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.
Critically acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith pulls Nick Carraway out of the shadows and into the spotlight in this exhilarating imagination of his life before The Great Gatsby. Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s world, he was at the centre of a very different story – one taking place along the trenches and deep within the tunnels of World War I. Floundering in the wake of the destruction he witnessed first-hand, Nick delays his return home, hoping to escape the questions he cannot answer about the horrors of war. Instead, he embarks on a transcontinental redemptive journey that takes him from a whirlwind Paris romance – doomed from the very beginning – to the dizzying frenzy of New Orleans, rife with its own flavour of debauchery and violence. An epic portrait of a truly singular era and a sweeping, romantic story of self-discovery, this rich and imaginative novel breathes new life into a character that many know only from the periphery. Charged with enough alcohol, heartbreak, and profound yearning to transfix even the heartiest of golden age scribes, Nick reveals the man behind the narrator who has captivated readers for decades.
At once historically evocative and infused with the rapier-sharp universality of basic drives and emotions (love, lust, envy and revenge), Denise Mina’s Rizzio is an immensely engaging novella. Wise, inventive and un-put-down-able, it’s a riveting read-in-one-sitting road-trip through a shadowy episode in Scottish history. It’s 1566 and Mary, Queen of Scots, is six months pregnant, unaware that her Palace of Holyrood is surrounded by an army intent on murdering her private secretary and confidante, handsome, charismatic David Rizzio. And all this was arranged by Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley who, intoxicated, relishes “thinking about how sorry they’ll all be when he is king, they’ll all be sorry then. He’ll see they are". Recounting the events of a fateful, bloody night, Mina’s present tense narrative is delivered with verve, taut dexterity and atmosphere, with a powerfully palpable sense of mounting tension.
Shortlisted for The Bloody Scotland Crime Debut of the Year 2021 Longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2021 and the HWA Debut Crown 2021 Glasgow, 1932. When the son-in-law of one of the city's wealthiest shipbuilders is found floating in the River Clyde with his throat cut, it falls to Inspector Jimmy Dreghorn to lead the murder case - despite sharing a troubled history with the victim's widow, Isla Lockhart. From the flying fists and flashing blades of Glasgow's gangland underworld, to the backstabbing upper echelons of government and big business, Dreghorn and his partner 'Bonnie' Archie McDaid will have to dig deep into Glasgow society to find out who wanted the man dead and why. All the while, a sadistic murderer stalks the post-war city leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake. As the case deepens, will Dreghorn find the killer - or lose his own life in the process? Edge of the Grave by Robbie Morrison is a dark historical crime novel set in Glasgow, 1932. A city still recovering from the Great War; split by religious division and swarming with razor gangs. For fans of William McIlvanney's Laidlaw, Denise Mina and Philip Kerr.
'Hell Unearthed' is Hilary McElwaine's interpretation and updating of Dante Alighieri's 'Inferno', the first part of his 'Divine Comedy', written between 1308 and 1320. In the original, hell is described in graphic and gruesome detail before leading the reader through purgatory and finally to the salvation of paradise. This author has adapted Dante's work for a modern audience, providing many recent examples of behaviour, which although generally condemned, doesn't always make for comfortable reading. The book keeps to Dante's original map of nine downward circles of hell, through which he is guided by Virgil, who he greatly admired. As the pair travel deeper, the tormented souls they encounter are guilty of more and more serious crimes, though I find it disturbing and hard to accept that, for instance, someone who has betrayed a client in business is on a lower level than a paedophile like Jimmy Savile, because he or she has used their intellect to commit their crime. This is not of course necessarily the author's view but some of her more modern day examples include veritable icons like David Bowie, Princess Diana, Elvis and Horatio Nelson, which many readers, myself included, would view as controversial and upsetting. These are far outweighed though by the examples of Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Al Capone, Myra Hindley and the like, who committed terrible acts of violence against humanity. Also in line with the original, some fictional perpetrators of wickedness are included, which I found rather strange, as there are surely more than enough real life evildoers to fill the chapters, both then and now. This is a very interesting and thought provoking read, regardless of whether you believe in any kind of afterlife or not and I do hope that the author will go on to rework the other two books in the 'Comedy', as Dante is undoubtedly one of the greatest writers of all time and deserves to be introduced to a wider and younger audience in the same way that Shakespeare has been. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Taking in the cultural complexities of the Ottoman Empire through the compelling, criss-crossing stories of Levantine, Greek, Turkish and Armenian characters, Defne Suman’s The Silence of Scheherazade is an astounding feat of historical fiction - tremendously ambitious, and dazzlingly realised through the author’s exquisitely-threaded plotting and lush storytelling. It’s September, 1905, and one moment seals the fates of four very different families. This is the moment Scheherazade is born in cosmopolitan Smyrna to a mother numbed by opium. Though her namesake is the legendary storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights, she’s mute. A silent girl who grows up to bear witness to the brutality that eventually besets her city - the death and destruction, the expulsion of communities, the impending outbreak of WWI, and the burning. The magic of the city is dazzlingly evoked and intertwined with both the socio-political context and the very moving, very personal stories of this novel’s vast cast of characters. This is a novel to savour, to be dazzled by, to learn from, and reflect on. It invites utter immersion. The LoveReading LitFest invited Defne to the festival to talk about The Silence of Scheherazade. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Defne in conversation with Deborah Maclaren and find out why this is such a sumptuous tour de force of a book that everyone needs to read. Check out a preview of the event here.
