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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.
1952. Seven years since the end of World War II yet the country is still deeply affected by what happened and the after-effects. Frank is an itinerant casual worker, and stories about his war experiences vary. Reserved occupation? Conscientious objector? Deserter? Nobody seems sure, but one thing is clear – Frank is always looking over his shoulder and moving on at the first sign of trouble. A move to London finds him working in a bar where he falls for Grace, the unhappily married wife of the landlord, Dennis. So when Dennis is murdered, the police naturally assume it is a crime of passion. Maybe it is time for Frank to move on again? The book is described as a thriller, but to me, it didn’t have the fast-paced, edgy feel I would normally associate with the genre. Instead, it moves at an unhurried pace, allowing the reader to savour all the subtleties of the story. I thought the book was so beautifully written and the characters so rounded and well developed that trying to slot it into a genre mould like “thriller” really doesn’t do justice to it. A great story, a great read, a well-planned plot and a clever ending all add up to a very memorable book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Jane Willis, A LoveReading Ambassador
Albert Black, known as Paddy, and later as the “jukebox killer”, was the penultimate person to be hanged in New Zealand at the age of twenty-five. Paddy came to New Zealand from Ireland, a sparky young man seeking a new life in a new land. Then, after killing another young man during a fight, a weighted court case sees him sentenced to death for murder. The events that led to the fatal stabbing are told from the engrossing and varied viewpoints of multiple witnesses, both on the stand and in real time. The lives of the jurors are explored too, their backgrounds, what makes them tick, how they’re biased against, or in favour of, the accused regardless of evidence or fact, from the “He’s an Irishman. Taking our girls,” comment of Wayne the gas fitter, to the sympathetic butcher who points out that “if someone’s not like you, you don’t want to know”. The ethics of the death penalty are explored too. As one juror remarks, “I cannot believe we’ve earned the right to decide who should live and who should die”, as is political history, the social history of Irish migrants forging new lives as ten-quid Poms, and the personal plight of Paddy’s mother back home who starts a petition and writes to the New Zealand High Commissioner and the Queen. As the case progresses (with prejudice against outsiders deftly explored and powerfully prescient), the novel lays bare how some individuals stand firm in their convictions while others crumble, and how anyone’s convictions might crumble when circumstances collude and collide. A love story unfolds too, which takes an unexpected and deeply poignant turn. Author Fiona Kidman is a highly-regarded recipient of many literary awards and honours in her native New Zealand and this affecting novel more than showcases her exquisite talent.
Set in the 1930s and inspired by Much Ado About Nothing, this thrilling feast of coming-of-age edginess is giddy with the glamour of freethinking artists, and tingles with romantic tension. Constrained by her life in England, aspiring natural historian Bea constantly battles her parents’ attempts to marry her off: “As far as my parents are concerned, daughters aren’t a terribly useful asset. I’m not supposed to go out in the world and actually do things.” But being “too big, too loud, too clever – too much”, Bea has her own ideas about her future, which she’s able to embrace when she’s sent to stay with her wealthy uncle in Italy and discovers with glee that “things at Villa di Stelle might not be so respectable after all.” Among the villa’s vibrant collective of artists is handsome painter Ben, and sparks fly between he and Bea from the off. A lighthearted challenge sees them set out to enjoy a summer romance without falling in love, until events at a decadent party to invoke rain turn out to be explosive in more ways than one. As the heavens crack open, fireworks fly between Ben and Bea and their lives will never be the same again. Alongside Bea’s awakening of body and heart, she also realises that she cannot return to her previous life. She wants what the artists’ have: an “all-consuming passion for their work...a purpose, a vocation.” With the conflict between her free-spirited nature and societal constraints exacerbated by her Italian experiences, with the world now opened up to her, the gateway cannot be closed. The author’s Great Gatsby-esque A Sky Painted Gold was a 2018 favourite of mine, and this is every bit as bathed in coming-of-age hope and a sense of being on the brink of something special.
Romantic, wry and fragrant with the intoxicating bouquet of la vie Parisienne, this book will brighten the greyest of days with Gallic charme and enchantement. Paris, 2017, and Hubert invites a few associates to share a bottle of exquisite 1954 Beaujolais. Among his guests are American tourist Bob, and neighbour Julien. For Julien, 1954 has extra significance, for that was when an ancestor of his experienced “something extraordinary”. Namely, he sighted a flying saucer in a year that became known as “The Year of Flying Saucers” due to the prolific number of sightings. Next morning, each of Hubert’s guests themselves experience something extraordinary as they realise they’ve been transported to a Paris of the past, to a city in which citizens exchange lighthearted bonhomie on buses, and cafes allow patrons to “smoke with impunity”. Initially Bob amusingly muses that “despite globalisation, the French had not lost their soul!” Then it dawns on the wine-sharing group how they came to voyage through time: “when the flying saucer flew over, it changed the Saint-Antoine wine and since then whoever drinks it will go back to 1954”. Despite enjoying a very pleasant sojourn in the past - encountering Audrey Hepburn in a bar, dining with Edith Piaf - the question is: how can they return to 2017? Driven by droll humour and romance, and with a miraculous climax, this is a fabulously full-bodied-book with crisply sweet undertones.
