Wednesday, April 12, 2017

5 Historical Fiction Authors to Read and Love!

I originally started writing this as a post recommending specific historical fiction novels. I got four or five books listed and then I realized that I was going to have a few authors on the list several times. At that point I decided it would be easier do recommend the authors themselves, rather than listing 10 books by the same three or four authors. I love historical fiction and I've read quite a bit of it so here are my top historical fiction authors.
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1. Philippa Gregory - I love Philippa Gregory's books. The Other Boleyn Girl is my favorite book of all time, it's the bee's knees. Seriously, I talk about it all the time. Just read it. The Boleyn Inheritance, which is kind of a sequel to The Other Boleyn Girl, is excellent and made me love Anne of Cleves. The White Queen, The Virgin's Lover, The Constant Princess, I could go on and on about her books all day. Three Sisters, Three Queens is the next book of her's that is on my TBR pile and I can't wait to get too it, although it will have to wait till after the move. It's about Henry VIII's sisters, Margaret (who becomes Queen of Scotland), and Mary (who is Queen of France for a very short time), and his first wife (Margaret and Mary's sister-in-law) Katherine of Aragon (who is, of course, Queen of England) and the not so smooth relationship they have with each other.

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2. Jeanne Kalogridis - I love her books, too. Jeanne Kalogridis is a close second to Philippa Gregory. The Burning Times was the first book of hers that I read and it is so captivating. It starts during the Black Death, and this is going to sound weird but I love the Black Death, it's such and interesting point in history. The Burning Times has a lot to do with The Inquisition, hence the title, and love, and magic, its a beautiful story.  The Borgia Bride, is another amazing story about Sancha of Aragon who marries one of the sons of Rodrigo Borgia (AKA Pope Alexander VI), and its just full of sex, and love, and politics, and murder, and family drama, and its awesome. The Devil's Queen, is about Catherine de Medici, the woman who came from the famous (and incredibly rich) banking family from Italy, and became Queen of France. Again, it's full of political scheming, and court intrigues, and I just love stories like that.
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3. Alison Weir - Alison Weir is one of my favorite non-fiction history writers and I was a little shocked when I saw her name in the fiction section for the first time, but her fiction books are so good! Innocent Traitor is my current favorite, but she has an historical fiction book about Anne Boleyn coming out this year so that might not last. But Innocent Traitor is about Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen, and it is absolutely heartbreaking. Jane's life was so short, and she had very little to do with being put on the throne, I've read several biographies about her and this book really fleshes out the whole story. The Captive Queen, about Eleanor of Aquitaine is excellent also.

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4. Jeanne Plaidy - Plaidy is probably one of the most prolific historical fiction writers ever. She used 7 pen names and, according to wikipedia, published over 200 books. I've read about 10 of her books and they've all been great but with such a prolific author it's hard to know where to start. The best thing you can do with her books is to just pick one. Sometime in the last 30 or so years her books were organized into 'series' by the publisher and the order of these 'series' have absolutely nothing to do with the order in which the books were published so really you can read them in any order. I started with To Hold the Crown, which focuses on Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. The Reluctant Queen, about Anne Neville, the wife of Richard III, is very good, and another one of my favorites. You really can't go wrong with Plaidy, just chose a time period and go for it.

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5. Anne Easter Smith - The thing I love most about Anne Easter Smith's books is surprisingly, not the history parts. I love how she describes her setting, it just makes the books so beautiful, and easy to get lost in. My favorite one of her books is A Rose for the Crown, which tells the story of Richard III through the eyes of Kate, his mistress and mother of his illegitimate children. Richard is often portrayed as a monster through history, and is often blamed for the disappearance of his two nephews from the Tower of London (which there is no conclusive evidence for), and this book does a good job of portraying him in a more sympathetic light.

Honorable Mentions

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner - I wouldn't call this strictly historical fiction because part of it does take place in modern day NYC, but its an excellent book. It is about the experiences of two women, one who witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911 and one who witnessed 9/11, and how they heal from what they saw and what they lost on those days. Warning; it's a tear-jerker.

Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King by Antonia Fraser - This book is non-fiction but it reads like fiction. It's about Louis XIV and his series of 'Maitresse en Titre' or official mistresses. They were an interesting group of women, some holding an immense of amount of political power and 17th century France is an interesting setting for anything.

Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen - I've seen mixed reviews on this book, it appears you either love it or hate, but I loved it. It takes places in the early 1700's, and most of it goes back and forth between the French and English courts. The main character is a young girl named Barbara who is engaged to a much older man, and there's affairs and politics, and basically all the stuff I love in historical fiction.

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff - This is the only book I've read by Ebershoff so I couldn't put him as a 'must read' author but this book is a must read! It's about a young woman who's family follows Joseph Smith, the founder and leader of the Mormon church, and her subsequent marriage to Brigham Young, as his '19th' wife. It also follows the story of a young man who has left a polygamist community in Utah and is trying to get his mother out. It really is a must read.  

Which books should be added to the list? I'm always looking for new authors to love!

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