From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
My tulips are sprouting! Spring is on its way here in the Pacific Northwest along with a great selection of new historical novels.
Here is a curated list of my favorites for March, April, and May. The range of stories and settings are diverse: Georgian, Regency, WWII, and post war England to Gilded Age Newport and 1930s Hollywood. So, something for everyone.
I hope that it helps you discover your next great read for the Spring season.
Best, Laurel Ann
THE MOZART CODE: A NOVEL, by Rachel McMillan (March 15)
“McMillan’s vivid descriptions of a postwar Vienna add allure to the simmering, romantic mystery. Readers will be riveted from the very first page.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“The Mozart Code is a smart, luscious romance, a thrilling suspense, and a thunderously good read. McMillan is a rising star in historical fiction.” —Aimie K. Runyan, bestselling author of The School for German Brides
Intrigue, espionage, and romance in post-war Vienna and Prague with a former Bletchley Park codebreaker Sophia Villiers and her marriage of convenience MI-6 husband Simon Barrington as she is tasked to find the death mask of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. McMillian is a compelling storyteller worthy of more readership. The Mozart Code is rich in detail, and clever twists. Recommended for readers who loved The da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, and The Rose Code, by Kate Quinn. Yes, code is the operative word here!
THE MAYFAIR BOOKSHOP: A NOVEL OF NANCY MITFORD AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, by Eliza Knight (April 12)
“The Mayfair Bookshop is a moving, touching tale of a Bright Young Thing turned bookseller/author and her quest to find fulfillment, inspiration, and love in the chaos of the WWII home front. Eliza Knight brings Nancy Mitford to life as an appealing and uncertain young heroine in the days before she is burnished by fame and success—you cannot help but cheer her toward her destiny!” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code
A dual-timeline novel set in 1940s London featuring the famous Nancy Mitford, socialite, author, and a member of the scandalous Mitford Sisters, and Lucy St. Clair, a modern-day American book curator working at the legendary Heywood Hill Bookshop in Mayfair, Mitford’s former employer. St Clair owns a first edition of Nancy’s work which contains a mysterious inscription from the author that she is compelled to discover its meaning.
Knight is a gifted historical writer, and anything set in a London bookshop is like cat nip to me.
THE BLUE BUTTERFLY: A NOVEL OF MARION DAVIES, by Leslie Johansen Nack (May 3)
“A detailed, moving portrait of a complex woman in a complex life.” —Kirkus Reviews
“…chronicles the career of the fabulous Marion Davies and captures the star’s legendary verve and spirit on the Broadway stage, in her Hollywood movies, and in the battle against Citizen Kane. More importantly, this novel tells of the love story between Davies and William Randolph Hearst to its heartbreaking end.” —Edward Lorusso, author of The Silent Films of Marion Davies
The life of Broadway dancer and silent film star Marion Davies is vividly brought to the page in this compelling biofic. Her affair with the immensely powerful and wealthy publisher William Randolph Hurst, his obsession to make her a silent film star, their secret love child, his divorce, their marriage, her affair with Charlie Chaplin, Hurst’s later financial troubles, and their battle to stop Citizen Kane, a movie based on their lives, is dramatically told from her point of view. A must read for those who enjoy stories of the decadence of and downfall of wealth. It is quite a ride.
THE FUGITIVE COLOURS: A NOVEL (GENEVIEVE PLANCHE BOOK 2), by Nancy Bilyeau (May 12)
“The world of eighteenth-century London comes vividly to life…transporting us to a time when the divisions between science and alchemy, artists and artisans, and friends and foes were difficult to distinguish, and invites us to experience a new chapter with her protagonist, Genevieve, who must now balance her responsibilities as a mother, small business owner, and wife, in addition to her dreams of making a mark as a painter.” —Finola Austin, author of Bronte’s Mistress
The Fugitive Colours is the highly anticipated follow-up to the sweeping historical thriller The Blue. Set in 1764 London, Genevieve Sturbridge is a struggling silk designer working in a man’s world in Spitalfields seeking to become a serious portrait artist. Bilyeau excels at placing her readers within the time and place and fictionalizing the accounts of real lives and events. Recommended for readers who enjoyed The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton, and The Girl with the Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier.
