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.
Stunningly gorgeous short stories and wonderful illustrations make for an absolute treasure trove of a book. I have quite simply fallen in love with Foxfire, Wolfskin, it makes my heart sing. Discover 13 short stories about shapeshifting women, the shortest story being three and a half pages long. All are “either reimaginings of older tales, or contain characters, beings and motifs which appear in older tales”. On opening the book, I felt as though I was walking into an age old story, the descriptions are startling, vivid, touchable. I began with Wolfskin, which is sharp and edgy, it hurts, it feels… right. After finishing Wolfskin, I immediately read it again, this time out loud. I fell headlong in once more, and at the extraordinary end, emotional goosebumps skitter-scattered down my arms. All of these stories have a unique strength to them and I disappeared into each one. Just a note on the accompanying illustrations by Helen Nicholson. They are fresh, original, and yet have that same age old feel of the stories. At the very end you will find notes on each tale, the inspiration behind them and where the idea appears in folklore. Foxfire, Wolfskin is full of beautiful stories that take hold, bite, leave their mark and I adored it so much I had to add it as one of my picks of the month!
A stark, fierce, and fascinating start to what promises to be a rewarding trilogy. The Swords of Silence is set in Japan during 1626 as the Shogun slams shut the door to outside influences. If Father Joaquim Martinez and the village he tends, fail to renounce their religion, they face a hideous death. It took a little time for me to settle into the names, the time, the land, however I was soon gripped by the story on offer. The dedication at the beginning states that between 1614 and 1643 the Shogun executed almost 5,000 Christians. Shaun Curry writes with a simplicity that to be quite honest, feels necessary in the bloodshed that follows. He doesn’t revel in the gore, instead quite matter-of-factly describes incidents that somehow feel all the more real. I have to say that I have rather fallen for Master Watanabe and do hope that he makes a reappearance in the trilogy! Exploring a time and place from long ago, The Swords of Silence took me with picture sharp clarity into a compelling story.
Blood Song continues in truly wonderful style what is an enthralling, astute, and absolutely cracking series. In 2016, members from a wealthy family are murdered in Sweden. With Profiler Emily Roy and true crime writer Alexis Castells on the case, the investigation heads into the past. This is the third in the Roy and Castells books, the plotting is fairly intricate, so it isn’t a series you can join half way through. My advice if you haven't met them before is to go back to the beginning and start with the equally fabulous Block 46 followed by Keeper. As with previous books, we have multiple settings and time frames, this time the past focuses on the horrific civil war in Spain. The Author’s Note sits well at the beginning, with information about Franco’s regime, which I felt I needed before I started to read. Johana Gustawsson wields a seriously eloquent pen, she creates an acutely vivid picture while tackling the most difficult of subjects with a beautiful balance. David Warriner the translator ensured the thought of translation didn’t cross my mind while I was reading but I really appreciated the skill afterwards. Blood Song caught and has held onto my thoughts, it is clever, provocative, and a seriously good read.
A stunningly beautiful, courageous read, one that crosses through time to 1612, when witchcraft allegations went hand in hand with fear, power and corruption. This is a work of fiction based on real people, local residents, Pendle witches and all. Let me tell you about the cover of this book, which really is very gorgeous indeed. The green leaves sooth, with fiery bursts of orange-red and gold, I then noticed the fox, the ring, pendant, feather… and last of all, the noose, which of course once I had seen, reached out and became all I could see. I tell you this, because the cover reminds me of how I felt about the book, mysterious, yet almost gentle, I let the words take me, I felt myself floating, and then bites of uncertainty and disquiet started gnaw at my awareness. The persecution of the women hammered home while an otherworldly existence lodged itself in my thoughts, and remains there. Deceptively powerful, moving and provocative, Stacey Hall writes with an eloquent pen. Opening a window into a vivid feast of a read, as a debut novel The Familiars stands out from the crowd.