Well, a debut doesn't come more well-honed than Inga Vesper’s absolutely cracking slice of dark Americana, The Long, Long Afternoon, which is set in the summer of 1959 and encompasses a gripping mystery with an excoriating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are under-estimated, silenced and diminished. Beautifully written with scenes and characters that take you right back to a time of mail-order catalogues, mother’s ‘little helper’ and the appalling casualness of race and gender inequality, Inga has created a breath-taking, chromium-shiny, tale of how dark the sunniest places can be and how very desperate things can get. The LoveReading LitFest invited Inga to the festival to talk about The Long, Long Afternoon. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Inga in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out why everyone is talking about this book. Check out a preview of the event here.
‘The Bridge to Rembrandt’ by Nelson K. Foley is a story that follows soul mates through time, culminating in a meeting with the famous eponymous artist. We start in modern day Amsterdam, Robert does appear to have enough going on - he has a wife and two growing children, a secret affair with Saskia who is looking for more from him, and a business selling reproduction art that’s got itself into legal trouble. One day when everything gets a bit too much but as Robert drives across a bridge in the city he is transported back in time. Each time this happens, Robert goes further and further into the past. I like how the author sets the scene, the book doesn’t seem to rush to get to all the time-twisting and we have a good understanding of the characters ready for when the time periods change. I liked the descriptions of Amsterdam, and how its history is used throughout the story. I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the person but the author did a good job of making it feel familiar, and the historical events throughout the book were entertaining and educational. The time travelling aspect isn’t explored in that much technical detail and, even though there is a time travel element, I wouldn’t describe this as a science fiction story. I’d say this is more ‘About Time’ and ‘Time Traveller’s Wife’ than ‘Doctor Who’ in terms of atmosphere and what a reader could expect. I liked the additional complication of Robert’s diabetes as he ends up further and further in the past, I feel this adds a subtle layer of urgency to the narrative. In all I thought that this was a well-written and entertaining book, great for historical fiction as well as contemporary fiction fans. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
A tale of two women, left vulnerable by the ever present and invisible threat of both the plague and the Witch trials in the 1600s. ‘The Blighted Road’ by Anna McCormac is a historical novel that uses the true events of the 17th century with additional embellishments to full effect to tell the story of Orla, a young midwife accused of witchcraft and Abigail, an orphan of the plague. A story of two strong women who endure and survive against the odds, I think that this story would be enjoyed by fans of historical fiction. I have to say reading a story of the plague in the 17th Century felt rather uncanny considering our own more recent plague times and I wondered as I read whether inspiration from the clergy death counts shared by Abigail’s mother early in the story were inspired by our own bulletins or a mildly terrifying repeating of history. With attempts to use language you’d associate with the time (although I did think “‘Twas” meant “it was” not “I was” as it is sometimes used) the backdrop to Abigail and Orla’s story is well constructed, I felt the tension and the horror at the graveyard, the dread experienced as superstition reigned in Essex and the companionship as the two main characters meet and bond. Without spoilers, the story ends on a subtly foreboding note and I would be interested in reading the next book in the series to see what happens to Abigail next. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
A historical fiction with a determined and strong-willed female lead. ‘Emilie’ by Ingrid Ramsdale explores the life of a noble Huguenot 16-year old, determined to do more with her life than society and her class demand of her. The scene in this story when Emilie is brutally beaten after being lured to a dangerous area by her scheming and conniving brother Pierre. Their relationship continues in much the same way as Emilie rebels against the meek and subservient daughter and potential wife role she is expected to play. Seeking solace among her friends in the kitchen and the garden and secretly following her ambitions to become a healer land her in trouble. Then the Bartholomew Day Massacre changes Emilie’s life in ways she would have never imagined. She’s faced with the choice to flee France or stay and fulfill her vocation as a healer. I liked the determined nature of Emilie and enjoyed following her story, set against the backdrop of the French wars of Religion in the 16th century. The narrative of a woman before her time looking to carve out a new place in the world is a popular one amongst historical fiction, especially in books with a younger protagonist and perhaps directed at the YA market as well as the adult one. I found ‘Emilie’ to be a well-crafted story, with action and twists that will keep you turning the page. With plenty of different characters to love and some that you will love to despise, this is a strong character-led story set against a period of history that I didn’t know much about.
