Our Shared Shelf discussion

Book Suggestions > Feminist Historical Romance Novels?

Comments Showing 1-31 of 31 (31 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by D (new)

D (dsvs) Hey!

I like reading romance, it's formulaic, often short enough to read in a sitting, and has a happy ending. But it's really hard to find good romance novels.I love the historical genre the most, you can learn so many interesting tid-bits from the books.
However, I can't read books where people casually talk of "tanning her hide" and such. So, a modern take on historical novels.
I love Julie Garwood's historical romances! (Recommendation for those lucky enough to have not experienced it yet!) , where everything is fluffy and sweet and nothing hurts.

Any suggestions? (No sexual assault and such, please)

message 2: by Alana (last edited Jun 14, 2016 09:11AM) (new)

Alana  | 5 comments This might not be exactly what you are looking for, but after reading this the first thing that came to my mind is A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

This is a YA historical fiction which also has elements of romance and the supernatural woven into the story. I read this years ago and loved it! It is a trilogy so there are two more books as well. What I loved about these books is that it is about a group of girls at a Victorian finishing school who are basically being trained to be proper, obedient, Victorian wives--but the characters, especially the main protagonist, find ways to rebel against this notion that the only way to be woman is to embody the role of an "ideal wife" and ultimately discover their own power and agency as individual young women, especially in a society which has a very narrow and restricted view of who women should be and how they should behave.

I also admire the way these books treat female sexuality--especially set against a Victorian backdrop where women were expected to be "chaste" and "pure." Through their adventures, Gemma and her friends sexual awakening is ignited and is something that is celebrated, and I liked that Gemma in particular is able to discover her own power within her sexuality.

Sorry if a lot of this is sounding vague, I read these books over 10 years ago, but do highly recommend as they definitely have elements of the "Gothic romance" genre/historical fiction that it sounds like you may enjoy.

message 3: by Bunny (new)

Bunny They aren't romances per se, but I would recommend the historical novels of Gillian Bradshaw, who studied classical Greek at the University of Michigan and then at Cambridge. Her novels are often set in the classical period and have heroines who have spines without being horribly historically inaccurate. She also writes science based novels set in the present or near future, so you have to check the blurb to make sure what you are getting.

But you might enjoy The Sun's Bride or The Beacon at Alexandria.

message 4: by Nyx (new)

Nyx (seadnato) Read 'Storm and Silence' by Robert Thiery(?). its about 19 th century and is very funny and just read. you will love it. one of the first feminists!

message 6: by Bunny (new)

Bunny Outlander contains sexual assault. I point this out only because the OP asked for no novels with sexual assault.

message 7: by Lori (new)

Lori Erezuma (lori_reads) | 1 comments I am not sure this is technically a romance novel, but A Reliable Wife was great.

message 8: by D (new)

D (dsvs) Thank you everyone! This has been very helpful.

message 9: by Katelyn, Our Shared Shelf Moderator (new)

Katelyn (katelynrh) | 836 comments Mod
Moved to Book Suggestions folder

message 10: by Doris (last edited Jun 27, 2016 12:49PM) (new)

Doris (webgeekstress) | 8 comments You might enjoy Gwen Bristow's Plantation Trilogy: Deep Summer, The Handsome Road, and This Side of Glory. It follows a pair of families from arrival in Louisiana shortly after the American Revolution (Deep Summer), through the Civil War (Handsome Road), and up through WWI (This Side of Glory). The main characters are strong-willed and capable women (at least as much so as their times will allow, and just a little more so.)

No sexual assault; there are a few babies born on the wrong side of the blanket, but they result from consensual relationships.

message 11: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen (kthlnmlndz) | 1 comments Natalie wrote: "Read 'Storm and Silence' by Robert Thiery(?). its about 19 th century and is very funny and just read. you will love it. one of the first feminists!"

