The most recommended books on Charles II of England

Who picked these books? Meet our 13 experts.

13 authors created a book list connected to Charles II of England, and here are their favorite Charles II of England books.
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Book cover of Restoration

Joanne Limburg Author Of A Want of Kindness

From my list on bringing you closest to historical figures.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an academic and non-fiction writer as well as a novelist. My favourite part of writing is the research phase, when you catch the scent of something fascinating, and hitherto unknown, and never know where it might lead you. As you’ve probably guessed from my recommendations, I have a soft spot for the quiet, unflashy, overlooked figures. Recently I’ve returned to the subject of overlooked women, although in non-fiction, in my book Letters to my Weird Sisters: On Autism and Feminism. For my next novel, I’m learning all about the bluestocking women of eighteenth-century Britain, and their attempt to create an ideal community. Perfect characters aren’t interesting to me – flawed ones are so much better.

Joanne's book list on bringing you closest to historical figures

Joanne Limburg Why did Joanne love this book?

The character at the centre of this book, the clownish and exuberant physician Merivel, is fictional, but his world revolves around the very real figure of Charles II. After Merivel cures one of the King’s favourite spaniels, Charles enlists him to marry his newest mistress – a ruse to draw his very jealous main mistress, Barbara Villiers, off the scent. Merivel receives a country estate in return and is sent to live there with his new wife, under strict instructions not to touch her. When he falls for her, he is kicked out of their home and seeks refuge with a student friend at the New Bedlam Hospital. He needs to get back into the King’s good books. Like its anti-hero, this novel is ebullient, funny, and strangely loveable.

By Rose Tremain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Robert Merivel, son of a glove maker and an aspiring physician, finds his fortunes transformed when he is given a position at the court of King Charles II. Merivel slips easily into a life of luxury and idleness, enthusiastically enjoying the women and wine of the vibrant Restoration age. But when he's called on to serve the king in an unusual role, he transgresses the one law that he is forbidden to break and is brutally cast out from his newfound paradise. Thus begins Merivel's journey to self-knowledge, which will take him down into the lowest depths of seventeenth-century society.

Book cover of Bound by Fate and Blood: Arsinoëphorus Alliance (Book 1)

Katherine Black Author Of Leverage

From my list on dark and twisted psychological thrillers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing for a long time and reading even longer. I enjoy intelligent books that are well written—not overwritten or over punctuated—and as we all do both of those, I mean that it’s been well edited. And I understand the struggle which is why four of my five choices are from indie authors like myself.

Katherine's book list on dark and twisted psychological thrillers

Katherine Black Why did Katherine love this book?

This is an intelligent vampire story. Some of the phraseology is just beautiful. Ms. O'Malley takes period, setting, costume, culture, etiquette, and language into consideration, and the book's tone-setting is just stunning. 

This vampire genre lends itself to forgetting about the myth being seeped in folklore and history. It's morphed into a general excuse for writing—and I use the term in its loosest form—some of the worst sex scenes ever to come from sticky keyboards. Okay, some of them probably have some well-written sex—I've just never read one. I am delighted to report that this isn't that book. There isn't a ripped bodice in sight. It is, however, a touching love story, sensitively written. The male and female leads are likable and easy to connect with. 

I loved several things about this book. We are introduced to many different species of merna. I enjoyed reading about their various traits…

By Jenna O'Malley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bound by Fate and Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everything comes with a price.

Scottish merchant-for-hire Christian Sinclair longs for solid ground after traveling the Atlantic in the late 1660s under King Charles II’s banner. When he returns to London six months late, his homecoming plans did not include being captured, finding his family dead, or hearing their estate burned to the ground.

Nephtyri, the last of two full-blooded vampires, dreams of Christian’s plight and offers to avenge his murdered family. In exchange, she reveals his parents’ hidden ties to the secretive Hunters’ Guild—slayers and slavers intent on destroying her people.

If the Guild seizes Christian, they will either…

Book cover of Crooked House

Sung J. Woo Author Of Deep Roots

From my list on mysteries that take place in a grand manor house.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been drawn to books that take place in a single house, so when it came time to write a sequel to my first mystery novel, I was determined to make this happen. In addition to Agatha Christie’s Crooked House, I thought of classic novels I’ve read, books I never would’ve considered to be genre in any way.  But you know what? A mystery of some kind is at the heart of almost all novels. Readers love to experience the sense of discovery, of coming to some kind of truth. It's no coincidence that all five novels here feature first-person narrators, very much in the mode of old-school noirs.

