Book Recs: Historical

Hello from Cornwall! Or not really, because this is a scheduled post and I am currently probably dragging my family around yet another castle (they should never have let me plan the trip, is all I’m saying). It’s probably apt, then, that my rec list is going to be full of history!

Historical LGBT books are a bit of a minefield, I think we can all agree. You think you’ll have come across a good one, and then all of a sudden, it’s either a) tragic, b) buries its gays (because no gay people ever had a happy ending in the past, did they?), or c) does both. So, of the utmost importance on this list, is that the book isn’t overly tragic all the way through, and it absolutely does not bury its gays.

So, with that in mind, here are ten historical LGBT books for you!


Wanted, A Gentleman



K. J. Charles
Rep: gay mcs, black mc

Theodore Swann is a jobbing writer, proprietor of the Matrimonial Advertiser lonely hearts gazette, and all-round weasel. He’s the very last man that Martin St. Vincent would choose to rely on—and the only one who can help.

Martin is a wealthy merchant who finds himself obliged to put a stop to a young heiress’s romantic correspondence in the Matrimonial Advertiser. When she and her swain make a dash for Gretna Green, Martin drags Theo on a breakneck chase up the country to catch the runaway lovers before it’s too late.

Theo guards his secrets. Martin guards his heart. But as the two of them are thrown irresistibly together, entanglements, deceptions, and revelations come thick and fast…

Why Should I Read It?

K. J. Charles writes such great slowburn novellas you’ll find yourself just wanting to go back and reread the entire thing the moment you’re done. And then months later that same urge will come over you and you’ll “just read a bit of it” and end up spending hours rereading about half the novella. But it’s so worth it.


Tipping the Velvet

tipping the velvet by sarah waters


Sarah Waters
Rep: lesbian mcs (ownvoices)

Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty’s dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins.

Why Should I Read It?

Anna gave me this one to rec. Between us, it’s the only Sarah Waters book we’ve actually read (yes, we’re useless, we know). So if this one goes badly for you, blame her.


Confessions of the Fox



Jordy Rosenberg
Rep: trans mcs (ownvoices)

Jack Sheppard – a transgender carpenter’s apprentice – has fled his master’s house to become a notorious prison break artist, and Bess Munshi has escaped the draining of the fenlands to become a revolutionary mastermind. Together, they find themselves at the center of a web of corruption leading back to the dreaded Thief-Catcher General…

… Or so we are told in a mysterious manuscript unearthed by one Professor R. Voth. Voth traces the origins and authenticity of the manuscript as Jack and Bess trace the connections between the bowels of Newgate Prison and the dissection chambers of the Royal College, in a bawdy collision of a novel about gender, love, and liberation.

Why Should I Read It?

The premise of this book is essentially: Jack Shepherd, but what if he was trans. Which, you have to admit, is a pretty damn good premise. And then it goes, but what if the manuscript is wanted by some shady people and the professor who discovered it has to go on the run? (Or does he? Is it all paranoia? Anyway this book is chaotic. Read it.)



That Could be Enough



Alyssa Cole
Rep: black wlw mcs (ownvoices)

TWs: period typical racism

Mercy Alston knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like “love” and “hope”: avoid them at all cost. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman’s stubborn desire to preserve her late husband’s legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy—as have her own previous heartbreaks. 

When Andromeda Stiel shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather’s stead, Mercy’s resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.

Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her worldview, but neither is prepared for love—or for what happens when it’s not enough.

Why Should I Read It?

I’ve recced this a thousand times before, you know the drill. (Also please do read it. I love it with my whole heart.)


The Pearl Thief



Elizabeth Wein
Rep: bi mc

TWs: period typical racism

Sixteen-year-old Julie Beaufort-Stuart is returning to her family’s ancestral home in Perthshire for one last summer. It is not an idyllic return to childhood. Her grandfather’s death has forced the sale of the house and estate and this will be a summer of goodbyes. Not least to the McEwen family – Highland travellers who have been part of the landscape for as long as anyone can remember – loved by the family, loathed by the authorities. Tensions are already high when a respected London archivist goes missing, presumed murdered. Suspicion quickly falls on the McEwens but Julie knows not one of them would do such a thing and is determined to prove everyone wrong. And then she notices the family’s treasure trove of pearls is missing.

Why Should I Read It?

A bi mc discovering her sexuality while roaming the moors and heaths of Scotland? You know you need it. Also, if you’ve read Code Name Verity, this will give you some very strong emotions. (If you haven’t read that, read it as well as this. Preferably after so you feel really sad.)


The Wicked Cometh



Laura Carlin
Replesbian mcs

The year is 1831

Down the murky alleyways of London, acts of unspeakable wickedness are taking place and no one is willing to speak out on behalf of the city’s vulnerable poor as they disappear from the streets.

Out of these shadows comes Hester White, a bright young woman who is desperate to escape the slums by any means possible.

When Hester is thrust into the world of the aristocratic Brock family, she leaps at the chance to improve her station in life under the tutelage of the fiercely intelligent and mysterious Rebekah Brock. But whispers from her past slowly begin to poison her new life and both she and Rebekah are lured into the most sinister of investigations.