It is such a humorous story! Completely agree for a recommended read, if you are looking for a feminist trying to make it in the working world as wo(man)!

message 12: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 1 comments I really like Historical Fiction myself and one of my favourite authors is Julia Quinn. She writes about Regency London and her dialogues are simply amazing. If you don't know her, you should definitely read some of her work - she has written half a dozen book series so it will be easy to find something appealing. My personal favourite, however, is the series on the Bridgerton siblings. Love it!

message 13: by Wallawoo (new)

Wallawoo | 2 comments I've heard good things about the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan - all of the protagonists are very intelligent and I think there's even one where the heroine is a suffragette. Haven't read it myself but am planning to!

message 14: by Catherine (new)

Catherine | 8 comments loooooads of classics

message 15: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Faltesek | 17 comments I got you, ladies. The Brother's Sinister Series by Courtney Milan features a woman who was disguised as a boy during her youth to become a chess champion, a woman who studies genetic inheritance and has to publish her scientific work through a male, and a suffragette who runs a women's newspaper. It's not perfect, but they all feature real, strong, flawed, intelligent women of agency and men who love them.
Her modern romance Trade Me features an Asian-American daughter of immigrants who is putting herself through med school; she confronts the rich boy on his rich assumptions in a way that shows her to be a real person, not a feisty and insubstantial bouncy ball like many romance novel heroines. Also, the character's best friend is transgender, and will be the star of the sequel.

message 16: by Ross (new)

Ross | 1444 comments I am going to court controversy here, but what are the thoughts on how these women are being portrayed in this books there is a tendency to see them in modern light feisty succeeding in a mans world. Which is good and offers role models.

But is there a danger of minimising the struggle women faced in the past many failed and did not manage to over come the vast forces arranged against them. Could young women now think things were not so bad back then after all.

message 17: by Prerna (new)

Prerna (prerna369) | 3 comments Georgette Heyer is one of the few romance novelists I can read.
I don't like romance novels with no other plot other than the romance and hardly and depth to other characters (apart from the protagonist couple). Heyer is my favorite feel-good light reading.

message 18: by Aglaea (new)

Aglaea | 987 comments Ross, I've been on a romance spree for over a year now, and while I do enjoy the slightly brainless reading, personally I have no trouble keeping separate the sugary novel contents from an at times very harsh reality. Romance novels for me are only ever about escapism as well as allowing myself to dream/believe for a moment that there are more good men out there than I have had the pleasure of meeting so far. Can't speak for others though.

Prerna wrote: "Georgette Heyer is one of the few romance novelists I can read.
I don't like romance novels with no other plot other than the romance and hardly and depth to other characters (apart..."

I'm stuck on one of her books currently (can't recall the name but it's something to do with marriage) and oh my god, Horatia is seriously not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I just can't with stupid heroines, so it's a bit of a struggle. Over a decade ago I enjoyed her Venetia though, which is why I'm so stunned at my slow progress now.

message 19: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 1 comments You might enjoy almost anything by Stephanie Laurens. All of her books have strong female characters as well as a plot that usually involves some kind of intrigue and action.

message 20: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Lovegreen (lynn_lovegreen) Great list! :-)

message 21: by Gnome Claire *Wishes she was as cool as Gnome Ann* (last edited Jul 22, 2016 11:23AM) (new)

Gnome Claire *Wishes she was as cool as Gnome Ann* With the other posters about Courtney Milan and I also love Georgette Heyer

I'd also recommend Rose Lerner- I really liked True Pretenses.

I also enjoy Eloisa James- particularly the Desperate Duchesses series and the Essex Sisters. Not as feminist as Rose Lerner or Courtney Milan but still great.

message 22: by Aglaea (new)

Aglaea | 987 comments Julia Quinn's Bridgerton family is rather clever and the ladies don't need any saving whatsoever. Other stories are uneven in rating.

Sarah MacLean's Nine, Ten, and Eleven ladies are similarly resourceful, but then they are uneven in rating.

