The best historical novels that are light and silly

Elizabeth Caulfield Felt Author Of Wilde Wagers
By Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

Who am I?

I teach writing and children's literature at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, and for many years worked as a librarian. (Once a librarian, always a librarian!) First and foremost, I'm a reader. The real world can be an unpleasant and depressing place, so I regularly escape inside books. Although serious books are great, it's also nice to escape to a world where you can laugh and not worry about anything too bad happening.

I wrote...

Wilde Wagers

By Elizabeth Caulfield Felt,

Book cover of Wilde Wagers

What is my book about?

Oscar Wilde bets that actress Olivia Snow can fool a group of country bumpkins into believing she is Genevieve Lamb, the wealthy beauty of the recent Season. The weekend will prove a challenge for the old-fashioned actress and Genevieve’s handsome and old-fashioned brother, Philip, because the manor is filled with ridiculous and eccentric characters, as well as one murderous criminal. While Olivia pretends to be Genevieve, Genevieve wagers on her own performance–as Olivia Snow. She and Oscar Wilde go out on the town, a decision that will have both wishing they’d stayed at home. These two charades take unexpected turns during a wild weekend of kidnapping, cucumber sandwiches, bee stings, and love. This Oscar Wilde-esque romantic comedy mystery will keep you guessing–and craving teacake.

The books I picked & why

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The Importance of Being Earnest

By Oscar Wilde,

Book cover of The Importance of Being Earnest

Why this book?

Jack pretends to be his brother, Earnest, blaming the made-up man for all mishandled affairs. But when Jack's friend "becomes" the infamous Earnest and begins to woo Jack's ward Cecily, all sorts of craziness ensues. This classic play is perhaps the best example of wacky characters creating mayhem in a world where even bad things turn out to be only silly mishaps.  

Sprig Muslin

By Georgette Heyer,

Book cover of Sprig Muslin

Why this book?

I'd list every one of Georgette Heyer's romance novels if I could. She's the master of creating plots so entangled you have no idea how they'll be pulled apart. Her characters are unique, if not exactly crazy, and love is always in the air. Heyer's world is Regency England as it never really was.

Playing the Part

By Jen Turano,

Book cover of Playing the Part

Why this book?

Let me introduce you to the wonderful world of Turano's historical romances. Playing the Part is my favorite; it is about a 19th-century New York City actress who hides away at a friend's country estate. Every character is quirky and engaging. I laughed out loud, over and over, at the myriad of crazy situations they got themselves into.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

By Neal Stephenson, Nicole Galland,

Book cover of The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

Why this book?

D.O.D.O’s employees use magic to time-travel, performing unusual and dangerous missions in a variety of historical locations. Not everything in this book is as wacky as some of the other stories on this list, but this makes it because of the vikings. Picture a group of more curious than violent, but still out of control vikings in a Walmart. It's funny, I guarantee it.


By Marissa Meyer,

Book cover of Cress

Why this book?

I may be cheating here. Rapunzel is an old-time fairy tale, and Cress is a science fiction re-writing of that story, so I'm going to count it in this list as "historical." This is the third book in Meyers' Lunar Chronicles and it is my favorite of the bunch. Cress (Rapunzel) is incredibly smart and completely naive to the world. Her romantic interest is a completely dopey bad guy, who you shouldn't waste your time disliking. The odd situations they get themselves into mirror, to an extent, the famous fairy tale. Lots of fun.

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