The best historical novels that are packed with action

Why am I passionate about this?

I am best known for my books on allergies and horticulture. But my first love was always writing fiction, and the first two books I ever sold, were both novels. I know a lot about exciting historical novels because I’ve read so many of them. I read; I don’t watch TV. I love history, and historical fiction that has good, strong characters that I can give a hoot about. And I love books that are full of action, where something exciting is always happening or just about to. A plug: I believe I’ve now written some books myself that fit that bill.

I wrote...

Cowboys Don't Shoot Magpies

By Thomas Leo Ogren,

Book cover of Cowboys Don't Shoot Magpies

What is my book about?

In 1866, two kids, Heidi, 12, and JoJo, 7, are suddenly orphaned and alone in the middle of the wild West. Danger lurks around every bend in the trail. They are hundreds of miles from the nearest town. Accompanied by JoJo’s pet magpie and his one-eyed wolf-dog, One-Eyed Jack, they start walking, heading west.

This story has been a hit with all who have read it. A 6th-grade teacher read it, a chapter at a time, as a treat for her students, all of whom loved it. They begged me to write a sequel, which I’ve just finished called Talking to Magpies. One reader wrote that he bought a Kindle version, started to read it in the morning, and didn’t stop until 9 pm when he’d finished it.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Master and Commander

Thomas Leo Ogren Why did I love this book?

Master & Commander is the first in a big, long, wonderful series of sea adventures set in the early 1800s. There was a movie made from this book, and I thought it didn’t come close to being as good as the book itself. O’Brian is a talented, great author. The characters are interesting, different, tough but human, and this (and all the rest in the series) is fast-paced and full of action. One of the best series of books I’ve ever read.

By Patrick O'Brian,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Master and Commander as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This, the first in the splendid series of Jack Aubrey novels, establishes the friendship between Captain Aubrey, R.N., and Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and intelligence agent, against a thrilling backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Details of a life aboard a man-of-war in Nelson's navy are faultlessly rendered: the conversational idiom of the officers in the ward room and the men on the lower deck, the food, the floggings, the mysteries of the wind and the rigging, and the roar of broadsides as the great ships close in battle.

Book cover of The Broken Gun

Thomas Leo Ogren Why did I love this book?

The Broken Gun has one of the tightest plots of any of the many Western novels from the late, great Louis L’Amour. L’Amour’s Westerns are almost all set in the mid-1800s. His good guys are good, and his bad guys bad. His books are all fun, easy to read, full of action, and keep you turning the pages. Some readers think Louis L’Amour was a 2nd rate writer…but he knew what he was doing & literally millions of folks have loved his books. Many, like myself, have read all of his Westerns, some of them several times. When I go camping I always toss in a few of his paperbacks. When it’s too windy to fish, I kick back and re-read a Louis L’Amour Western. Always fun.

By Louis L'Amour,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ninety years ago the Toomey brothers, along with twenty-five other men and four thousand head of cattle, vanished en route to Arizona. When writer and historian Dan Sheridan is invited to the missing brothers’ ranch by its current owner, he jumps at the chance. The visit fits right in with his plan to solve the century-old mystery—but it turns out that his host isn’t a fan of books, writers, or people who don’t mind their own business.

Soon Dan is living the dangers of the Old West firsthand—tracked through the savage wilderness by vicious killers straight out of the most…

Book cover of Mr. Midshipman Hornblower

Thomas Leo Ogren Why did I love this book?

I love finding an author who has written a big, long, fun series of books. The entire Hornblower series (at least 15 of them) follows Horatio Hornblower as he works his way up from humble beginnings in the British Navy of the 1800s. The author, C.S. Forester, is probably best known for his fine book, The African Queen, from which the classic movie with Bogart was made. Mr. Midshipman Hornblower is the first of the series, and it won’t disappoint for a second. Fun, action-packed, historically correct…you can’t miss with this one.

