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Staff Reviews: Adult historical fiction

Check out these reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library, featuring books DVDs for adults! (For reviews of books for all ages, visit our main Staff Reviews webpage.) Staff book reviews are also published at Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates. The book reviews on this website represent the personal opinions of the individuals who created them and do not represent any official views of the Marathon County Public Library.


Cover: 'The Paris Architect'

"The Paris Architect" by Charles Belfoure

★★★★★ This story takes place in Paris in 1942 during World War II. While so many people are struggling, the wealthy entrepreneurs are building factories and need architects to design them. Lucien Bernard is one of these architects, and is offered large amounts of money to build secret hiding places for Jews. Although he struggles with the risk that he is...

Audience: adults | Genre: historical fiction, fiction

Cover: 'The Boleyn Deceit'

"The Boleyn Deceit" by Laura Andersen

★★★★ In this sequel to “The Boleyn King,” Minuette, a lady in waiting to the future Elizabeth I, is caught between her love for Dominic Courtenay and William (the fictional King Henry IX of England), who becoming increasingly obsessed with her and wants to make her his queen.  Treasonous plots add a political undercurrent to the love triangle. Andersen...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'Behold the Dreamers'

"Behold the Dreamers" by Imbolo Mbue

★★★★ For years, Jende Jonga dreamed of making a life for himself and his family in the United States. A native of Cameroon, Jende has been living and working in New York City on a temporary visa for three years when his wife, Neni, and six year-old son, Liomi, immigrate to Harlem to join him. It’s 2007, and a world of opportunity opens up for the Jongas while...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction, diverse

Cover: 'The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir'

"The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir" by Jennifer Ryan

★★★★ As the men are heading off to war in 1940, the small village of Chilbury is subject to the ramifications of encroaching war, but a free-spirited female professor of music decides (to the shock of many) that the village choir need not be a casualty and forms a ladies’ choir to take its place. Through journal entries, letters, and other written correspondence...

Audience: adults | Genre: historical fiction

Cover: 'The Last Days of Pompeii'

"The Last Days of Pompeii" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

★★★★ You may think you know the eventual outcome: everyone dies, right? There can’t be much suspense in that! But do they? The story’s climax takes place, as the title suggests, just days before Vesuvius erupts. By then, our heroes and villains are caught in a complex web of actions and counteractions ostensibly dealt out by Fate. The Last Days of Pompeii by...

Audience: adults | Genre: historical fiction

Cover: 'Girl Waits With Gun'

"Girl Waits With Gun" by Amy Stewart

★★★★★ Constance Kopp and her two sisters (Norma and Fluerette) live quiet, isolated lives on their small farm in New Jersey. Their peaceful life comes to an abrupt halt when their buggy is struck and overturned by an automobile while on a routine trip into Paterson. Constance, a tall and formidable woman, politely demands the contact information for the driver (...

Audience: adults | Genre: historical fiction

Cover: 'Jane Steele'

"Jane Steele" by Lyndsay Faye

★★★★★ At first glance, Jane Steele’s life mirrors that of the heroine of her favorite book, Jane Eyre. Both are orphaned, treated poorly by their extended relations, sent to oppressive boarding schools, and seek employment as a governess. (Don’t worry, Bronte fans. There’s a Mr. Rochester, albeit in the guise of a traumatized British doctor born and raised in...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Daylight Gate'

"The Daylight Gate" by Jeanette Winterson

★★★★★ It's the best time of year for a suspenseful, spooky story and Jeanette Winterson has just the book for you! "The Daylight Gate" is a fictionalized account of the Trial of the Pendle Witches. In short chapters, Winterson relates the story of Alice Nutter, former student of the great alchemist John Dee and wealthy widow, who is accused of witchcraft, along...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Summer Before the War'

"The Summer Before the War" by Helen Simonson

★★★★★ Beatrice Nash arrives in East Sussex late in the summer of 1914 as the newly hired Latin teacher for the school at Rye and the first woman appointed to the post. Lady Agatha advocated for the hiring of Beatrice, and she is prepared to do all in her power to ensure that Beatrice is a success. This may be a bit of a challenge since Beatrice does not fit the...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Lake House'

"The Lake House" by Kate Morton

★★★★★ This astounding and captivating new novel from Kate Morton is utterly amazing. When detective Sadie Sparrows is forced to take a leave from work and stay with her grandfather in Cornwall, she stumbles upon an abandoned lake house standing beautiful and stagnant in time. When she finds out that the family left everything in place behind locked doors after...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery, historical fiction

Cover: 'Enchantress of Paris: A Novel of the Sun King's Court'

"Enchantress of Paris: A Novel of the Sun King's Court" by Marci Jefferson

★★★★★ This novel follows Marie Mancini, the niece of a powerful cardinal in the court of French King Louis XIV. As Marie and Louis fall in love, she becomes the target of her uncle's wrath because her relationship with the king threatens to unravel his carefully laid political plans. Marie also has to contend with the king's mother and competition from her own...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'Rebel Queen'