What a remarkable novel this is. The life-affirming story of five young women who live in a Bangalore slum called Heaven. Their city used to be “more green than grey”, “a place where things grew,” and now “towering glass buildings sprouted in the grass where sheep used to graze”, and Heaven is about to be bulldozed. But not if this largely female community has anything to do with it. Indeed, they rise up as one, supporting each other, refusing to bow to the city government. The novel pivots around the lives of five friends. Dance-loving Deepa, who’s blind but whose friends support her passion. Banu, a political artist who “can do things that the rest of us can’t”. Transgender Joy, who was born to a mother who wished she was “unlucky enough to have a daughter.” Padma, “who knows all the ways a woman can be broken,” and is the only member of her family to receive an education. And queer Rukshana who wants “to be myself first.” Through poverty and injustice, the women remain strong and united, with each of their situations, hopes and desires painted with dynamic brushstrokes. Both their individual stories and their collective warrior spirit will move, inspire and enrich.
A beautifully engaging novel that both broke and truly captured my heart. We travel with Laure through three time frames, from Prague of 1986, through to Paris of today. She finds love, and founds a museum based on promises broken, discarded, forgotten. Elizabeth Buchan writes with such eloquence, compassion and meaning. I felt, really felt the history and heartache. The past and the present somehow balance, as they move backwards and forwards slowly cutting snippets of information free. I fully existed in each moment, almost forgetting another point existed until I found myself there and became immersed once more. I really cared about the characters, including the museum, the idea is captivating, and so completely believable I feel as though I should be able to walk through its doors. The Museum of Broken Promises is for a me a must-read, I’ve chosen it as one of our star books, and one of my picks of the month, it is quite simply, glorious.
A lovely, gentle exploration of a bygone time, yet there is a quiet strength to this compelling read. It is also one of those books that just may surprise you. Violet Speedwell, still suffering the loss of both her fiancé and brother in the First World War, moves to Winchester in search of a new life. Canvas embroidery, bellringing, the surplus of women after the war, expectations and the judgement of society, all sit alongside each other as Violet explores new thoughts and feelings. Tracy Chevalier writes with true eloquence, the descriptions bloom, the characters sing, and she allows you to ponder, to consider. Notes of caution and unease pierce the tale, with occasional moments of biting intensity. Violet is fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her. In the acknowledgements I found out about the character who actually did exist, and I now want to explore Winchester Cathedral. Expressive and beautifully readable, A Single Thread is an engaging and rewarding tale.
Gosh, this is an absolute treat of a debut novel, so different, so compelling, so fabulously readable! Circling a past that isn’t actually that long ago, the Cold War battle between the USA and USSR intertwines with the background tale to the novel that became Doctor Zhivago. The prologue wonderfully and thoroughly sets the scene. The story spins and spins again, and as several tales are told from different perspectives, we hear from an unknown voice in the typing pool, from a muse, from a carrier… Women take centre stage, even when in a supportive role. Lara Prescott kept my attention as taut as razor wire throughout, the words ganging up to give my thoughts little shoves. I have been left with a thirst for more information about the history of this time, yet thoroughly satisfied by the tale on offer. The Secrets We Kept is many things, spy story, love story, cold war story, it is also an eloquent, surprising read and highly recommended.
All they want is a place to call home.... 1860s London Orphaned at a young age, Rosa has always looked out for her younger sister, Grace, protecting her from the dangers and bullies of the workhouse. So when Grace is suddenly faced with a world without Rosa, she finds herself alone and forced to make difficult decisions about her future. Can she really walk away from everything she has built to protect the children Rosa has left behind? Returning to the gang-ruled streets of East London, Grace is determined to build a better future for herself and for the children of Bell Lane - no matter what the cost....
