Newest Historical Fiction Reviews

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

So, you arrive in all ignorance at Auschwitz, and see the horror there, and immediately swear to survive the ordeal to see retribution dealt on those behind it, but what do you do to see that oath out? Do you get to work diligently as the Nazis demand, to the extent you get the word collaborator muttered behind your back? Do you dare to stick your neck out and get a job that means you're actually a Jew working in the political wing of the SS, answerable to Berlin? Do you dare get contacts with civilian workers building the place, and trade the loot purloined from the incoming victims' belongings with food they smuggle in for you, under the eyes of all the camp guards? The man whose real life story inspired this novel did all that, and survived to tell the tale, but he also managed to do something even more daring, and unexpected – he dared to invest hope in a burgeoning love that he found in the camp. Full review...

The Optickal Illusion: A very eighteenth-century scandal by Rachel Halliburton

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Rachel Halliburton's debut novel opens in London in January 1797. Benjamin West, President of the Royal Academy, is reflecting on the past year's scandal involving the Provises, father and daughter, and worries that he handled everything poorly. From the start the book's figurative language is appropriately full of colour and painterly techniques: 'He had intended to deal with them honourably, but now everyone in London was saying he had not. It was as if somebody had dropped a small amount of ivory black paint into yellow orpiment on a palette – the more he prodded and stirred the memory, the murkier it became.' Full review...

W by John Banks

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On the slopes of Mt Hood in Oregon, an 1000-year old Viking is discovered frozen - three thousand miles further west than any previously known Viking exploration. Josh Kinninger is inspired by the Viking discovery - three personal catastrophes having left him angry, unmoored and with his world in turmoil. Beginning a journey westward, he's filled with a desire to wreak vengeance on the individuals he finds morally corrupt. Full review...

Christmas at Woolworths by Elaine Everest

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Christmas at Woolworths is the sequel to wartime saga The Woolworths Girls, and continues the story where the first book left off. Members of the close-knit community in Erith are doing their best to pull together and keep morale high, even though the future is uncertain. At the heart of the neighbourhood, the home of kindly matriarch Ruby is a beacon where family and friends can gather for good food and conversation: a way to forget the troubles outside. Spirits remain high; even when the bombs are falling so close to home. We catch up with the three friends from the first book: Sarah yearns for peace and an end to the war, Maisie is desperate for a child and Freda would love to find romance. Will they all get their wishes this Christmas? Full review...

The Last Hours by Minette Walters

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In June 1348 the Black Death came into the country through the port of Melcombe in Dorset. Ignorant of many rules of hygiene which we'd find basic nearly seven hundred years later, the disease rages through the country. On the estate of Develish, Lady Anne Develish took control of the future of the people who lived in the demesne after her husband had ridden off to try and secure a marriage for his daughter. Two hundred bonded serfs lived on the estate and when Lady Anne realised the virulence of the plague she ordered that the estate refuse entry to anyone, including her husband and his entourage, for fear that they would bring the disease to her people. Full review...

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting and Paul Russell Grant (Translator)

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While his grandfather lived the past was an area of certainty for Edvard. At aged 4 he'd been taken to live with his grandparents, having survived the accident that killed his parents. Now his grandfather has died revelations are coming to light showing Edvard his family history is different from what he'd believed… his mother's birthplace, his mother's name, the whereabouts of late Great-Uncle Einar… and that's without looking more deeply into the fatal accident itself. Edvard is determined to solve the puzzle, a determination that will take him away from his native Norway to an area of France synonymous with devastation and a remote Scottish island loaded with secrets. Full review...

Kingmaker: Kingdom Come: (Book 4) by Toby Clements

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1470 dawns and the next chapters of the War of the Roses are ready to play out. King Edward thinks that the future has been settled but treachery is still lurking. Meanwhile Katherine and Thomas also have their world turned upside down when that ledger and a chance comment threaten all they have, including their lives. Full review...

Guns in the North (The Sir Robert Carey Mysteries Omnibus) by P F Chisholm

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1592: Sir Robert Carey flees the strictures of Elizabethan court – and his creditors – in order to become Deputy Warden of the West March in Carlisle. The Scottish/English borders and those who inhabit them are different from the world he's left behind but it will have to become his world. It's now his job to bring law to the lawless. This isn't easy when every local he comes across has an affinity and a heritage of crime to some degree. For Robert the best thing about the job is its proximity to the woman he loves but he doesn't know what he'll do about that yet either. Meanwhile he soon realises that those who are supposed to be on his side are plotting against him but they don't realise what they're up against. Full review...

The House with the Stained-Glass Window by Zanna Sloniowska and Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator)

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Marianna, an opera singer in the soon-to-be Ukrainian city of Lviv, is mistakenly shot dead at a political rally in the dying days of the Soviet Union. This novel begins with both anger and hope, as Marianna's coffin is covered in the illegal blue and yellow flag, and her death seems to herald the birth of a new nation. But the day of her funeral is also the day of her daughter's first period – a girl who must learn how to be a woman in this time of drastic change, with no mother to guide her along the way. Full review...

