No catches, no fine print just unadulterated book loving, with your favourite books saved to your own digital bookshelf.
New members get entered into our monthly draw to win £100 to spend in your local bookshop Plus lots lots more…Find out more
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.
Set in the early 1900s as the Virgin Islands shift from Danish to American rule, this is a sublime and thought-provoking novel. An epic family saga suffused in the islands’ complex history, and the strange magic of two sisters – Anette, who can see the future, and Eeona who possesses an extraordinary siren-like beauty. “Men will love me. It is the magic I have,” she remarks. Orphaned by the sinking of a ship, this captivating novel follows the sisters through sixty years. As they experience births, deaths, losses, loves, conflicts (and curses), sweeping change swells through their St Thomas homeland, shifting the sands around race and the land ownership. While their half-brother Jacob experiences institutionalised racism in the US Army, and witnesses segregation and the start of the Civil Rights Movement, back on the island Americans are busy buying up land and privatising beaches, giving rise to clashes between locals and incomers. It’s hard to believe this is Yanique’s debut. The writing is spellbinding, assured and invokes a desire to return to its world, and its themes are vitally important, not least the very relevant issue of outsiders making prime - and formally public - land inaccessible to locals. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Evocative, emotional and compelling, this historical novel may centre on a relationship, yet it throws open a door to the Second World War. Meet Spitfire pilot Eddie and painter Eva as they leave their teenage years at the onset of war. The prologue in late 1940 sets the scene for what is to come, I found myself in the clouds in the middle of a dogfight between Spitfire and Messerschmitt, the outcome of which stayed with me as I read on. Chapter one took me back to March 1939, I slid effortlessly in as Rachel Billington ensures the small and intimate elements are as well crafted as the more obvious aspects of war. The two main characters are fascinating, Eddie is self-centred yet not overwritten as unlikable, while Eva is finding her path, and both feel as real as can possibly be. Surrounding them are family and friends, all helping to create a vivid view of the times. The ending sliced into my emotions, and left me sitting for a while in contemplation. Expressive, rich and sharp, Clouds of Love and War is an engaging and worthwhile read.
A beautifully thoughtful, hopeful, and compelling read that ran wild in my mind and tugged at my heartstrings. It’s 1858 and three women are pushing the boundaries of what it is to be a woman. Spiritualism, seances, and the capturing of something otherworldly sit centre stage, dissected by newspaper reports and other material that splinters connections being made. Julie Cohen cleverly reveals information in the reports that increases tension, and left me itching with concern for what was to happen. Occasionally we travel back in time which encouraged my thoughts to hesitate and reform. The relationships unfurled slowly, almost gently, allowing time to become acquainted with each character. Mindful, vivid, and strong, Spirited explores death, grief, faith, class and gender, while at its heart relationships expand to make this such an engaging and rewarding novel.
Hauntingly tender, and written with powerful grace, Clare Chambers’s Small Pleasures is an absolute joy from start to finish. It’s 1957 in suburban Kent, where Jean writes for a local newspaper with every aspect of her life still dominated by her contrary, controlling mother as Jean approaches forty. No post-work drinks with colleagues. No friends. No romance. Enter Gretchen Tilbury, an elegant Swiss woman who writes to the paper claiming her daughter was the result of a virgin birth. As Jean investigates the case, she becomes close to Gretchen, her kind, witty husband Howard, and the alleged miraculous daughter, all four of them finding comfortable joy in each other’s company. “You’ve stirred us out of our routine,” Howard remarks, to which Jean responds, “I would have thought it was the other way about.” While researching Gretchen’s youth, Jean inadvertently sends shockwaves through the Tilbury family when she reconnects Gretchen to a powerful figure from her past. At the same time, she and Howard find themselves falling for each other, both of them remaining faithful to Gretchen, graciously skirting their attraction - until it’s right to act. The novel features some of the most finely drawn, endearing characters I’ve encountered in recent contemporary fiction. For all her lonely frustration, Jean isn’t one to wallow. She’s pragmatic, with ripples of not-quite-regret lapping beneath her smooth, reasoned surface - a woman “who took pride in her ability to conceal unruly emotions.” Her domesticity pieces for the paper have something of Carrie Bradshaw’s musings about them, albeit without any in-your-face sex in the city (or the suburbs, in Jean’s case), with their apparently humdrum themes humorously paralleling soul-stirring events in her own life. Laying bare a quivering three-way tug between obligation, propriety and passion, and the inexplicable way thunderbolt-bonds are formed between similar-souled individuals, Jean’s conflicts and chance to love truly get under your skin. What a remarkable book, with a dagger-sharp climax that will pierce your heart.