By C. S. Forester,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Mr. Midshipman Hornblower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Join young Horatio Hornblower in the thrilling naval adventure from the author of The Good Shepherd, now a major-motion picture starring Tom Hanks

'A joyous creation, a perfection in words. Young Hornblower is, simply, one of the most complete creations of character in fiction' Conn Iggulden, The Independent

1793, the eve of the Napoleonic Wars, and Midshipman Horatio Hornblower receives his first command . . .

As a seventeen-year-old with a touch of sea sickness, young Horatio Hornblower hardly cuts a dash in His Majesty's navy.

Yet from the moment he is ordered to board a French merchant ship…

Book cover of Sharpe's Tiger

Thomas Leo Ogren Why did I love this book?

Sharpe’s Tiger is the first of a big series of books that follow Richard Sharpe, a private in the British army….1798. Every book in the series is a total treat…a warning: once you get hooked on Sharpe, you probably won’t stop until you’ve devoured the entire series.

Richard Sharpe, abandoned son of a London prostitute, grows up poor, hard, and double tough. His adventures take him all over the world, always fighting some enemy of the big British Empire. Bernard Cornwell is a fine writer, and he’s written some other historical novels as well, set in earlier times. All of them are excellent. Too much fun and action-packed.

By Bernard Cornwell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Sharpe's Tiger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*The brand new novel, SHARPE'S ASSASSIN, is available to pre-order now*

Sharpe's Tiger is the brilliant beginning of Sharpe's adventures

India, 1799

The citadel of Seringapatam is under siege. Navigating this dangerous kingdom of bejewelled palaces and poverty, Private Richard Sharpe embarks on a rescue mission to save a senior officer from the clutches of the Tippoo of Mysore - and oust the Sultan from his throne.

The fortress of Mysore is considered impregnable, but one of the greatest threats comes from betrayal within the British ranks. And the man to outwit enemies from both sides is Sharpe . .…

Book cover of The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard

Thomas Leo Ogren Why did I love this book?

Elmore Leonard wrote a ton of books, and almost all of them were darn good. He’s most famous for his more modern books, Get Shorty, etc. His stories are raw, edgy, and exciting. Toward the very end of his career, he did crank out some novels that were, I thought, junk. But for the most part, his writing is terrific, easy to read, page-turning books. What many don’t know is that when he was young, he was writing Westerns. And wow, what fabulous Westerns, too! If you’re lucky enough to get a copy of this collection, you’ll both love it, and feel kind of bad when you get to the end. One of the very best Western writers of them all.

By Elmore Leonard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bull's-eye of a short fiction collection that spans the master's career.

In 1950, fresh out of college and keen to make his name as a writer, Elmore Leonard decided he needed to pick a market, a big one, which would give him a better chance to be published while he learned to write. In choosing between crime and Westerns, the latter had an irresistible pull - Leonard loved movies set in the West. As he researched deeper into settings, Arizona in the 1880s captured his imagination: the Spanish influence, the stand-offs and shoot-outs between Apache Indians and the US…

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The Sailor Without a Sweetheart

By Katherine Grant,

Book cover of The Sailor Without a Sweetheart

Katherine Grant Author Of The Viscount Without Virtue

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist History nerd Amateur dancer Reader New Yorker

Katherine's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Enjoy this Persuasion-inspired historical romance!

Six years ago, Amy decided *not* to elope with Captain Nate Preston. Now, he is back in the neighborhood, and he is shocked to discover that Amy is unmarried. Even more surprising, she is clearly battling some unnamed illness. Thrown together by circumstances outside their control, Nate and Amy try to be friends. Soon, it becomes clear that their feelings for each other never died. Has anything changed, or are they destined for heartbreak once more?

The Sailor Without a Sweetheart

By Katherine Grant,

What is this book about?

Is love worth giving a second chance?

Six years ago, Amy Lamplugh decided not to elope with Nate Preston. Ever since, she has been working hard to convince herself she was right to choose her family over Nate.

Now, Nate is back. After an illustrious career as a naval captain, he faces a court martial for disobeying orders while fighting the slave trade. He accepts an invitation to await the trial at a country estate outside of Portsmouth - and discovers he is suddenly neighbors with Amy.

Nate is shocked to find that Amy didn’t end up marrying someone rich…

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