The best historical novels to sweep you away

Who am I?

I have always loved novels that sweep me away to another time, immersing me in a historical era and characters I care about. The first time I read Anne of Green Gables I remember looking up from the book and blinking the real world into disoriented focus, surprised I wasn’t in ‘Anne’s world’! My aim and hope for my own historical novels are that they will provide readers with a similar sweeping-away experience, so they feel they’re living and breathing the world I’m writing about. The best feeling in the world is when you are lost in the pages of a good book—wherever or whenever that story takes place. 


I wrote...

Into the Darkest Day

By Kate Hewitt,

Book cover of Into the Darkest Day

What is my book about?

London, 1944: When Lily finds meets American GI Matthew, she’s mesmerised by him. She knows his mission will take him into battle, and that their love barely stands a chance. But she wants to listen to her heart. Then she discovers Matthew is not the man he claims to be. He is harbouring a secret that could change not just her life, but the lives of many others…

Present-day, USA: Abby has done everything she can to keep her life quiet, unassuming, and safe. Living on an apple farm in rural Wisconsin, nothing can shake her stability. Until a mysterious stranger arrives—with a Purple Heart he insists belongs to her grandfather. A medal that his grandmother had kept for decades. But how did she end up with Abby’s grandfather’s medal? 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Far Pavilions

Kate Hewitt Why did I love this book?

This classic novel of colonial-era India is an absolute epic, and it immerses you in that world, in all its beauty, injustice, majesty, and history, focusing on a heartrending love story between a doomed Indian princess and a rebellious British soldier who has been raised by a Hindu woman, and the forbidden love they share in the shadow of the 1879 Uprising. With a sympathetic view of the Indian population and a clear-eyed look at colonialism, this book is as much as a love letter to India (the author grew up there) as it is a rollicking adventure story and heartrending romance. Satisfies on every level! 

By M.M. Kaye,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Far Pavilions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation of M.M. Kaye's epic novel of love and war. M.M. Kaye's masterwork is a vast, rich and vibrant tapestry of love and war that spans over twenty years, moving from the foothills of the Himalayas, to the burning plains, to the besieged British Mission in Kabul. It begins in 1857 when, following the Indian Mutiny, young English orphan Ashton is disguised by his ayah Sita as her Indian son, Ashok. As he forgets his true identity, his destiny is set...A story of divided loyalties and fierce friendship; of true love made impossible…


Book cover of This Tender Land

Kate Hewitt Why did I love this book?

This is a powerful story set in Depression-era America, about a handful of children who escape an orphanage in the Midwest, riding the rails to find their way to freedom, and discovering much about love and sacrifice along the way. Full of atmosphere and poignancy, it is a triumphant story about the power of friendship and perseverance, set in a world of Hoovervilles and desperation, yet with incredible beauty for America’s heartland. 

By William Kent Krueger,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked This Tender Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1932, Minnesota-the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O'Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent's wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will fly into the unknown and cross paths with others…


Book cover of The Tea Rose

Kate Hewitt Why did I love this book?

This is a wonderfully romantic saga focusing on a young woman in the East End of London in the late 1800s, and how she works her way up to run her own business empire, facing tragedy and treachery along the way. Set alongside the Jack the Ripper murders, it has plenty of intrigue and mystery, as well as romance, perfect for fans of Downton Abbey or The Gilded Age. A true saga of the kind that was popular in the 1980s—a big, glitzy, wonderful, passionate book!

By Jennifer Donnelly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a splendid, heartwarming novel of pain, struggle, decency, triumph - and just what we need in these times - Frank McCourt

It is 1888 and Jack the Ripper is stalking the streets of Whitechapel. For the people that live there, he is just one more adversary in their everyday battle to survive. Despite working long days at the tea factory, and the constant threat of the Ripper, Fiona Finnegan knows that life is better for her than for many others. With a father in work, a roof over her head, enough to eat and a loving family to…


Book cover of Peace Like a River

Kate Hewitt Why did I love this book?

