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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 fascinating, bold and beautiful historical novel, chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. Beginning in 1943 after liberated Italy has declared war on Nazi Germany, Contessa Sofia de’Corsi begins to help the resistance. The timeline of Italy during World War Two at the beginning of the book, helps set and centre the scene. If you have read Dinah Jefferies previous novels then you will discover a change in direction. You still have the historical aspect and thoughtful relationship tale, however we move continents to Europe, specifically Tuscany in Italy. The normally vibrant descriptive detailing of the sights, smells and sounds of countries within Asia reshapes to take in the daring Italian resistance. I could picture the walled village, countryside, and Florence, with the action scenes moving in vivid colour across the page. If you follow Dinah on social media then you will see some fabulous photos of some the trips she took and locations that inspired her. The Tuscan Contessa is another compelling, eloquent read from Dinah Jefferies that I can recommend.
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.
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.
Moving, powerful, compassionate and beautifully written, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit. Told with deceptive simplicity, it is the kind of book that reminds us of the power of storytelling. In the midst of war, he found love. In the midst of darkness, he found courage. In the midst of tragedy, he found hope. Nuri is a beekeeper, his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo - until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. On the way, Nuri is sustained by the knowledge that waiting for them is Mustafa, his cousin and business partner, who has started an apiary and is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees. As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all - and perhaps this is the hardest thing they face - they must journey to find each other again.
We are not going any further until you tell me why yet another fiance seems intent on wringing your neck. Georgiana da Silva is catapulted out of the Victorian drawing rooms and into a world of danger when she escapes her fiendish fiance to engage in a mad dash across the world to save her brother before an unknown assassin can find him. Meanwhile, Captain Harry Trent is setting sail for New Zealand. With a mission to complete and the law on his heels, he's got enough trouble of his own without further complications. Thrown together, unable to trust anyone, Georgiana and Harry are intent on fulfilling their missions despite the distractions of the other. But liberty comes at a price and the closer they get, the more they must question the true cost of being free.
Love - is it worth its weight in gold? It's 1866 and the gold rush is on. Left to fend for herself in the wilds of New Zealand's west coast, Lady Guinevere Stanhope is determined to do whatever it takes to rescue her ancestral home and restore her father's good name. Forced out of his native Ireland, Quinn O'Donnell dreams of striking gold. His fiercely held prejudices make him loath to help any English person, let alone a lady as haughty and obstinate as Guinevere. But when a flash flood hits, Quinn is compelled to rescue her, and their paths become entwined in this uncharted new world. Though a most inconvenient attraction forms between them, both remain determined to pursue their dreams, whatever the cost. Will they realise in time that all that glitters is not gold? PAPERBACK INCLUDES A FREE DIGITAL COPY - DETAILS WITHIN THE PAPERBACK.
Drawing on traditional Malayan folklore and superstition, The Ghost Bride is a haunting, exotic and romantic read perfect for fans of Empress Orchid and Memoirs of a Geisha. A Piece of Passion from Emily Thomas, Publisher This is a book that makes you feel enriched and educated as you read it, in a way that satisfies as well as entertains. Yangsze Choo's beautifully constructed narrative weaves romance, mythical intrigue and danger through the story of seventeen-year-old Li Lan's search for her true love and her true home, in earthly Malaysia, the Chinese afterlife and then back again, encountering sorrow and joy and a fair few vengeful spirits along the way. A must-read for anyone who likes bite and substance to their reading, and is not afraid to venture into the darkness...
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018 | Shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards 2017, First Novel Award May 2017 Debut of the Month. This magnetic debut evokes the social and emotional landscapes of interwar England with an abundance of originality. With the country battered and drained by the Great War, orphan Lucy Marsh finds herself in an extraordinary place, and in the company of even more extraordinary people, when an old army truck trundles her to woods on the edge of London. Here Lucy feels that anything could happen: “She might shake hands with a ghost or dance alongside a lion or spoon trifle into the mouth of a storybook dwarf”. But what Lucy really encounters is every bit as remarkable as her imaginings, for it’s here that she meets the “funny men”, four former soldiers disfigured by war, each named after one of Dorothy’s Emerald City-bound cohorts. The novel is a rich tapestry that interweaves the social fabric of interwar England with fairy tale touches. Lucy comes to feel that “the world is confusing, but the forest is not”, poignantly conveying the strangeness of the period. The author has a fabulously visual style, and I loved the ensemble of characters - some haunted, some scarred, all of them nimbly conjured by a debut author with considerable talent. The Costa Judges say: ‘A perfectly-paced, unsettling yet strangely uplifting tale about fractured lives and broken people.’
