Yesterday I checked out the blog Belles and found a post asking which author had drawn you to historical romance. Lots of people cited Rogers and Woodiwiss, and I have no problem with that, except that to me, they came rather late to the scene. They first published in 1972 and 1974, their books were wildly popular and were known as the infamous "bodice rippers."
The author who first drew me to the genre was an odd duo of husband and wife who wrote, in English translation, as Sergeanne Golon. Their first title, The Marquise of the Angels, was published in 1956. I did not discover they were actually two people for such along time. And of course there was Forever Amber from Kathleen Winsor, published in 1944. I understand it was banned in several states of America as being too sexy. Gone with the Wind was published in 1936, and in Anya Seton began publishing in 1954, Jean Plaidy in 1951 so I think Woodiwiss and Rogers should thank the pioneers for paving the way and building up a core audience. Younger readers may want to go and seek out some of the older books, if they haven't already. They'll find them different, with certainly less sex, and violence presented less graphically, but that does not make them any less good. In many eyes, it may make them better!
Anne Golon is still alive and living in Paris not far from Versailles where she did all her research. The website below has been recently updated, and gives hope that the last three titles, only ever published in French, will now, after a long law suit, finally be published in English.
http://www.worldofangelique.com/ It seems she is still writing. All the names I quoted, bar Rodgers who may/may not be still writing, are dead, so I think we should treasure this French writer of great historical fiction while we still can.