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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.
A thrilling, riveting, and whip-smart novel that feels as though you are being served a slice of Cold War military history. When a CIA asset in East Germany is compromised, a team of unconventional warfare specialists are charged with extracting him. This is the first in the Snake Eater Chronicles by James Stejskal who spent 35 years in the US Army Special Forces and CIA. He is now an author (previously writing non-fiction), military historian, and conflict archaeologist. These stories are based in reality using his real-world experience and the author himself calls it “faction”. This is an absolutely fascinating read, all the cogs within the CIA and Special Forces machine spin into action. The Cold War history of Berlin, different characters, methods and processes are included and explained without upsetting the flow of what is a gripping story. I didn’t question, I quite simply read and believed. A Question of Time is a fabulous start to a series that promises to deliver in spades and it comes with a whopping thumbs up from me.
A blistering, gripping, and absolutely fascinating novel. Set aside plenty of quality time as I was consumed, and read it all in one heady, breathtaking go. It’s based on the true story of Nancy Wake, named by the Gestapo as The White Mouse, as she evaded their capture by slipping through check points in France during The Second World War. It is almost impossible to comprehend the wartime life of Nancy, it feels as though all of it is brilliant but astonishing fiction. Darby Kealey and Imogen Robertson have created a living, breathing, headstrong woman and I shook my head in wonder and shock at some of her escapades. She’s not perfect, she makes mistakes and at times appears somewhat gung-ho, with no apparent regard for the safety of herself or her team, yet this woman was quite simply incredible. The authors have made changes to timelines and invented some episodes which they fully explain in the Historical Notes. A major film production is underway, and I recommend reading the book just as soon as you can (before the film) as it is fabulous. Nancy Wake has entered my heart, and we just had to choose Liberation as a LoveReading Star Book. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
What a gloriously dark and thrilling treat of a read this is! If I’m not careful I will go into exclamation mark overdrive as I adored every single moment spent with this novel, from the cover on the outside to the content within. Silhouette artist Agnes believes that her clients are being murdered, in an attempt to find answers she asks spirit medium Pearl to make contact with the dead. Victorian Bath is the setting with a dramatic and shadowy atmosphere that oozes from the pages. The characters are beautifully constructed, I found myself investing in their every word and move. The plot is fascinating, the uncanny elements thrilling, and yet it all feels so convincing, so vividly real. And oh, that ending, it gave me goosebumps in the best possible way! If you delight in a deeply satisfying story containing elements of the supernatural then this is the book for you. Slithering between thoughts into the darkest of places The Shape of Darkness is an eloquent, mesmerising gothic tale and one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
A thoughtfully intricate and fascinating novel which tells two stories in a most unusual way. Yoel Blum, grandfather and famous Israeli author, travels to Amsterdam and finds that everything he thought he knew about himself has been turned on its head. Setting forth into the history of his family and the Jewish community within Amsterdam during World War Two, Yoel Blum begins to understand himself and his relationships. This isn't a loud or boisterous tale, yet the clarity is piercing. The detail of the underground networks hiding Jewish children in the Second World War is full of impact. Emuna Elon has the most beautiful way with words, her descriptions took me by the hand and led me into their very midst. There are no speech marks or indications of changing time frames, however I never felt out of place. The translation from Hebrew has been completed with great skill by Anthony Berris and Linda Yechiel. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, this is a novel to read slowly, to experience, to become a part of. House on Endless Waters is a beautifully eloquent family mystery highlighting human tragedy and resilience.
An intelligent, intricately plotted, and fabulously readable foray into The Second World War from a German perspective. Three men, Werner Nehmann from the Ministry of Propaganda, Georg Messner aide to Generaloberst Richthofen, and Wilhelm Schultz from the Military Intelligence Service, find themselves in the thick of the German attempt to capture Stalingrad. This is the fith book in Graham Hurley’s Spoils of War series, featuring historical and fictional characters from different countries. Here the focus is Germany and we delve into the minds of such historical figures as Goebbels and Richthofen. It is however, the three fictional characters, in particular Werner, who take centre stage. In the main the story remains at a distance from direct fighting, nonetheless I was left in no doubt as to the reality of conflict. The mysteries of propaganda and intelligence wield their shadowy magic. This an intimate story set on a huge scale, the personal stories of the characters really highlights the struggle of the individual during war. Last Flight to Stalingrad is a dynamic, commanding slice of historical fiction that I highly recommend as one of our LoveReading Star Books.
