Best historical fiction books: from detective novels to romantic tomes

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So you are done Bridgerton, inhaled Julia Quinn’s original book series and looted Austen – what now?

As new novelist Sarah the Duchess of York can tell you, historical fiction is addictive once you get there. So we’ve scoured our shelves to bring you a selection of titles that will help get you through those dull winter months in the blink of an eye.

While some of these are part of larger series – and therefore all the better for gorging on later – standalone ones should also point you to authors with earlier catalogs that are worth studying.

For the sake of space, we’ll assume you know Hilary Mantel Wolves Room series backwards and recite passages from Beloved by Toni Morrison every night before bed.

If not, please add them to your list immediately.

In the meantime, here’s our pick of the best historical fiction books, curated and ready for the minute you need a fix.

We were looking for captivating writing that would bring to life a period distant from the author’s time, which in turn would help the reader forget where he is.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commissions from some retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real world testing and expert advice. These revenues help fund journalism through The independent.

‘The Grand Sophy’ by Georgette Heyer, published by Cornerstone

Don’t be put off by the chocolaty wrapping of the wrapper: Inside Heyer’s extensive catalog is some incredibly clever writing that’s as tasty as, well, chocolates. One of the most popular writers of the early 20th century (at one point her books sold half a million copies each), Heyer specialized in Regency romances with dashing heroes. and piquant intrigues. Its army of devotees has its own favorites, but we defend The Grand-Sophie, a good catchy read that will be particularly pleasant to Bridgerton viewers, combining as he does the meaning and style of Lady Danforth, the gossip of Lady Whistledown and the permanent glimmer of scandal that binds it all together.

When “Cousin Sophy” comes to stay, the struggling Rivenhall family expects something dear and sweet. Instead, they get a competent, independent problem-solver who knocks them all down, much to the chagrin of the Rivenhall heir and his dreadful fiancee. Imagine Mary Poppins without the snobby attitude, plus a large private income and several horses. A joy.

“The Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks, published by HarperCollins

This gripping tale of a Pennine village quarantining itself against the plague of 1666 might strike too close to some readers right now (Brooks’ starting point was a true isolated Derbyshire village for the greater good), but those who persevere will be rewarded with the kind of book that makes you forget what you were doing and what time it was.

Anna is the maid of the charismatic rector of the village and his wife, with whom she forms a bond as they try to care for the sick. As the village dissolves into accusations of witchcraft and worse, Anna discovers that her house holds many secrets.

Brooks reinvented several other historical and literary events, the most famous in 2005 March – a view of Little woman repeated from Mr. March’s point of view.

“The wages of sin” by Kaite Welsh, published by Headline

Kaite Welsh was inspired to write her Sarah Gilchrist series after studying at the University of Edinburgh and seeing a plaque to one of her early medical students. In this exhilarating and carefully detailed thriller, her heroine Gilchrist is placed in this role, facing the acrimony of her teachers, fellow doctors and students. Welsh’s clever role has a lot in common with Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart, as, in addition to being on her own on a professional level, she is soon trained to solve a crime that no one else cares to notice, and herself. in turn finds herself embroiled in a murderous crime. underground world.

Welsh’s excellent books (a sequel followed) eschew non-contemporary feminism, but the anger that pulsates beneath her writing shines through in Gilchrist’s attempts to live a useful life despite opposition from all sides.

‘The Confessions of Frannie Langton’, by Sara Collins, published by Viking

Bridgerton It may have been comfortable for you, but unless you looked with closed ears you will have noticed that there was a lot of darkness behind the sparkling fabric choices. Collins’ astonishing Gothic debut, which takes place just after the Regency Era, confronts said darkness head-on, tackling slavery both in its monstrous form and in the distinguished salons of those who derive from it. remote money. Frannie is a slave on a Jamaican plantation, whose owner gives her her last name and forces her to participate in her terrible experiments on Africans.

Later brought to England, Frannie becomes the servant of a couple who is murdered. Frannie is charged with the crime but cannot remember the night it happened. Stabilize your heart rate for this one; it was fantastic read that established Collins as an addicting writer of great skill.

‘Sharpe’s Enemy’ by Bernard Cornwell, published by Harper Collins

Bernard Cornwell is famous for learning to plot by taking apart other books and seeing what makes them work – but the flair that characterizes his work is entirely his. You could blindfold a dart at his bibliography and find something extremely enjoyable to read (an adapted version of his The last kingdom series is currently available to watch on Amazon prime) but its Sharpe The series, about a gifted Napoleonic war soldier rising through the ranks after saving Wellington’s life, is one for which he is best known and loved.

Sharpe’s enemy is the 15th book in the series, but a fantastic intro, chock-full of characteristic Cornwell villainy, cunning intrigue, and women who do more than simplify in ruffled skirts. If the sea is more your game, try the excellent Patrick O’Brian Master and Commander series.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez, published by Jonathan Cape

Some people hate A hundred years of loneliness, and these people are wrong. This dream of a book takes history and the real world and ensures that they rarely meet together, with Marquez providing his own magical reality for seven generations of the Buendía family and the city they are building, Macondo.

Time doesn’t pass for Macondo like the rest of us, but the story is told in such an ordinary way that the magic becomes mundane. It’s a little hard to keep track of Buendia’s endless threads, but you get used to it. Just lie back, enjoy Marquez’s captivating writing, and let history repeat itself around you.

Kim Newman’s ‘Anno Dracula’ Posted by Titan

Few people have more fun with history than Kim Newman, the traveling encyclopedia and film journalist behind so many novels and non-fiction books, as well as Mark Kermode’s BBC Four documentaries. In its long run Anno dracula series, Newman gleefully hijacks history (and literature) for his own ends. And thanks to his imagination of a world in which literary figures run wild – in this first book, the widowed Queen Victoria marries Count Dracula – he’s blissfully lawless and relentlessly entertaining. The series covers eras ranging from the Victorian era to the late ’90s, so whatever your historical itch is, you’ll find a book guaranteed to scratch it.

‘The Signature of All Things’ by Liz Gilbert, published by Bloomsbury

A million posh jaws have fallen to the ground on reading this exceptionally enjoyable and skillfully written novel by “the Eat Pray Love woman. ”Gilbert takes the reader on a 19th century South American trip to Tahiti on a nature science exhibit, while asking the reader subtle questions about whether a little life is worth less than a life in the air. free.

In the last century, heiress Alma Whittaker would have taken her place as a great scientific mind, but, born in 1800, she is doomed to be ignored for the benefit of men. This epic story of sexual and scientific discovery is as detailed and beautiful as the plants that Alma dedicates much of her life to understanding.

The Verdict: Historical Fiction

Georgette Heyer invented the novel Regency – many have tried to imitate her, but her combination of wit and style is unbeatable. Come for The Grand Sophy, stay for Heyer’s vast and formidable back-catalog.

If you want more of the hit period drama, explore the books behind Bridgerton

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