Discussion Forums - Historical Fiction

Topic: Best of 2014

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
Page:   Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: Best of 2014
Date Posted: 12/28/2014 11:02 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,429
Back To Top

2014 is nearly in the books, so to say, and as this time of year is all about lists, it's time to think back through all the wonderful books you've read in 2014 and share your "best of."

My list includes (in no particular order):

  • Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein
  • City of Women, David Gillham
  • The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult
  • The Beautiful American, Jeanne Mackin
  • Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline
  • These is My Words, Nancy Turner

Honorable Mention to:

  • Martyr, Rory Clements
  • The Light in the Ruins, Chris Bohjalian
  • The Pale Blue Eye, Louis Bayard
  • The Spymistress, Jennifer Chiaverini

ETA: I'm reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd right now and if I get it finished by the end of the year, it will go on my 2014 'Best of' list. If not, expect to see it this time next year for 2015. SMK is a gifted writer and this book is wonderful!



Last Edited on: 12/28/14 11:51 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 12/28/2014 6:01 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
Back To Top

Best books I read this year:

  • Doc by Mary Russell
  • Daughters of the Grail by Elizabeth Chadwick
  • Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Dance With Dragons by George RR Martin
  • Louisiana Dawn by Jennifer Blake (HR)

I'm reading SKP's A King's Ransom right now, and it will probably be my best read of the year if I finish it before 2015.

Date Posted: 12/28/2014 7:13 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
Posts: 4,035
Back To Top

I've been reading more romance than HF, but Penman's A King's Ransom is at the top of the list. 

Date Posted: 12/28/2014 8:33 PM ET
Member Since: 9/14/2008
Posts: 379
Back To Top

My favorite Historical Fiction reads of 2014:

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel   Louise Murphy

The Witch Finder   Blythe Gifford

Mistress of the Art of Death  Ariana Franklin




Date Posted: 12/28/2014 8:37 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
Posts: 761
Back To Top

I didn't read many books this year, and whole I haven't read any duds, the only one to make my Best Of list would be Written in my Own Hearts Blood by Diana Gabaldon. I have 200 pages to go, but it's already made the list.

Date Posted: 12/29/2014 10:25 AM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,545
Back To Top

I was lucky enough to have a lot of great reads this year.  My top ones for 2014 are:

The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman

Circle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson

The Proud Villeins by Valerie Anand

Date Posted: 12/29/2014 12:08 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,429
Back To Top

Cheryl, we agree completely with one of your best and one of your worst! And ... We have now added Sea of Poppies to our WL!! 

Such fun!


Date Posted: 12/29/2014 12:22 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2010
Posts: 754
Back To Top

Lisa Kleypas- The Hathaway series, especially Book #5, Love in the Afternoon

Elizabeth Hoyt- The MaidenLane series- especially Book #1 Wicked Intentions and # 4 Thief of Shadows

Jodi Taylor- The entire Chronicles of St Mary series

Laura Kinsale- Flowers from the Storm 

Courtney Milan- The Brothers Sinister series, especially #3, The Countess Conspiracy

Charlotte Bronte- Jane Eyre

Bryce Courtenay- Four Fires

Norah Lofts- House series- Town House, House at Old Vine, House at Sunset

and the number one book of the year.......

Shay Savage- Transcendence 


What is missing from my list is Written in My Own Heart's Blood.  It was good, but not great.  I'm beginning to think I put way too much hype and my expecations are way too high for her books. 

Last Edited on: 12/29/14 12:23 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/29/2014 1:13 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,508
Back To Top

Mine is definitely A King's Ransom

Date Posted: 12/29/2014 1:20 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,429
Back To Top

Maybe I should sub-title this as "best of" from a series.  Some of my favorites include several titles from a single series.  I finished Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series this past year, #13 thru #21 and loved them all because I love Sharpe and Harper, but found that the last one was the weakest of the series.  I read and loved Cornwell's The Pagan Lord; only criticism was that it should have been longer, not enough Uhtrid.

I read the final two books of Winston Graham's Poldark series.  I have loved every book in that series beginning to end.

Still reading the Morland Dynasty series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.  I'm invested in the Morland family.  Read twelve more of that series during 2014 and really enjoyed most of them.  I find the later novels get a bit tedious with (IMO) too much historical involvement in the women's suffrage movement and then endless descriptions of the failed British offensives of WWI.

