Thursday, April 28, 2022

Twelve intriguing historical fiction debuts for 2022

In the publishing world, debuts command a lot of attention. Media outlets appreciate hearing about new voices and learning what these authors bring to their chosen genre and to literature in general. Readers get introduced to new authors whose careers may be worth following. With this in mind, below are twelve works of historical fiction written by first novelists, with settings ranging from medieval times through the 20th century.  (Look out for a subsequent post focusing on second novels.)

The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

Promoted as Mexican Gothic meets Rebecca, The Hacienda is suspenseful Gothic fiction set around a (literally) haunted house in 1820s Mexico, at the time of the country's war for independence. Berkley, May 2022.  [see on Goodreads

Beheld by Christopher M. Cevasco

Christopher Cevasco, former publisher of the historical-speculative magazine Paradox (I was a longtime subscriber), debuts with Beheld: Godiva's Story, a dark re-imagining of the legend of Lady Godiva (Godgyfu) and her naked ride through the town of Coventry in the 11th century. Lethe Press, April 2022. [see on Goodreads]

Theatre of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth

Theatre of Marvels is Lianne Dillsworth's debut about a young mixed-race actress from London's East End confronting issues of identity and violence against women in Victorian times. Harper, April 2022. [see on Goodreads]

Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Kali Fajardo-Anstine's first novel Woman of Light is described as a multigenerational western saga about an indigenous Chicano family and their ancestral stories, set in the 1930s and earlier; the heroine, Luz Lopez, is a tea-leaf reader who sees visions of those who came before her. One World, June. [see on Goodreads]

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Bonnie Garmus's debut is currently on the NYT bestseller list, an impressive feat! Lessons in Chemistry takes on 1960s-era misogyny with sly humor via the tale of a scientist, Elizabeth Zott, who becomes the star of a cooking show and develops an avid following.  Doubleday, April 2022. [see on Goodreads]

The Book of Everlasting Things by Aanchal Malhotra

Aanchal Malhotra's debut is a multi-layered novel about art, politics, and cross-cultural romance, set against the backdrop of the struggle for Indian independence and the subsequent Partition in the 1930s-40s. Flatiron, December 2022. [see on Goodreads]

The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers

The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers delves into the lives of the bigwigs in North Carolina's tobacco industry in the '40s. A young seamstress notices increasing health problems among their wives (her clients) and faces a difficult choice; should she speak up? William Morrow, March 2022. [see on Goodreads]

I Am Not Your Eve by Devika Ponnamballam

The lead title from UK publisher Bluemoose for 2022, Devika Ponnambalam's debut novel takes the historical figure Teha’amana, the young teenage bride of painter Paul Gauguin in late 19th-century Tahiti, seeing events from her viewpoint. A story of identity, art, and colonialism. Bluemoose, March 2022. [see on Goodreads]

The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn

This coming-of-age epic spans from the post-WWI period through occupied France in WWII and follows a girl and her eccentric family on a large Dorset estate as she grows up and finds her own place in the world. Knopf, October 2022.  [see on Goodreads]

Mademoiselle Revolution by Zoe Sivak

The French Revolution and Reign of Terror are seen from a new angle in this debut which features a biracial heiress from Saint-Domingue (later called Haiti) who flees violence in her home country and travels across the globe, only to be engulfed in another revolution. Berkley, August 2022. [see on Goodreads]

Briefly, A Delicious Life by Nell Stevens

An interesting premise: in Mallorca in the 19th century, when writer George Sand and her lover Chopin  visit in the hopes he'll recover his health, another presence encounters them: the ghost of a young woman who died in the 15th century, and who falls in love with Sand (who can't see her). Scribner, July 2022. [see on Goodreads]

Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman

Secrets surrounding an ancient Greek vase spill over into Georgian London when Pandora "Dora" Blake, a would-be jewellery designer, investigates the vase following its arrival at her uncle's antique shop. Harvill Secker (UK), January 2022. [see on Goodreads]


  1. Lessons in Chemistry was completely delightful! My favorite novel of the year so far.

    1. Glad to hear it - thanks for your recommendation! It sounds great.