A fascinating, wonderfully readable fiction and fact merging story based on the life of Prince Albert Victor, Queen Victoria’s grandson and future heir to the throne. Prince Albert Victor, known as Eddy, was said to be involved in one particular scandal of his time. His name has also since been mentioned as a candidate for Jack the Ripper, and though widely dismissed, it proves speculation about Prince Albert Victor ran rife. This story focuses on Eddy and his personal tutor Jem Stephen as they took their first steps into adulthood. Alan Robert Clark brings the two men into vivid, relatable life, he handles emotions and actions with great compassion and understanding. As I read, the writing flowed so beautifully I had no idea where fact finished and fiction began. This book left my heart full of emotion, it also left me determined to step into the history books and find out more. ‘The Prince of Mirrors’ is an eye-opening, compelling, and rather intruiging read - and so highly recommended by me.
A thoroughly entertaining, evocative, and wonderfully written historical mystery set in 1591. Physician and spy Nicholas Shelby joins forces with tavern keeper Bianca Merton in an investigation that could lead the country into civil war. This is the second in the ‘Jackdaw Mysteries’ series, you could start here, however I really do recommend going back to the beginning with ‘The Angel’s Mark’. S. W. Perry sets fiction intermingling with fact, and it is easy to believe that this could have been real. The writing prods and provokes thoughts and feelings, I could step forward into the sleaze and squalor, hear whispered conversations, feel the fragility of life in those times. Nicholas and Bianca are a fascinating duo, each interesting in their own right, together creating a force to be reckoned with. Vividly dramatic and engrossing, ‘The Serpent’s Mark’ ensures that this is a series that promises much and lives up to expectations, I eagerly await the next.
An absolutely fascinating dual-time frame novel focusing on the Italian Resistance in 1944, and what starts as an investigation into a hit and run accident in 1999. Sandro Bellini is just 18 years old when he falls in love with the wife of his commander during the Second World War. Michael Keats is determined to locate the man who had been having an affair with his wife before she was killed in 1999. Set in a valley near Lake Como in Northern Italy, these two time frames weave together to create a truly captivating tale. The first few chapters set my intrigue antenna on full alert. I have an interest in the Second World War, and wondered whether the story from 1944 would push 1999 to one side. Gordon Kerr however, ensures that the two time lines are equally gripping, particularly as events start to embrace. The characters feel entirely believable and their emotions beat and thrum across the page. The pace and tension increased throughout and I found the ending extremely satisfying. ‘The Partisan Heart’ is a well-written, clever tale focussing on intimate feelings during the most stressful of times.
Prussia, “the winter of 1946. A cold and terrible postwar winter, a time of desolation”. In this bleak situation of never-ending cold and never-ending hunger, in a world in which “people are the wolves now”, Eva and Martha fight to keep their children fed and safe as Russian troops take over, and then their eldest sons steal away to Lithuania in a coal wagon. It’s no wonder that this elegant and intricate debut has garnered its Lithuanian author many awards. The children’s journeys see them labour, beg, escape knives, dodge bullets and summon every ounce of wit and strength. This tale is a testament to the tough resilience of the human spirit, and voices a lesser-known episode of European history with stylish solemnity.
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.
AN EPIC NEW NOVEL FROM THE GLOBALLY BESTSELLING AUTHOR In the battle for power, two enemies will collide Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg knows that peace is far from reach. Though he has won the battle for his ancestral home, rebellion looms in Mercia and invading Norsemen appear at every turn. With the country in turmoil, Uhtred comes face-to-face with King Skoll, a violent Norseman leading an army of ulfhedinn, or wolf warriors, hellbent on seizing a kingdom - and killing any in his path. Surrounded and outnumbered by new enemies, Uhtred must call on all his skill and courage to survive, and prevent his beloved Northumbria from falling to the Viking hoards.
I absolutely adored this very special, surprising and exquisitely written novel focusing on the period between the First and Second World Wars. In 1925 Selina Lomax regularly appears in the papers as she and her friends attend parties and live life to the full. When Selina meets struggling artist Lawrence Weston her life changes beyond all recognition. I entered ‘The Glittering Hour’ expecting the beautiful relationship tale that I found. However I also left having experienced so, so much more. Iona Grey has created sentences that caught and transported me with their stunning descriptions. The story slinks through time and space, effortlessly revealing links from the past that become present in the future. As I read, moments of understanding speared my awareness and left me reeling. I felt joy, tenderness, aching sadness, and I cried, really, really cried at the beauty in front of me. I wield my highly recommended stamp of approval all over The Glittering Hour, it really is the most wonderfully heartfelt and meaningful read, and so sits as a LoveReading star book.
The brand new Courtney Series novel, and the much-anticipated sequel to the global bestseller WAR CRY Torn apart by war, Saffron Courtney and Gerhard von Meerbach are thousands of miles apart, both struggling for their lives. Gerhard - despite his objections to the Nazi regime - is fighting for the Fatherland, hoping to one day have the opportunity to rid Germany of Hitler and his cronies. But as his unit is thrown into the hellish attrition of the Battle of Stalingrad, he knows his chances of survival are dwindling by the day. Meanwhile Saffron - recruited by the Special Operations Executive and sent to occupied Belgium to discover how the Nazis have infiltrated SOE's network - soon finds herself being hunted by Germany's most ruthless spymaster. Confronted by evil beyond their worst imaginings, the lovers must each make the hardest choice of all: sacrifice themselves, or do whatever they can to survive, hoping that one day they will be reunited. Courtney's War is an epic story of courage, betrayal and undying love that takes the reader to the very heart of a world at war.
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?