Austenprose’s Best Austenesque and Historical Novels of 2022

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:

Happy New Year Dear Readers!

2022 proved to be a fabulous year in the historical book arena. Of the 51 books that were reviewed here last year by our dedicated staff, several were outstanding and will remain favorites. Here is a list of our highest-rated and most cherished of 2022. Follow each link to read the full review.

Many thanks to my fabulous review staff: Katie Patchell, Tracy Hickman, Sophia Rose, Katie Jackson, and guest reviewer Theresa Smith for their dedication to the historical genre and their passion for reading.

Cheers, Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Austenprose


AUSTENESQUE

Jane and the Year Without a Summer: Being a Jane Austen Mystery (Book 14), by Stephanie Barron

There were plot twists aplenty, with a conclusion that I did not predict…Historical mystery and Jane Austen fans alike will enjoy the artful suspense and poignant moments.”— Katie Jackson, 5 STARS

Stephanie Barron can channel the voice of Jane Austen like no other author I know. Paired with her period accurate details, and a whip smart mystery, and you have a knockout combination. This is her fourteenth novel in the series and it finds Jane and her sister Cassandra at Cheltenham spa on holiday to take in the curative waters when a murder sets Jane into motion. Each mystery can be read as a standalone so readers need not worry about having to read all thirteen novels before this one. Barron always encapsulates each story with breathtaking results.

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The True Confessions of a London Spy: The Secret Life of Mary Bennet (Book 2), by Katherine Cowley

Of the many Mary Bennet makeover novels out there, and there are dozens, Cowley has crafted a story to admire and cherish.”— Laurel Ann Nattress, 5 STARS

Being the second book in a trilogy places it as the awkward middle child in a family. You are not the first, nor the last in consequence to your parents! I found that this did not apply to True Confessions. It was stronger than the first novel and wittier than the third. This is subjective to my taste, however, and others may disagree. Cowley’s strong points are her talent in tying  in actual historical events and her clever ability to craft Mary Bennet as a geeky yet believable spy. Those who enjoy mysteries by Deanna Raybourn and Stephanie Barron will be eager to read this one.

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The Murder of Mr. Wickham, by Claudia Gray

“[I] was deeply impressed with the author’s sensitivity to Austen’s characters and their ongoing story…the resolve came, and I could nod with quiet approval. Well done, Ms. Gray.”— Sophia Rose, 5 STARS

As a continuation of the story of many of the famous couples in Jane Austen’s novels, we are also given the opportunity to see one of her most notorious villains meet his demise. Gray has the skill at crafting a clever cozy mystery that readers of Austen and Agatha Christie will appreciate and enjoy. I am happy to share that there will be further investigations with Juliet Tilney and Jonathan Darcy when book two, The Late Mrs. Willoughby releases on May 16 this year.    

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Godmersham Park: A Novel of Jane Austen’s Family, by Gill Hornby

“[A] triumph that historical fiction fans who like an authentic backdrop and a character driven, gently paced plot will appreciate.”Sophia Rose, 4 STARS

A fictionalization of the friendship between Jane Austen and Anne Sharp, a governess at Godmersham Park, the grand country manor owned by Austen’s elder brother Edward. There is a mystery to Sharp’s background and financial circumstances that keeps us guessing, however the true hook is the atmospheric workings of a Regency era country estate and witnessing the beginning of a life-long friendship between Jane and Anne.

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HISTORICAL ROMANCE

The Siren of Sussex: The Belles of London (Book 1), by Mimi Matthews

“[This] well-crafted, historically authentic, sensual romance of refreshing characters was dynamic…a fabulous new series for historical romance fans to boost into the saddle, get comfortable, and take it for a long ride.”— Sophia Rose, 5 STARS

In 2019 I stated that Mimi Matthews was a rising star in historical romance. I take that back. She has risen and is now my favorite author in the genre. The Siren of Sussex is a stellar start to a four-part series. Readers will delight in the historical accuracy, intriguing plot, and swoony clean romance—and be frantic to read all Matthews’s previous novels.

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The Best Intensions: The Huntresses (Book 1), by Sarah M. Eden

“…an unparalleled treasure…The Best Intentions is yet another beautiful addition to the interconnected Georgian and Regency worlds created by the brilliant mind of Sarah M. Eden. Her heartfelt stories of family, and friends one chooses to be their family, are endlessly entertaining, witty, and wise.”— Katie Jackson, 5 STARS

Author Sarah Eden has quite a following of “Edenites,” devoted fans who adore her stories and characters. The Huntresses is a new series that incorporates some of her previous characters and introduces new ones as well into a fresh storyline. It is not necessary to have read her previous novels, but it does enhance your enjoyment. The Best Intentions is a very strong start to the series, and we recommend it highly.   