Dusk is gathering as a young priest, Christopher Fairfax, rides across a silent land. It's a crime to be out after dark, and Fairfax knows he must arrive at his destination - a remote village in the wilds of Exmoor - before night falls and curfew is imposed. He's lost and he's becoming anxious as he slowly picks his way across a countryside strewn with the ancient artefacts of a civilisation that seems to have ended in cataclysm. What Fairfax cannot know is that, in the days and weeks to come, everything he believes in will be tested to destruction, as he uncovers a secret that is as dangerous as it is terrifying ...
The enchanting new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author, Santa Montefiore. The perfect summer read for 2020! My curiosity is aroused. I realise, to my shame, that I know nothing about my mother, nothing at all... nothing of her growing up, of the struggles and hardships she endures. I know nothing of her parents, her siblings, and of her home. My mother is gone. And there is no one left to tell her story. Determined to fulfil her mother's last wish, Faye travels to the picturesque village of Ballinakelly to scatter her ashes on the hills overlooking the sea in a remote corner of Ireland. In searching for answers about her mother's past, will Faye's own future become clear?
Convincing and atmospheric, the first in the Dylan Series sets itself as a serious espionage thriller. Thomas Dylan joins the Defence Intelligence Staff as an analyst but finds himself in the hot seat when things go awry. I will admit that it took me a while to settle in as there is a lot of information to take on board. Once I had though, I thoroughly enjoyed this intricately plotted novel featuring a somewhat novice spy. Set in the early 1970’s there is a real sense of the time in the tone, plus a feeling of affection for the age in the writing. I could picture myself settling down to watch this as a film with the action playing out in front of me. It felt as though I was reading an actual diary, and Brian Landers with his previous links to the world of intelligence, has created a true feeling of authenticity. Set yourself aside quality reading time as this is one that you will need to concentrate on. Awakening of Spies is the first in a new series and I look forward to seeing what comes next for Thomas Dylan.
An interesting, expressive, and bittersweet dual time frame novel. Marine archaeologist Rachel investigates a shipwreck with links to the slave trade, while in 1763 Abigail falls in love with a tobacco trader in Whitehaven. This is the fourth in the Tales from Goswell series. These books feature the village of Goswell in Cumbria and a new main lead (or two) is introduced each time. A slice of history creates a dual timeline, with the present linking to the past and the focus equally on both. Characters from previous books are mentioned which adds continuity, it almost feels like a much loved holiday cottage, returning to a place that feels comfortable and homely. The slave trade from Whitehaven spears this storyline, with Katharine Swartz balancing the thoughts of the time with love and as usual with her books, hope. What it is to be family sits centre stage in The Widow’s Secret, and while a tale full of warmth, there is also an undeniably flinty and thought-provoking edge.
An interesting, expressive, and bittersweet dual time frame novel. Marine archaeologist Rachel investigates a shipwreck with links to the slave trade, while in 1763 Abigail falls in love with a tobacco trader in Whitehaven. This is the fourth in the Tales from Goswell series. These books feature the village of Goswell in Cumbria and a new main lead (or two) is introduced each time. A slice of history creates a dual timeline, with the present linking to the past and the focus equally on both. Characters from previous books are mentioned which adds continuity, it almost feels like a much loved holiday cottage, returning to a place that feels comfortable and homely. The slave trade spears this storyline, with Katharine Swartz balancing the thoughts of the time with love and as usual with her books, hope. What it is to be family sits centre stage in The Widow’s Secret, and while a tale full of warmth, there is also an undeniable flinty and provocative edge.
