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.
Beginning as a young French woman moves to Morocco after WWII, Leila Slimani’s The Country of Others, the first in a trilogy, parallels a personal struggle to lead a free life with a nation’s fight for independence. It’s a beautiful, immersive story of conflicts between genders, cultures, classes and generations that sweeps you into its lyrical detail and honesty. After the Liberation, a free-spirited French woman leaves Alsace for a new life with Amine, her Moroccan husband, who’d served as a soldier in France. As Mathilde later explains (the novel is not strictly chronological — episodes from the past are related through perfectly-placed recollections), “She’d been walled up for four years with no new clothes to wear, no new books to read, and Amine was the answer to all her payers. She was nineteen and hungry for life and the war had taken it from her”. Mathilde’s initial optimism at being greeted by her husband, who looked “more handsome than ever, under a sky so profoundly blue that it looked as though it had been washed in the sea”, soon sours. As Amine struggles to make a success of his farm, Mathilde is scorned by the French community for marrying a Moroccan, with their daughter mocked at school for her hair and old clothes. Amine is also tangled in conflicts. As Morocco’s fight for independence intensifies, he feels solidarity with his workers. But, as a landowner, he’s not one of them, and as a Moroccan he’s reviled by the French. And, while he adores his French wife, he’s prone to treating her badly and feels ashamed of her refusal to be subjugated: “What madness was this? How could he have thought he’d be able to live with a European woman as emancipated as Mathilde?” Despite these differences, husband and wife “shared the same aspirations for the progress of mankind: less hunger, less pain. They were both passionate about modernity”, but the political climate increasingly threatens to destabilise what firm ground they have. Brilliantly translated from French by Sam Taylor, this novel crackles with love and resilience.
With echoes of the Renaissance Guy Gavriel Kay brings intrigue, revenge, war, and exile face to face with love, friendship, and hope. This powerful and striking story begins with those tasked with an assassination, and grows to encompass many more people and places. Here we continue on in the times from A Brightness Long Ago featuring new as well as previously met characters. If you’ve not yet stepped foot into this particular world (not all of his novels are from these lands), then the quality of writing is such that you can most certainly read All the Seas of the World as a standalone. Please do though visit past books as not only are there truly beautiful stories to discover and the obvious connection to the previous novel, there are other whispers too from longer ago. The map had me poring over memories, and within the list of principal characters I welcomed old friends. While I immediately felt a sense of coming home, my emotions were hung above a sharpened knife edge. The narrator, occasionally present, sits in overview, words sinking into thoughts and feelings, and a little way in I met one particular friend from Brightness who again spoke directly to me. I folded into and around a story that boldly and brilliantly ventures onto the seas. I particularly loved the small slices of individual lives and how they knitted together and influenced the larger scale events. The most inconsequential moment could seem momentous as it formed around one person. It felt as though both history, the present, and the future was being told. Just as a little aside, I have been reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels since I tipped into my twenties. He is one of two authors who I count as being hugely positive influences, and from my late teens on I have been able to trust in their integrity, empathy, and principles as I read. You can probably tell from my thoughts and feelings about All The Seas of the World, that I still hold Guy Gavriel Kay’s writing in the highest regard and this new book will sit as a particular favourite. His words, they really make my emotions sing, and that was certainly the case here. So it will come as no surprise that All the Seas of the World sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick for its month of publication, it also comes with a standing ovation from me.
In this sequel to The Queen’s Rising, Brienna has chosen passion over blood, but can she put her country before her heart? Perfect for fans of SIX OF CROWS and Sarah J. Maas. Finally, Brienna is a mistress of knowledge and is settling into her role as the daughter of Davin MacQuinn, a disgraced lord who returned to Maevana to reclaim his house. Though she’s just survived a revolution, one that will finally return a queen to the throne, she faces another difficult challenge. She must prove herself trustworthy to the MacQuinns. But as Queen Isolde Kavanagh’s closest confidant, she’ll have to balance serving her father’s house as well as her country. And then there’s Cartier Evariste, a wholly separate factor in her new life. Now known as Aodhan Morgane, Cartier is adjusting to the stark contrast between his pre-rebellion life in Valenia as a master of knowledge and his current one as the lord of a fallen house. During his castle’s restoration, he discovers a ten-year-old boy named Tomas, whose past and parentage are a complete mystery. So when Cartier’s former pupil Brienna is as fond of Tomas as he is, he lets his mind wander – what if he doesn’t have to raise him or his house alone? As the Lannon trial rapidly approaches, Brienna and Cartier must put their feelings aside to concentrate on forging alliances, executing justice, and ensuring that no one interferes with the queen’s coronation. But resistance is rumbling among the old regime’s supporters, who are desperate to find a weakness in the rebels’ forces. And nothing makes a person more vulnerable than deep-seated love.
Haunting and powerful Take My Hand burrowed its way into my awareness and will stay with me. Newly qualified nurse Civil Townsend is set to truly take care of her African American community, but a shocking discovery tests her resolve and courage. This skilful blend of fact and fiction is set in 2016 and early 1970’s Alabama, and the sense of place and time is extraordinary. The writing brings to life the characters and period, and surround the facts of the case so that it is all too easy to see, believe, begin to comprehend the enormity of actions taken. Author Dolen Perkins-Valdez explains the case in the Author’s Note and why she wrote a novel rather than non fiction. Not only does she bring a horrifying time in the not too distant past to life, she also highlights current issues too. This is a superbly readable and rewarding book, with a moral and ethical messaging that soaks into and carries through each page. Deep breath time, I want to shout about this novel, yes, it is at times painful, but it is also imbued with hope and just had to be included as a LoveReading Star Book, Take My Hand is provocative, emotional, and so relevant it hurts.
