86 Historical Fiction Titles To Share with Readers | Collection Development

LJs first preview of historical fiction shows the genre is flourishing with a myriad of forthcoming titles. Surveying the next seven months, World War II stories still dominate the offerings. But more titles set during World War I are entering the fray, as are Cold War–set novels and stories starring librarians as spies. Beyond these time frames, titles set in ancient periods through the 1960s also appear, often containing strong elements of mystery or romance. Other findings to note: a wide range of viewpoints offer new takes on history; iconic literary characters and historical figures appear in many books; and the use of dual time lines connecting past and present is prevalent. 

LJ’s first preview of historical fiction shows the genre is flourishing with a myriad of forthcoming titles. Surveying the next seven months, World War II stories still dominate the offerings. But more titles set during World War I are entering the fray, as are Cold War–set novels and stories starring librarians as spies. Beyond these time frames, titles set in ancient periods through the 1960s also appear, often containing strong elements of mystery or romance. Other findings to note: a wide range of viewpoints offer new takes on history; iconic literary characters and historical figures appear in many books; and the use of dual time lines connecting past and present is prevalent. Titles set outside of Europe and North America, however, remain scarce; there’s hope to see more among publishers’ offerings in future years. A full listing of titles mentioned below is also available on a downloadable spreadsheet.


“World War I is the conflict that really laid the groundwork for World War II and so much that happened in the 20th century,” says William Morrow Executive Editor Rachel Kahan. “Readers have spent so much time reading World War II novels, it feels inevitable that they’ll look for more stories of bravery and resilience and ordinary heroism.” Noting that Lauren Willig’s 2021 WWI–set novel Band of Sisters has been selling well in paperback, she adds, “We think it’s a sign that readers are ready for new and undiscovered stories from that era.”

Examples abound. Jennifer Chiaverini’s Switchboard Soldiers (Morrow, Jul.) follows three women who join the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I. The Village Idiot by Steve Stern (Melville House, Sept.) is a uniquely told biographical novel about painter Chaim Soutine in 1917 Paris.

Two examples of the WWI dual time line narrative: The Girls in Navy Blue by Alix Rickloff (Morrow, Nov.), featuring three women who join the U.S. Navy in 1918—and a great-niece of one of them, who inherits her great-aunt’s cottage in Virginia 50 years later. Courtney Ellis’s The Forgotten Cottage (Berkley, Aug.), set in 1915 France and 2019 England, has an American nurse trying to piece together her family’s tangled history.

There are two post–WWI novels from Harper to note. Kitty Zeldis’s 1920s-set The Dressmakers of Prospect Heights (Dec.) is about three women whose secrets threaten their friendship; Sarah Shoemaker’s Children of the Catastrophe (Sept.), publishing on the 100th anniversary of the Smyrna Genocide, follows the Melopoulos family across decades as their happiness turns to heartbreak amid the horrors of war.


The seemingly endless interest in World War II extends to the 1930s, when war was on the horizon. Viviane plays tourist, while spying on Germany at the 1936 Olympics in That Summer in Berlin by Lecia Cornwall (Berkley, Oct.). British author Louise Hare makes her U.S. debut with Miss Aldridge Regrets (Berkley, Jul.), a novel set in 1936 starring a multiracial woman who’s passing as white. In an attempt to outrun her past and make it in Hollywood, Maria leaves Mussolini’s Italy for Los Angeles in Anthony Marra’s Mercury Pictures Presents (Hogarth, Aug.).

Historical figures come to life in several upcoming titles set in this time period. Marianne Monson’s The Opera Sisters (Shadow Mountain, Sept.) is based on the daring exploits of Ida and Louise Cook, who smuggled valuables out of Germany to help Jewish refugees in the 1930s. Marie Benedict’s The Mitford Affair (Sourcebooks Landmark, Jan. 2023) follows the lives of English author Nancy Mitford and her sisters as they go from glamorous socialites to helping the war effort—on opposing sides.


The plethora of World War II stories explore its impact on people, many of them women and children, and their contributions to the war effort.