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
Sparked by the author’s reading about a real reform school in Florida, this deeply affecting novel centres around the unforgettable Ellwood Curtis. “Raised strict” by his grandmother, Ellwood was “intelligent and hardworking and a credit to his race”, and driven by the wisdom of Martin Luther King: “We must believe in our souls that we are somebody, that we are significant, that we are worthful, and we must walk the streets of life every day with this sense of dignity.” At high school - where the books were defaced by racist slurs written by white students who knew where their old books were headed - Ellwood thrives under a teacher who lets him know of an opportunity to go to the local black college. But Ellwood never got to go. One mistake sees him sent to Nickel Academy where he’s “swiftly appalled” by the low level of education. “I am stuck here, but I’ll make the best of it,” he resolves, invoking Dr King for strength. It’s not long before Ellwood realises that rather than being a place that seeks to transform boys into “honorable and honest men”, the school is fuelled by violent abuse - “Nickel was racist as hell - half the people who worked here probably dressed up like the Klan on weekends” - and many kids disappear from this horrendous environment. While Elwood grasps onto Dr King’s “Do to us what you will and we will still love you” mantra, his friend Turner subscribes to the notion that survival is dependent on them adopting their tyrants’ cruelties. Like Ellwood himself, this novel has a steady, direct tone, underpinned by resolve and dignity in the face of inhumane abuse. Traversing timeframes, and with a stop-you-in-your-tracks ending, this stunning book from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad exposes oft-hidden historical horrors with poised humanity, and shows-up the ricocheting, inter-generational resonance of institutional racism and abuse.
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but 18 years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe's new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.
Twenty-year-old Jane Beacon is one of life’s mavericks - a young sea-woman who navigates her own life-course against convention, against the odds, against expectation. The setting is 1940 Dunkirk and Jane has risen from joining the Wren Cadets in 1939 to single-handedly skippering a naval cutter to rescue injured soldiers. From the opening pages Jane’s formidable spirit and wit is brought to the fore, as are the prejudices of the time: “Very largely the Navy has accepted us and they know that we Wren have done a huge amount of good work, But there is always a limit to male tolerance and if you cross it, as I have done frequently, the barriers can suddenly be very high.” Readers will no doubt be swept along by Jane’s rip-roaringly reckless exploits, her unwavering commitment to the war effort, and her disregard for doing things by the book (she’s a loveable rogue, of sorts, described by her female superintendent as having “the most lurid disciplinary record in the service…she doesn’t give a damn about authority”). Fascinating research and Jane’s intense personal coming-of-age story are interwoven into the adventure, making this a tightly-packed parcel of passion, action, humour and history.
Lauren Patterson, an American PhD student, makes a remarkable discovery and accidently finds the diaries of Leonardo da Vinci's assistant. Paulo del Rossi's diaries then lead us through love stories, drama, blackmail, murder and the aftermath of monumental deception. The modern day quest to uncover the historical truths are fantastically interesting. Immersive and intriguing, Paulo del Rossi and Lauren guide us through the Renaissance in Florence to Nazi Germany and into the local Costa coffee shop with ease. We even discover the secret of Mona Lisa's smile and follow a tender love story that spans across the years. A fantastic read.
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
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.
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.
In the summer of 1942, Kitty is an ambulance driver stationed in Sussex. She meets Ed, a Royal Marine commando, and Larry, a liaison officer under the command of Mountbatten. Kitty falls instantly in love with Ed, who falls in love with her. So does Larry. The love triangle is set. However, the impact of the war is yet to hit. When it does, it will be devastating, both for those overseas and those left to fight at home.
1945. The Second World War has gone on too long. Shops are closed 'for the duration'. Trains run a restricted service 'for the duration'. Life has paused, for the duration. A little girl, Pamela, is growing up fast. A young Englishman, Rupert Blundell, vows there'll be no more wars. Both are waiting for their lives to begin. Then comes Hiroshima. Finally, devastatingly, the war is over. 1962. Rupert is now strategic advisor to Lord Mountbatten, and his close confidant. Pamela is eighteen and has moved to London, eager for love and experience of every kind. There'll be parties at Cliveden, Christine Keeler, Stephen Ward, the Astors. Life is a whirlwind. But beneath the glamour lies quiet, desperate terror, as the Cuban missile crisis unfolds and the world spins ever closer to nuclear war. Reckless is a gripping novel set against the world in crisis, by a superb novelist at the height of his powers.
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?