Discover a vividly seductive historical crime novel sitting within Victorian Edinburgh. A plan to discredit Dr James Simpson is afoot, while a bid by two of his employees to clear his name encounters a string of unsolved deaths. Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for award-winning author Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman. Research for her masters uncovered the material for this series which began with The Way of All Flesh. You could read this as a standalone novel, but I recommend starting at the beginning in order to fully enjoy this reading experience. The mix of fiction and fact is a fascinating one, with the historical background twisting and melding with intense vitality into the most compelling story. The social resistance to new medicine, the struggles of the woman’s movement, and individuals grasping for power confirms that the circles of humanity continue through the ages. The attraction between Will and Sarah adds to the energy rather than detracts, while the unknown voice that appears throughout builds suspense and intrigue before the full impact of the ending hits. The Art of Dying is a vivid, almost visual feast of a story that I can highly recommend.
Both Clara and Nancy are very much the victims of a pre-World War 1 society dominated by men. Clara the eldest has fought her way out of the family home and out of the clutches of an abusive father but cannot escape her guilt at leaving Nancy to take her place and face an unwanted pregnancy, a painful birth and the wrench of giving her child away. Clara is proud to have found a job which also provides accommodation and now sees this as the solution for her sister too. Life as a prison guard in Holloway is certainly challenging not least because of the new category of political prisoners- the Suffragettes- many of whom are on hunger strike. The author paints a very vivid picture of the restricted life of women in 1913 and the brutality of prison life for guard and prisoner alike. Whilst Clara is the one who thinks most about the issues of women’s rights and independence it is to be the gentle, shy Nancy who gets swept up into the movement when she becomes obsessed with one particular prisoner: “The Duchess” and while Clara pursues her career rather than her feelings for her boyfriend, Nancy impulsively follows her heart and the Duchess into violent protest. It is all about making difficult choices. Having the courage to make a stand for justice. Realising that following your heart can mean the loss of your freedom. This gripping novel really makes the reader think about the wider roles of women and the personal as well as the political aspects of emancipation. One cannot help but see the ironic juxtaposition of the notorious “Cat & Mouse” treatment of the prisoners on hunger strike and Clara’s treatment of her suitor and again with Nancy’s capitulation to capture and imprisonment for arson and Clara’s eventual acceptance of marriage even at the cost of being “given away” by her abusive father. Thought provoking, shocking and insightful this is a very rewarding read indeed and one which will be very valuable to students of history and women’s studies.
Continuing the immersive, suspenseful story began in Tidelands, Philippa Gregory’s Dark Tides is a sweeping family saga that takes in the poverty and wealth of Restoration London, decadence and distrust in Venice, and hope and unrest in the New World. It’s 1670, 21 years after the events of Tidelands, and Alinor now runs a humble wharf warehouse in London with her daughter Alys, while her grandchildren Sarah and Johnnie are apprenticed to trades. The arrival of two visitors shakes their existence. Firstly, James, Alinor’s former lover who once failed her and now comes offering to share his wealth. And secondly beautiful Venetian Livia, widower of Alinor’s beloved son Rob, who comes in a whirlwind of glamour and ambition. While Livia and Alys form a close bond, and Livia promises to transform their lives if they’ll help her transport valuable antiquities from Venice, wise woman Alinor doesn’t believe Rob is dead, and so sends Sarah across the seas to discover the truth. Thousands of miles away, in the New World, Alinor’s ferryman brother Ned isn’t enjoying the new life he’d hoped for. A former New Model Army infantryman, he’d hoped “to get away from all the money-making and grabbing from each other.” Unlike his fellow Britons, he’s respectful of Native Americans, and with growing conflict between indigenous communities and the settlers, Ned might have to choose a side. I especially enjoyed Sarah’s sojourn in Venice - her voyage of discovery in this “city of spies” where “imaginings can come to life” takes as many twists as the tangled streets of Venice itself. She’s a fabulously adventurous character, determined not to “get stuck here, hoping for a man to rescue me." The narratives of London, Venice and America unfold with delectable drama, driven by the characters’ desires, and underpinned by a tremendous sense of time and place.
