My first love, when it comes to reading romance, is steamy historical romance novels. Give me love interests taking down the patriarchy throughout history, all while getting in a good ride in a horse-drawn carriage. Show me lovers who will leave an entire Dukedom behind for love, and go down to spicy town for that love. Give me steamy scenes where each layer of clothing (so much clothing!) is slowly peeled away as the author builds up that oh-so-good tension. The books that blooded me in terms of romance were historicals, and some of my favorite, steamiest books are usually ones where those goddamn petticoats, trousers, and chemises are in the way (RIP THEM OFF, Love Interest!), but whoa baby, do they still find a way. And even better for me, if they’re paranormal, steamy historical romance novels? That’s it, take my money.
What Are Steamy Historical Romance Novels?
What do I define as “steamy”? The word might depend on the reader’s preferences. One person’s steamy might be another person’s tame. Your mileage may vary. For the sake of this list, I define steamy as books with sex scenes that are fully described on the page. There are no fade to blacks, no did-they-or-didn’t-they; they absolutely, without question, bang it out. Probably more than once, too. If you’re looking for some of the best love scenes, or if you’re trying to decide what steam you might prefer in a love scene, I highly recommend reading fellow Book Rioter Annika Barranti Klein’s “The Best Love Scenes in Books.”
Below is a list of some of my favorite steamy historical romances. I’ve included a few fantasy/paranormal historical romances as well, because that’s how I roll. Many below are a part of series, and where each book stands in that series varies. However, each book below can stand on its own, as romances usually (but not always!) do. Hopefully this list will act as a jumping-off point for those looking for some excellent sexy times to pair with masterful historical love stories.
Some of the Best Steamy Historical Romance Novels
I’ve listed the below historical romance novels in alphabetical order by author.
Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
First, let’s take it WAY back in history to the times of ancient Greek gods. This leans more heavily on fantasy romance than historical, but for those looking for ancient times, this steamy novel will scratch that itch. In terms of steaminess, I chose the second book in this trilogy. All three books follow the same couple as their romance kindles and progresses: “Cat” Catalia Fisa is running from a destructive destiny, and she fears her newfound love Griffin will be caught in the crosshairs. Ice labyrinth! Makeup sex!
Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan
This is the fourth book in Callihan’s Darkest London series, which are paranormal historical romances. Evernight (the fifth book) seems to be the fan favorite of the series, and it is very good, but my heart belongs to Shadowdance. It’s a raw enemies-to-lovers tale where both the hero, Jack Talent, and heroine, Mary Chase, are overcoming intense past trauma. There is pining, growing trust, and a tender yet so steamy culminating love scene. That, and it’s set in a world full of elementals, Fae, werewolves, vampires, demons, and the like.
An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
Spies in the Civil War! Elle Burns, who was previously enslaved, returns to the South to spy for the Union Army. There, she meets Malcolm McCall, a detective for the Pinkerton Secret Service. The two join forces (in more ways than one) to help turn the tide of the war. Fiery, forbidden love!
Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt
One should handle any Elizabeth Hoyt romance with oven mitts because they are so hot. The Maiden Lane series is an absolutely blast to read through. All of them are steamy as hell, yet I think Duke of Sin takes the cake for steamiest. For those who love romances where the villain of past books gets his shot at love and redemption, this one is for you. Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, is the villain of London. He kills and manipulates to get what he wants. Born a bastard, housekeeper Bridget Crumb, tries to save her mother from extortion by going undercover in Valentine’s household. Both find pleasure and something more in each other’s arms.
Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins
One cannot have a romance list without including the queen of romances, Beverly Jenkins. Forbidden is as steamy as it is beautifully written. It’s the first book in Jenkins’s Old West series. Rhine Fontaine is building a good life for himself in the West and is able to pass for white. Then he rescues Eddy Carmichael in the desert, and needless to say: sparks indeed fly!
Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
It’s so hard to choose just one steamy historical romance novel by Lisa Kleypas. Many might pick Dreaming of You or Marrying Winterbourne over Devil in Winter, but come ON, you cannot beat Sebastian Lord St. Vincent and Evie’s chemistry. Also, sex deal! “Evie” Evangeline Jenner is desperate to escape her abusive aunt and uncle, so she approaches Sebastian Lord St. Vincent with a proposal of marriage, and surprisingly, he accepts. Sebastian is a well-known rake, but he is drawn to Evie, and she constantly surprises him, including when she says he cannot have sex — at all — for three months if he wants to have her.
Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin
The first in Lin’s Tang Dynasty series, this story follows a Princess who flees her wedding, and the warrior who wants to protect her. Princess Ai Li runs before her wedding, having only her butterfly swords to protect herself. She enlists the help of Ryam. Ryam is honorable yet stubborn, and he can’t help but fall for the woman he’s sworn to protect. I love a good bodyguard-type story, and when Ai Li and Ryam come together after such longing, it is glorious.
Bombshell: A Hell’s Belles Novel by Sarah MacLean
All of Sarah MacLean’s historical romance novels are steamy, and her newest novel Bombshell is no exception. It follows Lady Sesily Talbot as she works with a secret group of women to protect those in need and bring down terrible men in power. Caleb Calhoun has tried for years to avoid his best friend’s sister, but the two just can’t stay apart! This is such a steamy yet empowering novel, and I can’t wait to read the next one in this kickass series.
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
For those looking for steamy scenes in an epic tale of historical fantasy, then A Marvellous Light is a most excellent choice. Marske writes a tale of two men bound together by circumstance to investigate a murder in an alternate Edwardian England filled with magic and secrets. Robin Blyth didn’t know magic existed until an administrative mixup partnered him with Edwin Courcey, a representative of the magical bureaucracy. Despite each feeling like they’re not enough in their families’ eyes, they find acceptance and sizzling passion with each other.
Unveiled by Courtney Milan
This cover really says it all when it comes to this novel’s steam (the hand enmeshed in the corset strings, hel-lo!). Talk about falling for the enemy: Lady Margaret disguises herself as a nurse to spy on the new duke — the man who stole her legacy and father’s fortune. Ash wants revenge at all costs, taking his place as the rightful heir to the dukedom. Do they stick to old loyalties, or fall into steaming hot passion?
Masquerade by Anne Shade
Queer Harlem Renaissance romance! NEED I SAY MORE? In 1925 Harlem, New York, masquerade drag balls are all the rage, and loose prohibition laws bring people together from all walks of life. Dinah Hampton works in Harlem as a nightclub chorus girl. There, she meets Celine Montre, who has fled New Orleans after a family scandal. The two come together amidst a city of nightclubs, balls, and notorious gangsters, and it is hot, hot, hot!
The Prince of Broadway by Joanna Shupe
This is the second book in Shupe’s Uptown Girls series, taking place during the Gilded Age in New York, and it has a steamy scene that still has me fanning myself and blushing. It follows Clayton Madden, owner of New York City’s most prominent casino, and his interest in Florence Greene, who hopes to open her own casino in the future that caters exclusively to women. Both have reasons to use the other, but neither can help the growing passion and intimacy between them. There is a scene where they are holed up in a dark room together and ohhhh my goodness, ya’ll.
The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite
Do you like pining for more than half the novel, followed by steamy scene after steamy scene once that pining is reciprocated and released to the MAX? Then may I introduce you to this fabulous romance by Olivia Waite. Agatha Griffin has bees in her warehouse, and when she calls in a beekeeper to get rid of them, she meets Penelope Flood. Both are torn between their growing love for each other and the changing world around them.
Find Your Next Best Steamy Historical Romance Novel
As past Book Rioters have also said in their posts on romance novels, just because it’s steamy, doesn’t mean it’s trashy, smutty, or dirty. Sex happens; it is an integral part of many relationships. Pleasure can be empowering, fun, and intimate. As I previously mentioned above, your mileage may vary on the amount of sex you prefer on the page in a romance novel. Perhaps you prefer none. All of that is valid, but don’t yuck someone else’s yum.
Whatever your preference, hopefully you found the above list enlightening, and may it lead you on a path to more beautiful books, different books, and even steamy books. Read on, my lovelies, and for more romances, check out this post on historical romance series.