Sung's book list on mysteries that take place in a grand manor house

Sung J. Woo Why did Sung love this book?

The house may be named Three Gables, but the title is correct – it is a crooked house, through and through. 

As clever as Knives Out and its sequel may have been, this is the OG when it comes to a house full of the most interesting nutjobs. I’m proud to admit that I studied the hell out of Crooked House to write my book. The ending of this one is a doozy, and I tried my best to do the same. As the saying goes, if you want to steal, steal from the best.

By Agatha Christie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A new Agatha Christie thriller, described by her as "one of my best."

The Leonides were one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. That was until the head of the household, Aristide, was murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection.

Suspicion naturally falls on the old man's young widow, fifty years his junior. But the murderer has reckoned without the tenacity of Charles Hayward, fiance of the late millionare's granddaughter...

Book cover of Royal Escape

Stella Riley Author Of The Black Madonna

From my list on books set in 17th century England.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of sixteen novels—six of them set in the mid-seventeenth century. The English Civil Wars and their aftermath is a period very close to my heartcombining as it does fascinating personalities, incredibly complicated politics, and all the drama and bloodshed of civil conflict. My greatest pleasure has been finding and featuring real men whose names are now largely forgotten.

Stella's book list on books set in 17th century England

Stella Riley Why did Stella love this book?

The famous story of Charles the Second’s escape from England during the six weeks following the Battle of Worcester in 1651. I believe Heyer based her book on the account Charles gave to Samuel Pepys. Interestingly, while in exile, the King never told the whole tale and changed numerous details to protect those who had helped him.

Royal Escape is an enjoyable and entertaining read told by a master storyteller.

By Georgette Heyer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fascinating look into a tumultuous interlude in British history and the life of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

This brilliantly entertaining novel is a fictionalization of the true story of Charles II (May 29, 1630 ? February 6, 1685), charting his daring flight to France after the Battle of Worcester, where Cromwell and his Protestant forces defeated the Catholic king. For six weeks, Charles' life was in danger as he hid in the English countryside, disguised as a servant, unable to find a way across heavily guarded borders. His loyal courtiers were appalled by the ease and glee with which he…

Book cover of Oroonoko

Tom Keymer Author Of Jane Austen: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on stories written before 1800.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been researching and teaching the history of the novel since I was a graduate student in Cambridge in the late 1980s, and along the way, I’ve published trade editions of several classics beyond those recommended here, including Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Richardson’s Pamela, Fielding’s Tom Jones, and Beckford’s Vathek. It’s a great opportunity to take a break from specialist academia and reach a broader community of readers, as I’ve also tried to do in a recent introductory book about Jane Austen. I now teach at the University of Toronto, where I’m blessed with amazing students on two of my favourite undergraduate courses, “The Rise of the Novel” and “Austen and Her Contemporaries.”

Tom's book list on stories written before 1800

Tom Keymer Why did Tom love this book?

“All women together ought to let flowers fall on the tomb of Aphra Behn... in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” The first professional woman writer in England, best known for her scandalous stage comedies during the reign of Charles II, Behn ended her career with a hard-hitting novel about slavery and rebellion in colonial Suriname. It may not be true, as she says when dedicating Oroonoko (1688) to a Scottish nobleman, that “I writ it in a few hours.” But there’s real urgency to Behn’s narrative as she deplores the fate of her enslaved hero, an African prince she likens to “a lion taken in a toil,” while also sounding the alarm about regime change back home in England. 

By Aphra Behn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'We are bought and sold like apes or monkeys, to be the sport of women, fools, and cowards, and the support of rogues . . .'

