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Rich and immersive, transporting and informative, good historical fiction is a sumptuous treat. See the past re-written with our Historical Fiction collection. Here to take you to another time without the cost of building a time machine.
Even in wartime the customer comes first at Marlow's department store. It's 1941 and young Lily Collins is starting work in Midlands department store Marlow's, whose gleaming facade has fascinated her since childhood. As the air raid sirens blare, Lily learns the ropes from her sophisticated boss Miss Frobisher alongside shy fellow junior Gladys. But her burgeoning friendship with young salesman Jim draws her into a swirl of secrets within the store. And with the war progressing to crisis point, Cedric Marlow and his staff must battle nightly bombings and the absence of loved ones to keep going. From a former writer of The Archers comes a novel that weaves together a powerful sense of community and a vivid evocation of a time when every man, woman and child was doing their bit.
What a truly beautiful read this is, light, bright and cheerful (yet not at all frothy), there are also some heartachingly deep and dark depths waiting to be discovered. It’s 1941 and Emmeline desperately wants to become a war correspondent, she somehow finds herself working for an agony aunt and begins to secretly reply to the letters Mrs Bird refuses to answer. Emmeline tells her own tale in the most wonderfully spirited tone of voice, I could hear her so clearly, and immediately warmed to her energy and courage. A.J. Peace weaves the story of sparkling, heartfelt friendship quite marvellously through the air raids, dances, blackouts and rationing. I found myself immersed in 1941, I opened my eyes and my heart to the characters and evocative descriptions. Part of me wanted to encourage Emmeline, to clap and smile as her subterfuge escaped notice, while the other part offered caution, a number of ‘eeeks’, and I had a cushion ready to hide behind just in case. Dear Mrs Bird is just so gloriously readable, it really is an entertaining, affectionate discovery of delight and I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed that there is more to come from the gorgeous Emmeline.
From the author of Legacy, now a major BBC Film, comes a brilliant new historical crime novella for fans of Antonia Hodgson and CJ Sansom. `To Mr Thomas Combe my sword.' These six words in Shakespeare's will tell us that Shakespeare had a sword. Did he wear it? Did he use it? What sort was it? When and why did he get it? What happened to it? Might it - does it - still exist? These questions plague Simon Gold, an antiques dealer. He believes he has identified the sword as belonging to a customer, an unworthy owner indifferent to cultural icons and uninterested in history. Simon is desperate to acquire the sword, but how? How far is he prepared to go to get it? In alliance with Charlotte, his customer's attractive and disaffected wife, Simon finds himself going farther than he had intended - and finds, too, that Charlotte is rather more than she appears. Praise for Alan Judd:
A touchingly intimate yet scorchingly dramatic and fully realised view of a couple who meet just before the Second World War. This is a relationship tale that took hold of me, brought me to its very centre and allowed me access to innermost thoughts and feelings. Martin and Nancy fall in love, as Martin departs for the battlefields of France, they continue to communicate by letter, until suddenly Martin’s letters stop. My advice to you is to pick this book up, start to read, and whatever you do, do not allow the final few pages to fall open before you reach them. For me the ending was a heart-stopping moment, and is still very much in my mind, the emotion of the realisation continues to affect me. The letters are exquisitely crafted, with real heart, tying into the story perfectly and bringing a sense of nostalgia for this type of communication. S. C. Worrall allows the war to edge ever closer, until it strikes with a sharp hammer blow. The Very White of Love takes you step by step into another time, heartfelt and beautiful I can wholeheartedly recommend this read.
The Blue is an enthralling story of art and science, focusing on the competitive nature of the porcelain industry in the 18th century and the obsessive quest for excellence. Feisty protagonist Genevieve Planché is English-born but fiercely proud of her family’s Huguenot origins. A talented artist, she dreams of being a world-famous painter but is being ignored by the male-dominated art world. When she meets the charming and mysterious Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he promises to make her dreams come true if she can just do one ‘simple task’ for him – to discover the secrets of a highly sought-after shade of blue. Set against a vivid background of wartime England and France, The Blue provides a powerful blend of fact and fiction – switching between London’s Spitalfields, industrial Derby and France’s Sèvres, highlighting the politics, religious intolerance and social divide of that time period. This is an entertaining combination of history, adventure and mystery, filled with passion and secrets, deception and espionage, as Genevieve begins to question where her loyalties really lie. The Blue is a perfect choice for historical thriller fans, with its flowing prose, well-researched background, rich characters, vivid descriptive writing and escalating tension. This is certainly a novel to savour, ponder and enjoy. I loved it!
