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Topic: "Must reads" in this genre

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Subject: "Must reads" in this genre
Date Posted: 2/19/2008 12:21 PM ET
Member Since: 8/1/2007
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I'm a total newbie to this genre. Other than some Asian historicals and Outlander, I have not read any other books in the genre. So what are some of your "must reads" in this genre that you would recommend to someone just starting out?


Date Posted: 2/19/2008 1:06 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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Oooh, good question! What time period do you like? Any particular country/countries?

Since you liked Outlander, I recommend The Roselynde Chronicles, a series of 6 books, beginning with Roselynde. I've read the first two, so I can only speak for these.

Roselynde takes place during the Third Crusade - late 1100s under Richard I's reign. The second book, Alinor, opens after the death of Richard I when King John is on the throne. The series is historical romance, but with richer (deeper) and more accurate history than you typically find in this genre.

Have you read anything by Elizabeth Chadwick? She does mostly biographical historical novels of medieval persons. Most, if not all, her books take place in England. She also often uses a romance sub-theme. Her history is accurate.


P.S. Not a historical novel, but The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger was wonderful.

Date Posted: 2/19/2008 1:06 PM ET
Member Since: 10/9/2007
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I really like Phillipa Gregory.  My Favorites by her are :

1. The Other Boleyn Girl

2. The Virgin's Lover

3. The Constant Princess

4. The Queen's Fool.


Also, I love Jean Plaidy's "Queens of England" series.

eta: I forgot about Sharon Kay Penman!

Last Edited on: 2/19/08 1:08 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/19/2008 1:18 PM ET
Member Since: 6/28/2007
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I am so glad you asked this question...I'm new to this genre too & like you I don't know where to start either!  Thanks for starting this great thread, I look forward to reading the recommendations! 


Date Posted: 2/19/2008 1:24 PM ET
Member Since: 8/1/2007
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What time period do you like? Any particular country/countries?

I have no preference since I'm just starting out. I'm just looking for exceptional stories that grab you and don't let up. I have read The Time Traveler's Wife and I loved it!

I really like Phillipa Gregory.

I plan to read The Other Boleyn Girl and the follow up which is on my wishlist. I'm just trying to get an idea of what other great books are out there in case there is a long WL or I come across them in the BB.

Thanks for the suggestions so far. =)

ETA: Your welcome Shayla!

Last Edited on: 2/19/08 1:26 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/19/2008 1:25 PM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2007
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I, too, highly recommend Sharon Kay Penman.  I can't say enough good about her Welsh trilogy!  Another good series is Plaidy's Plantagenet series.  It gives a very good overview of this time period and you can branch out from there. 

Date Posted: 2/19/2008 1:54 PM ET
Member Since: 3/18/2007
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Well, I am a big fan of Roman era HF, so I highly recommend Robert Graves' series about the emperor Claudius: I, Claudius and Claudius the God. They are usually available here on PBS. I also recommend Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series which begins with The Grass Crown.


If you are into Egyptian era HF, Pauline Gedge is hands down the best. I would recommend starting with either Child of the Morning about Hatshepsut or House of Dreams (AKA Lady of the Reeds) which takes place during the reign of Ramses III.

Date Posted: 2/19/2008 3:41 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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I'll third (or fourth!) Sharon Kay Penman, especially the Welsh trilogy, which begins with Here Be Dragons.

Date Posted: 2/19/2008 4:24 PM ET
Member Since: 7/24/2007
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The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It is a great book but might be intimidating to some but if you have read Outlander it should be okay. I just posted it this morning, but it has 400 wishers so I am mailing it out today.

Set in the 12th century, some people say it is about building Cathedrals, but while that was an important part of the book, the story really revolves around one curse a woman put on a Monk, an Earl and a Sherif that had her lover hanged. It really is a great book!

Date Posted: 2/20/2008 9:28 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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Keep an eye on the Available Books and Books to Post to WL's threads. There are lots of good ones posted there every day. Just claim what sounds interesting to you.