Inspired by an extraordinary historic phenomena that saw the women of Strasbourg infected with a dancing plague in 1518, Kiran Millwood Hargraves’ The Dance Tree captivates and charms as it lays bare insights into “a mass religious trance instigated by the unique pressures and beliefs of the time”, as the author explains in her afterword. Taking in grief for unborn children, and prejudice against outsiders and same-sex love, it’s a beautifully-written story about individuals seeking safe spaces to be themselves in a hostile, limiting age. Pregnant for the thirteenth time, bee-keeper Lisbet lives outside Strasbourg with her husband and mother-in-law, and the support of her friend Ida. Still grieving for her twelve children who didn’t survive to full-term, Lisbet “loves each lost child though they are not here”, and honours them with the dance tree she’s made in the woods — the tree is adorned with ribbons for each of her losses. Then, against a viscerally-evoked backdrop of searing heat (“the certain descent of Strasbourg into another circle of hell”), Lisbet’s sister-in-law Nethe returns from being exiled to the mountains as punishment for an unknown crime. Under the patriarchal gaze of the Twenty-One who govern the city, a woman driven to a dancing frenzy is joined by dozens more dancers, “loose-haired and wide-eyed”, moaning, radiant and whirling with bloodied feet. The Twenty-One bring in musicians, hoping to “play out the devils”. Two of them board with Lisbet, with Eren the Turkish lute player stirring her in body and soul. As the dance plague intensifies, we learn of women who are punished for loving each other, for their “love as deep and natural as the roots we walk on”. At the same time, Lisbet, Ida and Nethe share secrets and become “bonded tight as roots in earth”, with the dance tree poignantly marking their safe space, anchoring them just as it seems the world is crumbling. By turns fascinating, exhilarating and moving, this beautiful novel dances and whirls to its own distinctive tune, and gives fine voice to characters who will capture readers’ hearts.
The second adrenaline-charged instalment of Elodie Harper's Pompeii-set trilogy (we adored The Wolf Den), The House with the Golden Door picks up Amara’s gripping story after she’s been freed from Pompeii’s most notorious brothel, though that comes at a perilously high price, and she’s far from a free woman. Richly evocative, and reeling with drama and the determined passion and conflicts of its unforgettable heroine, this is historical fiction at its most thrillingly entertaining. Though Amara’s shift in status from Wolf Den whore to courtesan brings some freedom and a better standard of living, her life now depends on her new patron, a wealthy, well-connected man who wants her to remain thin and has her at his whim — she’s his “little bird”, his “pretty little thing”. While adjusting to her new life, and taking enormous risks in the name of true love, Amara frees some friends from the Wolf Den, but at great financial and emotional cost, for this results in her becoming indebted to the man she was freed from, "the most violent pimp in Pompeii". Though owned and forced to lead grossly subservient lives, the women of The House with the Golden Door are guileful and ambitious. Fierce Britannica, for example, wants to be a gladiator. But betrayals, bribery, and a persistent “crushing sense of powerlessness” ensures readers are in for an irresistibly exhilarating ride. That said, Amara is a woman who refuses to be crushed. In her words, “there is always a price to pay for underestimating a woman”. With a heady climax leaving Amara on the brink of tremendous change, the final book can’t come quick enough.
A dashing and absolutely delicious tickle on your reading tastebuds, this historical debut novel comes with lively romance and sharp wit. With her family in danger of being made homeless, Kitty Talbot the eldest of four sisters, heads to London to bag herself a man with a fortune. While set in 1818’s high society, this is less vapours and vulnerability and more unwavering tenaciousness from the leading lady. Sophie Irwin creates a vivid setting and vivacious tone, I found myself in Georgian London, yet Kitty could be running round the streets today. Kitty is an absolute delight, she is essentially on war footing and determined to save her family and home, nothing less than the richest of rich men will do. I read this in one heady sitting, light, bright, and fun yet with bite, I’ve chosen this debut as a Liz Pick of the Month. With everything you’d expect from a Regency romance yet refreshingly different, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting is a colourful, charming, and sparkling read.
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.
Thought-provoking, challenging, and hugely compassionate, this historical family drama pierces emotions as it combines fact and fiction. Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have a bright future in the eugenics movement, however their world begins to crumble when their daughter is diagnosed with epilepsy. Author Louise Fein takes a difficult subject and creates a world that feels all too real. The eugenics movement, which was widespread in the UK and US before it moved to Nazi Germany is difficult to fully process. The thoughts of the time seem so very distant, and yet look around today and more than echoes remain which ensures this is a riveting yet disturbing theme. The personification of epilepsy as it travels alongside the family is interesting and creates an intimacy. The main characters feel incredibly authentic, they couldn’t be anything other than flawed, yet the writing is such that you can still connect with them. The inclusion of real characters alongside what has obviously been meticulous research ensures this novel creates an unsettling edge, and yet hope blossoms. The fascinating Author’s Note brings even more understanding. The Hidden Child is a touching and powerfully compelling story as it explores a time in history that should never be forgotten.
