Exploring what's "new" on the historical shelves
With Paris Fashion Week beginning September 24, lovers of style
and all things French turn their eyes to the City of Lights. In addition to
producing iconic clothing, France's twists, turns and sometime abrupt societal
changes—from monarchy to revolution to empire--have long inspired historical
Moving chronologically, we start with MADAME TUSSAUD Read More...
As weather turns toward spring, thoughts turn toward love…and those of us who
adore lushly romantic period drama sigh and miss "Downton Abbey" anew. What to
do, but search for Downtonesque-books to fill that yearning?
We begin in the Victorian era with Meredith Allard's WHEN IT RAINED AT HEMBRY
CASTLE. Wealthy American Daphne accompanies her father Frederick to England
to visit his dying Read More...
There's something about the cold and gloom of winter that makes it the perfect
time to snuggle up by the fire or the heater with a hot beverage and a novel
about "the Dark Ages." Far enough from the present to be wrapped in myth and
mystery, the extent record of events sketchy enough to allow inventive novelists
much room to spin stories, the medieval period is full of fascinating,
larger-than-life characters Read More...
It's a cliché that artistic people feel more intensely than non-artist types, are more driven by their passionate vision—and frequently live tragic lives. But in the process, they create work that enlightens and enthralls millions of viewers, listeners and readers.
The novels we'll look at here fully support the cliché. Whether the artist be painter, composer, or writer, the passion that consumes them often also brings heartache and disaster. While exploring Read More...
Inspired by the release of the new film “Dunkirk,” which explores the rescue of the trapped British
Expeditionary Force (by every vessel the British could muster, from Royal Navy
warships to fishing boats to ferries,) this month we’ll look at fiction set in
World War II.
One of my favorite dramatizations of Dunkirk was an episode of the BBC series Read More...
For many historical fiction fans, one of the draws of the genre is watching
woman of past confront challenges and restrictions to open up new opportunities
for themselves. In honor of the recent birthdays of some extraordinary women—my
mother-in-law, my stepmother and my daughter—this month I showcase a group of
enterprising women who dare to dream of doing something more than filling a
woman’s conventional place in society.
We begin Read More...
Spring always brings a sense of anticipation. The cold and gloom of winter
brighten into the season of warmth and rebirth, where new life seems full of
limitless possibilities, encouraging the idea that hard work can lead to
success, maybe even to fame and fortune.
Inspired by the return of spring, the heroines of the novels we’ll look at this
month all reinvent themselves to become, or be associated with, the rich, famous
and Read More...
Inspired by the lush PBS mini-series “Victoria,” this month we’ll look at fiction that explores
the world of imperial rulers—and check out the life of one who had more
influence on the next generation of royals than the hand that held the scepter.
As frost immobilizes the ground and chill winds blow, I think of cold castles
and harsh rulers—which brings to mind the medieval period, and one of my
favorite historical characters. In an era where women were chattels disposed of
by fathers and husbands, to use wits and beauty and sheer drive to carve out a
place of power and prominence is truly amazing, and Alienor (Eleanor) of
Aquitaine did just that. Heiress to the Read More...
What could be a lovelier Christmas gift than more Elizabeth and Darcy? Given
the plethora of P&P adaptations, remakes and variations, the answer must be
“nothing!” For your holiday pleasure, then, I offer two other interpretations
of this beloved story.
Novels by Monica Fairview
We’ll continue our exploration of the exotic this month with a group of novels
set in the Far East, in lands full of beauty, rich in history and culture.
Beginning farthest back in time and at the highest social level, we have two
views of the only female Chinese emperor, Wu Tse-tien. Weina Dai Randel’s more
favorable picture of the Iron Empress, THE Read More...
With the PBS series “Indian Summers” now running, this month we’ll stay
with the exotic and look at a genre of books that has proven perennially
popular, both with romance readers (there seem to be new Sheik books out every
month, contemporary or historical) and historical fiction fans—novels set in the
mysterious and titillating world of the Read More...