The author has done incredibly well to create scenes and atmosphere of the 18th century and to get the warnings out of the way, this attention to detail is also used to portray a number of sexual assaults, the writing is richly detailed but I would say it isn’t one for the faint hearted. A vague essence of the plot reminds me of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, with Finnbar characterised as hard-working and innocent hearted but in a position that leaves him vulnerable to those more powerful than he, which is ultimately his downfall. Martin is generally a selfish and unlikeable character, but in this the author has crafted him well. As I was reading, and arguably applying a modern thought process, I wondered at his ability to bring a young boy to a strange city and, while expressing his position as his master and guardian often, essentially leaving Finnbar to his own devices, allowing him to seek his own work and lodgings. I did also think that there was something of Lolita in this book. Although it states that Finnbar is 17/18 I have to admit his simple nature made me picture him as younger and made Martin, Maddox and others come across as even more predatory. I also praise the amount of research that has gone into this book, in order to include some historical figures who existed but also in the little details, the mention of padding in Forbes clothes to correct his frame as a small example I spotted. The world and writing throughout One Night in Finnbar is incredibly well-crafted. This isn’t a happy story by any means but for those who would be interested in dark, gritty, historical fiction, then they may find this an interesting read.
Rich in romance and peril, this explores the intersection of art, gender and politics in the turbulent 1930s, from Germany, Austria and Italy, to the United States. Second in a trilogy, Roma Calatayud-Stocks’s A Symphony of Rivals is suffused in the author’s passion for music, and her belief in the powerful persistence of art. The novel traverses 1930’s Germany, Austria, Italy and the United States as it tells the tale of Alejandra Morrison, a woman who aspires to become a symphony conductor in a man’s world, at a time when culture is increasingly coming under the crippling, censoring grip of Nazism. With a keen eye for detail and spritely dialogue, the author is clearly immersed in her subject as we follow Alejandra’s determined journey, first training with celebrated conductors in Berlin, later attracting the unwelcome attention of a high-ranking German officer. At times, this has the page-turning pace and drama of a literary thriller, replete with terrifying peril as Alejandra must make agonising, life-changing decisions, and domestic strife playing out alongside tangled political troubles. Musicophiles will no doubt appreciate the appendix that details works to accompany each chapter, among them Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca, Hubfeld’s As Time Goes By, and Verdi’s Nabucco. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
The first book in a brand new sweeping historical series from the No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author. Available to pre-order now! France, 1944. Deep in the river valley of the Dordogne, in an old stone cottage on the edge of a beautiful village, three sisters long for the end of the war. Helene, the eldest, is trying her hardest to steer her family to safety, even as the Nazi occupation becomes more threatening. Elise, the rebel, is determined to help the Resistance, whatever the cost. And Florence, the dreamer, just yearns for a world where France is free. Then, one dark night, the Allies come knocking for help. And Helene knows that she cannot sit on the sidelines any longer. But bravery comes at a cost, and soon the sisters' lives become even more perilous as they fight for what is right. And secrets from their own mysterious past threaten to unravel everything they hold most dear... The first in an epic new series from the No.1 Sunday Times bestseller, Daughters of War is a stunning tale of sisters, secrets and bravery in the darkness of war-torn France...
Totally, completely, and utterly gorgeous, this is a beautifully written historical relationship tale with real bite. And can I just qualify the word relationship - this is about the relationships with family, community, fear, nature, as well as the more obvious love. A work of fiction inspired by history, the story begins on Christmas Eve in 1617 when a sudden and violent storm takes the lives of forty fisherman, leaving the stunned women folk learning to survive on their remote northerly Norwegian island. Still reeling from the tragedy, their lives turn in the most frightening direction when the King brings in sorcery laws and a commissioner is installed to root out evil. This is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut adult novel, and I feel as though I have been waiting my reading life for it. The prologue hits with a huge sad inevitability. Kiran Millwood Hargrave writes with a sensitive and considerate pen, the descriptions are truly breathtaking. While there are some savage shocks in store, The Mercies is still a warm, thoughtful and touching read. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, we also just had to include The Mercies as a LoveReading Star Book too. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
By the bestselling, prize-winning author of When God was a Rabbit and Tin Man, Still Life is a beautiful, big-hearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood... and the ghost of E.M. Forster. We just need to know what the heart's capable of, Evelyn. And do you know what it's capable of? I do. Grace and fury. It's 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together. Ulysses Temper is a young British solider and one-time globe-maker, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive her memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view. These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other and Evelyn's talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses mind that will shape the trajectory of his life - and of those who love him - for the next four decades. Moving from the Tuscan Hills, to the smog of the East End and the piazzas of Florence, Still Life is a sweeping, mischievous, richly-peopled novel about beauty, love, family and fate.
