One of the great things about reading historical fiction is learning something about real-life characters who came before. And the best historical novels are often inspired by true events and the people who bore witness. The authors can spend months–sometimes even years–researching the time periods to make every detail as accurate as possible. The clothes they wore, the food they ate, the way they traveled and kept in touch with family. It all comes to life in the pages of these novels.
So for everyone who’s ever gone down the Google search rabbit hole upon turning the last page, here are 4 perfect pairings to continue that deep dive into the past.
Historical Fiction Set in the United States
For readers of U.S.-set historical fiction, A Mother’s Promise is an emotional read that will leave you wanting to know more about the legal history of women’s reproductive rights and eugenics. Inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, K.D. Alden’s novel shines a light on this troubling practice and reimagines the case with a different outcome. Then dive deeper with The Unfit Heiress by Audrey Clare Farley, the real-life story of Ann Cooper Hewitt’s legal fight against her mother.
Based on the true story behind a landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decision, K.D. Alden's debut is a rich and moving story of one woman's courage and determination to get her child back when all odds are stacked against her. All Ruth Ann Riley wants is a chance to have a family. But because she was poor and unwed when she became pregnant, she was sent to an institution and her child was given to another woman. Ruth Ann can't stand the thought of never seeing little Annabel's face again, never snuggling up to her warmth or watching her blue eyes crinkle with laughter. And now they want to take away her right to have any other babies? She is not going to let that happen.
A drama of fortunes, eugenics and women's reproductive rights framed by the sordid court battle between Ann Cooper Hewitt and her socialite mother. This riveting story unfolds through the brilliant research of Audrey Clare Farley, who captures the interior lives of these women on the pages and poses questions that remain relevant today: What does it mean to be "unfit" for motherhood? In the battle for reproductive rights, can we forgive the women who side against us? And can we forgive our mothers if they are the ones who inflict the deepest wounds?
Historical Fiction Set in Paris
Readers who can’t get enough of Paris and the sometimes surprising heroes of World War II are in luck because there are so many great reads to choose from. We managed to choose two of our favorite Paris-set novels, The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester and The Paris Apartment by Kelly Bowen, that feature daring women of The Resistance. with two books about some of the real-life women who inspired these characters: Les Parisiennes by Anne Seba and The Wolves at the Door by Judith Pearson.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Orphan comes an unforgettable historical novel about a secret collection of Dior gowns that ties back to the first female pilots of World War II and a heartbreaking story of love and sacrifice. When fashion conservator Kat Jourdan discovers a priceless collection of Dior gowns in her grandmother's vacant cottage she has endless questions about her beloved grandmother. As she delves into the mystery of their origin, Kat begins to doubt everything she thought she knew about her family and her own past.
This heart-wrenching novel about family and war unearths generations of secrets and sacrifices. When Aurelia Leclaire inherits an opulent Paris apartment, she is shocked to discover her grandmother’s hidden secrets—including a treasure trove of famous art and couture gowns. In Paris of 1942 Estelle Allard flourishes in a world separate from the hardships of war. Yet when the Nazis come for her friends, Estelle doesn’t hesitate to help those she holds dear, no matter the cost. Set seventy-five years apart, against a perilous and a prosperous Paris, both Estelle and Lia must summon hidden courage as they navigate the dangers of a changing world, altering history—and their family’s futures—forever.
In Les Parisiennes, New York Times bestselling author Anne Sebba explores a devastating period in Paris's history and tells the stories of how women survived―or didn’t―during the Nazi occupation. When the Nazis and the puppet Vichy regime began rounding up Jews to ship east to concentration camps, the full horror of the war was brought home and the choice between collaboration and resistance became unavoidable. Sebba focuses on the role of women, many of whom faced life and death decisions every day. After the war ended, there would be a fierce settling of accounts between those who made peace with or, worse, helped the occupiers and those who fought the Nazis in any way they could.
Virginia Hall left her Baltimore home in 1931 to enter the Foreign Service. But as Hitler was building toward the peak of his power in Europe, she went to work for the British Special Operations Executive. She was assigned to France, where she became the architect of the Resistance movement in central France, helping escaped prisoners of war, and American Allied paratroopers. This is her true story, and her ONLY biography to include actual information from those brave men who were a part of her spy circuit.
Historical Fiction Set in Greece
Readers of historical fiction set outside of Europe and the U.S., will enjoy Jaclyn Goldis’s When We Were Young. In this debut novel, a Jewish woman unravels some long-held family secrets and had to confront some truths about herself and her future–while also learning about the horror that her grandmother faced in Corfu, Greece when the Nazi’s invaded. Dive deeper into the history of Greek Jews during World War II with Yvette Manessis Corporon’s history of her own family’s experience, Something Beautiful Happened.
Three generations of women come together in this page-turning debut full of family secrets, heart-wrenching drama, and the promise of second chances. In 1942 Corfu, Greece, the Nazis are a distant danger to sixteen-year-old Sarah Batis—of far greater threat is the opposing needs of her heart and her people. Tradition demands that Sarah marry a Jewish man. Only Sarah has fallen in love with a fisherman outside their community. In 2019 Florida, Joey is only days away from marrying the nice Jewish man her family adores when her first love comes back into life forcing her to re-examine everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.
Seventy years after her grandmother helped hide a Jewish family on a Greek island during World War II, a woman sets out to track down their descendants—and discovers a new way to understand tragedy, forgiveness, and the power of kindness in “an engrossing peek into a little-known chapter of World War II, and one family’s harrowing tale of finding the lost pieces of its own history” (Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Liar Temptress Solider Spy).