One of my favorite's that hasn't been mentioned yet is Margaret George. Her books about Cleopatra and Henry VIII'th are wonderful! I loved her book about Helen of Troy too, but it doesn't seem as popular as the others.

You might like to try Edward Rutherurd's books, especially if you like long, saga type books. His book Sarum is my personal favorite and his books are just about all available for request right now. No waiting on the wishlist!

One more thing...Browse the books that have been tagged as Historical Fcition. There are lots that are available and you can find it by clicking directly from the Tag Cloud.

Last Edited on: 2/20/08 9:34 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 2/20/2008 10:00 AM ET
Member Since: 4/15/2005
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Here's a link to books in my Library Thing catalog that I've tagged historical fiction:  http://www.librarything.com/catalog.php?tag=historical+fiction&view=marcinyc&shelf=list&sort=dateread

Many of those listed above are on my list as well as others.

I've also got an assortment tagged "historical" -- I'm cleaning up and sorting out the historical fiction from the historical mystery, so this will be a mix of both genres:  http://www.librarything.com/catalog.php?tag=historical&view=marcinyc&shelf=list&sort=dateread

Date Posted: 2/20/2008 1:58 PM ET
Member Since: 6/1/2007
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I second Philippa Gregory and Margaret George.  I'm starting Gregory's Wideacre trilogy soon and have read several of her other novels and loved them all.  Also I am reading the last 100 pages of Mary Queen of Scots and the Isles by Margaret George and it is really good.  Be prepared though if you read her books they are usually pretty long so if you're looking for a quick read in this genre margaret george is not it :)

Date Posted: 2/20/2008 2:17 PM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2007
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I have read the Wideacre trilogy and enjoyed it very much.  Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the first book of the trilogy as much as I enjoyed the last two books.  I found it hard to identify with Beatrice Lacey in the first book and was tempted not to read the other two.  However, I highly recommend you read all three because the last two make up for what I saw as shortcomings in the first.

Date Posted: 2/20/2008 2:27 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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I found it hard to identify with Beatrice Lacey in the first book and was tempted not to read the other two.

Beatrice sure was one messed up gal. LOL! But I love dysfunctional characters. Wideacre is the only Gregory book I've read and enjoyed. It's interesting how tastes differ, isn't it?

Date Posted: 2/20/2008 4:57 PM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2007
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Wideacre is the only Gregory book I've read and enjoyed.

After I read the second and third books I did appreciate the first one.  I think I needed a wider perspective then I got from the first one alone.

Date Posted: 2/21/2008 3:27 PM ET
Member Since: 8/1/2007
Posts: 965
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Thanks for all the suggestions everyone! I have a list going and I'm on the hunt for these authors/books. I was at the thrift store today and came across a copy of Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George. It's a pretty big book but remembered this was a recommended author. Anyone read this one?

ETA: I just scrolled up and realized Holly posted about this book. Yay!

Last Edited on: 2/21/08 3:28 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/21/2008 11:22 PM ET
Member Since: 1/4/2008
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Thanks for the Sharon Kay Penman suggestions!  I've put her on my reminder list.

I love historical fiction from 19th to early 20th century England, so the Welsh Trilogy should be right up my alley!

Leticia, I see Margaret George mentioned a lot in this thread.  Apparently she's well loved...if you like long books..which i DO!

Date Posted: 2/21/2008 11:36 PM ET
Member Since: 3/18/2007
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Margaret George is a favorite of mine. Actually, it was her Memoirs of Cleopatra that got me interested in Roman History. SUCH a wonderful book!! The Autobiography of Henry VIII was also great.


A book that I have read recently and absolutely loved was The Physician by Noah Gordon, about an 11th century English barber-surgon who travels to Persia and poses as a Jew in order to be able to be allowed to study medicine under the Muslim masters. HIGHLY recommended!



