Historical Fiction Aug 2018 and beyond


Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton (Aug 1st)

Key West, 1936. Headstrong, accomplished journalist Martha Gellhorn is confident with words but less so with men when she meets disheveled literary titan Ernest Hemingway in a dive bar. Their friendship—forged over writing, talk, and family dinners—flourishes into something undeniable in Madrid while they’re covering the Spanish Civil War.
Martha reveres him. The very married Hemingway is taken with Martha—her beauty, her ambition, and her fearless spirit. And as Hemingway tells her, the most powerful love stories are always set against the fury of war. The risks are so much greater. They’re made for each other. With their romance unfolding as they travel the globe, Martha establishes herself as one of the world’s foremost war correspondents, and Hemingway begins the novel that will win him the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Deepest Grave by Jeri Westerson (Aug 1st)

London, 1392. Strange, blood-curdling mischief is afoot at St Modwen’s Church. Corpses are stalking the graveyard at night, disturbing graves, dragging coffins and displaying vampiric tendencies. When Father Bulthius Braydon begs Crispin Guest for his help, he agrees to investigate with his apprentice, Jack Tucker, unaware of the horror they are about to confront.

Meanwhile, an urgent summons arrives from Crispin’s former love, Philippa Walcote. Her seven-year-old son, Christopher, has been accused of murder and of attempting to steal a family relic – the missing relic of St Modwen, it transpires – and the case takes an unexpected twist when Crispin discovers that Christopher is his own son.  Who is behind the gruesome occurrences in the graveyard? Is Christopher guilty of murder? Crispin faces a desperate race against time to solve the strange goings-on at St Modwen’s and prove his son’s innocence.




The Butterfly Conspiracy by Vivian Conroy (Aug 7th)

Miss Merula Merriweather is not like other women her age: instead of hunting for a husband at balls and soirees she spends her time in a conservatory hatching exotic creatures. As the Royal Zoological Society won't accept a woman's accomplishments, she has her uncle Rupert take credit for her achievements. But at a zoological lecture, the guest of honor dies after contact with one of Merula's butterflies, and Merula's uncle is arrested for murder.

In an attempt to safeguard evidence to prove his innocence, Merula almost gets killed but for the timely interference of enigmatic Lord Raven Royston. Viewing natural history as a last resort to regain respectability lost by too many dubious business investments, Raven didn't expect his first lecture to take a murderous turn. Feeling partially responsible because he encouraged Merula to release the gigantic butterfly from the glass case in which it was kept, Raven suggests they solve the puzzle of Lady Sophia's sudden death together by looking closer at her relations with estranged friends, long suffering staff and the man groomed to be her heir, so close to her money and yet unable to touch any of it.

With the police looking for them, and every new discovery raising more questions than answers, especially about the murder method which left no traces of foul play on the body, Merula will have to risk her own life to get at the truth and save her uncle from the gallows.




The Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth (Aug 7th)

August, 1585. England needs its greatest hero to step forward . . .

When he is caught by his wife in one ill-advised seduction too many, young William Shakespeare flees Stratford to seek his fortune. Cast adrift in London, Will falls in with a band of players, but greater men have their eye on this talented young wordsmith. England’s very survival hangs in the balance and Will finds himself dispatched to Venice on a crucial assignment.  Dazzled by the city’s masques and its beauties, he little realizes the peril in which he finds himself. Catholic assassins would stop at nothing to end his mission on the point of their sharpened knives―and lurking in the shadows is a killer as clever as he is cruel.





Conscience by Alice Mattison (Aug 7th)

Decades ago in Brooklyn, three girls demonstrated against the Vietnam War, and each followed a distinct path into adulthood. Helen became a violent revolutionary and was killed in a protest in 1970. Val wrote a controversial book, Bright Morning of Pain, which was essentially a novelization of Helen’s all-too-short but vibrant life. And Olive became an editor and writer, now comfortably settled with her husband, Griff, in modern-day New Haven.

When Olive is asked to write an essay about Val’s book, a work that attracts and repulses her in equal measure, doing so brings back to the forefront Olive and Griff’s tangled histories and their complicated reflections on that tumultuous time in their young lives. Things only become more fraught when Griff borrows Olive’s treasured first edition of the novel―and loses it. Then Griff’s quirky and audacious new colleague, Jean Argos, finds the book and begins reading it, setting off a series of events that will introduce new conflicts, tragedies, and friendships into the precarious balance of Olive and Griff’s once stable home.



