The Best Historical Lesbian Romance Novels

Published: 19 August 2023
Written by Penny Somerset

If you're anything like me, delving into the rich tapestry of historical lesbian romance novels is akin to embarking on a thrilling journey through time. These intricate works blend an intoxicating mix of passion and history that will lead your heart down unbeaten paths - transporting thought and emotion across centuries, after all; isn't it an adventure worth seizing?

Two women in 1940s attire sit closely together outside

Table of Contents

• Our List of Historical Lesbian Fiction
• History's Sapphic Secrets: The Final Page Turn

• Related Posts
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From delicate courtships in regency England to fierce resistance fighters during WWII - queer historical fiction does more than merely fanning passions. Indeed, these lovingly crafted books present two main ingredients-stirring romances between queer women wrapped within meticulously researched parts of our past-a unique ensemble caringly assembled for us by gifted authors from the queer community. Secondarily yet equally deserving praiseful mention are those who perfectly capture their characters' struggle against societal norms-in both private spaces where love blossoms slowly but securely-and public areas demanding courage under scrutiny-all unfolding amidst dramatically shifting paradigms uniquely inherent in any good piece of historical romance.

Our List of Historical Lesbian Fiction


Book cover of Fingersmith
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by Sarah Waters

Raised with an uncanny gentleness by Mrs. Sucksby, the baby farmer in a tough London neighborhood, Sue Trinder grows up among a ragtag crew of petty thieves. One day, a suave con artist named Gentleman approaches her with a tantalizing scheme: secure a maid's position for the unsuspecting Maud Lilly, assist him in her seduction, and then split Maud's hefty inheritance. The catch? Once they have the money, Maud will be declared insane and locked away forever. As Sue infiltrates Maud's world, her initial motivations of gratitude towards her makeshift family waver. She starts to genuinely care for Maud, and as emotions entangle and truths unravel, it becomes clear that nothing is straightforward in this web of deceit and unexpected affection.

The Price of Salt

Book cover of The Price of Salt
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by Claire Morgan (Patricia Highsmith)

When Therese, a young store clerk, meets Carol, an isolated housewife, sparks unexpectedly fly. Chafing against the confines of their day-to-day existence and the suffocating expectations of a conservative society, the two find solace on a road trip, cherishing the freedom it provides their budding relationship. However, their journey of discovery is jolted when Carol faces an agonizing decision: her daughter or the woman she's fallen for.

Patience & Sarah

Book cover of Patience & Sarah
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by Isabel Miller

In 19th century New England, Patience White, a cultured artist, and Sarah Dowling, a bold farmer who often dresses in men's attire, find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other. Their passionate connection doesn't align with their community's puritanical views, prompting whispers and scorn from their neighbors. Undeterred by the lack of societal blueprints for their love, they navigate their feelings, leaning on their unwavering trust in each other. Faced with mounting pressures, their love propels them to make decisions that demand immense bravery and deep commitment to their shared future.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Book cover of Last Night at the Telegraph Club
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by Malinda Lo

In 1954 America, amid the vibrant backdrop of Chinatown, young Lily Hu discovers an undeniable attraction to Kathleen Miller, an attraction that truly ignites under the neon glow of the Telegraph Club, a lesbian bar. The era's stifling conservatism and Red-Scare paranoia cast shadows over their budding relationship. With her Chinese American heritage making her family vulnerable, particularly her father who faces the threat of deportation despite his citizenship, Lily and Kathleen bravely navigate the turbulent waters of love, defying societal norms and risking it all for a chance at true happiness.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Book cover of The Miseducation of Cameron Post
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by Emily M. Danforth

After a tragic car accident claims the lives of her parents, Cameron's fleeting relief over them never discovering her same-sex kiss is swiftly replaced by dread. Now living with her traditional aunt Ruth and old-worldly grandmother in Miles City, Montana, Cameron quickly learns the art of blending in. However, the arrival of the dazzling Coley Taylor, with her cowboy charm and seemingly perfect life, stirs unexpected feelings in Cameron. Their deepening bond hints at a more profound connection, but when her aunt decides it's time to "correct" Cameron, she's confronted with the heartbreaking choice of concealing her genuine self or embracing the unknown.

