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If I had to pick my top (current) thirty favorite historical...

Dabney is a new reviewer and we thought this would give you a good idea of what her tastes are so that you can determine how closely your tastes may align with hers. You may recognize the name “Ballin’ Bodice Rippers” as Dabney posted about her Kindle collection on the AAR forums at one time.

In the past five years, I’ve read over 1500 romances. Some I loathed, some I loved and many I thought were-eh–better than the last three Star Wars movies. I’m fairly narrow in my general genre reading. Out of the 1500 books I’ve read, at least a thousand have been historical romance. I’ve read next, in decreasing number, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and, in fairly low numbers, paranormal romance. I’m new here to reviewing at Dear Author and I thought I’d share with youall, since you’re reading reviews based on my preferences, what my favorite romances are. Rather than spend lots of prose on my favorites in all three of my preferred genres, I thought I’d write three pieces, each about my ten favorite books in a genre. And, since it’s the genre I’ve read and loved the most, I thought I’d begin with my ten favorite historical romances. And so, I looked at my list—I have it stored on my Kindle in the extremely politically incorrectly titled collection Ballin’ Bodice Rippers–and realized ten wasn’t possible.

My Ballin’ Bodice Rippers collection has 160 novels in it, all historical romances I enjoy enough to read again and again. There are some authors whose names are represented frequently—Meredith Duran, Anne Mallory, Elizabeth Essex, Sherry Thomas, Julie Anne Long, Lisa Kleypas, Elizabeth Hoyt, Melody Thomas, and Madeline Hunter—and others who’ve authored only one book I treasure: Anna Campbell, Lisa Valdez, Judith James, and Tessa Dare.

My first cull got the list down to 35—this still seemed like an excessive number to share in one post. I tried again, cut a few more, and then was stuck. There are 30 historical romances I love; books I’d recommend to anyone who wants to see what it is that so draws in the thinking reader of romance. Still, 30 books is a lot. I tried to force myself to pick twenty; I tried to limit myself to one per author.  Ultimately, I gave up. These are 30 books I love and, if you want to know, when you read my reviews, what sort of historical romances float my boat, these are the tomes that do. So, in alphabetical order by the first name of the author, here are my (current) favorite historical romances.

Anna Campbell Untouched
Anne Mallory Three Nights of Sin
Anne Mallory One Night Is Never Enough
Anne Mallory Seven Secrets of Seduction
Anne Stuart Reckless
Carolyn Jewel Lord Ruin
Courtney Milan Unveiled
Elizabeth Essex The Danger of Desire
Elizabeth Hoyt The Raven Prince
Jennifer Ashley Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie
Jo Goodman The Price of Desire
Joanna Bourne My Lord and Spymaster
Joanna Bourne The Forbidden Rose
Julia Quinn The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever
Julie Anne Long What I Did for a Duke
Julie Anne Long I Kissed an Earl
Karen Hawkins An Affair to Remember
Laura Kinsale Flowers from the Storm
Laura Lee Guhrke Guilty Pleasures
Lisa Kleypas It Happened One Autumn
Loretta Chase Lord of Scoundrels
Loretta Chase Lord Perfect
Madeline Hunter The Rules of Seduction
Melody Thomas A Match Made in Scandal
Meredith Duran Written on Your Skin
Patricia Gaffney To Have and to Hold
Sherry Thomas Private Arrangements
Sophie Jordan One Night With You
Stephanie Laurens The Lady Chosen
Tessa Dare Goddess of the Hunt


If you would like to see the entire Ballin’ Bodice Rippers list, check out my blog. I’m happy to share. A good book is a great thing and, if I can turn you onto more reading joy, my work here is done.

I loved romances when, back in the mid 70's, in junior high, I read every Barbara Cartland novel I could check out from the library. Then, thanks to a savvy babysitter, I got my hands on the hot stuff. To this day I can remember how astonishingly steamy I found Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love. I abandoned romance when I went to college and didn't pick one up again until 2007 when I got my first Kindle. Since then, I’ve read countless romances; loved many, liked more, hated some. Most of what I read is historical and contemporary romance, but I’m open to almost any genre. I like my books to have sizzle, wit, and plots that make sense. I’d take sexy over sweet any day. I’m a sucker for smart heroes and smart-mouthed heroines. When not reading or writing about reading, or wishing I could rule the world, I'm meddling in the lives of my kids--I have four, ages 17 to 21--, managing my husband's practice, doing bossy volunteer work, and hanging out with Dr. Feelgood.


  1. Amber Lin
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 15:40:20

    Oh, there are some good ones here. In fact, I think that every one on here that I’ve read, which is maybe 3/4ths, I loved. Except It Happened One Autumn, which I seemed to have missed the boat on. I loved Summer’s Night and the Spring book better. I will have to check out the other ones, since our tastes align.

