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Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce (2018)

dearmrsbirdIn 1940 London, 22-year-old Emmy Lake dreams of becoming a journalist to contribute to the war effort. Quite by accident, she accepts a job as a typist for a women's magazine... that soon has Emmy secretly answering letters written to an advice column. Debut author A. J. Pearce creates strong, charming characters and friendships along with a solid sense of place with London under frequent raids during the Blitz.

Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, Dear Mrs. Bird is a cheerful, bittersweet, and heartwarming tale of making a difference in the world in the midst of war. We’ve created a list of novels that take place on the home front during World War II.

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare (2017)

indexAll Emma Gladstone wants is to be paid for the wedding dress she was commissioned to create, and all the Duke of Ashbury wants is an heir for his title. In a match of wits, they come to a deal—Emma and the Duke will marry, but she only has to live with him until she can produce an heir.

Tessa Dare’s The Duchess Deal is a fun, playful romp that goes by far too quickly. For readers who love fast-paced banter, well-developed characters, and sensuously steamy situations (and book 2 of the Girl Meets Duke series—The Governess Game—is available now). Readers of Nalini Singh will definitely enjoy this as well.

The Necklace by Claire McMillan (2017)

The NecklaceWhen Nell's Aunt Loulou passes away, Nell heads to the Quincy estate in Cleveland from her home in Oregon. Nell's mother (now deceased) and father moved out west years ago, because they found being around the wealthy Quincy family too stifling. At the reading of the will, Nell is named executor of the estate and is bequeathed a necklace that is unaccounted for. Then, in cleaning out Loulou's bedroom, Nell finds a necklace containing a giant sapphire with nine other jewels. Feeling that this is the necklace mentioned in the will, Nell goes about finding out its history, but other family members attempt to control what happens to it.

Told in alternating chapters, the reader follows the contemporary story of Nell and her relatives, along with the 1920s tale of brothers Ethan and Ambrose Quincy and the woman they both loved, May. The Necklace by Claire McMillan is an engaging story filled with details of old wealth and of times gone by. Give to readers who enjoy Lauren Willig's standalone novels.

1356 by Bernard Cornwell (2013)

1356A gripping historical adventure filled with compelling characters, 1356 details another segment of the fight for supremacy among England, France, and the church. While this is Bernard Cornwell’s fourth novel featuring Thomas of Hookton, you can jump right in to this standalone story.

1356 is an action-packed tale of intrigue, political machinations, and a quest culminating with the Battle of Poitiers during the Hundred Years’ War. Thomas and his band of mercenaries adhere to strong moral code, often putting them at odds with others in medieval France.

For fans of history and historical fiction, military and war stories, quests, and compelling characters. Just a warning: this novel features several battles, so includes some graphic (though not gory) violence.

Pro tip: Listen to the dramatic narration by Jack Hawkins for distinctly voiced characters, gritty battle scenes, and intense adventure.

 

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (2017)

manhattanbeachJennifer Egan’s epic novel Manhattan Beach is set in the Brooklyn Naval Yards during World War II. This coming-of-age novel features Anna Kerrigan as a fiercely independent young woman who longs to serve the war effort as a diver, an occupation reserved solely for men in 1940s America. Anna’s underwater training takes her deep into the murky waters of New York Harbor, while her quest to uncover the mystery that has torn her family apart leads her into the dark underworld of organized crime.

Manhattan Beach was long-listed for the National Book Award in 2017. I recommend giving this one a listen — the audiobook narration by Vincent Piazza of Boardwalk Empire adds the perfect touch of noir to this historic novel.

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon (2018)

iwasanastasiaLong fascinated by the Romanovs, I jumped at the chance to read a new historical novel featuring the doomed Russian royals. Did Anastasia survive the firing squad? In alternating timelines, Anastasia Romanov and Anna Anderson share their stories. Whether you think you know what happened, you’ll be drawn into the dual narratives—Anastasia’s story starts in 1917 and moves forward, while Anna’s narration starts in 1970 and goes backwards in time.

I was Anastasia is a richly detailed and moving tale. Try listening to Ariel Lawhon’s latest novel—narrators Jane Collingwood and Sian Thomas do an excellent job bringing the fascinating story to life.

The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse by Alexander McCall Smith (2018)

goodpilotAlexander McCall Smith’s latest standalone opens on an English farm as the Americans enter WWII and fly into the English air bases. When Val rescues a border collie named Peter Woodhouse from his owner who was mistreating him, she gives the dog to Mike, a U.S. pilot living at the base. The American G.I.s become so attached to Peter that they begin taking him along on missions, acting as their mascot.