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The Sisters of Sea View: On Devonshire Shores (Book 1), by Julie Klassen

I finished this with the same rested, satisfied feeling I get after a glorious pleasure holiday to the sea with family. Do pack your trunk and send your reservation for this sensational new series opener.”— Sophia Rose, 5 STARS

Bestselling and award-winning author Julie Klassen begins her new Regency-era series set at the seaside of Sidmouth, the famous watering place in Devonshire that Jane Austen visited with her family in 1801. The four Summers sisters, who along with their widowed mother, must turn their home into an inn for genteel travelers who wish some respite and rejuvenation by the shore. This upstanding opening novel is sure to thrill Klassen’s many fans and win some new ones as well.   

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HISTORICAL FICTION

The Magnolia Palace: A Novel, by Fiona Davis

If you enjoy atmospheric historical fiction resplendent with art, interesting characters, and a beguiling mystery, The Magnolia Palace is an intriguing addition to you winter reading lineup.”— Laurel Ann Nattress, 5 STARS

Nominated for Best Historical Fiction in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2022, readers will be enchanted by Davis’s next installment in her career of writing novels inspired by iconic building in New York City. This time she embraces the Frick Museum, the former Gilded Age mansion of the wealthy Frick family. The novel’s dual-timeline plot features the NY art scene of the early 1900s, and a modern model who investigates the long-lost pink diamond associated with the family. Davis’s impeccable research into the family and era showcases this novel like gold gilt frame.   

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Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel, by Natalie Jenner

Highly recommended historical fiction for anyone who appreciates the people—writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, and store clerks—who contribute to the transformative wonder that is conjured through the seemingly mundane act of curling up with a good book.”—Tracy Hickman, 5 STARS

In international bestselling author Natalie Jenner’s follow up to The Jane Austen Society, three women in post-World War II London working in a bookstore are determined to trailblaze past their male managers to improve the store and their lives. Uplifting and engaging, you will root for the heroines from page one.

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The Marriage Portrait: A Novel, by Maggie O’Farrell

Fans will not be disappointed by her latest release, it is just as magnificent, just as captivating, and just as sublime as Hamnet was. O’Farrell is such a vivid writer, one of the few that can offer readers a truly immersive reading experience.”— Theresa Smith, 5 STARS

A fictional retelling of the short life and marriage of Lucrezia de’ Medici (1545-1561) whose famous portrait graces the book cover. O’Farrell is truly the “Enchantress of Historical Fiction,” and this novel represents the writer at the top of her game.  

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HISTORICAL MYSTERY

An Impossible Impostor: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery (Book 7), by Deanna Raybourn

[C]lever characters and wry writing…The author does a bang-up job of painting the Victorian era settings, situations, and dialogue while maintaining the breezy, eccentricities that come with a woman who has grown up under curious circumstances and has circumnavigated the globe.”Sophia Rose, 5 STARS

In this seventh installment of the Veronica Speedwell series amateur detectives Veronica and Stoker are at Hathaway House on the Dartmoor in Devon to investigate a man claiming to be the long-lost heir of the estate. Is he an imposter? When the visitor disappears, again, along with the family jewels, the investigation heats up. Raybourn excels at all the required elements in a historical mystery: accurate and atmospheric details, endearing quirky characters, and a twisty whodunit. What makes this series so intriguing are the unique personalities. It is helpful to read the series in order, but not a prerequisite.   

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When Blood Lies: Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery (Book 17), by C.S. Harris

The historical backdrop including real life characters and events, the twisting and often exciting mystery plot, and the complex relationships and situations all meld to deliver a fabulous and riveting book.”— Sophia Rose, 5 STARS

The seventeenth book in a series could scare away a new reader. Don’t balk. Seriously. Pick up any of the novels at any point and you won’t be lost. In the latest installment get ready for Harris’ trademark vibrant, gritty, intelligent, clever, and emotional prose set in the Regency period. When Blood Lies is a personal investigation for Sebastian. After years of searching for his estranged mother he arrives in Paris to find her at death’s door. What evolves is a mystery steeped in politics and emotion.

