The best books for exciting adventure in the Renaissance to keep the pulse racing

Why am I passionate about this?

As a ghostwriter, I’m asked to turn my hand to many genres. Yet the one I keep returning to is Renaissance Adventure. Having always been a fan of adventure, in films, TV, or books, for my English Degree at Exeter University, I dedicated my dissertation to the genre, and the fascination shows no sign of fading. I love all these books, but there is one difference between these and my series. That is the heroes here are all men. Bring on more adventure in this era with women! I hope you enjoy the books on this list – they are a fantastic way to spend your evenings with your pulse racing.


I wrote...

The Gentlewoman Spy

By Adele Jordan,

Book cover of The Gentlewoman Spy

What is my book about?

1584, London. What if Walsingham’s righthand man, was a woman?

Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster to the Tudor Queen Elizabeth has trained Kit Scarlett since she was a girl. Aware that she is able to infiltrate places that his male agents cannot, he sees her as an invaluable member of his team. When Walsingham discovers that a rebel alliance is planning to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and put Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne, he summons Kit immediately. Kit is tasked with finding out the full details of the treasonous plot. Can Kit secure her place in a man’s world? Will she save Queen Elizabeth? Or will her daring ultimately be her downfall…?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dark Fire

Adele Jordan Why did I love this book?

Looking for a rollicking adventure in Tudor London, that doesn’t take place completely at the court of Henry VIII?

The second book in C J Samson’s Matthew Shardlake series is arguably one of the best, though all have merit, and woe betide anyone who wishes to debate such a thing with a serious Samson fan. I recommend Dark Fire as it’s so transportive. It’s for anyone who wishes to feel they are waking up in Tudor London, with their pulse racing, and investigating a matter of death.

It’s dark, of course, the clue is in the title! Yet the danger captivates by dragging the reader through the streets of London, as if you are running with your hero, Shardlake. After an adventure? This is it. 

By C.J. Sansom,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Dark Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When a friend's niece is charged with murder and threatened with torture for her refusal to speak, 1540 lawyer Matthew Sharklake is granted an unexpected two-week reprieve to investigate the case if he will also accept a dangerous assignment to find a legendary weapon of mass destruction. By the author of Dissolution. 25,000 first printing.


Book cover of City of Vengeance

Adele Jordan Why did I love this book?

I recently had the pleasure of meeting D V Bishop at CrimeFest in Bristol, and his passion for his stories truly comes through in person.

After picking it up for a friend whose favorite place in the world is Florence, where the book is set, I couldn’t resist reading it myself, and oh, I am glad I did. Three books into the series, and it’s hard to put down. Cesare Aldo is a hero that is mysterious and resilient – a man trying to hide his sexuality in a world where it’s a crime – as he investigates murders in Renaissance Florence.

Like Samson, Bishop masters drawing the reader into becoming attached to the hero, with the book unputdownable. 

By D. V. Bishop,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the 2021 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize and longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger 2021.

City of Vengeance is an explosive debut novel in an historical thriller series by D. V. Bishop, set in Renaissance Florence.

'An impressive and immersive debut set in a beautifully realized sixteenth-century Florence' - Antonia Hodgson

'A first-class historical thriller . . . Bishop's spirited and richly detailed story is a tour-de-force' - David Baldacci

Florence. Winter, 1536. A prominent Jewish moneylender is murdered in his home, a death with wide implications in a city powered by immense wealth.

Cesare Aldo, a former…


Book cover of The Royal Secret

Adele Jordan Why did I love this book?

Andrew Taylor is known for his great mysteries set in the 1600s, but the reason I’m picking this one above his others is the power of the opening and how it draws you into this world.

We’re introduced to a house where two girls are playing with what is effectively a voodoo doll, wishing harm on their master. When something inevitably happens to the master, these girls’ simple game with the doll becomes much more wicked. Who couldn’t be drawn in by such a premise?

Like Samson and Bishop, Taylor takes the reader on an investigation through a city from a different era, but it’s the people in Taylor’s book that make the stakes of this adventure so much higher.

By Andrew Taylor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the No.1 bestselling author of The Last Protector and The Ashes of London comes the next book in the phenomenally successful series following James Marwood and Cat Lovett during the time of King Charles II.

Over 1 Million Andrew Taylor Novels Sold! A Times Best Paperback of 2022

Two young girls plot a murder by witchcraft. Soon afterwards a government clerk dies painfully in mysterious circumstances. His colleague James Marwood is asked to investigate - but the task brings unexpected dangers.