Can't recall the author's name but I have it on my shelf, second in a series on naval men. This involves a fabulously well researched setting in England during war when people needed a hospital. Something about Surgeon's wife. Not for the faint of heart, it involves graphic stuff on wounds, but it is solid and one of my all-time favourite historical romances. The heroine is a Lady who rather hates being a Lady, then starts working as a nurse. Rocks my socks off.

I'm on a fairytale historical romance by Eloisa James now but can't get into it. I hear she researches well though.

message 23: by Caitlyn (new)

Caitlyn Davis | 7 comments Yes Outlander does contain sexual assault, but you are also asking for historical. Outlander is amazing! Completely amazing, Claire and Jamie bring history to life.

message 24: by Cătălina (new)

Cătălina (catalinasimona) | 9 comments Everything from Bronte sisters and Jane Austen.

WackyRomanticPyrate Diana (wackyromanticpyratediana) | 21 comments I'm really interested in Feminist (or as close to feminist as I can find, since still too little is written...) outside the box historical romance, which though there may be challenges --makes you feel good the whole book (not just happy ending):

The challenge I come up w/is that often feminist books have a cooler, more detached, hard-edged feel to them; or a lot of anger/angst... or spend too much of the books time/focus on apocalypses/violence/the corruption etc... -- And books w/warm supportive characters, & happy uplifting stories are often not feminist, &/or are recirculate the same kinds of stories over & over again; or are more 'fluff' -- lacking substance/idiosyncratic/eccentric characters,/new frontiers/new ideas, etc. --

....Not because a story can't be written that combines all these things; but usually it's just not the focus/interest of the author.

Are any of the above both feel good, happy ending, & feminist... or at least outside the box? Welcome to also call me & talk about the recommendations, as posting's a challenge (I'm vision impaired):
(310)936-3150 phone doesn't accept txt msgs, fine to leave voicemail 24 hrs

message 26: by Mare (new)

Mare GB Did you ever hear about Slavenka Drakulic? She is a Croatian writer, journalist and feminist who puts female heroines in the middle of her novels.

Artrist Dora Maar, painter Frida or sceintist Milena Einstein (Albert's first wife) are the three great women who lived in the shadow of their partners. Drakulic located them in the first plan of her novels and show their tragic destiny and the struggle against the patriarchal society. She shows us relationships that are far from perfect relationships between lovers or wife and husband.
Drakulic combines biographical facts with the world of fiction.
She is a writer of the first book about feminism in East European. However, as far as I know, there is only a Croatian edition until all the other books can be found in English. Namely, today she writes her works in English.

message 27: by Iamshadow (new)

Iamshadow | 30 comments D wrote: "Hey!

I like reading romance, it's formulaic, often short enough to read in a sitting, and has a happy ending. But it's really hard to find good romance novels.I love the historical genre the most,..."

Sarah Waters. There's nothing in the brief that says that the romance has to be heterosexual, and Waters' books shine a light into the spaces women inhabited in times past while pushing the boundaries of those spaces.

message 28: by Unicorn (new)

Unicorn  (unicornreader) "A mad wicked folly"is very good

message 29: by Indievioletss (new)

Indievioletss | 1 comments A lot of people are mentioning “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon, and I’d have to agree. Also, this may be a bit of a stretch from what you’re looking for, but perhaps you’d be interested in reading “And I Darken” by Kiersten White. Its a gender-swap version of Vlad the Impaler, and it contains romance. I find that the author did a very good job in depicting a strong and ambitious female lead. Hope you’ll give it a shot!

message 30: by Zeynep (new)

Zeynep Balkan | 1 comments I would suggest Jane Austen’s books.They are the perfect mixture of both feminism and love and take place in the 18th century.

message 31: by Emily (new)

Emily | 1 comments Jane Eyre every time. Despite its era, Jane is a wonderful feminist although it comes across much more subtly. She is weak physically but strong by mind and nature. Just love her!

back to top