A Primer of Unusual Historical Romance Reads

As part of our weeklong look at historical romances set in unusual times and places, today we've put together a sort of primer on the best of this exotic corner of the genre. Several of the authors who contribute to the popular blog Unusual Historicals have volunteered their absolute must-reads. Perhaps one of these romances will be your invitation to a much wider world!


"I've chosen Zoe Archer's paranormal-tinged romance, Warrior, the first of her Blades of the Rose series. Come on, Mongolia! The hero is a brawny English soldier, the heroine is a not-at-all-proper Victorian miss, and their passion is playfully sexy. And did I mention adventure? Like Indiana Jones but with all the good mushy stuff I want in a romance."

- Lorelie Brown, the author of Jazz Baby. 



"I'd put in a vote for Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas, set in the northwest frontier of British India, or, as we call it today, Pakistan. Clearly one of the most unusual historical settings I've ever read. Since this is a RITA-winning book, I'm obviously not the only one who found it compelling. What makes it so is the wonderful relationship between the characters. It was not gratuitously set someplace exotic, with a story plunked down in the middle. She backed into the setting, based on the time and place of her story and of the job the setting had in creating the story. She describes this in detail on her website. Interesting stuff!"

- Blythe Gifford, author of His Border Bride



"My choice is The Concubine by Jade Lee, a romance set in 19th century imperial China. This one is a romantic fantasy, which works well for Blaze. The setting was limited to the imperial palace, which allowed for worldbuilding and character development within a shorter space. And it was based on a true event that seems stranger than fiction--a bride search with the Chinese Emperor looking for a suitable wife. We get to see the politics of the palace as the women vie for attention from the Emperor. And did I mention it's a Blaze? Hot!"

- Jeannie Lin, author of Butterfly Swords



"Carrie Lofty's Scoundrel's Kiss is a picture-perfect unusual historical romance. It has a fabulous setting of medieval Spain that's seamlessly integrated into the plot (Medieval Spain), a complicated heroine (an opium addict), and a delicious hero (a fighting monk). And the romance itself is sizzling! What more could you ask for from a romance?"

- Zoe Archer, author of The Blades of the Rose series



"I really enjoyed Blood Moon Over Bengal by Morag McKendrick Pippin, set in 1930s India. The multiracial romance and murder mystery set against the backdrop of Calcutta did a great job of painting the landscape with words. The locales really popped and I appreciated her colorful local vocabulary that never became anachronistic. I couldn't get enough of the tall dark handsome hero."

- Karen Mercury, author of Strangely Beautiful




"Set in 15th century Scotland, Italy and the Ottoman Empire, Bertrice Small’s The Kadin paints a rich portrait of the romance between Sultan Selim and his beloved Cyra Hafise. Born as Janet Leslie, the Scottish heroine was sold into the opulent world of the Ottoman harems. The romance goes beyond the courtship phase to show the many seasons of a long-lasting love."

- Anne C. Bowling, author of Orphans In the Storm




"My all-time favorite unusual historical is also my all-time favorite romance. Period. It's Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase. Pause a moment to sigh over Rupert Carsington. He's like the sexiest, most fabulous version of any character played by Hugh Laurie--the English bounder to end all bounders. He loves his brainy woman, a trope I always find adorable, and together they endure all manner of trouble in Regency-era Egypt. Oh, yes. Egypt. Go forth and gobble this one up. Then reread it to savor."

- Carrie Lofty, author of Song of Seduction


What unusual historical situation would you love to read about?