Last Edited on: 2/21/08 11:36 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/22/2008 9:37 AM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2005
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Another vote for Margaret George!  I could not put down "The Memoirs Of Cleopatra" or the King Henry book.  I also enjoyed "Mary, Queen of Scots and The Isles" but wasn't crazy about "Helen Of Troy".  I don't know why.

I also enjoy Jean Plaidy's books.

One of the best hist. fiction reads I have enjoyed about Queen Elizabeth I is "Legacy" by Susan Kay.  VERY good read! 

WWII hist. fiction-The Cazalet Family Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard.  More of a fiction story than hist. fiction, but WWII is always in the background in this series, very interesting look at the life of a large somewhat upper-class family just before, during, and after WWII.  The first in the series is "The Light Years". 

"Music And Silence" (main character-a musician in Denmark's King Christian IV's court-1600s) and "The Colour" (Australian Gold Rush) by Rose Tremain-excellent!  I also have her "Restoration" (set during King Charles II's reign) TBR.

Aaron Fletcher writes a great series about the Australian Outback in the 1800s in his Walkabout series.  The first book in that series is called "Outback"

Jennifer Donnelly's "The Tea Rose" is a great story-Irish girl makes good...and also Ann Moore's Gracelin O'Malley series.  I also loved "Mina" and Bread And Dreams For Mina" by Jonatha Ceely.   I believe all these books are set in the 1800s or at the latest, early 1900s.

Oh...and Sandra Gulland's 3-book series about Empress Josephine.  This story is written all in diary form.  Really good! 

OK, before you're totally overwhelmed I'll stop!  :o)  Hope enjoy reading and exploring this genre.

Date Posted: 2/24/2008 2:00 PM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2008
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If you like Military Historical Fiction I have a ton of recommendations.

First of all read anything by Bernard Cornwell - the guy is probably the greatest living author of historical fiction.

His Sharpe series (20+ books) is superb if you are at all interested in the Nepolianic Wars

His Arthur trilogy is also a great read, not to mention his series on King Alfred the Great (the 4th book entitled Sword Song is a recent release)

Other recommendations would be Patrick O'Brien, C.S. Forester or Alexander Kent if 19th century English Navy sounds interesting to you.

If American history is more your thing check out anything by John Jakes for starters.


Date Posted: 2/24/2008 3:09 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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Adam, I love Cornwell. Great recommendation! I picked up my first Patrick O'Brien recently - Master and Commander. I didn't think I'd like reading naval HF, but I was sooooo wrong. It's fantastic.


Date Posted: 2/24/2008 7:35 PM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2007
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I too like Bernard Cornwell.  I am currently enjoying his Saxon Chronicles Series about very early English history.

Date Posted: 2/27/2008 1:08 AM ET
Member Since: 3/28/2007
Posts: 94
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How about WWII - I enjoyed Ken Follett stories and Daniel Silva The Unlikely Spy

Any others that you might recommend?


Date Posted: 3/1/2008 9:56 AM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2006
Posts: 5,752
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Great thread, as I am a relative newbie to historical fiction.  I have read the Outlander series multiple times and they are my favorites.

Recently I read The Kitchen Boy and loved it.  I also recommend Philippa Gregory.  I just finished The Other Boleyn Girl last night, and last year I read A Respectable Trade.  If you like your history mixed with mystery, there are some good cozies, such as Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy series and The Gaslight Series by Victoria Thompson.

I have a lot of good ones in my TBR pile, such as Snow Flower and The Secret Fan by Lisa See, World Without End and Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet, and of course more Philippa Gregory.

Bonnie, you gave some great recommendations....I'm going to have to check those out...thanks!

Date Posted: 3/13/2008 1:38 PM ET
Member Since: 7/3/2007
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I'm a big fan of 19th century HF.  Some of my recent favorites:

The Alienist-  Caleb Carr

The Dante Club- Matthew Pearl 

Devil in the White City-  Erik Larson 

I just finished The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin.  It was a forensics tale 12th century England.