Oct 9 2012 4:30pm

History Isn’t Just the Regency: Unusual Time Periods for Historical Romance

The Bachelor List by Jane FeatherFor far too long, Beau Brummel's cravat has held a stranglehold on historical romance! Yes, we dip our toes in books set twenty or thirty years on either side of the Regency, and some even—daringly—dabble in medievals or Westerns, but when you think of Historical Romance, you tend to think of books set in that tiny sliver of a setting known as Regency England. But no more! With the successes of Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire, and even Mad Men, and perhaps our march into the 21st century, readers are tentatively interested in romance novels filled with motorcars, electricity, telephones, short hemlines, and speakeasies. Granted, I do have a personal stake in this new trend, since I write 20th century-set romance novels <eg>, but I believe this setting is just as romantic as all of those books filled with Empire waists, scandalous waltzes, dandies, rum smugglers, and curricle races.

My love affair with the Edwardian Era was sparked by Jane Feather's Matchmaker's trilogy. Published back to back in 2004, the trilogy follows Constance, Prudence, and Chastity Duncan, daughters of a spendthrift viscount and a (deceased) suffragist. To resuscitate their waning income, they reinstate their mother's society newspaper and add a matchmaking service to go with it. Book one, The Bachelor List, opens in the midst of the suffragette movement, which was sparked when the Women's Social and Political Union moved their headquarters from Manchester to London. Ardent suffragist Constance Duncan meets her match in new MP and Cabinet Member, Max Ensor, whose views on votes for women are more than Neanderthal. Book two, The Bride Hunt, deals with the trouble their newspaper has caused for their father's dubious business associate, which leads Prudence to obtain the services of London's top barrister, Sir Gideon Malvern. In Book three, The Wedding Game, the youngest Duncan sister is hired to find a rich bride for Dr. Douglas Farrell, and ends up wanting him herself!

Saving Midnight by Emma HollyOne wouldn't think the Great Depression a romantic era, but Emma Holly manages to meld the lavishness of Art Deco with the gangster era and dust bowls in her erotic paranormal FitzClare trilogy. Holly's distinctive world-building is never better than in Saving Midnight, Breaking Midnight, and Kissing Midnight. The linchpin of the trilogy is upyr Edmund FitzClare, who attempts to atone for his past by adopting three English children orphaned in WWI. Needless to say, his past rears its ugly head when power-hungry acolytes of his nemisis Nim Wei, wreak havoc on 1930s Europe and America. Each book has its own H/H, but the primary plot is woven throughout all three books, which all move at breakneck speed. A plus is that the books are HOT—Holly's skill with blending romance with erotica is definitely on display. Luckily, they're all on the market, so you can gulp them up at once.

His Very Own Girl by Carrie LoftyLastly, I point to WWII. Surprisingly, despite the iconic image this war has left on pop culture, with its boogie-woogie bugle boys, GIs, SOE spies, and whatnot, there haven't been too many authors who dared to tackle the setting. It was probably a given that “unusual historical” extraordinaire, Carrie Lofty, was up for the challenge. Her latest e-book release, His Very Own Girl, is definitely romance with a capital R. Lofty tells the story of a female ATA pilot and an American GI on the cusp of D-Day, and all of the fears, doubts, and danger of the period are expertly woven into the incredibly sexy and romantic relationship between Lulu and Joe. The best part about the setting is that Lulu is allowed to be sexually forward without seeming anachronistic! Lofty took me on an emotional joyride, and now I want more WWII romances from her and other authors.

Below, I've listed a mix of plain historical romance, erotic historical romance, some inspirational historicals, and even some time-travel, in hope that it will whet your appetite for more 20th century settings!