A sweeping saga set between 1884 and 1889 packed-full of the trials, endeavours, and love interests of five families. This is the start of a new series, and Barbara Taylor Bradford has introduced the different characters quite beautifully. The story glides from London, to Kent, Hull and Paris creating a fascinating full background in which it sits. From the up and coming Falconers to the Trevalians who head a private bank, fine threads connect the characters together, slowly creating a rich tapestry. This isn’t a book to rush through, it’s one to savour, to sink into and become at one with the story. Take time to introduce yourself to each individual, to understand them and where they sit in the story. Allow the highs and lows to fill your thoughts, to lift your heart, and be ready to console your feelings. Master of his Fate is a rather lovely and enjoyable opening to what promises to be a compelling new series.
A sweeping saga set between 1884 and 1889 packed-full of the trials, endeavours, and love interests of five families. This is the start of a new series, and Barbara Taylor Bradford has introduced the different characters quite beautifully. The story glides from London, to Kent, Hull and Paris creating a fascinating full background in which it sits. From the up and coming Falconers to the Trevalians who head a private bank, fine threads connect the characters together, slowly creating a rich tapestry. This isn’t a tale to rush through, it’s one to savour, to sink into and become at one with. Take time to introduce yourself to each individual, to understand them and where they sit in the story. Allow the highs and lows to fill your thoughts, to lift your heart, and be ready to console your feelings. Master of his Fate is a rather lovely and enjoyable opening to what promises to be a compelling new series.
Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Heroes written and read by Stephen Fry. *SHORTLISTED FOR BEST AUDIOBOOK AT THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS* Mortals and Monsters. Quests and Adventures . . . There are Heroes - and then there are Greek Heroes. Few mere mortals have ever embarked on such bold and heart-stirring adventures, overcome myriad monstrous perils, or outwitted scheming vengeful gods, quite as stylishly and triumphantly as Greek heroes. In this companion to his bestselling Mythos, Stephen Fry brilliantly retells these dramatic, funny, tragic and timeless tales. Join Jason aboard the Argo as he quests for the Golden Fleece. See Atalanta - who was raised by bears - outrun any man before being tricked with golden apples. Witness wily Oedipus solve the riddle of the Sphinx and discover how Bellerophon captures the winged horse Pegasus to help him slay the monster Chimera. Filled with white-knuckle chases and battles, impossible puzzles and riddles, acts of base cowardice and real bravery, not to mention murders and selfless sacrifices, Heroes is the story of what we mortals are truly capable of - at our worst and our very best.
'My mum always said, a fistful of rings is as good as a knuckleduster' As the Great Smog falls over London in 1952, Florrie Palmer has a choice to make. Will she stay with the Cutters, a gang of female criminals who have terrorized London for years and are led by her own mother? Or leave it all behind to make a safer, duller life with the man she loves? And what will she do if she's too crooked to go straight, and too good to go bad? Over the next five days, Florrie will have to find her own path and the courage to stumble along it - in a fog so thick that she can't see her own feet. Following the last days of a crumbling female gang in post-war London, this is a story of family, of love, of finding your way, and of deciphering a route through the greyest areas of morality.
Mehr is a girl trapped between two cultures. Her father comes from the ruling classes of the empire but her mother's people were outcasts, Amrithi nomads who worshipped the spirits of the sands. Caught one night performing these forbidden rites, Mehr is brought to the attention of the Emperor's most feared mystics, who force her into their service by way of an arranged marriage. She discovers that her new husband is a mysterious, enslaved Amrithi with abilities like her own: together they must use every ounce of cunning, power and will they possess to resist the order's cruel agenda - and should they fail, the spirits themselves may awaken seeking vengeance...
Taking in McCarthyism, personal and political distrust, constraints on women in mid-century America and fundamental moral questions around power and betrayal, this ambitious novel is as complex as its subject, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American physicist who co-created the atomic bomb. Hailed a hero for his role in developing the bomb, then denounced for his Communist Party connections, this discloses Oppenheimer’s contradictions through the perspectives of seven varied and compelling characters at different points in time. The secret service agent who trails Oppenheimer remarks that “another person is a mystery”, and this novel certainly bears that out with its positing of a fundamental question - can we ever truly know another person? Illuminating and thought-provoking, this is a fine work of historical fiction with intellectual bite and emotional resonance.
