Love Stories for The Ages: A History of Time Travel Romance

Looking for some romance that spans across time? Fall in love and through time with this deep dive into the time travel romance subgenre.

Adaptations Pop Culture Recommendations Romance TV & Movies
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Have you ever wanted to get swept up in the beauty of the Scottish Highlands with your true love or run through a medieval castle in a ball gown, searching for your knight in shining armor? In time travel romance novels, you can do just that.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the time travel romance subgenre. We’re covering everything from its history and classic tropes to famous depictions of the subgenre (and even a few book recommendations!). Keep reading to learn more about this timeless subgenre that we just can’t get enough of.

What Is Time Travel Romance?

The premise of time travel romance is pretty self-explanatory. In them, at least one character is miraculously transported to a different time period that’s unfamiliar to them. In the wake of trying to blend in, get their bearings, and find a way home, a love interest catches their eye, and the main character fully immerses themselves in this new time period. But will the main character remain in this new time period with their true love, or will they be forced to return home with only the memory of what they experienced?

Claire and Jamie in 'Outlander' TV adaptation; time travel romance

The most popular tropes within time travel romances include a female main character going back in time and landing in the medieval age or 18th-century Scotland. Once there, they cross paths with a sexy knight or kilted Scotsman, and the steamy love story ensues.

Time Travel Romance: A Brief History

The time travel romance subgenre is a facet of supernatural romance, both of which get their roots from Gothic fiction. The Gothic era was an incredibly transformative time for literature female authors. During this era, women had something else to write about that wasn’t the traditional marriage plot. Societal obligations and desires, female sexuality, and the critique of male power took center stage in female Gothic novels. From there, the supernatural or paranormal subgenre emerged, and with it, time travel romances.

Time Travel Romance on Screen

Henry and Clare in 'The Time Traveler's Wife' movie adaptation; time travel romance

Love stories that span across time aren’t just for books— time travel romance has been depicted on TV and in movies for years. One of the most famous depictions on TV is, of course, Outlander. Adapted from Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling books, the popular Starz series is coming on its seventh season. Though the series will end after its eighth season, it’s already got a prequel series in the works.

On the big screen, audiences have fallen through time and in love with movies like The Time Traveler’s Wife (also adapted from a bestselling novel), About Time, and The Lake House. So, whether you’re more into watching a love story that spans ages unfold in one sitting via a movie, or want to savor the romance through a TV series, you’ve got plenty of options.

Fall in Love With These Time Travel Romance Recommendations

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

time travel romance; cover of 'Outlander' by Diana Gabaldon

In 1945, Claire Randall is a former British combat nurse. But when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles, she’s transported to war-torn Scotland… in the year 1743. Here, she’s a Sassenach, an “outlander.” Catapulted into an unfamiliar world full of violence and danger, Claire’s only chance of safety lies in young Scots warrior Jamie Fraser. Soon, a passion ignites between them that could change the course of history.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

time travel romance; cover of 'The Time Traveler's Wife' by Audrey Niffenegger

Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife follows the love story of Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire. Henry can involuntarily travel through time while Clare’s life continues its natural, sequential course. Despite this, their love affair endures oceans of time in this tale of fate and belief in the unbreakable bonds of love.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

time travel romance; cover of 'One Last Stop' by Casey McQuiston

23-year-old August is convinced the only smart way to go through life is alone. There’s no such thing as magical, cinematic love stories, right? But when August gets swept away by Jane, a charming, mysterious woman on the train August takes every day to work, she begins to rethink that sentiment. The only problem? Jane is displaced in time. To get Jane back to the 1970s, August will have to use everything she tried to leave in her past to help her.

A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux

cover of 'A Knight in Shining Armor' by Jude Deveraux; time travel romance

When Dougless Montgomery lies weeping upon a tombstone in an old English church, the most extraordinary thing happens: a man appears. His name is Nicholas Stafford, Earl of Thornwyck… but according to his tombstone, he died in 1564. Drawn to Nicholas, Dougless knows that he’s nothing less than a miracle. As their passion for each other grows, so do the ties that bind them to the past.

Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning

cover of 'Beyond the Highland Mist' by Karen Marie Moning; time travel romance

Hawk is known throughout the kingdom as a legendary predator on the battlefield… and the boudoir. No woman can resist his charms. That is until Adrienne de Simone tumbles out of modern-day Seattle and into medieval Scotland. Here, Adrienne is entirely too bold and outspoken, and Hawk is drawn to her. Forced into a marriage with Hawk, Adrienne is determined to keep him at arm’s length, but for Hawk, not even the barriers of time could keep him from winning her love.

Time travel romance is just a tease of what you can expect with supernatural romance. Learn more about supernatural romance in our deep dive into the spicy subgenre that’s captivated readers since the Gothic era. While you’re at it, check out our coverage of other crazy, oddly-specific romance subgenres.