Phillip Rock's Passing Bells trilogy:  book one was a favorite last year; book two is a favorite this year; number three was a disappointment.

A 'best of" is the 4-book Rome series by M.C. Scott.  Her series about Boudica were favorites of 2011.

Favorite mystery series is Sebastian St. Cyr by C. S. Harris - loved Why Kings Confess, the latest one.



Date Posted: 12/30/2014 3:08 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,429
Back To Top

    Favorite HF novels, 2014

In Falling Snow, Mary Rose McColl

Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd

Unmentionables, Laurie Lowenstein

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You, Peter Troy

Firelord, Parke Godwin


     Honorable Mention:

My Notorious Life, Kate Manning

Someone Knows My Name, Lawrence Hill


    Read a wonderful non-fiction: Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne, about Quanah Parker and the Comanches.  One of last year's favorites was a HF novel, Ride the Wind, about Cynthia Ann Parker (Quanah's mother).


Date Posted: 12/31/2014 10:32 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
Back To Top

Even though my reading slowed down this year, I read some great hf.  At the top of my list are:

The Josephine B. trilogy - Sandra Guiland

Arundel - Kenneth Roberts

A Place of Greater Safety - Hilary Mantel

The Chalice - Nancy Bilyeau

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches - Alan Bradley


I also read some great nonfiction history, including these favorites:

The Age of Radiance - Craig Nelson

Below the Peacock Fan: Ladies of the Raj - Marion Fowler

Reading the Man:  A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters - Elizabeth Brown Pryor


Happy New Year and Happy Reading everyone!



Last Edited on: 12/31/14 10:33 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 12/31/2014 10:42 AM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
Back To Top

Best HF that I read in 2014:

  • A King's Ransom - Penman
  • Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber - Gabaldon (audio) - I previously read the printed versions but I thought the audio versions were as good if not better.
  • Roselynde - Gellis
  • Transatlantic - McCann (mostly HF)

Honorable Mention:

  • Seven for a Secret - Faye
  • Faded Coat of Blue - Parry
  • What Angels Fear, When Gods Die, Why Mermaids Sing - Harris
  • The Boy With Striped Pajamas - Boyne
  • The Pagan Lord - Cornwell
  • The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches - Bradley
  • City of Jasmine, Midsummer Night - Raybourn
  • Day of Atonement - Liss
  • The Reckoning - Airth

Non-HF but too good not to mention:

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bryson (audio)
  • The Lion's Gate - Pressfield
  • Night - Wiesel
  • Free Spirit - Safran
  • A Constellation of Vital Phenomena - Marra
  • My Promised Land - Shavit
  • Eleni - Gage
  • The Boys in the Boat - Brown
Date Posted: 12/31/2014 12:58 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,429
Back To Top

Well. Seeing it on two lists, looks like I need to see if Linda has The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches on our WL! 

Date Posted: 12/31/2014 2:28 PM ET
Member Since: 6/29/2008
Posts: 1,815
Back To Top

Best HF in 2014:

  • Legacy - Susan Kay
  • I Always Loved You - Robin Oliveira
  • Dollface - Renee Rosen
  • Murder as a Fine Art - David Morrell
  • Palisades Park - Alan Brennert
  • Heresy - S.J. Parris
  • Mary Coin - Marisa Silver


Best non-HF

  • The Two Mrs. Abbotts and The Four Graces - D.E. Stevenson
  • The Art of the English Murder - Lucy Worsley
  • Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
  • The Black-Eyed Blonde - Benjamin Black
  • Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Robin Sloan
Date Posted: 12/31/2014 2:51 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
Back To Top

DebB, glad to see you liked Pressfield's Lion's Gate.  I bought it but got a bit worried after not liking his Gates of Fire.

Date Posted: 12/31/2014 3:20 PM ET
Member Since: 10/4/2010
Posts: 260
Back To Top

Best of the year:

Other HF:  






Last Edited on: 12/31/14 3:34 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 1/1/2015 8:51 AM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
Posts: 41,950
Back To Top






Paranormal - Written in Red  Anne Bishop

Paranormal Romance - Celtic Moon Jan DeLima

Cozy -Off Kilter by Hanna Reed

HF - Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley  (Lavendar Garden is very close 2nd by her)

Historical Mystery - Paris Affair by Teresa Grant

Romance - Forgotten Sins by Rebecca Zanetti

YA - Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I read across genres so I thought I would share my favorite in each genre

Last Edited on: 1/1/15 8:52 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/1/2015 10:01 AM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2007
Posts: 3,128
Back To Top

The Daring Ladies of Lowell, Kate Alcott

The Dressmaker, Kate Alcott

Murder as Fine Art, David Morrell

The Yard, Alex Grecian

Bishop Street, Rene Schultz

Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline

These are some I especially enjoyed in 2014. 