Kay Powell’s Then a Wind Blew is at once atmospheric, lyrical, poignant and enlightening, made all the more engaging by the distinct and captivating voices of the three woman whose lives and experiences it lays bare, during the final months of brutal war in Rhodesia, ahead of it becoming Zimbabwe. Throughout, personal details and circumstances are finely enmeshed with historic and political contexts, with the gripping, smoothly-paced story suffused in the author’s clear love for the country. The three women we meet in these pages could hardly be more different, yet the war entwines their lives, and through them we encounter a rich, rounded range of experiences. White Rhodesian settler Susan has lost a son in the war, while Beth is a missionary nun on an African Reserve. Then there’s Nyanye, a freedom fighter who’s fled to a guerrilla camp in Mozambique in the wake of her village being destroyed. Offering lesser-seen insights into women’s direct experiences of war, this book is both deeply personal and universal, showing - ultimately - how we are linked by common bonds in the most horrific, divisive of circumstances. If you read and enjoy this, you’d do well to check out other works published by Weaver Press, an independent Zimbabwean publisher that works closely with NGOs in the fields of arts, culture, development and human rights.
It's late 1944. Hitler's rockets are slamming down on London with vicious regularity and it's the coldest winter in living memory. Allied victory is on its way, but it's bloody well dragging its feet. In a large house next to Hampstead Heath, Vee Sedge is just about scraping by, with a herd of lodgers to feed, and her young charge Noel ( almost fifteen ) to clothe and educate. When she witnesses a road accident and finds herself in court, the repercussions are both unexpectedly marvellous and potentially disastrous - disastrous because Vee is not actually the person she's pretending to be, and neither is Noel. The end of the war won't just mean peace, but discovery...
Co-written with Mills and Boon historical novelist Marguerite Kaye, Sarah Ferguson’s Her Heart for a Compass is an expansive fictionalised account of the life of the Duchess of York’s great-great-aunt, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott. Part romantic epic, part energetic exploration of wealthy women’s lives in Victorian England, it’s sure to satisfy fans of historical fiction who like their novels to be big in heart (and length), and based on real-life intrigue. It’s London, 1865, and Lady Margaret Montagu Scott cannot face the prospect of entering a marriage arranged by her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. Given that her parents are close friends with Queen Victoria, this is nothing short of a scandal, and so Margaret must be banished from polite Victorian society. Margaret’s journey sees her venture to Ireland and America before returning to Britain. It reels with romance, historical detail and the protagonist’s indomitable spirit of adventure against a backdrop of grand-yet-stuffy drawing rooms and stifling societal conventions.
'SET IN DIVINE NORTH NORFOLK. INTENSELY ATMOSPHERIC AND GREAT' India Knight Dr Ruth Galloway returns to the moody and beautiful landscape of North Norfolk to confront another killer. A devastating new case for our favourite forensic archaeologist in this acclaimed and bestselling crime series. The Night Hawks, a group of metal detectorists, are searching for buried treasure when they find a body on the beach in North Norfolk. At first Nelson thinks that the dead man might be an asylum seeker but he turns out to be a local boy, Jem Taylor, recently released from prison. Ruth is more interested in the treasure, a hoard of Bronze Age weapons. Nelson at first thinks that Taylor's death is accidental drowning, but a second death suggests murder. Nelson is called to an apparent murder-suicide of a couple at the isolated Black Dog Farm. Local legend talks of the Black Shuck, a spectral hound that appears to people before they die. Nelson ignores this, even when the owner's suicide note includes the line, 'He's buried in the garden.' Ruth excavates and finds the body of a giant dog. All roads lead back to this farm in the middle of nowhere, but the place spells serious danger for anyone who goes near. Ruth doesn't scare easily. Not until she finds herself at Black Dog Farm ...
Alexander McCall Smith’s The Pavilion in the Clouds is a stirring, evocative psychological mystery set in 1938 as the British Empire limps through its final days. A Scottish family in Ceylon, as Sir Lanka was then known, live in the Pavilion in the Clouds on their tea plantation. Yet for all the idyllic beauty of their bungalow, the surrounding jungle represents the unknown - snakes might strike at any moment. Indeed, when eight-year-old Bella sets off unpleasant suspicions about her governess, Miss White, her mother, Virginia, comes to believe a snake might live among them. Virginia’s sense of being an outsider, uncomfortable being in someone else’s country, is palpable. Then there’s the boredom and ennui of having no purpose: “Time was an emptiness. It was a billowing, echoing void… We were just a little rock, hurtling through space, and we were the tiniest things on that rock”. Add to this the paranoia that’s intensified by Bella’s words and deeds, and by a friend Virginia confides in, and we have a tinderbox situation. The novel is also excellent on relating how children view the world and make sense of adult behaviour - in Virginia’s words, “Children were unpredictable. They accepted so much because they were used to things happening to them, rather than making things happen themselves.” Bella’s relationship with her two dolls - she talks to them, and they offer her advice - is used to great symbolic effect towards the end the novel, years later, when Bella visits Miss White as a young adult to say sorry, now she’s old enough to make things happen herself. Engaging in a read-in-one-sitting kind of way, Miss White sums up the novel’s most lingering theme when she remarks, “It’s strange isn’t it, how we carry some bits of the past with us for a long, long time – when we don’t really need to.”