Everyone loves a hero - and the greatest heroes of them all were the ancient Greeks. Stephen Fry's blistering retelling of their fabulous stories makes this the PERFECT GIFT for young and old alike. Mortals and Monsters. Quests and Adventures . . . _________ There are Heroes - and then there are Greek Heroes. Few mere mortals have ever embarked on such bold and heart-stirring adventures, overcome myriad monstrous perils, or outwitted scheming vengeful gods, quite as stylishly and triumphantly as Greek heroes. In this companion to his bestselling Mythos, Stephen Fry brilliantly retells these dramatic, funny, tragic and timeless tales. Join Jason aboard the Argo as he quests for the Golden Fleece. See Atalanta - who was raised by bears - outrun any man before being tricked with golden apples. Witness wily Oedipus solve the riddle of the Sphinx and discover how Bellerophon captures the winged horse Pegasus to help him slay the monster Chimera. Filled with white-knuckle chases and battles, impossible puzzles and riddles, acts of base cowardice and real bravery, not to mention murders and selfless sacrifices, Heroes is the story of what we mortals are truly capable of - at our worst and our very best.
Brimming with black magic, sex and intrigue, a gorgeous historical novel for fans of Dinah Jefferies and Santa Montefiore. The Russian Empire is on the verge of collapse. Revolution is in the air. The starving stalk the streets of St Petersburg and yet the Imperial Court still commute between their estates and organise their lavish balls. Two sisters arrive in the city. Princesses from Montenegro; they are famed for their wild beauty and mystical powers. Initially ridiculed and outcast as the daughters of a provincial 'Goat King', they react in the only way they know how. They befriend the isolated Tsarina Alexandra and, using their gifts, they help her in her increasingly desperate quest to give birth to a son and heir. The circle closes. The girls are the gateway. Gurus, clairvoyants, holy fools and charlatans all try their luck. Then in one last, doomed, throw of the dice, the sisters introduce Rasputin into the Russian Court... Based on the true story of the lives of Princess Militza and Princess Anastasia of Montenegro during the dying days of the Russian Empire, The Witches of St Petersburg is a tale of love, lust, power and betrayal at the heart of the Romanov Court.
London, 1936. Inside the spectacular Grand Ballroom of the exclusive Buckingham Hotel, the rich and powerful, politicians, film stars, even royalty rub shoulders with Raymond de Guise and his troupe of talented dancers from all around the world, who must enchant them, captivate them and sweep away their cares. Accustomed to waltzing with the highest of society, Raymond knows a secret from his past could threaten all he holds dear. Nancy Nettleton, new chambermaid at the Buckingham, finds hotel life a struggle after leaving her small hometown. She dreams of joining the dancers on the ballroom floor as she watches, unseen, from behind plush curtains and discreet doors. She soon discovers everyone at the Buckingham - guests and staff alike - has something to hide.... The storm clouds of war are gathering, and beneath the glitz and glamour of the ballroom lurks an irresistible world of scandal and secrets. Let's dance....
An interesting, unusual, emotional novel which examines the after effects of the First World War. Four young people meet in Margate in 1920, Edward and William’s lives have been irreversibly altered by the horrors of the war, while Evelyn and Catherine are finding their wings. The book begins in 1940’s London, the scene is set so that it is abundantly clear what has happened to the main characters. I then stepped back in time to 1917 and 1920 to be introduced again, with the knowledge of what was to come still playing on my mind. I will admit that it took me a little while to settle in, Paul Marriner uses a lot of detailed description set the scene, I gradually found myself becoming fully immersed in the story as the characters entered my heart and soul. The knowledge of the future to come stayed with me, whispering, suggesting, not allowing me to settle. There is a painful certainty that travels through the novel, it doesn’t shy from uncomfortable or unsettling feelings, rather it embraces them, voices them, allows an almost visual understanding. ‘The Blue Bench’ reaches into the past, bringing thoughts and feelings within touching distance, and so gives a warning for our future.
I relished the first two books in this series (The Dark Days Club and The Dark Days Pact) and this final Bath-set instalment is a fittingly thrilling feast of fantastical foe-fighting and illicit liaisons. Spirited Lady Helen might be in the throes of finalising her wedding plans, but she has far greater matters to attend to, such as defeating the Grand Deceiver. Alongside the high-stakes, high-octane action, the delicious duplicity of Helen’s double-life existence further flavours this novel with edge and intrigue. While “her aunt and uncle, along with the rest of society, were under the impression that she had spent the last six months enjoying the delights of Brighton and Bath”, Helen had, in fact, been engaged in “killing murderers, and becoming one half of the Grand Reclaimer with Lord Carlston” as a member of the demon-fighting Dark Days Club. Talking of whom, Helen’s relationship with Carlston is a frisson-fuelled delight, thronging with “will they? Won’t they?” tension. Wildly inventive, and driven by the vitalities and conflicts of an engaging heroine, this trilogy is a magnificent melange of history, fantasy and heart-pounding passion.
