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? 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Far Pavilions

By M.M. Kaye,

Book cover of The Far Pavilions

Why 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! 

This Tender Land

By William Kent Krueger,

Book cover of This Tender Land

Why 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. 

The Tea Rose

By Jennifer Donnelly,

Book cover of The Tea Rose

Why 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!

Peace Like a River

By Leif Enger,

Book cover of Peace Like a River

Why 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.

Small Pleasures

By Clare Chambers,

Book cover of Small Pleasures

Why 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.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Minnesota, brothers, and murders?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Minnesota, brothers, and murders.

Minnesota Explore 18 books about Minnesota
Brothers Explore 56 books about brothers
Murders Explore 339 books about murders

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Pachinko, A Gentleman in Moscow, and To Kill a Mockingbird if you like this list.