A tremendously provocative yet entertaining historical crime thriller set in 1728, it’s worth noting that while this takes a journey through some very dark places, a light touch is on hand when needed. Thomas and Kitty find themselves in the happiest of times, until they discover that someone wants Thomas dead. I’ve always loved this series, which began with Crime Writers' Association Historical Dagger award winning The Devil in the Marshalsea, and it has progressed with such vivid intensity. While I recommend starting at the beginning, you can actually read these as standalone novels. Thomas and Kitty definitely deserve double billing, each ensures a balance is maintained and allows the plot to really sing (and occasionally glower and smirk). Antonia Hodgson not only encourages us to see and feel the times, she also shows the difficulties that humankind still fall foul of to this day. We really don’t learn do we! Exploring love, friendship, revenge, and the very nature of evil itself, the ending sliced through my thoughts and stayed with me for some time. You can feel the research behind the story, and I delved into her historical notes at the end. The Silver Collar is a cracking and thought-provoking read, and comes as highly recommended in my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month. If you enjoyed Andrew Taylor’s James Marwood and Cat Lovett series which started with The Ashes of London set in 1666 and The Jackdaw Mysteries Series by S. W. Perry which began with The Angel's Mark set in 1570 then you should most definitely check out The Thomas Hawkins Series.
Viola has an impossible talent. Searching for meaning in her grief, she uses her photography to feel closer to her late father, taking solace from the skills he taught her - and to keep her distance from her husband. But her pictures seem to capture things invisible to the eye . . . Henriette is a celebrated spirit medium, carrying nothing but her secrets with her as she travels the country. When she meets Viola, a powerful connection is sparked between them - but Victorian society is no place for reckless women. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, invisible threads join Viola and Henriette to another woman who lives in secrecy, hiding her dangerous act of rebellion in plain sight. Faith. Courage. Love. What will they risk for freedom? Driven by passionate, courageous female characters, SPIRITED is your next unforgettable read! Perfect for fans of other bestselling historical novels The Binding by Bridget Collins, The Familiars by Stacey Halls, and Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.
From the bestselling author Ken Follett, The Evening and the Morning is a historical epic that will end where The Pillars of the Earth begins. A TIME OF CONFLICT It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages, and England faces attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Life is hard, and those with power wield it harshly, bending justice according to their will - often in conflict with the king. With his grip on the country fragile and with no clear rule of law, chaos and bloodshed reign. THREE LIVES INTERTWINED Into this uncertain world three people come to the fore: a young boatbuilder, who dreams of a better future when a devastating Viking raid shatters the life that he and the woman he loves hoped for; a Norman noblewoman, who follows her beloved husband across the sea to a new land only to find her life there shockingly different; and a capable monk at Shiring Abbey, who dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a centre of learning admired throughout Europe. THE DAWN OF A NEW AGE Now, with England at the dawn of the Middle Ages, these three people will each come into dangerous conflict with a ruthless bishop, who will do anything to increase his wealth and power, in an epic tale of ambition and rivalry, death and birth, and love and hate. Thirty years ago we were introduced to Kingsbridge in The Pillars of the Earth, and now in this masterful prequel international bestseller Ken Follett will take us on a journey into a rich past, which will end where his masterpiece begins.
With its swashbuckling scenario and big themes of betrayal, revenge and sacrifice, J. Meade Falkner's Moonfleet is an undeniable classic of adventure fiction. And, with its embossed gold foil features and beautiful cover, this edition (part of Wordsworth’s Exclusive Collection) makes a great gift for readers young and old. Fifteen-year-old orphan John Trenchard lives in Moonfleet with his aunt. When she banishes him, John is looked after by grumpy innkeeper Elzevir Block, whose son was killer by customs officials. In the smuggler’s care, John falls under the spell of the local legend of ghostly Blackbeard, who’s said to rise each winter to search for a missing diamond. As John sets out on his own quest to find Blackbeard’s gem, he becomes embroiled in the village’s real secret - and Elzevir’s. Brimming with bravery, atmosphere and all-out action, this is a tale to be dazzled by, and lose yourself in.
William is just an unassuming American who ends up in the wrong place and definitely the wrong time! He lives an unexciting life in London, but when he goes to buy a watch for his girlfriend his life take a very dramatic turn. He ends up being accused of murder, and being chased through history by a secret organisation who will stop at nothing to get their “timepiece” back. Travel with William through his exciting journey and enjoy a thrilling and riveting read. Maureen Gourlay, A LoveReading Ambassador
There is a great deal to commend this engaging account of a WWII sailor’s life. For those who are fans of punctilious attention to naval and nautical detail, there is plenty here. For anyone who enjoys a sense of the era, the use of language in the dialogue and prose, and the descriptions of the food and clothing of 1940’s East Coast USA are spot on. Fitting somewhere between a ‘how to’ guide and personal log, Splinter on the Tide gives an enlightening overview of the personal, personnel and service politics that determine a small vessel’s safety and success. Through the particularly well drawn character of Lt. (j.g.) Ashford Miller, USNR, the responsibilities, morality and attention to detail required for command are illustrated with both an endearing lightness and depth of understanding. While the tension is delivered in calm, understated measures, partially due to Parotti’s multi-conditional prose style and emphasis on small-business scene settings, the narrative zips along and truly engages, in the manner of a light, less “clipped accent” version of the 1942 British patriotic war film In Which We Serve. What prevents this from being a humdrum military tale is the crisp sense of verisimilitude, coupled with a delightfully tender, wistful timbre. It is at heart a respectful and honourable rendering of the countless heroes, whose brave and diligent duty protected the convoys of merchant shipping that were the traffic of much needed supplies during those bleak and dangerous years. Many publications in this area glamorise the dynamic and the duty. Splinter on the Tide has no need to do so, its quiet, unpretentious tone does trick very nicely indeed.