Spy, traveller and pioneering female writer Aphra Benn's story of an African prince sold into slavery is considered one of the earliest English novels

Book cover of Fortune Like the Moon (Hawkenlye Mysteries)

Felicity Pulman Author Of Blood Oath

From my list on medieval murders and mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

After enjoying Josephine Tey’s wonderful Daughter of Time, in which she exonerates Richard III from the crime of murdering the princes in the tower, followed by the Brother Cadfael mysteries, I became hooked on historical crimes and decided to try writing them myself! It was quite a challenge researching both the history and the settings from Australia, but the novels became a wonderful excuse for lengthy visits to travel around Great Britain and France. As well as writing the Janna Chronicles, my passion for history has also prompted several other published novels and series, including the Shalott trilogy.

Felicity's book list on medieval murders and mysteries

Felicity Pulman Why did Felicity love this book?

Because my character Janna seeks refuge in an abbey while on her quest to find her father, I found it interesting and instructive to read about Abbess Helewise and life at Hawkenlye Abbey in more detail. I also enjoyed trying to second-guess whodunit as the Abbess and her helpmate, lord of the manor, Josse d’Acquin, solve the many crimes that come their way. And I was intrigued by the supernatural elements introduced by Alys Clare, with the abbey being situated so close to the ancient forest in the Great Weald, and how the two worlds often intertwine. 

By Alys Clare,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fortune Like the Moon (Hawkenlye Mysteries) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortly before his unexpected coronation, King Richard passed a law letting all of England's prisoners go free. Shortly afterwards a young nun is found, gruesomely murdered. Richard swiftly employs an old military colleague of his, Josse d'Acquin, to unravel this hideous mystery. Who could have wanted to kill this innocent young novice, and, more worryingly, why?

Josse goes to Hawkenlye Abbey to find out the answers to these questions. He is having little success until meets the Abbess Helewise, a woman who quickly proves herself to be his equal, both as an amateur sleuth, and as a figure the community…

Book cover of The Royal Secret

Adele Jordan Author Of The Gentlewoman Spy

From my list on exciting adventure in the Renaissance.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a ghostwriter, I’m asked to turn my hand to many genres. Yet the one I keep returning to is Renaissance Adventure. Having always been a fan of adventure, in films, TV, or books, for my English Degree at Exeter University, I dedicated my dissertation to the genre, and the fascination shows no sign of fading. I love all these books, but there is one difference between these and my series. That is the heroes here are all men. Bring on more adventure in this era with women! I hope you enjoy the books on this list – they are a fantastic way to spend your evenings with your pulse racing.

Adele's book list on exciting adventure in the Renaissance

Adele Jordan Why did Adele love this book?

Andrew Taylor is known for his great mysteries set in the 1600s, but the reason I’m picking this one above his others is the power of the opening and how it draws you into this world.

We’re introduced to a house where two girls are playing with what is effectively a voodoo doll, wishing harm on their master. When something inevitably happens to the master, these girls’ simple game with the doll becomes much more wicked. Who couldn’t be drawn in by such a premise?

Like Samson and Bishop, Taylor takes the reader on an investigation through a city from a different era, but it’s the people in Taylor’s book that make the stakes of this adventure so much higher.

By Andrew Taylor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the No.1 bestselling author of The Last Protector and The Ashes of London comes the next book in the phenomenally successful series following James Marwood and Cat Lovett during the time of King Charles II.

Over 1 Million Andrew Taylor Novels Sold! A Times Best Paperback of 2022

Two young girls plot a murder by witchcraft. Soon afterwards a government clerk dies painfully in mysterious circumstances. His colleague James Marwood is asked to investigate - but the task brings unexpected dangers.

Meanwhile, architect Cat Hakesby is working for a merchant who lives on Slaughter Street, where the air smells…

Book cover of The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Heart of England and King Charles II

Caroline Lamond Author Of Well Behaved Women

From my list on inspired by the lives of real women.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historical fiction writer, every time I learn about an amazing woman, I instinctively want to write about her, to understand her life and bring her – often forgotten – story to a wider audience. It’s a wonderful way to live vicariously, and it’s a privilege to spend time in these women’s worlds for a brief period. There’s a Sylvia Plath quote that strongly resonates with me, beginning: ‘I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want…’. Reading and writing historical fiction allows me a glimpse into the worlds of different people living different lives in different eras, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

Caroline's book list on inspired by the lives of real women

Caroline Lamond Why did Caroline love this book?

Nell Gwynn is another fascinating (female) historical figure who captures the imagination and has been the subject of much speculation and invention.