Whether you’re an aficionado of novels set in the Tudor era, or are looking for an atmospheric page-turner to keep you reading into the wee hours, Steven Veerapen’s Of Blood Descended is likely to float your imperial barge. It’s a veritable feast of un-put-down-able historic fiction. It’s the summer of 1522 and as Henry VIII’s court receives Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, Anthony Blanke is summoned back to Hampton Court by Cardinal Wolsey, his former employee. The cardinal wants Anthony (the son of the king’s late black trumpeter, John Blanke) to take centre stage in a gift he’s preparing for Henry - a masque of King Arthur and the Black Knight. But Anthony’s role at court takes a very different turn when Wolsey’s historian is murdered, his body discovered as part of a grisly tableau scene, and Anthony is called upon to investigate the historian’s death. With “the shadowy, faceless, nameless murderer… abroad in the city streets”, he must “hunt him” on a labyrinthine inquiry as Anne Boleyn comes onto the scene. Witty, often funny, and always sharply evocative, Anthony’s narrative voice is incredibly engaging and gives this history-rich thriller broad modern appeal.
Satisfying, convincing, and rewarding, the final book of the Ration Book series is appropriately set in the last months of the war. Even more appropriately the focus is matriarch Queenie (a particular favourite of mine), and we float between her early life in Ireland, and the Queenie in her 70’s of the Second World War. If you haven’t yet started, I would recommend going back to the beginning of this series with A Ration Book Dream as A Ration Book Victory is a coming together of storylines and characters. It is obvious that Jean Fullerton has a passion as well as well researched knowledge about this period. You can feel the life on the home front, the ploys to stretch your food, the fear for loved ones fighting, living life on the edge waiting for a silent V2 to explode into your life. As ever, the characters feel vibrantly real and the plot ticks along highlighting Queenie’s life. Her strength of will is apparent as we visit her in Ireland, and the feelings she still holds for her first love are heartbreaking. The trademark humour surrounding this character is very much on show, often coming out punching as a result of her fiery nature when protecting the people she loves. For those who have adored this series from the beginning, A Ration Book Victory is a fitting end to a compelling and poignant wartime family saga.
Lola Jaye’s The Attic Child is a truly exceptional novel. An utterly immersive dual-narrative experience that will break your heart as it lays bare atrocious abuses of power and privilege. An illuminating story that enriches understanding of Black British history with tremendous courage and storytelling verve – I can’t recommend it highly enough. In 1903, following the murder of his father at the hands of Belgian oppressors, 11-year-old Dikembe leaves his Congolese village with an English explorer, Mr Richard. The youngest of five siblings, Dikembe’s beloved mama saw this as a means of protecting him from the oppressors, a way of offering him a future. On arrival, Dikembe poignantly states, “Walking into that house was the beginning of an ending that would change everything about my life forever. Starting with my name”. Renamed Celestine, he assumes he’s here to work, but the servants address him as “Master Celestine”, and he’s told he will live a “splendid existence” as Mr Richard’s companion. But that’s soon undercut when Richard declares, “You are my prized possession from the Congo! The most valuable, and one I will make sure is looked after and taken care of to the best of my abilities”. Though ostensibly free, Celestine is powerless, a possession. While people heed Richard’s incorrect accounts of Africa, “no one ever saw who I was or what my life had been before”. And, though afforded the privilege of a fine education, Celestine’s loneliness and desperation to return home are painfully palpable, and his situation worsens when Richard dies. The novel’s second powerful narrative shifts to 1993, when 30-year-old Lowra inherits Richard’s former house. With him generally esteemed as a great explorer and philanthropist, selling the house is subject to review by heritage bodies, but for Lowra, it’s a place of painful memories. Like Celestine, she was confined in the house as a child, which was when she discovered an old porcelain doll, a beaded claw necklace and writings on the wall. As Lowra states while deep into her quest to discover who the objects belonged to, “we were two children born in different centuries; lost and alive yet connected by a set of experiences I wouldn’t wish on my worse enemy”. The discoveries she makes expose horrifying abuses of power, but also tremendous dignity in the face of such abuses, a sense of pride and justice, and a man who devoted his life to empowering others through education and employment. Sweeping, haunting, and deeply affecting, this really is outstanding.
Taking in the trauma of enslavement and apartheid, Mary Watson’s Blood to Poison is a uniquely bold and gripping Cape Town-set thriller that melds contemporary life and history with a parallel magical city — a world of furious witches and practitioners of magic who hide in plain sight. A world in which a 17-year-old young woman harnesses her rage to transcend a family curse. Savannah’s curse has been passed through her family’s female bloodline for generations, originating with Hella, “who had been enslaved, forced to work for a cruel family. Her anger grew until one day, it exploded out of her”. Hella cursed the family to “die before you have fully lived.” And now one woman in every generation of Savannah’s family is destined to die young, with anger exploding from them in the months before they’re due to die. Some of Savannah’s aunts have noticed the rage rising in her, the tell-tale marks on her skin. And then she encounters the witches from the curse story that lives in her bones… Savannah’s furious fight to transcend the curse is visceral and ablaze with elemental power, and Blood to Poison strikes a perfect balance between showing rage as a form of resistance and telling a gripping story of self-discovery.
Following her Carnegie shortlisted debut novel Guard Your Heart, this is another searing story set in Northern Ireland in 2019 but gradually revealing the lives of three generations of women affected by The Troubles. The author has a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies and a career in community relations, which lends an unmistakable authenticity to the narrative. Narrated by two teens from very different backgrounds and dealing with very different issues with each voice unique and distinctive. Tara, the Catholic daughter of a two-generation single parent family from Derry, is angry and grieving after the suicide of her boyfriend Oran. Faith, the daughter of strict Evangelical Protestants from rural Armagh is hiding her true sexuality from her family for fear of being disowned. When they come face to face on an interfaith residential, they discover they look almost identical. When they unite to untangle the mystery, a DNA test reveals they are related and Faith’s father is not who she thinks he is, while Tara has never known hers. This powerful and totally absorbing novel, with its unforgettable characters, is at its heart about truth and forgiveness, but inevitably also about social justice and how political decisions and the continuing legacy of violence and conflict continues to affect lives today. A reader cannot help but be moved and informed. A must-have as both a brilliant novel and for valuable insight on a historical period.
