Identifying historical romances set outside the British Isles or North America can be a bit of a chore. Here I’ve put together a batch of stories located in one of my favourite countries, France.
Asterisks denote romances set partially (*) or mostly/entirely (**) in continental France as defined by its current borders, including Provence, Languedoc, etc.. Standard warnings apply to some of the older titles. As for diversity, a regrettable consequence of being a little-used geographical setting is that diverse characters remain rare even as boundaries have expanded elsewhere in the genre.
Night Fires by Karen Harbaugh **. French Revolution. Vampires with a unique twist, redemption.
Whisper His Name by Elizabeth Thornton *. Regency. Heroine opens book business, scholarly hero has secret profession, light suspense.
A Wheel of Stars by Laura Gilmour Bennett **. Medieval / Timeslip. Templars, Cathars, Inquisition, troubadours.
Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase *. Regency. Forced marriage, heroine-as-saviour, rakehell hero, clever repartee, perennial romance reader favourite.
The Last Arrow by Marsha Canham **. Medieval. Heroine is a skilled archer, swashbuckling adventure, Robin Hood & King John.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig *. Regency / Contemporary. First in the Pink Carnation series. The dual narrative framework alternates between Eloise, a modern scholar researching “that demmed, elusive Pimpernel”, and British spies romping about in Napoleonic France.
Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran **. Victorian / Belle Époque. Jilted bride decides to ditch nice girl image, black sheep hero, road trip.
The Making of a Duchess by Shana Galen *. Georgian / First French Republic. First in a trilogy about French brothers. Governess, spies, rescue mission.
Storm Winds by Iris Johansen **. French Revolution. Dark suspense, graphic violence including rape (not involving h/h), class divide, Marie Antoinette.
Moonrise by Roberta Gayle **. Victorian / Second Empire. Art world, artist heroine, seafaring hero, poc h/h, Paris.
A Bed of Spices by Barbara Samuel **. Medieval. Forbidden love, Jewish hero, Christian heroine, hero is medical student, virgin hero (IIRC), Black Death.
Ruthless by Anne Stuart **. Georgian / Ancien Régime. First in the House of Rohan series. Rakehell hero, sexually abused heroine, bluestocking heroine, May-December.
The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne **. French Revolution. Third in the Spymasters series – in which France is a recurring location - but chronologically the first. Secret identity, spies, suspense, sexually experienced heroine.
The Heart’s Wager by Gayle Wilson. Regency / Bourbon Restoration / The Hundred Days. Friends-to-lovers, physically scarred hero, heroine brought up in gambling den, spies.
King of the Castle by Victoria Holt **. Nineteenth century. Gothic. Heroine is an art restorer, château set amid vineyards, dead first wife, promiscuous hero.
Dance by Judy Cuevas (also known as Judith Ivory) **. Edwardian / Belle Époque. Independent heroine who produces and directs films; starchy, self-denying, head-of-the-family hero; heroine jilted hero’s brother. Their backstories are encountered in a connected book, Bliss. A third historical, Beast (as the title suggests, a Beauty and the Beast tale), takes place in France and on an ocean liner.
Don’t Tempt Me by Sylvia Day. Georgian / Ancien Régime. Fourth in the Georgian series. Erotic romance. Twin sisters, mistaken identity, spies, suspense, amnesia, rake hero.
Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels by Anne Golon **. 17th century. Not a standalone as the book finishes on a disconsolate cliffhanger and forms the first installment in an extended adventure romance series. Still, no list of historical romances set in France would be complete without this vintage classic. Long wildly popular in Europe, the Angélique series was known for its action-filled blend of intrigue, history, and lustiness, including pirates, slavery, and the court of the Sun King. In line with some earlier romances, expect a strongly heroine-centric storyline in which she (due to plot-spoiler circumstances) has more than one relationship yet recognises only one true love. If you enjoy Bertrice Small, Angélique may very well work for you. In addition, some of the books have been made into feature-length films, the first one twice (1960s and 2013).
A Midnight Dance by Lila DiPasqua **.17th century. Erotic romance. Loose retelling of Charles Perrault’s Cinderella, debt-ridden but resourceful heroine, childhood crush, privateer hero, acting troupe, deception, thievery, revenge.
The Protector by Madeline Hunter **. Medieval. Fifth in the Medieval series. Alpha
heroine, warrior heroine, heroine prefers convent over marriage, alpha hero,
hero, sieges and battles, Black Death. I only recently discovered the story
deals with Brittany, then an independent Duchy in the grip of succession
struggles in which England and France aggressively meddled. Those familiar with my blog will probably not be surprised to learn that the
Breton setting has made it shoot up to the top of my TBR. [ETA 11 Feb. 2017: Cannot disagree more with reviewers who’ve deemed the hero honourable. He’s an old school romance misogynist. The other major negative is the slut shaming and all other women being belittled unless they’re the heroine in another book by the author. Strong points include the fluid writing style, an interesting, smart, and capable heroine, and decent historical texture. Blood pressure warning re. said negatives. Hero: D (a few, small redeeming moments rescue him from an F). Heroine: A. Story: B.]
The Treasure Keeper by Shana Abé *. Georgian / Ancien Régime. Fourth in the Drakón series. Dragon shapeshifters, hero-in-pursuit, disabled hero, heroine betrothed to someone else, the-trouble-with-ghosts.
The Champion by Elizabeth Chadwick * (?). Medieval. Tournaments, separated lovers, miscarriage, court of King John. This is a romance that pulls toward romantic historical fiction (Chadwick later transitioned to biographical historical fiction).
Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart **. Since nearly seventy years have passed since its original publication, I’m now classifying this vintage Gothic romance, written and set in the 1950s, as a historical romance. Cinderella, governess, child-in-peril, hero who may or may not be a villain. Also set in France are Thunder on the Right, Stewart’s first effort and a very purple gothic (though published second), and Madam, Will You Talk, a taut, atmospheric romantic suspense in which the heroine’s superb driving ability plays a central role.
Maiden of Fire by Deborah Johns **. Medieval. Templars, Cathars, Inquisition, heroine with a secret mission, scribe heroine, hero belongs to enemy force, forbidden love.
The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale *. Georgian / Ancien Régime. Friends-to-lovers, cross-dressing heroine, angry heroine, recluse hero, disabled hero, hero-in-pursuit, pet wolf, revenge. And yes, that’s Fabio on the original cover.
A Lady’s Secret by Jo Beverley *. Georgian / Ancien Régime. Malloren series but works as a standalone. Road trip, heroine in peril, kind and fun-loving hero, heroine born out of wedlock, famous but secret father, competent and adventurous heroine, scene stealing Papillon.
Surrender to a Stranger by Karyn Monk **. French Revolution. Rescue missions, commoner hero is spy, noblewoman heroine is betrothed to someone else, adventure, suspense, revenge. (Note that Goodreads and Amazon synopses are messed up, conflating two unrelated novels. For example, the hero’s name is Armand St. James, not Damien Powell.)
Rake Most Likely to Rebel by Bronwyn Scott **. Regency / July Monarchy. Fencing, secret identity, blackmail, cross-dressing heroine, heroine expert at her profession, duteous hero expected to marry someone else, hero not a rake despite book title.