The best historical fiction about Hawaii

Who am I?

I live in California and write novels based on my grandmother’s stories of our female ancestors. I love tales of everyday women who lived normal lives (according to them) but were quite remarkable to my 21st-century eyes. I wrote The Aloha Spirit about my husband’s grandmother, who was an amazing woman. His family is from Hawaii, and we visit there frequently. Anyone who spends time in the islands experiences the warm welcome of the people, which we know as the aloha spirit. I know Grandma had a difficult life, and I wrote the novel to explore how she might have overcome those difficulties to find her aloha spirit.

I wrote...

The Aloha Spirit

By Linda Ulleseit,

Book cover of The Aloha Spirit

What is my book about?

The spirit of aloha is found in Hawaii’s fresh ocean air, the flowers, the trade winds…the natural beauty that smoothes the struggles of daily life. In 1922 Honolulu, unhappy in the adoptive family that raised her, Dolores searches for that spirit early on. At sixteen, she marries Manolo. His large Portuguese family embraces her, but when his drinking leads to physical abuse, only his relative Alberto comes to her rescue—and sparks a new passion within Dolores. After the Pearl Harbor attack, Dolores flees to California. Both men follow—Manolo’s drinking problems continue and Alberto’s begin. Outraged, Dolores doubts her feelings for Alberto. Is he only going to disappoint her, as Manolo has? Or is Alberto the embodiment of the aloha spirit she’s been seeking? 

The books I picked & why

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Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

By Sara Ackerman,

Book cover of Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

Why this book?

I’m a bit of a fangirl when it comes to Sara Ackerman. I love all of her books about real people in Hawaii during World War II. Her characters are believable and compelling, and the Hawaiian setting is a different aspect of World War II than is usually presented. This book features a close-knit group of women who open a pie stand near a military base. Violet’s husband has disappeared without a word, and she suspects her daughter knows something she isn’t telling. When tension and suspicions rise among neighbors, the women are accused of being spies, and Violet must keep her friends and family safe. 

The Last Aloha

By Gaellen Quinn,

Book cover of The Last Aloha

Why this book?

Laura’s fiancé and father die, and she travels from San Francisco to Hawaii to live with missionary relatives. It’s 1886, and Honolulu is the sophisticated bustling capital of a prosperous modern kingdom. Laura’s missionary relatives actively work to bring down the monarchy while Laura goes to work for the royal family. She builds quite a bond with the last queen, Lili`uokalani, who is trying to save her kingdom. This book tells the compelling story of the Hawaiian kingdom’s last days from a point of view inside the royal family. 

Bound in Flame

By Katherine Kayne,

Book cover of Bound in Flame

Why this book?

I truly enjoy historical fiction that presents a culture or era from a different point of view. This one is set in early twentieth-century Hawaii. It features a girl, Letty, returning from a boarding school on the mainland. Letty’s devoted to animals, and she is one of the first female veterinarians in history. She jumps into the ocean to save a horse. Her healing powers are strengthened by her connection to the ancient Hawaiian land. The undercurrent of power gives this novel a fantasy feel, but it doesn’t lose its historical aspect. Then Letty learns the price of her healing power—her kisses can kill. Even worse, she’s attracted to the man who owns the horse she saved. 


By Alan Brennert,

Book cover of Honolulu

Why this book?

This is one of three historical novels by Alan Brennert set in Hawaii. I like this one best because it is set in 1914, not long before my own novel opens in Honolulu. It portrays a very different side of the city, however. Brennert’s novel features a Korean picture bride who is married off to a poor laborer who mistreats her. She and her fellow picture brides come together to improve their lives, resulting in a unique portrayal of Waikiki before the highrises, of the tenements in Chinatown, and the plantations before powerful unions.

Diamond Head

By Cecily Wong,

Book cover of Diamond Head

Why this book?

Frank Leong is a wealthy shipping industrialist who moves his family from China to Oahu at the turn of the nineteenth century. Frank is murdered, which completely destroys his family. Whispers of an ancient parable haunt the Leongs, of a red string that connects someone to their perfect match but can also punish for mistakes in love. Frank’s pregnant teenage granddaughter, Theresa, is the next target to suffer from her family’s curse. The story is told from multiple points of view in this tragic multigenerational story of secrets and betrayal. My own interest in family history made this novel resonate deeply within me as several generations of women fail in their relationships.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Hawaii, immigrants, and World War 2?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Hawaii, immigrants, and World War 2.

Hawaii Explore 22 books about Hawaii
Immigrants Explore 84 books about immigrants
World War 2 Explore 975 books about World War 2

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like From a Native Daughter, A Matter of Honor, and 'Ewa Which Way if you like this list.