Tag: Historical Fiction

Historical Policing

I’ve always been a fan of historical mysteries, but a couple of years ago i read a couple of really great books set at the dawn of “official” policing (Gods of Gotham, about the founding of the NYPD and The Yard about the first “murder squad” at Scotland Yard) and wondered if there was more out there.  They appealed to me because in general I like the structure imposed by a police procedural. (more…)

Featured Blend: Time Travel Romance

Outlander 2014
Time traveler love with seriously smokin’ chemistry. Swoon!

A little late for Valentine’s Day and a little early for the return of the TV series Outlander (although maybe you are, like me, re-watching the first half of season 1 to get prepped!) I have been in the mood to do a romance post about time travel romances and other romances that play with multiple time periods. The reason I think these can be fabulous genre blends is that they can give the reader a hugely satisfying historical fiction experience — gorgeous details of the dress, food, and social norms of the past — but still give us a touchstone character from the present to ground the story. (more…)

Historical Mysteries – Asia

Earlier in the week, I did a post on historical mysteries set in Africa.  As I said in that post, I love the potential of historical fiction to teach you something about a time and place you don’t know, and when you wed that history to a good puzzle plot, all the better! Another part of the world that I think is a great setting for historical mysteries in Asia, and I wish there were more examples out there.  if I forgot anything major, let me know.  If you click on the map, you can look at it much larger, and there is a list of included titles below. (more…)

Historical Mysteries – Africa

I love historical mysteries because when they’re done well you not only get a great whodunit, but you get to learn about another time.  And while there are hundreds of historical mysteries set in England and the US, I though it would be fun to round up some of the more unusual settings in the genre. Because there’s nothing wrong with another Tudor mystery, but it’s fun to virtually visit someplace new.

I know so little about Africa, so I thought I would round up all the historical mysteries I could find set on that continent. Aside from the expected slew of titles set in Ancient Egypt, I was happy to find some other choices as well. (more…)

A Test of Wills by Charles Todd



Title: A Test of Wills
Author: Charles Todd
Publisher: St. Martin’s, 1996
Series: Inspector Rutledge, Book 1

THE BOOK: In this series of historical mysteries set in post-WWI England, the protagonist is a Scotland Yard detective who solves crimes despite being nearly crippled with shell shock. Charles Todd’s Inspector Ian Rutledge is one of the great characters of British crime fiction. He fought in the trenches of WWI France, and came back a shattered man, carrying the guilt of what he had seen in the war. The twist is that his guilt takes form as a very convincing delusion. Rutledge hears the voice of a man who died under his command. This voice, a Scottish officer called Hamish MacLeod, serves as Rutledge’s conscience. It is also the voice of his intuition, which he fears he lost in the war.  But the hook for mystery fans is that Rutledge is trying to pick up his work as an Inspector with Scotland Yard. (more…)

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett



TITLE: The Troupe
AUTHOR: Robert Jackson Bennett
PUBLISHER: Orbit, 2011

THE BOOK: In an undefined turn-of-the-last-century time when vaudeville was still going strong, we meet young George Carole, a piano player at a small Vaudeville theatre in the middle of America somewhere/nowhere. Sixteen-year-old George is working at Otterman’s theatre for only one reason:  he hopes his father will play there someday so he can finally meet the man. But when he does finally track down his father’s vaudevillian troupe, nothing goes as planned.  His father, Hieronymus Silenus, is involved in something bigger and scarier than a simple entertainment and when George see the Silenus troupe play, his life is changed forever. Between the creepy puppet act, the tantalising dancing of the beautiful Colette, and the mesmerizing song that ends the act, George is fascinated.  But it is his encounter after the show with a spooky gray man who sucks all the light out of the world around him that decides George to sign on with the Troupe. Because Silenus is somehow using his show to battle back all the evil of the world.  Or is he? (more…)

