The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

In the 1750s London, Genevieve Planché - a young Huguenot (descendant of French Protestants who had been forced into exile) - dreams of becoming a painter. But hers is not an era conducive to such female ambition. The most Genevieve can hope for is a job as a decorator at a porcelain factory in Derby,... Continue Reading →

Shattered Drum by C. P. Lesley

So many historical novels set in the 16th century focus on Tudor England (and sometimes also France, with a smattering of Italy) that I get very excited whenever a story is set in other parts of Europe. C.P. Lesley is on one of the few historical fiction authors that I know of whose work brings... Continue Reading →

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

Given the subject matter of Kate Quinn's latest novel The Huntress, it is difficult to use terms like "enjoyment" and "fun" to describe the reading experience. So I will limit myself to saying that it is among the best historical fiction I have read in a long, long time. The novel opens with a scene at... Continue Reading →

Botticelli’s Muse by Dorah Blume

Artist Sandro Botticelli's painting Primavera is one of the most celebrated artworks of the Italian Renaissance. Breaking with many conventions of the past, it askewed religious imagery in favor of a secular theme of spring awakening. As such it garnered a great deal of criticism from Church authorities when it was painted in the late... Continue Reading →

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

When I read a well-executed historical novel, it typically sends me on a mini research bender where I try to read up on the era or the event as much as I can. I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon is one of those novels. The historical event it's woven around is the Russian Revolution - actually, two... Continue Reading →

The Whale: A Love Story by Marc Beauregard

The Whale: A Love Story is a fictionalized take on a question that has puzzled literary scholars for more than 150 years. Was the short, intense friendship between two American writers Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne simply a meeting of minds, or something more and - given the times - forbidden? The two first met... Continue Reading →

La Luministe by Paula Butterfield

If she were alive today, painter Berthe Morisot would be celebrated and admired, but in the 19th century Paris, she was up against formidable obstacles. Women were not allowed to pursue paying occupations, the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts did not accept female students, the society treated "lady painters" as odd (if they were rich)... Continue Reading →

The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley

Until I read Christopher Buckley's The Relic Master, I failed to realize what now seems quite obvious, namely that historical fiction is rarely humorous. It is not necessarily a criticism. Historical novels tend to be set in pivotal eras or woven around events that bring about major changes and are  often marked by violence and suffering.... Continue Reading →

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