10 Best Authors Like Catherine Cookson for Romance Enthusiasts

Discover our guide to the 10 best authors like Catherine Cookson. They’ll tickle your fancy for history and romance as you fall in love with a past era. 

As one of the top 20 most widely read British authors, Catherine Cookson made a mark on 20th-century literature. The prolific writer has sold over a hundred million copies of her books. She wrote largely of East Jarrow in Durham, where she grew up. For Cookson, writing is a highly personal endeavor.

After suffering four miscarriages, Cookson fell into a deep depression, and writing helped pull her out of it. She became part of the Hastings Writers‘ Group to add fineness to her writing. She debuted her successful literary career with Kate Hannigan in 1950.

Cookson successfully merged the traditional romance novel with historical fiction, and she often visited the settings of her novels in person to add realism to her work. If you are a fan of Catherine Cookson’s style, you will also appreciate these romance authors’ style.

Best Authors Like Catherine Cookson Ranked

1. Maeve Binchy, 1939 – 2012

Maeve Binchy
Photograph of Maeve Binchy at a book signing

Maeve Binchy was born in Dublin, Ireland, where she lived most of her life. After studying history at the University College Dublin, she put her interest in history into her writing. After graduation, Binchy married children’s author Gordon Snell. His confidence in her inspired her to branch out of journalistic writing to launch her fiction writing career, starting with Light a Penny Candle in 1982.

Her work includes 17 novels, one published after her death, four short-story collections, a play, and a novella. The award-winning novelist has many accolades, including the British Book Award for Lifetime Achievement and the People of the Year Award. Her 2000 book Scarlet Feather won the W.H. Smith Book Award for Fiction.

“In my experience, lights at the end of the tunnel tend to flicker out.”

Maeve Binchy, Light a Penny Candle
Light a Penny Candle (Famous Firsts)
  • Binchy, Maeve (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 592 Pages - 08/05/2003 (Publication Date) - Berkley (Publisher)

2. Dilly Court

Author Dilly Court is a prolific writer from Dorset who started her career writing commercial scripts. In 2000s, Court transitioned into writing novels and made a name for herself in the historical romance genre. Books by Court feature heroines that live their lives in turn-of-the-century London.

She has over 30 titles, and several have been on The Sunday Times bestseller list. Mermaids Singing, her first novel, was published in 2005. Her books are in series, including Fortune’s Daughter, the first of the Rockwood Chronicles. Court sometimes writes under the name Lily Baxter.

“It could have been a dream, except that the boy was real enough. He had come into her life and now he was gone forever.”

Dilly Court, Fortune’s Daughter

3. Victoria Holt, 1906-1993

Victoria Holt
Portrait of Eleanor Hibbert, aka Victoria Holt

Eleanor Alice Hibbert was an English writer of over 200 novels who wrote under several pen names, including Victoria Holt, Philippa Carr, and Jean Plaidy. Hibbert grew up in London and became passionate about the past after visiting Hampton Court as a teenager. She started her literary career with nine novels that never found publishers, then a series of short stories for the newspaper.

The writer’s transition to romance novels came with the publication of Daughter of Anna in 1941. The book was moderately successful. Eventually, Hibbert adopted the name Victoria Holt when she published Mistress of Mellyn in 1960. This book, her first Gothic romance, became an instant international bestseller. She continued writing under the Holt pen name, publishing 32 novels and selling 56 million copies.

“We are born, we suffer, we love, we die, but the waves continue to beat upon the rocks; the seed time and the harvest come and go, but the earth remains.”

Victoria Holt, Mistress of Mellyn
mistress of mellyn
  • holt, victoria (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 06/18/1960 (Publication Date) - Readers Digest (Publisher)

4. Val Wood, present

Val Wood
Portrait of Val Wood reclining on a couch

Val Wood is an English author with 27 novels, most set in the Hull and East Riding area. The Hungry Tideher first book, won the Catherine Cookson Prize for Romantic Fiction. This prize sparked her passion for writing, and she continued writing historical romance novels.

Several, including The Innkeeper’s Daughter in 2013 and The Doorstep Girls in 2015, made it to The Times bestseller list. Wood works actively for English charities promoting literacy and reading and with dementia organizations.

“Her brave words belied a fear that threatened to engulf her, for in truth, she dared not think of life without Will.”

Val Wood, The Hungry Tide
The Hungry Tide
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Wood, Val (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 482 Pages - 05/31/2011 (Publication Date) - Transworld Digital (Publisher)

5. Iris Gower, 1935-2010

Iris Gower is the pen name of British novelist Iris Davis. Originally from Wales, Gower wrote many historical romances throughout her life. She began writing in her 20s with short stories for women’s magazines, and in 1974 she published her first novelTudor Tapestry. It was her 1983 novel Copper Kingdom that launched her successful writing career. She received an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Wales Swansea in 1999 for her work.

