The best historical romance books to make you wish you lived in the past (until needs for modern conveniences arises)

Why am I passionate about this?

I love reading novels that take me to another time, place, or adventure (an antithesis to my 30-year career as a professor teaching physiology & pathophysiology to medical and nursing students). I read for entertainment and variety. As an author, I write books I'd like to read! Drawn to history, I've written five historical romances—a woman of courage, intellect, and compassion at the heart of each. I've authored two contemporary espionage thrillers with a woman as the protagonist. I enjoy stepping out of the bounds of empiricism in my novels, blending genres, and stretching the imagination.


I wrote...

The Confederates' Physician

By Alison Blasdell,

Book cover of The Confederates' Physician

What is my book about?

The United States is entering the third year of the Civil War. Young Samantha Carter, recently educated as a physician in Paris, defies her father, disguises herself as a boy, and runs away to enlist in the Union Medical Corps. On her way there, she is captured by a Confederate patrol. When the commanding officer, Major Ethan Winters-Hunt forces her to serve as a surgeon for the Confederate Army. Samantha is unprepared for the horrors of battle and finds she must draw upon the strength and native mysticism imbued in her as a child.

Eventually, Samantha's identity as a young woman is discovered, and the friendship that Ethan and Samantha shared turns into a passionate love that is severely tested by deceit and betrayal as the nation rages in war.
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Glory and the Lightning: A Novel of Ancient Greece

Alison Blasdell Why did I love this book?

I read this years ago; it's one of the reasons I began writing historical romance novels. It's the story of Aspasia, a woman in ancient Greece. She's educated in a selective school for courtesans, beautiful, groomed for pleasure, and bought by a Persian man who comes seeking a courtesan from this famous establishment. He takes Aspasia back to Persia. Eventually, she is freed and returns to Athens, where she meets Pericles. Inspired in part by his love of Aspasia, Pericles initiated the building of the famous Acropolis in ancient Greece. 

I was fortunate to visit Athens after reading Glory and the Lightning, and standing on the Acropolis, I found myself thinking of Pericles and Aspasia, real people who lived and loved over 2,000 years ago. (And yes, I may have gotten a lump in my throat and one or two tears threatened.)

By Taylor Caldwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestseller: A breathtaking saga of ancient Greece and one of history's most influential political couples, Aspasia and Pericles.

Born in the Greek city of Miletus, Aspasia was destined for a life of tragedy. Her wealthy father vowed to abandon any female child, so Aspasia was secreted away, educated independently of her family, and raised as a courtesan. She discovered at an early age how to use her powers of intellect as ingeniously as those of the flesh.

Ensconced in the Persian harems of Al Taliph, she meets the man who will change her fate: Pericles, the formidable…


Book cover of To Dance with Kings

Alison Blasdell Why did I love this book?

This is also a book I read long ago, and it made me want to write historical fiction novels. This is an astounding story of a young peasant woman who is swept up into the Parisian society of King Louis XVI.

The author's attention to historical details in the construction of Versailles and the French Revolution is a standard that I have judged most novels by. It's a beautiful multi-generational story of love and loss, and I'll admit to tears when reading this book. I usually avoid sad books. I want love to never end. Having said that, I'm so glad I read it, and I was amazed at how much French history I learned!

By Rosalind Laker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To Dance with Kings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An epic generational tale of loves lost, promises kept, dreams broken, and monarchies shattered, To Dance with Kings is a story of passion and privilege, humble beginnings and limitless ambition.

On a May morning in 1664, in the small village of Versailles, as hundreds of young aristocrats are coming to pay court to King Louis XIV, a peasant fan-maker gives birth to her first and only child, Marguerite. Determined to give her daughter a better life than the one she herself has lived, the young mother vows to break the newborn’s bonds of poverty and ensure that she fulfills her…


Book cover of The Nightingale

Alison Blasdell Why did I love this book?

I loved this book, but it is a heartbreaking story, so beware. I'm passionate about history, and this is the story of two sisters in Nazi-occupied France during WWII. The book begins with one of the sisters, now an old woman, recalling her life. I'm always very emotional when reading a story that begins with the hopes and dreams of youth and leads me through the character's life to the end when the effects of time and living have taken their toll. Despite the sadness I felt, it was a spectacularly-crafted novel and, in my opinion, the best novel this acclaimed author has written. 

