Whether you’re a history buff or a fan of brawny Scottish rogues, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series has everything you could ever want: mysterious time travel, dramatic political skirmishes, and of course, plenty of bodice-ripping. But if you’ve already torn through Outlander and its sequels (like how Jamie and Claire tear at each other), you might be thinking, what historical romance novels should I read next?
Gabaldon’s shoes are hard to fill, but plenty of authors rise to the challenge. Here are 10 more stellar books like Outlander: full of substance, style, and yes, some pretty steamy scenes.
1. At The Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
This book by the Water for Elephants author admittedly starts out less than promising. In the midst of the Second World War, a couple of unlikable Americans have just made their way to Scotland — purportedly to search for Nessie, but really to escape a recent public humiliation. Maddie, our narrator, is a spoiled socialite who’s been dragged across the pond by her husband, a man whose only ambition seems to be drinking himself into a daily stupor.
But as weeks turn into months, Maddie finds herself gradually embraced by her newfound Scottish friends… especially Angus, a bereaved local innkeeper who finds solace in Maddie’s arms. The drama of their affair is heightened by the shadow of the war, with frequent air raids and tense telegrams from the front. Can Maddie and Angus ever be truly together — or will the war and her volatile husband threaten not just their relationship, but their lives?
2. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
If you’re a fan of the time travel element in Outlander, Kearsley is definitely the author for you. This is just one of her many novels to involve a time warp in one way or another — and its effectiveness as a storytelling technique continues to impress, book after book.
The Winter Sea is an especially nuanced take on the going-back-in-time angle. It begins with a historical fiction author (meta!) named Carrie, who wants to write a book about King James II and the Jacobites. But as she begins working, her story comes to life in a way she hadn’t anticipated: namely, in the romance between two of her “characters,” Sophia and John Moray.
They begin “telling” Carrie what happens between them, and things heat up quite a bit in the alternating chapters about their courtship. Carrie’s work flourishes, but as her investment in the characters increases, so does her concern for them. The early eighteenth century was a dangerous time, after all — especially for a man like John, a rebel in his native Scottish land.
3. A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux
Ah, the knight in shining armor: an archetypal vision indeed. Though its title may sound a bit cliché, Deveraux’s novel turns conventional time travel romance on its head. For in this book, rather than our modern heroine traveling backward, the dashing historical hero travels forward in time to meet her.
Dougless Montgomery is mourning her failed relationship when her savior appears in the form of a handsome young man — not a knight, as the book’s title would imply, but rather the Earl of Thornwyck, Nicholas Stafford. Of course, what’s really unusual about Nicholas isn’t that he’s a good-looking earl, but that his tombstone indicates he passed away in 1564.
And Nicholas isn’t just there to sweep Dougless into his arms. He’s traveled over 400 years to clear his name, having been falsely accused of treason way back in the sixteenth century. With this mission in mind and each other in heart, Dougless and Nicholas begin a new journey together: an amalgam of past injustice, future vindication, and present passion.
4. Emily and the Scot by Kathryn Smith
Kathryn Smith is one of the most prolific twenty-first-century authors on this list, so it’s likely you’ve read something of hers already! However, the regency-era Emily and the Scot is undoubtedly the best book for Outlander fans (particularly since this Scot is also named Jamie).
In the vein of Scottish feistiness, things kick off with a little antagonism. Emily, an English aristocrat, mistakes the rough-looking Jamie for a servant — when in fact he’s the cousin of a local laird. Their conflicts escalate from there: Jamie thinks Emily is snobby and uptight, while she’s astonished by his lack of manners. Of course, all that’s just a recipe for more chemistry; at one point there’s a scandalous swimming incident that will make fans of the Pride and Prejudice miniseries smile with recognition.
As anyone who’s ever seen a romantic comedy can attest, Jamie and Emily’s dynamic can’t stay acrimonious for long… especially when Emily’s cupid-playing in-laws get involved. Equal parts sweet and tart, this book is the perfect choice for those who want some vintage nineteenth-century lovin’ that’s a little on the lighter side.
5. Rebellion by Nora Roberts
Rebellion’s setting is almost spookily similar to that of Outlander: this book also takes place in the Scottish Highlands around 1745, deals with the Jacobites, and doesn’t mess around with historical details. This tale of the fiery Serena MacGregor and her (initial) disdain for English lord Brigham Langston is both historically likely and dramatically satisfying.
Naturally, even as Serena scoffs and swipes at Brigham, he’s determined to make her his wife… because what guy doesn’t love being insulted and occasionally injured? But just as Serena finally gets a grip on her feelings, the titular rebellion begins: in addition to that of Serena’s heart, it also refers to the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, in which Brigham is a key player.
Serena may be spirited, but she’s powerless in the face of history. Now, she might forced to lose the man she’s finally come to love so much — and what’s more, she could lose him to violence from her very own people.
6. Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati
This book is an oft-cited favorite of Outlander fans, especially for those who thought the series really picked up when Jamie and Claire moved to America. Interestingly, Into the Wilderness is also somewhat a continuation of The Last of the Mohicans — Nathaniel Bonner, one of Donati’s primary love interests, is the son of Hawkeye and Cora.
Nathaniel is a young man raised among Mohawk Native Americans, aptly known by his tribe as “Between-Two-Lives.” Elizabeth Middleton meets him in 1792, after uprooting her life in England to move to America with her family. Their attraction is immediate but taboo: Elizabeth’s family strongly disapproves, not just because of Nathaniel’s unusual upbringing, but because they’ve already promised Elizabeth to another man.
Elizabeth and Nathaniel become a veritable Romeo and Juliet of the new frontier, and more importantly, they have enough secret love scenes to give Diana Gabaldon a run for her money. This book’s human and historical drama will no doubt keep you on the edge of your seat, rooting for our star-crossed lovers and relishing in the details of an early independent America.
7. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
Let’s jump back to the twentieth century for a bit, shall we? The Bronze Horseman begins on June 22, 1941, the day the Soviet Union enters WWII. Young, naïve Tatiana Metanova is about to turn seventeen when the war crashes into her life and she’s forced to grow up fast.
One day after being sent to buy food, Tatiana meets a Red Army soldier named Alexander, who instantly charms her. He accompanies her back to her house, at which point a devastating truth comes to light: her sister, Dasha, already knows and is in love with Alexander. Not wanting to hurt Dasha, Tatiana endeavors to stay away from their shared infatuation — to no avail. Alexander begins walking her home every day, and the connection between them is undeniable.
But the danger of the war still lurks, coming to a frightful head during the Siege of Leningrad. Suddenly it’s no longer a question of whether Tatiana and Alexander should be together, but whether they will survive long enough to choose. Their romance isn’t just forbidden, but nearly impossible: with stakes like these, any reader is sure to fall hook, line, and sinker for their story.
8. Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
In this steamy (despite the English cold) Victorian-era romance, a gamble takes center stage: Evangeline Jenner bets her husband, handsome playboy Sebastian, that he can’t stay celibate for three months… but if he does, she’ll finally let him sleep with her. They’ve come together through a marriage of convenience, and Evie never expected true attraction to flourish — but even when it does, she’s not going to let Sebastian get off that easily (no pun intended).
As her “deal with the devil” comes closer to being fulfilled, Evie realizes that Sebastian’s philandering habit is far from her biggest problem. A threat from her past soon comes into play, and Sebastian proves himself a worthy husband in defending her. But is his chivalry genuine, or just another trick to get her into bed? And if he really is the devil, could he be taken down by someone even more sinister?
9. The Recruit by Monica McCarty
The Recruit is the sixth in a series of fourteenth-century Scottish romances by McCarty called The Highland Guard — so if you like this one, you’re in luck, because there are thirteen more! However, The Recruit stands out for its unique premise and the particularly ardent affair between the title character, Kenneth, and a young widow called Mary who’s never felt true (ahem) love before she meets him.
In a departure from most of the books on this list, Kenneth and Mary’s relationship is anything but a slow burn: they give into their carnal instincts immediately upon meeting. Though Mary swears it will only be for one night, her feelings for this strong, sharp-tongued man gets the best of her — not least because he reminds her of herself.
But being recruited into the Highland Guard isn’t without its risks. Kenneth and Mary are soon torn apart by his duties to the Guard, as well as his womanizing ways. The odds are stacked against them in every way but one… and of course, it’s that one thing that neither of them can stop thinking about, no matter how hard they try.
10. Highlander Most Wanted by Maya Banks
Banks’ Highlander-based romance series is even sultrier than McCarty’s, and this riveting second installment does not disappoint. In Highlander Most Wanted we meet Genevieve McInnes and Bowen Montgomery: the former an imprisoned and abused ward at McHugh Keep, the latter a warrior who frees her.
Yet even as Genevieve tries to forget her former life by becoming a nun, she can’t get Bowen out of her head. She’s been privy firsthand to the dangerous desires of men, but now she’s starting to feel some of her own. Luckily, Bowen is patient and gentle in helping Genevieve “forget all that is in the past” with his promises (both verbal and physical) for the future.
Yes, Highlander Most Wanted is probably the most Harlequin-y romance on this list. But we all need a bit of fun from time to time — and Genevieve and Bowen’s relationship is both beautifully handled and a welcome distraction from our (in all likelihood) un-sexy, un-Scottish lives.
Indeed, all these books provide a measure of escape: both emotional and, as is the case for any well-done historical fiction, almost spiritual in our experience of another time and place.
For the newest and best books in the historical romance genre, check out Reedsy’s historical romance discovery page.