Two tales feature the Red Cross. Glynis Peters’s The Red Cross Orphans (One More Chapter, Jul.) is the first in a trilogy that imagines the stories of the brave women who volunteered during World War II. Kristin Beck’s The Winter Orphans (Berkley, Sept.) tells a poignant, based-on-true-events tale of young Jewish refugees who flee the Nazis through the mountain passes in France with the help of Swiss Red Cross volunteers.

Many novels explore the courageous women who joined the resistance or offered aid and service during the war. On the island of Crete, a young woman fights with the Resistance against the Nazi occupation and falls in love with an Allied spy in The Crimson Thread (Blackstone, Jul.) by Kate Forsyth. In Angels of the Resistance (Mira, Nov.) by Noelle Salazar, two teenage sisters join the Dutch Resistance effort against the Nazis. A Harvest of Secrets (Lake Union, Sept.) by Roland Merullo offers up a story of love and resistance against the backdrop of World War II Italy. Spanning the Spanish Civil War through World War II, Karen Robards’s The Girl from Guernica (Mira, Sept.) has a displaced Spanish heroine, who joins the resistance efforts against the Nazis in Germany.

Brave women recruited for their unique skills to help the war effort appear in many World War II stories. Inspired by true accounts, Kristina McMorris writes of an illusionist who helps British intelligence to create escape tools in The Ways We Hide (Sourcebooks Landmark, Sept.). In The Lipstick Bureau (Graydon House, Dec.) by Michelle Gable, Niki goes to work for the Rome division of the Office of Strategic Services, where she crafts fake stories and propaganda to lower enemy soldiers’ morale. One Woman’s War (Morrow, Oct.) by Christine Wells features World War II British Naval Intelligence officer Victoire Bennett, the inspiration for the James Bond character Miss Moneypenny. Based on true events that took place at Trent Park mansion in England, The Light We Left Behind (HQ Digital, Jul.) by Tessa Harris has Madeline Deveraux spying on Nazi generals staying at the house. The Codebreaker’s Secret (Mira, Aug.) by Sara Ackerman alternates between 1943 Honolulu, where a woman works to decode Japanese transmissions, and two decades later when a journalist investigates old secrets.

The terror and displacement of war are also explored. Second in the “Daughters of War” series, The Hidden Palace (Harper, Nov.) by Dinah Jefferies follows Florence in 1944 as she escapes the war in France and arrives in Malta, where she begins searching for her missing aunt. Israeli author Malka Adler’s The Polish Girl (One More Chapter, Aug.) tells a fictionalized version of her friend’s harrowing story of fleeing her home when the Nazis invaded in 1939. V.S. Alexander’s The War Girls (Kensington, Jul.) tells the story of two Jewish sisters—one imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto and the other recruited as a spy, willing to do anything she can to rescue her family from the Nazis.

Still more books focus on the ways war impacts family. From Alena Dillon, author of Mercy House, an LJ Best Book of 2020, comes Eyes Turned Skyward (Morrow, Oct.), a dual time line novel that explores complicated family relationships. Rhys Bowen, author of the “Molly Murphy” and “Royal Spyness” series, offers the stand-alone Where the Sky Begins (Lake Union, Aug.). Evacuated in 1940 to the English countryside, a woman opens a tea shop and meets a handsome pilot, but the past threatens her new future. In Cradles of the Reich (Sourcebooks Landmark, Oct.) Jennifer Coburn imagines three women in very different circumstances at a Nazi-sanctioned maternity home.


The war finds its way to the United States in unexpected ways. From Susan Elia MacNeal, author of the “Maggie Hope” mystery series, comes the stand-alone novel Mother Daughter Traitor Spy (Bantam, Sept.), about a mother and daughter who go undercover to stop an underground Nazi cell in Los Angeles. The highly anticipated novel Properties of Thirst (S. & S., Aug.) from National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist Marianne Wiggins follows a California family as they fight to protect their ranch, endure tragedy during the war, and become neighbors to Manzanar, the concentration camp for Japanese Americans.