By Kristin Hannah,

Why should I read it?

27 authors picked The Nightingale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major motion picture, The Nightingale is a multi-million copy bestseller across the world. It is a heart-breakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the endurance of women.

This story is about what it was like to be a woman during World War II when women's stories were all too often forgotten or overlooked . . . Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac are two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals and passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path towards survival, love and freedom in war-torn France.

Kristin Hannah's…


Book cover of Outlander

Alison Blasdell Why did I love this book?

If you haven't read this outstanding book, you're missing out on one of today's most talented authors of historical romance. Add a blend of adventure and time travel into this book as well. A young woman in post-WWII is accidentally transported to 1400s Scotland. The book is rich in Scottish history and a love story that spawned a TV series and eight more books that continue the life and love of Claire and Jammie.

I have always loved history, and I fell in love with this book (as did millions of other readers). Yes, the book is long, but don't let that dissuade you. It's well worth it!

By Diana Gabaldon,

Why should I read it?

33 authors picked Outlander as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The first book in Diana Gabaldon’s acclaimed Outlander saga, the basis for the Starz original series.

One of the top ten best-loved novels in America, as seen on PBS’s The Great American Read!
 
Unrivaled storytelling. Unforgettable characters. Rich historical detail. These are the hallmarks of Diana Gabaldon’s work. Her New York Times bestselling Outlander novels have earned the praise of critics and captured the hearts of millions of fans. Here is the story that started it all, introducing two remarkable characters, Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser, in a spellbinding novel of passion and…


Book cover of A Stitch in Time

Alison Blasdell Why did I love this book?

I love historical fiction that adds an element of fantasy, magical realism, or time travel. I like the expansion of the mind that accompanies appreciation of these novels. (Yes, I admit that appreciation guided me in writing one of my series in the historical/romance/fantasy blended genre.) A Stitch in Time is a time travel novel of romance in which the heroine slips through time to the Victorian English countryside. She moves back and forth from the present to the past. The story is complete with a haunted manor house, ghosts, mystery, and love unbounded by time.

If my description seems banal, I apologize, for this is an intelligently crafted story. The author's sentences are beautifully written, leading the readers into the inner thoughts of the character. I just recently discovered this prolific author, and I'm a big fan!

By Kelley Armstrong,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Stitch in Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thorne Manor has always been haunted…and it has always haunted Bronwyn Dale. As a young girl, Bronwyn could pass through a time slip in her great-aunt’s house, where she visited William Thorne, a boy her own age, born two centuries earlier. After a family tragedy, the house was shuttered and Bronwyn was convinced that William existed only in her imagination. Now, twenty years later Bronwyn inherits Thorne Manor. And when she returns, William is waiting. William Thorne is no longer the boy she remembers. He’s a difficult and tempestuous man, his own life marred by tragedy and a scandal that…


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Book cover of Leora's Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II

Joy Neal Kidney Author Of What Leora Never Knew: A Granddaughter's Quest for Answers

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm the oldest granddaughter of Leora, who lost three sons during WWII. To learn what happened to them, I studied casualty and missing aircraft reports, missions reports, and read unit histories. I’ve corresponded with veterans who knew one of the brothers, who witnessed the bomber hit the water off New Guinea, and who accompanied one brother’s body home. I’m still in contact with the family members of two crew members on the bomber. The companion book, Leora’s Letters, is the family story of the five Wilson brothers who served, but only two came home.

Joy's book list on research of World War II casualties

What is my book about?

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one; all five sons were serving their country in the military–two in the Navy and three as Army Air Force pilots.

Only two sons came home.

Leora’s Letters is the compelling true account of a woman whose most tender hopes were disrupted by great losses. Yet she lived out four more decades with hope and resilience.

By Joy Neal Kidney, Robin Grunder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leora's Letters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one, all five sons were serving their country in the military. The oldest son re-enlisted in the Navy. The younger three became U.S. Army Air Force pilots. As the family optimist, Leora wrote hundreds of letters, among all her regular chores, dispensing news and keeping up the morale of the…


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