Allende is prolific: her earliest works might be considered modern classics, yet her recent releases feel fresh. This sweeping epic begins on a stormy day in 1920. The titular heroine is born in the midst of the Spanish Flu—and tumultuous times have just begun for her family. Told in epistolary form, this novel almost reads like a juicy autobiography, following Violeta’s love affairs, heartbreaks, and responses to historical events. If you’ve never read any Allende, you can absolutely start here, then work your way back to see how she’s influenced the historical fiction genre.
Former lawyer Marie Benedict quit her prestigious firm to investigate a different kind of case: the hidden histories of remarkable heroines. She writes about women who quietly contributed to some of history’s greatest discoveries and victories, sharing stories of librarians, scientists, politician’s wives, and movie stars. Her recent research brought her to Rosalind Franklin, a brilliant scientist whose work revealed essential information about the double helix and our DNA. There’s no need for a background in biology to enjoy this read: an interest in history and the course of humankind is enough for Benedict to hook you with her expert storytelling.
- by Hannah Kent
Burial Rites author Kent crafts a poetic coming of age story, a meditation on nature and religion, and a sweeping setting in her latest novel based on the historical emigration of German Lutherans to Austalia. Fifteen year old Hanne loves nothing more than exploring the Prussian wilderness with her friends, but her world is upended when her family is forced to flee. After years of worshiping in secret, her Old Lutheran community finds new life in Australia, where they can openly follow their religious traditions. While her village rejoices, Hanne and her dearest friend experience tensions on the long journey away from home. Told in exquisite prose, this quiet novel weaves a touch of magical realism into a tale of freedom and friendship.
I’m still recommending Karen Joy Fowler’s 2013 novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves for lovers of compulsively readable literary fiction, so I can’t wait to sample her newest work, an epic exploration of John Wilkes Booth (yes, THAT Booth!) and his fascinating family. Fathered by a formerly celebrated and now reclusive Shakespearean actor, John and his siblings grow up in rural Maryland as the Civil War approaches. Later, the Booths leave farm life behind for theatrical fame—and eventually, the shameful notoriety of their brother’s actions. This new historical novel is richly detailed and darkly observant, perfect for fans of Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.
We love a literary mystery here at Modern Mrs Darcy! This novel begins when recently divorced poet Amani finds a curious poem tucked between the pages of her father’s book. Written by her grandmother, the lines spark Amani’s curiosity and send her on a journey to her family's homeland of Jordan, where her Uncle, a royal advisor, still resides. Once there, Amani and her father encounter increasing danger as they uncover lost secrets and royal intrigue, while Amani also attempts to learn more about the origins of her grandmother's mysterious poem. The plot, which is loosely based on King Lear and Arthurian legends, is intriguing, but the backdrop of 1990s politics even more so.
- by Kate Quinn
Every time I think I’ve read enough WWII fiction, Kate Quinn drops another novel—and I can't resist! In this new novel, a bookish single mother turns deadly sniper. Known as Lady Death, main character Mila travels from the battlefields of Ukraine to the shiny political hub of Washington DC on a goodwill, post-war tour. Despite grappling with trauma, Mila makes new friends—including Eleanor Roosevelt—but her comfort is short-lived when a deadly enemy emerges and sends her back to battle. I have a bookmark in my print copy but I intend to shift to audio; this is how I've enjoyed Quinn's books in the past as Saskia Maarleveld does a fantastic job narrating the unputdownable stories rooted in historical fact.
- by Jane Green
You might recognize Jane Green’s name from over 20 contemporary fiction titles; this is her first book based on a true story, and it’s perfect for fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid. I’d never heard of the book’s subject before now: Talitha Getty was a Dutch actress and socialite in the 1960s who dazzled expats in London and Morocco with salons full of art, music, and new ideas. Enter fictional character Claire, who crosses paths with Talitha and finds herself in a swirl of counterculture, glamor, and friendship. But Talitha’s charmed life isn’t all it seems, and the closer Claire gets to the stunning icon, the more she sees a darkness beneath the beautiful exterior. Friendship gone wrong, dangerous secrets, and a transportive setting set this up to be an essential summer escape.
This cover is begging for a spot on a beach house bookshelf or a summertime library display. In this multigenerational family saga, Trigiani introduces us to the hardworking Cabrelli family, who have lived for generations in an Italian coastal town. A poignant epigraph introduces the first part of the family story: "Let whoever longs to attain eternal life in heaven heed these warnings: When considering the past, contemplate these things: The evil done; The good left undone; The time wasted." Its meaning is slowly revealed over the course of the novel, which employs an interesting structure to portray a series of strong women and the choices they made—or chose to avoid—through the decades. Aside from the gorgeous cover, well-drawn characters and a stunning seaside setting makes this an attractive summer read for those interested in its themes of identity, legacy, and redemption.
Last year Bohjalian's historical novel Hour of the Witch was a delightful surprise. I didn't know I was longing for a novel about the Puritans until I picked it up—and couldn't put it down! Bohjalian delivers another atmospheric story laden with danger and mystery in his new historical thriller set in the Serengeti, where Hollywood starlet Katie Barstow and her husband have invited a crowd of A-list friends to join them on an African safari for their honeymoon. The guests expect to enjoy pampering, glamour, and exploits that will make delicious cocktail conversation at Hollywood parties, but their lavish getaway becomes a waking nightmare when they're kidnapped by Russian emissaries. This stylish mystery has serious Agatha Christie vibes, but I can't say I found the ending satisfying.
- by Fiona Davis
Fiona Davis builds intriguing novels based on true stories, with rich detail about the iconic buildings around which they take place. Our readers adored The Lions of Fifth Avenue and continue to gush about Davis’s absorbing historical settings with each new release. If you’ve ever visited the Frick Museum and gaped at the opulent rooms filled with Gilded Age art, you’ll want to pick up her latest story revolving around the Frick family and their high stakes drama. Weaving secret messages, murder, and museum curation together in dual timelines from 1919 and the 1960s, this book is a historical mystery lover’s dream.