As I look at my list, it is interesting that I almost solely read historical fiction nowadays.  Since David's death I no longer have to provide books for two readers, so I have come to indulge my passion almost completely.  Before when we travelled there was a lot of Vince Flynn, David Baldacci, Greg Isles, etc. that we would both read and share.  Changes occur one does not really consider as life begins a new journey.


Date Posted: 1/1/2015 10:48 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,718
Back To Top

I didn't read a lot of HF this year, but I did enjoy:

The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult

I Always Loved You, Robin Oliveria

Fatal Enquiry, Will Thomas

11/22/63, Stephen King (Not HF to ME, of course...)

Date Posted: 1/1/2015 11:09 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,429
Back To Top

... Changes occur one does not really consider as life begins a new journey. ... Very true words, Becky!

Kristin, I really liked Whiskey Rebels when I read it. And this reminds me that I think I have another book by David Liss on the shelves. I need to pull it and get it on the short list!

And, Aubree, delighted to see Dollface on your list! I received this book from my Secret Santa and can't wait to get read it!



Date Posted: 1/1/2015 5:24 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 318
Back To Top

Last Edited on: 2/3/15 1:55 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/2/2015 9:56 AM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,757
Back To Top

I was in a big funk in 2014 and very little tripped my trigger.

By far the best of the year was Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, author of another fabulous book, Code Name Verity, which I read a couple of years ago.  RUF was not really a follow up to CNV, but Maddie, one of the main character from CNV is a minor character in RUF.  I listened to it on Audible, and I really, really enjoyed it.

I also liked Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd, which is probably not surprise as Rutherfurd is one of my favorite authors.  However, I didn't love Sarum like I loved London or Paris.  Perhaps because it took me so long to listen to it.  There were spans of weeks that I didn't listen, and perhaps that made it harder for me to make all the connections between generations that are staples of Rutherfurd's books.

Others I enjoyed were These is My Words by Nancy Turner and The Widows War and Bound, both by Sally Gunning.

Last Edited on: 1/2/15 10:11 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 1/2/2015 11:21 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
Posts: 1,356
Back To Top

This year, this thread is easy, easy, easy.  Hands down best books:


HF--Someone Knows My Name (also published as The Book of Negroes) by Lawrence Hill.  Top notch historical fiction that seems just not to be all that well known. Details an African girl's journey from free in Africa, through her capture and transport on a slave ship to Charleston, to her years on a plantation there, to  NY, to Canada, to England and finally to her return to Africa. Excellent authentic details and the kind of book you forget is fiction.  Edited to add:  This is in production by BET as a mini-series set to be released this spring, and the trailers look good, very very good.

Edited to add a link to the trailer:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/15/the-book-of-negroes-miniseries-premiere-bet-february_n_5991466.html

You'll need to cut it and paste it, but it's fantastic, and I can't wait for it to air.


NF-Coincidentally on the same subject, my best NF is Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball.  The author is a white descendant of one of the largest plantation-holding families in the Charleston area. His book is his search back through his roots, not just for his white ancestry, which of course is well-recorded, but for the family's slaves. He does a great job in contrasting the lives of the two families, outlines the difficulties blacks have in researching their roots, and actually goes out and meets current descendants. He's a good storyteller, so it reads well and easily.  I happened to find this title after reading Someone Knows My Name as I searched for more reading material on the subject of slave history/records/accounts, etc.


A close second for me was Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, his account as an escaped convict in 1980's India. It is a fantastic if HUGE read, and I read it because we traveled to India in March 2014. I've since learned of some controversy over his account as told in the book, so no one's quite sure if it's fiction or not, which tarnished it a little in my view, but still an incredible read about an incredible and vibrant culture and country.

Last Edited on: 1/2/15 1:50 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 1/2/2015 3:02 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,429
Back To Top

Colleen,  Someone Knows My Name was one of my favorites, too.


ETA: (from) Linda. Kelly has not read it yet, but will get to it this year!

Last Edited on: 1/2/15 3:27 PM ET - Total times edited: 1