Historical Fiction
The Kitchen House

The Kitchen House

I was warned this beautiful and heartbreaking story would suck me right in and it certainly did. The year is 1791, and an orphaned Irish girl is brought to a Virginia plantation as an indentured servant and makes her home among the slaves. The story is told alternately by the orphan Lavinia and 17-year-old Belle, the half-white illegitimate daughter of the plantation owner, who becomes Lavinia's de facto mother figure. The story keeps a brisk pace, propelled forward by rape, corruption, lynching, and occasionally, love. Whether you've already read it or are thinking about it, don't miss Kathleen Grissom talking about how this story came to be on episode 78 of What Should I Read Next.

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Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley

This mystery is set on the grounds of Pemberley, five years or so after the marriages of Darcy and Elizabeth, Bingley and Jane. The plot revolves around Wickham this time. Book club highlight: how James paints the Darcys marriage, 5 years later.

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Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

When I got together with a bunch of writers recently we all talked about how much we loved Susan Meissner. Her most recent novel, published November 2015, begins in modern-day times when a distinctive green velvet hat is mistakenly dropped off for resale at a vintage clothing shop. The hat is instantly recognizable as one that Scarlett O'Hara wore in Gone with the Wind; it disappeared during filming and hasn't been seen since. Of course the hat has a long, strange history, and Meissner takes us back in time to 1938 Hollywood, where two young friends are trying to make it in Tinseltown, each in their own way. This isn't my favorite Meissner novel, but it's a solid one, and Gone with the Wind fans won't want to miss it.

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The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife

This is the fictionalized account of Hemingway’s first marriage to Hadley Richardson. The setting—mostly Jazz-Age Paris—is dreamy; the marriage, less so. We all know how this ends: badly. And yet, towards the end of his life Hemingway said, “I wished I had died before I loved anyone but her.” Book club highlight: Hemingway, that dirty dog.

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Along the Infinite Sea

Along the Infinite Sea

This was my first Williams novel about the sprawling Schuyler clan but it won't be my last. The author tracks the same characters through her loosely connected novels, which provides an interesting layer of interest but doesn't require the reader to read them in order. In this novel, Williams hones in on Pepper Schuyler, the spunky iconoclast who delights in rocking the boat and doesn't mind making her own path, which is how she ends up holed up in Palm Beach, restoring a very fancy, very expensive vintage Mercedes. The car brings another strong woman into her life: the mysterious Annabelle, who pays a fortune for the car because it's the one that carried her family to safety when they fled Nazi Germany thirty years prior. The sale is just the beginning of their relationship, and as the story unfolds we find out just what happened to Annabelle during WWII, and how Pepper is going to extricate herself from her own current mess.

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Zelda: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

$8.99$2.99

An intimate look at the life Zelda Fitzgerald may have lived with Scott Fitzgerald and the rest of the Lost Generation. Though she’s often known as nothing more than Fitzgerald’s crazy wife (thanks largely to Hemingway), this fascinating and heartbreaking novel casts Zelda in a more sympathetic light. Book club highlight: what is truth, and what is fiction?

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Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Among shelves full of WWII historical novels, this tale of four young, warm, wise-cracking friends in wartime England still gets a lot of backlist love from our readers. Through his characters, Cleave throws issues of wartime morality, race, and class into sharp relief. Cleave's writing perfectly matches the story, and it all feels so real—maybe because Cleave based his novel on his own grandparents' experiences, or because he put himself on war rations while writing to better experience London during the Blitz? This is for you if you love a great story and admire a beautifully-rendered, wry turn of phrase. More info →
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The Cartographer of No Man’s Land: A Novel

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land: A Novel

$9.99$1.99

When his wife’s beloved brother goes missing in World War I, a Nova Scotian artist seizes the opportunity to join the Canadian forces as a cartographer, serving safely behind the lines in London. But when he gets to Europe, he’s instead sent directly into battle—and that’s just the beginning of his dangerous and confusing circumstances. A thought-provoking debut.

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Glory over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House

Glory over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House

$11.99$1.99Audiobook: 12.99 (Whispersync)

This thrilling novel is a dream come true for fans of The Kitchen House but it stands just fine on its own. Jamie Pyke is a man with a dangerous secret. He's been living far from his plantation home in the relative safety of Philadelphia, but when the son of a dear friend is captured by slave traders and sold down to Virginia, he risks everything to set off in pursuit of him. Grissom's rich characters practically leap off the page. Pair with The Gilded Years for a fascinating combo. Published April 5 2016.

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Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall

A hefty, believable, meticulously researched fictional take on Tudor England in the Cromwell era. Cromwell is one of the more mysterious characters of history, and Mantel does a solid job of filling in the blanks. The readers with great taste I rely on for recommendations are split on this one: some love it, some hate it. Either way, this 2009 Man Booker Prize winner is widely praised for its inventiveness. I picked a beautiful red copy up at a library book sale a few years ago and its been mocking me from my shelves ever since: I'm hoping to knock it off this summer.

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The Gilded Years

The Gilded Years

The publisher calls this Passing meets The House of Mirth. Tanabe's new historical novel is based on the fascinating true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black women to graduate from Vassar College, who passed as white to gain admittance. Set in turn-of-the-century New York, Anita's life becomes a lot more exciting—and a lot more dangerous—when her new assigned roommate belongs to one of New York City's most prominent families, and drags Anita into a new and glamorous world. But nothing means more to Anita than Vassar: she must keep her secret or she'll be expelled. As she desperately tries to straddle two worlds, she edges ever closer to losing not only her education, but the people she loves most. Publication date June 7 2016.

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