I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve been on a bit of a “castle” kick recently. There’s something about being trapped indoors in an isolated home, warded from outside threats, that seems to resonate with our current era.
(Hmm, I wonder why?)
In all seriousness, who doesn’t long for a bit of human contact, despite the danger? Who doesn’t like the ambiance of giant stone fortresses? If you’re looking for some new book recommendations, here’s a list of five historical romance novels that are set in or around castles.
1. The Secret by Julie Garwood
Love Interest: Scottish Laird
Heat Level: Hot
This Scottish romance novel is a blast from the past that was published in the early nineties. That said, I personally enjoyed it and it features a castle here and there.
Judith Hampton is the daughter of a Scottish Laird and an English noblewoman. She has grown up along the border region, and has been best friends with a Scottish woman from a rival clan her entire life.
When her best friend marries and ends up pregnant, Judith wants to be there for emotional support. Unfortunately, Judith is on the English side of the border, while her best friend is deep in Scotland. If she wants to make it to the joyous event, the Laird of a rival clan must come and fetch her.
Read this one if you’re looking for an old-school bodice ripper by a well-known historical romance author. It’s also good for light rom com vibes and alpha male tropes.
Content Warnings: Graphic depictions of childbirth, threatened/attempted incest.
2. Daughter of Time by Sarah Woodbury
Love Interest: Welsh Prince
Heat Level: Sweet
I have such complicated, complex feelings about this medieval romance book. Although I enjoyed it, and it’s the first in a series, DAUGHTER OF TIME is more of a “family saga” than a “romance,” and in my opinion does not feature a HFN. The ending is bittersweet. It’s also got a time travel subplot, so it’s not 100% historical.
In the modern era, Meg is a single mother, still reeling over the death of her abusive husband. When she takes her two-year old daughter for a car ride, they accidentally travel through a time portal into a Welsh marsh. There, they are rescued by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales—who died in 1282.
Thrust into a country on the cusp of losing its independence, Meg gets a crash course in warfare and societal decline while developing feelings for Llywelyn. I loved this story for its complicated plot; for it’s unique main characters, and its empathy. Meg is definitely not your typical heroine, and it’s nice to see someone who made a lot of mistakes as a teenager make amends as an adult. Llywelyn is also not your typical romantic hero.
As previously mentioned, the big downside to this book is the ending. With as few spoilers as possible: the characters are in a relationship, and they love each other, but they are separated and searching for each other at the conclusion.
Content Warnings: Threatened sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, mentions of rape, mentions of domestic abuse, mentions of teen pregnancy. There is also a secondary character in an implied underage relationship.
3. MacFarland’s Lass, by Glynnis Campbell
Love Interest: Rogue Archer/Huntsman
Heat Level: Sensual
This medieval romance partially takes place in a castle. The other half of it takes place in an abandoned church. It’s so swoon worthy, however, that I simply have to recommend it.
The setup: Florie is a goldsmith apprenticed to her foster father. Upset with her foster father for becoming an alcoholic after her mother’s death, she sets off for Selkirk, Scotland to search for her biological family. Her only clue to their identity is a golden girdle that was given to her mother as a gift.
When Florie arrives, however, the girdle is mistakenly sold to Lady Mavis, wife of the local Sheriff. After she tries to take it back, Florie is marked as an outlaw and forced to flee into the nearby woods. When she is accidentally shot with an arrow by Rane MacFarland, the Sheriff’s hunter, Florie seeks sanctuary in the local church. There, she is nursed back to health by Rane, and they fall in love.
Meanwhile, Lady Mavis closes in on their location, determined to exact her grudge.
Witty, angsty, and sensual, MacFarland’s Lass has pitch-perfect chemistry between the main characters. It’s also the first book in a Scottish romance series.
Content Warnings: Mentions of off-screen attempted incest.
4. Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson
Love Interest: Robin Hood
Heat Level: Sweet
This medieval romance is an all-time favorite. Upon reread I was thrilled to see that it still mostly holds up.
Predominantly taking place in a set of castles, Lady of the Forest is an epic reimagining of Robin Hood, with Maid Marian at the center of it. As the daughter of a dead crusader knight, Marian is beautiful and rich with lands to her name. Unfortunately, she’s also doomed to be married off.
Desperate to avoid the sexual attention of the Sheriff of Nottingham, Marian seeks the advice of Robert of Locksley, AKA Robin: a traumatized knight who served with her father during the Crusades. When the two of them form a special bond, however—forged through mutual grief and disgust at English society—they set in motion a chain of events that will create a legend.
Dark, angsty, and rich in details, Lady of the Forest still manages to deliver a HEA. I love this book for its authentic depiction of PTSD, and I appreciate it for its condemnation of English antisemitism and crusader war crimes during the medieval era.
While this story comes with a whole host of content warnings, it’s definitely worth a look.
Content Warnings: Racism and antisemitism expressed by secondary characters. Mentions of off-screen sexual assault and gang rape. False accusations of rape, mentions of child abuse, attempted sexual assault, domestic violence, gaslighting, kidnapping, descriptions of war crimes, hate crimes, PTSD, ablelism, homophobia, and self-harm.
5. Lord of Vengeance by Lara Adrian
Love Interest: Rogue Knight
Heat Level: Hot
A dark historical romance novel chock-full of tropes, Lord of Vengeance follows Raina d’Bussy and Gunnar Rutledge, heirs to rival English lords.
When he was a boy, Gunnar’s family was massacred by Raina’s father. Gunnar himself was left for dead. Now twenty-three and out for blood, Gunnar has sworn to destroy the man who destroyed him. The best way to do this? Kidnap d’Bussy’s daughter, to draw him into a trap.
Unfortunately, Gunnar didn’t plan to fall deeply in love with his enemy’s daughter. What’s worse, Raina didn’t expect to fall for the dark knight who kidnapped her as well.
Hot and heavy with a misunderstood hero who you can’t help but root for, Lord of Vengeance is an engaging enemies-to-lovers romance. My only caveat for this medieval-esque story is that the arch-villain is a serial sexual abuser, and one of the POV characters. His perspective and how he thinks about women and girls can be upsetting to read.
Content Warnings: Incest, implied off-page rape, implied underage relationship of a secondary character, attempted sexual assault, domestic violence, gaslighting, kidnapping.
Lock Yourself in a Tower With These Historical Romantic Reads
Castles can evoke a feeling of foreboding, isolation, or history; they can be the perfect setting for a fairytale romance or an angsty love story, where two characters are brought together by the dangers of the outside world.
If you’re looking to learn more about the appeal of castles (and how they relate to romance), check out this op-ed: my name is Victoria Connelly and I’m obsessed with English castles.