10 Historical Romance Novels: Catch a Glimpse of Old-World Love

Historical romance novels have a quality that is hard to find today. The atmosphere of each scene speaks of another era and the stories are so much more beautiful because of this.

The characters and their views often caused a stir when the books were first released, but these ten historical romance novels continue to be immensely popular and enthrall readers even today.

10. Persuasion, by Jane Austen

First Published: 1818

What It’s About:

Anne Elliot, the protagonist of this novel, is engaged to naval officer Frederick Wentworth. When the story opens, it has been eight years since Anne ended her engagement to the officer. She did so after being convinced by her friend Lady Russell that the match was not suitable for Anne. Unfortunately, the break up causes Anne to experience an immense sense of loss and regret. The story moves forward several years to when Wentworth has returned from his voyages and is now a wealthy, highly successful Captain. Unfortunately, Anne’s family is now on the brink of bankruptcy and Wentworth’s sister is a tenant at Anne’s family estate, Kellynch Hall. Through a series of events, the two ex-lovers meet once again, bringing forth the most pressing question of all: will Anne and Wentworth finally be reunited?

Why You Should Read It:

Read this to get a glimpse of Jane Austen’s sharp commentary on love, marriage and social customs, all topics which are relevant even today.

Best Quote:

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you.”

9. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

First Published: 1847

What It’s About:

A passionate love story, the plot revolves around Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a boy that Catherine’s father adopted as a child. Heathcliff is bullied mercilessly by Catherine’s brother and after Catherine’s father Mr. Earnshaw dies, Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights, the house where the children grew up together. Heathcliff is deeply in love with Catherine, but unfortunately doesn’t realize that his feelings are reciprocated and decides to move far away from her. Heathcliff returns many years later as a wealthy and highly refined man, and plans to take revenge for the misfortunes he experienced at Wuthering Heights years ago.

Why You Should Read It:

If a timeless and passionate love story is what you are after, then this classic is a must read. Loved by generations of readers, this book is often quoted as one of the grandest works to come out of English literature with characters and landscapes that are simply unforgettable.

Best Quote:

“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

8. North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell

First Published: 1854

What It’s About:

Margaret Hale’s father decides to move his family from the comfortable Hampshire location to the industrial town of Milton in the North of England. Margaret despises the new surroundings, finding them bleak and ugly. She is acutely aware of the poverty, suffering and injustice of the local workers at the mill. Margaret decides to help the mill workers in any way she can. This heightened sense of social justice comes, in part, due to Margaret’s dislike for the mill owner, self-made man John Thornton. In fact, the dislike stems from a deeper attraction between the two passionate characters.

Why You Should Read It:

Gaskell masterfully weaves a tale of social injustice and the attraction between two passionate characters, despite holding opposing views. Margaret Hale is considered one of the foremost heroines to come out of Victorian literature.

Best Quote:

“I wish I could tell you how lonely I am. How cold and harsh it is here. Everywhere there is conflict and unkindness. I think God has forsaken this place. I believe I have seen hell and it’s white, it’s snow-white.”

7. Villette, by Charlotte Brontë

First Published: 1853

What It’s About:

Lucy Snowe is the protagonist and the narrator of this story. Lucy flees from an unhappy life in England to start over at a French boarding school in the vibrant city of Villette. She craves independence and this was one of the reasons she fled from her past life. Her goal of being an independent woman is affected by the friendship she cultivates with a wise English doctor while her feelings towards a schoolmaster also have an effect on her. Lucy must decide if she can be a functioning member of the society, and be with a man and yet be independent. Is there such a man in Lucy’s society? This is the question this intriguing and moving story asks.

Why You Should Read It:

Charlotte Brontë wrote this novel after the death of her siblings, in the loneliness that she was experiencing. Her feelings can be felt throughout this moving story.

Best Quote:

“No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so hollow as that of being told to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mold, and tilled with manure. Happiness is a glory shining far down upon us out of Heaven. She is a divine dew which the soul, on certain of it’s summer mornings, feels dropping upon it from the amaranth bloom and golden fruitage of Paradise.”

6. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton

First Published: 1920

What It’s About:

This groundbreaking novel won the Pulitzer prize in 1921 and is an intricate look at the power of desire and betrayal, set against the background of Old New York, in a society where people were mortally afraid of being in a scandal. Newland Archer is on the verge of marrying the beautiful but conventional, May Welland. Archer’s world is turned upside-down when the mysterious Countess Ellen Olenska arrives in New York after a failed marriage. Despite the potentially disastrous social impact of his actions, Archer falls deeply in love with Ellen. He must now make a decision that can either destroy his reputation or leave him in a union with a woman he doesn’t truly care for.

Why You Should Read It:

Edith Wharton is considered one of the foremost American authors of the 20th century and her books often deal with the topic of unhappy marriages, perhaps taking inspiration from Wharton’s real life failed marriage. The Age of Innocence has descriptions of life in America, the class divide and societal norms. The book became extremely popular in Europe as well. Is fitting in with the society more important that being happy? Do material luxuries matter more than being with the one you love? These are just some of the questions that Wharton’s masterpiece explores.

