The best realistic historical fiction that makes you swoon

Who am I?

I started the Edge of Empire series which includes Beside Turning Water when I was a Park Guide at Boston’s National Historical Park. As a guide I gave tours on the Freedom Trail which preserves the buildings and stories from the era of the American Revolution. I wanted to create a book like the ones I love full of romance a bit of sex, and with historical accuracy. Books that would help readers fall in love with the characters and understand the history of the events in the Revolution without that dry history-class feeling.

I wrote...

Beside Turning Water

By Dory Codington,

Book cover of Beside Turning Water

What is my book about?

The third book in the Edge of Empire Series, Beside Turning Water begins at the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 1775, and continues through the last year of siege and occupation in Boston, and the Army's move to New York the following year. The story centers in Newton, then considered Boston's countryside, at the Wheel and Hammer, a tavern built at the bend of the river, where the young widow, Nina Bigelow is the proprietor and brewer. Nina is content with her life, and resists change, those over which she has control, and those changes that are happening in the world around her. Those changes are inescapable, no matter her choice, and Nina learns to forgive the past and embrace the future. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Scarlet Pimpernel

Dory Codington Why did I love this book?

I love the historical drama in this book. The characters are desperately in love but are unable to express it because they believe the worst of each other. Set in Paris and London during the reign of terror, Percy believes his wife is a murderous betrayer and Margaritte believes that Percy is nothing but a vacant fop. Neither is correct and the writing and romantic tension have made this book, play and various movies classic historical romance adventure stories since its writing.

I read this book when I was a teenager, picking it up from a shelf in the hall and was immediately entranced at how Orczy pulls the reader in to a different place and time with such conviction and accuracy.

By Baroness Emmuska Orczy,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Scarlet Pimpernel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

HarperCollins is proud to present its incredible range of best-loved, essential classics.

"Vaguely she began to wonder ... which of these worldly men round her was the mysterious 'Scarlet Pimpernel,' who held the threads of such daring plots, and the fate of valuable lives in his hands."

In the early days of the bloody French Revolution, fleeing aristocrats are being captured and sent to the guillotine. But the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel - along with his band of English gentlemen - is outwitting the revolutionaries. Known only by his calling card, he arrives in disguise and smuggles the nobles out of…

Book cover of Blindspot

Dory Codington Why did I love this book?

I studied with Jane Kamensky while I was working on a MA in American History. Little did I know that she had a wicked historical character hidden inside. Learning that inspired me to write good history inside a realistic and sexy historical plot. This is a story of hidden identity and unexpected love. 

The characters are a portrait artist and his apprentice. The apprentice appears to be a young man, as only young men would take such a position in 18th-century Boston, and the artist is surprised at his yearning for him. 

By Jane Kamensky, Jill Lepore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

BONUS: This edition contains a Blindspot discussion guide.

Stewart Jameson, a Scottish portrait painter fleeing his debtors in Edinburgh, has washed up on the British Empire's far shores—in the city of Boston, lately seized with the spirit of liberty. Eager to begin anew, he advertises for an apprentice, but the lad who comes knocking is no lad at all. Fanny Easton is a fallen woman from Boston's most prominent family who has disguised herself as a boy to become Jameson's defiant and seductive apprentice. 

Written with wit and exuberance by accomplished historians, Blindspot is an affectionate send-up of the best…

Book cover of Gaudy Night

Dory Codington Why did I love this book?

Gaudy Night was recommended to me by my Aunt many years ago. I had been reading British detective novels and she said that Gaudy Night was the sweetest love story/detective novel ever written. She was right. Lord Peter Wimsey, the famous detective, meets Harriet Vane in various friends’ salons, but comes to know her and becomes quite fascinated, after she is accused of killing her lover. (This was quite a scandal in 1930s London.) He gets her off by discovering the real killer. The romance takes place over two more books – Gaudy Night is the third.

Harriet is reluctant. She is sure she is too old, too tainted by scandal and too much of a blue stocking for Peter, as he often is in the company of dancers and actresses. He convinces her with kindness and silence, letting her know that it is the real Harriet that interests him, not the false ones portrayed in the papers. This book and its predecessors are well worth reading.

By Dorothy L. Sayers,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Gaudy Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The twelfth book in Dorothy L Sayers' classic Lord Peter Wimsey series, introduced by actress Dame Harriet Mary Walter, DBE - a must-read for fans of Agatha Christie's Poirot and Margery Allingham's Campion Mysteries.