  2. rachel
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 15:52:50

    I just re-read Lord Perfect for about the millionth time last night. So many titles on this list that I really loved so will definitely look forward to your reviews.

  3. Keishon
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 16:20:52

    Hmmmmm, well, I loved Flowers From the Storm. Is that the only Kinsale on your list?

  4. Dabney
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 16:39:56

    @Keishon: Do you mean on my big BBR list? I have one more Kinsale: The Shadow and the Star.

  5. Faye
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 16:40:22

    Dabney, I think you’re my reviewer soul mate.

  6. Keishon
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 16:41:31

    @Dabney: *thumbs up.* Now more importantly, are you a Judith Ivory fan? LOL. I am just messing with you. I’ll email you for the list.

  7. Dabney
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 16:42:08

    @Faye: Oooooo! That sounds lovely. I’m planning on putting out my top lists from my “Chick Lit I Love” and “Bad Guys, Good Sex, True Love” collections as well. You’ll have to see if we mesh in other realms!

  8. Dabney
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 16:43:40

    @Keishon: I actually like The Proposition by Ms. Ivory. That’s about it, though!

  9. Maya S.
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 16:44:32

    Finally! Someone who loved “The Secret Diaries of Miranda Cheever”! I actually liked “What Happens in London” better, but they’re both SO GOOD.

  10. Dabney
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 17:51:44

    @Maya S.: I love The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever. I think it is, despite the hero’s arrogance, a perfect romance for those of us who always thought smart, rather than beautiful girls, deserve the brilliant hottie. I also, in the Quinn oeuvre, like the sexiness of When He Was Wicked, the wit of The Viscount who Loved Me, and the joy of the nerd girl winning in Romancing Mr. Bridgerton.

  11. may
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 18:03:06

    @Dabney: yes to Miranda Cheever, and Lord of Scoundrels (of course)… and a lot of other favorites here too. I would love to see your full list!

  12. Dabney
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 18:12:08

    @may: I need to figure out how to give out my email without it being dangerous. In the meantime, I’ll put the whole list up on my blog, the passionate reader. You can access it at

  13. KR
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 18:15:25

    Wow, I think I like your list. Some of my all time favorites are on that. But was anyone else bothered by the Meredith Duran book? I loved the characters, but she sprinkled in some science that was way too early and that really threw me out of the story. Popular science is another favorite read so that popped out at me.

  14. Dabney
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 18:19:10

    @KR: Tell me more. That didn’t slow me down. I love her books in general. I had a hard time choosing between Written on Your Skin and The Duke of Shadows.

  15. Jane
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 19:09:48

    @Dabney I’ll add a permalink to the original post.

  16. Dabney
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 19:11:54

    @Jane: which one?

  17. Jane
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 19:15:45

    @Dabney I linked to this.

  18. Christine
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 20:24:18

    Great list! I love to see someone else admit they read Barbara Cartland novels way back when- they were probably my “gateway drug” to “serious” romance novels along with Victoria Holt etc. before I got my hands on some Kathleen Woodiwiss books. I’m also delighted to see “My Lord And Spymaster” by Joanna Bourne among your favorites as I think it’s her most underrated novel but one of my favorites. Looking forward to reading your reviews!

  19. Dabney
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 20:57:21

    @Christine: I went directly from Dame Cartland to Rosemary Rogers and was forever changed.

  20. alicet
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 22:19:42

    I am so excited and looking forward to your reviews. I read and loved more than 20 books in your list and scoured your blog for books to add to my TBR pile. Like you I have stopped reading romance books after college and started again about 3 years ago. I really enjoy discovering new authors and buried treasures from reading online reviews.

  21. Brie
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 22:44:23

    I love lists! They make me happy, what a fantastic way to find new-to-me books. I admit that historical romance isn’t my favorite genre, but I can’t wait to read your other lists. I hope you post them soon!

  22. Dabney
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 06:02:23

    @Brie: I am looking at the “Chick Lit I Love” one today, in between judging a high school debate tournament. So, I think that one will be up next week.

  23. dri
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 06:20:40

    The Raven Prince! My favourite Elizabeth Hoyt too, yay! I don’t think that novel gets nearly as much love as it should. :p And yessss, my favourite Meredith Duran too! *high fives*

  24. Susan
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 02:58:04

    I love all of Sherry Thomas’s books and was interested that my very favorite, Not Quite a Husband, didn’t make your BBR cut. Just proves the “different strokes” adage!

    I, too, grew up reading Woodiwiss, Cartland, and those gothic-type romances (but have never read Rogers) before giving up romances altogether for many years. Sure glad I gave them another shot.

    Great list(s). I’ll have to revisit the books I know, and check out the ones that are new to me (such as the Elizabeth Essex books). Thanx.

  25. Dabney
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 10:53:04

    @Susan: Not Quite a Husband just didn’t do it for me. I know I am in the minority there. I think the heroine was too severe for me.

