Newest Historical Fiction Reviews

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The Phoenix of Florence by Philip Kazan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Deep in the Tuscan countryside of fifteenth century Italy, Onoria survives a massacre that destroys her family and home. Alone in the forest, she meets a band of soldiers who, believing her to be a boy train and develop her – and the determined Onoria becomes a mercenary – desperate to avoid any situation in which she may feel vulnerable again. Along the way, she meets ex-soldier Celavini, whose journey to Florence sees him investigating two brutal murders. As he digs further and uncovers links to his own family history, Celavini must revisit the past he shares with Onoria, in the hope that they can lay the ghosts of their shared history to rest, before it's too late... Full Review

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Deviation by Luce d'Eramo and Anne Milano Appel (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Autobiography, Historical Fiction

For those of you who have read books of life in the Nazi camps – and of course, for those of you who have not – this can be considered a next step. It begins, after all, with someone escaping Dachau and fleeing her work assignment during a bombing raid, and you'd not blame her one minute, as her career was deemed to be cess-tank cleaner and sewage unblocker by the Germans. In Munich, she stumbles on help to get her to what seems to be a camp for non-native civilians to look for work, or company, or transport elsewhere, either official or otherwise. But then the next chapter sees her going back into the camp next to Dachau once more, and by then eyebrows are being raised. Full Review

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The Count of 9 by Erle Stanley Gardner

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime, Historical Fiction

The Count of 9 is a hardboiled detective story written in the 1950s. It revolves around the detective duo of Donald Lam and Bertha Cool as they attempt to solve the theft of priceless Bornean artefacts. However, their case quickly turns into something darker - an impossible murder. Full Review

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The Hidden by Mary Chamberlain

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

When Barbara Hummel arrives, determined to identify the mysterious woman whose photograph she has found among her mother's possessions, Dora and Joe find their worlds upended – and are swiftly forced to confront their pasts. Revisiting their time on the Channel Islands during World War II, Dora remembers a time when she concealed her Jewish identity, and Joe, a Catholic Priest, remembers a time when he hid something very different. In this story of love, loss and betrayal, it remains to be seen whether a speck of light can diffuse the darkest shadows of war… Full Review

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The Turn of Midnight by Minette Walters

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction

At the beginning of 1349 there is a glimmer of a hope that the ravages of the Black Death might be passing. In Devilish in Dorset the population is well, because of Lady Anne's strict rules about quarantine, which are regarded as heresy as they go against the strict rules of the church, but their stores of food are dwindling and they know that when they are exhausted they will have no choice but to leave. What will they find on the outside? Are they the only survivors? Full Review

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Frieda by Annabel Abbs

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Married to English Professor Ernest Weekley, aristocrat Frieda Von Richtofen finds herself stifled by the confines of married life. Visiting family in Munich, she becomes captivated by the ideas of revolution and free love. Meeting the penniless writer D.H. Lawrence, she finds herself drawn into a passionate affair and a tempestuous relationship, changing the course of both their lives, and unleashing a creative outpouring that will change the course of literature forever. Full Review

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House of Glass by Susan Fletcher

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Clara suffered from Osteogenesis imperfecta: these days it would probably be called brittle bone disease and whilst there is still no cure, treatments have advanced. At the beginning of the twentieth century it meant that Clara was confined to her home, living life through a window and the tales her mother, Charlotte, brought home. Both became far too knowledgeable about bones and the sounds they made on breaking. Charlotte would list bones like continents. Clara would only escape the house after her mother's death - of a tumour at the age of thirty nine - and in her wanderings discovered Kew Gardens. Her growing knowledge of tropical plants led to the offer of a job stocking a newly-built glass house at Shadowbrook in Gloucestershire. Full Review

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Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Thrillers, Historical Fiction, Paranormal

Flitting between the present day and mid 16thcentury, Bellewether tells the fascinating tale of the Wilde House and all its inhabitants. In the present tense aspects, the Wilde House is being turned into a museum due to the legacy left by Captain Benjamin Wilde. It is told from the perspective of Charley, the museum curator, who is intrigued by the ghost who haunts the house and their story; a tale that ends in tragedy involving Benjamin Wilde's sister, Lydia, and a French-Canadian lieutenant, Jean-Philippe who was sent to live there. The perspective of the book is continuously shifted between Charley, then Lydia and Jean-Philippe. The latter two tell the truth about what was happening during this chaotic time in history, just as Charley is beginning to unravel it herself. Full Review

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A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Thrillers, Historical Fiction

When Inspector Inès Picaut is called to investigate the horrific murder of a strikingly beautiful elderly lady, she's puzzled – whilst the identity of the woman has been erased, it's clear that she has been killed in the same way that traitors to the resistance were executed in World War Two. Solving the mystery will lead Inès deep into the history of this woman – and back to a time when the men and women of 1940s France were engaged in a desperate, brutal fight for survival against their Nazi oppressors. As more and more secrets come to light, Inès discovers that there are many in the present who would rather their past stay buried – and many who would kill to keep secrets safe… Full Review

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Murmuration by Robert Lock

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Murmuration follows the lives of a host of characters from 1863 to the present day. From a risqué comic to a fortune teller, we see the birth of Blackpool and its steadily fading glamour. There is a hint of mysticism to the tale, with the mesmerising dance of starlings over the pier acting as an anchor throughout the distinct narratives here, drawing together disparate stories of lives captivated by the sea. Full Review