Meanwhile, architect Cat Hakesby is working for a merchant who lives on Slaughter Street, where the air smells…


Book cover of Martyr

Adele Jordan Why did I love this book?

Part of the Shakespeare family? Working for Walsingham in the height of the spy era? Who wouldn’t want to read about John Shakespeare!

There are many books in this series, but I’ve picked Martyr in particular as it’s the first, and what an introduction. With the threat of war imminent, and Mary Stuart about to be assassinated, a dark world is created here where it feels like every day that Shakespeare wakes up, he might struggle to keep breathing. What danger!

Once more, Rory Clements creates a world of intrigue that isn’t solely placed at the royal court but opens our eyes to the darker underbelly of the city. This book first got me into this genre many years ago. I could not recommend it enough as a first dip. 

By Rory Clements,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Martyr as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

*****Part of the bestselling John Shakespeare series of Tudor spy thrillers from Rory Clements, winner of the Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award*****

'Does for Elizabeth's reign what CJ Sansom does for Henry VIII's' Sunday Times

England is close to war. Within days the axe could fall on the neck of Mary Queen of Scots, and Spain is already gathering a battle fleet to avenge her.

Tensions in Elizabeth I's government are at breaking point. At the eye of the storm is John Shakespeare, chief intelligencer in the secret service of Sir Francis Walsingham. When an intercept reveals a plot to…


Book cover of Act of Oblivion

Adele Jordan Why did I love this book?

The most recent publication on this list, this book hit me this year like a brick, and surprisingly, that is a good thing.

I picked this book at a time when I needed to escape the world, and it truly offered that escape. Inspired by the true events of trying to track down those responsible for the beheading of Charles I, this is a powerful tale that leaves you questioning who exactly you’re supporting. An adventure that takes place both in England and America in 1660, it is a slow burn.

So yes, we have a degree of setting up, but if you enjoy slow-build tension, then this is the book for you. It’s a heavy dose of historical detail that transports you, and the ending? Hold onto your hats!

By Robert Harris,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Act of Oblivion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A belter of a thriller' THE TIMES
'A master storyteller . . . an important book for our particular historical moment' OBSERVER
'His best since Fatherland' SUNDAY TIMES

'From what is it they flee?'
He took a while to reply. By the time he spoke the men had gone inside. He said quietly, 'They killed the King.'

1660. Colonel Edward Whalley and his son-in-law, Colonel William Goffe, cross the Atlantic. Having been found guilty of high treason for the murder of Charles the I, they are wanted and on the run. A reward hangs over their heads - for their…


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The Blue Prussian

By Eve Penrose,

Book cover of The Blue Prussian

Eve Penrose

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The Blue Prussian is a spellbinding story told by Blake O’Brien, a beautiful, young executive with a globetrotting career. Blake returns to her native Manhattan from San Francisco after escaping—or so she thinks—her marriage to a dashing man who turned out to be a prince of darkness. She had been hoping for a fresh start but learns that she has been poisoned with thallium—a deadly neurotoxin referred to as the poisoner’s poison.

Blake is treated with the only known antidote—Prussian blue—the same synthetic pigment with the deeply saturated hue used in dazzling masterpieces like The Starry Night and The Great Wave. Almost unfathomably, the alchemist who invented Prussian blue was the rumored inspiration for Mary Shelley’s character, Dr. Frankenstein. The similarities to Blake’s financier ex are striking as his true nature is revealed—including the discovery of a secret room in the brooding Victorian home where they lived their married life together.

The stylish enclaves of Beekman Place in New York City, Nob Hill in San Francisco, and the Mayfair neighborhood in London provide the backdrop as this chilling tale of treachery and betrayal unfolds. Blake’s resolve triumphs, and the camaraderie of her loyal and charismatic friends fortifies her as she takes the reader on a tantalizing international pursuit to try to catch her poisoner, who is known to the FBI as The Blue Prussian.

The Blue Prussian

By Eve Penrose,

What is this book about?

"A modern-day Gaslight"

The Blue Prussian is a spellbinding story told by Blake O'Brien, a beautiful, young executive with a globetrotting career. Blake returns to her native Manhattan from San Francisco after escaping—or so she thinks—her marriage to a dashing man who turned out to be a prince of darkness. She had been hoping for a fresh start but learns that she has been poisoned with thallium—a deadly neurotoxin referred to as the poisoner's poison.

Blake is treated with the only known antidote—Prussian blue—the same synthetic pigment with the deeply saturated hue used in dazzling masterpieces like The Starry Night…


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