Richard Camp served as a US Marine officer for 26 years before retiring in 1988. After retiring, he became the Deputy Director of the Marine Corps' History Division and then Marine Corps Heritage Foundation's VP for Museum Operations at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. He is an accomplished historian with over 150 published articles and 14 books to his name covering military subjects from WWII through to more recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan. Commandos is Camp’s first venture into fiction. The author’s detailed knowledge of US Marine Corps history, procedure and language combined with meticulous research combine to create a highly authentic story set in the early part of WWII where a small group of Marines are posted to train with the newly created British commando forces. As their training draws near to completion, the team is notified of an urgent mission to test their newly acquired skills. They must destroy a radar facility on the German-held of Alderney off the coast of France. This is a novel for all enthusiasts of military fiction. As with all such books, if they are a good enough read, the reader is drawn into the story through the medium of fiction and then, as the story progresses you find yourself learning about the people, their training methods, the procedures and all manner of other fascinating aspects pertinent to the time. A really excellent book. Good characters, a great story and a fascinating insight into the lives of our first special-forces soldiers.
She Who Became the Sun reimagines the rise to power of the Ming Dynasty’s founding emperor. In a famine-stricken village on a dusty plain, a seer shows two children their fates. For a family’s eighth-born son, there’s greatness. For the second daughter, nothing. In 1345, China lies restless under harsh Mongol rule. And when a bandit raid wipes out their home, the two children must somehow survive. Zhu Chongba despairs and gives in. But the girl resolves to overcome her destiny. So she takes her dead brother's identity and begins her journey. Can Zhu escape what’s written in the stars, as rebellion sweeps the land? Or can she claim her brother’s greatness – and rise as high as she can dream? This is a glorious tale of love, loss, betrayal and triumph by a powerful new voice.
I never expected to ever be given the opportunity to read a book by consulting detective Sherlock Holmes(!). Until very recently, I didn't even know that he wrote any books! Yet here one is - A Case of Royal Blackmail. Written in 1881 when he was in his late 20s, the book features Sherlock Holmes's personal musings on several entertaining cases of his, including blackmail of the Prince of Wales in 1879. His narrative is filled with his trademark astute observations, unconventional humour and remarkable reasoning skills. None of the characters evade his intense scrutiny or suspicion, and his sharp attention to detail eventually solves several mysteries and discovers the culprits. The historical and forensic content within the book is enlightening, along with the insight into his personal life and eccentric behaviour. I loved the 'Finder's Notes' at the end too (revealing how his book came to exist). A fascinating – and slightly off-the-wall – read for Holmes fans and for anyone who loves authentic historical crime fiction.
London, September, 1941. Following the departure of the formidable Editor, Henrietta Bird, from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, is still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, but bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It. When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty, and standing by her friends. Every bit as funny, touching and cheering as AJ Pearce's debut, Dear Mrs Bird, Yours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship, a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting each other up, even in the most challenging times.
‘The Tiergarten Tales’ by Paolo G. Grossi is a collection of short Historical fiction relationship stories set in Berlin. Each story is self contained, well-written and I feel they each flow nicely. I found this collection of short stories quite escapist, which is no bad thing. Each narrative seems to explore and take place in, if not directly the setting of wealth and status, most definitely one of comfort. Focusing mainly on the connection formed between people, I found the emphasis on affection and connection in the stories enjoyable to read. I like the tone and the style of the writing and I found the atmospheres created through the stories quite soothing. As ‘The Tiergarten Tales’ are historical fiction, I did read them feeling that they were somewhat classical in nature. This collection of short stories isn’t like Jane Austen but I got the same feeling of “not everything is positive all the time but it will turn out well” when I read this collection. I found the descriptions of Germany transportative and enlightening, it made me realise how much German history I wasn’t aware of. The collection of stories that make up ‘The Tiergarten Tales’ are pleasant reads and I would recommend it to fans of classical stories that have an emphasis on human connection. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
'Madrigal’ by Christophe Medler is a great book for history buffs and fans of historical fiction. Set in a period of civil unrest in England and against the backdrop of true events, the author takes us through the English Civil War on the quest to uncover details of a secret plot, code-named the Madrigal. The first thing that is apparent when reading this is how well-researched ‘Madrigal’ is. You have to have an in-depth knowledge of the period in order to make it your own with embellishments and not only has the author managed to create an interesting historical mystery that feels plausible, there’s links to historical research and a list of fictional and historical characters at the end of the book. Set in the 1600s, there’s a great deal of attention to detail in ‘Madrigal’ to help you feel immersed in the time and setting. With references to Shakespeare and even illustrations throughout to help the modern reader feel like they’re in familiar surroundings. I found the third person, omniscient in places narrative style to be slightly detached which isn’t a bad thing, it allowed for a more enjoyable read for me to feel as though I was following the twists and turns of the plot at a distance. With the fictional characters as well rounded as the historical figures, I think that this book would be a good recommendation for fans of mysteries and historical fiction. I’d recommend it to fans of ‘Wolf Hall’. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