The Court Dancer by Kyung-Sook Shin (Aug 7th)


When a novice French diplomat arrives for an audience with the Emperor, he is enraptured by the Joseon Dynasty’s magnificent culture, then at its zenith. But all fades away when he sees Yi Jin perform the delicate traditional Dance of the Spring Oriole. Though well aware that women of the court belong to the palace, the young diplomat confesses his love to the Emperor, and gains permission for Yi Jin to accompany him back to France.

A world away in Belle Epoque Paris, Yi Jin lives a free, independent life, away from the gilded cage of the court, and begins translating and publishing Joseon literature into French with another Korean student. But even in this new world, great sorrow awaits her. Yi Jin’s grieving and suffering is only amplified by homesickness and a longing for her oldest friend. But her homecoming was not a happy one. Betrayal, jealousy, and intrigue abound, culminating with the tragic assassination of the last Joseon empress―and the poisoned pages of a book.


Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose (Aug 7th)

New York, 1924. Twenty‑four‑year‑old Jenny Bell is one of a dozen burgeoning artists invited to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s prestigious artists’ colony. Gifted and determined, Jenny vows to avoid distractions and romantic entanglements and take full advantage of the many wonders to be found at Laurelton Hall. But Jenny’s past has followed her to Long Island. Images of her beloved mother, her hard-hearted stepfather, waterfalls, and murder, and the dank hallways of Canada’s notorious Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women overwhelm Jenny’s thoughts, even as she is inextricably drawn to Oliver, Tiffany’s charismatic grandson.

As the summer shimmers on, and the competition between the artists grows fierce as they vie for a spot at Tiffany’s New York gallery, a series of suspicious and disturbing occurrences suggest someone knows enough about Jenny’s childhood trauma to expose her.  Supported by her closest friend Minx Deering, a seemingly carefree socialite yet dedicated sculptor, and Oliver, Jenny pushes her demons aside. Between stolen kisses and stolen jewels, the champagne flows and the jazz plays on until one moonless night when Jenny’s past and present are thrown together in a desperate moment, that will threaten her promising future, her love, her friendships, and her very life.




The Thief of Corinth by Tessa Afshar (Aug 7th)

First-century Corinth is a city teeming with commerce and charm. It’s also filled with danger and corruption―the perfect setting for Ariadne’s greatest adventure. After years spent living with her mother and oppressive grandfather in Athens, Ariadne runs away to her father’s home in Corinth, only to discover the perilous secret that destroyed his marriage: though a Greek of high birth, Galenos is the infamous thief who has been robbing the city’s corrupt of their ill-gotten gains.

Desperate to keep him safe, Ariadne risks her good name, her freedom, and the love of the man she adores to become her father’s apprentice. As her unusual athletic ability leads her into dangerous exploits, Ariadne discovers that she secretly revels in playing with fire. But when the wrong person discovers their secret, Ariadne and her father find their future―and very lives―hanging in the balance. When they befriend a Jewish rabbi named Paul, they realize that his radical message challenges everything they’ve fought to build, yet offers something neither dared hope for.




Becoming Belle by Nuala O'Connor (Aug 7th)

In 1887, Isabel Bilton is the eldest of three daughters of a middle-class military family, growing up in a small garrison town. By 1891 she is the Countess of Clancarty, dubbed "the peasant countess" by the press, and a member of the Irish aristocracy. Becoming Belle is the story of the four years in between, of Belle's rapid ascent and the people that tried to tear her down.

With only her talent, charm, and determination, Isabel moves to London alone at age nineteen, changes her name to Belle, and takes the city by storm, facing unthinkable hardships as she rises to fame. A true bohemian and the star of a dancing double act she performs with her sister, she reigns over The Empire Theatre and The Corinthian Club, where only select society entertains. It is there she falls passionately in love with William, Viscount Dunlo, a young aristocrat. For Belle, her marriage to William is a dream come true, but his ruthless father makes clear he'll stop at nothing to keep her in her place.




The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis (Aug 7th)

For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different. For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as the brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and twenty-five-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public's disdain for a "woman artist." Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded--even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter--Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they'll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay's life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece--an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.