Bagwell has clearly researched her subject meticulously, and the novel is a perfect mix of historical detail and bawdy romp, which makes for a very readable, very entertaining novel. I first read it around a decade ago, and it was my favourite read of that year.

By Gillian Bagwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A thrilling debut novel starring one of history's most famous and beloved courtesans.

From London's slums to its bawdy playhouses, The Darling Strumpet transports the reader to the tumultuous world of seventeenth-century England, charting the meteoric rise of the dazzling Nell Gwynn, who captivates the heart of King Charles II-and becomes one of the century's most famous courtesans.

Witty and beautiful, Nell was born into poverty but is drawn into the enthralling world of the theater, where her saucy humor and sensuous charm earn her a place in the King's Company. As one of the first actresses in the newly-opened…

Book cover of Quinine: Malaria and the Quest for a Cure That Changed the World

John Gaudet Author Of Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars

From my list on plants that changed the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a writer, lecturer, biologist, ecologist, and two-time Fulbright Scholar (to India and Malaysia). I'm now a fiction writer, but basically I’ve always been a storyteller who writes in a historical framework. While I feel an almost compulsive obligation to keep faith with the facts, my main objective is to tell a story—as dramatically and suspensefully and entertainingly as I can. My first non-fiction book, Papyrus: the Plant that Changed the World, tells the story of a plant that still evokes the mysteries of the ancient world while holding the key to the world’s wetlands and atmospheric stability. It changed the world as did all five of the plants on my list below. 

John's book list on plants that changed the world

John Gaudet Why did John love this book?

Rocco is the great-granddaughter of Phillipe Bunau-Varilla, a soldier, engineer, and former Panamanian ambassador to the United States.

A genius in the art of lobbyist statecraft, he has been referred to as the “Inventor of Panama.” He, like Rocco, survived malaria, so she knows about malaria and quinine from street level. From its discovery in the 17th Cent. by Jesuit missionaries in Peru to its use by expanding European colonial powers and its role in the development of modern anti-malaria pills, quinine proves to be a real factor in the history of the modern world.

The Jesuits learned of the bark of the cinchona tree, which was used by Andean natives to cure shivering, at a time when malaria, then known as Roman ague or marsh fever, was devastating southern Europe. They eagerly began the distribution of the curative bark, which also helped European explorers and missionaries survive the disease…

By Fiammetta Rocco,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Quinine 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?

The fascinating story of the intensive search to discover and possess quininethe only known cure for malaria Malaria kills someone every 12 minutes in Africa. Now known mostly as a disease of the tropics, malaria led to the demise of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago and ravaged Europe for years afterwards. At the start of the 17th century, Jesuit priests developed quinine, an alkaloid made out of the bitter red bark of the cinchona tree from the Andes. When quinine arrived in Europe, the Protestant powers resisted the medicine fearing that it was a Popish poison. Quinines reputation improved,…

Book cover of Cromwell

Nancy Blanton Author Of When Starlings Fly as One

From my list on Ireland in the 17th century.

Why am I passionate about this?

Nancy Blanton is an American author of Irish descent. She’s written three award-winning Irish historical novels and has a fourth underway. A former journalist, her focus on the 17th century derives from a history lesson about Oliver Cromwell, weariness of Tudor stories, decades of enlightening research, and a little help from supportive friends in County Cork.

Nancy's book list on Ireland in the 17th century

Nancy Blanton Why did Nancy love this book?

For those who like biographies, this story of Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658) follows him from young man to gentleman farmer, reluctant politician, military leader, regicide, and Lord Protector of England. To me, Cromwell will always be the cold destroyer who led his most brutal and devastating army across Ireland after England’s civil war. But, there are many differing opinions. This interesting read presents all sides of the man, so you can be the judge. 

By Antonia Fraser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Cromwell, award-winning biographer Antonia Fraser tells of one of England's most celebrated and controversial figures, often misunderstood and demonized as a puritanical zealot. Oliver Cromwell rose from humble beginnings to spearhead the rebellion against King Charles I, who was beheaded in 1649, and led his soldiers into the last battle against the Royalists and King Charles II at Worcester, ending the civil war in 1651. Fraser shows how England's prestige and prosperity grew under Cromwell, reversing the decline it had suffered since Queen Elizabeth I's death.