Saturday, December 30, 2017

Seventeenth-century England: a recommended reading list

It’s been heartening to see so many people share my interest in 17th-century English settings. A number of recommendations of other titles have been arriving in the comments to my last post and via comments to my Facebook post at the Historical Novel Society public group and elsewhere.

So I thought I’d collate them in a separate post, with credit to everyone involved, along with some additional recommendations of my own.  Thanks to all who offered suggestions, and please let me know if I've missed anything.

The Graham Saga by Anna Belfrage, about “the unrest/ religious persecution that came in the wake of the Restoration through the eyes of a Lowland Scot and his time travelling wife” – via the author. [see on Goodreads]

Pamela Belle’s Wintercombe and its three sequels (Herald of Joy, A Falling Star, Treason’s Gift) – via Mike Shoop. I also highly recommend these sagas about a Somerset family during the English Civil War and after. All were recently reissued via Endeavour Press. [see on Goodreads]

Pamela Belle’s The Herons of Goldhayes trilogy – via me and author Anna Belfrage. These wonderful novels first introduced me to the richness of the 17th century… I read them in high school! [see on Goodreads]

Molly Brown, Invitation to a Funeral – a rollicking historical mystery featuring Aphra Behn – via me. [see on Goodreads]

The Rebel Puritan series by Jo Ann Butler, about Herodias Long, who winds up in Newport, Rhode Island, but whose story begins in England – via the author (and me - I reviewed the first book in 2011). [see on Goodreads]

Susanna Calkins’ early Restoration mysteries – via both Suzanne McGee and Nancy Bilyeau. [see on Goodreads]

The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier, “set in Cornwall during the English Civil War” – via Ingibjörg Ágústsdóttir. [see on Goodreads]

Elizabeth Fremantle’s Stuart-era novels – via Nancy Bilyeau. [see on Goodreads]

Elizabeth Goudge, The Child from the Sea – via me. A biographical novel of Charles II’s first mistress, Lucy Walter. [see on Goodreads]

Robert Graves’ Wife to Mr. Milton – via Brian Wainwright. [see on Goodreads]

J.G. Harlond’s Chosen Man trilogy – via the author. [see on Goodreads]

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’ Morland saga, some of which includes the 17th century – via Sally Archer. [see on Goodreads]

Steel and Lace edited by Francine Howarth, an anthology of 17th- and 18th-century stories – via MJ Logue. [see on Goodreads]

Marci Jefferson, The Girl on the Golden Coin, about Frances Stuart – via me; I reviewed it back in 2014. [see on Goodreads]

Novels by MJ Logue, who “has given voice to an absolutely wonderful cast of Parliamentarian soldiers led by Colonel Hollie Babbitt & this rag-tag band's adventures and misfortunes during the various battles of the Civil War” – via Anna Belfrage. [see on Goodreads]

Olga Morrill’s The Vagabond Quakers (New England, not England) – via Jo Ann Butler. [see on Goodreads]

Annette Motley’s The Quickenberry Tree, an older novel “about the Herons of Heronscourt and how they met the English Civil War” – via Mike Shoop. [see on Goodreads]

Conceit by Mary Novik, about Pegge, daughter of John Donne – via me. [see my review from 2010; see it on Goodreads]

Pillars of Avalon by Katherine Pym, about the settling of Newfoundland by the notorious David Kirke – via Diane Parkinson. Per the author, her novels are written using period language. [see on Goodreads]

Stella Riley’s six novels set in 17th-century England, including A Splendid Defiance – via the author. Her earlier novels are classic romantic epics that were recently reissued. [see on Goodreads]

Christy K. Robinson’s two biographical novels “that began in 1629 England with the Great Migration and ended with the hanging of Mary Barrett Dyer in 1660 New England” – via the author. [see on Goodreads]

The French Mistress, The Countess and the King, and other novels by Susan Holloway Scott – via me. Read my interview with the author.  [see on Goodreads]

The Blackthorn Key series by Kevin Sands – via reader Canadian Lyn. This is a middle-grade historical fantasy/adventure series “about an apothecary's apprentice. It is a combination of the best of Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code.” [see on Goodreads]

Mary Sharratt, Daughters of the Witching Hill, about the women accused during the Pendle witchcraft trials; read my interview with the author, from 2010. [see on Goodreads]

Love and Gravity by Samantha Sotto, a time-slip involving Isaac Newton – via me. [see on Goodreads]

The Guardians of the Crown series by Alison Stuart, which “spans the interregnum and three other stand alone stories from earlier” – via Anna Belfrage and the author. The author also linked to a paper she presented at the HNS Australasia Conference that included a bibliography of English Civil War novels over the last decade. [see on Goodreads]

Deborah Swift’s 17th century novels – via Nancy Bilyeau. The author had written a guest post for this site in 2014 about venturing into teen historical fiction. [see on Goodreads]

Andrew Taylor’s The Ashes of London, “a gripping mystery about the Great Fire of 1666” – via Larry Zuckerman. [see on Goodreads]  Look for the sequel, The Fire Court, out from HarperCollins UK in April 2018.

The novels of Sam Thomas (Midwife Mysteries) – via Nancy Bilyeau. [see on Goodreads]

Rose Tremain, Restoration and Merivel – via me (I reviewed Merivel when it came out). [see on Goodreads]

See also a list I found on Goodreads, “England’s Second Civil War and Restoration."

Best wishes to everyone for a happy 2018 and a good upcoming year of reading! I'll be back with more reviews in January.


