This post is inspired by a combination of Book Riot's "Three on a Theme" series, which I love, and Linda Hilton's blog post from last night which resulted in a discussion about history and historical romance novels.
I went through a phase where I devoured historical romance from many different periods. Medieval wasn't necessarily my favorite, and isn't a particularly popular period. Regency is the most popular, with all other time periods being much less popular than that brief (the regency period was only 9 years long - from 1811 through 1820) era.
Generally, when people think of the medieval period, they are thinking of the high middle ages, from 1001 through 1300. These three romance novels are set during this period.
Winter's Heat by Denise Domning: Originally published in 1997, the author, Denise Domning, reissued her series for kindle. This book was difficult for me to get into, but once I got engaged, I really enjoyed it. Domning spent a lot of time developing the historical setting, and the book was extremely well-researched. There were some frustrating moments in the romance because the H occasionally seemed as thick as a teak deck chair, but overall, it was a solid medieval romance with great historical detailing.
The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss: This is a controversial bodice ripper, and Woodiwiss is the author who set the standard by which bodice rippers are measured. Having said that, if you are interested in where the genre started, Woodwiss is your gal, since she basically invented it.
Woodiwiss did not stick to one time period, and this is her only medieval (of which I am aware). Set during and immediately after the Conquest in 1066, the Wolf (Wulfgar, a Norman warrior) and the Dove (Aislinn, a Saxon maiden) meet when Wulfgar seizes her father's castle after he is murdered before her eyes. Occasionally ridiculous and often rapey, The Wolf and the Dove is a period piece - of early historical romance.
In spite of the problematic content, there is something about this book that I love and it frankly reignited my desire to read romance novels. I've tried a few more Woodiwiss offerings since I read The Wolf and the Dove over the Thanksgiving holiday of 2011, but none of them have really connected with me, and I don't know why.
A Bed of Spices by Barbara Samuel:
Barbara Samuel has written one other medieval romance that I liked called Winter Ballad, but it is much more ordinary. A Bed of Spices is one of the most original romance novels I have ever read. Set in Strasbourg, not England, during an outbreak of Plague, with a Jewish physician hero and a highborn German heroine, this book breaks all the rules. The writing is excellent and the story is compelling.