The best historical fiction with a dash of magic

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved history, whether ancient or “modern.” Past societies and how humanity has changed over the years has always fascinated me. As a young mystery reader, I began with Nancy Drew and then quickly graduated to Victoria Holt. I’m not sure there’s a gothic fiction reader out there who won’t be familiar with that name. The stories are a wonderful blend of mystery, history, and a dash of the supernatural. Decades later, I’d write my fourth series, Duchess of Blackmoore Mysteries, in true gothic Victorian style.


I wrote...

Death of a Duchess

By Nellie H. Steele,

Book cover of Death of a Duchess

What is my book about?

Orphan Lenora Hastings has an interesting quirk about her: she can communicate with the dead. In her young life, this fact has cost her much, but as she approaches adulthood, it leads her into a life she never expected.

When Lenora receives a surprise proposal from a Scottish duke, she’s astounded. His offer comes with a price: find the reason his first wife took her own life by throwing herself from one of the gothic castle’s towers. What Lenora finds when she begins her investigation in Annie’s death will chill her to the bone.  And just might make her the second Duchess of Blackmoore to meet an untimely end.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Watchmaker's Daughter

Nellie H. Steele Why did I love this book?

This book is a wonderful blending of historical fiction and fantasy. With an intriguing mystery that isn’t the standard “murder mystery” fair, this book sets up for a fantastical series that will lead the reader deeper and deeper into mystery and magic. I love the mixing of genres and the historical setting.

By C.J. Archer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Watchmaker's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

USA Today bestselling series.

India Steele is desperate. Her father is dead, her fiancé took her inheritance, and no one will employ her, despite years working for her watchmaker father. Indeed, the other London watchmakers seem frightened of her. Alone, poor, and at the end of her tether, India takes employment with the only person who'll accept her - an enigmatic and mysterious man from America. A man who possesses a strange watch that rejuvenates him when he's ill.

Matthew Glass must find a particular watchmaker, but he won't tell India why any old one won't do. Nor will he…


Book cover of The Librarian of Crooked Lane

Nellie H. Steele Why did I love this book?

Another entry by C.J. Archer (can you tell I like this author?) and another great blending of genres.  Set in turn of the century England but including the existence of magic, the world-building is sure to immerse you and keep you reading on to the next book. Again, the “mystery” built in is not your typical, which makes the reading all the more intriguing.

By C.J. Archer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A librarian with a mysterious past, a war hero with a secret, and the heist of a magic painting. THE LIBRARIAN OF CROOKED LANE is an intriguing new fantasy from C.J. Archer, the USA Today bestselling author of the Glass and Steele series.

Librarian Sylvia Ashe knows nothing about her past, having grown up without a father and a mother who refused to discuss him. When she stumbles upon a diary that suggests she’s descended from magicians, she’s skeptical. After all, magicians are special, and she’s just an ordinary girl who loves books. She seeks the truth from a member…


Book cover of Murder in the Crypt

Nellie H. Steele Why did I love this book?

This pick has a bit more of a standard mystery (and a touch less magic), but what’s magical about it is the Victorian setting. Set in a quaint village, it’s the perfect blend of Murder, She Wrote and Victoria Holt!  You’ll find yourself immersed in the world of Redmond and Haze and with plenty more books after this one filled with murder and intrigue, you’ll want to binge-read the currently published books in the series on a cold, rainy day!

By Irina Shapiro,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Murder in the Crypt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the body of a young man is found stuffed into the tomb of a medieval knight, Parish Constable Daniel Haze is tasked with investigating his first solo murder case. Suspicion instantly falls on the only stranger to arrive in the village of Birch Hill just before the crime took place, but the American captain proves to be an unexpected asset. A former soldier and a skilled surgeon, Jason Redmond is not only willing to assist Haze with the investigation but will risk his own safety to apprehend the killer.With no suspects, no motive, and few leads to follow, Redmond…


Book cover of What the Lady's Maid Knew

Nellie H. Steele Why did I love this book?

Another fabulous London-set book where magic is real! The character of Eliza is a fantastic one to follow through this first book and the series. The web of intrigue will draw you into this alternate-history saga and keep you turning pages way past your bedtime! By now, you probably can tell how much I love magic mixed with the real world, and this book does a fantastic job of blending the two. With a fantastic set of characters, fabulous historical setting, and the mystery of magic, it sets up for a great story and a great series.

By E.E. Holmes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What the Lady's Maid Knew as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

London is a powder keg… and Eliza Braxton is the match.

Imagine a London where magic is real… real, but feared. This is Eliza Braxton’s London, and she has always accepted her place in it gladly. As one of the Riftborn, her magic has relegated her to the servant class, where she dutifully serves as the lady’s maid in one of the most powerful households in the country. There, she uses her remarkable powers of persuasion to keep Elder Hallewell’s rebellious daughter in the path to an arranged match of power and prosperity. Eliza has never questioned her loyalty… until…


Book cover of The Lady Jewel Diviner

Nellie H. Steele Why did I love this book?

Magic and mystery, what a combination! With a murderer on the loose and a Regency England setting, get ready for manners mixed with magic. On top of that, there’s a dash of romance ala Victoria Holt that’ll keep you glued to the pages! This one really hits a lot of the marks gothic mystery readers will love. The mystery is really strong, and the characters are believable as is the blending of real world with magic. Ms. Oaks does a fantastic job of creating a page-turner that hits all the marks of classic historical, gothic mystery fiction.

By Rosalie Oaks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Diamonds, Death, and Devonshire tea… in a magical Regency England

Miss Elinor Avely's proper upbringing cannot prepare her for the tiny, spinster vampire who crashes into her sitting room and demands to be fed with a sheep.

Elinor already has enough troubles without having to catch ruminants. First, her secret gift for divining jewels has landed her in scandal, exiling her from London society. Second, a nobleman of dubious repute wants her to find a cache of smuggled jewels, hidden somewhere along the Devon coastline. Last – and worst – she is invited to cream tea at the local manor.…


You might also like...

I Meant to Tell You

By Fran Hawthorne,

Book cover of I Meant to Tell You

Fran Hawthorne Author Of I Meant to Tell You

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Museum guide Foreign language student Runner Community activist Former health-care journalist

Fran's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When Miranda’s fiancé, Russ, is being vetted for his dream job in the U.S. attorney’s office, the couple joke that Miranda’s parents’ history as antiwar activists in the Sixties might jeopardize Russ’s security clearance. In fact, the real threat emerges when Russ’s future employer discovers that Miranda was arrested for felony kidnapping seven years earlier—an arrest she’d never bothered to tell Russ about.

Miranda tries to explain that she was only helping her best friend, in the midst of a nasty custody battle, take her daughter to visit her parents in Israel. As Miranda struggles to prove that she’s not a criminal, she stumbles into other secrets that will challenge what she thought she knew about her own family, her friend, Russ—and herself.

I Meant to Tell You

By Fran Hawthorne,

What is this book about?

When Miranda’s fiancé, Russ, is being vetted for his dream job in the U.S. attorney’s office, the couple joke that Miranda’s parents’ history as antiwar activists in the Sixties might jeopardize Russ’s security clearance. In fact, the real threat emerges when Russ’s future employer discovers that Miranda was arrested for felony kidnapping seven years earlier—an arrest she’d never bothered to tell Russ about.

Miranda tries to explain that she was only helping her best friend, in the midst of a nasty custody battle, take her daughter to visit her parents in Israel. As Miranda struggles to prove that she’s not…


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