Edwardian Romances

  • Wedding of the Season, Scandal of the Year, and Trouble at the Wedding by Laura Lee Guhrke
  • The Last Rake in London/Dauntsey Park by Nicola Cornick

WWI Romances

  • Homefront Hero by Allie Pleiter
  • Home by Morning by Alexis Harrington
  • Home by Nightfall by Alexis Harrington
  • The Moonlight Mistress by Victoria Janssen

Midnight in Your Arms by Morgan Kelly1920s Romances

  • Midnight in Your Arms by Morgan Kelly
  • Gather the Bones by Alison Stuart
  • It Stings So Sweet by Stephanie Draven
  • The Widowed Bride by Elizabeth Lane
  • Blood Moon Over Bengal by Morag McKendrick Pippin
  • Harmony by Sienna Mynx

1930s Romance

  • Buttercup by Sienna Mynx

WWII Romances

  • Perfidia by Elspeth McKendrick
  • Blood Moon Over Britain by Morag McKendrick Pippin
  • A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin

1950s Romances (yes, they do exist!)

  • Devil at Midnight and Angel at Dawn (first book set in Medieval Era, second book hops ahead in time to Hollywood in the 1950s) by Emma Holly
  • Sundial by Carrie Lofty


Evangeline Holland is a writer of historical romances, an amateur milliner, and a really great cook. When not writing or reading, you can find her blogging about the Edwardian era on her website, the aptly titled Edwardian Promenade.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Lisbeth Eng
1. Lisbeth Eng
Hello, Evangeline! I loved reading your post and agree that there are many fascinating historical periods in which romance abounds. If I may, I'd like to mention my own World War II romance, IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY. It takes place in Italy and involves the German occupation, the Italian Resistance, and a heroine torn between two lovers. My publisher, The Wild Rose Press, has many WWII romances, as well as those from just about any historical period you can think of.
I will definitely check out some of the books you mention -- they sound great!
Please visit my website at www.lisbetheng.com.
Best regards,
2. wsl0612
Thanks for this list, looks like there are many many books that I've been missing out on! I do wish there could be a wider range of historical romances published.
Lisbeth Eng
3. Jogirl021365
I loved that series by Jane Feather. It is actually one I keep out on my current book shelves in order to keep it handy for a quick re-read. Love it and the time period.
Lisbeth Eng
4. bhorn
Could be added to the list: Pamela Morsi's historicals as well as those of LaVyrle Spencer, all with settings in the U.S.
Kelly Mayberry
5. Keslynn
I'd love to read a romance set in the American Revolution or the ancient world (Greece, Rome, Aztec, Maya). I am fascinated with these settings.
Flora Segura-Buchler
6. fsbuchler
I just read a great WWII era novel by Natasha Solomons, "The House At Tyneford." I recommend it highly!
Lisbeth Eng
7. Lorna Peel
Thank you for highlighting that history isn't just Regency and can I also mention INTO THE UNKNOWN a dual narrative World War Two romance between Kate Sheridan, born in Co Galway, Ireland and who moves to London in search of work, and Charlie Butler, a newly-promoted RAF pilot, struggling to come to terms with his growing love for Kate and the horrors the war will bring to them both. Kate has to deal with the hardships and prejudices faced by the Irish living in England during the second world war and if you want a different perspective of the war from one of the many Irish people – both male and female - who joined the allied forces, then Into The Unknown is the book for you.
8. BonnieDee
I'd like to offer for consideration, Bone Deep, set post WWII, which features a war widow and a tattooed man from a traveling carnival. It doesn't get much more different than that.
9. Kareni
I read and enjoyed Bone Deep; it was an intriguing story, indeed.
Lisbeth Eng
10. magnoliasouth
First off, thank you so much for this list! I am tired of three time periods in particular: 1. Victorian era 2. American Civil War era 3. Regency era. Then there are some that are supposed to be ancient, but finding a really great story is difficult.

I am very interested in WWII romances. WWI romances are the hot ticket right now, with Downtown and all. Also, I like my sex hot. Finding hot sex + a great story is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It's next to impossible.

Might you be able to expand these lists separately and find some of the more erotic titles that aren't the same 'ol thing? I'd love to see more.
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