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A Perilous Perspective: A Lady Darby Mystery (Book 10), by Anna Lee Huber

“…‘twas a fabulous layering of Scottish Highlander setting, clever and not-so-obvious murder mystery plotting, and sparkling characters and relationship development. I am nudging historical mystery as well as romance fans to put themselves in the way of the Lady Darby mysteries.”— Sophia Rose, 4 STARS

Forged artwork ignites an investigation for Kiera and Gage which accelerates when a murder must be solved. This is the tenth Lady Darcy mystery, and for good reason. Huber brings early Victorian era to life with historical detail, cunning plots, and complex characters. You need not start at the first novel to enjoy any of them. This latest is a cracker.     

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HISTORICAL SUSPENSE

Twilight at Moorington Cross: A Novel, by Abigail Wilson

This second outing with Abigail Wilson’s books was a triumph. Those who enjoy romantic historical mysteries with a gothic twist will find this one mesmerizing.”— Sophia Rose, 4 STARS

Wilson offers readers more atmospheric settings, secrets, and shadowy deeds for her heroine to overcome in Twilight at Moorington Cross. Set at an Regency-era hospital in England, Amelia will inherit Moorington Cross, and its wealth, once she weds one of the two eligible men her benefactor has chosen for her within thirty days of his death. Neither of the suitors seem appropriate to her, and she must discover why they were chosen and solve a mystery before she can decide. Mixing Regency manners with Gothic suspense, this novel boldly addressed social and cultural elements of the period.

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The Letter from Briarton Park: The Houses of Yorkshire Series (Book 1), by Sarah E. Ladd

[A] well-plotted mystery with strong characterization and sweet romance. With ten books already to her credit, Sarah E. Ladd is an established, much-admired voice in the Regency genre. Her eleventh novel has not only met fan expectations but has exceeded them!”— Katie Patchell, 5 STARS

Fans of Abigail Wilson and Mimi Matthews will be thrilled with bestselling author Sarah Ladd’s first novel in a new series filled with hidden letters, long-lost relatives, and unlooked-for love. Its story reveals a page-turning tale created of equal parts chilling suspense and swoony romance. Don’t miss it!  

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Unnatural Creatures: A Novel of the Frankenstein Women, by Kris Waldherr

I was satisfyingly, deeply emotionally vested and plunged into a companion novel that did not simply pay homage to Frankenstein but convinced me it could be the missing parts to the story. ..I highly recommend it to those who love the Gothic and classic monster tales from a feminine perspective.”— Sophia Rose, 5 STARS

An alternative viewpoint to Mary Shelley’s classic horror story Frankenstein, Unnatural Creatures cleverly reveals the untold story of the women surrounding the Frankenstein family and the events of the creation of the monster from a totally different perspective. Those who crave the Gothic and unimaginable in their historical fiction will be wowed by Waldherr’s suspenseful, creepy tale.    

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JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Have you read any of the books on our list? What were some of your favorite reads of 2022? We would love to learn about what you read and what you can recommend.

Have a Happy New Reading year!

Best, LA


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 © 2023, Austenprose.com, an Amazon affiliate.

13 thoughts on “Austenprose’s Best Austenesque and Historical Novels of 2022

Add yours

    1. Thanks Christina. I enjoy best of year lists as well. They represent a lot of hours of curating down numerous books, reading and reviewing, then selecting the best. They are very helpful to me as a reader. It was a pleasure to create this list. I hope that it is helpful to others.

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  1. Hello, Happy New Year; this listing is very good to view; I remember wanting to read The Bloomsbury Girls but I never got around to ordering it; and for some of the books reviewed, I did not see a review or I missed them: The Letter from Briarton Park and The Magnolia Palace; I don’t remember viewing those reviews…I will list them on my wish list for future reading; when there’s time. I tend to take on too much and don’t get to it. Impossible is I.

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    1. I highly recommend Bloomsbury Girls, The Letter from Briarton Park, and The Magnolia Palace. Three excellent choices. You can read the full review posted on Austenprose by clicking the link below each book. Enjoy!

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    1. Thanks for noticing, Shelia, Yes, this kind of “best of” list requires a lot of investigation, reading, writing, editing, and thought. I am always amazed by all of the best of lists posted on line and wonder if they put as much effort into it as we did? Probably not. I am a very slow reader and writer, though many of my staff make up for my snail’s place.

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  2. I didn’t get all that much reading done last year, but I did actually read The Siren of Sussex and enjoyed it very much. Mimi Matthews has a great voice for historical fiction, and while it’s not my favorite of hers (that honor goes to Fair as a Star), I did enjoy it immensely. I’ll pick up some of the other novels on your list this year since I’m trying to be more intentional with my reading habits in 2023.

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