A fascinating erotica debut for famed children's book author Sally Gardner and, most definitely, a change in register as a tale of 18th century debauchery unfolds in the tradition of FANNY HILL and other historical jolly naughtiness. Tully Truegood is incarcerated in Newgate prison in 1756, accused of murder, with the gallows perilously on the horizon and, in the traditional manner, relates the tale of her life and how she arrived here. It's an animated story of rags to riches from London back street chambermaid to courtesan at the celebrated Fairy House brothel run by her own stepmother, including time as a conjurer's assistant. Picaresque, bawdy, at times magically realist but always warm and affectionate for its sometimes reprobate characters, this is a novel, which albeit graphic retains a true sense of colour and place and pulls you along with vigour in its wake as it immerses the reader into older, momentous times. ~ Maxim Jakubowski The Lovereading view... A captivating, earthy, and striking novel set in the 18th century, one that reaches into the heart of friendship and love, and prods, provokes…inflames. Tully Truegood tells her tale from the bowels of Newgate Prison, she is desperate for one particular person to hear her story. Tully doesn't hold back, she graphically explains her route from childhood to courtesan, to alleged murderer, and some of it is uncomfortable and disturbing to hear. Wray Delaney brings Tully to vibrant, heart-rending, beautiful life, she tells her tale with a down to earth honesty, yet a fragile, sometimes chilling otherworldly presence dances over the pages. Wray Delaney is the pen name for children’s author Sally Gardner, the change of name for her first adult novel is entirely appropriate as this is most definitely an adults only, provocative read. Fascinating recipes, riddles and quotations slide into the novel, capturing the essence of the time, linking fantasy and reality. ‘An Almond For A Parrot’ is a rather spicy, yet sensitive and poignant read, and I truly do recommend introducing yourself to Tully Truegood, then settling down to hear her remarkable tale. ~ Liz Robinson
One of our Books of the Year 2016. A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. A fascinating erotica debut for famed children's book author Sally Gardner and, most definitely, a change in register as a tale of 18th century debauchery unfolds in the tradition of FANNY HILL and other historical jolly naughtiness. Tully Truegood is incarcerated in Newgate prison in 1756, accused of murder, with the gallows perilously on the horizon and, in the traditional manner, relates the tale of her life and how she arrived here. It's an animated story of rags to riches from London back street chambermaid to courtesan at the celebrated Fairy House brothel run by her own stepmother, including time as a conjurer's assistant. Picaresque, bawdy, at times magically realist but always warm and affectionate for its sometimes reprobate characters, this is a novel, which albeit graphic retains a true sense of colour and place and pulls you along with vigour in its wake as it immerses the reader into older, momentous times. ~ Maxim Jakubowski November 2016 Book of the Month. The Lovereading view... A captivating, earthy, and striking novel set in the 18th century, one that reaches into the heart of friendship and love, and prods, provokes…inflames. Tully Truegood tells her tale from the bowels of Newgate Prison, she is desperate for one particular person to hear her story. Tully doesn't hold back, she graphically explains her route from childhood to courtesan, to alleged murderer, and some of it is uncomfortable and disturbing to hear. Wray Delaney brings Tully to vibrant, heart-rending, beautiful life, she tells her tale with a down to earth honesty, yet a fragile, sometimes chilling otherworldly presence dances over the pages. Wray Delaney is the pen name for children’s author Sally Gardner, the change of name for her first adult novel is entirely appropriate as this is most definitely an adults only, provocative read. Fascinating recipes, riddles and quotations slide into the novel, capturing the essence of the time, linking fantasy and reality. ‘An Almond For A Parrot’ is a rather spicy, yet sensitive and poignant read, and I truly do recommend introducing yourself to Tully Truegood, then settling down to hear her remarkable tale. ~ Liz Robinson
My heart is full of love for this darkly beautiful and mind-twisting novel. Set in the time of Elizabeth I, a curse given in anguish and hate is set to run amok. At birth Beau is burdened with great beauty and is due to be the cause of the death of his father, while unrelated to the curse, Randa is born a mix of beast and human. And, so begins a story of the greatest highs and the lowest lows, of revenge and hope, love and despair. The first sentence sucked me in, and I was held in thrall throughout. This is a completely gorgeous blend of Shakespearean drama, the very darkest of fairy tales, and the simply wonderful pen of Wray Delaney. I felt a reassuring half-formed recognition as I read, yet at the same time, a prickle of awareness that I was an explorer, charting an entirely new world. I highly recommend The Beauty of the Wolf to anyone who hungers for a bite of difference, with a more than a twist of glorious darkness. I have chosen this as both a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month, and a LoveReading Star Book, it’s fierce, it’s wonderful, I adored it.
