Historical novels I loved and a #giveaway

Costain-Silver ChaliceSeveral months ago, I blogged here about my favorite historical novels for children. Now it’s time for some of the adult books that contributed to my enduring love for historical fiction. (These aren’t romances as such, although most have some romance in them.)

First of all — Thomas B. Costain. He wrote wonderful long novels teeming with adventure and historical detail. I don’t know how they would seem to modern readers; tastes have changed a great deal, but I adored them as a teen. The graphic I’ve chosen is of The Silver Chalice, which was a great story, but my favorite of all Costain’s novels is a medieval, The Black Rose (which had a boring audio cover on Amazon). Lots and lots of history, and some truly swoon-worthy romance.Far Pavilions

Then there’s M.M. Kaye’s The Far Pavilions. It takes place in India, starting in the Himalayas, if I recall correctly. One of the editorial reviews on Amazon calls it “a vast, rich, and vibrant tapestry of love and war.” I couldn’t describe it better than that. It’s a fabulous historical novel and again, there’s some delightful romance along with it.

Georgette Heyer is known for her Regency romances, but she wrote a few historical novels as well. The Conqueror is my favorite. It’s a brilliantly written story about William the Conqueror, and Heyer slips in not one but two romances (although William is a tad brutal about his wooing–and about other things, so he’s not really a romantic hero). Raoul, the true hero of the story, is one to sigh for.

Heyer - The ConquerorSeveral years ago, a friend recommended Diana Norman’s novel The Vizard Mask, and I’ll be forever grateful. If you’re interested in Restoration Era England, this one is for you. She wrote quite a bunch of historical novels, but my other favorites are the Makepeace Hedley books, a Regency-era trilogy (A Catch of Consequence, Taking Liberties, and The Sparks Fly Upward). She also wrote a fascinating YA time travel, Fitzempress’ Law, which takes place mostly in the time of Henry II. Note: Diana Norman can be painfully hard on her characters!! I make sure I’m in a fairly upbeat frame of mind before I tackle one of her books. Vizard Mask - Diana Norman

Last of all, I really must recommend two novels by an Internet friend who passed away last year, M.M. Bennetts. I highly recommend the meticulously researched and brilliantly executed May 1812 and Of Honest Fame. I particularly adored Of Honest Fame — it’s one of my rare re-reads.

Of Honest FameI still have more novels to recommend. Next time I get a chance, I’ll talk about historical mysteries.

In the meantime, who are some of your favorite authors of historical fiction? I’d love some recommendations. 🙂

And by the way, I’m giving away an e-copy of Lady of the Flames to a lucky commenter. (It’s not a historical saga, but it’s what I have to offer right now…)


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Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and historical romance. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

23 Responses

  1. Maggi Andersen

    I loved Of Honest Fame too, Barbara. What a talent M M Bennetts was. So sad.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hugs, Maggi. I never met her, but I get all teary-eyed whenever I think of M.M. It’s strange and wonderful that just by being her awesome self, she gathered a tribe of fans who now have an amazing bond through loving her and her writing so much. (An awkward sentence, but heartfelt!)

  2. Nancy

    I started out reading anything and everything that came to hand. I read Costain, and MMKaye. I loved Sabatine especially Scaramouche” he was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” I think that one of the best descriptions and opening sentences ever even better than Austen’s. I have never much liked family sagas that continue over several books and generations pr even books that cover several generations. I always want a HEA ending for stories– or at least to have the good guys win– and too often a family saga shows the generations repeating mistakes of the parents and bringing them heartbreak. I will read history and court cases for the nitty gritty of life now. I want my mysteries cozy and my romances to end with the expectation of HEA. I read War and Peace and Moby Dick earlier in life and now I can read what I want with out apologies. Barbara’s newest books sounds intriguing. The man with an affinity for knives who turns to cabinet making is much more interesting than tales of India.
    There are some places that do not interest me much any more.
    A nonfiction book I had as a favorite for years was Royal Road to Romance– a man who travelled all over wrote about his adventures. Better than a novel.
    I have read ad reread Heyer .but not the historicals
    Ellis Peters short mysteries about the Brother in the time of Stephen and Maude is interesting

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Nancy. I had forgotten all about Rafael Sabatini. Thanks for the reminder! I will have to reread Scaramouche one of these days.

      I agree re Ellis Peters’ books about Brother Cadfael. Wonderful mysteries, and often they contain a bit of romance as well.

  3. dholcomb1

    I like Juliet Grey’s Becoming Marie Antoinette. I read the first two in the trilogy, but I haven’t finished the third.


    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Denise. I will have a look at Becoming Marie Antoinette. Thanks!

    • Barbara Monajem

      LOL, Collette! Lucky you — you get to discover all of them for the first time. Sigh.