Secrets are revealed and summer romances blossom against the backdrop of the 1978 Argentina World Cup. ‘The Coletta Cassettes’ by Bruno Noble takes place on the Kentish family holiday to Colletta, Italy. A working trip for the father, Peter Kentish, as he schedules interviews with an ex-CIA member about the CIA complicity with the mafia and their involvement in the government following WWII. As his secrets are revealed and the extent of their involvement in political events after the war are shared, Peter Kentish’s new knowledge could put himself and his family at risk. Alongside his father’s interviews we follow sixteen-year-old Sebastian, keen to find teenagers his own age and eager to experience a summer romance. He sets his sights on Rosetta, who works as a chambermaid and around the restaurants, and we witness Sebastian’s tentative steps to get closer to her. This book seems to have a mix of everything, historical fiction, espionage inspired by true events, coming of age and family drama. I liked the subtle characterisation that has been used by the author, we learn a lot about Peter and Jacqueline Kentish through Sebastian’s eyes, the dawning realisation that his parents can be snobby, aloof and stubborn. I also liked the clumsy nature of Sebastian and Rosetta’s interactions and the naivety of Dominic that adds humour to most moments throughout the book. I found Sebastian’s narrative more engaging that Peter Kentish’s interviews and I found myself thinking “is that it?” as we see where the evidence of Peter’s interviews ends up - surely he would still be at risk based on the information he remembers from those conversations? I would have preferred a comment that it is the evidence of his interviews with Bravo that put him at risk to make this more believable. Overall this is an engaging summer read which I think would have a broad appeal. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
One extraordinary woman. One hundred years of history. One unforgettable story. Violeta comes into the world on a stormy day in 1920, the first daughter in a family of five boisterous sons. From the start, her life is marked by extraordinary events, for the ripples of the Great War are still being felt, even as the Spanish flu arrives on the shores of her South American homeland almost at the moment of her birth. Through her father's prescience, the family will come through that crisis unscathed, only to face a new one as the Great Depression transforms the genteel city life she has known. Her family loses all and is forced to retreat to a wild and beautiful but remote part of the country. There, she will come of age, and her first suitor will come calling. In a letter to someone she loves above all others, Violeta recounts devastating heartbreak and passionate affairs, times of both poverty and wealth, terrible loss and immense joy, and a life shaped by some of the most important events of history: the fight for women's rights, the rise and fall of tyrants and, ultimately, not one but two pandemics. Through the eyes of a woman whose unforgettable passion, determination, and sense of humour will carry her through a lifetime of upheaval, Isabel Allende once more brings us an epic that is both fiercely inspiring and deeply emotional.
The mental toll of war is explored in this historical fiction story. ‘Sailor’s Heart’ by Martin Campbell follows three naval soldiers, who’s experience of WWII leads them to require treatment at the HMS Standard. The author takes their time introducing up to each of the characters, how they came to be in the Navy during the war and the experiences which lead to them requiring medical treatment. We see the human and mental health toll of the war and the brutal, almost barbaric treatment options available to psychiatrists then. My heart went out to the characters as they reached their breaking points and the treatment they received. Using locations and details that are based on historical and naval records, I thought that the author managed to interweave the fictional tales of these three characters seamlessly. This is a story of how the war impacted individuals, as opposed to being overshadowed or glossed over with victory in a more politically abstract sense. In turns heart-breaking and hopeful, I rooted for Marco, Duncan and Clarence to find some sort of peace as I read. ‘Sailor’s Heart’ is a character-driven and thought-provoking look into the treatment of psychiatric injury as well as a story of courage. I think this would appeal to readers of wartime fiction.
In 1901, the word bondmaid was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it. Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme's place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word bondmaid flutter to the floor unclaimed. Esme seizes the word and hides it in an old wooden trunk that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world. Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women's experiences often go unrecorded. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words. Set when the women's suffrage movement was at its height and the Great War loomed, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. It's a delightful, lyrical and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words, and the power of language to shape our experience of the world.
‘The Prisoner’s Cross’ by Peter B. Unger is a story that has been inspired by real events and individuals and focuses throughout on maintaining faith during the hardest of times. Struggling to come to terms with the loss of his mother and sister, Don Campbell grasps on to the remnants of his faith and hopes that enrolling at a Christian seminary will help him to reconnect with God and restore his shattered faith. When this plan seems to be having the opposite effect and Don’s anger management problems repeatedly surface, he is put into the path of the seminary’s President, who finds an opportunity to connect him with Jop, a former Japanese Prisoner of War during WWII. The meetings which follow offer healing and comfort for Don and show that faith can be preserved during the hardest of times. A relatable story about how loss and tragedy can cause a crisis of faith, ‘The Prisoner’s Cross’ is also inspiring and filled with hope. Although the story is clear and concise, I found that the third person narrative keeps the reader at a distance and doesn't allow me to fully connect with the character. I also thought that the writing tended to unnecessarily repeat Don’s name and I think that the story as a whole would have flowed more using pronouns or varying the sentence structure throughout. Overall, I found that ‘The Prisoner’s Cross’ is a story of hope and faith. Those with religious beliefs could see their faith reaffirmed through Don and Jop’s stories, whereas those who aren’t religiously inclined have the opportunity to reflect on connections made through shared experiences, loss and extreme hardship. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
This magical debut set in Victorian London is bold and profound yet somehow uncomplicated as it lays out a mosaic of vibrant themes and characters for your reading pleasure. Star theatre performer Zillah has climbed out of the slums, so while uncomfortable with the part she performs, she does what it takes to remain the headline act until one day she is faced with a life-altering and dangerous decision. Zillah tells her own story, I immediately heard her voice, so vibrant and alive. Lianne Dillsworth ensures all of the characters have an individual vital energy, they can be seen, felt, sensed. While the era throws itself around you and immerses you in all things Victorian, it feels as though the human responses are timeless. That feeling echoes through the plot as Zillah’s mixed heritage, and the fact that she was born free in London, marks her as different. All of humanities character traits are on offer from greed, selfishness, ignorance and indifference through to empathy, kindness, and courage. The mystery aspect of the plot was thrilling, yet it was Zillah’s personal journey that will stay with me and that is why I’ve chosen this novel as a Liz Pick of the Month. Vivacious, provocative, and compelling, Theatre of Marvels comes with a standing ovation stamp of approval from me.
