The best historical fiction about art and the artists behind it

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing historical fiction always requires research, not just about the big events, but about the little details too. I set out to write The Jewel Thief because I love books that center on art and because I am fascinated by the history of the Hope Diamond, and the many gaps in that history which I explore further in the sequel, The Diamond Keeper. I did a great deal of research into the lives of artists of all kinds in the reign of Louis XIV and the role of art and artists in the politics of Europe through the ages. Art has been at the center of great lives for centuries.

I wrote...

The Jewel Thief

By Jeannie Mobley,

Book cover of The Jewel Thief

What is my book about?

Her story begins… Louis XIV has commanded his crown jeweler to cut the world’s largest blue diamond—to make shine like the sun. But the task proves impossible, driving Jean Pitau to drink and leaving his daughter, Juliette to find a way to shape the diamond and save her father.

Her story resumes... in a cold, dark cell of the Bastille prison. Charged with stealing the King's diamond, Juliette has but one chance to redeem herself, or hang. Though, death wouldn't be her worst fate. Because recording Juliette's confession is René, a court-appointed scribe, and the man she loves. But René holds his own grudge against Juliette, and this is her one and only chance to win back his heart.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Girl with a Pearl Earring

Jeannie Mobley Why did I love this book?

Your first love is always special, right? This is the book that made me discover how wonderful a fictionalized story behind a familiar piece of art could be.

I loved how personal and meaningful the story was—how it gave life not just to the artist, but to the beautiful, unknown girl whose face is so familiar to us. It is the perfect mix of historical fact and fiction so well blended that the reader can’t tell where one stops and the other starts.

Chevalier has other books along a similar vein, but this one still stands as the best. (And a movie with Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson is a bonus; you can talk about it with your non-reading friends. But better yet, get them the book.) 

By Tracy Chevalier,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Girl with a Pearl Earring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling novel by the author of A Single Thread and At the Edge of the Orchard

Translated into thirty-nine languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film, starring Scarlett Johanson and Colin Firth

Tracy Chevalier transports readers to a bygone time and place in this richly-imagined portrait of the young woman who inspired one of Vermeer's most celebrated paintings.

History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius . .…

Book cover of The Last Painting of Sara De Vos

Jeannie Mobley Why did I love this book?

This book masterfully moves between different time periods, the stories of modern museum staff, art dealers and forgers of 30 years earlier, and the life of a little-known Dutch master intertwine into an intricate story that will keep you turning pages.

Like my book, it also explores the roles of women artists in an era where they were marginalized. History has tried to erase women artists and scholars, but if we scratch beneath the surface, we can find them. This book is a nice exploration of what a woman artist’s life would have been during the Dutch Renaissance, and what their work can reveal to us today.

It’s also a great story, full of suspense, intrigue, and the complexity of love and life.

By Dominic Smith,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Last Painting of Sara De Vos as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'. . . worthy of comparison to Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring and Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch . . . A masterly, multilayered story that will dazzle readers.' Library Journal (starred review)

In 1631, Sara de Vos is admitted to the Guild of St. Luke in Holland as a master painter, the first woman to be so honoured. Three hundred years later, only one work attributed to de Vos is known to remain - a haunting winter scene, At the Edge of a Wood, which hangs over the Manhattan bed of a wealthy descendant of the original owner.…

Book cover of Midnight Blue

Jeannie Mobley Why did I love this book?

This is a lovely book about the origins of Delft Blue ceramics, and the role of a woman painter in creating it.

Simone van der Vlugt is herself Dutch, and the book has a wonderful atmospheric feeling that puts the reader into the world of 17th-century Netherlands. Like other books on this list, it explores a woman’s role in the art world, but it moves away from painting into the realm of pottery and commerce, as Delft Blue develops to compete with Chinese porcelain coming into Europe at the time.

Plague plays a major role in the book, too, for readers with a morbid fascination of that element of European history.

By Simone Van Der Vlugt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Simone Van Der Vlugt comes her European bestselling novel of a young woman's rise as a painter in Holland's Golden Age—perfect for readers of The Miniaturist, Tulip Fever, and Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Amsterdam 1654: against the backdrop of Holland's Golden Age, a dangerous secret threatens to destroy a young widow's new life.

Following the sudden death of her husband, twenty-five-year old Catrin leaves her small village and takes a job as a housekeeper to the successful Van Nulandt merchant family. Amsterdam is a city at the peak of its powers: science and art are flourishing in the…

Book cover of All the Light We Cannot See

Jeannie Mobley Why did I love this book?

Not all historical fiction has to be the Renaissance, and not all art has to be painting.

All the Light We Cannot Sea hinges on a diamond, and it breaks the rules of my title in that it is not about the artists, but about the curators who protect it (although they do make copies of the diamond to fool the Germans, so we can bend the rules and call them artists).

If you like historical fiction, you may already have read this 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner, but if not, pick it up (and if so, favorite books are always worth a second read!) The story of a cursed diamond that the Nazis want to capture in World War II, and the people struggling to protect it and survive, is a beautiful, heartbreaking read.

It’s a lyrical story of survival and humanity in the time of war, with unforgettable characters and plenty of suspense. And it features a large, blue, French diamond, so what’s not to love?! 

By Anthony Doerr,

Why should I read it?

41 authors picked All the Light We Cannot See as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.'

For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic…

Book cover of The Marriage Portrait

Jeannie Mobley Why did I love this book?

The most recent of my picks, The Marriage Portrait considers the brief life of Lucretzia d’Medici.

This book has a nicely unpredictable ending, an especially nice surprise, given that it begins with a historical note about Lucretzia’s tragic, early demise and an opening scene only a few hours before that demise.

It then backtracks through the life of an unimportant daughter in the most important family in Europe, and what it meant to be valued only for your potential to form an alliance through marriage to a stranger. But most deliciously, it is the story of a spirited young woman with an eye for beauty, who finds self-expression and resistance in a life controlled first by father and then by husband.

And did I mention, there are a few twists at the end?

By Maggie O'Farrell,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked The Marriage Portrait as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION FINALIST • REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK • NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • The author of award-winning Hamnet brings the world of Renaissance Italy to jewel-bright life in this unforgettable fictional portrait of the captivating young duchess Lucrezia de' Medici as she makes her way in a troubled court.

“I could not stop reading this incredible true story.” —Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club Pick)

"O’Farrell pulls out little threads of historical detail to weave this story of a precocious girl sensitive to the contradictions of her station...You may know the history, and you may think you…

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By Vicki Olsen,

Book cover of A Sparrow Falls

Vicki Olsen Author Of A Sparrow Falls

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Why am I passionate about this?

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What is my book about?

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But now, as the innocence of the 1950s transforms into the turbulent 1960s, Sarah must find the strength to overcome her traumas, forgive those who have wronged her, and discover her true self. With its moving and often disturbing narrative, A Sparrow Falls is an evocative account of a young woman's journey…

A Sparrow Falls

By Vicki Olsen,

What is this book about?

A moving, sometimes disturbing, beautifully written book...Amazon Customer Review
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Content Advisory: This book is intended for mature audiences and contains child sexual abuse and disturbing imagery.

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