False Lights by K J Whittaker

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Cornwall, 1817.

What if your worst mistake changed the course of history? Napoleon has crushed the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo, and his ex-wife Josephine presides over French-occupied England. Cornwall erupts into open rebellion, and young heiress Hester escapes with Crow, Wellington's former intelligence officer, a half-French aristocrat haunted by his part in the catastrophic defeat. Together, they become embroiled in a web of treachery and espionage as plans are laid to free Wellington from secret captivity in the Scilly Isles and lead an uprising against the French occupation. In a country rife with traitors, Hester and Crow know it is impossible to play such a game as this for long... Full review...

Seven Dead by J Jefferson Farjeon

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Ted Lyte was petty criminal, but not usually the housebreaking type. He lacked the courage. However, needs must, and whilst feeling down on his luck he decided to try his chances at an isolated house with a shuttered window. ...he might find a bit of alright behind those shutters! Wot abart it? Ted does indeed find something interesting behind the shutters, but it definitely isn't what he'd hoped. In a locked room he finds seven dead bodies; six men and a woman. Fleeing the house in horror, he is pursued and caught by a passing yachtsman, Thomas Hazeldean, who also happens to be a journalist. Fascinated by Ted's story (and a possible scoop), Hazeldean decides to investigate this curious case and its assortment of odd clues, including a portrait shot through the heart, an old cricket ball and a mysterious note written by one of the victims. Full review...

Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar

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The first chapter of Salt Creek opens in Chichester, England, in 1874. Hester Finch is a respected and reasonably wealthy member of her community. But she can't stop her thoughts wandering back to her adolescence, spent on Salt Creek Station in the remote South Australian Coorong region. Hester feels has never felt so alive as then, when we had so little. Full review...

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

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At the World's Fair in 1962, it seems that all eyes are focused on the future. The Space Needle dominates the landscape, filling people with anticipation about things to come. One visitor, however, has his mind firmly focused on the past. Ernest Young is helping his daughter Ju-ju with a story she is writing for her newspaper; a story about a young immigrant boy who was given away as a prize in a raffle at the World's Fair in 1909. Full review...

The Captain's Girl by Nicola Pryce

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Last year, Bookbag reviewed, and thoroughly enjoyed, Pengelly's Daughter, a swashbuckling historical romance set in picturesque Cornwall. Now we have the pleasure of reading the much-anticipated sequel. This time, the story focuses on a neighbour of the Polcarrow family, Miss Celia Cavendish, who has been engaged to a cruel man that she does not love. One fateful night, she runs away to the Polcarrow house to beg them for help, and the pivotal events of that night have far-reaching consequences for all involved. Full review...

Across the Ocean by Hawa L Crickmore

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A young cage fighter, Martin Grandson, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder which required a bone-marrow transplant, preferably from a sibling. Only recently he'd been a fit young man, in the prime of life, but now he was suffering from a rare type of bone cancer: without the transplant he would be paralysed for life and might be dead within the next twelve weeks if he didn't receive the transplant within the next fourteen days. Unfortunately Martin's parents had died in a car crash and there were no siblings or other close relatives. His girlfriend, Celia, was not a match. Full review...

She Be Damned by M J Tjia

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London, 1863: prostitutes in the Waterloo area are turning up dead, their sexual organs mutilated and removed. When another girl goes missing, fears grow that the killer may have claimed their latest victim. The police are at a loss and so it falls to courtesan and professional detective, Heloise Chancey, to investigate. With the assistance of her trusty Chinese maid, Amah Li Leen, Heloise inches closer to the truth. But when Amah is implicated in the brutal plot, Heloise must reconsider whom she can trust, before the killer strikes again. Full review...

Shelter by Sarah Franklin

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Connie Granger has escaped her bombed-out city home, finding refuge in the Women's Timber Corps. For her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose.
Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. In the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom.Their meeting signals new beginnings. But as they are drawn together, the world outside their forest haven is being torn apart. Old certainties are crumbling, and both must now make a life-defining choice.
What price will they pay for freedom? What will they fight to protect? Full review...

Court of Lions by Jane Johnson

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Kate Fordham arrived in the sunlit city of Granada a year ago. In the shadow of the Alhambra, one of the most beautiful places on earth, she works as a waitress serving tourists in a busy bar. She pretends she's happy with her new life – but how could she be? Kate's alone, afraid and hiding under a false name. And fate is about to bring her face-to-face with her greatest fear. Five centuries ago, a message, in a hand few could read, was inscribed in blood on a stolen scrap of paper. The paper was folded and pressed into one of the Alhambra's walls. There it has lain, undisturbed by the tides of history – the Fall of Granada, the expulsion of its last Sultan – until Kate discovers it. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate's life forever. Full review...

You Die When You Die by Angus Watson

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Finnbogi the Boggy and his tribe of mushroom men (Vikings) must take a road trip through hostile territory whilst being hunted by the greatest fighting force ever seen (Amazonian Native Americans). Vikings meet Native Americans in a clash of cultures and potentially the end of the world. When the Queen of the known world says your tribe has to be exterminated then your immediate future may not be so rosy. Full review...