Moving away from their lovely apartment in Munich isn't nearly as wrenching an experience for Frau Greta Hahn as she had feared. Their new home is even lovelier than the one they left behind and life in Buchenwald would appear to be idyllic. Lying just beyond the forest that surrounds them is the looming presence of a work camp. Frau Hahn's husband, SS Sturmbannfuhrer Dietrich Hahn, has been assigned as the camp's administrator. When Frau Hahn's poor health leads her into an unlikely and poignant friendship with one of Buchenwald's prisoners, Dr Lenard Weber, her naive ignorance about what is going on so nearby is challenged. A decade earlier, Dr Weber had invented a machine believed that its subtle resonances might cure cancer. But does it really work? One way or another, it might save a life. A tour de force about the evils of obliviousness, Remote Sympathy compels us to question our continuing and wilful ability to look the other way in a world that is in thrall to the idea that everything-even facts and morals-is relative.
Two brothers divided over the future of a country on the brink of revolution. An epic story of nautical adventure and a battle for freedom by the master of adventure fiction. 1774 Rob Courtney is growing up in Fort Auspice, Nativity Bay, a trading outpost on the east coast of Africa and has always dreamed of going to sea. When his grandfather Jim Courtney dies, and the mysterious Captain Marston calls into the fort, Robert's passion is ignited and he stows away on Marston's ship as it sails to England. Arriving in London, Rob is seduced by its charms and makes friends with a group of fast-living men and ends up in terrible debt. Desperate and penniless, Rob can see no way out. That is until the navy comes calling. Rob enlists and is taken downriver to join a ship ready to cross the Atlantic and join the growing war against the rebellious American colonists. Meanwhile, in America, Theo Courtney's two sons are coming of age in a society ever more divided between those loyal to the crown, and those who seek independence for the American colonies. Even the family is divided, with Theo's oldest son Cal an ardent American patriot, while Theo himself feels a strong tie to his mother country, England. When he sees his younger brother, Aidan, killed in a fierce battle with the British troops, Cal vows he will not rest until he has avenged his brother's death by driving the British out of America - once and for all . . . A powerful new thriller by the master of adventure fiction, Wilbur Smith, of families divided and a country on the brink of revolution.
Set against the sizzling backdrop of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip’s first royal tour to Australia, this is historical fiction simmering with the drama of banquets and betrayal, seduction and scandal! For identical twins Daisy and Violet Chettle, stepping aboard the royal ship marks the start of a new chapter in their lives. A chance to serve at the very highest level, and the opportunity to leave behind the tragedies of their own shared past. Daisy won’t stop at anything for a taste of the high life – much to her sister’s outrage. But when Violet’s own secrets catch up with her on the other side of the world, their fragile relationship grows ever more turbulent. Andrew Mackie has created a tantalising world inhabited by characters that are both desirable and despicable, often behaving badly behind the façade of regal splendor. The consequences are heartbreaking, unexpected and sometimes comical - but that’s all part of the book’s charm. You’re never quite sure how the drama will unfold from chapter to chapter! The Journey after the Crown is most definitely a piece of fiction. But isn’t it thrilling to imagine how life behind the scenes of the real tour of 1954 may have played out? Mackie has given the Queen’s landmark trip the Bridgerton treatment to brilliant effect; the writing sparkles like Queen Elizabeth’s sumptuous wardrobe and the secrets concealed below deck match the intensity of the adoring crowds and landscape above.
A twisty new murder story from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries. An old man lies dead and it looks like poison, but his wife isn't the only one who had reason to kill him. Brighton, 1965 When theatrical impresario Bert Billington is found dead in his retirement home, no one suspects foul play. But when the postmortem reveals that he was poisoned, suspicion falls on his wife, eccentric ex-Music Hall star Verity Malone. Frustrated by the police response to Bert's death and determined to prove her innocence, Verity calls in private detective duo Emma Holmes and Sam Collins. This is their first real case, but as luck would have it they have a friend on the inside: Max Mephisto is filming a remake of Dracula, starring Seth Billington, Bert's son. But when they question Max, they feel he isn't telling them the whole story. Emma and Sam must vie with the police to untangle the case and bring the killer to justice. They're sure the answers must lie in Bert's dark past and in the glamorous, occasionally deadly, days of Music Hall. But the closer they get to the truth, the more danger they find themselves in...