The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics (Feminine Pursuits, #1)

Book cover of The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics
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by Olivia Waite

While escaping the farce of her ex-lover's wedding, Lucy stumbles upon a letter from the captivating Countess of Moth seeking a translator for an innovative French astronomy work. Expecting nothing more than a challenging project when she arrives in London, Lucy is unprepared for the allure of the widowed Catherine. Although Catherine initially intended only to pass on the translation task, Lucy's fervor draws her in. Amidst translating intricate celestial concepts by day, the nights find them navigating the uncharted territories of their own hearts. However, the shadows of past hurts and present betrayals loom, testing the very fabric of their bond. The burning question remains: can they find the resilience to remain intertwined or are they destined to be galaxies apart?

Two regency ladies embrace on a couch in a formal drawing room

The Warrior's Path (When Women Were Warriors, #1)

Book cover of The Warrior's Path
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by Catherine M. Wilson

Growing up, Tamras always longed for tales where women embarked on grand quests, but such stories seemed elusive. Arriving at Merin's house with dreams of becoming a warrior, her petite size casts doubts on her capabilities, even in her own mind. To further challenge her, Lady Merin places her in a companion role - essentially a handmaid - to a mysterious woman who had recently taken shelter there. This enigmatic stranger is anything but welcoming, leaving Tamras to grapple with her place in this new world and yearn for the recognition she desperately seeks.

Beloved Pilgrim

Book cover of Beloved Pilgrim
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by Nan Hawthorne

Elisabeth, yearning for more than the predictable life assigned to her, slips into her deceased twin's armor and embarks on an expedition to the Holy Land. Along the way, she discovers the power of expectations, realizing that she can convincingly present as a young man because people often perceive what they're primed to see. Through her journey, she grasps that honor might lurk in unexpected corners, and sometimes, the love of your life might be another woman.

The Tattered Heiress (Charlotte Olmes Mystery #2)

Book cover of The Tattered Heiress
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by Debra Hyde

In the bustling streets of late 19th century New York City, lady detectives Charlotte Olmes and Joanna Watson delve into the enigmatic world of women's secrets. When Joanna, Charlotte's devoted partner and lover, encounters the shadowy figure of Margaret Sutherland - a once-glamorous heiress now frayed by life's cruelties - memories of their shared debutante days resurface. But as they reach out to help Margaret, a maze of deceit, fraud, and blackmail emerges. Drawing upon their resolve and rallying both old and new allies, Charlotte and Joanna are determined to guide Margaret out of her despair and towards a newfound freedom.

The Perks of Loving a Wallflower

Book cover of The Perks of Loving a Wallflower
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by Erica Ridley

Thomasina Wynchester, a master of disguises, can slip into any role, from a refined young lady to a rambunctious elderly gentleman. Tasked with cracking cases for her family, she's thrown off balance when her newest client is the captivating lady she's secretly infatuated with. Miss Philippa York, a scholarly woman, is solely driven by her quest to decode a historic manuscript and to prevent a contemporary scoundrel from wrongfully taking its credit. Initially frustrated at needing assistance, especially from a man, she's pleasantly surprised to find out that the savvy baron assisting her is actually a woman-Thomasina. As they delve deeper, not only does the importance of their discovery grow, but so does the affection between them, putting both their mission and hearts on the line.

Tipping the Velvet

Book cover of Tipping the Velvet
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by Sarah Waters

Nan King, once a simple oyster girl, is utterly entranced by the enthralling stage performances of Kitty Butler, a talented male impersonator lighting up the Canterbury theater scene. Thanks to a well-placed connection, Nan finds herself not only attending every performance but also meeting her idol. Before long, she's assisting Kitty backstage, and the pair set their sights on the dazzling world of Leicester Square. As their on-stage duo act takes off, the curtains of their private lives draw back, revealing a budding romance between them.

A Little Light Mischief

Book cover of A Little Light Mischief
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by Cat Sebastian

Molly Wilkins, a former thief turned lady's maid, tries hard to leave her mischievous past behind and she's determined to reform, but the allure of Alice Stapleton, her employer's refined companion, is hard to resist. Alice, on the other hand, is unexpectedly enchanted by the audacious Molly, and her desire to uncover Molly's mysteries leads her on a path she never anticipated. However, when a shadow from Alice's history threatens their budding relationship during a gathering, Molly contemplates embracing her old playful tricks to ensure their bond remains intact.

Two lesbian women in 18th century clothing stand close together

She Rises

Book cover of She Rises
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by Kate Worsley

In 1740, Louise Fletcher, once a simple dairymaid, grabs the opportunity to work in the bustling naval port of Harwich, despite the sea having taken both her father and brother. There, she becomes entangled with her enigmatic and proud mistress, Rebecca. Parallelly, young Luke is forcibly drafted into naval service on the warship Essex. As he grapples with the harsh realities of a sailor's life, navigating perils both aloft and belowdecks, Louise and Rebecca's relationship flourishes ashore. Their tales converge in a rich tapestry of inter-class lesbian romance, identity, and survival in Georgian England.


