The best books on adventure romances in historical fiction

The Books I Picked & Why


By James Clavell

Book cover of Shōgun

Why this book?

This was my first exposure to his Asian Saga, as well as my first immersion into a book that would take me into such a foreign world, and as the protagonist, John Blackthorne, I had to learn to speak Japanese, the culture, and politics. The characters are deep and vast, from England, Holland, Portugal, China to the most mysterious of all, 1600s Japan. Some beloved, others loathsome. With my theme of adventure romance, sweeping sagas, and favorite books, I love characters I laugh, cry, and bleed with. Before there was a video game, this was an interactive book, relentless and forceful, educational, and entertaining. Read all his books, more than once. My original paperback has tear stains and sweaty fingerprints from my death grip.  

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The Valley of Horses

By Jean M. Auel

Book cover of The Valley of Horses

Why this book?

This is Book Two of her Earth’s Children series, and my favorite of this sweeping saga of the human experience. As a lover of history, archaeology, and sociology, as well as an animal lover and horse fanatic, I was immersed in the survival and existence of our resourceful, compassionate ancestors, making tools and clothing, finding food, building shelters, and domesticating animals. Not to mention the, ummmm, cave erotica. Jean Auel paints a vivid canvas of how the world appeared, gives us a taste of the cuisine and the vastness of the steppes and plains of prehistory. Spellbinding and engaging, I still reminisce of Ayla and Jondalar and their incredible journeys. Ms. Auel is a favorite author to listen to at writer’s conferences.   

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By Diana Gabaldon

Book cover of Voyager

Why this book?

This is the third in the Outlander series and was quite serendipitously the first of her books my husband and I listened to. He checked out the audio cassette version from the library and brought it on a kids-free trip to Maui…Maui, no kids, a hot-date-night book every day and night. This third book stands alone and has enough backstory to bring the listener/reader up to speed on this adventure/romance across time and distance even without reading Outlander or Dragonfly in Amber (which we did as soon as we got home). Living history through the lens of Jamie Frazier in 1740s Scotland and the Caribbean, and the dual time perspective of Claire, a 1940s time traveler is a riveting ride, again with characters that cause me to laugh, cry and, of course, bleed out. Ms. Gabaldon is also a gracious woman with her time and inspiration at writer’s conferences and certainly encouraged me to keep writing.  

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By Frank Herbert

Book cover of Dune

Why this book?

While fantasy, this is another story that immersed me in an alien world with such vivid descriptions, allusions, yet a sense of reality and characters challenged beyond what they believed possible. Rather a juxtaposition of our world. I had to think, got to feel, and many aspects of this book find their way into my thoughts and reflections, like one-liners from a favorite movie. “The spice must flow.” “ Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death…” Whether the Bene Geserits or Star Wars’ The Force, life resonates for those open to it. I am so drawn to this spiritual, grounding journey and explore it in my own writing.  

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A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles

Book cover of A Gentleman in Moscow

Why this book?

This is one of my new favorites and I must admit, though mostly happily married since 1975 (’75, that is no typo, I’m of an age), I have a crush on Count Rostov. For humor, (the scene in the kitchen with the oranges for one), for family love and loyalty, Russian history, romanticized and gritty, this book held me captive as the Count himself was a prisoner of the Metropol. The scope, depth, humanity, and character arch, plus so many characters in this book. I listened to it twice, then read it to see the words, it was that powerful.

We are only allowed five books, it was very hard to distill to five, because so many books have and will continue to enrich my soul.

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