Full of enthralling action, with a mix of fictional and real characters, this is a striking tale set in thought-provoking times, Dr Nicholas Shelby finds himself again acting as spy for Robert Cecil as Ireland rebels against Elizabeth’s rule. The Jackdaw Mysteries Series is one of my favourites, S. W. Perry is wonderfully consistent with his conjuring of the era, introducing thrilling plots and fascinating characters. Here we are at book five, and I highly recommend starting with The Angel's Mark and reading in order if you’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting Nicholas and Bianca. The court of Elizabeth thrums with activity and intrigue, and The Jackdaw inn remains at the centre of the tale even as Nicholas and Bianca travel to Ireland, a country fighting for its freedom. The mix of real characters and fact blended with fiction is really successful, it is all too easy to imagine the instability of the times and compare them to today. There is a strength to Nicholas and Bianca being together, their relationship allows a deeper exploration of the precariousness of being wound up so tightly in Cecil’s web. The Rebel’s Mark is a fabulous continuation of a winning series, long live the Jackdaw Mysteries!
F J (Fiona) Watson is a medieval historian specialising in warfare and Scottish history. This is her first venture into the world of fiction and she uses her knowledge to good effect. As a portrayal of a mediaeval town under siege, the novel is excellent. Daily life, religion and working conditions are well described and the first-person present-tense narrative helps to create a good sense of atmosphere. To my mind, a decent mystery should persuade the reader to seek not only who did it, but why, where and how. This was a time before forensic evidence and before technology helped investigators. The basics of criminal investigation were paramount – accept nothing, believe nobody, challenge everything. Benedict Russell learns this the hard way as he is lied to and sent down blind alleys. Step by step though, he gets closer to identifying a killer. Whether he will be successful before the rampaging Scots arrive to take the town is uncertain but he needs to be, because his life and the lives of those around him may depend on it.
PRE-ORDER THE HIGHLY-ANTICIPATED BRAND NEW NOVEL IN THE #1 BESTSELLING RIVERS OF LONDON SERIES NOW There is a world hidden underneath this great city... The London Silver Vaults - for well over a century, the largest collection of silver for sale in the world. It has more locks than the Bank of England and more cameras than a celebrity punch-up. Not somewhere you can murder someone and vanish without a trace - only that's what happened. The disappearing act, the reports of a blinding flash of light and memory loss amongst the witnesses all make this a case for Detective Constable Peter Grant and the Special Assessment Unit. Alongside their boss DCI Thomas Nightingale, the SAU find themselves embroiled in a mystery that encompasses London's tangled history, foreign lands and, most terrifying of all, the North! And Peter must solve this case soon because back home his partner Beverley is expecting twins any day now. But what he doesn't know is that he's about to encounter something - and somebody - that nobody ever expects... Effortlessly original, endlessly inventive and hugely entertaining - step into the world of the much-loved, Number One bestselling Rivers of London series.
Darkly suggestive and consuming, this historical fantasy novel offers a nod to The Great Gatsby. Annie Mason finds herself in an unknown world of blood magic and murder when she investigates her inheritance. This is set just after the First World War, where witchcraft, which had a huge influence in the war, has been all but banned. At the beginning I wondered if I had entered a realm already formed as I found myself hesitating and searching for information that wasn’t immediately available. However, I soon settled in and immersed myself in the stormy and decadent atmosphere, where the urge to live as large a life as possible after the effects of the war hits hard. The plot bubbled along in the background as the characters took centre stage. While Annie and Emmeline throbbed with energy as they explored their feelings for each other, the secondly characters added real depth and flavour before pulling the story together. Author Francesca May successfully evokes the excess of the time, and also balances the abuse, dark magic, and violence that can be found in the story with the innocence of Annie, love and friendship. Chosen as a Liz Pick of the Month, Wild and Wicked Things successfully steals into thoughts and thoroughly provokes feelings.
Discover the world of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ from an entirely new perspective. ‘Harriet: A Jane Austen Variation’ by Alice McVeigh is the second Austen adaptation undertaken byMcVeigh and it is an entertaining tale that follows Harriet Smith and Jane Fairfax, allowing them to take the spotlight from the matchmaking Emma Woodhouse. I found the concept of this book really interesting. I am familiar with the story of ‘Emma’ but I enjoyed ‘Harriet’ as the story focuses on the keenly intelligent portrayal of Harriet, and the open and honest nature of Jane Fairfax to Emma’s slightly more superior character. This book really is ‘Emma’ without too much Emma. Written in a style to emulate Austen, with all the drama, dances and society that you would come to expect from the classics this is certainly a book that Austen fans will enjoy. It is a regency tale of matchmaking and ambitions for a better life and situation as in this retelling Harriet sets out to become the naive protege to Emma we see in the original in order to secure herself a promising marriage that will take her from Highbury closer to the bustle and excitements of the cities like Bath and London. With revelations and declarations of marriage abound, this is an entertaining twist on a classic tale that will be perfect for fans of Austen and historical and regency romance. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
From the author of the modern classic A Little Life, a bold, brilliant novel spanning three centuries and three different versions of the American experiment, about lovers, family, loss and the elusive promise of utopia. In an alternate version of 1893 America, New York is part of the Free States, where people may live and love whomever they please (or so it seems). The fragile young scion of a distinguished family resists betrothal to a worthy suitor, drawn to a charming music teacher of no means. In a 1993 Manhattan besieged by the AIDS epidemic, a young Hawaiian man lives with his much older, wealthier partner, hiding his troubled childhood and the fate of his father. And in 2093, in a world riven by plagues and governed by totalitarian rule, a powerful scientist's damaged granddaughter tries to navigate life without him - and solve the mystery of her husband's disappearances. These three sections are joined in an enthralling and ingenious symphony, as recurring notes and themes deepen and enrich one another: A townhouse in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village; illness, and treatments that come at a terrible cost; wealth and squalor; the weak and the strong; race; the definition of family, and of nationhood; the dangerous righteousness of the powerful, and of revolutionaries; the longing to find a place in an earthly paradise, and the gradual realization that it can't exist. What unites not just the characters, but these Americas, are their reckonings with the qualities that make us human: Fear. Love. Shame. Need. Loneliness. To Paradise is a fin-de-siecle novel of marvellous literary effect, but above all it is a work of emotional genius. The great power of this remarkable novel is driven by Yanagihara's understanding of the aching desire to protect those we love - partners, lovers, children, friends, family and even our fellow citizens - and the pain that ensues when we cannot.
