The best historical fiction with touches of love and magic

Dana Chamblee Carpenter Author Of Bohemian Gospel: A Novel
By Dana Chamblee Carpenter

Who am I?

Even as an overachieving student, I struggled with true/false tests, always writing short essays explaining why the answer wasn’t quite clear cut. Some teachers loved my need to blur the lines. Others not so much. But this aversion to boundaries—the idea that something (or someone) must be this or that—it’s part of my blood. I read everything in the library, nonfiction, fiction, all genres. I like books that cross from real to fantasy, history to fiction. I love characters who refuse to be told who and what they can (or can’t) be. I want love to break boundaries, too. That’s what this list is all about.


I wrote...

Bohemian Gospel: A Novel

By Dana Chamblee Carpenter,

Book cover of Bohemian Gospel: A Novel

What is my book about?

Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as Mouse. Some call her a witch. Some call her angel. Mouse doesn’t know who—or what—she is, but she means to find out.

Caught in the undertow of court politics at Prague, Mouse relentlessly searches for a place to belong. But as she begins to dream of a life with the young king, Ottakar, secrets of her past emerge and force her to make heartbreaking choices. Set against the glorious reign of the Golden and Iron King in medieval Prague, Bohemian Gospel follows Mouse’s journey to discover her past and to define her destiny. But is she prepared for the dark truth she unearths and the future that awaits her?

The books I picked & why

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Daughter of the Forest

By Juliet Marillier,

Book cover of Daughter of the Forest

Why this book?

Sometimes you meet a character who touches some part of your soul and stays with you forever. Sorcha, the woman at the heart of Daughter of the Forest, is a hero in the best, most unconventional ways—quietly relentless, powerfully resilient, empowered but also willing to sacrifice everything to save her brothers. Even as she draws the hatred of some, she inspires others to discover the best in themselves—including Red, a British Lord and natural enemy of Sorcha’s Irish family. Like life, the story gets dark at times, but Sorcha is the light in darkness that leads us all back home. 


Bellewether

By Susanna Kearsley,

Book cover of Bellewether

Why this book?

I love a good story told well—where the plot has me eager to flip the page, but the writing is so gorgeous I want to linger. Bellewether entwines the story of present-day Charley with Lydia, a woman living in the midst of war between the British and French American colonies in 1759. It’s a story of ghosts, figurative and real, of love, forbidden and lost, and it’s about discovering the truths that matter the most. 


The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

By Katherine Howe,

Book cover of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

Why this book?

When a story gives me a character so real I feel like I know them, someone I can invest in, then I’ll go through anything with them—mistakes, victories, heartbreaks, joy. Connie Goodwin brings us into her life as she clears out her grandmother’s estate and then takes us with her as she discovers the remarkable life of Deliverance Dane, a midwife during the time of the Salem Witch Trials. The book swirls with mystery and romance and the power of women in any age. 


The Golem and the Jinni

By Helene Wecker,

Book cover of The Golem and the Jinni

Why this book?

I like books that take me to places and times I’ve never been, but I love books that also make me think—about familiar things in new ways, about the unfamiliar, about what it means to be human. The Golem and the Jinni does all that in spades while sharing the tale of Chava, a golem, and Ahmad, a jinn, both trying to find a place to belong. It’s a story that transports you and transforms you. You never want to put it down. You never want it to end. 


Lion of Ireland

By Morgan Llywelyn,

Book cover of Lion of Ireland

Why this book?

This was one of my earliest experiences with historical fantasy and started my love affair with the genre—both as a reader and a writer. Its rich storytelling plays in the gaps of what we know about Brian Boru, the most renowned king of medieval Ireland. I love how the story is grounded in historical setting and context (without overwhelming us with detail) and woven with the legendary magic of the place and time. What especially draws me in is the depiction of strong, complicated, female characters so often overshadowed in history but brought to life, front and center, in Llwelyn’s tale.


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