Set in AD 74, Elodie Harper’s The Wolf Den tells the enthralling tale of Amara, a prostitute enslaved to Pompeii’s lupanar brothel. Serving a rich feast of historic atmosphere with all the pace of popular drama, fans of spicy historic fiction will be left longing to devour the second course of this trilogy - think TV show Harlots set in ancient Pompeii. Educated doctor’s daughter Amara once lived free, but the poverty that came in the wake of her father’s death led to enslavement to the Wolf Den brothel, where her cell is adorned with a picture of “a woman being taken from behind” and a terracotta lamp “modelled in the shape of a penis” (the real-life lupanar brothel is famed for its erotic frescos). By day, the she-wolves visit the women’s baths and stalk the streets to draw business to the Den. By night, “the brothel passes like a scene from Hades: the endless procession of drunken men, the smoke, the soot, angry shouting,” until Amara lies in her cell, “unable to sleep, suffocated by rage”. When fellow she-wolf Victoria says how lucky they are, Amara’s retort is characteristically sharp: “Here we all are…Four penniless slaves sucking off idiots for bread and olives. What a life.” And a life she refuses to settle for when “the desire to escape takes hold, its roots digging deep under her skin, breaking her apart.” Harper’s style is exhilaratingly direct, with images lingering long in the mind’s eye. You smell the oil lamps and temple incense, taste sticky figs, feel physical blows, and the dialogue packs powerful punch too. It’s a vivacious piece of work, and all underpinned by a woman’s longing for freedom.
From the No.1 bestselling author of The Last Protector and The Ashes of London comes the next book in the phenomenally successful series following James Marwood and Cat Lovett during the time of King Charles II. Two young girls plot a murder by witchcraft. Soon afterwards a government clerk dies painfully in mysterious circumstances. His colleague James Marwood is asked to investigate - but the task brings unexpected dangers. Meanwhile, architect Cat Hakesby is working for a merchant who lives on Slaughter Street, where the air smells of blood and a captive Barbary lion prowls the stables. Then a prestigious new commission arrives. Cat must design a Poultry House for the woman that the King loves most in all the world. Unbeknownst to all, at the heart of this lies a royal secret so explosive that it could not only rip apart England but change the entire face of Europe...
The new, gripping historical novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of Lady of Hay A nest of vipers, they called us. But that is not how it was. Mercia, 775 AD. In the grand Saxon halls of Mercia, King Offa rules with ruthless ambition. Aggressive and relentlessly acquisitive, his three daughters are destined to marry advantageously in service of their country. Eadburh, the youngest, is neither the cleverest nor the most beautiful of the three. But, with her father's ruthless spirit and the secret gifts passed down from her mother, she is determined to carve her own path in the world. 2021. Simon Armstrong has escaped to a secluded cottage on the English-Welsh borders, desperate to finish his book about Anglo-Saxon King Offa. But he soon finds himself disturbed by unsettling noises and visions. Calling in local expert Bea to identify the issue, Simon hopes to get back some peace - but soon Bea is as embroiled as he is, feeling increasingly connected to a ghostly presence that is growing ever-stronger in its desire for revenge. And when Simon's daughter disappears, centuries of secrets and resentment begin to tumble out... An epic tale of deceit, revenge and exile from the queen of timeslip historical fiction. Time is running out as the past and present collide...
Glorious, simply and beautifully glorious! Inspired by Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, this is the imagined story behind the writing of Hamlet, which was written between 1599 and 1601. Hamnet and Hamlet were apparently “entirely interchangeable in Stratford records in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries”. Maggie O’Farrell says she wanted to write this story for over thirty years. “What did it mean for a father to name a tragic hero after his ( ) son. What was this unusual act telling us?” The cover design is beautiful, it called to me. On opening, I slipped into and fell in love with this tale. Hamnet has an almost otherworldly feel, and yet is as earthy and believable as can be. Two time frames sit side by side, Hamnet becoming ill in 1596, and then the earlier story of Shakespeare and Agnes meeting and falling in love. The descriptions became clear bright images in my mind. I could feel the words, they echoed deep inside me, creating pools of emotion. I cried on finishing, all the feelings that Hamnet created slipped out of me and trickled down my cheeks. I adore Hamnet, it now sits on my list of favourite books, and will be one that I reread each year. Chosen as a Book of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.