Set in German occupied Rome, ‘Shadow Song’ by Anita Morrish follows some of the city’s inhabitants as they build friendships, fall in love and do everything they can to do what’s right and stay alive. This historical fiction tale is a tapestry that weaves many threads. We learn about Francesca, the art student who becomes enamoured by a singer and finds work at the opera house, as well as a way that she can support the resistance. We also meet Carlo, an army doctor returning to Rome after avoiding arrest and still of use to Allied Intelligence. I worked my way through the book curious to know what would connect each of the characters. The story manages to explore the mundane - the new relationships and day to day working life of the characters, while also including the threat from the German Police, the poverty of rationing and the uncertainty and threat of possible surveillance but hope for the future. I liked that so much context was provided throughout the novel, but it didn’t detract from the characters’ stories at any time. A detailed plot filled with lots of well-drawn characters, each with their own unique motives and goals, which are revealed as you move through the story. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
THE FINAL NOVEL IN THE BESTSELLING SHIPYARD GIRLS SERIES! January 1945. Spring is in the air. And so is victory... Wedding bells are ringing at long last for Gloria and her soon-to-be husband Jack. But she can't rest until her youngest son is safely home. Head welder Rosie is delighted her own husband has returned from enemy territory. But the promise of victory brings more change. Her squad has come so far - what will happen when the war ends? Meanwhile Helen is caught between two men - but must hide her true feelings from the one she loves. Can her fellow women welders help Helen follow her heart? Only by working together will the Shipyard Girls win the day.
The major new novel from the beloved prize-winning author -- a brilliantly perceptive, painfully true and funny journey deep into one family's foibles, from the 1950s right up to the changed world of today When the kids are grown and Mercy Garrett gradually moves herself out of the family home, everyone determines not to notice. Over at her studio, she wants space and silence. She won't allow any family clutter. Not even their cat, Desmond. Yet it is a clutter of untidy moments that forms the Garretts' family life over the decades, from giving a child a ride to a painstaking Easter lunch, a fateful train journey to an unexpected homecoming. And it all begins in 1959, with a family holiday to a cabin by a lake. It's the only one the Garretts will ever take, but its effects will ripple through the generations.
Abundant in atmosphere, well-rounded characters, and dreadful dilemmas, Cunning Women is a smoothly readable, 1620-set treat for fans of The Essex Serpent, The Leviathan, The Binding and The Familiars. Though ten years have passed since the infamous Pendle Witch Trials that saw ten women hanged as witches, an atmosphere of paranoia still permeates the region. This is especially so in the Lancashire fishing village where the “cunning women" of the desperately poor Haworth family live as outcasts, offering herbal remedies that are in high demand, but considered the lowest of the low, for the women’s salves and balms are believed to be the work of witches. Sarah Haworth lives a tormented existence. While part of her aches for a normal life, especially when it comes to her younger sister, “the girl with the stormy eyes and sharp tongue” also longs to know the extent of her powers. Amidst this vividly evoked internal maelstrom, Sarah meets Daniel, a farmer’s son who finds himself captivated by her, as she is by him. They see each other for who they really are, not tainted by the prejudice of others. But when a magistrate arrives to investigate a furry of odd deaths, Sarah is in the firing line, and their love is threatened, along with her very life. Part evocative family drama, part historic thriller, Cunning Women tells an emotionally engaging tale of prejudice, superstition, revenge and love.
ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2021 A queen of punk before her time. A duo on the brink of stardom. A night that will define their story for ever. Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, a Black punk artist before her time. Despite her unconventional looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her one night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together. In early seventies New York City, just as she's finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal's bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially Black women, who dare to speak their truth. Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo's most politicized chapter, but as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens everything. Provocative and haunting, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev introduces a bold new name in contemporary fiction and a heroine the likes of which we've not seen in storytelling.
The second of Julia Quinn's bestselling and beloved Bridgerton novels, now a series created by Shondaland for Netflix. This is Anthony Bridgerton's story . . . This time the gossip columnists have it wrong. London’s most elusive bachelor Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry—he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield—the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams... Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands—and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate’s determined to protect her sister—but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself...
With over a dozen heartfelt historic novels to her name, Katie Flynn here turns her compassionate touch to the life and loves of Cadi Williams, a young Welsh beauty born into a coal-mining family. Though delighted to be crowned the 1938 Rose Queen of her village, the special day only exacerbates the fact that Rhos is usually so “drab and dowdy”. As Cadi muses, “the mines ruined everything. You couldn’t escape the coal dust”. As a result, when war breaks out, Cadi and her dear friend Poppy seize the chance to leave for what they see as the bigger, brighter lights of Liverpool. In leaving Rhos, Cadi also leaves her family and the local lad she seemed set to marry. With the stage set for high-stakes drama, the young women have a tough of time of it in Liverpool before they find work in a pub. At the same time, Cadi finds love with a gorgeous dock worker. Cue an almighty emotional conundrum when a blast from Cadi’s past turns up in a RAF uniform… Fragrant with love and hope, and prickling with dilemmas, fans of immersive, historic romance will be in seventh heaven reading The Rose Queen.