Book cover of Hild
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by Nicola Griffith

In seventh-century Britain, amidst the merging and clashing of small kingdoms, Edwin, the ambitious King of Northumbria, eyes a grander title - the overking of all the Angles. Using whatever means necessary, from force to faith, he's hell-bent on power. Amidst this turbulence, Hild, the King's youngest niece, emerges with a remarkable talent. With an astute understanding of nature and a knack for deciphering human behaviors, she can eerily predict the unfolding of events. Her uncanny insights, often perceived as almost mystical, become crucial to Edwin. But this gift is a double-edged sword; while she's treasured for her foresight, there's always the danger of leading the king astray. With high stakes for her and those close to her, Hild navigates this volatile world, offering protection to many who see her as their beacon in these tumultuous times.

That Could Be Enough

Book cover of That Could Be Enough
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by Alyssa Cole

Serving as a maid to the persistent Eliza Hamilton, Mercy Alston has learned to distance herself from troublesome emotions like love and hope, especially after past heartbreaks. But when the vibrant and alluring dressmaker, Andromeda Stiel, arrives at Hamilton Grange for an interview, Mercy's commitment to a tranquil, guarded life is suddenly thrown into disarray.

Two Wings to Fly Away

Book cover of Two Wings to Fly Away
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by Penny Mickelbury

In 1856 Philadelphia, Genie Oliver, a runaway slave masquerading as a dress shop owner, secretly aids the Underground Railroad. Abby Read, a white heiress who rejects societal norms, manages a rooming house and has sworn off marriage. When the daughter of Abby's free black servant faces danger from slave catchers, Abby and Genie unite with a Pinkerton's agent and a diverse group, teaming up with the renowned Harriet Tubman. As the city faces rising racial tensions, the two women form a deep bond, finding shared purpose and the potential for something deeper amidst their daring endeavors.

Briefly, A Delicious Life

Book cover of Briefly, A Delicious Life
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by Nell Stevens

In 1473, young Blanca meets her untimely end in a Mallorcan hilltop monastery and since then, remains a vivacious ghost, curiously observing the monks, locals, and her lineage. Centuries later, the iconic George Sand, her children, and lover Frederic Chopin settle in the village, instantly captivating Blanca's ethereal attention. The narrative evolves into a tale of unseen affection as Blanca, an unseen spirit, yearns for George, who remains unaware of her existence. While George and Chopin's unconventional nature clashes with 19th-century societal norms, Blanca can only spectate, drawing parallels to her own ill-fated romance with a budding monk.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Book cover of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
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by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Evelyn Hugo, the legendary yet elusive old-Hollywood star, shocks everyone when she picks the relatively unknown journalist, Monique Grant, to document her glittering yet tumultuous life story. While grappling with her own personal woes, including a recent split from her husband David, Monique eagerly dives into this golden ticket of an assignment. As they converse in Evelyn's lavish Upper East Side residence, tales of her journey from a young hopeful in 1950s LA to her dramatic exit from the limelight spill out, intertwined with tales of her seven marriages. Yet, beyond ambition and scandal, lies an epic tale of forbidden love and treasured friendships. As layers peel away, Monique soon realizes that Evelyn's past is intricately linked to her own in heart-wrenching ways.

History's Sapphic Secrets: The Final Page Turn

My journey through the enticing world of sapphic historical fiction has been nothing short of a thrilling ride. Each novel breathing life into queer characters and narrating tales that are deeply entrenched in some period gone by is indeed a treasure trove I encourage everyone to explore. These exceptional historical lesbian fiction pieces have not just captivated me but also educated me about various realities faced by young women across different epochs-making them far more than just romantic stories set against an antique backdrop. Historical fiction books with riveting plots intertwined around powerful LGBTQ+ themes remind us all: love endures time; it knows no era or societal norms-it prevails above all!

You might also enjoy our definitive list of the best lesbian romance books.

Portrait of the article author, Penny Somerset
Penny Somerset

I'm an avid reader and bibliophile. With an unquenchable thirst for stories, I love nothing more than burying my nose in a good book - whether it's curled up on the sofa or out in nature. My deep curiosity and appreciation of diverse writing means that there's no one genre that I prefer, but I'm especially keen on books full of adventure and vivid imagination.
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