Author Austen fangirl Regency author Romance writer Wisecracker
The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,681 authors and super readers for their 3 favorite reads of the year.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

My favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Plunder: Napoleon's Theft of Veronese's Feast

Christina Dudley Why did I love this book?

Plunder combined three of my favorite things in one unputdownable story: art history, Italy, and the Napoleonic Era.

Veronese's enormous Wedding Feast at Cana, painted for the refectory wall at San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, was seized with other masterpieces when Napoleon overcame the Austrians and wouldn't take Venice's neutrality as an answer. To this day it hangs in the Louvre, largely (pun intended) ignored because it’s opposite the Mona Lisa.

Salzman traces the common historic habit of swooping in like vultures during wartime to build one’s art collection, and for the first time I understood why Hitler thought himself justified in his own artistic pilfering!

By Cynthia Saltzman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Plunder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of The Christian Science Monitor's Ten Best Books of May

"A highly original work of history . . . [Saltzman] has written a distinctive study that transcends both art and history and forces us to explore the connections between the two.” ―Roger Lowenstein, The Wall Street Journal

A captivatingstudy of Napoleon’s plundering of Europe’s art for the Louvre, told through the story of a Renaissance masterpiece seized from Venice

Cynthia Saltzman’s Plunder recounts the fate of Paolo Veronese’s Wedding Feast at Cana, a vast, sublime canvas that the French, under the command of the young Napoleon Bonaparte, tore from…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Magic Flutes

Christina Dudley Why did I love this book?

As a romance writer, Eva Ibbotsen is who I want to be when I grow up. Her quirky, hilarious, educated, swoony books are peopled with delightful characters, and Magic Flutes is a perfect example.

Tessa works as the wardrobe mistress and general lackey of a Viennese opera company, but she's really the Princess Theresa-Maria of Pfaffenstein. Millionaire Guy Farne buys Pfaffenstein for his beloved fiancee and hires the opera company to put on—what else?—Mozart's The Magic Flute. Love ensues. Absolutely delightful.

By Eva Ibbotson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Magic Flutes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Spring, 1922

Tessa is a beautiful, tiny, dark-eyed princess - who's given up her duties to follow her heart, working for nothing backstage at the Viennese opera. No one there knows who she really is, or that a fairytale castle is missing its princess, and Tessa is determined to keep it that way.

But secret lives can be complicated. When a wealthy, handsome Englishman discovers this bewitching urchin backstage,Tessa's two lives collide - and in escaping her inheritance, she finds her destiny. . .

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Framley Parsonage

Christina Dudley Why did I love this book?

I’ll be honest: Framley Parsonage was a re-read because I return to Trollope’s Barchester series every few years.

When I’m seeking the comfort of a good Austenesque love story within a richly imagined community of characters, Trollope is Jane Austen’s true heir. In this one, a clergyman gets in financial hot water and tries to hide the situation from his patroness Lady Lufton. Meanwhile Lady Lufton’s son falls for the clergyman’s younger sister.

The well-meaning Lady Lufton runs away with this book, in my opinion. I loved her character so much that I basically stole her for one of my books!

By Anthony Trollope,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Framley Parsonage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Framley Parsonage By Anthony Trollope

Plus, check out my book…

Tempted by Folly

By Christina Dudley,

Book cover of Tempted by Folly

What is my book about?

Raised in the shadow of her family's notoriety, Florence Ellsworth accepts an engagement to a staid clergyman in a bid for propriety. But when her father decides to marry a fourth time, Florence is driven to enlist the aid of the family's young and handsome new attorney.

Robert Fairchild is surprised by his longings when he gains the confidence of the client's daughter. But with her already betrothed to another, the humble lawyer refuses to behave dishonorably. And when he is pulled into another lady's marriage schemes, he fears even his slender chance with the object of his affections has been forever lost. 

Will they find a way out of their tender traps to capture happily ever after?