The best historical novels to make you believe in love again

Who am I?

I am the writer of three genres, historical fiction, erotic fiction, and historical thrillers. I’ve lived in a number of places in the world and have always done extensive research for my historical fiction. I often cover stories about marginalized peoples set against world-changing political events – post-plague, post-war, etc…With historical fiction, my favourite eras are the mid 17th century and also mid 19th, around the time of the US Civil War. I am also a playwright and screenwriter although my original training was that of sculptor, as such my ambition is to create vivid landscapes the reader can truly experience with all senses.

I wrote...

The Witch of Cologne

By Tobsha Learner,

Book cover of The Witch of Cologne

What is my book about?

The Witch of Cologne is the story of Ruth, a seventeenth-century Jewish midwife whose revolutionary methods lead to accusations of witchcraft and imprisonment. Ruth has brought new and dangerous ideas to Cologne from the free city of Amsterdam, and in her work has combined the radical ideas of the philosopher Spinoza with the ancient ways of the kabbala. Her love affair with Detlef von Tennen, a Catholic cleric, may save her in the short term, but at a time of religious persecution there are a few options for those who break taboos. Detlef becomes fascinated by this woman with her passion for the revolutionary ideas he himself longs to embrace. But the price of love, and of belief, is high…

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Leopard

Tobsha Learner Why did I love this book?

I love this book because for me it’s the ultimate historical novel; a great epic set in a tumultuous landscape beautifully crafted and utterly engaging. The perfect blend of the personal and the political woven into gloriously intricate emotions. It taught me the importance of character and how the psychology of ambition can shape a whole life as well as destroy a family. The ultimate artistry I inspire towards as a writer, that creates the visceral, vivid landscape I like to get lost in as a reader. 

By Giuseppe Di Lampedusa,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Leopard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Leopard is a modern classic which tells the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution.

'There is a great feeling of opulence, decay, love and death about it' Rick Stein

In the spring of 1860, Fabrizio, the charismatic Prince of Salina, still rules over thousands of acres and hundreds of people, including his own numerous family, in mingled splendour and squalor. Then comes Garibaldi's landing in Sicily and the Prince must decide whether to resist the forces of change or come to terms with them.

'Every once in a…

Book cover of The End of the Affair

Tobsha Learner Why did I love this book?

For anyone who’s had their lives rocked by a clandestine affair or has profoundly fallen in love knowing it will be fatal, this book will hit your heart. A narrative set against the bleakness of post-war bombed-out London, I love the way Greene blends the physical metaphor of this world with his own internal struggles around faith, infidelity, and obsessive love for a self-destructive woman. It showed me that it was okay to love and lose and how one can craft great literature from pain. But more than that, I think it taught me that the passing of time is not just a way of encapsulating memory, it is also a poignant reminder to live in the moment. 

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The End of the Affair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


The love affair between Maurice Bendrix and Sarah, flourishing in the turbulent times of the London Blitz, ends when she suddenly and without explanation breaks it off. After a chance meeting rekindles his love and jealousy two years later, Bendrix hires a private detective to follow Sarah, and slowly his love for her turns into an obsession.

Book cover of Love in the Time of Cholera

Tobsha Learner Why did I love this book?

 This book has dipped in and out of my life at different ages, and each time it has a different resonance for me. I guess it taught me at an early age that love is not confined to lust or youth or even impassioned gestures but in the minutia of marriage and also – as the main plot is about an unrequited love of fifty years finally being consummated – as a tenacious ideal kept alive through hope. As an author, it’s a great illustration of visual and emotional complexity made simple through vivid description.

By Gabriel García Márquez,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Love in the Time of Cholera as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There are novels, like journeys, which you never want to end: this is one of them. One seventh of July at six in the afternoon, a woman of 71 and a man of 78 ascend a gangplank and begin one of the greatest adventures in modern literature. The man is Florentino Ariza, President of the Carribean River Boat Company; the woman is his childhood sweetheart, the recently widowed Fermina Daza. She has earache. He is bald and lame. Their journey up-river, at an age when they can expect 'nothing more in life', holds out a shimmering promise: the consummation of…

Book cover of Orlando: A Biography

Tobsha Learner Why did I love this book?

