Nine Unforgettable Historical Second-Chance Romance Books

Second-Chance Romance books can be really hit or miss. Sometimes I just can’t get past the reason a character needs a second chance–did they cheat, backstab, maliciously hurt someone? Sometimes the character doesn’t deserve a second chance.

But the most memorable second-chance romance books weave powerful narratives of people finding their way back to one another, of love burying past disagreements or mistakes, of relationships coming full circle, and of beautiful happily-ever-afters. Here are some of my favorite historical second-chance romance books. 

You can also check out our post on Modern Second-Chance Romance Books, and find reviews of all kinds of books on our Reviews page! 

"I will have you back, Isabella—in my life, in my house, and in my bed."

Lady Isabella and Lord Mac live to scandalize London society. They elope the first night they meet, at her debut ball. Even though they’re madly in love, young and inexperienced Isabella can’t take Mac’s unstable and wild ways. So she leaves him in Paris, legal separation and all, to live on her own in London. 

But Mac can’t stay away forever and knows what he’s missed out on. He can’t live without Isabella and resolves to get her back in his life for good, for them to live as husband and wife and regain the happiness they once shared. 

I was already addicted to the MacKenzie family and so ready for Isabella and Mac’s story after reading The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie, Book One in this series. And Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage did not disappoint!

Clearly, they never stopped loving one another to the depths of their cores, but they need to rebuild trust. She can’t trust that he won’t revert to his old ways once they’re back together; he can’t trust that she won’t leave him again. Oh, but they cannot stay away from each other no matter how hard they try. 

The chemistry and passion sizzle throughout the book. Isabella and Mac carry so much love, attraction, want, and longing that you truly feel throughout the story. And damn if I don’t love them both. Mac’s love and determination to prove himself and earn his way back into her life; his passion, creativity, and artistic soul; his love for his family. Isabella’s sense of self and independence; her wisdom beyond her years; her love for Mac and all the MacKenzies. 

Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage can be a little slow and repetitive here and there, and I didn’t 100% love the subplot, but just thinking about this book again brings back warm memories and makes me want to pick it up yet again.   

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium 
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Estranged Couple, Artist, Strong Family, Scottish
Pair With: The best French wine you can find. 

Love masquerading as hate, passion simmering. Can they give it a second chance?

My favorite Vivienne Lorret book, When a Marquess Loves a Woman is the ultimate second-chance romance, with enemies-to-lovers passion brewing from years of separation after a complete disaster (and two books’ worth of a setup for the main characters to get together). 

Max and Juliet each blame the other for that disaster. Five years ago, after being discovered together, Max proposed to Juliet, the love of his life, even though he had little to offer. But the next day, Juliet was whisked away to marry an old, despicable, and wealthy lord. Max was left heartbroken and Juliet was left to the mercy of her disgusting husband. 

Now they’re back in town together, with Juliet a widow and Max still unmarried. And at each other’s throats. But how long will that last? 

LOVED it. So much passion beneath the surface. So much love between the characters. So much pining, heartbreak, and desire. Plus witty banter, surprises, a hilarious wager, and interesting side characters. A win all the way around. 

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Enemies to Lovers, Misunderstanding
Pair with: Regency Wines.  

A brilliant scientific heroine, a bitter hero, runaway passion, and mystery all in one place...

Olivia Norley is determined to make it as a scientist even in male-dominated and chauvinistic historical England. So, when she’s hired to figure out whether someone poisoned a duke with arsenic, she knows it could make her career. And, she will not allow Thorn, the overbearing Duke of Thornstock, to obstruct her path. Even if she can’t forget their once-upon-a-time hot kiss and scandalous blackmail scheme…

But someone else clearly doesn’t want Olivia to find the truth, and Thorn is thrown into the role of protector even as chemistry and passion explodes around them. 

The third in the Duke Dynasty series, Who Wants to Marry a Duke brings passion, fun writing, and witty banter. And an historical scientist heroine always captivates me, especially when she possesses Olivia’s determination and intelligence. The murder/whodunit mystery continues throughout the series, and it’s a good one! But, on the annoying side, Olivia forgives way too easily (or maybe I’m just too much of a grudge-holder). 

I’d recommend reading the books in order, but you could still enjoy Who Wants to Marry a Duke on its own. 

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Medium 
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, STEM, Mystery, Reformed Rake
Pair With: Historical Wines. 

“Aline,” he whispered, mercilessly divesting himself of all pride, “I’m afraid of what I’ll become if you won’t have me.”

Doomed from the start, stable boy McKenna and earl’s daughter Aline can’t ignore their love and swear they will be together. Until daddy finds out, and the only way to save McKenna’s life is for Aline to persuade him never to return, leaving them both heartbroken.

But McKenna does come back, if only to avenge his broken heart and show Aline all the success he’s earned in New York. However, there’s no denying the passion and love, even with Aline determined to keep a deep, dark secret. 

Again the Magic was love-hate for me. I loved the emotion, the burning love and passion you can feel on every page, the tension, the care these characters have. I hated the secret–it was something that you’d share with someone you love and who loves you. Way too ridiculous to be a central plotline and reason for keeping the characters apart. 

As always with Lisa Kleypas, she developed the characters masterfully, not just Aline and McKenna, but the side characters too. And as the first Wallflowers book, you get going on what is one of my favorite romance series. 

