Though women in historical romances tend to abide by the social mores and rules that govern their societies, they can also be very anachronistic. Whether Victorian England, the wilds of the American Frontier, or the banks of the Nile River, there are always rule breakers—women who decree that they will do what they want to do, society be damned! In this list, we look at these women who buck tradition and take jobs outside their homes, jobs that are not 100 percent suited for genteel ladies. For some characters, pursuing work comes from necessity—they have to find a way to support themselves or their families—others want something to do other than live a life of changing diapers and doing needlework. In celebration of Women’s History Month we celebrate these women who found a way to have a career and romance, too. Cheers!
How to Be a Proper Lady, by Katherine Ashe
To repay a debt, privateer Jinan Seeton has searched for two years for Viola Carlyle and finally finds her when she captures him and sinks his ship. After being kidnapped as a child, Viola has become pirate Violet De Vile and she’s not ready to return home to become a proper lady. She accepts a wager from Jin—if she can make him fall in love with her, she’ll get the new ship he’s ordered, but if she fails, she’ll return to England. The second in Katharine Ashe’s Falcon Club series, How to Be a Proper Lady, has clever dialogue, engaging characters, and romantic tension.
After studying ancient history at Cambridge, Genisse Braxton wants nothing more than to show her famous Egyptologist family that she can also make a worthwhile contribution to the world of archaeology, but trouble seems to follow Ginny wherever she goes. She discovers clues to the lost city of Zerzura, but can’t find anyone to escort her to Cairo where she can pursue them. Ginny gets her lucky break when she convinces seasick Mildred Whimplehall to travel by land to Egypt while she travels under Mildred’s name and under the care of Jim Owens, who is repaying a debt by bringing “Mildred” to her fiance. “Mildred” turns out to be quite different than Jim was expecting and Genisse finds that Jim has his own share of surprises. Readers will love the action, intrigue, and genuinely funny dialogue in this delightfully romantic romp.
Until the Dawn, by Elizabeth Camden
For nearly ten years, Sophie van Rijin has been volunteering for the newly established Weather Bureau, going each day to Direnpark, a long-abandoned mansion in the Hudson Valley, to note weather conditions and take measurements. When she arrives one morning, she is surprised to discover Quentin Vandermark has arrived to make plans to tear it down. This creates immediate tension between Sophie and Quentin, but she seems to be the only one who can get through to his young son, Pieter. Secrets about the curse on the Vandermark family are uncovered, as Sophie helps Quentin learn to love again in this sweet inspirational romance.
Scandal Takes the Stage, by Eva Leigh
Maggie Delamere is a playwright suffering the worst bout of writer’s block ever. She finds salvation and a muse in a most unlikely source—handsome theater patron, Viscount Cameron Marwood. Despite their attraction, Maggie knows that they cannot be together, but that doesn’t stop them from having a whirlwind affair. If Maggie and Cameron could take their eyes (and hands) off one another, Maggie may be able to finish her Burletta in time. Witty dialogue, strong female characters, and head-turning romance feature prominently in the second book in the Wicked Quills of London series.
The Suffragette Scandal, by Courtney Milan
An intimate look at the women’s rights movement and a love story about the power of redemption, Milan’s book layers historical detail and social commentary. Frederica “Free” Marshall runs a newspaper that not only supports women’s rights but champions them and touts them for all the world to see, and doing so has earned her more than a few enemies who will stop at nothing to take her down. Just when she thinks she is done for, Edward Clark comes to her rescue. Too bad he is a rogue, a scoundrel, and currently believed to be dead. Free and Edward fall for each other in spite of themselves. Readers will enjoy the intelligent humor and slowly building sexual tension.
Colorado Dawn, by Kaki Warner
After the deaths of her parents and near abandonment by her soldier husband, Maddie Wallace is determined to build a new life for herself. She sails to America to photograph the American West. Her husband, Angus Wallace, comes home to discover that she’s gone and he sets out to find her. He discovers that she is not the same woman he left behind. While they rekindle their romance with gusto they also become friends, sharing themselves in ways other than in the bedroom. Now that they are back together, they must decided whether to stay in the Americas or go back to England. A strong second-chance romance set in the American West.
For more rule-breaking, glass-ceiling-shattering females, try one of these:
Accidental Wedding, by Annie Grace
Almost a Scandal, by Elizabeth Essex
Dukes Prefer Blondes, by Loretta Chase
The Great Estate, by Sherri Browning
In Bed with a Spy, by Alyssa Alexander
Let It Be Me, by Kate Noble
Luck Is no Lady, Amy Sandas
Lucky Penny, by Catherine Anderson
Not Quite a Husband, by Sherry Thomas
One Good Earl Deserves a Lover, by Sarah MacLean
The Perfect Poison, by Amanda Quick
The Raven Prince, by Elizabeth Hoyt
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, by Lauren Willig
Starlight, by Carrie Lofty
Sweet Enemy, by Heather Snow
Three Weeks with Lady X, by Eloisa James
When a Rake Falls, by Sally Orr