The best historical fiction with strong women written by women

Megan Easley-Walsh Author Of What Edward Heard
By Megan Easley-Walsh

Who am I?

Before I became an author of ten historical fiction novels (thus far), I was a reader of historical fiction. The challenges of history are best navigated by strong characters. Throughout history, women have played an integral role but have been overlooked too often. Historical fiction with strong women brings these characters to life, giving them a voice and agency. Whatever role the woman has, from nurse to investigator to planter to maid to scientist to artist and more… interesting characters are necessary to activate an engaging plot, and that is something I look for both as a reader and as an author.

I wrote...

What Edward Heard

By Megan Easley-Walsh,

Book cover of What Edward Heard

What is my book about?

Shattered by his experiences on the Western Front in World War One, Edward is looking forward to the peacefulness of England. Partially deaf, everything is quieter than he’s accustomed to. Except for the nightmares that continue to haunt him. In Renaissance Venice, a young artist paints a portrait full of his love, devotion, and passion. When the painting was created, more than paint went into it. Now the painting has a magical ability: reading people’s deepest thoughts… even their secrets.

When Edward finds it, his world is rocked. He must face his demons from the war, or a young servant girl accused of murder might die. Even more alarming, someone is inside the painting: trapped. If Edward can’t solve the mysteries in time, they all might face disaster.

The books I picked & why

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Maisie Dobbs

By Jacqueline Winspear,

Book cover of Maisie Dobbs

Why this book?

Maisie Dobbs was first published in 2003, but I did not find her until a number of years later. I now eagerly look forward to each new book in the series. Maisie inhabits a narrative set during the First World War. Additionally, Maisie is motivated by her connections with others and her unwavering dedication to the truth as she solves mysteries. These elements rang true to me in my own writing. Maisie fits the category of strong woman as she defies the odds, becoming a nurse in the trenches, becoming a psychologist and investigator, and changing the lives of all she encounters. All of this is accomplished despite her humble origins. Across the series, Maisie is a tower of strength. From this first book, Maisie was a character that I wanted to befriend. 

The Indigo Girl

By Natasha Boyd,

Book cover of The Indigo Girl

Why this book?

Sometimes strength, particularly for women in history, has been quieter. The colonial early American setting of The Indigo Girl echoed part of the painting’s story from my book as well. In The Indigo Girl, Eliza is willing to speak up, to do what is right, even when it’s the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. As a huge art history fan, and as a hobbyist painter, I am always interested in learning more about where pigments and colors come from. This story told about that, but it also explored forbidden friendship and love and touched the heart, leaving a stain of remembrance, deeper than the indigo itself. 

This Side of Murder

By Anna Lee Huber,

Book cover of This Side of Murder

Why this book?

Verity Kent thinks that her story is one thing, and it ends up being entirely something else. Verity attempts to navigate a new life after her entire world is shaken. Exploring England in the aftermath of the First World War positions this book within historical dialogue that considers such issues as grieving and remembrance. After characters are required to have amazing courage for so long, then what? Verity’s series explores this question. Having been to historical sites such as the First World War battlefield of Verdun, I appreciate when historical fiction delves into historical setting in a believable way. Anna Lee Huber does a particularly good job of this. 

Lovely War

By Julie Berry,

Book cover of Lovely War

Why this book?

Lovely War is highly literary but lush in its emotional pull. Months after reading it, it still stands out. As has been a running theme throughout this list, the First World War is again the setting of the book. The inclusion of Greek gods as narrators lends a magical realism to the story, something that is also present in my book, where historical fiction and magical realism are blended in a literary style. In a sea of black and white, Lovely War is in stark technicolor. 

Mr. Churchill's Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery

By Susan Elia Macneal,

Book cover of Mr. Churchill's Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery

Why this book?

Maggie’s grit and stamina propel her on a path of persistence in her fight against evil in the Second World War. The Second World War has been an interest of mine since I visited the beaches of Normandy as a teen and other battle sites in childhood. Additionally, the Second World War features in several of my books. Maggie’s series sees her traveling throughout multiple countries. I was especially intrigued by this book, as I had previously visited the underground Churchill War Rooms in London, where Churchill had his offices during the Second World War. 

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