So this is love. While movie romcoms tend to give me such bad secondhand embarrassment I need to bury my head between my knees, there’s something about reading romance that absolutely delights me. They’re what I turn to when I need a pick-me-up, and historical romances are among my favorites: forcing would-be lovers into strict dances of propriety and turning the brushing of fingertips into something that sets my heart aflutter. Here are eight historical YA romances you can read right now, that will inspire many a happy sigh.
The Season, by Sarah MacLean
The most disappointing thing about Sarah MacLean writing totally rad adult historical romance is that she’s not writing more YA historical romance. But MacLean’s debut was this delicious YA regency romance. The Season takes you to London, where Alexandra and her two best friends find themselves trapped in the middle of a scandal involving treason and boys who are most certainly not appropriate to marry. Helping the brooding and handsome new Earl of Blackmoor solve his father’s murder is certainly not something her mother would approve of—but Alexandra isn’t interested in being a polite society lady.
The Freemason’s Daughter, by Shelley Sackier
Do you watch a lot of Outlander and daydream about finding your own handsome lad? Then Shelley Sackier has you covered. No, love interest Alex Pembroke isn’t Scottish—one of his only flaws—but Sackier’s debut, set in 18th-century Scotland, hits many of the same romantic notes as Gabaldon’s beloved series. Jenna MacDuff has no interest in leaving her home in Scotland behind, but her clan, in rallying support for the exiled former British king, have dragged her reluctantly into England. There, they’re hired to build a garrison for Lord Alex Pembroke’s father—the perfect place to scheme, unless Jenna falls in love with Alex Pembroke, which she absolutely cannot do, as it will put the clan’s entire plan in jeopardy. No matter what choice Jenna makes, part of her heart will be broken—unless she can find a way to have it all.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea, by Tahereh Mafi
Thinking of 2002 as “historical” is a radical concept for some adults, but given that all teenagers would have been under 5 at the time, I’m comfortable including A Very Large Expanse of Sea on this list. Tahereh Mafi’s next book—her first contemporary—takes place one year after 9/11. Shirin, a 16-year-old Muslim girl, is tired of being stared at, yelled at, and attacked because of her hijab. It’s easier for her to block everybody out, to bury herself in music and her family—until Ocean James appears, wanting to break down her walls. Mafi’s lush, romantic worldbuilding has made her a favorite among fantasy fans, and I’m excited to see what she can do with a nonmagical setting.
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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
You’ve probably heard of this one. It was won numerous awards and honors and is drowning in gorgeous fanedits on Tumblr. When it comes to historical romance, it’s one of the first books that comes to mind. But you know what you might not know? That Aristotle and Dante‘s audiobook is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. You know, of Hamilton fame. This story—about two boys meeting every summer throughout high school in the 1980s, becoming comfortable with their true selves and with each other—becomes somehow even more memorable when you have Miranda reading it to you. What I’m saying is this: listen to the audiobook and treat your ears and your heart to a delightful story.
Duels & Deception, by Cindy Anstey
One of the things I love about historical romance is how filled with wonderful tropes it can be, andAnstey’s Duels & Deception delivers in spades. Heiress Lydia Whitfield knows her future: head of the household and future wife to the man of her late father’s choosing. All she needs is for Robert Newton, the law clerk she hires, to draw up the marriage contracts—at least, until they both get kidnapped in an attempt to destroy Robert’s reputation and rip away Lydia’s fortune. Robert and Lydia escape, but whoever kidnapped them is still on the loose, and they’ll be have to work together to figure out who took them, even as Lydia’s careful plans are upended by new feelings for Robert.
When We Caught Fire, by Anna Godbersen
When We Caught Fire arrives this October, the latest from historical romance luminary Anna Godbersen. It’s not a traditional romance, but a story set against the backdrop of Chicago’s Great Fire in 1871. Emmeline Carter’s sudden rise through society—thanks to her father’s newfound wealth and her engagement to Chicago’s most eligible bachelor—is as exciting for her as it is for her childhood best friend, Fiona: with Emmeline out of the way, her childhood sweetheart is available for Fiona to pursue herself. That is, until Emmeline engages in one final fling with Anders. The betrayal breaks Fiona’s heart and puts everything Emmeline has gained at risk, in a world where sparks of romance may be fanned into something that could set the city ablaze.
To Catch A Pirate, by Jade Parker
I love pirates. I talk about them a lot on this site. So is it any surprise that I’m obligated to include Jade Parker’s To Catch A Pirate on this list? Annalisa Townsend wants her father’s treasure back. Pirates stole it a year ago, among them the dastardly James Sterling, who left her with a kiss, her mother’s old necklace, and her father’s ruined reputation. But she remembers his face and his ship, and with forged letter of marque and a ship of her own, she’s determined to hunt him down—even at the risk of her heart.
Alex and Eliza, by Melissa de la Cruz
What if we only watched Act I of Hamilton and lived in a happy world where Alexander never cheated on Eliza? We can try with Alex and Eliza, the first of Melissa de la Cruz’s series about the now-infamous Revolutionary lovers. Set in Albany in 1777, Eliza meets Alexander—whose scandalous reputation precedes him—at the Schuyler’s grand ball, where he rescues her from an attempted assault by her former fiancee. Though far from historically accurate, the book is the perfect romp for teen fans who loved the musical and find Chernow’s biography a bit too daunting.