The Prisoner in the Castle by Susan Elia MacNeal (Aug 7th)

Maggie Hope is being held prisoner on a remote Scottish island with other SOE agents who know too much for the enemy's comfort. All the spies on the island are trained to kill--and when they start dropping off one-by-one, Maggie needs to find the murderer... before she becomes the next victim.






Four Funerals and a Maybe Wedding by Rhys Bowen (Aug 7th)

If only Darcy and I had eloped! What I thought would be a simple wedding has been transformed into a grand affair, thanks to the attendance of the queen, who has offered up the princesses as bridesmaids. Silly me! I thought that withdrawing from the royal line of succession would simplify my life. But before Darcy and I tie the knot in front of queen and country, we have to find a place to live as man and wife...

House hunting turns out to be a pretty grim affair. Just as we start to lose hope, my globetrotting godfather offers us his fully staffed country estate. Mistress of Eynsleigh I shall be! With Darcy off in parts unknown, I head to Eynsleigh alone, only to have my hopes dashed. The grounds are in disarray and the small staff is suspiciously incompetent. Not to mention the gas tap leak in my bedroom, which I can only imagine was an attempt on my life. Something rotten is afoot--and bringing the place up to snuff may put me six feet under before I even get a chance to walk down the aisle...




The Sea Queen by Linnea Hartsuyker (Aug 14th)


Six years after The Half-Drowned King, Ragnvald Eysteinsson is now king of Sogn, but fighting battles for King Harald keeps him away from home, as he confronts treachery and navigates a political landscape that grows more dangerous the higher he rises.
Ragnvald’s sister Svanhild has found the freedom and adventure she craves at the side of the rebel explorer Solvi Hunthiofsson, though not without a cost. She longs for a home where her quiet son can grow strong, and a place where she can put down roots, even as Solvi’s ambition draws him back to Norway’s battles again and keeps her divided from her brother. As a growing rebellion unites King Harald’s enemies, Ragnvald suspects that some Norse nobles are not loyal to Harald’s dream of a unified Norway. He sets a plan in motion to defeat all of his enemies, and bring his sister back to his side, while Svanhild finds herself with no easy decisions, and no choices that will leave her truly free. Their actions will hold irrevocable repercussions for the fates of those they love and for Norway itself.

The Story of H by Marina Perezagua (Aug 14th)
August 6, 1945: the day Enola Gay unleashed an atomic inferno over Hiroshima. In the wake of its devastation, two stories unfold. There’s Jim, an American soldier who was entrusted with taking care of Yoro, a Japanese girl who then disappears after the atomic bomb falls. And there’s H, a Japanese child who is at school when the bomb drops and is indelibly marked by its destruction. Both victims of the bomb, H and Jim meet for the first time in New York years later—their paths cross by chance, they fall in love, and together they continue Jim’s search for Yoro. A quixotic twenty-first century quest to discover what makes us human, from refugee camps to the slave mines of Africa, from Brazil to Borneo, Japan to Mexico, it’s also a journey that plumbs the depths and heights of cruelty and compassion, vulnerability and violence. 

The Iberian Flame by Julian Stockwin (Aug 14th)
1808. With the Peninsula in turmoil, Napoleon Bonaparte signs a treaty to dismember Portugal and put his brother, Joseph, on the throne of Spain.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Renzi, the Lord Farndon, undertakes a deadly mission to stir up partisan unrest to disrupt this Napoleonic alliance with Spain. Thrust into the crucible of the uprising, Captain Sir Thomas Kydd is dismayed to come up against an old foe from his past - now his superior and commander - who is determined to break him. Kydd will soon face the greatest decision of his professional career.
Bonaparte, incensed by the reverses suffered to his honour, gathers together a crushing force and marches at speed into Spain. After several bloody encounters the greatly outnumbered British expedition have no option other than make a fighting retreat to the coast. Only the Navy can save them. But the flame of insurrection has been lit - and the Peninsular War has begun.