Two WWII–set novels and one dual time line book present librarians gathering intel. Best-selling author Madeline Martin’s The Librarian Spy (Hanover Square, Jul.) features a librarian at the Library of Congress who’s sent to Lisbon to work undercover. The Book Spy (Kensington, Jan. 2023) by Alan Hlad has a New York Public Library microfilm expert also dispatched to Lisbon to find vital information—but she faces greater risks when she’s asked to pose as a double agent. The War Librarian (Putnam, Aug.) by Addison Armstrong captures remarkable moments in history through the stories of two women—one a volunteer librarian serving in France during World War I and the other vying for a place in the inaugural coed class of the U.S. Naval Academy in 1976.


A number of novels explore the lingering impact of World War II. Three women from different corners of the world arrive in Germany to run a displaced-persons camp in A Feather on the Water (Lake Union, Aug.) by Lindsay Jayne Ashford. In 1945, war widow Peggy looks forward to a fresh start in Cambridgeshire, but the house she inherits contains dark secrets in The House in the Orchard (Tin House, Sept.) by Elizabeth Brooks. James D. Shipman writes the suspenseful story of a hunt across Europe for a fugitive Nazi scientist in Before the Storm (Kensington, Jan. 2023). The Soviet Sisters by Anika Scott (Morrow, Jul.) is a gripping story that begins in 1947 in Berlin after the end of World War II and follows two Soviet spy sisters. The Half Life of Valery K (Bloomsbury, Jul.) by Natasha Pulley tells the story of Dr. Valery Kolkhanov, who in 1963 is taken from a Siberian prison to City 40, where he studies the effect of radiation on local animals, raising the question about why there is so much radiation in the area.


War invades several buzzy debuts. Already a best seller in Canada, Amita Parikh’s U.S. debut The Circus Train (Putnam, Dec.) follows brilliant and curious Lena as she travels Europe on a circus train with her illusionist father, but her world is threatened as World War II escalates, and the Nazis arrest her father and the man she’s in love with. In Small Acts of Defiance (Morrow, Jul.) by Michelle Wright, Lucie uses her artistic talents to fight the brutal anti-Jewish measures enacted in Nazi occupied Paris during World War II. Another war novel, The Woman with Two Shadows (Sourcebooks Landmark, Jul.) by Sarah James finds Lillian searching for her missing twin sister in Tennessee. Lillian is also caught up in one of the most closely held secrets of the war—the development of the atomic bomb.

A final debut to note, and one that focuses on a different period, The Forty Elephants (Blackstone, Aug.) by Erin Bledsoe takes place in the 1920s and details the life of Alice Diamond and a group of notorious shoplifters, who become the first all-woman gang of London.


Books honoring ancestors and exploring otherwise overlooked events address a decided gap in historical fiction. Melissa Croce, Marketing Manager, Adult Library, S. & S., notes, “There are more books featuring characters and voices who have been historically underrepresented” coming out this year and next. Asian American book club favorite Jamie Ford returns with The Many Daughters of Afong Moy (Atria, Aug.), in which poet Dorothy Moy connects with past generations of women in her family. In The Last Dreamwalker (Forge, Sept.) by award-winning author Rita Woods, two women across centuries are linked by their Gullah Geechee history.

Francine Thomas Howard, a descendant of an enslaved African, writes about the horrors of the Middle Passage in 1706 as three sisters are kidnapped from Timbuktu and sent to the Americas in Scattered Seed (Lake Union, Aug.). In 1964 Jim Crow Mississippi, two Black sisters are on the run from a dangerous man in Anywhere You Run (Morrow, Oct.) by Wanda M. Morris.

LGBTQIA+ characters are represented in Voices in the Dead House (Bellevue, Jul.) as Norman Lock portrays Walt Whitman and his male lover during Whitman’s stint as a volunteer at a hospital in Washington, DC, during the Civil War. In Jerome Charyn’s Big Red (Liveright, Aug.), a lesbian who works at Columbia Pictures is hired to keep an eye on 1940s movie star Rita Hayworth and her husband, Orson Welles.