  1. Philippa Gregory was at her best with Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth -- a two-volume saga about the botanist John Tradescant and intrigue in the courts of James I and Charles I. Also don't miss Christie Dickason's terrific dualogy, The Firemaster's Mistress and La Principessa, both set during the reign of James I.

    1. Thanks, Kris! I haven't read any of these yet, although they've all been on Mt TBR for many years. I haven't been impressed with Gregory's latest efforts (too repetitive) and had heard that the Tradescant series was much better. I've noted the Dickason series as well!

    2. Anonymous12:55 PM

      Plus Dickason's THE KING'S DAUGHTER,about Elizabeth Stuart aka The Winter queen.

      Sarah Other Librarian

  2. Thank you for this post which I'm saving for the future. Iv e read almost the entire Midland saga as I bought the whole lot in a sale. I loved it so much. I almost cried when I finished the last book.
    Happy New Year.

    1. Happy New Year to you as well! Which one is the Midland saga? I may not be familiar with all the names for the series. Glad you were able to find all of them at once - it's great when that happens.

    2. Anonymous3:45 PM

      Perhaps she means the Moreland Saga?

      Sarah OL

    3. That would make sense since it is really long!

  3. Anonymous12:46 PM

    (hopefully I didn't miss them on the list . . . )CAVALIER QUEEN by Fiona Mountain (who also wrote LADY OF THE BUTTERFLIES)about Henrietta Maria. Nicola Cornick's HOUSE OF SHADOWS is a dual-period novel featuring Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen. Shona/S.G. MacLean, daughter of Alistair, has a 4-volume "Alexander Seaton" series. And for some real oldies, by Margaret Irwin - ROYAL FLUSH, THE PROUD SERVANT, THE BRIDE, AND THE GAY GALLIARD.

    Nancy Goldstone has a group biography out in April, DAUGHTERS OF THE WINTER QUEEN, about Elizabeth Stuart and her four daughters (including the youngest, Sophia of Hanover, who had she lived six more months would have ascended the throne after Queen Anne). I'm enjoying the history; the author's annoying tendency to insert herself and make catty comments - not so much.

    Sarah Other Librarian

    1. I used to love Margaret Irwin's novels, especially The Bride. Somehow I left that off my list of personal recommendations.

      Thanks for the other suggestions, too!

      I've been looking forward to Daughters of the Winter Queen, after seeing it on Edelweiss. That's unfortunate about the catty comments. When I was in library school, I read a bio called Sophie, Electress of Hanover by Maria Kroll and came to believe it was England's loss she didn't live some weeks longer.

    2. Anonymous1:44 PM

      $4.21 at AwesomeBooks for the Kroll book . . . and yes, I got caught up in the story of Louise and Montrose and of course hoped for a different ending. There is also the group bio STUART PRINCESSES by Alison Plowden (1996).

      Sarah OL

    3. That's a great price for the Kroll book...

      Have you ever seen the portraits that Louise painted? They're very good. I'll keep an eye out for the Plowden - looks like a good one to ILL.

    4. Anonymous3:44 PM

      Just found two more books: Leanda de Lisle's THE WHITE KING, a bio of Charles I, was published last fall, and Linda Porter's ROYAL RENEGADES: the Children of Charles I and the English Civil Wars is out next month. If you want to ugly-cry, read Princess Elizabeth's account of the last meeting she had with her father the night before his execution.

      Sarah OL

    5. So the 17th c is hot even in nonfiction. It's about time. I hadn't read about Princess Elizabeth and her father before... that is so sad.

    6. Anonymous9:45 PM

      Now that I think about it, this is the 400th "anniversary" of the 30 Years War, and Elizabeth Stuart the Winter Queen was involved with this. Pretty influential as far as the 17th century went

      Sarah OL

  4. Some other recommendations to add to the 17th list:

    Via author D.M. Denton on Facebook: "I have published two novels set in the 17th centuries A House Near Luccoli (set in late 17th century Genoa) and To A Strange Somewhere Fled, Sequel to A House Near Luccoli (set in late Restoration England). They each take a unique view on the period."

    Also, via me, Tony Hays' Shakespeare No More, a mystery about a friend of Shakespeare's investigating his death in Stratford and London of 1616.

  5. Additional "very readable" 17th-c historical mystery series mentioned by Ward Saylor:

    D. W. Bradbridge - Constable Daniel Cheswis 1640s
    S. J. Deas - William Falkland, investigator for Oliver Cromwell 1640s
    Philip Gooden - Nick Revill, actor with William Shakespeare
    (Elizabethan England) 1600s
    Susanna Gregory - Thomas Chaloner (Restoration London) 1660s
    C. C. Humphreys - gentleman highwayman, William Coke and thief-taker,
    Pitman. 1660s
    Paul Lawrence The Chronicles of Harry Lytle, a rogue (Restoration
    London) 1660s
    M J Lee Samuel Pepys: Investigator 1660s
    Shona MacLean Damian Seeker, Cromwell’s henchman 1650s
    Edward Marston - Christopher Redmayne & Jonathan Bale (Restoration
    England) 1660s
    Fidelis Morgan - Countess Ashby de la Zouche & Apliew (England in the
    reign of William & Mary, late 1600s) 1690s
    Martin Stephen - Henry Gresham, spy 1600s
    Andrew Swanston - Thomas Hill, Mathematician and bookseller 1640s-1660s
    Leonard Tourney - Matthew Stock, Constable (Elizabethan England) 1600s
    L. C. Tyler - John Grey, lawyer 1650s-1660s