The Secret of the Irish Castle by Santa Montefiore (Aug 14th)

1939: Peace has flourished since the Great War ended, but much has changed for the Deverill family as now a new generation is waiting in the wings to make their mark. When Martha Wallace leaves her home in America to search for her birth mother in Dublin, she never imagines that she will completely lose her heart to the impossibly charming JP Deverill. But more surprises are in store for her after she discovers that her mother comes from the same place as JP, sealing her fate.
Bridie Doyle, now Countess di Marcantonio and mistress of Castle Deverill, is determined to make the castle she used to work in her home. But just as she begins to feel things are finally going her way, her flamboyant husband Cesare has other ideas. As his eye strays away from his wife, those close to the couple wonder if he really is who he says he is. Kitty Deverill has come to accept her life with her husband Robert, and their two children. But then Jack O'Leary, the love of her life, returns to Ballinakelly. And this time his heart belongs elsewhere. As long-held secrets come to light, the Deverills will have to heal old wounds and come to terms with the past if they hope to ensure their legacy for the future.

City of Ink by Elsa Hart (Aug 21st)
Li Du was prepared to travel anywhere in the world except for one place: home. But to unravel the mystery that surrounds his mentor’s execution, that’s exactly where he must go. Plunged into the painful memories and teeming streets of Beijing, Li Du obtains a humble clerkship that offers anonymity and access to the records he needs. He is beginning to make progress when his search for answers buried in the past is interrupted by murder in the present.
The wife of a local factory owner is found dead, along with a man who appears to have been her lover, and the most likely suspect is the husband. But what Li Du’s superiors at the North Borough Office are willing to accept as a crime of passion strikes Li Du as something more calculated. As past and present intertwine, Li Du’s investigations reveal that many of Beijing’s residents ― foreign and Chinese, artisan and official, scholar and soldier ― have secrets they would kill to protect. When the threats begin, Li Du must decide how much he is willing to sacrifice to discover the truth in a city bent on concealing it, a city where the stroke of a brush on paper can alter the past, change the future, prolong a life, or end one.

Till the Boys Come Home by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (Aug 21st)
Edward, in a bid to run away from problems at home, decides not to resist conscription and ends up at the Front. Sadie's hopes for love are unrequited, and Laura has to flee Artemis House when it is shelled and she finds herself in London driving an ambulance. Ethel, the nursery maid, masks her own pain by caring for other people's children but she must take care not to get too attached.
The government has to bring in rationing, and manpower shortages means the conscription age is extended. The Russians have fallen out of the war and a series of terrifying all-out attacks drive the Allies back almost to the Channel, and for the first time England faces the real prospect of defeat. No one can see an end to the war and yet, a small glimmer of hope remains . . .



Ahab's Return, or the Last Voyage by Jeffrey Ford (Aug 28th)

At the end of a long journey, Captain Ahab returns to the mainland to confront the true author of the novel Moby-Dick, his former shipmate, Ishmael. For Ahab was not pulled into the ocean’s depths by a harpoon line, and the greatly exaggerated rumors of his untimely death have caused him grievous harm—after hearing about Ahab’s demise, his wife and child left Nantucket for New York, and now Ahab is on a desperate quest to find them.
Ahab’s pursuit leads him to The Gorgon’s Mirror, the sensationalist tabloid newspaper that employed Ishmael as a copy editor while he wrote the harrowing story of the ill-fated Pequod. In the penny press’s office, Ahab meets George Harrow, who makes a deal with the captain: the newspaperman will help Ahab navigate the city in exchange for the exclusive story of his salvation from the mouth of the great white whale. But their investigation—like Ahab’s own story—will take unexpected, dangerous, and ultimately tragic turns.


There Was a Time by Frank White (Sep 4th)

A Lincolnshire village on a glorious summer's morning in 1940, the countryside as still as a painting.  In the blue sky above, the fate of the whole war will soon rest with the RAF and their desperate effort to win the Battle of Britain. If they fail, Hitler's next step will be invasion. And as the scene comes to life before us over the next six months, this shadow of war will not disappear - the conflict will take husbands and sons away, bring in evacuees from the city and soldiers to defend the coast. There will be more money from war work, but less to spend it on - legitimately at least. Everywhere, the feeling of change is in the air.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (Sep 18th)
The Rules of Blackheath  Evelyn Castle will be murdered at 11:00 pm.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses, for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let's begin . . .
Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others...



Mussolini's Island by Sarah Day (Sep 18th)

Francesco has a memory of his father from early childhood, a night when life for his family changed: their name, their story, their living place. From that night, he has vowed to protect his mother and to follow the words of his father: Non mollare. Never give up. When Francesco is rounded up with a group of young men and herded into a camp on the island of San Domino, he realizes that someone has handed a list of names to the fascist police; everyone is suspicious of one another. His former lover Emilio is constantly agitating for revolution. His old friend Gio jealously watches their relationship rekindle. Locked in spartan dormitories, resentment and bitterness between the men grows each day.