What a brilliant book, beautifully and sensitively written. Oddly I was about a third of the way in before I remembered that Eyam was a real village and the happenings, although fictionalised, were also true, which gave the story so much more depth. Although the book was set in the 17th century, the characters of the three women, Catherine, Elizabeth and Emmett, seem somehow quite modern. It could be that the plague and our current pandemic make the story line that much more poignant, but I think it is more that the writer is able to write about emotion, grief and hope with such conviction. When reading historical fiction, so much is said about infant mortality that you tend to gloss over it as the norm, but the way it is written about in this book, is so contemporary and real. How the mother watches over her children as they sleep and how each one is so precious, is not an emotion that changes with the centuries. The links to our present situation runs through the whole book, with phrases such as 'every day seemed to have no bounds and flowed in endless sameness' and 'the invisible threat' being particularly memorable. Also the way William carefully records the deaths each month reminds me of radio news reports! The book develops so well in both characterisation but also in plot - how the village isolates itself, but also how it learns from the deaths and ways to cope with the disease and the solitary existence forced upon the village. It was definitely a memorable and thought provoking read. It made me appreciate how much people gave up for the safety of others. I shall be buying a hard copy of this to keep. Rosie Watch, A LoveReading Ambassador
Beautifully-written, smoothly-readable, and waltzing with elegance and the intrigue of espionage, Tessa Morris-Suzuki’s The Lantern Boats is an accomplished work of historical fiction. Melding criss-crossing personal stories with the bigger-picture political climate of occupied Japan, it’s rich in details of time and place, with swathes of charisma that make single-sitting readings all but impossible to resist. Adding to the intrigue, the book’s characters are based on real people. The novel opens with an evocative scene describing the swell of the Sumida River illuminated by paper lanterns in a ritual for the dead, of which there are many as a result of the US firebombing raids that ended six years ago. Then we meet Kamiya Jun, a young war orphan with nothing - “no home, no family, no documents, no identity.” Being invisible makes him ideal spy material, and so he’s tasked by the Americans to spy on Vida Vidanto, a beautiful Japanese poet they suspect of being a communist spy. Meanwhile, part-Japanese, part-Scottish Elly Ruskin feels compelled to spy on Vida herself - she suspects her journalist husband, Fergus, of having an affair with the poet, and all while they’re in the process of adopting a child. The worlds of spy and spied-on intermesh powerfully when Fergus finds Vida’s strangled body, and then follows a gripping quick-fire succession of secrets unveiled, a tragic casualty, and hopeful beginnings.
'A return to Hislop's thyme-scented, Aegean-lapped fictional Greece' The Sunday Times Beloved author Victoria Hislop returns to Crete in this long-anticipated sequel to her multi-million-copy Number One bestseller, The Island. 25th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony. And a moment of violence has devastating consequences. When time stops dead for Maria Petrakis and her sister, Anna, two families splinter apart and, for the people of Plaka, the closure of Spinalonga is forever coloured with tragedy. In the aftermath, the question of how to resume life looms large. Stigma and scandal need to be confronted and somehow, for those impacted, a future built from the ruins of the past. Number one bestselling author Victoria Hislop returns to the world and characters she created in The Island - the award-winning novel that remains one of the biggest selling reading group novels of the century. It is finally time to be reunited with Anna, Maria, Manolis and Andreas in the weeks leading up to the evacuation of the island... and beyond.
In this spellbinding tale from Danielle Steel, a princess is sent away to safety during World War II, where she falls in love, and is lost forever. As the war rages on in the summer of 1943, causing massive destruction and widespread fear, the King and Queen choose to quietly send their youngest daughter, Princess Charlotte, to live with a trusted noble family in the Yorkshire countryside. Despite her fiery, headstrong nature, the princess's fragile health poses far too great a risk for her to remain in war-torn London. Third in line to the throne, seventeen year-old Charlotte reluctantly uses an alias upon her arrival in Yorkshire, her two guardians the only keepers of her true identity. A talented horsewoman, Charlotte begins to enjoy life out of the spotlight, concentrating on training with her beloved horse. But no one predicts that in the coming months she will fall deeply in love with her protectors' son. Far from her parents, a tragic turn of events leaves an infant orphaned. Alone in the world, that child will be raised in the most humble circumstances by a modest stable manager and his wife. No one, not even she, knows of her lineage. But when a stack of hidden letters comes to light, a secret kept for nearly two decades finally surfaces, and a long lost princess emerges. A fascinating story of family and royalty, and an unforgettable portrait of an extraordinary young woman and the man who brings her home, Royal is an exhilarating work from the world's favourite storyteller.
