Thursday, October 08, 2009

A visual preview of the spring season, part two

I'm going to attempt to finish this blog post even though I'm in a hotel room in Peoria, on a little bitty keyboard, after wrapping up a day attending the Illinois Library Association conference. Here are ten more forthcoming historical novels to watch for.

A reimagining of the character of Alcestis, the devoted wife who descended to the underworld in her husband's place; there's more to her story than Greek mythology lets on. The ARC just went out on a list to Historical Novels Review reviewers, and this was the most popular pick. Soho, February.

It's been a little while since we've seen anything new from Morgan Llywelyn, chronicler of Irish history from ancient times through the end of the 20th century. Her Irish Century series, beginning with 1916, is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the struggle for Irish independence. Her latest takes on the story of Brendan the Navigator, an early Irish saint who flourished in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Forge, February.

A historical thriller based on the real-life massacre of Chinese gold miners in Hells Canyon, Idaho Territory, in 1887, a crime ignored by local media -- probably due to the ethnicity of the victims -- and which remains unsolved over a century later. (I notice a nonfiction book on the matter, R. Gregory Nokes's Massacred for Gold, was published by Oregon State Univ Press on October 1st.) "Dana Hand" is the pseudonym for two historians who collaborated on this, their first novel. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February.

In the last preview, we saw one forthcoming historical novel set in colonial Louisiana; here's another. As you can guess, this is a novel-length interpretation of Longfellow's classic poem "Evangeline," in which the title character journeys from Acadia (Nova Scotia) to New Orleans in the mid-18th century in search of her lost fiancé. I'm not sure if this is the final cover, but it's the one in the print catalog. Overlook, March.

Elisabeth McNeill writes about fascinating topics from (mostly) Scottish history that other historical novelists, for some unknown reason, have neglected. Fantastic Fiction has a nice bibliography, with covers. Her earliest novels were British sagas, but her more recent works have used major historical events as backdrops. The Heartbreaker is a novel of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the woman who helped him escape, Flora MacDonald, and sees what happens to each in their later lives. Severn House, January.

Continuing the 16th-century trend, here's a historical thriller set on the Oxford campus during Elizabethan times, with Italian monk Giordano Bruno as an undercover detective spying for the Queen. Per the Euro Crime blog, Heresy is first in a trilogy written by British journalist and literary critic Stephanie Merritt under a pseudonym. It's aimed at fans of C.J. Sansom. Doubleday (US) and HarperCollins (UK), March.

Does anyone else remember the author's first novel, Grange House, an elegant gothic novel set in 19th-century Maine? (My review, nine years old now, is here, and if you go for novels about creepy haunted houses and family secrets, you'll likely enjoy it too.) The Postmistress is a novel of two women during World War II, a postmistress on Cape Cod and a radio broadcaster in London, and the long-held secrets that erupt when their lives intersect. Putnam, February.

Mitchell's Chateau of Echoes took me on a journey to a 15th-century chateau in Brittany, as seen in both medieval and modern times. Her next novel is set amidst the upper classes in the late 19th century, as a young debutante discovers the fickle nature of high society. Bethany House, April.

If you wouldn't normally choose western or early 20th century locales but enjoy novels about women's lives at earlier points in history, give one of Dallas's novels a try. Whiter than Snow takes place in 1920 in the small mountain town of Swandyke, Colorado, following a deadly avalanche. April, St. Martin's.

Inspired by a controversial court case found in records from 1899 California, Moran's debut novel dramatizes the unintentional bigamy of Henry Oades, having married his second wife after believing his first wife and their children had been killed back in New Zealand. The author's website has more details on the storyline and background. Ballantine, February; UK rights went to HarperCollins.


  1. Evangeline looks interesting. Love New Orleans. :)

  2. I am so there for the Evangeline book! (I love in Nova Scotia and am well aware of the poem!)

  3. I am so glad I found your blog! I am always looking for new historical books to read especially those set in 1800 to 1914 time span!

  4. I will have to look into both French novels you mention. Sound right up my alley!

  5. Whiter Than Snow looks like the perfect winter read. It's ironic that I just got back from Lafayette, Lousiania, the heartland of Evangeline country. I'll look for that novel, too.

    Thanks, Sarah.

  6. Will be interesting to see what Morgan Llywelyn does with St Brendan's story.

  7. Love, love, love this blog and will visit often now I've found it.
    All the very best,

  8. Thank you all for your comments!

  9. A new Morgan Llywelyn book? (gasp of delight) Must have it!

  10. Thanks, I think! I can't keep up with all these great sounding books-- I need to retire so I can fit more reading in :)

    Elisabeth McNeill seems rather neglected. She's written a book about the charismatic James IV of Scotland, called "Flodden Field" and also one about Mary, Queen of Scots, called 'Blood Royal", but I haven't seen any comment about them around the internet. Have you by any chance read either of them?

  11. The Sarah Blake novels sound just like my kind of books. I've just added them to my growing wish list!

  12. Ohhhh.. I LOVE the cover of Heresy.

  13. I'm just back from vacation and see I've been shockingly delinquent in my blog posting/commenting.

    Annis, I haven't read either of the two Elisabeth McNeill books you mentioned, but I've read a couple of her earlier sagas (Lark Returning was quite good). The latest ones are all from library publisher Severn House (and expensive!). I haven't heard much about them besides reviews in library publications, which have been quite positive.