Tired from a grim war in America, Ross Poldark returns to his land and his family. But the joyful homecoming he has anticipated turns sour, for his father is dead, his estate is derelict and the girl he loves is engaged to his cousin. But his sympathy for the destitute miners and farmers of the district leads him to rescue a half-starved urchin girl from a fairground brawl and take her home - an act which alters the whole course of his life ...'From the incomparable Winston Graham ...who has everything that anyone else has, then a whole lot more' Guardian
'From the incomparable Winston Graham ...who has everything that anyone else has, then a whole lot more' Guardian Jeremy Poldark is followed by the fourth book in this evocative series, Warleggan.
Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller in 18th century Norwich. He also does a bit of amateur sleuthing as a side hustle, and if he has any spare time left after those two pursuits, he is also something of a womaniser. When Foxe finds himself trying to solve three murders at once, one of them apparently linked to a book he has been asked to source for a client, there is little time for his other interests, and he is led through a tangled web of privilege, poverty, deceit and crime. A very readable and enjoyable book which successfully highlighted the vast differences in living standards, expectations, rights and morals of the different classes in 1760s society. Foxe himself comes across as a charming and likeable man who does his best to straddle the “uncrossable” class boundaries making him popular with men and women, rich and poor. The book ends with his love life about to enter a very unconventional (for the era) phase, which already threatens to have added complications, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series to see how he handles it. Jane Willis, A LoveReading Ambassador
One of our Debuts of the Year 2011. March 2011 Debut of the Month. The Holy Thief brilliantly evokes a society that has broken down and rules of human behaviour that are hard for us to imagine. We are in Stalinist Russia between the wars. Everyone has to be careful of what they say and who they say it to .Young people have to learn when not to say what is on their minds. 'Even the innocent (are) jumping at shadows these days'. Rank is important. 'The colonel placed a slight emphasis on Korolev's rank, just enough to remind Korolev of the thinness of the ice under his feet'. In this world, Korolev is ordered to solve a gruesome murder but does the culprit exist inside or outside the system? Who can he trust? Where can he turn? Whatever he does, he has to tread carefully. This beautifully written, finely judged novel is up there with the likes of Le Carre, thoughtful and thought-provoking: intelligently written and thoroughly readable.
Shortlisted for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger for Best Historical Crime Novel of the Year Shortlisted for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Book of the Year Moscow, 1937. Captain Korolev, a police investigator, is enjoying a long-overdue visit from his young son Yuri when an eminent scientist is shot dead within sight of the Kremlin and Korolev is ordered to find the killer. It soon emerges that the victim, a man who it appears would stop at nothing to fulfil his ambitions, was engaged in research of great interest to those at the very top ranks of Soviet power. When another scientist is brutally murdered, and evidence of the professors' dark experiments is hastily removed, Korolev begins to realise that, along with having a difficult case to solve, he's caught in a dangerous battle between two warring factions of the NKVD. And then his son Yuri goes missing ...A desperate race against time, set against a city gripped by Stalin's Great Terror and teeming with spies, street children and Thieves, The Twelfth Department confirms William Ryan as one of the most compelling historical crime novelists at work today.
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?