The best books on forgotten women in history

Who am I?

I’m a writer and high school history teacher who has been obsessed with women from history since I was twelve. Prior to A Most Clever Girl, I wrote And They Called It Camelot about First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and American Princess about Alice Roosevelt. I've also written four novels about women from the ancient world, spotlighting Theodora of the Byzantine Empire, Egypt's Pharaoh Hatshepsut, the story of Genghis Khan’s wife and daughters, and a novel of Alexander the Great's women.


I wrote...

A Most Clever Girl: A Novel of an American Spy

By Stephanie Marie Thornton,

Book cover of A Most Clever Girl: A Novel of an American Spy

What is my book about?

A thrilling novel of love, loyalty, and espionage, based on the incredible true story of Elizabeth Bentley, a Cold War double agent spying for the Russians and the United States, from USA Today bestselling author Stephanie Marie Thornton.

Recruited by the American Communist Party to spy on fascists at the outbreak of World War II, a young Bentley—code name Clever Girl—finds she has an unexpected gift for espionage. But after falling desperately in love with her handler, Elizabeth makes another surprise discovery when she learns he is actually a Russian spy. Together, they will build the largest Soviet spy network in America and Elizabeth will become its uncrowned Red Spy Queen. However, once the war ends and the U.S. and U.S.S.R. become embroiled in the Cold War, it is Elizabeth who will dangerously clash with the NKVD, the brutal Soviet espionage agency. 

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The books I picked & why

America's First Daughter

By Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie,

Book cover of America's First Daughter

Why did I love this book?

This meticulously researched bestseller breathes life into the story of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Patsy, as she helps guide her father and the new nation of America. An avid fan and teacher of U.S. history, I learned so much about Thomas Jefferson—including his post-presidency years and his relationship with Sally Hemings—while reading about this forgotten American daughter.

By Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked America's First Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES & USA TODAY BESTSELLER

In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson's eldest daughter, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph--a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson's oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of…


The Memoirs of Cleopatra

By Margaret George,

Book cover of The Memoirs of Cleopatra

Why did I love this book?

Everyone thinks they know Cleopatra, but this amazing novel made me feel like I was peering over Cleopatra’s shoulder while she fought civil wars against her siblings, snuck into the palace to meet Julius Caesar, and fell in love with Marc Antony. There are so many forgotten details of Cleopatra’s history that are brought to life here!

By Margaret George,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The mesmerizing story of Queen Cleopatra in her own words - by bestselling novelist Margaret George, author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII and Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles.

Told in the first person - from the young queen's earliest memories of her father's tenuous rule to her own reign over one of the most glittering kingdoms in the world - this is an enthralling saga of ambition and power.

It is also a tale of passion that begins when the twenty-one-year-old Cleopatra, desperate to return from exile, seeks out the one man who can help her: Julius…


Book cover of The Serpent and the Pearl

Why did I love this book?

While this novel moves effortlessly between three narrators, I loved that one of them is plucked straight from the dusty pages of history. While Lucrezia Borgia typically gets plenty of press, her contemporary Giulia Farnese was the beautiful young woman who didn’t have a choice in becoming the mistress of Cardinal Borgia, who became Pope Alexander VI. Here we see her learning to wade through Italian politics at the height of Borgia treachery.

By Kate Quinn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A gripping novel about history’s most infamous family—The Borgias—and an innocent girl pulled into their treacherous rise to power, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network and The Diamond Eye.

Rome, 1492. The Holy City is drenched with blood and teeming with secrets. A pope lies dying and the throne of God is left vacant, a prize awarded only to the most virtuous—or the most ruthless. The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web…

Vivacious Giulia Farnese has floor-length golden hair and the world…


The Invisible Woman

By Erika Robuck,

Book cover of The Invisible Woman

Why did I love this book?

Any woman who worked as a spy against the Nazis during World War II is worth reading about, but Virginia Hall was a pioneering agent for the SOE who has only started to gain widespread recognition in recent years. Hall was known as the “limping lady” because she had lost part of her leg and used a prosthesis that she named Cuthbert. Now that’s a woman I’d happily invite to dinner!

By Erika Robuck,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Invisible Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“An extraordinary profile of immense courage and daring.”—Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Left Cuba
 
“If you only read one WWII book this year, make it this one."—Natasha Lester, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Orphans
 
In the depths of war, she would defy the odds to help liberate a nation…a gripping historical novel based on the remarkable true story of World War II heroine Virginia Hall, from the bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl
 
France, March 1944. Virginia Hall wasn't like the other young society women back home in Baltimore—she never wanted the debutante…


Book cover of Becoming Josephine: A Novel

Why did I love this book?

I think most history fans know about the ill-fated relationship between Napoleon and Josephine, but I loved that this novel also highlighted Josephine’s early—and mostly forgotten—years spent in Haiti as France’s ideals of equality spurred the bloody Haitian Revolution. Josephine then also has to survive the French Revolution before she catches Napoleon’s eye.

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The Rosewood Penny

By J.S. Fields,

Book cover of The Rosewood Penny

J.S. Fields

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The dragons of Yuro have been hunted to extinction. 

On a small, isolated island, in a reclusive forest, lives bandit leader Marani and her brother Jacks. With their outlaw band, they rob the rich to feed themselves, raiding carriages and dodging the occasional vindictive pegasus. Thanks to Marani’s mysterious invulnerability, this mostly works out well…until Marani and her quirky band of outlaws plunder the carriage of the very bossy princess Nuria.

The princess’s carriage contains not just gold, but a dragonscale comb that belonged to Marani’s murdered mother. Worse yet, Princess Nuria seems to know exactly who Marani is, maybe more than Marani herself.

The Rosewood Penny

By J.S. Fields,

What is this book about?

The dragons of Yuro have been hunted to extinction.

On a small, isolated island, in a reclusive forest, lives bandit leader Marani and her brother Jacks. With their outlaw band they rob from the rich to feed themselves, raiding carriages and dodging the occasional vindictive pegasus. Thanks to Marani’s mysterious invulnerability, this mostly works out well…until Marani and her quirky band of outlaws plunder the carriage of the very bossy princess Nuria.

The princess’s carriage contains not just gold, but a dragonscale comb that belonged to Marani’s murdered mother. Worse yet, Princess Nuria seems to know exactly who Marani is,…


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