Monday, March 27, 2023

Ten upcoming historical novels for 2023 with memorable cover designs

So many novels set to appear in the coming months have cover designs that entice me to buy the book for that alone. The stories within sound just as intriguing.  Here are ten examples that caught my attention.

The First Ladies by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

The blossoming cherry trees of Washington, DC, are the backdrop for this collaborative novel by the authors of The Personal Librarian. The two heroines are First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her friend and ally Mary McLeod Bethune. Berkley, June 2023. [see on Goodreads]

California Golden by Melanie Benjamin

The colorful cover of Benjamin's latest novel, centered on a pair of sisters trying to succeed in the world of surfing in 1960s southern California, brims with nostalgia for this not-so-long-ago time. Dell, August 2023. [see on Goodreads]

The Orchid Hour by Nancy Bilyeau

Beautiful illustrations of the title flower grace the latest novel by Bilyeau, which promises to take readers into the dark world of organized crime and a clandestine speakeasy in Jazz Age NYC. Lume, August 2023. [see on Goodreads]

The Other Princess by Denny S. Bryce

Peach and purple skies glow behind the figure of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, an African princess who became Queen Victoria's goddaughter. The author's first biographical novel is out from William Morrow in October. [see on Goodreads]

The Shining Mountains by Alix Christie

I loved Christie's first novel, Gutenberg's Apprentice; her second novel reflects her in-depth research into a character from her family history, Angus McDonald, a Scotsman who marries and raises a family with a Nez Perce woman in the 19th-century Rocky Mountains... and the cover showcases the region. High Road/Univ. of New Mexico Press, April 2023. [see on Goodreads]

The Red Bird Sings by Aoife Fitzpatrick

What a cover!  I think this is my favorite of them all: the images of nature and dramatic color contrast, which hints at a story of dark violence. Irish debut novelist Fitzpatrick pens a chilling novel about a young woman's mysterious death and justice in late 19th-century West Virginia. Virago, April 2023; no US edition yet, but Americans can preorder it on Kindle. [see on Goodreads]

Disobedient by Elizabeth Fremantle
Elizabeth Fremantle's newest historical has a jacket design with the look of Elodie Harper's Wolf Den. This one examines the life and strength of 17th-century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi, a survivor of sexual violence who refused to stay silent. Michael Joseph, July 2023; this is the UK cover. It will also be out in the US from Pegasus the same month. [see on Goodreads]

I, Julian, by Claire Gilbert

As stunning as stained glass in a cathedral window, Claire Gilbert's novel, I, Julian, is written as a first-person account by medieval anchoress and visionary Julian of Norwich.  Hodder & Stoughton, April 2023. [see on Goodreads]

Cities of Women by Kathleen B. Jones

The illustrated medieval-style design with its deep blue background entices readers into a novel centering on the era that gave birth to Christine de Pizan (b.1364), an Italian-born French poet described as "the first woman to support herself as a writer." This dual-period literary novel will focus, per the publisher's blurb, on illuminated manuscripts, feminine creativity, and self-discovery. Turner, September 2023. [see on Goodreads]

The Company by J. M. Varese

I find this cover both attractive and creepy, which must be the intended effect. I had never heard of the "arsenic wallpaper controversy of the late 19th century" before. Varese's The Company centers on a young Victorian-era wallpaper heiress at odds with a rising company employee with malevolent designs (literally). John Murray/Baskerville, March 2023. [see on Goodreads]


  1. Katharine Ott5:42 AM

    I've heard mentions of that greenish arsenic wallpaper a few times recently, that would be an interesting story. And I've only read Bilyeau's Joanna Stafford series which I enjoyed - organized crime certainly is a different tack! Thanks for the list!

    1. Haven't read the Joanna Stafford series, but I have read The Blue, The Ghost of Madison Avenue, and Dreamland - all good!

  2. This is a marvelous selection of covers, Sarah! And while the emphasis is on the authors (as it should be) it would be great to also see a listing of the covers’ artists. As an author of historical fiction myself, I’m always on the lookout for wonderful cover artists.

    1. Thanks, Bill! I agree that the artists deserve credit. Their names should be listed in the books themselves, but without having them in hand, I don't know who they are. They're likely the publishers' in-house designers, but some may also freelance.