23 Historical Fiction Books With Romance To Fall In Love With

Historical fiction book with romance to read scaled

One thing that makes reading the most enjoyable experience is finding a book that is so specific you might have spent hours searching for it.

Now, when people think about historical romance, it’s always the usual books about dukes and viscounts, rather than romance set in historical times where the romance is a subplot.

I have written this post for fellow readers like myself who have hyper-specific tastes and are looking for a historical fiction book with romance that they can sink into any time of the day.

Just as I said above, these books should not be mistaken for historical romance books because while they are in a sense historical romance, the romantic storyline is usually an add-on to the story.

Apart from the placement of the storyline, another major difference between these two genres is that historical fiction books with romance usually have a very deep plot compared to ordinary historical romance books.

This might sound like I am talking in circles, especially if this isn’t something you have consciously thought about, but trust me when I say that all the books on this list are some of the best things you would ever read.

1. Stars in an Italian Sky by Jill Santopolo

Stars in an Italian Sky

In post-World War II Italy, Vincenzo and Giovanna, from different social backgrounds, share a passionate love until political tensions tear them apart. 

Decades later in New York, Cassandra and Luca’s relationship is tested when a family painting session reveals a long-buried family secret that alters their lives.

2. The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

The Marriage Portrait

In 1550s Florence, Lucrezia, the grand duke’s daughter, transitions from obscurity to prominence when her older sister’s death leads to an arranged marriage with the ruler of Ferrara. 

Despite her artistic pursuits, Lucrezia faces the challenge of surviving in an unfamiliar court and understanding her enigmatic husband, Alfonso. 

As she does what she can to remain afloat even while inexpertly handling court expectations and the pressure to produce an heir, Lucrezia’s resilience is tested.

Maggie O’Farrell’s vivid portrayal of Renaissance Italy will absolutely sweep you away and it’s simply the most perfect historical fiction book with romance I have ever read. 

3. Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson

Our Darkest Night 1 1

In 1943 Italy, as Nazi occupation threatens the Mazin family, Antonina must flee Venice and masquerade as the wife of Nico Gerardi, a farmer, to survive. 

Together, they put up a united front built on deception while avoiding Nazi scrutiny and, in time, their bond deepens even as the turmoil of World War II ravishes the world around them.

What I found most special about this lovely book is that it’s inspired by true events, and I totally appreciated the way it showed the terror, hope, love, and sacrifice of those who faced the Holocaust.

4. The Typewriter Girl by Allison Atlee

The Typewriter Girl

Betsey Dobson, a determined typewriter girl in Victorian London, seizes the opportunity to work as an excursions manager at a seaside resort as she chases her independence and fulfillment. 

And even though it becomes one challenge after the other and her past struggles start resurfacing, Betsey finds support and a blossoming romance with Mr. Jones, the ambitious builder of the resort’s pleasure fair. 

Set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century England, this passionate debut novel shows in lovely, heartwarming detail Betsey’s journey toward love, independence, and self-discovery. 

5. The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

The Japanese Lover

In 1939, Alma Belasco finds love with Ichimei Fukuda, the son of her family’s Japanese gardener, even though the shadow of Nazi oppression looms above them and the onset of World War II. 

Their bond is then tested when Ichimei and his family are sent to internment camps after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Decades later, as Alma nears the end of her life, her hidden love story with Ichimei is discovered by Irina Bazili and Seth, which leads to a narration of one of the greatest love stories ever.

The Japanese Lover is another easy favorite that I always, always recommend to people who want to read an interesting historical fiction book with romance – It’s so, so good. 

6. Last Voyage of the Valentina by Santa Montefiore

Last Voyage of the Valentina

Set in London during the 1960s and post-World War II Italy’s Amalfi coast, The Last Voyage of the Valentina follows Alba’s decision to find out more about her mother, Valentina, after discovering a portrait of her. 

The deeper Alba goes into her mother’s mysterious past, the more she gets swept into a tale of decadence, deception, and betrayal, involving partisans, Nazis, peasants, and counts. 

Soon enough, Alba not only fully understands her mother’s hidden history but also finds the potential for happiness in her own future.

7. Come From Away by Genevieve Graham 

Come From Away

Grace Baker’s brothers leave for war in the fall of 1939, and she is left to tend to the homefront and their Nova Scotian community. 

As the war drags on and rumors of German U-Boats surface, Grace sinks deeper into her work at the family store, but soon, a charming stranger, Rudi, arrives.

Grace is instantly drawn to him, but soon discovers he’s not who he seems. As truths about her family emerge, Grace must now confront her beliefs and choose between love and loyalty in a time of war.