    I love the Essex books. My least favorite–and the hardest to make sense of–is the first. The second two are fabulous.

  26. Sarah
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 11:11:55

    I LOVE It Happened One Autumn and I see very few readers, particularly Lisa Kleypas fanatics like myself, who list it as a favorite. Usually it’s The Devil in Winter, which I did like but wow, I LOVED Marcus.

  27. Dabney
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 12:58:17

    @Sarah: I think The Devil in Winter is pretty good. I like the heroine. But I love Marcus and Lillian. The scene in the library where she’s bombed is one of the best scenes I know of that combines plot, humor, and sensuality.

  28. Karenmc
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 19:42:19

    We share a lot of favorite writer, although not necessarily the same books. I enjoyed looking at the longer list (positive reinforcement and all).

  29. Joanna K.
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 20:08:34

    Bookmarking this list! I agree with many titles in your top 30 list and I will be downloading/finding a physical copy of the remaining titles that I haven’t read yet.

    Fantastic compilation!

  30. KR
    Mar 05, 2012 @ 07:23:48

    Dabney, I’m going to have to read the rest of Duran’s books. I really liked her characterizations, especially the male lead. The science that popped out to me was the characters talking about anesthesia – too early for general experience of that, although is was being experimented with in that era – and the male lead mentioning he was taught about magnetic poles and that they reverse as a child. That was theorized in the early 20th century and proved after WWII. I’ll look for Duke of Shadows. Thanks for the great list.

  31. Dabney
    Mar 05, 2012 @ 09:48:10

    @KR: It’s funny, I asked my surgeon spouse about the anesthesia and he felt its use in the book was viable–it was being used in England in the 1860’s in some cases. I didn’t even notice the magnet thing.

    I love the heroes of her first three books–Julian, James and Phin. I was nowhere nearly as fond of Simon, the hero of her last book. I thought Alex, the hero of Wicked Becomes You was interesting but not as compelling as the heroes of the first three. I think I like Phin the best. His use of language is so sexy and smart. I love the scene where he lists to an uptight MIna all the things he’d like to call her “girl parts.” I just wanted to yank him out of the book and have him as my own!

  32. Natalie
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 12:47:42

    I take it the reviewer didn’t read a lot of 90s historicals? I don’t see a single Balogh, Putney, Gaffney, etc.? Hint: they’re awesome.

    Oh, and the only two really great Star Wars movies were the first two anyway (and I actually like the whole saga).

  33. Dabney
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 15:34:17

    @Natalie: You are right–I didn’t read romance at all during the 80’s, 90’s or early 2000’s. But I’ve been reading recommendations from those eras as I get them. If you look on my big list, at,
    you’ll see that I list three Baloghs, one Putney, and on Gaffney. In fact To Have and To Hold is on the above list.

  34. bad guys, good sex, true love: my top fifteen romantic suspense novels
    Apr 12, 2012 @ 13:15:07

    […] recently shared with Dear Author my favorite historical romances. Today I’m pulling out my favorite romantic suspense novels. These are kept in my Kindle […]

  35. Dabney
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 21:15:55

    Thus far, 2012 has been a great year for historical romance. Since I published my list of Ballin’ Bodice Rippers in the beginning of March, I’ve read seven more historical romances I’m putting on my list. They are:

    This Wicked Gift (a novella) by Courtney Milan
    Capturing the Silken Thief ( a novella) by Jeannie Lin
    At Your Pleasure by Meredith Duran
    Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas
    Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
    The Price of Innocence by Susan Sizemore
    A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare

    Capturing the Silken Thief, At Your Pleasure, Beguiling the Beauty, and A Week to Be Wicked are all 2012 releases. This Wicked Gift was published in an anthology, The Heart of Christmas in 2009. I’ve reread Not Quite a Husband, published in 2009, and realized I under-appreciated it the first time I read it. The Price of Innocence was first published in 1999 and has been re-released as an eBook.

    Happy Friday the 13th!

  36. REVIEW: A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 08:29:28

    […] the Hunt, and I haven’t enjoyed any of your others as much as I did that novel which is one of my favorite historical romances. A Week to Be Wicked isn’t as wonderful as Goddess of the Hunt, but it’s damned amusing, […]

  37. gina
    Aug 07, 2013 @ 01:19:03

    there are here that ive already read, Flower from The Storm is the best yet i read, it will capture your emotions in every page,actually ive read it many times and still cant get enough of it =D…these are my suggestions also…
    theres a lot i want to share..but theres no more space i think =D i have a collections of 600 ebooks at the moment…cant wait to reread them again and again…=D i collect paperbacks too…happy reading!!!