Three women. A chance to rewrite history… 1918.The Great War is over, and Clara Carter has boarded a train bound for Cornwall – to meet a family that would once have been hers. But they must never discover her secret… 1939. Hannah has always been curious about her mother’s mysterious past, but the outbreak of the Second World War casts everything in a new light. As the bombs begin to fall, Hannah and her brothers are determined to do their bit for the war effort – whatever the cost. 2020. Caroline has long been the keeper of her family’s secrets. But now, with her own daughter needing her more than ever, it’s time to tell the truth – to show Natalie that she comes from a long line of women who have weathered the storms of life, as hardy and proud as the rugged Cornish coastline… From the Sunday Times bestselling author comes a sweeping, epic novel of mothers and daughters, secrets and lies, and a love that lasts a lifetime…
Loss, recovery and pervasive secrets from the past - this engrossing saga tells the page-turning tale of an unforgettable Jamaican woman from WW1 to 1950. From the author of White Feathers, Susan Lanigan’s Lucia’s War is an absorbing, twisting, historical saga about the memorable Lucia Percival who came to Britain from Jamaica and worked as a nurse during WW1 before becoming a celebrated opera singer. Lucia’s lively, sharp-witted narrative undulates and unfolds at spellbinding speed - coloratura style, to use an operatic term - as she relates her story to a music critic as she’s set to give her last performance in 1950. It’s impossible not to feel invested in Lucia’s life as the tale darts back and forth from her working in the Voluntary Aid Detachment in France in 1916, to her striving to live as a musician in London on returning from war, to her later trials, all the while living in the tight grasp of her past. Recalling her father’s words towards the end of the novel, Lucia notes, “The trouble with you, Lucia, is that you can do anything.’ Turned out my father was right, just not in the way he meant. I was capable of doing anything.” This facet of her character chimes throughout the novel, as does her connection to the gruff Scottish surgeon she encountered in France: “You come all the way from the West Indies to England on your own…I’ve never met anyone like you in all my damn life.” These words ring true, for Lucia is a one-of-a-kind woman, driven by a longing to mother the son who was taken from her, a longing that sees her agree to a plan concocted by old Lillian (“The Witch”), a woman similarly scarred by loss, and damaged by war. Revealing the contribution Caribbean commonwealth citizens made to Britain during WWI, and touching on the Spanish flu epidemic, at its heart this is the powerful story of a black woman in a white man’s world; a personal account of the ravages of war; the story of a woman torn. In Lucia’s words, “The two parts of me – musician versus mother, public versus private – were separating out so rapidly and so completely there seemed to be no way of reconciling the two.” While I wondered what impact the novel might have if it followed a strict chronological structure, it’s gripping stuff, and the final twist is likely to catch readers off-guard, hungry to know how the next acts of Lucia’s extraordinary life play out. A Piece of Passion from the Publisher... Susan Lanigan and I worked together on her first novel White Feathers, and the glorious Lucia Pervical stole every scene she appeared in. It was clear that she needed her own book. When Susan approached me to work on Lucia's War, I was honoured to work with her again and to be one of the first to find out What Lucia Did Next. Susan's such a passionate author – personally, politically and poetically – who infuses her characters and the world they inhabit with a rich vivid life. I learned so much about Black British culture and history from between the wars and fell in love with Lucia's lyricism and her resilience. Technically, the novel is a tour de force of non-linear narrative by a writer skilled at her craft: the various strands of Lucia’s past are deftly woven together like the baby’s blanket she carries with her everywhere. I bawled each one of the three times I read it through from beginning to end. Which is a professional quality-control test we editors sometimes do.
This is a proper domestic saga starting just after the end of the First World War. Built upon anecdotes about the author’s grandparents and in depth research into the historical records of their generation, Family Business tells a twisting tale of a family who tries to improve their lives while building a road haulage firm in the interwar years. This book has a colourful family at its heart and plenty of bumps in the road to building the family business. There's also scope at the end of the book for the next generation's story to be shared. Although it is a historical novel, I think that Family Business is actually quite timeless in terms of reflecting the day to day routine of many people’s lives. I also liked the added touch of the old images at the start of each chapter. I did find that in places the book is perhaps overly detailed making it a slow read and whereas other details are just skimmed over. The writing style is good but I felt that the book was just missing something to give it an edge.
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?