These forthcoming titles range from ancient times to the 20th century. Bronze Drum (Grand Central, Aug.) by Phong Nguyen uncovers the hidden history of two warrior sisters who raise an army of women to overthrow the Han Chinese and usher in a time of freedom and independence in Vietnam in 40 CE. Ithaca (Redhook, Sept.) by Claire North is the story of Penelope and the women left behind to run the kingdom, while Odysseus and his army are away fighting. Rebecca Stott transports readers to Britain in 500 CE, when sisters Isla and Blue join an underworld of rebel women in order to survive in Dark Earth (Random, Jul.). Francesca Stanfill brings the 12th century to life through spirited young Isabelle as she comes of age and gets to know Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Falcon’s Eyes (Harper, Jul.).

Katherine J. Chen’s deeply researched novel Joan (Random, Jul.) is a secular reimagining of the life of Joan of Arc, which transforms the myth and legend into a flesh-and-blood person. Damian Dibben’s Renaissance-set The Color Storm (Hanover Square, Sept.) has Italian painter Giorgione hoping a rare new pigment will restore his reputation and fortune.

In 1642 England, physician Jayne Swift witnesses firsthand the brutality of war as she treats victims from both sides of the conflict between the king and Parliament in The Swift and the Harrier (Blackstone, Jul.) by Minette Walters. Philippa Gregory’s “Fairmile” series continues with Dawnlands (Atria, Nov.) and follows Alinor and her family as they become entangled in palace intrigue and political upheaval in 17th century England. The Night Ship by Jess Kidd (Atria, Oct.) tells the story of a girl shipwrecked on an island off western Australia in 1629 and a boy 300-plus years later, who ends up on the same island.

Moving on to the 18th century, two novels take place on opposite sides of the pond. When Hannah and her son visit Ashton Hall in England, they stumble upon hidden family history and piece together life at the manor in the Elizabethan era in Lauren Belfer‘s Ashton Hall (Ballantine, Jun.). Susan Holloway Scott’s Martha (Kensington, Feb. 2023) portrays Martha Washington as a vibrant, intelligent, and pivotal historical figure.

The upcoming publishing season has two novels that examine the Haitian Revolution. In Sister Mother Warrior (Morrow, Jul.), Vanessa Riley (see LJ's interview with Riley here) tells the stories of two extraordinary women who played pivotal roles in the revolution: Marie-Claire Bonheur, the first Empress of Haiti, and Gran Toya, a West African warrior who helped lead the rebellion. Zoe Sivak’s debut Mademoiselle Revolution (Berkley, Aug.) is the engrossing story of biracial heiress Sylvie de Rosiers, the daughter of a rich planter and an enslaved woman, who leaves Haiti for Paris when the revolution arrives, only to find herself in the midst of the French Revolution.

Two forthcoming 19th century–set stories feature protagonists investigating secrets and medical institutions. Vida Engstrand, Director of Communications at Kensington, says, “I think the current history-making health crisis has driven an increased interest in novels related to medical and public health history.” From author and registered nurse Amanda Skenandore comes The Nurse’s Secret (Kensington, Jun.) about America’s first nursing school at Bellevue Hospital in 1880s New York City. In Madwoman (Bloomsbury, Aug.), Louisa Treger writes about journalist Nellie Bly as she investigates a hospital for patients with mental health conditions in 1887 New York.

Reeling from loss and stumbling across a letter from 1895, Sarah leaves Boston behind for Paris in order to find the truth about her family in the dual time line tale From a Paris Balcony (Grand Central, Dec.) by Ella Carey. Two other stories taking place in this era include Penny Haw’s The Invincible Miss Cust (Sourcebooks Landmark, Oct.) about the impressive life of Britain’s first woman veterinary surgeon, and Serena Burdick’s The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey (Park Row, Nov.), which finds modern-day Abigail looking for answers about her family and the disappearance of British author Evelyn Aubrey more than a century earlier.