"Rebel Queen" by Michelle Moran

★★★★ Set in India during British occupation, this historical novel follows Sita, a young woman chosen to serve the queen of Jhansi, known as Rani Lakshmi. Sita is an intelligent and strong female character, devoted to her younger sister and her position to guard the queen as a member of the Durga Dal. Rani Lakshmi is eventually called the Rebel Queen after a...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Silver Witch'

"The Silver Witch" by Paula Brackston

★★★★ I couldn't help but immediately get sucked into the setting and characters in this novel. Set in Wales, a country I've always loved since visiting it in person, this beautiful landscape has many secrets. Tilda, a woman who just tragically lost her husband after they bought a lakeside cottage, feels an immediate affinity for the mysterious place. She vows to...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Dovekeepers'

"The Dovekeepers" by Alice Hoffman

★★★★★ This is a beautiful tale of four extraordinary women struggling to survive as their people are sought out for extermination by the Roman Empire. In 70 C.E. nine hundred Jews fled for their lives and sought refuge in King Herod's stronghold at Masada. Yael, born of a dead mother and rejected by her father the assassin, must survive the dessert to take refuge...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'A Touch of Stardust'

"A Touch of Stardust" by Kate Alcott

★★★★★ Julie Crawford is fresh out of college and in a hurry to escape the pressures of life in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She dreams of becoming a screenwriter and decides to take her chances in Hollywood. She finds a job instead as an errand girl for one of the most notoriously temperamental producers in the city. As the studio begins filming what will become one of...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Dressmaker'

"The Dressmaker" by Kate Alcott

★★★★★ Tess longs to escape a life of servitude. She knows that her talent should make her more than just a maid, but her beautiful dressmaking skills go unappreciated and unrewarded by her current employer. On impulse, she grabs her few belongings and runs for the docks where she has heard there are jobs available on a fancy new ship that is about to set sail....

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Paris Winter'

"The Paris Winter" by Imogen Robertson

★★★★★ Set in Paris during the early 20th century, this novel is about art and intrigue. The central character is Maud Heighton, an Englishwoman studying painting at Lafond's Academie. To save herself from starvation during the harsh winter, Maud becomes a paid companion to a wealthy Frenchman's sister. However, the man and his sister are not who they appear to be...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'All the Light We Cannot See'

"All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr

★★★★★ "All the Light We Cannot See" is a non-linear narrative centered on the stories of two children coming of age in WWII Europe. Marie-Laure, blind from the age of six, lives in Paris with her father, who is the principal locksmith for the National Museum of Natural History. At the age of 12, Marie-Laure and her father flee Paris as the Nazis advance. They...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Book of Night Women'

"The Book of Night Women" by Marlon James

★★★★★ This captivating novel pulls us deep into the world of Lilith, born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. We begin when she is just a child born of a too young mother who didn't survive her birth, and the white slave driver. Lilith has been afforded a certain amount of protection as a child but quickly learns what...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Invention of Wings'

"The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd

★★★★★ Sarah Grimke is just a child when she is given the ten-year-old slave girl Hetty 'Handful' Grimke as a present on her eleventh birthday. Sarah knows in this moment that she cannot be a part of the slave owning lifestyle of her southern aristocratic family. Sarah tries to free Hetty and is quickly put in her place by her powerful mother. Hetty’s equally...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'Orphan Train'

"Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline

★★★★★ I finally had a chance to read this book I kept hearing about, and it did not disappoint! This novel follows Molly, a present day child in the child welfare system, as well as a girl from the past known by many names. Molly meets this woman, now Vivian, through a community service project, and as they sift through Vivian's attic, they sift through her past...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Book of Life'

"The Book of Life" by Deborah Harkness

★★★ In the final installment of the All Souls trilogy, Matthew and Diana return from Elizabethan England to further dig up the origins of witches, daemons, and vampires. They need to find the alchemical manuscript known as Ashmole 762, or the Book of Life, to uncover these secrets. They must find the manuscript before it gets in the wrong hands, namely, Matthew...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, supernatural, fantasy, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Boleyn Reckoning'

"The Boleyn Reckoning" by Laura Andersen

★★★★★ In the thrilling conclusion of this trilogy about the Boleyn King who never was, Minuette finds herself caught between the king’s increasingly obsessive love and her loyalty to her secret husband Dominic. As the backdrop to this love triangle, Catholic and Protestant factions vie for power, causing families, friendships, and political loyalties to fracture...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Perfume Collector'

"The Perfume Collector" by Kathleen Tessaro

★★★★ This is a lovely, yet predictable novel about a woman who inherits an apartment in Paris from someone she has never met. Grace is living unhappily in England when she discovers the mysterious Eva d'Orsey left her a beautiful apartment and a generous stock portfolio. A richly-detailed work of historical fiction, Tessaro weaves together the duo plotlines of...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Painted Girls'

"The Painted Girls" by Cathy Marie Buchanan

★★★★ Set in 1878 Paris, this book tells the story of the van Goethem sisters as they struggle to survive extreme poverty following the death of their father and the descent of their mother into severe alcoholism. Antoinette loses her place on the opera stage and must find a way to help her family survive. Marie, with encouragement from Antoinette, takes her...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

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