Let’s get it out right up front — I’m not a fan of the traditional straight, white male dukes who overpopulate historical romance novels.

Ignoring the fact that there never were dozens and dozens of tall, ripped, chiseled, youthful noblemen with good teeth and better bathing habits in the 19th century, this trope also ignores the richness and diversity of history. Fortunately, there is far more to romance than London Regency ballrooms filled with British nobility.

We are in an era that explores the idea at the heart of the romance genre — everyone, no matter their appearance, gender, sexuality, ability, background or religion is worthy of love and a happily ever after (HEA). While the genre still has a way to go, today’s writers are penning more inclusive stories from the point of view of the modern woman. And no, the #MeToo movement hasn’t ruined romance, in fact consent has never been so sexy.

To put this list together, I consulted friends who were agents, authors, editors, librarians, booksellers and, of course, readers. Many of their recommendations introduced me to new and exciting authors, but ultimately this list is strictly my own. I wanted great writing, great characters, and a story that makes you sigh when you set down the book. So, prepare to fill up your TBR and spend that entire gift card you got for the holidays. You’re welcome.

THE SERIES

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