These fascinating novels share the same setting of the 20th century but tell disparate stories. The Matchmaker’s Gift (St. Martin’s, Sept.) by Lynda Cohen Loigman is the charming story of two extraordinary women from different eras, who defy expectations with their gifts for seeing soul mates. Tessa Arlen fictionalizes the life of Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, the trailblazing and innovative fashion designer who survived the sinking of the Titanic, in A Dress of Violet Taffeta (Berkley, Jul.). The Attic Child by Lola Jaye (Morrow, Sept.), is a haunting story about two children trapped in the same attic in London: Celestine, taken from his family in Africa in the early 1900s; and parentless girl Lowra in 1974.

In Colorado in 1907, young Sylvie works in the luxurious manor house of mining company owners, while feeling a growing sense of injustice for the mine workers in Gilded Mountain (Scribner, Nov.) by Kate Manning. Mariah Fredericks tells the infamous story of the 1932 Charles Lindbergh Jr. kidnapping from the perspective of Betty Gow, The Lindbergh Nanny (Minotaur, Nov.), who was a prime suspect. Bobi Conn’s novel A Woman in Time (Little A, Aug.) is a Prohibition-era story of a woman’s strength and resilience as she endures a marriage to a volatile bootlegger and finds solace in the Appalachian woods.


Those in power or close to the throne continue to entrance readers. Georgie Blalock’s An Indiscreet Princess (Morrow, Sept.) and Heather B. Moore’s In the Shadow of a Queen (Shadow Mountain, Oct.) both illuminate the life of Queen Victoria’s most rebellious daughter, Princess Louise, while The American Adventuress (Morrow, Sept.) by C.W. Gortner details the life of Jennie Jerome Churchill, the American heiress who married into British aristocracy and had two sons, including Winston. Jennifer Robson returns with another enthralling and royal-adjacent historical novel—this time during The Coronation Year (Morrow, Jan. 2023) of Queen Elizabeth II. Jacqueline in Paris by Ann Mah (Mariner, Sept.) details future first lady Jacqueline Bouvier’s college year abroad in postwar Paris in 1949.


A number of translated works highlight accomplished authors who are already well-known in their home countries. From France, The Ghetto Within (HarperVia, Aug.; tr. from French by Frank Wynne) by Santiago H. Amigorena fictionalizes the story of his Jewish grandfather, a Polish immigrant in Argentina, who has to live with the guilt of not being able to help his family leave the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.

Last House Before the Mountain (Bloomsbury, Jan. 2023; tr. from German by Gillian Davidson) by Austrian novelist Monika Helfer is based on her own family’s history, taking place in rural Austria during World War I and hauntingly exploring the effects of war and generational trauma. Best-selling Italian writer Bianca Pitzorno transports readers to a small village in 1900 seen through the eyes of The Seamstress of Sardinia (Harper Perennial, Dec.; tr. from Italian by Brigid Maher). Polish author Elzbieta Cherezinska pens The Last Crown (Forge, Sept.; tr. from Polish by Maya Zakrzewska-Pim), the epic sequel to The Widow Queen, about a long-forgotten Polish queen during the 11th century.

Lastly, The Picture Bride (Forge, Oct.; tr. from Korean by An Seon Jae) by Lee Geum-yi tells the story of Willow, a Korean “picture bride,” who arrives in 1918 Hawaii to find that the life she expected has all been a lie, but she forges ahead, determined to find new dreams and a better life.


The next seven months hold reading treasures, including the expected blockbusters: The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton (Bloomsbury, Aug.) a stand-alone companion novel to the best-selling The Miniaturist; Hester (St. Martin’s, Oct.) in which Laurie Lico Albanese imagines the life of a woman who could have inspired the character of Hester Prynne from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter; and Sarah Miller’s retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women from the perspective of Marmee (Morrow, Oct.).

Historical fiction is a genre of fascinating narratives, capturing readers deeply in intimate stories that reveal the details and grand sweep of past events, historic figures, and lives once lived. Big books or small gems, the best examples of this genre pull readers into place and time and illuminate the ways the past speaks to and shapes the future.

Melissa DeWild is Associate Editor, LJ Reviews 

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