When disaster strikes, Woodhouse finds himself face-to-snout with Ubi, a German corporal. Ubi is tired of war and death and spares the lives of the pilots, changing the narrative of the war for the Americans. The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse is a charming and beautiful story that reaffirms even when life goes in an unexpected direction, things can still work themselves out.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (2018)

princedressmakerWhen Frances creates an outrageous new dress for a client, her talent is noticed by the royal palace. But her position isn't what she originally expected...it turns out that Prince Sebastian wants her to design dresses for him to wear as the wonderful Lady Crystallia.

Frances and Sebastian strike up an understanding immediately, with Frances designing the most extravagant dresses, making Lady Crystallia a fashion icon in Paris.

Jen Wang's illustrations are a thing of beauty. I adored this graphic novel that features acceptance, fabulous dresses, and love. (No, seriously, I hugged it after finishing it. I didn't want to bring it back to the library!) Lucky for all our patrons, I did. The Prince and the Dressmaker is available to check out in our Teen Lounge.

The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer (2017)

scribeofsienaIn the present day, neurosurgeon Beatrice travels to Siena after her brother, a medieval historian, dies. Somehow, Beatrice travels in time to medieval Siena during the plague (around 1350). As you read The Scribe of Siena, you’ll feel that you were there too—the writing and descriptions are so vivid. Check out Melodie Winawer’s captivating debut novel today. For fans of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen (2018)

In 1944, British bomber Hugo Langley parachutes into German-occupied Tuscany. He is found by Sofia, who nurses him back to health and hides him from the Nazis. Thirty years later, Hugo’s daughter finds an unopened letter written to Sofia that startles her and sets her on a journey to understand her father’s past.

Pick up The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen for a gripping historical novel.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan (2017)

scarletskyIf you enjoyed The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, then I think you’ll really enjoy this book by Mark T. Sullivan. Beneath a Scarlet Sky takes place in Italy during WWII. Although I was a bit leery about reading “another WWII novel,” I’m so happy that I did. It’s the incredible story of Pino Lella, a courageous and inspirational hero who saved many lives while experiencing much tragedy and devastation. What makes it truly remarkable is that it is based on a true story. I learned much about Italy’s involvement in WWII—and the struggles between the Fascists, the Nazis, and the bravery of the Resistance.

A powerful and unforgettable account of a young man's experience of the war, his first love, and his relationship with a cast of fascinating characters, based on many interviews with Pino Lella. Highly recommend!

Want more WWII fiction? Check out our lists of WWII novels and WWII fiction featuring women in the resistance.

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole (2017)

extraordinaryunionSet during the American Civil War, An Extraordinary Union features spies working on behalf of the Union. Alyssa Cole’s historical romance features adventure, intrigue, period details, and memorable characters.

Born into slavery, Elle Burns is now a free woman. In 1862, she goes undercover, working as a slave in the household of a Confederate senator in Richmond, Virginia. She meets Pinkerton Secret Service Agent Malcolm McCall, a Scottish immigrant, and the pair form an uneasy alliance. As their relationship (both professional and personal) grows, Elle and Malcolm must navigate the uneasy world of race, politics, and war.

For other historical romances featuring spies, try Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Beverly JenkinsThe Winds of the Storm, or Joanna Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady.

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (2018)

widowsofmalabarhillPerveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female lawyer, is investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows living in strict seclusion when the case to turns to murder. Perveen notices that all three wives have signed away their full inheritances to charity, leaving nothing for them to live on. She is skeptical and puts herself in great danger trying to help the widows, but she is clever and determined to do what is right.

The Widows of Malabar Hill, set in 1920s India, kicks off a new historical mystery series by Sujata Massey.

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig (2015)

lastbustowisdomInspired by a cross-country trip Ivan Doig took as a young boy in the summer of 1951, Last Bus to Wisdom is about Donal, an 11-year-old boy, being raised by his grandmother on the Double W Ranch in Montana. When his grandmother requires surgery, Donal is sent to live with his bossy, rule-driven great-aunt Kate in Wisconsin. When Kate reaches her wit’s end, she sends Donal back to Montana. Her husband, Herman, joins Donal on the greyhound for the summer of a lifetime, using their wits to survive.

Along the way, Donal asks characters to sign his memory book, which opens him up to all kinds of people on the road, from hobos and villains to soldiers and kind-hearted travelers, with a few recognizable faces, such as Jack Kerouac. Doig is a great storyteller, whose character-driven novel has a strong sense of place, keeping readers anticipating where the story will go next and who they will meet along the way. In Last Bus to Wisdom, it’s not about the destination, but the journey.

Dash by Kirby Larson (2014)

dashI knew little about the Japanese internment camps of WWII before reading this Bluestem-nominated novel (for grades 3-5). But while based in a significant historical time period, the story itself revolves primarily around the relationship between the main character (Mitzi) and her beloved dog, Dash, as well as friends and classmates as they process the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Dash by Kirby Larson is a short listen or read for dog-lovers and historical fiction enthusiasts.