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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.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor (2017)

lastchristmasparisEvie Eliott is a wealthy young woman in England in August 1914. Her brother Will and his best friend, Tom, have just enlisted in the Great War. In the beginning, their letters home are filled with excitement and confidence, with promises that the war will be over by Christmas. The war rages on, however, with the death toll rising by hundreds each day and the fighting quickly changing from bayonets to chemical bombs.

Evie feels like she’s not doing enough for the war effort, so in addition to the letters she writes, she begins delivering mail and starts writing a column in Tom’s father’s newspaper that addresses the women left behind as the men are away on the front, focusing on their personal and emotional experiences. She writes to the women of Britain to reassure and encourage them in their war efforts and to help reaffirm their emotions. As the years go by, the news becomes censored and Evie doesn’t know who to believe or who to trust and doesn’t know how to help out in a war she can’t fight.

Written entirely in letters, The Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor is absorbing and touching, portraying the emotions of both soldiers and those on the home front. If you enjoy novels written in letters, check out our list of epistolary novels.

The English Wife by Lauren Willig (2018)

At the start of this riveting Gilded Age mystery, a man is dead. What happened? One thread of the story follows his sister Janie in her quest for answers; another details his courtship of his wife five years earlier. With a compelling combination of historical detail, strong characters, and intricate plot, The English Wife will grab you immediately and keep you guessing until the shocking end. Lauren Willig's latest novel is darker than her previous works, but so worth a read.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016)

Short chapters alternate among three young evacuees in East Prussia during the winter of 1945. A fourth voice also fits into the storyline. Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred are aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff when it is hit by a Russian torpedo and quickly sinks. The story leads up to this moment when life-changing decisions are made. We get to know, love, and understand the differing life circumstances that have brought these characters together from all over Eastern Europe at a crucial time in the war.

Ruta Sepetys has a talent for drawing tears from her readers and little known stories from history. Between Shades of Gray exposed the tragic story of the Lithuanian prisoners in Siberia with the same drama and sensitivity that she tells this story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. The epilogue in Salt to the Sea adds another poignant note to this moment in historical fiction.

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

In 1940s Italy, Pino is a typical teenager. With WWII progressing, his parents are worried that he will be drafted. To protect him, they send him to a monastery. Unbeknownst to him, the priest is helping at-risk people escape Italy into neutral Switzerland.

Pino returns to Milan to see his family. They convince him to enlist in the German army as a driver to avoid a more dangerous duty in the Italian army. He uses his status working for a high-ranking general in the German army to spy for the Allies.

Mark T. Sullivan’s Beneath a Scarlet Sky is based on a remarkable true story and is in production for a movie adaptation. Read other novels of WWII and novels of the resistance.

 

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan (2017)

Did you love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society? Then race to the library to get a copy of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir! Set in 1940 England, Jennifer Ryan’s debut novel focuses on the women in a small village during World War II. Told through letters and journals from multiple points of view, this charming story displays resilience, hope, and heartbreak on the home front.

Try the audiobook, which features an engaging full cast. You might also enjoy browsing our lists of epistolary and WWII novels.