Elena, a young and illiterate island girl on the cusp of womanhood, is drawn to the handsome Francesco yet fails to understand why her family try to keep her away from him. By day, she makes and floats her paper birds, willing them to fly from the island, just as she wants to herself. Sometimes, she is given a message to pass on. She's not sure who they are from; she knows simply that Francesco is hiding something. When Elena discovers the truth about the group of prisoners, the fine line between love and hate pulls her towards an act that can only have terrible consequences for all.

Dark Tide Rising by Anne Perry (Sep 18th)

Local businessman Harry Exeter doesn't want the aid of the Thames River Police in tracking down the men who kidnapped his wife, Kate. He only asks them to help him navigate Jacob's Island, a creepy mass of decrepit buildings where he will hand off a large sum of money in exchange for her life. But when they arrive at the meeting place, Commander Monk and five of his best men are attacked from all sides, and Monk is left wondering who could have given away their plans--and why anyone would want to harm Kate Exeter.

As Monk follows leads from Kate's worried cousin and a crafty clerk at the bank where Exeter gathered the ransom money, it seems inevitable that one of his own men has betrayed him. Delving into their pasts, he realizes how little he knows about the people he works with every day, including his trusted right-hand man Hooper, the one colleague Monk has always been certain he can count on. Even as they identify one of the kidnappers, the case runs into hurdle after hurdle, causing Monk to choose between his own safety and the chance to solve the case--and figure out where his men's loyalty really lies.


Intrigue in Coventry Garden by Susanna Gregory (Oct 2nd)

By January 1666 the plague has almost disappeared from London, leaving its surviving population diminished and in poverty. The resentment against those who had fled to the country turns to outrage as the court and its followers return, their licentiousness undiminished. While most of Thomas Chaloner's attention is on the continuing threat of the war with the Dutch, he is aware of a growing restlessness among Londoners, and of shadowy forces which are directing this anger against the King's profligacy and his plans to commemorate his father's execution.
The death of a well-connected physician, the mysterious sinking of a man-of-war in the Thames and the disappearance of a popular courtier are causing concern to Chaloner's employer. When instructed to investigate them all he is irritated that he is prevented from gaining intelligence on the military preparations of the Dutch. Then he discovers common threads to all the cases, which seem linked to those planning to set a match to the powder keg of rebellion in the city. Against the background of a ferocious winter storm that causes serious damage to London's fabric, Chaloner has to battle the elements in a race against time to prevent the weakened city from utter destruction.

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Perry (Oct 2nd)
Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder.  Young women are being discovered dead across the Old Town, all having suffered similarly gruesome ends. In the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson.
Simpson's patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah Fisher, who recognizes trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of his intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education. With each having their own motive to look deeper into these deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh's underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive.

A Well-Behaved Woman: a Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler (Oct 16th)
Alva Smith, her southern family destitute after the Civil War, married into one of America’s great Gilded Age dynasties: the newly wealthy but socially shunned Vanderbilts. Ignored by New York’s old-money circles and determined to win respect, she designed and built 9 mansions, hosted grand balls, and arranged for her daughter to marry a duke. But Alva also defied convention for women of her time, asserting power within her marriage and becoming a leader in the women's suffrage movement.



House of Gold by Natasha Solomons (Oct 23rd)
Vienna, 1911. Twenty-one-year-old Greta Goldbaum has always hungered after what's forbidden: secret university lectures, unseemly trumpet lessons, and most of all, the freedom to choose her life's path. The Goldbaum family has different expectations. United across Europe by unsurpassed wealth and power, Goldbaum men are bankers, while Goldbaum women marry Goldbaum men to produce Goldbaum children. Greta will do her part.

So Greta moves to England to wed Albert, a distant cousin. The marriage is not a success. Yet, when Albert's mother gives Greta a garden, things at Temple Court begin to change. First Greta falls in love with her garden, then with England, and finally with her husband. But when World War I sends both Albert and Greta's beloved brother, Otto, to the front lines--one to fight for the Allies, one to fight for the Central Powers--the House of Gold is left vulnerable as never before, and Greta must choose: the family she's created or the one she was forced to leave behind.