At long last, the Droughtlander has ended. On Friday, June 16, Outlander will return for its seventh season of steamy, time-hopping drama after a year away from the small screen. In Season 7 — which is being divided into two, eight-episode parts — the American Revolution is in full swing, and Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitríona Balfe) Fraser must navigate the realities of war while fighting to secure their family's future. Before long, the conflict draws the Frasers away from their home in North Carolina, a storyline that Balfe promises will deliver: "This season is so epic," she told Entertainment Weekly. "It's the season that's closest to Season 1 in terms of the scope and the span."
After years of convoluted storylines, a return to basics bodes well for Starz's popular franchise, but fans who prefer to watch on Netflix will be waiting quite a while to see the lovers in action. While subscribers in certain regions (including Japan, India, and France) can stream new episodes of Outlander weekly, completed seasons of the show arrive on Netflix U.S. two years after they air on Starz. This means that Outlander Season 7, Part 1, which airs from June to August 2023, won't hit Netflix until mid-2025 at the earliest. To make matters even worse, Season 6, which ended its linear run on May 1, 2022, is still many months away from making its Netflix debut in the United States.
That said, there is a silver lining to Outlander's lengthy Starz-to-Netflix delay: It gives fans plenty of time to discover other swoony romances. From Black Sails to PBS Masterpiece's Sanditon, streaming is filled with passionate, period-specific dramas that are every bit as enthralling as Claire and Jamie's timeline-jumping courtship. It may not take two years to watch these shows, but fans are bound to fall for their sexy love stories.
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix
Back in 2016, one show scandalized the British tabloids and conservative members of Parliament: Versailles, a French drama about young King Louis XIV (George Blagden), who ruled from 1643 to 1715. When the French nobility begin disobeying their monarch, Louis forces them into submission by moving his court to the Palace of Versailles on the outskirts of Paris, but with little to do there, Louis, his brother Monsieur Philippe (Alexander Vlahos), and their courtiers spend their days bed-hopping and attempting to out-maneuver one another. Versailles is very much a drama of its time in that it boasts full-frontal nudity and graphic sex scenes that add little beyond shock value, set against a big-budget backdrop. (At the time of its release, it was the most expensive French series ever made.) Still, many of these relationships run deeper than just the physical, like Philippe's affair with Chevalier de Lorraine (Evan Williams), which is inspired by the real-life, decades-long romance between the men.
After Versailles made a splash across the pond, Netflix acquired the streaming rights, introducing the show the Daily Mail described as "the filthiest TV ever" to a global audience. Sadly, only the third and final season is still streaming on Netflix, but the first two seasons are available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.
Streaming on Starz
Long before the queer pirates of Our Flag Means Death dominated Max, the Black Sails crew set sail on premium cable. Released in January 2014, just a few months ahead of Outlander, Starz's Black Sails follows a group of pirates as they search for riches around New Providence island in the early 18th century. The piracy is important, but for many fans, it takes a backseat to the 'ships that develop aboard the show's many (actual) ships. At a time when queer representation was incredibly limited, Black Sails centered three-dimensional gay characters and took care to develop its many relationships, straight and queer, traditional and polyamorous. Even at their most titillating, the show's romantic entanglements are key to the plot and emotional journey of these characters, making for an arresting tale of life on the high seas.
Streaming on PBS Passport
Bridgerton isn't the only provocative, Regency-era drama in town. In 2019, Welsh writer Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice) turned an unfinished manuscript by Jane Austen into Sanditon, a British series about a naive young woman, Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams), who moves to a seaside resort town that just so happens to be filled with eligible bachelors. In true Jane Austen style, Charlotte finds herself drawn to the charming but wild Sidney Parker (Theo James, of The White Lotus fame), while long-held secrets and the scheming, gossip-loving townspeople further complicate her new life. Though James departed Sanditon after Season 1, Charlotte's search for love continued, with Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Tom Weston-Jones stepping in to woo Williams' character in the final two seasons.
While Sanditon typically aired in cooler months (its three-season run ended in April), its seaside setting and breezy affairs make for an ideal summertime binge-watch, especially now that the Masterpiece drama is streaming in its entirety on PBS Passport.
Streaming on Apple TV+
Move over, Hot Priest — Tom Hiddleston serves sexy pastor in The Essex Serpent. Hiddleston stars opposite Claire Danes in the six-episode limited series, in which a widow, Cora Seaborne (Danes), moves to a Victorian English town to investigate reports of a mythical serpent living in the nearby water. Skeptical vicar Will Ransome (Hiddleston) dismisses Cora's concerns about the creature, but their disagreement soon gives way to overwhelming passion. The forbidden nature of Will and Cora's relationship only heightens the tension, and Hiddleston and Danes turn themselves over to it, delivering sizzling chemistry with every loaded glance and stolen touch. That same restraint is reflected in The Essex Serpent's limited reliance on nudity, which makes it one of the more family-friendly romances on streaming.
Streaming on Netflix
The Crown meets Hulu's The Great in The Empress, a German historical drama about the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. In the 1850s, Elisabeth (Devrim Lingnau) helps arrange a marriage between her sister Helene (Elisa Schlott) and Emperor Franz Joseph (Philip Froissant), but when sparks instead fly between Elisabeth and Franz, she's thrust into the unfamiliar world of court politics. After marrying, Elisabeth and Franz struggle to navigate their new normal, but they always come back to one another, often in explicit moments of intimacy that earned the Netflix series a TV-MA rating.
The Empress was a top performer on Netflix — it was the seventh most-popular non-English series of 2022 — and the streamer quickly renewed it for a second season. Season 1 ended on a massive cliffhanger, so the renewal is good news for fans eager to see where Elisabeth and Franz's love story takes them next.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.