If you want to write well you need to read as much as possible - which is no problem for me as I’m a complete bookaholic. My favourite fiction genre is historical fiction, especially when it combines a bit of romance, so here are some of my top recommendations for a cosy evening between the pages. Enjoy xox
Golden Earrings by Belinda Alexandra - I read this book whilst on holiday in Spain a couple of years ago and couldn’t put it down! Traveling between the Spanish Civil War and Paris in the 1970s we discover the story of the mysterious flamenco dancer ‘La Rusa’ and her connection to Paris Opera Ballet student Paloma Batton. This book combines a riveting story with a look at a period in history that many of us know little about.
Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra - another stunning read by a great (and new favourite) author. As fascism begins to take hold of Italy, threatening to destroy it’s citizens and culture, fifteen year-old Rosa is desperately torn between discovering her true heritage and the fear of finding out the truth behind her past, whilst also navigating her way through adulthood, love, and war in this compelling story.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - this captivating novel tells the story of Ernest Hemmingway’s first wife Hadley Richardson and how she went from meeting Hemmingway in Chicago to moving with him to Paris. The glamorous and heady alcohol and party-led lifestyle of 1920s Paris combined with Hemmingway’s growing literary success means their relationship will never be the same again, especially when another woman catches his eye.
Philippa Gregory - the queen of historical fiction. It’s almost impossible to recommend just one book! Her Tudor series is sensational as is the Wideacre trilogy. If you love English history, especially royal history, and want to read about it from the female point of view then Gregory’s books are the best.
Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir - another one to enjoy if you love a bit of royal history - and who doesn’t? Here we follow the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey who was Queen for just 9 days and could do nothing to stop herself becoming a pawn in one of history’s most turbulent times.
The Cazelet Chronicles by Elizabeth Howard - I love a good family saga, and Howard’s story of the Cazelet family navigating their way through WW2 is addictive. Full honesty here, the final book in the series ‘All Change’ was written several years after the originals and, whilst it is still a good read, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much.
Keep the Home Fires Burning by Simon Block - if you were a fan of the ITV WW2 drama ‘Home Fires’ then, like me, you were probably distraught when it was cancelled out of nowhere leaving a HUGE cliffhanger. Luckily show writer Simon Block has heard his fans cries and doned his superhero writing cape to ensure we are all rescued from our despair. With the release of this first novel we finally get to discover what happens to our favourite Great Paxford women, and with another one due later this year we can all celebrate over a cup of tea and slice of cake in true 1940s WI style.
The Chamomile Lawn by Mary Wesley - a true classic and Mary Wesley’s most successful book. Moving from the beauty of Cornwall to the heady world of London, we follow a group of cousins as they navigate the outbreak of war and the changing world around them as they attempt to hang on to the simple summer holidays that united them as children. I am a big fan of Wesley’s writing style and love the fact that she didn’t take up writing until later in life, with her first novel being pulished when she was 70 - there is hope for us all!
Helen of Troy by Margaret George - if you like Greek history then this is a must read as it tells the story of Helen of Troy from her own point of view. Exciting and absorbing it is a refreshing take on a familiar tale and one that I really enjoyed.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - this has become a bit of a cult book series now and as such there are a whole range of opinions on it. Mine is that I genuinely enjoyed the first one but struggled to get into the rest - I found the same with the TV series. In the first book we are introduced to Claire Randall who is on holiday in Scotland with her husband after the end of WW2 when she finds herself mysteriously transported back in time to 1743 where she meets the delicious Jamie Fraser and a whole host of danger. Well worth a read, even if you don’t read the rest of the series.
The Touch by Colleen McCullough - a great page-turner of a story by the author of The Thorn Birds, set in Australia amidst the gold rush. With two very different female characters from vastly different backgrounds this is a riveting insight into life for women at this time as well as being a wonderfully told tale of love, loss and survival.