  38. vasu
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 05:21:06

    Oh my god.! this list is ammazing!
    but why not add judith mcnaught? i mean, she is one of the best historical romance writers! she is EPIC! specially KINGDOM OF DREAMS , WHITNEY MY LOVE , ONCE AND ALWAYS and SOMETHING WONDERFUL! they are fab.

  39. Dabney
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 14:52:06

    @vasu: I tried Whitney My Love and it wasn’t for me. I have Kingdom of Dreams on my TBR, however!

  40. gina
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 20:27:10

    yes judith mcnaught is awesome!!!i have a lot of her work now im reading her SOMETHING WONDERFULat the moment..p.90 precisely…hmmm… ilike her story very much since im an historical fans myself…i just those Dukies!!
    i can give you more of them:


    hang on there more to come… =D cheers!!!happy reading!
    can send you e-books too if you want for free i have lots!!just tell me which one provided i have the one your asking then ill send them to you provided of course your email add..the selections i have were from my friends too who i have been sharing to and fro…

  41. Muzzy Lu
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 19:05:50

    There are other great romance books available for spicy good reading. “Captive Heart” by Marcy Gregg is not your usual romance, and has some spice like “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It combines historical romance with suspenseful action and interesting early American history. It is an e-book available at Amazon or Barnes and Noble for only $2.99.

  42. mary
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 01:19:15

    Wow thanks for the list I hadn’t heard of some of these authors. I started this genre last year but I’m horribly addcited…63 books and counting! But so far Julia Quinn, Julie Garwood and Kathleen Woodiwiss are my favorite, @gina we’re in sync I absolutely agree with your list. Although I have to say The Windflower has become one of my favorite top 3 books ever!!! We’re obsessed (my cousin and sister) with that book, I’ve been looking for similar stories but nothing comes close. If you could recommend something similar I would be very grateful, I’ve tried Magic Embrace and The Prize by Brenda something (thought they would come close); I’ll try your bodice ripper list too can’t wait!!

  43. gina
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 04:45:45

    @mary…ill try THE WINDFLOWER however there are two authors?i wonder who is the original here?with the same story?interesting…by the by here’s more of my collections that i suggest..
    thats all for now i guess…actually those three trilogies are 9books and love them all..cheers!!!

  44. mary
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 11:48:08

    @gina The Windflower is a collaboration by spouses Tom and Sharon Curtis and another author Laura London it has become a classic and a must-read, hope you enjoy it! I loved forever in your embrace, I’ve also read most of the Lindsey books but I didn’t like her except for the Malory series. I’ll try Dodd and Enoch thanks!!

  45. Dabney
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 11:54:19

    @gina: I have read most of Ms. Kleypas, Ms. Quinn, and some of Ms. James. Thanks for the suggestions.

    @gina: I love many of Ms. Dodd’s earlier historicals. That Scandalous Evening is a lovely book.

  46. Lyn
    Sep 25, 2013 @ 16:23:07

    I wonder why you do not have Johanna Lindsey books. I’ve read all 50 of them and I loved them all.

  47. Dabney Grinnan
    Sep 25, 2013 @ 17:13:02

    I do really like Prisoner of My Desire.

  48. Lyn
    Sep 26, 2013 @ 07:51:34

    @Dabney Grinnan: yes it is the very first historical romance book i read. and i’m impressed with the story i started loving historical romance because of that book “Prisoner of My Desire”. i also love the Malory Series. :)

  49. Leslie
    Oct 27, 2013 @ 22:26:25

    Kathleen E. Woodiwiss….

    The Flame and the Flower
    A Rose in Winter

    I read them again and again, soooo good!

  50. gina
    Oct 29, 2013 @ 00:19:14

    @mary..thnks for the suggestions..a good read indeed..=D
    @Dabney..yes they are all good read really..=D
    i got new author that i love…her historical romance’s books makes me cry and inlove all over again…try them specially the MERRIDEW SISTERS (SERIES)you’ll love them!..her name is ANNE GRACIE the author..

  51. Renee
    Nov 06, 2013 @ 19:27:54

    Sweet Savage Love is one of my all time favourite books. I read it for the first time over 20 years ago. I haven’t read a book since, where I’ve fallen in love with the characters and truly missed them as much as with this book. I look forward to reading the books you have recommended! :)

  52. Dabney Grinnan
    Nov 06, 2013 @ 20:10:15

    @Renee: Thanks. I have to say, Sweet Savage Love no longer does much for me. But I’m forever grateful to Ms. Rogers for her torrid prose.

  53. nea barabea
    May 07, 2014 @ 09:39:36

    Oh my god!! This list is made of awesome! :) :) Now I know what I’ll be reading for the next few months :) :) THANK YOU! :)

  54. gina
    May 07, 2014 @ 21:53:30

    my latest read: all of these are awesome read!!!!
    CATHERINE ANDERSON — ANNIE’S SONG (very emotional, be prepared => )
    happy reading everyone!!!!

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