Lesbian Books | 10 Historical Romances, To Swoon Over!

Lesbian books are not just a contemporary thing.

Sure, there are more and more books being published with lesbian protagonists every year, but lesbian stories go back centuries and these novels capture some of that history.

So, if you’re in the mood for a lesbian romance that’s historical, then look no further! Here are 10 great options to get you started.

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1. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

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Sunday Times Fiction book of the year by internationally acclaimed author Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests is a story set in 1920s London. This is a gripping crime novel with a lesbian romance story at the heart.

Described as a page turner and a poignant love story, there is a reason why Waters works has obtained such popularity.

You may recognise Sarah from her bestselling books, Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, Fingersmith, and The Night Watch. “This is vintage Sarah Waters: beautifully described with excruciating tension, real tenderness, believable characters, and surprises. It is above all a wonderful, compelling story.”

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2. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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This story, originating in the 1950s and developing into the 80s, follows a legendary film actress called Evelyn Hugo who tells the tales of her glamorous and scandalous life. With old Hollywood glitz and glamour, luxurious settings, gossip and scandal, this book has been described as ‘utterly unique‘ and full of ‘big juicy secrets’.

It features plots based on the LGBT community and how it became what it is today, through the lives of Hollywood actresses.

For fans of Gossip Girl, Bridgeton and other elegant and alluring shows, this may be the book for you..but with a sapphic twist. Not to mention, for any fans of this book, it looks like it is soon to be a Netflix film!

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3. She Rises by Kate Worsley

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Set in eighteenth-century Essex in the naval port of Harwich, She Rises is a historical fiction novel with gender-queer main characters, with the key theme of wanting to get back to the love of your life.

Louise Fletcher, a naval port dairymaid has an affair with the mistress she is working for, before getting lured in by the sea on a quest to find her brother. Simultaneously the book follows the narrative of another protagonist Luke.

This is the perfect story for anyone who enjoys a naval or ship setting to their historical romances, with the balance between adventure and hot steamy scenes.

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4. The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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Author Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a poet, playwright, and author who writes both YA novels (The Deathless Girls) and novels for adults; The Mercies is her debut adult novel in the lesbian romance genre.

Set in 1617 on the Norwegian island of Vardø, this story follows a young woman called Maren and her encounters on the island. An island, once for men but now Vardø is for women. The Mercies is described as being inspired by real historical events and has a romance and friendship storyline running throughout.

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5. Tell It To The Bees by Fiona Shaw

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A forbidden love story set in 1950s England, Tell it to the bees by Fiona Shaw is a story about two women, a GP and a factory worker, who find themselves slowly and irresistibly falling in love, despite neither having experienced a same-sex romance before.

Highlighting British history during the post-war time period this has been described as an insightful novel with a beautiful romance plot.

Tell It To The Bees has also been made into a film, for those of you wanting to see how the romance has been adapted!

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6. The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows: Feminine Pursuits by Olivia Waite

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When Agatha Griffin finds a colony of bees in her warehouse, it’s the not-so-perfect ending to a not-so-perfect week. Busy trying to keep her printing business afloat amidst rising taxes and the suppression of radical printers like her son, the last thing the widow wants is to be the victim of a thousand bees.

But when a beautiful beekeeper arrives to take care of the pests, Agatha may be in danger of being stung by something far more dangerous…

This is a historical lesbian romance set in the early 1800s featuring a classic slow-burn romance narrative.

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7. Carol (The Price of Salt) by Patrica Highsmith

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Based on a true story, The Price of Salt tells the riveting drama of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department-store day job, whose routine is forever shattered by a gorgeous epiphany–the appearance of Carol Aird, a customer who comes in to buy her daughter a Christmas toy.

This has been described as ‘viscerally romantic’ and ‘a document of persecuted love–perfect’ by its readers.

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8. The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin

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Set in London during the 1830s, The Wicked Cometh is a historical mystery about Hester White, a bright young woman who is desperate to escape the London slums by any means possible.

She gets the opportunity to absorb herself into the aristocratic Brock family, where this story starts to grow.

This novel has been scribed with Victorian-style literature with 19th-century prose and the language of London during this time period, with a lesbian romance built throughout the plot.

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9. Shaken To The Core by Jae

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Kate Winthrop, the only child of a wealthy shipping magnate, has the course of her life charted for her by her parents. She’s expected to marry well and produce a successor to the Winthrop empire.

But Kate has a very different path in mind. Her true passion lies with photography—and with women.

Set against the backdrop of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Shaken to the Core by Jae is a historical fiction novel full of action-packed adventure and a slow-burn romance.

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10. Mask of the Highwaywoman by Niamh Murphy

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We had to conclude with Niamh’s very own novel, Mask of the Highwaywoman.

Evelyn Thackeray is in trouble. She has no money. She is late for her own wedding. And she may just have fallen for the mysterious Highwaywoman who held up her carriage and robbed everyone on board! These are not the type of difficult circumstances one can admit to in polite society.

When Evelyn is offered the chance to go back to safety and marry the boring man her father has chosen or throw caution to the wind and run off with a beautiful but dangerous criminal, she has no idea that the outcome might already have been decided for her… 

This book is for anyone who is a fan of rollicking adventures with a historic backdrop, a splash of Sapphic romance and strong female lead characters!

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If you enjoyed this list then here are some others you’ll love just as much!


Lucy is Marketing Assistant to Niamh Murphy. You can contact Lucy via the 'Contact' page if you have any questions about Niamh's books, website and newsletters.

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1 year ago

Great list! I have to suggest one more—My Home is on the Mountain by Caro Clarke. So good! The setting and story world are so immersive!

1 year ago

I love Heather Rose Jones’ Lesbian Historic Motif Project for news and recommendations of f/f historicals.

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