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The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H Winthrop

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction

In an isolated Louisiana town, a young black prisoner sits in his dingy cell, staring at the shadow of the window bars cast onto the concrete wall by the evening's dying sun rays. At midnight, he will be dead; strapped to a chair and electrocuted for the rape of a white girl, who later committed suicide. He is resigned to his fate; it is futile to protest his innocence or to expect anyone to believe what really happened; after all, love between a black man and a white woman was never going to have a happy ending in a small town filled with small-minded people. Full Review

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A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Paranormal, Thrillers, Historical Fiction

Witchcraft, the supernatural and the will to survive at all costs collide in a story that never shies away from the darker side of human nature. The land is unhappy, the old spirits want revenge and famine is kindling a resurgence of the old faith. As fear rises, it is increasingly difficult for Prioress Johanne to ignore that something rotten has taken root. The sacred well is tainted, its healing waters run red with blood and strangers are blowing in on a wind of change. Full Review

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Mr Peacock's Possessions by Lydia Syson

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction, General Fiction

On a remote volcanic island off the coast of New Zealand, a family of settlers struggle to make such an unforgiving place a home. When a ship appears, they feel that their wishes have been granted and their community reinvigorated – but high hopes are swiftly dashed when a vulnerable boy disappears. As both settlers and newcomers come together in the search for the child, they uncover far, far more than they were looking for – discovering dark secrets about both the island and those who inhabit it. Full Review

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The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime, Thrillers, Historical Fiction

Audrey, a complex mix of flights of fancy and seriousness, wanting, needing, to be more than what everyone expects of her, escapes from the straightjacket of her home. Where every action, every thought, every yearning is controlled by her father, who only once in his life threw caution to the wind and married way beneath him for love. Now a widower and remarried, he has rigorously returned to upholding what is right, what is proper, the bastion of doing what is expected. Full Review

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The Butcher's Daughter by Victoria Glendinning

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction

The Tudor era is often chosen for historical fiction because it has such a wealth of intrigue, plots and machinations. The regular cast of courtly characters are usually rich and powerful, with so many to choose from that the well never seems to run dry and the characters are often those high up in the circles of power, or those prepared to do anything to get there. This book, however, is totally different. Set in the mid–to–late 1500s we see the world through the eyes of Agnes Peppin, a young, poor woman. As a woman she can either marry, or join a convent. Since Agnes has disgraced herself then she has no choice at all, and she is sent to join the nuns of Shaftesbury Abbey. Full Review

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Silence in the Desert by David Longridge

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction, Thrillers

As the shadow of the Second World War descends upon the planet, four people are explored in a tale of love and friendship. Henri, fulfilling a family tradition in joining the Foreign Legion, Bill, arriving at Cambridge on an RAF scholarship, Leo, struggling to align his beliefs with those of his upbringing, and Elisabeth, crossing continents and changing names are all brought together by strife and turmoil. As the war rages, these men are tested like never before, with trust, loyalty and love leading to decisions that affect both their lives and those all around them. Full Review

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Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction

When it comes to Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII, popular opinion is divided. Some see her as a scheming marriage-wrecker from an ambitious family who would stop at nothing to gain favour in the king's eyes. Others view her as a pious and God-fearing woman who brought calm and stability into Henry's life following his turbulent marriage to Anne Boleyn. Perhaps both sides are true, to an extent. In The Haunted Queen, the third book in the Six Tudor Queens series, author and historian Alison Weir puts flesh on the bones of a Queen haunted by the shadow of a formidable predecessor. Full Review

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In Gold's Name by Marcus Dalrymple

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction

It was about 1509 when a series of mystical events foreshadowed the end of the Aztec Empire and the inhabitants were to some extent conditioned to accept the pale faces who arrived many years later with their deer-without-antlers. Some thought the Spaniards were gods. Antonio Vega was no god, but he was essentially a decent man, particularly by the standards of the time. He was the finest marksman with his harquebus on the force, but at the age of twenty three he believed that the expedition in October 1520 was to establish trade links and to convert the local inhabitants to Christianity from the local religions which required human sacrifices. He'd joined the army from a seminary and whilst you wouldn't call him naive, he'd failed to appreciate that 'establishing trade links' meant finding and removing the Aztec gold and that any conversion would not be by winning hearts and minds but by threats and torture. Full Review

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The Industry of Human Happiness by James Hall

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction, Thrillers

The Industry of Human Happiness first and foremost is a novel about music. It is about human beings being able to find music and magic in the simplest of places. Max and his younger cousin have realised their dream of opening a gramophone company. However, their ambition and hubris soon puts them on a course towards London's underworld. They will ascend broken and their lives changed forever. Full Review

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The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction

Jon Michael Varese's debut novel was inspired by the life story of the real-life father of spirit photography, William H. Mumler. His fictional stand-in here is Edward Moody, who was a battlefield photographer under Matthew Brady and now owns his own photography studio in Boston. Moody is dismissive of spiritualism, yet considers himself to be doing a service to the bereaved by fabricating family photographs in which the ghost of a departed loved one appears. This involves getting hold of an image of the loved one and superimposing it on the negative being developed, so that it seems to appear hazily in the background. Looking back from today's high-tech perspective, it's hard to see how anyone could have been fooled, but suffering people in desperate situations often want to believe; the same goes for séances. Full Review