Hello lovelies! For this top ten list, I decided to pick one of my favorite genres: historical fictions. And there were so many to choose from! I had to limit myself, so I decided not to include any books about the Holocaust/WWII. (That’ll be a different list in the future!) Apologies if that’s your favorite era! Also, note that I sorted through my books and picked historical fictions that have no magic/supernatural to them, with one exception (mostly because I forgot it wasn’t a straight historical novel). Otherwise, these are straight historical fictions.
With this list, I tried to find historical fictions that were unique in setting, had great characters, and covered somewhat obscure historical events. (That didn’t always hold true, but I tried.) If I didn’t become an English teacher because of my love of books, I would definitely have become a history teacher. I love history so much, and I love seeing it come alive in these books. So take a peek through these, see if anything strikes your fancy! I’ve ordered these roughly from oldest setting to the most recent.
The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
Setting: Wales, 13th century
This was a really interesting read mostly because I knew absolutely nothing about the tension between the English and the Welsh in medieval times. Life was so vastly different between the two sides, and between us now and them. The story alternates between begin told by a Welsh girl and an English girl whose paths cross. Just beware that a lot of the language is authentic old English and Welsh. It made it hard to read sometimes, but again, I knew virtually nothing about this time period going into it.
Newes From the Dead by Mary Hooper
Setting: England, 1650
So this is really interesting from so many angles. Based on a real story of a young woman named Anne Green, this is the tale of young Anne, who was hanged but didn’t die. It was assumed she was dead, but medical science wasn’t exactly at its peak in 1650. The story is told from Anne’s perspective and from the perspective of a young medical student who begins to notice that this body may not actually be dead after all.
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Setting: Philadelphia, 1793
This is all about the yellow fever epidemic that swept the country not long after the Revolutionary War (about a decade later). I really loved the main character, Mattie. She’s got such a great spirit to her. While it does show some of what average life was like in this time period (which happens to be my favorite time period), it’s more about Mattie’s struggle to survive.
Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
Setting: Paris, Late 1800s
I really love the originality of this story. Maude is a young girl who dreams of a better life in Paris and ends up being hired as a repoussoir. Basically, she’s someone who can be hired to make other girls look beautiful because Maude’s ugly. Got your attention yet? There are also socialites and drama, plus lots of historical information on Paris during this time period.
The Luxe (Luxe, #1) by Anna Godberson
Setting: Manhattan, 1899
This is the only historical fiction series I have on this list. Mostly, it’s entirely socialite drama. Two sisters, a backstabbing best friend, and more than a few men who aren’t as faithful as they should be. Still, there is a lot that makes this appealing. For one, gorgeous dresses. I love these dresses. Secondly, between chapters are news snippets of what actual gossip columns would have looked like in the day and quotes from books on how to be a proper lady.
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Setting: London, 1909
Oh, London. I have such a love affair with the history of this city. For the most part, this book deals with women’s suffrage in London during the Edwardian period. It sounds a bit dry when I put it that way, but I swear it’s a good read. It’s also about art, wealth and privilege, and the way women were treated in this time when they fought back against the dominant culture. It’s the most heavily researched book I’ve read in a long time.
The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf
Setting: The Atlantic Ocean, 1912
I am giddy and nearly bouncing in my seat just remembering this book. I’m a big buff for Titanic, and this is without a doubt the best Titanic fiction book I’ve ever read. It’s written in verse, but do not let this stop you. I was wary myself, but it was beautiful. It follows something like 30 different characters and Every. Single. One. has their own personality and flair. It was genius, inspired, and beautiful. I don’t think I will ever find another book quite like this one.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Setting: California, 1918
This is the one except to my “straight historical fiction” rule, but I just couldn’t leave this one off my list. It’s one of my favorites (as if these others haven’t been too!). World War I is just ending, and the Spanish Influenza is destroying the world as they know it. I mean, it has to feel like the apocalypse, right? It also deals with “ghostly” photographs of the time, ones that I’ve seen before on the internet that turn out to be hoaxes. Well, that’s kinda where the supernatural part of this story comes in… Includes real pictures from this time period! (They’re actually kinda scary sometimes.)
Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
Setting: Chicago, 1940s
This is seriously one of the most unique stories on this list. I love dancing, and that’s what caught my eye. But for being set just 70 years ago, I’d never heard of this before. Ruby’s desperate to support her family, but doesn’t want to work in the meat packing plants. (Sinclair’s The Jungle, anyone?) So she gets hired as a taxi dancer, someone who gets paid…wait for it…ten cents a dance. It sounds innocent enough, but apparently this was a highly frowned upon occupation, one that got girls cut off the family tree. Really interesting stuff.
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Setting: New Orleans, 1950
Ruta Sepetys has a way of writing about the most obscure pieces of history that she finds interesting and turning them into amazing stories. For this, she was fascinated by a French Quarter madam. Yes, this book is about a brothel. Josie’s the daughter of a prostitute, but she wants nothing to do with that life. She wants out of New Orleans. There’s actually a really cool mystery in this book as well. And some cute boys…
Any historical fictions I’m missing that I should definitely check out? I’m open to suggestions! (Remember: I’m a history buff!)