Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Ten recent and upcoming historical novels set before the 20th century

While the 20th century gets the most attention in historical fiction circles lately, and has for a while, many avid readers of the genre remain hungry for earlier settings. The following ten titles take place much further back in the past.  This is the first of two posts.  The books are in alphabetical order by author surname.

Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese

What, or who, inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to create his iconic character, Hester Prynne, the protagonist of The Scarlet Letter?  In Albanese's imagined tale, a Scottish immigrant seamstress forms an indelible emotional bond with the young writer in a place haunted by the legacy of slavery and the Salem witch trials. St. Martin's, October 2022. [see on Goodreads]

Prize for the Fire by Rilla Askew

This biographical novel by critically acclaimed author Rilla Askew takes as its focus Anne Askew, a woman who defies political and religious convention in Henry VIII's England and pays a terrible price. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Oct. 2022. [see on Goodreads]

An Indiscreet Princess by Georgie Blalock

The "indiscreet princess" of the title is Louise, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, trapped between royal duty and her desire to create art... and live life (and find love) on her own terms.  William Morrow, Sept. 2022. (Louise lived well into the 20th century, though her story begins in the mid-19th century.)  [see on Goodreads]

Set in Stone by Stela Brinzeanu

For readers enamored by unique historical fiction locales, how about medieval Moldova? Brinzeanu's latest novel reveals the love story between two women and the difficult challenges they face; it's based on local folklore. Legend Press, Aug. 2022.  [see on Goodreads]

The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn

You may recognize the name of Eyam, the Derbyshire village which self-contained against the plague in the mid-17th century, from Geraldine Brooks'  Year of Wonders. For her second novel, Joanne Burn incorporates the same dark setting, but shifting her lens to Eyam's women and the secrets they hold. Pegasus Crime, June 2022.  [see on Goodreads]

The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton

Burton's sequel to her bestselling The Miniaturist, set in the early 18th century, can also be read on its own; it follows the members of a Dutch family, especially a mixed-race young woman and her aunt-by-marriage, in their search for love, belonging, and money to keep themselves afloat. Bloomsbury USA, July 2022. [see on Goodreads | read my review]

Joan by Katherine J. Chen

Joan of Arc is hardly new as a historical fiction subject, but Chen, in her new novel, aims for a different, secular view of the young woman who became a renowned military leader and saint. Hilary Mantel blurbed the book. Random House, July 2022.  [see on Goodreads]

The Color Storm by Damian Dibben

Renaissance-era Venice takes the stage in Dibben's tale of artistic rivalry, marital drama, and a transformative new color.  If you're in the UK, the title is The Colour Storm.  Hanover Square, Sept. 2022. [see on Goodreads]

The Last Queen by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Divakaruni travels to 19th-century India in her fictional portrait of Maharani Jindan Kaur, who rose to become regent of the Sikh Empire -- and who put up a strong resistance to the British. William Morrow, July 2022. [see on Goodreads]

The Portraitist by Susanne Dunlap

Historical novelist Dunlap, who has written many other well-received novels about women and the arts, pens a new work of fiction about Adélaïde Labille-Guiard and her determination to forge a career in 18th-century Paris, amid fierce competition and the coming of the French Revolution.  She Writes, Aug. 2022. [see on Goodreads]


  1. I heard Chen interviewed and her book sounds good!

    1. It does! I'm looking forward to it.

  2. Thanks for letting us know about some pre-20th-century fiction. Several of these sound like something I'd like to read.

  3. You've done major damage to my TBR list again. Looking forward to Part 2.

    1. Thanks! I agree there are many enticing books here.

  4. There's another forthcoming book about Princess Louise - IN THE SHADOW OF A QUEEN by H. B. Moore, October 2022 from Shadow Mountain

    1. Thanks - I'm on the blog tour for that one and should have mentioned it above. Review forthcoming in Oct!