Historical Murder Mystery set at the birth of the New York stock market, where no one can be trusted. The birth of the American stock market, an intriguing time between the War of Independence and the Civil War. Slavery still exists but blacks are free in New York, warring with the immigrant Irish for work. The situation is exacerbated by the Ripper-like murders of black prostitutes and the suspicious deaths of Wall Street business men. Every character is part of a conspiracy or hiding a dark secret, everyone is lying and nothing is what it seems. As soon as one plot twist is resolved, along comes another, leaving the reader dizzy and begging for more. There is a helpful dictionary of Irish and slang terms at the back, but most of the unfamiliar words make sense in context. It’s blood-thirsty, gritty and enjoyably confusing, a proper novel of action, intrigue and suspense. The author is a noted historian who began this as a work of non-fiction about the founding of Wall Street but discovered that writing a murder mystery was much more fun! I look forward to more; perhaps a series to rival James McGee’s Hawkwood which began with Ratcatcher.
A rip-roaring, thrilling read set in 1915 during the First World War. As well as adventure, there is also real heart and soul waiting to be discovered between the pages. This is the fourth in the ‘Christopher Marlowe Cobb Thriller’ series, Kit is a war reporter and undercover agent, he is set the task of discovering who is planting horrific bombs in Paris. While you don’t actually need to have read the first books in the series, I recommend that you do, just for the pure enjoyment factor of reading them in order. Robert Olen Butler won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993, his novels have the ability to touch, connect, and alter thoughts and feelings. Intricate layers of high octane story and eloquent descriptions ensured the small details really set me in time and place. It didn’t surprise me to learn that Robert Olen Butler is a war veteran and news reporter. This felt real, I was on high alert and tenterhooks as I waited for the next heart-stopping moment. ‘Paris in the Dark’ is an enthralling well written, full on adventure of read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Heartbreaking and uplifting, the story of the workhouse orphan, Eliza, will touch your heart... Eliza was left as a small baby at the workhouse in Whitechapel, wrapped in her mother's shawl, which is all she has of the mother she never knew. At eleven years-old, she has survived sickness, near starvation and harsh beatings. Master Simpkins and his cruel daughter rule the workhouse with a rod of iron, but when Romany boy, Joe, arrives at the workhouse, his spirit and courage give Eliza hope that another life is waiting for her outside. When she is sold into service, Eliza is relieved to be out of the workhouse and hopes her fortunes are changing for the better, but cruelty and unkindness are everywhere and her salvation could become her ruin...
Tombland is the seventh novel in C. J. Sansom's number one bestselling Shardlake series. Summer, 1549. Two years after the death of Henry VIII, England is sliding into chaos . . . The nominal king, Edward VI, is eleven years old. His uncle Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, rules as Protector. The extirpation of the old religion by radical Protestants is stirring discontent among the populace while the Protector's prolonged war with Scotland is proving a disastrous failure and threatens to involve France. Worst of all, the economy is in collapse, inflation rages and rebellion is stirring among the peasantry. Since the old King's death, Matthew Shardlake has been working as a lawyer in the service of Henry's younger daughter, the Lady Elizabeth. The gruesome murder of Edith Boleyn, the wife of John Boleyn - a distant Norfolk relation of Elizabeth's mother - which could have political implications for Elizabeth, brings Shardlake and his assistant Nicholas Overton to the summer assizes at Norwich. There they are reunited with Shardlake's former assistant Jack Barak. The three find layers of mystery and danger surrounding Edith's death, as a second murder is committed. And then East Anglia explodes, as peasant rebellion breaks out across the country. The yeoman Robert Kett leads a force of thousands in overthrowing the landlords and establishing a vast camp outside Norwich. Soon the rebels have taken over the city, England's second largest. Barak throws in his lot with the rebels; Nicholas, opposed to them, becomes a prisoner in Norwich Castle; while Shardlake has to decide where his ultimate loyalties lie, as government forces in London prepare to march north and destroy the rebels. Meanwhile he discovers that the murder of Edith Boleyn may have connections reaching into both the heart of the rebel camp and of the Norfolk gentry . . . Includes an Historical Essay from the author on Reimagining Kett's Rebellion.