8. What We Become by Arturo Perez-Reverte

What we become

Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s novel follows the tumultuous love affair between Max, an elegant thief, and Mecha, a high society woman, spanning from a transatlantic cruise in 1928 to encounters in Nice in 1937 and Sorrento in 1966. 

Their 40-year passionate but bittersweet romance wraps around an exquisite backdrop of espionage, danger, and the decadence of Buenos Aires. 

What We Become is another historical fiction book with a romantic storyline that made me feel warm all over. Baked into the romance that’s at the heart of it is a feeling exposé on the fervor of youth and the complexities of aging.

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9. The Accidental Empress by Alison Pataki

The Accidental Empress

In 1853, young Elisabeth, Duchess of Bavaria, became the center of European politics when Emperor Franz Joseph chose her over her sister as his bride. 

As Empress of the Habsburg Empire, Sisi must somehow survive the many treacherous court intrigues and familial tensions while she tries to win the love of her emperor and her people. 

With rich period detail and complex characters, The Accidental Empress feels like so much more than a story – It’s almost like peering into the history of the Habsburg Empire and seeing the workings of an enigmatic royal family.  

10. The World and All That It Holds by Aleksandar Hermon

The world and all that it holds

Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s arrival in Sarajevo in 1914 heralds the start of World War I, and, on the other end, Rafael Pinto realizes that he has become disillusioned from his poetry-filled days in Vienna. 

And while the chaos of war rages on, Pinto’s only solace is his relationship with Osman, a fellow soldier and his protector and lover. 

Together, they do what they can to survive the horrors of war, even if it means facing a near-certain death and setting out on a journey from the trenches to Shanghai.

11. Learned by Heart by Emma Donoghue

Learned by Heart

In 1805, at the Manor School for Young Ladies in York, fourteen-year-old Eliza Raine, daughter of an Indian mother and British father, feels like an outsider. 

When a bold and charismatic new student arrives, Eliza’s life is transformed by their intense and unlikely relationship. 

Emma Donoghue’s historical fiction novel about the first stirrings of love, Learned by Heart, tells us the heartbreaking tale of these two women whose bond changes them forever in many ways one. 

12. The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

The Light Over london

The Light Over London follows the lives of two women: Cara Hargraves, who discovers a World War II-era diary and photographs, and Louise Keene, a Gunner Girl in wartime London. 

As Cara tries to learn more about Louise’s past, she discovers the realities of wartime romance and the resilience of women who had to face many unimaginable challenges. 

Just like many other books on this list, The Light Over London is set in the cloudy years of the Second World War, but what sets it apart is the way our author treats the subjects of love, loss, and the strength of the human spirit.

13. The Verdun Affair by Nick Dybek

The Verdun affair

Set in the aftermath of World War I and 1950s Los Angeles, Tom, Sarah, and a mysterious amnesiac soldier named Douglas Fairbanks have an encounter that changes their lives. 

Their paths cross in Verdun, France, and again years later in an Italian psychiatric ward, and this time around, they find that their many secrets and deep trauma bind them together. 

Decades later, in Hollywood, they must learn to move past the pain of loving, the heartbreak of losing, and the repercussions of a single lie. 

14. All The Glimmering Stars by Mark T Sullivan 

All the Glimmering stars

In Uganda during the 1990s, Anthony Opoka and Florence Okori are kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army. 

But, even though they’re subjected to unspeakable horrors, they cling to their last shreds of humanity and dreams of survival while forging a bond rooted in shared pain that anchors them for decades. 

This lovely book shows the slow blooming of their love and how they eventually set out on a mission to help other child soldiers escape captivity. 

If you know me, then you know that an African romance book with always, always have my heart and this beautiful African historical fiction novel was everything and more. 

15. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Juliet becomes enchanted by the eccentric members of a literary society on the island of Guernsey, and through their correspondence, she learns about their lives during the German occupation and finds herself drawn to their world. 

Written in the form of letters, this novel celebrates the power of literature and the unexpected connections it brings. And, even more special, was how Juliet grew in turn with – This was basically my favorite part of the entire text. 

16. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Tattoist of Auschwitz

Lale Sokolov is a Slovakian Jew imprisoned at Auschwitz-Birkenau during World War II. Forced to work as a Tätowierer, he tattoos fellow prisoners while witnessing horrific atrocities. 

Soon enough, Lale finds love with Gita, a fellow prisoner, and uses his privileged position to help others survive. 

This harrowing yet ultimately hopeful novel shows the endurance of love and humanity in the face of unimaginable adversity.