Best Quote:

“Each time you happen to me all over again.”

5. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

First Published: 1973

What It’s About:

Equal parts comedy, fairy tale, romance and adventure, this novel is a fantastic representation of a romance novel set among a whirlwind adventure. Set in the renaissance-era, a beautiful young woman, Buttercup must find her one true love who has been separated from her. The search leads to a myriad of adventures in the mythical Kingdom of Florin, where both Buttercup and her love must fight several evils to be able to come together.

Why You Should Read It:

The author creates a fictional character in the book who grew up reading the original version of The Princess Bride, which his father would read to him at bedtime every night. This story is a reimagining of the childhood story, and in doing so is also a bittersweet tale of how a father introduced his son to magical stories. A love story about a beautiful princess and her true love, this book brims with adventure.

Best Quote:

“Life isn’t fair, it’s just fairer than death, that’s all.”

4. A Room with A View, by E.M. Forster

First Published: 1908

What It’s About:

The protagonist of this story is Lucy Honeychurch, a young middle-class girl who meets two men on her holiday in Italy. One is George Emerson and the other is Cecil Vyse. Lucy turns down Cecil twice before agreeing to marry him. When George hears of the engagement, he professes his love for Lucy and now she must decide between marrying either the more socially-acceptable, Cecil or the one who will bring her real happiness, George. The story discusses shifting class structures and the characters movements are constantly set against beautiful Italian backdrops.

Why You Should Read It:

The struggle that Lucy faces, having to choose between two very different men that could offer her two very different marriages, is one that is created beautifully by Forster’s masterful writing. The two opposing themes that run constantly through the story and which come across in the writing are whether it’s better to live as though one is very sedate, or to live as someone who is filled with passion.

Best Quote:

“It isn’t possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.”

3. The Portrait of A Lady, by Henry James

First Published: 1881

What It’s About:

Isabel Archer is a vibrant American young woman who accompanies her wealthy Aunt Touchett to Europe. Here, it is expected that Isabel will marry soon, but she turns down two perfectly eligible suitors. She is determined to create her own future and finds that she is turning increasingly towards Gilbert Osmond. On the surface it appears he is charming and refined but, unbeknownst to Isabel, he is a cruel and treacherous man. This is a melancholic tale of a woman’s quest to find real love.

Why You Should Read It:

If you have ever wondered about the power of money corrupting a person, then this book may help you see that it absolutely does. Money has the power to turn a person into a predator, manipulating another for their own gain. You may also find yourself wondering about how well you really know the person you are about to marry. Even though Isabel is shown as a headstrong woman, she finds it difficult to make correct life decisions. In her predicaments, you will find yourself hooked onto this page-turner.

Best Quote:

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

2. The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux

First Published: 1909

What It’s About:

Christine Daaé is a young Swedish protagonist of this timeless romance novel. Her father is a famous musician who dies and Christine is raised in the Paris Opera House. Christine’s father made a dying promise to his daughter that a protective angel of music would always guide her. After some time, Christine is taught how to sing by a beautiful voice that she can hear in the Opera house. Christine’s childhood friend comes to her town to visit his parents, and when he sees Christine singing beautifully on stage, he falls in love with her. Unfortunately, this angers the murderous and extremely jealous ghost of the opera house, Erik, who has been guiding Christine.

To make matters worse, Christine suddenly disappears and may be in grave danger.

Why You Should Read It:

One of the most memorable love stories ever written, The Phantom of the Opera has been converted into musicals and movies. If you enjoy dark romantic stories with a touch of Gothic horror, then you will enjoy this book immensely.

Best Quote:

“If I am the phantom, it is because man’s hatred has made me so. If I am to be saved it is because your love redeems me.”

1. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert

First Published: 1856

What It’s About:

Emma Rouault marries Charles Bovary expecting to enter a fairytale marriage. She imagines that after marriage, her life will be full of passion and luxury. Unfortunately, she realizes that married life is nothing like the way it’s depicted in romance novels and women’s magazines that she reads. Her husband is a simple doctor in the country and the provincial life proves maddeningly dull for the bored housewife. In her desperate attempts to gain a sense of excitement, Emma begins a love affair and so begins her downward spiral into deceit and unhappiness.

Why You Should Read It:

The moving story shows the stark reality of what it means to be married and to be with someone every single day. It shows how a person may not realize how unknown their partner is to them. It is not easy to know what someone is thinking, even if you are married to them. Emma is a controversial character and her actions may resound with some readers, while others may not be very sympathetic to her actions. Either way, this historical romance is a must-read.

Best Quote:

“Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”

ALSO READ:

Conclusion

Read these ten novels for a dose of beautiful historical romance. The characters were often ahead of their time and the situations which they are faced with will resonate with readers even today.

 

 

Keeping sharing simple