While this book is different in scope, it still has the feeling of a saga, with a definite journey, and is wonderfully anchored in both time and place—1950s Midwest America, with the narrator an asthmatic eleven-year-old boy who, with his father and younger sister, go travelling to find his older brother who is on the run after killing a boy who tried to kidnap his younger sister, Swede. Full of both humor and sorrow, with a unique spiritual element, this book is incredibly atmospheric and powerful, and definitely makes you think long after you’ve finished the story—about the possibility of miracles and the power of love.

By Leif Enger,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Peace Like a River as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Israel Finch and Tommy Basca, the town bullies, break into the home of school caretaker Jeremiah Land, wielding a baseball bat and looking for trouble, they find more of it than even they expected. For seventeen-year-old Davey is sitting up in bed waiting for them with a Winchester rifle. His younger brother Reuben has seen their father perform miracles, but Jeremiah now seems as powerless to prevent Davey from being arrested for manslaughter, as he has always been to ease Reuben's daily spungy struggle to breathe. Nor does brave and brilliant nine-year-old Swede, obsessed as she is with the…


Book cover of Small Pleasures

Kate Hewitt Why did I love this book?

Sometimes sagas can be small in focus and still sweep you away—in this case to a small town in 1950s Kent, and the narrow life of a woman reporter who lives with her mother, a most unpleasant woman, and longs for adventure, which she finds in unexpected ways as she digs deeper into the case of a woman who claims she’s had an immaculate conception. Poignant and bittersweet, Chambers gives an exquisite sense of time and place, with a main character you are desperate to root for, and a sense of impending dread you are almost able to forget as you are swept away by the story.

By Clare Chambers,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Small Pleasures as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2021

'A WORD-OF-MOUTH HIT' Evening Standard

'A very fine book... It's witty and sharp and reads like something by Barbara Pym or Anita Brookner, without ever feeling like a pastiche'
David Nicholls

'Perfect'
India Knight

'Beautiful'
Jessie Burton

'Wonderful'
Richard Osman

'Miraculous'
Tracy Chevalier

'A wonderful novel. I loved it'
Nina Stibbe

'Effortless to read, but every sentence lingers in the mind'
Lissa Evans

'This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. I honestly don't want you to be without it'
Lucy Mangan

'Gorgeous... If you're looking for something…


You might also like...

Book cover of The Wild Rose and the Sea Raven

Jennifer Ivy Walker Author Of Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author French teacher Avid reader Lover of medieval romance European traveler

Jennifer's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

As the sole heir to the crown of Ireland, Issylte must flee her stepmother (the wicked queen who seeks her death), finding shelter with a fairy witch who teaches her the verdant magic of the enchanted forest. Fate leads Issylte to the otherworldly realm of the Lady of the Lake and the Elves of Avalon, where she must choose between her new life as a gifted Celtic healer or fight to save her ravaged kingdom.

The chivalrous hero of this medieval romance is Tristan of Lyonesse, a Knight of the Round Table who must overcome the horrors of his past and defend his uncle, King Marke of Cornwall, against the Morholt, the indomitable Black Knight who commands the Viking forces of the ruthless Irish queen. When Tristan becomes a warrior of the ancient Tribe of Dana, a gift of Druidic magic might bestow upon him the power he needs to ally with Issylte and confront the Black Widow Queen, who threatens them both.

Haunted and hunted. Entwined by fate. Can their passion and power prevail?

By Jennifer Ivy Walker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wild Rose and the Sea Raven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this dark fairy tale adaptation of a medieval French legend, Issylte must flee the wicked queen, finding shelter with a fairy witch who teaches her the verdant magic of the forest. Fate leads her to the otherworldly realm of the Lady of the Lake and the Elves of Avalon, where she must choose between her life as a healer or fight to save her ravaged kingdom.
Tristan of Lyonesse is a Knight of the Round Table who must overcome the horrors of his past and defend his king or lose everything. When he becomes a warrior of the Tribe…


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