“Once the copper had done with you, it was into the streets and no going back.”

Iris Gower, Copper Kingdom
Copper Kingdom: a moving and emotional Welsh saga of class, heartache and passion you won’t be able to put down
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Gower, Iris (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 372 Pages - 05/31/2011 (Publication Date) - Cornerstone Digital (Publisher)

6. Elizabeth Gaskell, 1810-1865

Elizabeth Gaskell
Painting of Elizabeth Gaskell

Even though she was not a contemporary of the other authors on this list, Elizabeth Gaskell wrote about Victorian society and the struggles of everyday people, with quite a bit of romance woven in, making her a good choice for fans of Catherin Cookson.

Gaskell wrote eight novels, starting with Mary Barton in 1848 and ending with Wives and Daughters: An Everyday Story in 1866, published the year after her death. In addition to novels, Gaskell wrote a long list of short stories. In her stories and books, she brought light to the difficult conditions of the working class in northern England.

“There is always a pleasure in unraveling a mystery, in catching at the gossamer clue which will guide to certainty.”

Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton
Mary Barton (Wordsworth Classics)
  • Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 448 Pages - 08/06/2012 (Publication Date) - Wordsworth Editions Ltd (Publisher)

7. Georgette Heyer, 1902-1974

Georgette Heyer
Portrait of Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer wrote historical and detective fiction novels in the early to mid-1900s. This English writer was from London and began writing in 1921 when she wrote down a story she had been telling her sick brother. This became The Black Mothher first book. She published it at just 17 years old. Most of her early books were set in the 1700s, and she heavily relied on the setting as part of the plot.

Heyer was an avid researcher with over 1,000 historical reference books in her library. Some historians credit the author with the invention of the Regency romance genre, romance books set in the time of the British Regency. Most of her paperback editions sold over 500,000 copies each, and when she died in 1974, there were still 48 of her books in print.

“I am unreasonable! I know it, but don’t tell me so, for I cannot bear it!”

Georgette Heyer, The Black Moth
The Black Moth: Complete and Unabridged
  • Heyer, Georgette (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 92 Pages - 11/16/2022 (Publication Date) - Unabridged Publications (Publisher)

8. Annie Groves, 1946-2011

Fans of historical fiction may not recognize Penelope Halsall because this prolific writer wrote under several pen names, including Penny Jordon, Annie Groves, Caroline Courtney, Lydia Hitchcock, and Melinda Wright.

After entering a Romantic Novelist Association competition in the 1970s, Halsall caught the attention of a literary agent. Though she didn’t win with her book, Duchess in Disguise, the agent signed her to write 25 regency novels, thus launching her literary career. Today she has several historical fiction series written as Annie Groves, including Empire Street, which starts with Child of Mersey.

“Never trouble trouble, till trouble troubles you’? The wise words”

Annie Groves, Child of the Mersey
Child of the Mersey
  • Groves, Annie (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages - 02/17/2015 (Publication Date) - HarperCollins (Publisher)

9. Charlotte Lamb, 1937-2000

Sheila Holland was an English writer who wrote under the pen name Charlotte Lamb and several others. This author wrote her first book in just three days as a young mother. By the late 1970s, she had established herself as a historical romance and thriller writer under the Lamb name.

The success of Lamb’s books started with the publication of Follow a Stranger in 1973. She was a fast writer, writing books in just days. Some of her books, like her 1979 book Dark Dominion, were quite dark.

“I’m not normal where you’re concerned. Last time I lost my mind I hurt you badly enough, but I’m afraid that one day I’ll kill you.”

Charlotte Lamb, Dark Dominion
Dark Dominion
  • Charlotte Lamb (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 188 Pages - 03/01/1980 (Publication Date) - Harlequin Books (Publisher)

10. Mary Stewart, 1916 – 2014

Mary Stewart
Portrait of author Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart rounds out this list. This British novelist created the romantic mystery genre. Readers find her books centered on intelligent heroines who solved dangerous mysteries. She also wrote a series of children’s books, the Merlin series, that embraced fantasy.

Stewart attended Durham University, where she majored in English. One of her most famous novels is The Moon-Spinners, which Disney made into a movie. In 1996, Stewart was awarded the Malice Domestic Award for Lifetime Achievement. Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best Greek authors!

“It was the egret, flying out of the lemon-grove, that started it. I won’t pretend I saw it straight away as the conventional herald of adventure, the white stag of the fairy-tale, which, bounding from the enchanted thicket, entices the prince away from his followers, and loses him in the forest where danger threatens with the dusk.”

Mary Stewart, The Moon-Spinners
The Moon-Spinners (14) (Rediscovered Classics)
  • Stewart, Mary (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 312 Pages - 04/01/2011 (Publication Date) - Chicago Review Press (Publisher)