BLOOMSBURY GIRLS: A NOVEL, by Natalie Jenner (May 17)
“Another top-notch reading experience… complex, emotionally engaging characters [against] a backdrop chock-full of factual historical information… Fans of Christina Baker Kline, Kate Quinn, and Pam Jenoff…will appreciate this gem.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Bloomsbury Girls is a book lover’s dream, one of those rare reads that elicits a sense of book-ish wistfulness and nostalgia. Jenner has created a colorful cast of characters in a story about friendship, perseverance, and the ways that determined women can band together in a man’s world. You’re in for a treat.” —Sarah Penner, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary
In post-war London, Bloomsbury Books has survived The Blitz until Vivien Lowry, Grace Perkins, and Evie Stone set off their own bomb on the stuffy all-male management. What ensues is the most delightful, witty, and endearing story you will read this year. Natalie Jenner, bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, proves that she was not a one hit wonder. Like Austen, her second book is even better than the first.
THE LOST SUMMERS OF NEWPORT: A NOVEL, by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, Karen White (May 17)
“Three stories elegantly intertwine in this clever and stylish tale of murder and family lies…This crackerjack novel offers three mysteries for the price of one.“ —Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“I loved the preservation aspect of this book (and had to laugh a few times at mentions to the 3Ws other book characters that would randomly pop up). This was a book I couldn’t put down. I was drawn into the Newport scene among the 3 time periods and the secrets hiding in each one. I loved how the 3 storylines all came together at the end! If you’re a fan of multi-narrator/timeline historical fiction, you’ll love this one!” —Erin, Goodreads
The bestselling writing team of Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White (3Ws) return for another collaborative novel. Set in Newport, Rhode Island, the summer playground of Gilded Age millionaires, this novel is a triple timeline story set in 2019, 1958 and 1899. Centered in Sprague Hall where two generations of Sprague women have secrets they wish kept hidden. I adore this writing trio separately and collectively. The topic and setting are spot on for those period drama fans who enjoyed the new Julian Fellowes TV series The Gilded Age on HBO.
THE WEDDING DRESS SEWING CIRCLE, by Jennifer Ryan (May 31)
“As always, Ryan captures the real community spirit of wartime in Britain — ordinary people “joining forces to overcome the difficulties of war.” While not avoiding the terror and depression of the time, the book manages to focus on the positive and uplifting aspects of people coming together to do what needs to be done.”—Laura Hill, Bibliobloggityboo.com
New from the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies Choir, three plucky women sew wedding gowns for British brides during WWII when clothing and fabric were deeply rationed. Coming together at the local sewing circle are a famous displaced London fashion designer, her niece, and a local vicar’s daughter all determined to help others celebrate that special day in a woman’s life by sharing their talent and skills. A heartwarming story based on true events.
The Chilbury Ladies Choir is one on my favorite “home front wartime Britain” novels. Ryan excels at ensemble stories with unique and endearing characters set in an English village. She also adds a bit of humor too, which can really add levity during war stricken times. Her writing reminds me of James Harriot’s, All Creatures Great and Small, and Natalie Jenner’s, The Jane Austen Society.
A DUKE, THE SPY, AN ARTISTS, AND A LIE: ROGUES AND REMARKABLE WOMEN (BOOK 3), by Vanessa Riley (March 29)
“The marriage of convenience trope gets a fresh spin…Riley masterfully plays up the will-they-won’t-they between husband and wife as the emotionally charged romance twists to its conclusion. This sends out the series in a high note.” —Publisher’s Weekly
A Jamaican heiress Cecilia Thomas marries a British spy Viscount Gantry to save his life and herself from a barrage of unsuitable suitors after her fortune. Stuck at his family estate with his peevish relatives, she soon regrets the marriage. When she learns of her sister’s death at the hands of a powerful man, she is deeply grieved and angered. With the assistance on The Widow’s Grace, a secret society who help women in need, she goes underground to expose the culprit. Husband and wife play a cat and mouse game that leads them to question their relationship.
Riley crafts smart protagonists and challenges them with complex plots. You will be mesmerized.
