Top Twenty Best Zebra Historical Romance Novels

best zebra romances

Everybody Loves Zebra

Want to know what the best Zebra historical romances are according to readers? We’ve got the answer.

It’s no secret that Sweet Savage Flame loves Zebra books. Just about every week, it’s guaranteed we’ll review an old-school novel by publisher Kensington’s romance imprint. Whether it’s a Lovegram, Heartfire, or a regular historical–or even a Ballad or Splendor–we’re down to read them!

The folks at Goodreads–who know bodice rippers–are no strangers to Zebra love. They’ve created a list of their favorite Zebra historical romances. So far, out of several thousands of published books, 167 of them are ranked.

Below are the first twenty books on the list. We’ve reviewed some, and read others, while there are a few we’ve yet to read.

edin's embrace pino
Edin’s Embrace, Nadine Crenshaw, 1989, Zebra, Pino cover art

The List

The Top Half of the Best

Best Zebra Romances # 1-5

  1. Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw
    • It’s not surprising to us to see this one at #1. When readers discuss their favorite old school Viking romances, this Nadine Crenshaw historical is always among the books that pop up. We reviewed Edin’s Embrace and gave it 5 stars.
  2. Desert Captive by Penelope Neri
    • Penelope Neri is a favorite author of ours. Her Desert Captive is a great Sheik romance–with no harem! Introvert Reader ranks it a solid 4. Sorry, no review at this time.
  3. No Choice But Surrender by Meagan McKinney*
    • This book has an asterisk as it’s the only one listed not to have been originally published by Zebra. No Choice But Surrender was first released by Dell in 1987, and reissued by Zebra in 1998. None of us have read this one, but Meagan McKinney has written some fantastic books.
  4. Southern Seduction by Thea Devine
    • Thea Devine writes hot, sexy romances. Southern Seduction features a widow who’s glad her cruel husband is dead. When his long-lost son shows up to get his inheritance, sparks fly. Another 4 star read for Introvert Reader, review-to-come.
  5. Lovefire by Deana James
    • Both Introvert Reader and Blue Falcon have read this fictionalized account of Joanna of Navarre‘s life, and they came to very different conclusions. Look for future Duelling Reviews for this book!
Lovefire pino
Lovefire, Deana James, Zebra, 1985, Pino cover art

Best Zebra Romances # 6-10

  1. Sweet Savage Heart by Janelle Taylor
    • Blue Falcon gave this a 5-star review and ranks it as one of Janelle Taylor’s bests.
  2. Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman
    • Another great romance! Introvert Reader gave this one a 5-star review.
  3. Emerald Nights by Virginia Brown
    • A great treasure hunt romance set in the jungles of Peru, with a shy, bookish-heroine and a swashbuckling hero. High 4 stars from Introvert Reader. RTC.
  4. Midnight Captive by Penelope Neri
    • We’re not surprised to see another Penelope Neri romance, but to see two of her books in the top ten shows how highly she is regarded by readers! Definitely a 5 star book.
  5. This Wild Heart by Patricia Pellicane
    • Rounding out the top ten is this Western romance by Patricia Pellicane. On Goodreads, it averages a 3.91 rating from 23 votes. On Amazon, it sits at 5 stars from 7 reviews. Neither Blue Falcon nor Introvert Reader has read this one, so we’re putting it on our TBR list.
This Wild Heart, Patricia Pellicasne, Zebra, 1990, Robert Sabin cover art

The Bottom Half of the Best #11-20

These ten Zebra romances round out the top twenty list.

Best Zebra Romances # 11-15

  1. Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri
    • Another Penelope Neri on this list! We’ve all read this one, and posted a 5 star review.
  2. Dakota Destiny by Dana Ransom
    • This fantastic Western is the third book in Dana Ransom’s Dakota series and we will get to it soon as it is a 5 star read!
  3. Alexandra’s Ecstasy by Dana Ransom
    • Although Introvert Reader ranks Dana Ransom as one of her favorite authors, she’s surprised to see this pirate romance one rank so high. The hero is to-die-for, the heroine needs a kick in the rear. Still, it’s an entertaining tale.
  4. Bold Rebel Love by Christine Dorsey
    • Christine Dorsey has always captivated us. This American Revolution-era Lovegram is a thrilling and sensual romance. Another high 4 star rating from Introvert Reader. So many books to review!
  5. Beloved Bondage by Katharine Kincaid
    • The stunning Alessandro Biffignandi stepback is just the icing on the cake for this historical set in Ancient Rome. A Briton slave becomes a gladiator, then a chariot racer in the age of Emperor Caligula. Again 4 stars from Introvert Reader and RTC.

Best Zebra Romances # 16-20

  1. Sweet Texas Surrender by Victoria Thompson
    • Victoria Thompson creates a sparkling Western romance that’s funny, sensual and exciting. Another 4 star read from Introvert Reader that we will be sure to get to ASAP.
  2. Seductive Caress by Carla Simpson
    • None of us have read this one, but it’s availability on Kindle may explain it’s popularity. Many Zebras from the 1980s and 1990s are, sadly, no longer in-print.
  3. Magnolia Plantation by Beverly Butler
    • This Southern romance is the oldest on the list, published in 1981. Introvert Reader hasn’t read this and Blue Falcon gave it 1 star. Magnolia Plantation averages a 2.88 rating on Goodreads, so we wonder who loves it so much and why.
  4. Sweet Prairie Passion by F. Rosanne Bittner
    • Rosanne Bittner’s book should rank higher, in our not-so-humble opinion. Her historicals are always first-class. 5 stars from Blue Falcon in his review.
  5. Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom
    • This is one of Introvert Reader’s favorite books of all time, and she would have been disappointed not to see it here.
rebel vixen dana ransom
Rebel Vixen, Dana Ransom, Zebra, 1987, cover artist TBD

More to Zebra Reviews Come

You can expect us to analyze and assess the romances we haven’t yet covered in the near future.

Keep an eye out on Mondays and Wednesdays when we upload our reviews.

Don’t see a particular book you’re looking for? If you have a Goodreads account you can go vote for your top picks.

Your Opinion

Are you a fan of the old Zebra romances? Have you read any–or all–the books on this list? Do you agree with the rankings? Is your favorite book or author missing from the top twenty list?

As always, please drop us a comment, and let’s talk romance!

1 thought on “Top Twenty Best Zebra Historical Romance Novels

  1. Diana Orantes

    Most of my romance books are old-school Zebras at this point. I can’t resist the amazing covers, plus they had so much more variety in settings and time periods. Very happy to see Penelope Neri, Katherine Kincaid, Deana James and Meagan McKinney make this list


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