Carolyn Kirby’s When We Fall tells the gripping, read-in-one-sitting stories of two women who fall for the same man. Sparked by the long-suppressed WW2 Katyn massacre atrocity that saw 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia killed by the Soviet Union, it presents the painful complexities of love and loyalty during terrible times in readably elegant style. England, 1943 and British pilot Vee is set on being given her Wings when she first encounters charismatic Polish RAF pilot Stefan. There’s an immediate frisson between them, and from this first meeting their lives are to be entangled for the rest of their days. Both of them are immensely likeable - Vee for her dogged and down-to-earth determination to succeed in a male dominated field, and Stefan for his amiability and respectfulness. Meanwhile, in the Polish town of Posen (formerly Poznań), Eva (formerly Ewa before Nazi occupation) has all but given up on her lover returning as she waits tables in her father’s guesthouse while working for the resistance. Matters are complicated when she falls for a handsome German officer, and then her lover - Stefan - returns and asks Eva to take a huge risk for him. He’s asked similar of Vee in England and so, unbeknown to each other, both women become caught up in a costly mission to disclose the horrors Stefan witnessed while in Russian captivity. Covering events from spring 1943 to late 1945 (with an unexpected addendum from 1963), this is a highly visual, highly sensory novel with relatable, powerful human dilemmas at its heart.
Totally, completely, and utterly gorgeous, this is a beautifully written historical relationship tale with real bite. And can I just qualify the word relationship - this is about the relationships with family, community, fear, nature, as well as the more obvious love. A work of fiction inspired by history, the story begins on Christmas Eve in 1617 when a sudden and violent storm takes the lives of forty fishermen, leaving the stunned women folk learning to survive on their remote northerly Norwegian island. Still reeling from the tragedy, their lives turn in the most frightening direction when the King brings in sorcery laws and a commissioner is installed to root out evil. This is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut adult novel, and I feel as though I have been waiting my reading life for it. The prologue hits with a huge sad inevitability. Kiran Millwood Hargrave writes with a sensitive and considerate pen, the descriptions are truly breathtaking. While there are some savage shocks in store, The Mercies is still a warm, thoughtful and touching read. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, we also just had to include The Mercies as a LoveReading Star Book too. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
This all too plausible and atmospheric reimagining of the end of World War Two hits hard as it turns history on its head. It’s 1945 and Britain is under Nazi occupation after an atomic bomb strikes London. A shocking revelation discovered while on the run, means that David Erskine holds knowledge that could save the world from the Nazi’s. This is historian and award winning writer Alistair Moffat’s first novel. His ability to walk through time with his words, sets a stage that felt as though I was reading history. It really is all too easy to fall into this story and believe it is real, the prologue thoroughly sets the scene before the first chapters take you back a year to 1944 as the Allies were pushing through to victory. Erskine tells his own cooly matter-of-fact story in journal form, while other tales are added to form a wider picture. Action-packed yet succinctly told, The Night Before Morning is a chilling slice of speculative fiction.
From the exceptional author of Black Rock, Amanda Smyth’s Fortune is an absolute dazzler. Set in 1920s Trinidad, and based on real-life events, the novel is founded on exquisite storytelling. It’s measured in style, and panoramic in impact - though the writing is so finely accomplished its influence swells over time as the novel charts a universal story of desire and ambition, of love and lust, of all-but impossible battles with the external forces of nature. I relished every sentence, every considered word, every beat of a plot that pulses to the varied rhythms of its characters’ unsettled hearts. What’s more, it captures a nation on the cusp of monumental change - Trinidad’s earth-shattering shift to oil from its struggling sugar and cocoa industries. A chance encounter between handsome, charismatic Eddie Wade and Trinidadian business man Tito (lately down on his luck) leads them to hatch a plan to make their fortunes in oil. And the man who holds the key to their future fortunes is Sonny Chatterjee, a superstitious farmer whose cocoa estate is failing due to the abundance of oil oozing up through his soil. Sonny is reluctant to go into the oil business with anyone, and sceptical, as is his wife (“Who really need oil? Who want it? Not me, not you. You can eat oil?”), though she’s also angered by their escalating poverty. And so the two men convince Sonny, and they’re granted a lease to drill his land for a year. The very first meeting between Eddie and Tito’s wife Ada is charged with electricity. She’s a beautiful enigma, he’s like no one she’s never met, “he could have fallen out of the sky.” As the oil project progresses, the men battle sickness and set-backs until the black gold starts surging, as does the yearning between Ada and Eddie. Though ignorant of this, Tito unwittingly makes a premonitory statement, of sorts: “Ada has fire in her. A woman who has fire, if you love her, she’ll warm up your heart.” To which Eddie replies, “If you don’t she’ll burn down your house.” Tito laughs, “That’s exactly right, Eddie. She’ll burn down your house.” The way Ada and Eddie’s relationship buds from fascination, to lustful tension, to overwhelming desire, is exquisite: “Ada knew something was happening to her. The world was different. The hills were greener, the sky a painting of light.” A fatal accident on a neighbouring oil site causes Sonny to want to halt the drilling and sell up, but Tito and Eddie want to drill one more well before their lease is up. Enthralling and heart-stopping to the end, Fortune is a magnificent feat of fiction.
