While historical fiction’s draw is always strong, its ability to transport the reader to a different era and locale is particularly welcoming during this pandemic we are all enduring. We cannot physically travel, but we are able to immerse ourselves in earlier time periods while learning about courageous individuals, fascinating events or other historical happenings. I hope you enjoy reading about the 10 most anticipated historical fiction titles of 2021!
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
Saint’s debut retells Ariadne’s heroic and somewhat tragic tale, not as a footnote to the men surrounding her, but instead as the central focus of her own narrative. Brother of the Minotaur and wife to Dionysus, Ariadne bears the brunt of choices made for her and struggles to define herself while dealing with issues familiar to women of any time period – unfaithful spouses, the joys of motherhood, choosing her own path and more.
Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig
During World War 1, a group of women volunteers from Smith College traveled to France to aid citizens whose lives and livelihoods were destroyed by the German invaders. The Smith College Relief Unit, including two female doctors, arrived in France ready to help, but first they had to overcome several obstacles including dissention within the group. Much of the book is based on letters from the actual women who served in the Smith College Relief Unit.
The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel
Kidnapped and raised in the eastern European wilds, a young girl is left abandoned after her captor dies in 1941. When she stumbles across a group of Jewish refugees running from the Nazis, she is astounded and dismayed to learn about their plight. Relying on her familiarity with the surrounding wilderness to help the fleeing individuals, she teaches them how to survive outdoors until a stunning betrayal upends her life.
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead returns with a tale set in Harlem in the 1960s. The protagonist Ray leads a double life as a furniture salesman and fencer of jewelry until his two worlds begin to converge as Ray desperately works to keep them separate. A love letter to Harlem and a commentary on race and power, Harlem Shuffle brings to life 1960s’ New York City.
The Island Queen by Vanessa Riley
Based on a true story, Riley tells the story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas (“Doll”), the exceptional free woman of color who bought her freedom from her Irish father and built an empire that defied the odds in 18th century West Indies. The Island Queen ensures that Doll’s incredible story as a survivor, entrepreneur, and woman ahead of her time will not be forgotten.
Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
A sweeping, multigenerational tale, Of Women and Salt opens in Miami and introduces Jeanette, who is struggling with addiction, and her mother Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, who is estranged from both Jeanette and her own mother. Toggling between Cuba, Mexico and the U.S., the book follows these women, the betrayals that haunt them, the choices mothers make on behalf of their children, and the crushing weight of family secrets.
Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams
When the Digby family disappears from their London home without a trace, the world debates whether they were eliminated by Soviet Intelligence or whether the family defected to Moscow with American Diplomat Sasha Digby’s access to the West’s top secret intel. Four years later, Ruth Macallister receives a letter from twin sister Iris Digby asking her to come to Moscow to visit. Ruth travels to Moscow to help the Digbys defect to the United States—but instead learns that everything may not be as it seems.
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
Belle de Costa Greene worked as J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian and curator of his private library housed in a townhouse off of East 36th Street before the collection became the Morgan Library and Museum. While she became an influential individual in the art world and one of the country’s most prominent librarians, she hid a devastating secret – she was a Black woman “passing” as a white woman and moreover was the daughter of the first Black graduate of Harvard. The Personal Librarian chronicles Belle’s life and legacy and what it was like to be torn between success and the desire to be herself.
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
The Rose Code opens in 1947 just days prior to the British royal wedding when Osla, a codebreaker who worked at Bletchley Park during the war, receives a coded letter that makes her question certain things about her time at the code-breaking facility. Alternating between 1947 and an earlier timeline which begins in 1940, The Rose Code tells the story of three very different women who work at Bletchley during the war and who must later ferret out the traitor who once operated among them.
The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi
Joshi follows up The Henna Artist with a story set in 1969 about Lakshmi’s young helper Malik, who is now grown and working as a building apprentice at Jaipur Palace, a job Lakshmi helped him obtain. He is assigned to the building project for a modern cinema house, where he stumbles into a smuggling operation affiliated with the endeavor. When on opening night the movie house’s balcony collapses, trouble arises for Malik and subsequently Lakshmi, as well.
The Social Graces by Renee Rosen
In The Social Graces, Rosen highlights the legendary feud between grand dames Alva Vanderbilt and Caroline Astor regarding who would reign supreme over New York City society during the Gilded Age. When Alva Vanderbilt marries into the wealthy Vanderbilt family, most of the upper crust families refuse to acknowledge her. But Alva is more than determined to make her place in society setting off a battle with Caroline Astor that raged across decades.
Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine agree to set out on a trip together at the request of their dying grandmother Violet and deliver three goodbye letters to friends from Violet’s past. The women make their way across 1937 Europe to Paris, Venice and Vienna amid rising political tensions learning family secrets as they go. When they finish their deliveries, the women plan to leave the turmoil in Europe and head home aboard the Hindenburg.
The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray
Chateau de Chavaniac was the family home of the Marquis de Lafayette. The Chateau played a pivotal role in three major wars, the French Revolution and both World Wars, and The Women of Chateau Lafayette highlights the extraordinary women whose lives intersected with the Chateau and who sacrificed and fought for freedom during these wars.