Must Read Books: 15 Historical Fiction Novels

After watching the latest movie adaption of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, we wondered what other historical fiction novels we could dive into this summer. See our roundup below. 


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Based on Jane Austen

The Widow’s Fire
 By Paul Butler (Inanna Publications) The Widow’s Fire explores the shadow side of Jane Austen’s final novel Persuasion, disrupting its happy ending and throwing moral certainties off balance. We join the action close to the moment when Austen draws away for the last time and discretely gives an overview of the oncoming marriage between heroine Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth.

Set in the 20th Century 

Mina’s Child
 By Paul Butler (Inanna Publications) Mina’s Child imagines a second generation springing from the “heroes”‘ in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In 1921, Mina and Jonathan Harker’s daughter, Abree, a student at King’s College, London, starts to question the extraordinary adventures her parents claim to have experienced in England and the Carpathians.
The Grand Melee
By Michel Tremblay (Talonbooks) It’s May 1922, and preparations are in full swing for the marriage of Nana and Gabriel, which will take place the following month. There’s just one problem: Nana’s wedding dress has yet to be bought.
Heat Wave
 By Maureen Jennings (Cormorant Books) It’s July 1936 and Toronto is under a record-breaking heat wave. Charlotte Frayne is the junior associate in a two-person private investigation firm, owned by T. Gilmore. Two events set the book’s plot in motion: an anti-Semitic hate letter is delivered to Gilmore, who up to now has not acknowledged his religion, and Hilliard Taylor, a veteran of the First World War requests the firm’s assistance in uncovering what he believes is systematic embezzlement of the Paradise Café, which he owns and operates with three other men, all of whom were prisoners of war. The two events, although seemingly completely unrelated, come together in this wonderful novel that brings to life characters who are as real to the reader as those of the Murdoch series.
Dominion of Mercy
 By Danial Neil (NeWest Press)Edinburgh, 1917: Headstrong Highland lass Mary Stewart is a vibrant woman forced into the world’s oldest profession in order to provide for her ailing father and younger sister in the city’s Old Town. When her uncle, a well-to-do solicitor with political aspirations, thinks that her presence might impede his lofty ambitions he gives her a way out with dignity: a one-way ticket to the frontier town of Anyox, British Columbia, where nurses are needed to care for injured soldiers returning from the war.
Constant Nobody
 By Michelle Butler Hallett (Goose Lane Editions) Writing about violence with an unusual grace, Michelle Butler Hallett tells a story of complicity, love, tyranny, and identity. Constant Nobody is a thrilling novel that asks how far an individual will go to protect another — whether out of love or fear.
One Madder Woman
 By Dede Crane (Freehand Books) A memorable and clandestine love story between two visionary artists in 19th-century Paris.

Set in the 19th Century 

Amah and the Silk-Winged Pigeons
 By Jocelyn Cullity (Inanna Publications) Amah and the Silk-Winged Pigeons draws on the lost histories of the women descended from African slaves who resisted English rule during the 1857 uprising in Lucknow, India.
Lady Franklin of Russell Square
 By Erika Behrisch Elce (Stonehouse Publishing) Spring, 1847, and Lady Franklin is back in London expecting to greet her hero husband, polar explorer Sir John Franklin, upon his triumphant return from the Northwest Passage. But as weeks turn to months, she reluctantly grows into her public role as Franklin’s steadfast wife, the “Penelope of England. ” In this novel that imagines a rich interior life of one of Victorian England’s most intriguing women, the boundaries of friendship, propriety, and love are bound to collide.
Run Red with Blood
 By Cheryl Cooper (Dundurn Press) Things quickly go from bad to worse as Emily, Captain Fly Austen, and young Magpie each find themselves in treacherous waters. A shipwreck, a mutiny, and a bloody encounter with American ships on the Atlantic inflict devastating consequences on all.
 By Frances Burney (Stonehouse Publishing) Evelina, having been raised in the country and sheltered from the evils of London, is suddenly thrust into the height of upper class society and introduced to her ridiculous and self-important grandmother. What follows is an entertaining tale of love, friendship, and growing up, told with the wit and charm that inspired, and was admired by, Jane Austen.
Mary Green By Melanie Kerr (Stonehouse Publishing) Mary Green, obscure orphan and ward of the wealthy Hargreaves family, has always accepted her inferior position with grace, humility, and gratitude.  But when an unexpected foray into London society disrupts all her plans, she is faced with an uncharacteristic storm of feelings.

Set in 16-17th Century 

The Keening
 By Anne Emery (ECW Press)The murdered body of Sorcha the prophetess is discovered following a lavish banquet at the Maguire castle in 16th-century Ireland. In the present day, a dig commences on the land, and not only is a body discovered, but a sheaf of prophecies. Who killed Sorcha?
A Roll of the Bones
 By Trudy J. Morgan-Cole (Breakwater Books) A Roll of the Bones is the first in a trilogy of novels wrestling with the realities of colonization. Here, Trudy J. Morgan-Cole presents an array of unforgettable characters inhabiting the space where two worlds will collide, where the limits of love and loyalty will be tried in a harsh and unforgiving landscape.
Elizabeth of Bohemia
 By David Elias (ECW Press) A sweeping, cinematic novel about the life of the Winter Queen, Elizabeth Stuart. This historical novel brings in key figures such as Shakespeare and Descartes as it recreates the drama and intrigue of 17th-century England and the Continent.

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