I always enjoy looking ahead to see what new books will be coming out, and this time I am focusing on the most anticipated historical fiction titles for Winter 2021, December through early March (I will also be compiling a Most Anticipated Historical Fiction of 2021 that will post soon). So many fabulous books are slated to be published in this time frame including a story about Virginia Hall’s time in occupied France, an all-female-led expedition to the Arctic, a garden in England, and a missing Romanov tiara. Here are my Most Anticipated Winter Historical Fiction books:
The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister
The Arctic Fury alternates between an 1853 all-female expedition led by Virginia Reeve to the wild Arctic to hunt for the missing Franklin Expedition and the subsequent murder trial a year-and-a-half because not every member returned. The story unfolds through a dual timeline format following the hazardous expedition across the frozen landscape of the Arctic and the subsequent dramatic murder trial in Boston as readers slowly learn what really happened on the ill-fated expedition.
The Children’s Train by Viola Ardone, tr. Clarissa Botsford
Set in post-World War 2 Italy and based on true events, The Children’s Train follows the children who were sent north following the war due to the vast devastation of the southern part of the country. Trains carried thousands of Italian children north where they were placed with new families who generally had better economic prospects and were equipped to provide the children with food and shelter for the winter. The story centers on one of these children, Amerigo, who must ultimately decide the true meaning of family and choosing one’s own path as he is forced to decide whether to remain in the north with his new family or return home to his birth mother.
The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck
Robuck brings real-life heroine Virginia Hall to life, highlighting her immense bravery as an Allied spy in German-occupied France during World War 2. She vividly depicts Hall’s extraordinary heroism amid the horror of the Nazi atrocities while also shining a light on the thousands of regular people who bravely joined the Resistance (and put their lives on the line) to ensure that their country would not fall to the Nazis. I read this one in less than 24 hours and absolutely loved it.
The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly
Centered around the fictional Highbury House gardens, Julia Kelly takes the reader on a fascinating journey through these elaborate gardens across the span of over a century. Set in a triple timeline format, 1907, 1944, and 2021, The Last Garden in England follows five women whose lives are interwoven with the house and particularly the gardens. Kelly brings the gardens to life, and I often felt that I was right there with the characters among the plants and flowers due to her creative and beautiful descriptions. She uses just the right amount of detail, and it is easily apparent how much research Kelly conducted. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
The Last Tiara by M.J. Rose
M.J. Rose’s latest book focuses on a tiara that was once owned by the Romanov family (and is actually still missing today), and her reimagining of what could have happened to the priceless artifact. When her mother Sophia dies in 1948 Manhattan, Isobelle stumbles across a tiara, stripped of all of its jewels, hidden in their shared apartment. As she researches the mysterious tiara, she learns more about her mother’s past, something Sophia would never speak about when she was alive. In 1915 Russia, Sofiya Petrovitch and her close friend Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna tend to injured troops on the grounds of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg where Sophia falls in love and sets in motion events that eventually cause her to flee to the United States. Told in alternating perspectives and time periods, the tales of the two young women slowly unfold as the mystery of the tiara is ultimately resolved.
Masque of Honor by Sharon Virts
Masque of Honor takes place in 19th-century Virginia and is based on the true story of two brothers-in-law, General Armistead Mason and John (Jack) Mason McCarty, who were second cousins and descendants of a United States’ founding father, George Mason. One is a politician and the other seeks to find his own way using other methods, and when Armistead loses a congressional election, the two cousins find themselves on opposite sides of a bitter conflict that leads them to engage in a duel that changes their lives forever.
The Mermaid from Jeju by Sumi Hahn
This dual timeline tale is set in post-World War Korea on a little island called Jeju and in the modern-day United States, and it is the story of Junja, a haenyeo (the famed Korean deep sea divers), who grows up on Jeju. Post-World War 2 is a tumultuous time in Korean history when Japan has withdrawn troops and the United States begins its occupation, and Junja must navigate the fraught political climate, family upheaval and the resulting grief, and her own romance.
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
Agatha Christie disappeared in December 1926 and returned eleven days later claiming amnesia and providing no information on where she had been. Her abandoned car was found with her fur coat still in the car even though it was winter, and her husband and daughter had no idea where she was. The mystery surrounding these eleven days exists still today, and Marie Benedict puts her own spin, using a creative format, on where Agatha Christie went and why in this intriguing and clever take on what might have happened.
Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan
The steamship Pulaski (the “Titanic of the South”) sank in 1838 following a boiler explosion, and 180 years later the ship’s ruins have just been discovered. Everly Winthrop, Savannah history professor, is asked to help curate a new museum exhibit containing the artifacts recovered from the old ship, and she is thrilled to participate as well as curious to learn more about the night the ship went down. Alternating between the past and present, Callahan brings the story of the sinking of the Pulaski to life while exploring the various ways humans respond when confronting tragedy.
Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson
In this timely and heartrending tale, Pheby Delores Brown, a slave promised her freedom on her 18th birthday, instead finds herself living in one of the country’s worst slave jails known as Devil’s Half-Acre. Pheby grew up on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia where her mother’s role as the plantation’s medicine woman sheltered her from the life the rest of the slaves endured. When her mother dies, Pheby loses her expected freedom and is subsequently “rescued” by the owner of Devil’s Half-Acre where she must ultimately decide what she is willing to forfeit to find freedom.