Six Tudor Queens: Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession: Six Tudor Queens 2 by Alison Weir

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Thomas Boleyn sends his daughters abroad to be trained at the courts of European royalty. Not only does this give them an education in the ways of the elite, it could also ensure a good marriage. Unfortunately he hasn't reckoned on the ideas that one of them, Anne, picks up and as for marriage… Anne is determined to marry for love not through some paternal arrangement. Yet the reality turns out to be different, driving a wedge through her family on a road leading to dark tragedy. Full review...

The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway

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When young seamstress May Bedloe is left alone and penniless on the shore of the Ohio, she finds work on the famous floating theatre that plies its trade along the river. Her creativity and needlework skills quickly become invaluable and she settles into life among the colourful troupe of actors. She finds friends, and possibly the promise of more. But cruising the border between the Confederate South and the 'free' North is fraught with danger. For the sake of a debt that must be repaid, May is compelled to transport secret passengers, under cover of darkness, across the river and on, along the underground railroad. But as May's secrets become harder to keep, she learns she must endanger those now dear to her.

And to save the lives of others, she must risk her own... Full review...

Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

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Young bride Olivia Sheldon finds returning to her childhood home in Egypt a bitter-sweet experience. On the one hand, she has been reunited with her estranged sister Clara, and the pair have formed a deep and loving bond. On the other, she has an unhappy marriage to her domineering husband Alistair, who only married her to spite Clara, who had refused him previously. Life with the sadistic Alistair is unbearable, with Olivia subjected to horrific abuse at his hands, daily. As a lady with no means of supporting herself, Olivia seems trapped without any means of escape, only finding solace in the company of her sister and friends. But when her dear sister goes mysteriously missing in the bustling streets of Alexandria, it is up to Olivia to try and solve the mystery of her disappearance before it is too late. Full review...

Dunstan: One Man Will Change the Fate of England by Conn Iggulden

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The young Dunstan shows no sign of the sainthood he'll later attain. Son of a Wessex thane and sent to a monastery for education, this isn't a lad who responds to discipline. However an enquiring, intelligent mind begins to emerge and then comes the big break. Lady Elflaed calls to put a proposal to him after hearing about what she considers to be a miracle and the monks consider another in a long line of excuses. Yet Dunstan will outshine all his teachers as well as knowing seven kings and holding responsible positions in their courts, as the book's title suggests. Whether we believe in the miracles or not, Dunstan certainly had quite a life! Full review...

The Hopkins Conundrum by Simon Edge

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Tim Cleverley inherits a failing pub in Wales, which he plans to rescue by enlisting an American pulp novelist to concoct an entirely fabricated mystery about Gerard Manley Hopkins, who composed The Wreck of the Deutschland nearby.

In Victorian England, Gerard Manley Hopkins lives a life full of confusion and contradiction, but discovers a calling for poetry that threatens to overrule his calling to God. And, speaking of God, Five nuns leave persecution to travel to a new world – only to find themselves in more trouble that they could ever have imagined… Full review...

The Shadow Queen by Anne O'Brien

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Born in 1328, Joan of Kent may be of royal blood but she's from a family tainted by treachery. Her father Edmund Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent, was executed for his part in the infamous Montague plot. However Joan has grown up under the protection of her cousin, King Edward III with all the advantages and attributes of a princess. Yet, much to her mother's chagrin, obedience isn't one of these attributes. Joan's head strong feist takes her on a varied journey in life. Having said that, three husbands, five marriages (technically) and a son destined for the English throne means that it's also been one heck of a life! Full review...

The Girls of Ennismore: A Heart-Rending Irish Saga by Patricia Falvey

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Ireland 1900: Ennismore House's young heiress Victoria had hoped that she and Rosie Killeen would be friends forever. Rosie soon comes to know better as there's a social chasm between those who live in the House and those, like Rosie's family, who have been brought up merely to serve them. The days of innocence are coming to an end in many ways. Soon, as the cry for Irish Home Rule becomes louder, there'll be more than steps on society's ladder between them as each must discover their own way in a nation that will never be the same again. Full review...

The Butlins Girls by Elaine Everest

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Fresh-faced Molly Missons has just arrived in Skegness to start her new job as a Butlins auntie. Behind the smiles and confident appearance, she hides a secret; she has taken the job to escape escalating problems at home. She soon finds good friends in her chalet-mates Bunty and Plum, and it turns out that they each have their own reasons for wanting a fresh start. Meanwhile, Molly is shocked to discover that her movie-star crush Johnny Johnson is working as an entertainment adviser at the camp. Is he really as suave as his on-screen persona? And why is he working at the camp anyway? As hidden secrets become discovered, Molly and her new friends face new threats and dangers that may threaten their new-found freedom. Full review...

Blood Forest by Geraint Jones

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Felix. The lucky one. He doesn't feel especially lucky when he staggers out into the grove and finds twelve of his comrades butchered and mutilated in the worst possible ways. He felt even less lucky when the soldiers arrived, Roman cavalry. He might have run, but he knew he'd never make it. He stepped out to face whatever came next. Full review...