The best historical fiction novels which do not disappoint when it comes to romance

Who am I?

My love of history began at the age of 9 with a book given to my older brother: Our Island Story. My history teacher at school introduced me to serious historical biography and studying for a Law degree taught me the value of accuracy. The chance discovery of a notebook detailing one strand of my mother's family tree led to my current project of writing about the imagined lives of my female ancestors beginning in 1299  with my 19 times-great-grandmother Marguerite of France and ending in 1942 with my mother. Twenty-one books mean a lot of history and a mountain of research. A very pleasant way to spend my retirement.

I wrote...

The Making of a Tudor

By Caroline Newark,

Book cover of The Making of a Tudor

What is my book about?

1421. Trouble is brewing in Henry V's England. As the only child and sole heiress of the Earl of Salisbury, young Alice Montagu has been chosen as a bride for Richard, favourite son of the Nevill family. But when her father remarries, Alice faces disinheritance if her stepmother gives birth to a son. In an attempt to avert this catastrophe Alice seeks help from a notorious wise woman, unaware of how much interest the powerful Bishop Beaufort is taking in her activities.  

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Katherine

Caroline Newark Why did I love this book?

Katherine is one of the first historical novels I read and one I go back to time and again. It tells the story of Katherine de Roet, daughter of a humble herald who captures the heart of a prince and becomes the ancestress of the Tudor kings of England. The love story of Katherine and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, third son of Edward III, is dramatic, heartbreaking, and beautifully written. It conveys a real sense of time and place and of a woman's position in the medieval world and the difficult choices faced by Katherine. Would I have abandoned everything for love, knowing I would be reviled by almost everyone? Yes, probably—if it meant having the gorgeous John of Gaunt.  

By Anya Seton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Exhilarating, exuberant, and rich," Katherine is an epic novel of a love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family (Austin Chronicle).

Set in the vibrant fourteenth century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who rule despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already-married Katherine.…

Book cover of Storm Harvest

Caroline Newark Why did I love this book?

I came across this book at a bring-and-buy sale in West Wales and it has become one of my firm favourites. It tells the story of Faye Ludlow whose husband is impatient for her to adapt to life in his family's ancient manor house. As the Second World War unfolds and nearby Dover comes under daily bombardment, Faye struggles to save not only her marriage but the family's finances threatened by her husband's increasingly grandiose schemes. Any sense of purpose she acquires from her war work as an ambulance driver is bolstered by an unlikely friendship with an enigmatic London banker. A story for any of us who have ever faced temptation.

By Patricia Wright,

Why should I read it?

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

Book cover of Crown in Candlelight

Caroline Newark Why did I love this book?

My mother was a great reader and she introduced me to this beautifully written take on the love story of the Welsh squire Owen Tudor and Katherine, lonely young widow of Henry V. Very much a tale of love and loss I found the book a great comfort when faced with the pain of losing someone I loved. We follow Katherine from her neglected childhood in France, through her marriage to Henry V, and beyond, to widowhood and the forbidden joy she finds in the arms of Owen Tudor—a relationship which damns her in the eyes of the royal family. 

By Rosemary Hawley Jarman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Katherine of Valois, raised amidst the madness and lechery of the French court, wed to a conquering English king, Henry V, and now alone and afraid in a world of treachery and violence. Owen Tudor, incredibly handsome and gifted, a poet and singer by nature, a warrior by necessity, and now a man ready to risk life for love. Theirs was a passion too perilous to reveal and too fiery to be long restrained or concealed...

Book cover of Zemindar

Caroline Newark Why did I love this book?

An exciting, richly layered adventure story of the "long learning of love" set against the backdrop of the rule of the British Raj and the first rumblings of the 1857 Indian Mutiny. I lent the book to a friend and thought I'd lost it forever until I discovered it in her spare bedroom! Our narrator, Laura, has to watch as her cousin marries Charles, the man Laura loves, and is then forced to accompany the young couple on their honeymoon. Not something to be recommended! Their destination is the Kingdom of Oudh and the vast Zemindari estate of Charles's unknown brother, Oliver Erskine. I don't recommend Zemindar because it has won a host of prestigious prizes but because it is a great read. 

By Valerie Fitzgerald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An international bestseller and winner of the 1981 Georgette Heyer Historical Novel Prize, Zemindar is a magnificent, twisting love story, all unfolding against the tempestuous backdrop of the Indian Rebellion.

Englishwoman Laura Hewitt accompanies her newly engaged cousin to India, first to Calcutta and then to the fabled fiefdom of Oliver Erskine, Zemindar - or hereditary ruler - of a private kingdom with its own army. But India is on the verge of the Mutiny, which will sweep them all up in its chaos...

Praise for Zemindar:
'If you loved The Far Pavilions - and who didn't - this will…

Book cover of Penmarric

Caroline Newark Why did I love this book?

I adore family sagas. This is a wonderful recreation of the story of the loves and rivalry of the 12th century Plantagenet king Henry II, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their sons. The book is set in the late 19th century and follows the Castallack family who live in a vast Gothic mansion, Penmarric, on the North Cornish coast overlooking the sea. You don't need to know your English history to enjoy the novel but if you finish it wanting more, as I did, you will be delighted to know there are two further books following the story of the Plantagenet kings of England: Cashelmara and The Wheel of Fortune

By Susan Howatch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the acclaimed author of Cashelmara: the “grippingly readable” New York Times–bestselling saga of a noble English family torn apart (The Sunday Times).

Overlooking the bleak cliffs of Cornwall is Penmarric, the ancestral home of Mark Castallack. The stunning gothic manor is the picture of English nobility, wealth, and comfort. But as the twentieth century unfolds, those behind Penmarric’s towering walls face nothing short of disaster. As Mark and his children struggle to save their home and their aristocratic way of life, they must engage in a bitter fight against greed, ambition, betrayal, and even murder.
Over her forty-year career,…

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The River of Eternity

By Bruce Balfour,

Book cover of The River of Eternity

Bruce Balfour

New book alert!

What is my book about?

1184 BCE. Ramesses III, who will become the last of the great pharaohs, is returning home from battle. He will one day assume the throne of the Egyptian empire, and the plots against him and his children have already started. Even a god can die.

Ray was raised with the teenage children of Ramesses as their friend, but his own mysterious past exposes him to threats inside and outside of the Egyptian court. When a prince is killed, Ray is framed for the murder and must run to protect Bull, the oldest son of Ramesses. So begins Ray’s dangerous journey from the snake pit of royal palace intrigue into a violent world of treachery and enemies that will take years to conquer if he can survive.

The River of Eternity

By Bruce Balfour,

What is this book about?

From the national bestselling author of The Forge of Mars and The Digital Dead, an Ancient Egyptian epic adventure thriller series, based on real events, for fans of Wilbur Smith, Steven Saylor, and Paul Doherty.

This is the first book of a series leading up to the event known as The Harem Conspiracy, the assassination of Pharaoh Ramesses III in New Kingdom Egypt (1184 BCE), which was led by members of his own family. Details were drawn from the first recorded judicial trial transcript ever recovered (Judicial Papyrus of Turin plus other fragments of the original papyrus).

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