They'll search the world to find her. The six D'Apliese sisters have each been on their own incredible journey to discover their heritage, but they still have one question left unanswered: who and where is the seventh sister? They only have one clue - an image of a star-shaped emerald ring. The search to find the missing sister will take them across the globe - from New Zealand to Canada, England, France and Ireland - uniting them all in their mission to complete their family at last. In doing so, they will slowly unearth a story of love, strength and sacrifice that began almost one hundred years ago, as other brave young women risk everything to change the world around them.
Hugely provocative, powerful, and suffused with a stinging, haunting beauty, The Clockwork Girl thoroughly deserves its inclusion as a LoveReading Star Book. Set in Paris during 1750, Madeleine is tasked with discovering the truth about a clockmaker who designs mechanical objects that appear to come to life. Three women sit centre stage, all from different backgrounds, yet struggling to survive in a male dominated world.Oh my word, from the very beginning this made me flinch, unapologetically raw and intense the words burrowed their way inside me. Anna Mazzola really is the most gifted storyteller, I was taken captive as I read, consumed by the fierce thrilling plot and the characters who invaded, and still remain in my mind. I loved the sharp edge of the unreal I found myself hovering over, the insinuations and suggestions that allowed my thoughts to run riot. While the spellbinding clockworks danced eerily featherlight in their own world, the reality of the time created a layer of foreboding that sat glowering, waiting, ready. As it soared into chilling evocative life in front of my eyes I fell in love with this tale. I just had to include The Clockwork Girl as a Liz Pick of the Month, it’s an entirely and gloriously captivating stunner of a read.
THE SUNDAY TIMES TOP TEN BESTSELLER From one of our greatest living writers comes a sweeping novel of unrequited love and exile, war and family. The Magician tells the story of Thomas Mann, whose life was filled with great acclaim and contradiction. He would find himself on the wrong side of history in the First World War, cheerleading the German army, but have a clear vision of the future in the second, anticipating the horrors of Nazism. He would have six children and keep his homosexuality hidden; he was a man forever connected to his family and yet bore witness to the ravages of suicide. He would write some of the greatest works of European literature, and win the Nobel Prize, but would never return to the country that inspired his creativity. Through one life, Colm Toibin tells the breathtaking story of the twentieth century.
In Willow Close, everyone is a suspect . . . Nina and Conrad thought they'd discovered their dream home. But on the day they move in, a body is found - the victim attacked and killed in the woods. As police interview witnesses, they soon discover each resident hiding their own secrets. Because few in the Close are exactly who they seem . . . Nina and Conrad thought they'd found their dream home. Now, it might just be their worst nightmare . . .
A carefree hope and joy is lost in the fateful Summer of 1914. ‘The Lost Summer’ by Paul Jenkins follows the young student, Michael Davies as he joins friends for the Summer at the base of the Pyrenees in Banyuls sur Mer. A sunshine and joy filled time, with new friends, experiences and new love is cut short as the spectre of conflict looms ever larger. What follows will change the lives of every person gathered at Madame de Vallespir’s as war breaks out with devastating consequences. I found the opening to this historical fiction very poignant, it would be hard not to given the current climate, and I found that Michael’s tale is told with sensitivity and insight. The atmosphere in this book felt very much like Atonement (minus the self-serving narrator) with many bleak moments but also moments of peace and hope throughout as the reader prays that Michael and Lisette will be reunited after the war. ‘The Lost Summer’ demonstrates the innocence and “Summer” of youth lost in the events of WWI in this powerfully poignant historical fiction. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
‘Fernando: Beethoven of the Guitar. Book II: Exile, Favor, & Triumph’ by Lou Marinoff follows on from Book One: ‘Youth, Celebrity, & War’ which depicted the early life of the greatest guitarist-composer of his era, Fernando Sor. After leaving Fernando and his first wife on the borders between Spain and France, after the liberally inclined artist’s brush with the Spanish Inquisition we see Fernando’s stratospheric rise to prominence across Europe after loss and adversity as well as a tepid musical reception in Paris. As mentioned in my review of the first book, this is a musician and composer that was unfamiliar to me, and so I am enjoying this slightly embellished tale of a musician's success amongst the political turmoil of his homeland and the fallout it had across Europe. The storyline in this instalment is again fluid and engaging as Fernando’s life and career progresses. We meet the vibrant character that is Carolina, Fernando and Joaquina’s daughter, who has the potential to be as much of a child prodigy as her father before her. We also see Fernando, Carolina, his second wife and family embark on his Grand Tour of Europe. It would seem as the book ends that Fernando is at the highest peak of fame, celebrity and success as he heads to Moscow, and I am curious to see how his story concludes. This is a delightful family story set against a politically turbulent backdrop. You do not have to be particularly knowledgeable about this period in history as the author’s extensive research and expertise shines through and plenty of context is provided. Amongst this was a line I found particularly poignant, and perhaps still relevant to the climate we see today: “as long as nationhood is permitted to eclipse humanity, future horrors will continue to outstrip past ones”. In all this is another enlightening and entertaining instalment of Fernando Sor’s enduring legacy and I am keen to read it’s conclusion. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
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?