TO MARRY AND TO MEDDLE: THE REGENCY VOWS (Book 3), by Martha Waters (April 5)
“Waters’ latest is awash with light, witty banter, unadulterated confessions of love, and plenty of steamy, corset-unraveling sex scenes… A charming London romp perfect for theater nerds, cat lovers, and hopeless romantics.” —Kirkus Reviews
Wallflower Lady Emily Turner has endured six seasons as a debutante without finding a husband. She could pay off her father’s heavy debts if she married the odious owner of his favorite gambling house. Lord Julian Belfry is the second son of a marquess who earns his bread by scandalously acting on the stage in his own theater. When they meet at a house party, Lord Julian proposes that they combine forces with a marriage of convenience which could benefit them both.
If you are up for a joyful romp through Regency London with a misguided rake and a progressive miss, this novel is a delightful, witty, and charming option. Waters has an entertaining sense of humor perfect for romantic comedy. The third book in the series reveals her depth of creativity and skill at swoony romance. Highly recommended for those who enjoy the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn, and Evie Dunmore’s excellent League of Extraordinary Women series.
WHEN BLOOD LIES: A SEBASTIAN ST. CYR MYSTERY (BOOK 17), by C.S. Harris (April 5)
“Harris makes the torment of her lead palpable even to newcomers and perfectly balances the personal aspects of the case with detection. This long-running series remains as fresh as ever.” —Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
The dashing Sebastian St. Cyr returns in his 17th mystery set during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1815, the Bourbon King Louis XVIII has been restored to the throne of France after Napoleon’s defeat and exile to the isle of Elba. Sebastian and his wife travel to Paris seeking her long-lost mother only to be reunited as she dies of a knife wound. St. Cyr hunts her unknown assailant uncovering secrets from the past that will impact the current peace.
There are few historical mystery authors who can recreate early nineteenth-century life in England and France as atmospherically as Harris. Her mysteries are compulsive and as tight with tension and suspense as an overwound watch. If you enjoy the Lady Darby series by Anna Lee Huber, and the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series by Stephanie Barron, you will want to consume this compelling mystery.
A PERILOUS PERSPECTIVE: A LADY DARBY MYSTERY (BOOK 10) by Anna Lee Huber (April 19)
“Huber takes the genre beyond the happily ever after and looks at what would happen if the brave and beleaguered heroine and handsome hero became a family—with all of the demands of everyday life—and continued to solve mysteries…Fans will not be disappointed and uninitiated gothic mystery lovers should give this one a try.” —Gail, Goodreads
Here’s another historical mystery series with legs. Huber whips up another intriguing mystery for her beloved inquiry agents Lady Kiera Darby and her dashing husband, Sebastian Gage. Set in 1832 Scotland where the couple and their new baby visit an estate of a relative to celebrate a marriage of her cousin. When paintings in the house are discovered to be forgeries, and a local maid from a neighboring estate is found murdered, Kiera and Gage investigate.
Huber’s deft hand and a quick mind create the most interesting characters. I have enjoyed how the series has evolved, yet always offers twisty plots that keep me guessing. I am looking forward to reading this one too. Recommended for those who enjoy the Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn, and A Countess of Harleigh series by Dianne Freeman.
THE MURDER OF MR. WICKHAM, by Claudia Gray (May 3)
“Had Jane Austen sat down to write a country house murder mystery, this is exactly the book she would have written. Devotees of Austen’s timeless novels will get the greatest possible pleasure from this wonderful book. Immense fun and beautifully observed. Delicious!” —Alexander McCall Smith, bestselling author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Who would NOT want to read a book in which one a literature’s most notorious rakes meets his final demise? Bestselling young adult authoress (and Janeite) Claudia Gray combines characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Emma as she sets up a house party at the Knightley’s country manor house where relatives and new friends have been invited. Crashing the party is the notorious Mr. Wickham whose unexpected arrival sets off tempers and a killer in their midst. Juliet Tilney and Jonathan Darcy team up to solve the mystery? Is your heart pounding yet?
As a big Jane Austen inspired novel fan, I must share that I got as giddy as a schoolgirl when I read the description of this new mystery by a favorite author. You will no doubt discover that it is a delightful Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen romp.
We received review copies from the publishers in exchange for an honest review, or purchased the books for our own enjoyment. Cover images compliments of the respective publishers who hold the © 2022; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2022, austenprose.com.
Hello Dear Readers,
I had a wonderful time researching the books on this list. Several are already favorites and the rest are in my TBR pile. Which books are must reads for you?
Drop us a line below and share your thoughts on this book list and what you are currently reading! We would love to hear from you!
Laurel Ann Nattress, editor