Rating: 3.8
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Childhood Love, Second Chance, Vengeance, Secrets, Forbidden Love
Pair With: Forbidden Vines Wine.

“I would become anyone, anything for you. I would lie, steal, beg, kill for you. I'm not sorry for what I did in the past few months. My life would have been nothing without them.”

Lara finally found freedom when a messenger arrived with news that her despicable, abusive husband, Hunter, Earl of Hawksworth, was dead. Well, freedom of a sort. His equally despicable uncle and new earl basically sent her out to a run-down cottage and a crappy life, but it was at least without the odious husband. 

Until suddenly, he reappears. And he’s being nice, and thoughtful, and loving. This can’t be the same man, but he knows things only Hunter could know–things about Lara, private secrets about their marriage. What gives? Is she being played for a fool? 

The new Hunter is irresistible: gorgeous, kind, attentive, loving, loyal. Lara is kind of an idiot; of course she should be slow to trust him in the beginning, but as the book goes on, her decisions empower some terrible people and she’s kind of a bitch and kind of a moron, not really my favorite heroine. More Lisa Kleypas killer writing but another super-annoying plotline. 

Still, everything comes together beautifully, there are some masterful scenes, and it’s pretty different from a lot of the author’s other books. Worth a read, though not my favorite Lisa Kleypas book.  

Rating: 3
Steam: Medium
Tropes: Second Chance, Secret Identity, Forced Proximity
Pair with: Champagne

"Get into the carriage, El, or I'll strap you to the top of it." Eleanor rolled her eyes and took another bite of seedcake.

Lady Eleanor Ramsay was engaged and set to marry Hart MacKenzie, duke and leader of the MacKenzie family. Until Hart ruins everything and breaks the engagement, even though he supposedly loves her. And marries someone else. Thus, Hart continues to earn his reputation as cold, manipulative, and power-hungry. Until he doesn’t. Sort of. 

Hart starts to realize everything he’s lost by single-mindedly seeking power at the expense of his family and love. Still, he’s no perfect hero. Eleanor is one of few people who will stand up to him and do as she pleases in his face. Loved her, came around to liking him once he gets his head out of his a**. 

Like the other MacKenzie books, you don’t just get the main characters, you get all the MacKenzies and their broods. The side characters aren’t just there to be side characters; they’re integral parts of the book and the entire series. The author really shows each character’s uniqueness and personality, so was always so ready for the next book, dying to be part of that character’s love story. Such fun!

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium to high
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Mystery/Attempted Murder, Strong Family
Pair With: Scotch. 

"I’m a man of words, yet you rob me of them every single time.”

Once upon a time, Lily and Cal were desperately in love, eloped, and thought they could persuade her disapproving father to come around. He didn’t. Blackmail and secrets drove them apart, and she’s (rightfully) bitter than ever. But now she needs Cal’s power and influence to save her brother’s life. 

And their attraction picks right back up where it left off, though both fight it HARD and neither trusts the other. Both have grown over their four years apart–Tough and smart Lily takes over her father’s mining company and Cal grows into one of the most powerful newspaper publishers in the country. 

The story also adds mystery and intrigue surrounding immigration issues, particularly the Chinese Exclusion Act, so it’s (slightly) more than your typical romance. 

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Secrets, Mystery
Pair With: Champagne

A female engineer determined to build her own firm, a protective and loving man, a second-chance romance...

Brilliant engineer Margaret Gault returns to London from France after being snubbed for a business opportunity, determined to establish her own firm in spite of the powerful misogynists. Of course she runs into her childhood love and the man who broke her heart, Earl Grantham, at every turn. 

Grantham wants to win her back and will stop at nothing to do so, even though she’s working for his archnemesis (who cannot be trusted). Still, his charm starts winning her over and their love rekindles, but it’s never that easy, right? 

Margaret constantly has to deal with the jerks and some serious danger, as well as losing her heart–again–to the man who broke it. There are some fun surprises, especially with Grantham, and he turns out to be the best kind of hero and a loving man who yearns to be better. 

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Female Engineer, Childhood Love, Danger/Mystery
Pair With: Wines from Women-Owned Wineries

Finally, travel Willa and Dom's winding path to to second-chance romance and happily ever after!

Oh, I waited and waited for A Rogue’s Rules for Seduction as soon as I finished its predecessor in the Last Chance Scoundrels series, and it was worth it! I wondered for the past two books how Willa would ever take Dom back after he left her at the altar. Unforgivable. There’s just no way, right? Again, I’m a major grudge-holder, so there’s that.

So of course someone had to force them into close proximity! Their siblings and friends trick them into a house party on a remote, inescapable island, and hope love will help them move past the hurt and back to the altar. And of course, they are NOT happy about it. 

Dom knows this is the best chance he’ll ever have of winning Willa back, even though he knows he doesn’t deserve her. And grovel he must. But they are so naturally good together, from just having fun at house party games to being stuck in a small cabin with a single bed. 

The slow burning and time together goes on for a while, and then, BAM, you’re hit over the head for the rest of the book with steam and heat. 

Circling back, yes, by the end I could be happy they’re together and see the reasons everything fell apart in the first place. Convincing me would be tough, and Eva Leigh did it, so this book deserves a high rating. 

P.S. Audio version, Mary Jane Wells, was top-notch. 

Rating: 4.5
Steam: High
Tropes: Second Chance, Close Proximity, Family Involved
Pair With: Lots of your favorite wine.