So my niece who reads a ton of historical novels emailed the day after Thanksgiving to ask for recommendations for Christmas giving this year. Since I’ve had such an intense year of writing and publishing my own work, I haven’t had as much time as I’d have liked for indulging my passion for reading, but here are a few that I loved, that I think any devotee of historical fiction would be delighted to find in her stocking this year.
Juliet by Annie Fortier. My BFF gave this to me last year just as I was facing a deadline and it has taken me until now to read it. What I love about it is the rich writing and the intricate plot. Julie Jacobs’ aunt Rose dies and leaves everything to Julie’s sister, except for the key to a safety deposit box in Siena, Italy. Julie goes to Siena to retrieve the contents of the box, and discovers a story of her ancestor, Guiletta, who turns out to be THE Juliet of Romeo and Juliet fame. A search for the treasure the ill-fated lovers left behind sends Julie on an unforgettable journey. Anyone who loves the story of Romeo and Juliet, or who loves Italy as much as I do, will fall hard for this novel.
Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin. I’m a huge fan of Lynn’s work, and though this is not my personal favorite of her books, it still charmed my socks off. Based on the actual librarians on horseback who rode the Kentucky hills to bring books to depression-era patrons, Ms Austin’s story of Alice Ripley’s unintended sojourn in tiny Acorn, Kentucky is filled with richly-drawn characters and unsparing descriptions of the hardships of a coal-mining town, and keeps the pages turning with a fake funeral, a murder investigation, and a sweet romance between Mack, the town’s librarian and the winsome Alice. No doubt Ms Austin will be collecting another Christy award for this book come next July.
A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander. The first of a projected trilogy set in Nashville’s Belmont Mansion, this book is one of Ms. Alexander’s best. Claire Laurent, an artist whose father compels her to paint forgeries, finds herself an employee of Mrs. Adelicia Acklen, (the real-life owner of Belmont). There, she meets Sutton Monroe, Mrs. Acklen’s handsome young attorney who is fighting for the return of his family’s lands taken during the Civil war. Romance ensues. What I loved about this novel is that all of the characters, even the minor ones are fully realized and wholly believable. I enjoy novels that teach me something new, and in this one, I learned about the art world and about Mrs. Acklen who is certainly worthy of a novel herself. Ms. Alexander’s descriptions of post- war Nashville and of the mansion are deeply engrossing. A wonderful read.
I’d also recommend two novels by my fellow Thomas Nelson authors: Fairer Than Morning by Rosslyn Elliott, and Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond. Set in 19th century Ohio, Ms. Elliott’s novel is the beautifully-written story of Ann Miller, daughter of a circuit-riding preacher and saddle maker, and Will Hanby, an apprentice to a cruel saddle maker in Pittsburgh. A relationship between Will and Ann’s father enables Will to regain his courage and he follows his heart, and Ann, back to Ohio. I rooted for him the whole way. Catherine Richmond has taken the tried and true marriage of convenience plot and turned it into something special. After an attack that leaves her feeling worthless, Susannah takes the train to the empty Dakota territory to wed Jesse Mason, the brother of her preacher back home.Though Jesse is kind and patient, Susannah struggles to overcome her fear that she can never be the wife he deserves. A separation during the brutal winter shows them both just how much they have to lose…and to gain. I loved Jesse’s quiet faith and gentle humor. A hero worthy of Susannah.
Happy reading, and happy gifting! Do you have a historical novel to recommend? I’d love to add it to my TBR stack. Or perhaps to someone’s Christmas stocking.