Here's a list of historical novels I read over the last year that I highly recommend and which stood out for one reason or another. I read many very good novels last year, so choosing them wasn't easy. I decided to expand the list to 15 titles since narrowing it down to 10 left out too many I wanted to include. I'll have more to say on a few of these books once the full reviews are published elsewhere.
Wishing all of you a happy holiday season and another good year of reading in 2014!
A Wilder Rose - A meticulously researched, insightful look at a fascinating woman, Rose Wilder Lane, that grants her her rightful place as the ghostwriter for her mother's Little House books.
Patricia Bracewell, Shadow on the Crown - The author's skilled use of language and fine sense of dramatic timing brings to life the little-known story of Emma of Normandy, the “peaceweaver” bride of Æthelred II, King of England.
Jessica Brockmole, Letters from Skye - A romantic read set during both world wars that evokes the immediacy and intimacy to be found in the lost art of letter-writing.
Emma Donoghue, Frog Music - The seedy side of 1870s San Francisco features in this original literary mystery in which a French burlesque dancer pursues the killer of her only real friend, pants-wearing frog catcher Jenny Bonnet. Watch for it next April.
The Tilted World - A suspenseful, emotionally moving novel about the Great Flood of 1927 that resurrects this nearly forgotten natural disaster and showcases the talents of both authors, who have won awards for their fiction and poetry, respectively.
Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things - A wonderfully old-fashioned epic, embodying the spirit of the transformative 19th century, that never tones down the intelligence of its scientifically-minded heroine.
Nancy Horan, Under the Wide and Starry Sky - Brimming with the same artistic verve that drives her complicated protagonists, this spectacular literary epic follows the loving, tumultuous partnership of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and his Indiana-born wife, Fanny Osbourne.
Dorothy Love, Carolina Gold - A beautiful evocation of the life of a female rice planter in Reconstruction-era South Carolina who gradually comes to terms with her changing world; based on a true story. Full review to come.
A Treacherous Paradise - The unique historical setting (1905 Mozambique) and courageous heroine distinguish Mankell's suspenseful standalone novel, which depicts the tragic effects of colonialism.
Mary Miley, The Impersonator - In her debut mystery, Miley takes a world that has vanished into the shadows of nearly a century ago – 1920s-era vaudeville – and pulls it back onto center stage.
Shona Patel, Teatime for the Firefly - In this immersive, romantic historical novel, the author's warm storytelling invites readers to the tea plantations of Assam in 1940s India.
Timothy Schaffert, The Swan Gondola - Magical wonders abound in the former frontier town of Omaha as it welcomes visitors to the 1898 World's Fair, and a ventriloquist falls in love with a beautiful traveling actress Look for it next February.
Elisabeth Storrs, The Golden Dice - Recounting the perspective of three women of the warring lands of ancient Etruria and Rome, this second novel in a series (following the excellent The Wedding Shroud) offers a much wider view of the era than the first, and is an even stronger book as a result.
Victoria Wilcox, Inheritance: Southern Son, Book 1, The Saga of Doc Holliday - This first volume in a series reveals John Henry Holliday's little-known origins as a son of the Old South: a sensitive yet hot-tempered young man whose early life, in the hands of this talented storyteller, proves every bit as fascinating as his legend.