Oh, wow! What a great major. I hope you enjoy any of these you get a chance to read.
Shauna B
5. Charlayne
I just finished a review for Paranormal Romance Guild of Lori Dillon's "Out of the Ashes" that has an archeology dig at Pompeii as a centerpiece of the story. The first part starts at the AD79 eruption of Vesuvius that buried the city and then moves to the dig in 1944, during the American fight against the Germans in WWII. It was very interesting and very well researched (I am a historian as well as a reviewer of paranormal romances) and it was a very good romance.
Amber McMichael
6. buriedbybooks

Thank you for the rec! Sounds very interesting.
Shauna B
7. Barb in Maryland
You might want to edit your "studied Archaeology in college" remark about Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels/Mertz to 'holds a PhD in Egyptology and is the author of Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs'. Just sayin' the lady has some serious academic chops as well as the ability to write a rollicking good story. I just loved the early Amelia Peabody books.
Kiersten Hallie Krum
8. Kiersten
Oh, I love As You Desire. Also, Loretta Chase's Mister Impossible is a good one too.
Amber McMichael
9. buriedbybooks
@Barb in Maryland,

Duly noted. From the Oriental Institue in Chicago, if I remember correctly? And also lives in Maryland, yes? ;) She does know her stuff and has the academic credentials to back it up. No insult intended.
Shauna B
10. Barb in Maryland
Oh I knew you intended no insult. I just thought other readers might like to know that they can really trust her archaeology bits--she knows what she's writing about!
And yes, she lives in Frederick, Maryland.

Though not archaeology exactly, Amanda Quick had at least one fossil hunter and several antiquarians among her heroines.
Shauna B
11. LindaM
I was going to recommend As You Desire and Mister Impossible, but Kiersten beat me to it. Oh, well, I second your recs, Kiersten!
Shauna B
12. Altaika
Thanks a lot for the rec! Linda Howard's Heart of Fire also has an archaeologist heroine. It's a contemporary romantic adventure novel.
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