I have included this book for all readers who love a huge narrative arc, in this case, a life that stretches over centuries and changes gender. It was an early influence on me and taught me that fantasy can be powerfully embedded in a plausible historical reality and can be just as powerful and emotionally transforming as a factual biography. Woolf was also a hundred years ahead in terms of nuanced gender and throws out all societal restraints of conventional femineity in her depiction of Orlando, the original his/her hero/ine. 

By Virginia Woolf,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Orlando as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

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

'The flower bloomed and faded. The sun rose and sank. The lover loved and went. And what the poets said in rhyme, the young translated into practice.'

Written for her lover Vita Sackville-West, 'Orlando' is Woolf's playfully subversive take on a biography, here tracing the fantastical life of Orlando. As the novel spans centuries and continents, gender and identity, we follow Orlando's adventures in love - from being a lord in the Elizabethan court to a lady in 1920s London.

First published in 1928, this tale of unrivalled…

Book cover of Anna Karenina

Tobsha Learner Why did I love this book?

You don’t have to just have had your heart broken, or be in the grip of an obsessive love to recognize the pain, love, trauma, and joy Tolstoy depicts in this classic. Personally, this tragedy has always resonated for me throughout my life, I guess it’s because of the range and age of the characters, as well as the varied depictions of human entanglement that are both so ordinary and extraordinary. I think also this was a novel that showed me I could set a big personal story against a tumultuous political landscape and still move people. 

By Leo Tolstoy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1872 the mistress of a neighbouring landowner threw herself under a train at a station near Tolstoy's home. This gave Tolstoy the starting point he needed for composing what many believe to be the greatest novel ever written.

In writing Anna Karenina he moved away from the vast historical sweep of War and Peace to tell, with extraordinary understanding, the story of an aristocratic woman who brings ruin on herself. Anna's tragedy is interwoven with not only the courtship and marriage of Kitty and Levin but also the lives of many other characters. Rich in incident, powerful in characterization,…

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I'll Tell My Story

By Sinmisola Ogunyinka,

Book cover of I'll Tell My Story

Sinmisola Ogunyinka Author Of I loved a slave

New book alert!

Who am I?

I am a writer who loves to create stories across cultures and time periods. Writing a historical romance novel involves a lot of reading about the history and the times. After reading a few historical novels, I started toying with the idea of writing one. I loved a slave is my second historical romance novel and I have started work on two more. Being transported into the time period gives me a lot of excitement and I hope you enjoy the books on my list as much as I have! I have a master’s in liberal arts and an MFA in Creative Writing.

Sinmisola's book list on historical stories on love and slavery

What is my book about?

Bettina Jaja spent years of her life obeying a man everyone both revered and feared, a man she called her husband - a man of God who gave her a comfortable life by all external accounts. Why, then, was she so unhappy? Pouring her heart out in her uncensored life story, she delivers her true self to her children. Doing so means defying her powerful husband. Doing so means being damned.

Bettina takes a stand against her tyrannical husband, the man who nobody dared disobey without fear of retaliation. In this often heart-wrenching look into the life of one mother yearning for freedom and for her children's happiness, you'll find out just what a mother is willing to sacrifice for the sake of her children.

I'll Tell My Story

By Sinmisola Ogunyinka,

What is this book about?

Sometimes the secrets of the past are too painful to remain hidden in the shadows.

Bettina Jaja spent years of her life obeying a man everyone both revered and feared, a man she called her husband-a man of God who gave her a comfortable life by all external accounts. Why, then, was she so unhappy?

Mummy Jaja, as their congregation called her, knew she had failed as a mother for many reasons... but could she stop the generational curses caused by her years of silence from being passed on? Can she save her children from suffering her fate?

Adam, her…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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