Pirate Week: Romance Pirates

gentlerogue2There’s something irresistible about a pirate.  They live outside the law, they have ultimate freedom to sail about wherever they please, and they take what they want.  I mean, sure… those can be the characteristics of a fantastic villain as well. Romance novels are full of villains.  Alpha-type anti-heroes with what would be a poisonous level of testosterone in real life are perfectly acceptable in a romance novel, as long as they never hurt animals or children. And romance is the bastion of the misunderstood hero in villainous clothing. When pirates appear in romance novels (and good gravy, do they appear), the seeming villain often turns out to have a secret squooshy soft center, at least where the heroine is concerned.  Romance pirates are often trapped by circumstances in the piratical life, and perhaps all they need is the love of a good woman to retrieve them to the bosom of polite society.  Or maybe that loving woman will sail off happily over the horizon with her pirate.  Either way, there are probably dozens of pirate romances out there.  Let me introduce you to a few:

windflowerThe Windflower by Laura London Top Pick!
Written by husband and wife team Tom and Sharon Curtis, this is the one.  If you’re only going to read one pirate romance (and yes, I know most people will never EVER read romance, much less pirate romance), this is the one to read.  I had heard about this book for ages on romance sites like Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and never could find a copy (paperback copies, USED, were selling for almost $100, if you can believe). I finally borrowed one, and got to read the story of Merry Wilding and the crew of The Black Joke. Merry is a terribly sheltered young woman as the novel starts in 1813. She plans a trip to Europe and sets sail from New York only to fall into the clutches of pirate Devon Crandall. Crandall thinks Merry is the mistress of his greatest enemy (cue the misunderstandings!) and yet finds her irresistible.  What seems like the epitome of Old Skool romance with the milksop innocent and the rape-threatening hero (oh yeah, that happens) is elevated by its execution and by the marvelous full cast of characters that the authors assemble on board this unconventional pirate ship. So, so happy this has been re-released and is available for new readers. (more…)

Pirate Week: Historical Fiction Pirates

Yes, this Friday is National Talk Like A Pirate Day!  In honor of the day your coworkers go around saying “argh!” without provocation, I knew I had to pull together a list of pirate books. I was going to do a post on just space pirates, because good golly are there a lot of them.  But I thought it would be fun to round up all my favorite genre pirates. Sometimes the pirates are the heroes of the story — misunderstood rogues with hearts of gold.  Sometimes they are the cutthroat villains of a novel — the thing that our hero is running from. The best thing about adding a pirate to a story is that you almost automatically get a blend. Pirates bring adventure, danger, and excitement to a plot. Since there are so many books of all different genres that feature pirate, I’m breaking it up into a few posts.  Today will be your traditional historical fiction pirates. Then later in the week I’ll round up three of the other genres that pirates most often makes an appearance: fantasy, romance and SF. So avast ya scurvy bilge rats, put down yer grog. I’ve yer tastiest tales o’ the jolly roger afore ye.  (Sorry — I’ll stop.)

Historical Fiction Pirates

captainblood1 (1)The most traditional way to encounter pirates in fiction is in the historical fiction genre.  Even in that broad category, there’s a lot of variety in these stories.  For as long as people have sailed the planet’s oceans, there have probably been pirates, so you can get pirate stories set in many time periods. The stories are often full of colorful locations, bigger-than-life characters, and lots of action.  In other word, these books are often great adventure stories.  That’s probably one reason that pirate stories have been successfully made into successful Hollywood movies, from classic Errol Flynn vehicles like Captain Blood to the more recent blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. I’ve collected some of the most popular historical fiction novels featuring pirates, but let me know if I missed one of your favorites. (more…)

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon


TITLE: Outlander
AUTHOR: Diana Gabaldon
PUBLISHER: Dell, 1991
SERIES: Outlander, Book 1

THE BOOK: As the new STARZ adaptation gets going, I’ve been thinking a lot about these books. When I first read Outlander (and I came late to the party, only reading this first book after many of the sequels were published), I had the series recommended to me by several people.  What I remember is that the recommenders took completely different tacks in their pitch. (more…)

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik


Title: His Majesty’s Dragon
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Del Rey, 2006
Series: Temeraire, book 1

THE BOOK: Will Laurence is the Captain of a British frigate fighting Napoleon’s French Navy in the Mediterranean. He captures a French ship that happens to be carrying an unhatched dragon egg. It turns out that in Novik’s alternative world, dragons are used by the military to fight aerial battles. (more…)