The best fictional books with an historical twist

Who am I?

I am a Yorkshire writer with a passion for historical fiction. My love of history came as a surprise to me in my late teens, as I had originally thought history was not my thing. However, I soon discovered the incredible stories throughout history, and how many authors carve fictional stories around these time periods or historical events. I love researching for my own historical writing, whether it be to find out what kind of jobs people did, or what they ate for breakfast. I love reading and writing historical fiction in multiple eras, such as WW2, Victorian times, and further back to the Romans and ancient Egyptians. 


I wrote...

The Planting of the Penny Hedge

By Chris Turnbull,

Book cover of The Planting of the Penny Hedge

What is my book about?

Whitby, 1891. When an unknown man is discovered dead on Whitby beach, it is assumed that he has drowned. However, when the police arrive at the scene it soon becomes clear that there is more to this case than a simple drowning victim. The chief calls in newly appointed Detective Benjamin Matthews to look into the case.

Matthews, originally from Whitby, has been living these past two years in York as a PC, and is less than happy with his transfer back to the harbour town. With a relocation, a family conflict, and now a new case to solve Matthews is well and truly thrown in at the deep end; and the more he delves into the young man's complex life, the darker things get.

The books I picked & why

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The Lifeboat

By Charlotte Rogan,

Book cover of The Lifeboat

Why this book?

The Lifeboat is one of the first-period books I ever remember reading, and I was hooked by it from the first page. Told in the first person we follow Grace, as she retells the horrific incidents that have happened to her during the sinking of the Express Alexandra, becoming a widow, and spending three weeks trapped on a cramped lifeboat. I credit this book with being the first to inspire me in the world of historical fiction, both as a reader and writer.

The Lifeboat

By Charlotte Rogan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The sinking of an ocean liner leaves a newly married woman battling for survival in this powerful debut novel.

Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox…


The Greatcoat

By Helen Dunmore,

Book cover of The Greatcoat

Why this book?

This was a book I just could not put down. Originally I was interested in this book because it was set in Yorkshire, but it quickly became one of my favourite reads of all time. Set in 1952 it tells the story of a young lady named Isobel, who moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire with her husband. There is an innocent romance to this book, with an ending I didn’t see coming at all  

The Greatcoat

By Helen Dunmore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the winter of 1952, Isabel Carey moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire with her husband Philip, a GP. With Philip spending long hours on call, Isabel finds herself isolated and lonely as she strives to adjust to the realities of married life.

Woken by intense cold one night, she discovers an old RAF greatcoat hidden in the back of a cupboard. Sleeping under it for warmth, she starts to dream. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled by a knock at her window.

Outside is a young RAF pilot, waiting to come in.…


Eagle of the Empire

By Martin Ferguson,

Book cover of Eagle of the Empire

Why this book?

Martin Ferguson has quickly become one of my favourite authors, thanks to his Relic Hunters series. What I love about these books is that they are split between two stories, the modern-day story based on the Relic Hunters who work at the British Museum, and the secondary story set in the past relating to the relic they are hunting in the modern chapters. In some ways I would say the historical chapters are my favourite, and the author clearly does a lot of research for these books. These books make me eager to go away and read the rest of the history surrounding the relic, history, and myths. I am always recommending these books to friends. 

Eagle of the Empire

By Martin Ferguson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

RELIC HUNTERS: EAGLE OF THE EMPIREWhen his brother mysteriously disappears, sixteen-year-old Adam Hunter discovers that the myths and legends he was told as a boy have more truth to them than he ever thought possible.To free his brother, Adam must uncover the truth about the lost Roman Ninth Legion and find its fabled Eagle Standard, an artefact of mysterious mythical power. Adam calls on the help of the British Museum, a team of quirky Relic Hunters, skilled in recovering and protecting relics around the world. However, they need to act fast for they are not the only ones searching for…


Pandora in the Congo

By Albert Sánchez Piñol, Mara Faye Lethem (translator),

Book cover of Pandora in the Congo

Why this book?

Pandora in the Congo was recommended to me by a friend, and although initially unsure due to its quirkiness (especially the further through you read), I ended up loving it. Set in 1914, this story is again set in a prison cell, with the main character re-telling the horrors he endured in the Congo on a mining expedition, which he alone became the sole survivor of. 

Pandora in the Congo

By Albert Sánchez Piñol, Mara Faye Lethem (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pandora in the Congo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is 1914. In the heart of the Belgian Congo, Garvey, a bedraggled British manservant, emerges from the jungle. He is the lone survivor of a mining expedition in which both his masters have died, and all of the party's African porters have fled. With him, he carries two huge diamonds.

From his prison cell in London, Garvey recounts his horrific and thrilling ordeal. Young Tommy Thomson is assigned to transcribe Garvey's story and only he can untangle the extraordinary mysteries of the Garvey case.


The Railway Detective

By Edward Marston,

Book cover of The Railway Detective

Why this book?

I have always loved reading crime detective books, no matter what time period they are set in. However, The Railway Detective series manages to merge two of my favourite genres, crime and historical. Set in the mid-1800s when railways were still relatively new, this series has a brilliant set of characters and is written so brilliantly that you can picture every scene in your mind down to the last detail. 

The Railway Detective

By Edward Marston,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1851 England, the city of London anticipates the grand opening of the Great Expedition. Excitement is mounting with each engineering triumph of the railways, but not everyone feels like celebrating. A sudden attack hits the London to Birmingham mail train and it is looted and derailed. Planned with military precision, Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck fights to untangle a web of murder, blackmail and destruction. As Colbeck closes in on the criminal masterminds, events take an unexpected turn when the beautiful Madeline, daughter of the injured train driver, becomes a pawn in the criminals game. With time running out, good…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in ghost story, the Belgian Congo, and railroad?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about ghost story, the Belgian Congo, and railroad.

Ghost Story Explore 109 books about ghost story
The Belgian Congo Explore 6 books about the Belgian Congo
Railroad Explore 12 books about railroad

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Little Stranger, 20th Century Ghosts, and The Grownup if you like this list.