If you’re looking for a unique, transportive, immensely satisfying read then I’ll wave frantically and recommend you stop right here. Laura agrees to assess Will to establish if he is still capable of living on his own, she begins to suspect that Will isn't suffering from dementia and that his strange story may actually be true. Keith Stuart is the author of the truly beautiful Days of Wonder and A Boy Made of Blocks, books that touch emotions, encourage thoughts, and cast a spellbinding atmosphere. I was hugely excited to read his latest and it effortlessly joins the others as particular favourites of mine. Each of his novels have been completely different, yet there is a thread of connection. He opens a door to a side of being human that you might not have seen and encourages emotions to flood your heart and soul. The Frequency of Us takes a step outside of what is known, edging into fantastical and I joined the story with trust and belief. Laura and Will formed a connection with each other and in turn with me. Two time frames allow access to the past, creating intrigue and a mystery that just begs to be solved. The ending really spoke to me and set my feelings free to soar. The Frequency of Us is a mesmerising read full of love and hope, and I’m thrilled to recommend it as one of our LoveReading Star Books.
1940. Three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything-beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses-but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Awkward local girl Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles beneath her shy exterior. 1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter-the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together... As the nation prepares for the royal wedding they must race against the clock to save one of their own.
What if Jesus had married? What kind of woman would he marry? Who would marry him? These questions are at the heart of Sue Monk Kidd’s sweepingly inventive The Book of Longings. Ana, with her “turbulent black curls and eyes the colour of rainclouds” and a narrative voice that sweeps you up in its bold passion, was born into a wealthy Galilean family. Sharp-minded and a gifted writer, Ana secretly transcribes the stories of matriarchs in the scriptures, women omitted from the records: “To be ignored, to be forgotten, this was the worst sadness of all. I swore an oath to set down their accomplishments and praise their flourishings, no matter how small. I would be a chronicler of lost stories.” Ana seems destined to marry an elderly widower to further her father’s career (he’s the closest adviser to Herod Antipas, whom Ana despises), until she encounters eighteen-year-old Jesus and is emboldened and aroused by his revolutionary ideas: “I called him Beloved and he, laughing, called me Little Thunder.” Jesus understands Ana’s longings, her “life begging to be born,” and she loves his kindness, his capacity for listening. Of course, we know how the real-life narrative plays out, but this affecting story gets under the skin as familiar events unfold through Ana’s eyes, as a proto-feminist, as wife of Jesus, as sister of Judas. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
A twisty, intriguing, multi-layered mystery and fascinating fictional foray into the past from award-winning author Andrew Taylor. It’s 1668, James Marwood is tasked with finding out why Oliver Cromwell’s son has returned to London while Cat Lovett is drawn into a conspiracy, and both are soon in grave danger. This is the fourth in a terrifically readable series which began with the Ashes of London. I have to say that I just throw myself into each of these reads with abandon, completely trusting that what is to come will be a vividly convincing and exciting read. What a fabulous period in history this is, James and Cat really do live in interesting times! I love how each individual story twists around the other until they join together. I really do hope we will see more from these two. I can highly recommend this bestselling series, it’s just fabulous!
Powerful and poignant, moving and provocative, this beautifully eloquent novel is set before and during the Second World War. People Like Us highlights love, humanity and kindness in the terrifying face of intolerance and hate. Hetty’s father is an SS officer and she passionately believes in Hitler, as anti-semitism grows Hetty finds herself falling in love with Walter. Walter is blonde and blue-eyed, Walter saved her life when she was seven, Walter was best friends with her brother who has joined the Luftwaffe, Walter is a Jew. Hetty narrates her own story, creating a bond, a link to this child who is raised as a Nazi. Louise Fein builds Hetty’s world for us from 1933, I could feel Hetty growing through the years, her voice changing as her thoughts formed, hesitated, altered. Hetty and Walter are relatable, believable, touchable. It is absolutely fascinating to see this life, from this viewpoint, one that you can consider and wonder, ‘what if that had been me’. People Like Us was: “inspired by [the author’s] own family history, and by the alarming parallels she sees between the early thirties and today”. The author’s note at the end sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. As well as being a stunner of a read (you may want tissues handy), People Like Us has huge impact and deservedly sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Debut of the Month, this is one to climb the rooftops and shout about.
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?