Interweaving drama, tension, and passion with accurate
facts from the past and authentic period details, down to
petticoats—that’s the calling of a historical romance
author. Here’s a spotlight on nine masters of the genre.
By Sarah Nicolas
As a writer and lover of literature, I am constantly in awe of historical romance authors. Their works have all the drama and tension of romance while seamlessly incorporating historical events and cultural nuances—not to mention the clothes! Historical romance authors research period dress with as much attention to detail as any nonfiction author. And audiobooks are the ideal way to explore the genre, especially when you’re guided by a talented narrator. There is nothing like witty banter, (im)perfect manners, and veiled flirtation cleverly performed by skilled voices to entertain and enliven the experience. The different time periods add a richness to the settings and an extra layer of discovery and delight.
Here are some of my favorite historical romance novels that especially sing in audio.
01. An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
An Extraordinary Union was recommended by everyone I follow in the romance community. Having listened to The New Jim Crow, I was familiar with narrator Karen Chilton's lovely voice and excited to hear her bring Alyssa Cole's gripping Civil War-era novel to life. The plot concerns Elle, a former slave with an eidetic memory who leaves her freedom in the North to spy for the Union Army in the house of a Confederate senator. Malcom is a Scottish immigrant pretending to be a Confederate soldier for essentially the same purpose. The more they work together, the closer they get to each other—and a dangerous secret.
02. Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger
I adore everything Gail Carriger has written. Genevieve Lefoux is one of the best characters she's ever created, so I was thrilled to see her get her own story in Romancing the Inventor. Fortunately, Emma Newman is a truly delightful narrator. Cross-dressing inventor Genevieve is working in the same vampire hive in which Imogene, a maid, finds herself employed. Imogene sets her heart on winning Genevieve, despite all the complications of class differences, culture, and paranormal interference.
03. Tempest by Beverly Jenkins
I am a fan of everything Beverly Jenkins does—but Tempest is especially pause-resistant. This one features a headstrong woman who ends up shooting her intended husband before she ever meets him as well as a broken family that is healed by the love and acceptance she brings to their lives. Kim Staunton narrates a lot of Jenkins’s novels, but the first time I heard her smoky voice was in Tiffany Reisz's phenomenal The Bourbon Thief.
04. The Duchess War by Courtney Milan
Rosalyn Landor’s emotive narration of The Duchess War is a perfect match for Courtney Milan’s emotional story! Minerva is a wallflower with a hidden, scandalous past. Duke Robert Blaisdell is a political radical who is also more than he appears at first glance. Beneath all their secrets and defenses, they’re a perfect match!
05. The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian
A con man on the run from the consequences of his conscience pretends to be the new secretary for a scientist and earl, who everyone believes is mad. That’s the perfect setup for a second-chances romance in The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian. Gary Furlong's narration of the affection that blossoms between the two men is swoon-worthy in and of itself.
06. Rules for a Lady by Jade Lee
The illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat, Gillian pretends to be her deceased half sister and travels to London for her coming-out season, hoping to marry well and save her sick mother. Her guardian is Lord Stephen, a very proper man who keeps giving her Rules for a Lady she can't seem to obey. This Regency-era romance from the multi-talented Jade Lee (who writes contemporary romances under the name Kathy Lyons) is funny with a slow burn, narrated with charm and wit by Fiona Thraille.
07. A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
In A Desperate Fortune, Susanna Kearsley tells the story of two women via a dual narrative, one set in contemporary France and the other set in France in 1732. Code breaker Sarah Thomas is hired to crack the cipher of the once-famous historian Mary Dundas's mysterious journal and unlock the secrets hidden within. Katherine Kellgren, the narrator, is prolific, having performed audiobooks by Nora Roberts, Rick Riordan, James Patterson, Patricia Briggs, and more.
08. Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean
How can you say no to a hero named Devil? If he’s a rogue dreamed up by best-selling author Sarah MacLean, you can’t! In Wicked and the Wallflower, this Devil plans to use Lady Felicity Faircloth to seek revenge and destroy his enemy. But Felicity is not so easily used, and she fancies Devil more than any duke he offers to help her land. Narrator and classically trained actress Justine Eyre is prolific, and listeners of many genres will recognize her award-winning voice.
09. Wilhelmina, a Winter Bride by Hildie McQueen
Wilhelmina, the down-on-her luck heroine of Wilhelmina, a Winter Bride, is out of options. So, she travels out West to answer a mail-order bride ad—and finds her husband-to-be fighting in the town center. Though Marcus wasn't looking for a bride—his family posted the ad for him—he's entranced by the woman who seems too fine to be so desperate. Hildie McQueen brings two feisty characters and the rugged West to life. Meghan Kelly's narration is clear, with never any confusion about who is speaking.
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