'D. L. Sayers is one of the best detective story writers' Daily Telegraph

Harriet Vane has never dared to return to her old Oxford college. Now, despite her scandalous life, she has been summoned back . . .

At first she thinks her worst fears have been fulfilled, as she encounters obscene graffiti, poison pen letters and a disgusting effigy when she arrives at sedate Shrewsbury…

Book cover of A Most Unsuitable Man

Dory Codington Why did I love this book?

I began to write my own series in response to Jo Beverley’s Mallorens. These novels are set in Georgian England with its Barons, Dukes and their gambling, their rakes, and their strict inheritance laws and traditions. I invented those same rakish sons of dukes, but made them the third and fourth sons – the ones barely mentioned in classic British historical romances. I put these adventurous men on merchant vessels, and in the red uniform of the British army. Then I sent them across the Atlantic to fight a war for the King and have their adventures in America. I regret that Ms. Beverley died before I had a chance to talk to her about our connection, but her books have been a great inspiration. 

Many writers use dramatic openings to bring you into a book, and Ms. Beverely gets behind you and kicks you in. It has been very hard for me to put down one of her books once I start, and I have read them all. I recommend her books for her accurate historical representation of places and people and great and exciting writing.

By Jo Beverley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Most Unsuitable Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling author brings back the most beloved family in romance!

Damaris Myddleton never expected to inherit a vast fortune-but she's ready to use it to buy the most eligible title in England. In comes Mr. Fitzroger, the dashing but penniless adventurer who first saves her from social disaster, and then saves her life. Now, trapped in mystery, danger, and forbidden intimacy, Damaris fights not to surrender her freedom and her heart to a most unsuitable man.


Book cover of The Recycled Citizen

Dory Codington Why did I love this book?

Detectives Sarah Kelling and her much-loved husband Max Bittersohn live in her inherited house on Beacon Hill, Boston. These are detective novels of the cozy and charming sort, and because of the relationship between Sarah and Max are adventure romances as well.

Sarah has a large extended family and they enter into all the books as friends. This makes each one a friend and fun to read. MacCleod knows Boston and her descriptions of the habits and haunts of classic Beacon Brahmins/Yankees are as charming and rich as her plots. I recommend this and her other books for the fun of reading and the great plots.

By Charlotte MacLeod,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A “funny and exciting” mystery in the series featuring a husband-and-wife sleuthing team in Boston (Publishers Weekly).

Boston and its suburbs are stuffed with Kellings, and the city is about to get one more. Sarah Kelling and her husband Max Bittersohn—a pair of amateur sleuths equally at home in back alleys as they are at black-tie balls—are about to have a baby. And if the child takes after his parents, he will be one of the cleverest infants in New England. But while Sarah is a month away from giving birth, she cannot let pregnancy slow her down—she has a…

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The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

Book cover of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

Susan Rowland Author Of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

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Who am I?

Author Part-time celt Modern alchemist Myth hunter Jungian

Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A traditional mystery with a touch of cozy, The Alchemy Fire Murder is for those who like feisty women sleuths, Oxford Colleges, alchemy, strong characters, and real concerns like trafficking, wildfires, racism, and climate change. This book especially works for those fascinated by myth and witches in history. Read for a seventeenth-century alchemist in Connecticut, a lost alchemy scroll stuck in a California Museum, and a blizzard in Los Angeles.

Murder ensues when an intern is attacked after making a momentous discovery with Mary Wandwalker, an inexperienced detective commissioned to recover the treasure vital to the survival of her Oxford college, St Julian’s. When the young man’s brother is falsely accused, Mary has to step in.

The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

What is this book about?

Former Archivist Mary Wandwalker hates bringing bad news. Nevertheless, she confirms to her alma mater that their prized medieval alchemy scroll, is, in fact, a seventeenth century copy. She learns that the original vanished to colonial Connecticut with alchemist, Robert Le More. Later the genuine scroll surfaces in Los Angeles. Given that the authentic artifact is needed for her Oxford college to survive, retrieving it is essential.

Mary agrees to get the real scroll back as part of a commission for her three-person Enquiry Agency. However, tragedy strikes in Los Angeles. Before Mary can legally obtain the scroll, a young…

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