A list of some of the best historical fiction books with the most epic romance would literally be incomplete without mentioning this gem of a work. If you haven’t read it, this is the sign you’ve been waiting for. 

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17. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife

At 28, Hadley Richardson meets and falls in love with Ernest Hemingway in 1920s Chicago. They then marry and move to Paris, where they become part of the vibrant Lost Generation alongside literary luminaries like Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. 

But the legs of their marriage start creaking when they’re smack-dab in this fast-paced, non-traditional lifestyle of Jazz Age Paris. And, even though they love each other deeply, they struggle with fidelity and trust which ultimately destroys their union.

This book is perfect, in my opinion, because it captures the attendant heartache that comes with dashed promises and the complexity of a relationship where there are neither winners nor losers. 

18. To Die Beautiful by Buzzy Jackson

To die beautiful

To Die Beautiful is a gripping debut novel by Buzzy Jackson, based on the true story of Hannie Schaft, a heroic young Dutch woman who joins the Resistance during World War II. 

Shy law student Hannie becomes an armed member of the Dutch Resistance after her Jewish friends are threatened by the Nazis. With untapped ferocity, she carries out daring acts of sabotage and assassination and eventually earns the nickname Girl with Red Hair from Hitler himself. 

And, even with the chaos of war dogging her every step, Hannie manages to find love and a chosen family while moving against the odds to maintain her humanity in a dastardly brutal world. 

19. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

The things we cannot say

Alina Dziak is a young woman living in a Russian refugee camp during World War II. Engaged to her best friend Tomasz, Alina’s life is upended by the Nazi occupation of Poland and Tomasz’s enlistment to help their country.

And soon, Alina is forced to desperately wait for word from Tomasz while surviving the dangers of Nazi patrols. The book moves between Nazi-occupied Poland and modern times, as it follows two strong women who make the most of what they’re handed. 

This emotionally charged historical fiction book with romance shows the power of finding one’s voice and trusting it, even in the darkest of times, and, also, about the power of vulnerability. 

20. A Single Swallow by Zhang Ling, translated by Shelly Bryant

A single swallow

Pastor Billy, Ian Ferguson, and Liu Zhaohu made a pact to return to their Chinese village each year on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II. 

Their souls then reunite seventy years later to fulfill this promise, but one person is missing: Ah Yan, also known as Swallow, the woman they all loved. 

As they remember their many wartime experiences and trade stories and memories of Ah Yan, we see the resilience of her spirit shine through them as they honor her legacy of grace and dignity. 

21. This is How I’d Love You by Hazel Woods

This is how Id love you

Set in 1917 during World War I, Hensley Dench’s life changes when her father’s anti-war writings lead to his resignation from the New York Times and a forced exile. 

Forced to leave her life behind, Hensley relocates to New Mexico where her father oversees a gold mine and she soon starts a clandestine correspondence with Charles Reid, a young medic, through her father’s letters. 

The written word draws them even closer to each other and their love shines brighter than anything. This is yet another beautiful & romantic historical fiction book that everyone needs to read.

22. In Another Time by Jillian Cantor

In Another Time

In Another Time is a sweeping historical novel spanning Germany, England, and the United States that follows the love story of Max and Hanna who are torn apart by circumstances leading up to World War II. 

As Hitler rises to power, Max, a bookshop owner, and Hanna, a Jewish concert violinist, try to make sense of the challenges of war and Max’s secret that may hold the key to Hanna’s survival. 

One unique thing about this book is that the narrative moves between Max’s perspective in the time leading up to the war and Hanna’s journey in the years after, and, trust me, you’re going to shed buckets. 

23. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth

Finally, The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is a beloved and bestselling novel that follows the tale of a twelfth-century monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral ever known. This is easily one of the best historical fiction books of the last century and you’re going to love it. 

Aside from the magnificent world-building that feels genuine in every sense of the word, you’ll meet so many endearing, lovable, and complex characters that will carve a space in your heart.

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Would you like to read any of these historical fiction books with romance? Let me know which ones you enjoy in the comment section below, and we can discuss. 

I also appreciate any recommendations; let me know your favorites, and I’ll definitely read them. In the meantime, you might want to check out this list of the best steamy historical romance books for your bookshelf.


Hi! I'm Preye ("pre" as in "prepare" and "ye" as in "Kanye"), and I am a lifelong book lover who enjoys talking about books and sharing bits and pieces of all the fascinating things I come across. I love books so much that I decided to become a developmental editor, and right now, I work with authors to help them tell their stories better. On this blog, I share everything from book recommendations to book reviews and writing tips, so feel free to stop by anytime you like!

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