10 Favorite Historical Fiction Books

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With an abundance of new, highly anticipated historical fiction books on the shelves, how do readers choose what to read next?

As you peruse today’s books, I hope you find memorable reads (or more!) that take you to different times and places.

The Lioness

Author: Chris Bojarian

Last year, Bojarian’s historical novel, The Witch’s Hour, was a pleasant surprise. It wasn’t until I picked it up that I knew I was longing for a novel about the Puritans, and I couldn’t put it down! Bojarian tells another atmospheric tale full of danger and mystery in his new historical thriller, set in the Serengeti, where Hollywood star Katie Barstow and her husband invite a group of A-list friends to Africa for an adventure on their honeymoon. Guests expect luxury, glamour, and merit for a delicious cocktail conversation at a Hollywood party, but when they are kidnapped by Russian envoys, their lavish vacation turns into a waking nightmare. This stylish mystery drama has a serious Agatha Christie vibe, but I can’t say I find the ending satisfying.

The Magnolia Palace

Author: Fiona Davis

Fiona Davis has created a compelling novel based on a true story and provides rich details about the landmarks surrounding the place where the story takes place. Many readers thoroughly enjoyed The Lion of Fifth Avenue and continue to gush about Davis’s fascinating historical background with each new book. If you’ve ever visited the Frick Museum and marveled at the ornate rooms filled with Gilded Age art, you’ll surely want to learn about her latest story revolving around the Frick family and their high-stakes drama. Weaving together secret information, murder, and museum curation in a dual timeline of the 1919s and 1960s, this book is a historical suspense buff’s dream.

Violetta

Author: Isabel Allende

Allende is prolific: her earliest works may be considered modern classics, but her most recent releases feel refreshing. This shocking epic begins on a stormy day in 1920. The heroine was born during the Spanish flu, and her family’s turbulent era was just beginning. Told in epistolary form, the novel reads almost like an entertaining autobiography about Violeta’s love, heartbreak, and reaction to historical events. If you’ve never read Allende, you can definitely start here and go back and see how she influenced the genre of historical fiction.

Her Hidden Genius

Author: Mary Benedict

Former lawyer Mary Benedict leaves her prestigious law firm to investigate a different kind of case: the hidden history of a prominent heroine. She portrays women who have quietly contributed to some of history’s greatest discoveries and triumphs, sharing stories of librarians, scientists, wives of politicians, and movie stars. Her recent research led her to Rosalind Franklin, a brilliant scientist whose work reveals important information about the double helix and our DNA. You don’t need a background in biology to enjoy this book: the interest in history and human processes is enough for Benedict to draw you in with her expert storytelling.

Devotion

Author: Hannah Kent

In her latest novel, Kent, author of The Rite of Burial, builds on the history of German Lutheran immigration to Australia, crafting a poetic coming-of-age story, a meditation on nature and religion, and an expansive backdrop. Fifteen-year-old Hanni loves nothing more than exploring the Prussian wilderness with her friends, but her world is turned upside down when her family is forced to flee. After years of secret worship, her old Lutheran community found a new life in Australia where they could openly follow their religious traditions. While her village rejoices, Hannie and her dearest friends experience tension on a long journey away from home. Told in exquisite prose, this quiet novel weaves the colors of magical realism into a story of freedom and friendship.

Booth

Author: Karen Joy Fowler

I still recommend Karen Joy Fowler’s 2013 novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves to lovers of literary fiction, so I can’t wait to get a taste of her latest work, an epic exploration of John Wilkes Booth (yes, that Booth!) and his charming family. John’s father was a once-famous but now reclusive Shakespeare actor who grew up in rural Maryland with his siblings as the Civil War approached. Later, the Booths left the farm for the sake of theatrical fame, and eventually, their brothers’ actions became notorious. This new historical novel is rich in detail and deeply observant, perfect for fans of Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet.

Fencing with the King

Author: Diana Abu-Jaber

We love the literary suspense here in modern Lady Darcy!The novel begins with a strange poem discovered by the recently divorced poet Giorgio Armani between the pages of her father’s book. Written by her grandmother, the verses sparked Armani’s curiosity and took her on a journey to her family’s homeland of Jordan, where her royal advisor uncle still lives. Once there, Armani and her father face increasing danger as they discover lost secrets and royal intrigues, while Armani tries to learn more about the origins of her grandmother’s mystical poetry. The storyline is loosely based on the King Lear and Arthurian legends and is very intriguing, but the political context of the 90s of the 20th century is even more so. Abu-Jaber’s latest novel pairs perfectly with her 2005 gastronomic memoir, The Language of Baklava.

The Diamond Eye

Author: Kate Quinn

Whenever I think I’ve read enough World War II novels, Kate Quinn drops another novel – I can’t resist! In this new novel, a bookish single mother turns into a deadly sniper. The main character, Mira, known as the “Lady of Death,” travels from the battlefields of Ukraine to the shiny political center of Washington, D.C., on a well-intentioned post-war journey. Despite battling trauma, Mira makes new friends – including Eleanor Roosevelt – but her comfort is short-lived when deadly enemies show up and send her back to battle.

Sister Stardust

Author: Jane Green

You may recognize Jane Green’s name from over 20 contemporary novels, her first book based on a true story, perfect for fans of Tyler Jenkins Reed. I’ve never heard the subject of this book before: Talitha Getty was a Dutch actress and socialite in the 60s of the 20th century who dazzled foreigners in London and Morocco with salons full of art, music and new ideas. The fictional character Claire appears as she meets Talisa and finds herself caught in a vortex of counterculture, charm, and friendship. But Talissa’s glamorous life isn’t what it seems, and the closer Claire gets to this stunning icon, the more she’ll see the darkness beneath her beautiful exterior. Troubled friendships, dangerous secrets, and easy access make this a must-have for a summer getaway.

The Good Left Undone

Author: Adriana Trijani

Isn’t this cover seeking a place on the shelves of a beach house or a summer library display? In this multi-generational saga, Trigiani introduces us to the industrious Cabrelli family, who have lived in a small coastal town in Italy for generations. A poignant inscription introduces the first part of this family story: “Let those who desire eternal life in heaven heed these warnings: When looking back, consider these things: the bad things done, the good things not done, the time wasted.” Its meaning is slowly revealed over the course of the novel, which employs an intriguing structure to depict a series of strong women and the choices they have made or chosen to avoid over the decades. In addition to the gorgeous cover, the well-drawn characters and stunning waterfront setting make for an attractive summer read for those interested in the themes of identity, heritage, and redemption.

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