  4. Nancy

    Collette, my daughter who grew up in a house full of books including Heyer and Austen has never read either. She read most of my regencies and some other books but found Heyer and Austen too slow. She still reads some regencies but has changed to mostly contemporaries and a few special sci-fi books. The one drawback to not having read Heyer is that her characters are often mentioned in discussions of regencies. I do like the Grand Sophy, Frederica, and Venetia– they are not historical, sagas or anything grand but are very good comedies of manners.

  5. Linda

    I’ve not read any of the authors in your post *sheepish look*

    • Barbara Monajem

      LOL, Linda. You are in for some great reads.

  6. Kathryn Albright

    Hi Barbara!

    I have a question about Scaramouche that is mentioned–never read it–Is it the same story that was made into an early 1940’s movie? I am really intrigued by just that one opening line and must check it out now…

    Also…The Black Rose sounds like a swashbuckler…but you say medieval. I will have to check that out.

    One of my earliest favorites–but you may consider it a children’s historical–was Johnny Tremaine. Had to read that for English class and it started my love of historical novels. Then, being raised in California, I was given Ramona by Helen Jackson. She wrote it to increase social awareness and support for the plight of the Native American in southern California, however it sold wildly as a romantic historical. (Even a Hollywood movie and top ten song were made about it.)

    No need to put me in the drawing! Love your books!


    • Nancy

      Scaramouche was made into a movie

      George Sidney

      Ronald Millar (screenplay), George Froeschel (screenplay), 3 more credits »

      Stewart Granger, Janet Leigh, Eleanor Parker|
      Any resemblance to the book is purely coincidental though those swashbuckling movies were great. I love sword play. It is so much more romantic than gun shots. Dueling is stupid but even more so with pistols. One can suspend disbelief with sword play.

      • Barbara Monajem

        I agree 100% re duels with pistols. So stupid and dangerous. At least with sword play a little bit of blood and it’s over — it’s much less likely to be fatal. And fencing is fabulous to watch.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Thanks, Kathryn. I think I may have read Johnny Tremaine…sounds familiar. Or maybe I mean Johnny Appleseed, LOL!

  7. jessicajefferson

    I do enjoy the occasional Heyer, but my tastes often run toward the more Regency-era rather than true Regency. These are great suggestions.

  8. Glenda S. Hefty

    I already won your book Lady of the Flame but just wanted to say I loved Thomas Costain. Did you happen to read any of Lloyd C. Douglas? He wrote The Robe and some others I can’t think of off hand. I have a lot of Georgette Heyer’s but know I don’t have anywhere near all of them. Mary Stewart is another author I enjoyed and Kathleen Woodiwiss…I read her Flame and the Flower first. Taylor Caldwell wrote wonderful novels but not exactly in the modern vein but I loved them when I was young. I think her Captain and Kings had a mini series made from it. I started reading her in high school and did a book report on Dear and Glorious Physician, her story of St. Luke. Helen MacInnes is another one I loved although not in the romantic vein. Just a few I suspect younger readers probably haven’t heard of although I could be wrong. I’ve never heard of Sabatine…must check that one out.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Glenda! Lloyd C. Douglas sounds familiar, but I don’t remember whether I read anything by him. I’ve read most of Mary Stewart’s books and loved them. Also, I know I read some Helen MacInnes long ago. Surprisingly, I haven’t read Kathleen Woodiwiss.

      • Nancy

        The Robe was made into a movie.Douglas also wrote the Magnificent Obsession and The Big Fisherman. They were all made into movies. Never did read Kathleen Woodiwiss but did read Mary Stewart and Helen MacInnes. I still have a Stewart book but don’t think I have any of MacInnes. They were spy/mystery type novels
        Precious Bane was an old historical romance– I forget the author.
        Some of the older authors’ books are hard to find even on Alibris or ABE Books or eBay.

  9. Nancy

    BTW I have your Lady of the Flames. It is quite different and interesting– though I am close to the end where I think the heroine is not being very bright.
    Still a unusual plot and unusual characters.
    I bought it and read it even though I know you write a few degrees hotter than I usually read.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Thank you, Nancy! Sorry about the heroine having her not-so-bright moment. 😉

      The more I write, the more the degree of heat seems to vary according to the story (which I think is a good thing — the love scene should be there because the story requires it, not just because).

      I looked up Precious Bane on Amazon. It’s by Mary Webb. Thanks!

      • Nancy

        I finished the book which I enjoyed immensely. The characters are individuals and the plot has a different twist. Definitely not a book one can confuse with any other.

  10. Barbara Monajem

    And the winner is….Denise! I will contact you by email with instructions about how to claim your prize. 🙂