Hester and Rebekah find themselves crossing every boundary they’ve ever known in pursuit of truth, redemption and passion. But their trust in each other will be tested as a web of deceit begins to unspool, dragging them into the blackest heart of a city where something more depraved than either of them could ever imagine is lurking…

Why Should I Read It?

I don’t want to give any spoilers for this one, but just. Trust me. Even at the point where you’re thinking “Charlotte, what the fuck have you recced me?”, just, reread what I wrote in the intro, and trust me.


Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure



Courtney Milan
Rep: wlw mcs (ownvoices)

Mrs. Bertrice Martin—a widow, some seventy-three years young—has kept her youthful-ish appearance with the most powerful of home remedies: daily doses of spite, regular baths in man-tears, and refusing to give so much as a single damn about her Terrible Nephew. 

Then proper, correct Miss Violetta Beauchamps, a sprightly young thing of five and sixty, crashes into her life. The Terrible Nephew is living in her rooming house, and Violetta wants him gone. 

Mrs. Martin isn’t about to start giving damns, not even for someone as intriguing as Miss Violetta. But she hatches another plan—to make her nephew sorry, to make Miss Violetta smile, and to have the finest adventure of all time. 

If she makes Terrible Men angry and wins the hand of a lovely lady in the process? Those are just added bonuses.

Why Should I Read It?

I have been waiting my whole life* for a novel/novella dedicated to an f/f relationship from Courtney Milan, and she absolutely delivered with this one. And you get the sweet satisfaction of seeing a dickhead straight man suffer for his crimes. (The choir in pursuit really killed me.)

*This is an exaggeration.


A Light Amongst Shadows

a light amongst shadows by kelley york


Kelley York & Rowan Altwood
Rep: gay mc, bi li

TWs: discussion of past CSA, drug abuse, torture, murder, statutory rape

James Spencer is hardly the typical “troubled youth” who ends up at Whisperwood School for Boys. Instead of hating the strict schedules and tight oversight by staff, James blossoms, quickly making friends and indulging in his love of writing, while contemplating the merits of sneaking love poems to the elusive and aloof William Esher.

The rumours about William’s sexuality and opium reliance are prime gossip material amongst the third years. Rumours that only further pique James’ curiosity to uncover what William is really like beneath all that emotional armor. And, when the normally collected William stumbles in one night, shaken and ranting of ghosts… James is the only one who believes him.

James himself has heard the nails dragging down his bedroom door and the sobs echoing in the halls at night. He knows others have, too, even if no one will admit it. The staff refuses to entertain such ridiculous tales, and punishment awaits anyone who brings it up.

Their fervent denial and the disappearance of students only furthers James’s determination to find out what secrets Whisperwood is hiding… Especially if it means keeping William and himself from becoming the next victims.

Why Should I Read It?

Do not read this at night. But do read it. And marvel at how James ever thought he was being at all subtle about liking William.


The Pursuit Of…



Courtney Milan
Rep: black mc, gay mcs

TWs: period typical racism and homophobia

What do a Black American soldier, invalided out at Yorktown, and a white British officer who deserted his post have in common? Quite a bit, actually. 

• They attempted to kill each other the first time they met. 
• They’re liable to try again at some point in the five-hundred mile journey that they’re inexplicably sharing. 
• They are not falling in love with each other. 
• They are not falling in love with each other. 
• They are… Oh, no.

Why Should I Read It?

This is another one I have recced a lot before, so all I have to say is this: Anna told me earlier that her uncle and aunt were talking about cheese and all she could think of was this book.





E. M. Forster
Rep: gay mcs (ownvoices)

Maurice Hall is a young man who grows up confident in his privileged status and well aware of his role in society. Modest and generally conformist, he nevertheless finds himself increasingly attracted to his own sex. Through Clive, whom he encounters at Cambridge, and through Alec, the gamekeeper on Clive’s country estate, Maurice gradually experiences a profound emotional and sexual awakening. A tale of passion, bravery and defiance, this intensely personal novel was completed in 1914 but remained unpublished until after Forster’s death in 1970. Compellingly honest and beautifully written, it offers a powerful condemnation of the repressive attitudes of British society, and is at once a moving love story and an intimate tale of one man’s erotic and political self-discovery.

Why Should I Read It?

(Yes, I had a discussion with Anna about whether this one should be considered historical if when E. M. Forster wrote it it was technically contemporary. She lost, because I’m writing the post.) Honestly, there is just something so healing about reading classics where gay characters are allowed happy endings, so that’s really why this one’s here.


I hope you found something to read here! What are some of your favourite historical LGBT books?


10 thoughts on “Book Recs: Historical

      1. I have never seen anything saying Courtney Milan is sapphic, where did this info come from? Because I have recced her books on my blog and would love to include this info! 🙂 But I don’t like to unless I have a definite public source.


  1. Honesty I wonder if there was a misunderstanding, because in following Courtney Milan on Twitter for so long, I have never seen her disclose this, including in promotion of this book, and never seen anyone else mention it? However I could have missed something. The internet is really big! 🙂

    MORE IMPORTANTLY wow there are some amazing books in this post! And I wanted to thank y’all in general for destroying my TBR in such a glorious way. Ever since I found this blog, my list of things to read is exploding!


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