Having written advertising commercials and marketing copy for decades before trying fiction, Alka Joshi launched her fiction career with the stellar debut The Henna Artist and instantly became a phenomenon. Much admired by Reese Witherspoon, it became a bestseller for its multi-sensory depiction of superstition, class and tradition in 1950’s Indian society and introduced readers to a superb cast of credible and highly engaging characters. Joshi’s latest, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur shows that the author has had no ‘difficult second novel’ issues as from page one we are immersed in Joshi’s trademark sense of place and launched straight into a tale of disaster and deception. A sequel to her debut that works very well indeed as a stand-alone novel, Joshi seamlessly weaves some of the characters we first met in The Henna Artist with new cast members that are so well drawn we can feel their hopes, dreams and fears, and there are plenty of all, in every chapter. What Joshi does so well is to conjure a strong sense of setting with her adept use of the sights, sounds and smells of the locations she sets her story in. If ever a book had ‘scratch and sniff’ potential this is it. In her interview with LoveReading LitFest, Joshi was asked how she writes and she explained that she conjures chapters visually, like a film director, and then transcribes what she has ‘seen’ onto the page. For a fully immersive, take-you-to-another-place read, Jaipur and Shimla in the hands of Alka Joshi is a must.
Moth is absolutely gorgeous. Fair warning, it broke my heart, but is still completely and utterly gorgeous! Partition in India slices the country through its soul, one liberal family find themselves adrift and battling for survival. Set in 1940’s Delhi this story focuses on family, and in particular women as the world around them boils with political unrest and danger. The beauty and pain of the prologue turned my thoughts inside out, I had to stop for a moment before carrying on. The awareness of the prologue stayed with me as I continued to read, consume, feel. This is Melody Razak’s debut novel and was written on long train journeys across India. Here she takes an intimate story set in an epic, huge moment in history, and makes it feel real. Snippets and slices of all emotions are brought together to form the most wonderfully told story that highlights the tragedy that falls. Her writing caught me, lulled me, shocked me, seduced me. She writes with huge compassion, the smallest of details weave together to form a vivid and vibrant tapestry of life. It is all too easy to imagine this happening anywhere in the world, yet among all the pain is strength and hope. The moments of calm, love, humour, sharing, and kindness all combine to ensure that you can still feel delight among the pain. Oh, and I must just mention the stunning cover too, it matches the beauty within. Moth, so exquisitely emotional, powerful, and harrowing, will be one of my favourite books of the year, it is so special, I just had to choose it as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
A vivid historical fiction, ‘Mother of the Fire’ by Nicole van Niekerk has a strong female lead, Louisa Auguste Béjart – Charles II’s illegitimate daughter. With great descriptions that really help set the scene of London and France in 1666, and vibrant characterisation that helps to further bring the narrative to life. This is a book full of adventure, drama and intrigue, Louisa is caught between her own independence, her place in society and her fathers crown. There was plenty of drama and the book flowed at a fast pace that kept me immersed in the storyline. I think that this is a brilliant book for fans of historical fiction, for those who are interested in narratives that focus on English royal court life. I enjoyed reading from the female perspective, with the mention of it being frowned upon for Louisa to be a playwright and other restrictions she faces being included was a nice additional detail. I feel the author did her research when writing this book and created a wholly believable historical fiction story that I enjoyed time travelling within. A book that I felt immersed in from the start and was able to enjoy in one sitting I would recommend ‘Mother of Fire’ and look out for similar books by this author in the future. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
‘Rescuing General Patton’ by Curtis Stephen Burdick is a historical fiction with mystery at it’s heart. As stated in the prologue, General George S. Patton, renowned for his strategy during the course of the second world war, is reassigned without post, a cover-up for other action, but whether it is for an undercover command or something else? This plot reveals everything. I liked the concept of the novel, akin in nature but not necessarily in topic to 'A Room Made of Leaves' by Kate Grenville, this book takes a historical figure and embellishes history in order to create an enticing and engrossing read with a believable feel. At 197 pages, I enjoyed this book in a single sitting, immersed in the storyline and eager to learn whether General Patton would be successfully rescued. I feel ‘Rescuing General Patton’ would appeal to historical fiction fans broadly, and fans of WW2 fiction specifically. A very well-written and well researched book, as you need to know your history to adapt it in this way, I found that this book was an engrossing read full of twists, thrills, tension and action. Highly entertaining for those who are familiar with General Patton, or those who, like myself, were introduced to him for the first time here. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Endowed with rank, wealth and elegance, Sylvester, Duke of Salford, posts into Wiltshire to discover if the Honorable Phoebe Marlow will meet his exacting requirements for a bride. If he does not expect to meet a tongue-tied stripling wanting both manners and conduct, then he is intrigued indeed when his visit causes Phoebe to flee her home. They meet again on the road to London, where her carriage has come to grief in the snow. Yet Phoebe, already caught in one imbroglio, now knows she soon could be well deep in another ... A typically wonderful historical novel, Sylvester shows once more why Georgette Heyer is the undisputed queen of the genre she created - the Regency romance.
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?