With the lush PBS Masterpiece series “Indian Summers” soon to begin Season Two, it’s time to look
at another round of novels that explore the exotic, complex world of the British
Raj in India and the struggles for Indian independence.
With children out of school and folks going on vacation, summer is traditionally
the time for blockbuster movies, usually action-adventure or comic-book-hero
sagas designed to snag the interest of kids and families. Then there are
“blockbuster books”—novels that strike the popular imagination and become
Though I tend not to like those extremely popular books, since several are set
in one of my favorite time periods—World War II—for Read More...
Who doesn’t love to peek into the lives of the rich, famous and influential? To
spark your summer reading, this month we will take a look at protagonists (some
real historical figures, some fictional) who strive for fame, fortune, and glory
in the chaotic decades after the devastation of World War I.
We begin with Hazel
Gaynor’s Read More...
In May, thoughts turn to the May Pole dances and Spring
celebrations in Merrie
Olde England. This month’s selections illumine the worlds of court and
entertainment, revealing the sometimes stark reality of life for women in
England in the 18th century—both high-born and commoner.
Beginning with the political, we have MISTRESS OF THE COURT by Read More...
When spring is in the air, thoughts turn to romance…and what is more romantic
than springtime in Paris? Or to be more exact, springtime in Versailles, as all
the choices we’ll explore this month take place around the small hunting lodge
at the edge of a royal forest which became a palace whose very name conjures
images of luxury, excess, drama and tragedy. The kings who inhabited that
palace dominated the known world Read More...
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’ll give a nod to the wearin’ of the
green with a series of stories featuring Irish characters and settings. For as
the old Irish saying goes:
“Always remember to forget
The friends who proved untrue
But never forget to remember
The ones who stuck by you.”
And what friend is Read More...
What could be more romantic than Italy? The hush of a gondola plying the waters
of a Venetian canal, the painted beauty of the countryside around Florence, the
walled cities of Sienna and San Gimignano… For your Valentine month treat, I
offer up a quartet of historical fiction that explores the art, craft,
excitement and intrigue of Venice, Florence and Sienna. Enjoy!
Progressing chronologically, we begin with Read More...
Are you as distressed as I am that Downton Abbey will soon be ending FOR GOOD?
(sob) Given the world-wide popularity of the show, there are surprisingly few
books set in the Edwardian era that incorporate the upstairs-downstairs,
love-interest and drama that make the show so engaging (to say nothing of the
yummy fashions.) But, in an attempt to offer solace, I’ve gathered a few volumes
which segue in and beyond Read More...
Christmas is filled with traditions whose repetition year after year provide a
sense of continuity and joy, as we remember favorite moments from childhood and
anticipate adding new memories to that book of mental treasures. Since many of
our traditions date from the Victorian period, I wanted to offer an array of
historical fiction from that era as a special Christmas tribute. However, as I
began to scan the real and digital shelves, I found Read More...
Earlier this month in Anaheim, Blizzard Entertainment held its annual
showcase upcoming releases by this originator of some of the most popular and
games on the market. In honor of one of its signature brands, World of
medieval-like fantasy landscape of warriors and weapons, we will look this time
BOHEMIAN GOSPEL by Dana Chamblee Carpenter
Two things historical fiction readers love: historical dramas brought to television,
usually by the BBC,
and series of books featuring the same characters and settings. In honor of
new fall historical series Home Fires, which highlights the women of one small
village and their
work to further the war effort in the opening days of World War II, we’ll look at three
authors who have
created series that also Read More...
With PBS set to begin another lush historical series, Indian Summers, set in the waning days
of British rule in 1930s India, it’s time to look at fiction that illuminates that fascinating and
THE RAJ QUARTET by Paul Scott
There’s something about summer that makes me think of sipping mint juleps on
the front porch swing
under a lazy fan, lush ferns in pots, and the sound of bees buzzing in the
hydrangea bushes. For this
column, we’ll visit Roaring Twenties-to-World War II-era fiction set in the
South, New York and
MAGNOLIA CITY by Duncan W. Alderson
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