A lovely, fascinating, proper treat of a read set during the Blitz of World War Two. The Brogan family sit at the heart of A Ration Book Christmas which is the start of a new saga series. Concentrating on sisters Jo and Mattie, we see their lives unfold as the bombing raids take their toll. Jean Fullerton brings to life the war on the home front, the small details and descriptions fully set the scene, supporting the storyline beautifully. I took this close knit family to my heart, from little rascal Billy through to unshakable Gran Queenie. Each and every character feels rounded, real, tangible. I let myself simply sink into the story, and it wrapped itself cosily around me. Romance, gossip, scandal, pain, friendship and love make their mark and I was left wanting to know more about this family. A Ration Book Christmas is food for the soul, it’s simply deliciously readable and enjoyable. Featured in the LoveReading Christmas Gift Guide.
Gosh, just stunning! For me, this is the very definition of a must-read… eloquent, absorbing, absolutely fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable. I thought The Last Hours (which you really do need to read first) was exquisitely engaging and satisfying, and I enjoyed The Turn of Midnight just as much, perhaps even more as the characters were known to me, beloved by me. Lady Anne and educated serf Thaddeus have joined forces to prevent the Black Death from decimating their community. As they attempt to secure the independence of Develish however, trouble continues to haunt them, to hunt them down. Maps and a summary of the people, places and events from The Last Hours ensured I was able to step straight into the story. Minette Walters has the most beautiful voice, my soul became at one with the words. I sank so fully into the story that I was surprised at the end of each chapter when I suddenly came to and became aware of my surroundings. The time, the place are vibrantly alive, I could touch kindness, smell bitterness, taste fear. Please, please, please let there be more! The Turn of Midnight is a powerful, gripping read, and yes I am gushing most effusively over it, that’s because it really is rather wonderful and I highly recommend buying yourself a copy.
The breathtaking debut from the winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction 2018 In this epic tale of fate, fortune and legacy, Jennifer Makumbi vibrantly brings to life this corner of Africa and this colourful family as she reimagines the history of Uganda through the cursed bloodline of the Kintu clan. The year is 1750. Kintu Kidda sets out for the capital to pledge allegiance to the new leader of the Buganda kingdom. Along the way he unleashes a curse that will plague his family for generations. Blending oral tradition, myth, folktale and history, Makumbi weaves together the stories of Kintu's descendants as they seek to break free from the burden of their past to produce a majestic tale of clan and country - a modern classic.
For readers of Schindler's List, The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas comes a heart-breaking story of the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances. I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart. In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival - scratching numbers into his fellow victims' arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale - a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer - it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too. So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz. ----- 'Extraordinary - moving, confronting and uplifting . . . I recommend it unreservedly' Greame Simsion 'A moving and ultimately uplifting story of love, loyalties and friendship amidst the horrors of war . . . It's a triumph.' Jill Mansell
The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals alike, who transforms herself into the legendary Madame Tussaud. In 1761, a tiny, odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Alsace. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and . . . at the wax museum, heads are what they do.
Cloaking herself in Christie’s Poirot mantle for the third time, bestselling crime writer Sophie Hannah here presents Hercule Poirot with something of a peculiarly personal puzzle. Our loveable hero is left feeling somewhat perplexed when an agitated middle-aged woman - “a whirlwind most fierce” – demands to know why he sent her a letter accusing her of killing a certain Barnabas Pandy. And then a second person presents themselves, demanding to know the very same thing. Mon dieu! Poirot has no idea who Pandy is, or why someone is sending these letters in his name, and so a thrillingly unpredictable mystery unfolds. The story is elegant, suffused with the spirit of, and reverence for, Poirot’s creator, and this makes for an entertainingly satisfying experience.
Once Upon a Time…
With authors like the two-time Man Booker Prize winning Hilary Mantel among its illuminati, it’s no wonder that Historical Fiction is arguably more popular than ever. Follow the lives, loves, betrayals, deaths, trials-and-tribulations of those that went before us.
Whether you follow Sebastian Faulks and P.S Duffy to the hell and displacement of the Front in WWI, Philippa Gregory to the intrigue, immorality and perils of the court of Henry VIII, or get rocked on the high seas of the King’s Navy in Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander, there is a wealth of exceptional storytelling to dive headfirst into. Where will you let our time machine take you today?
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