Immerse yourself in captivating tales from the past with our curated book list of the best new historical fiction books of 2023. Don’t miss these new releases!
In today’s Book Gang episode, Crystal Smith Paul shares the best new historical fiction books for summer, and I’m so excited to share this discussion with you.
Crystal revealed details on her first novel, Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?, which will be released by Henry Holt & Co. on May 2nd. Learn more about the challenges she faced while writing this book, which deals with themes of racism in the United States and how they ripple throughout generations.
Listen to the full episode (the show notes are located here) below and subscribe to the Book Gang podcast for more episodes like this one.
We can’t kick off this list without including Crystal’s magnificent debut in this list.
This sweeping multigenerational novel is worthy of its own miniseries.
Eighty-one-year-old Kitty Karr Tate has died, and her death has dominated the week's news. She was an American icon, an Academy Award winner, a writer, a television star, and a philanthropist. But, along with praise for her career, there are also wild theories about her mysterious life.
In one final mysterious plot twist, Kitty bequeathed her entire fortune- approximately six million dollars to the Black daughters of her co-star in a sitcom from many years ago.
As these young women are thrust further into the spotlight, they are left to grapple with why they received these funds. After all, they are daughters who had been multimillionaires by birth. We get to solve this mystery and the St. Johns family in this dual-timeline story.
Beginning in the 1930s and ending in 2017, we witness two pivotal seasons with racism in American history. (on store shelves on May 2nd)
Prepare to be captivated by this poignant extraordinary story of Marie-Louise Christophe, who becomes Queen of Haiti during the Regency eras.
Riley paints a vivid picture of a couple striving for a utopian vision of a Black-run country filled with education, opportunity, and equality with beautifully researched historical details. (on store shelves July 11th)
You can always count on Beatriz Williams for the best historical fiction beach reads, and I'm already sold on this one, thanks to its gorgeous cover.
As Winthrop Island prepares for its first post-war summer season, Emilia Winthrop, daughter of the caretaker at the opulent Summerly estate, is captivated by Olive Rainsford, a glamorous newcomer who introduces her to a world of adventure and possibilities.
However, their idyllic world is shattered when FBI agent Sumner Fox demands Emilia's help to capture a Soviet spy hiding within the Summerly estate, leading to events that haunt Emilia for years. (on store shelves on June 27th)
Mary McLeod Bethune, the daughter of formerly enslaved parents, faced down white supremacists as she fought for activism and education, becoming a celebrity and revered figure.
As Eleanor Roosevelt became a controversial First Lady, the women collaborated closely, using their shared belief in women's rights and education to fight for justice and equality, even in the face of threats and adversity.
It’s a long and enduring friendship story not to miss. Listen to today’s podcast discussing Bethune's incredible influence on a surprising industry. (on store shelves June 27th)
The second Ray Carney novel hits shelves this summer from the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead.
In this entertaining novel set in 1970s New York City, furniture store owner Ray Carney tries to stay out of the criminal underworld until he's pulled back in by old contacts and favors.
As he navigates a city plagued by crime, corruption, and social change, Carney and his partner in crime, Pepper, face adversaries and challenges that put their lives at risk.
Described as a darkly funny tale of a city in turmoil and a poignant exploration of family, this features Whitehead's continued vivid portrayal of Harlem in the 1970s.
Don’t miss two of my other illuminating favorites from this writer- The Underground Railroad & Nickel Boys. (on store shelves on July 18th)
Thanks to her fresh takes on events in New York history, Fiona Davis is a beloved tried-and-true voice in historical fiction.
In the latest novel, in 1956, Marion Brooks is a nineteen-year-old with a seemingly predictable future. But, when she spontaneously auditions for the famed Radio City Rockettes, she takes a daring leap toward a fantastical life as a performer, leaving behind her expected suburban existence.
Meanwhile, a notorious bomber nicknamed the "Big Apple Bomber" is terrorizing the city. As the police struggle to catch the culprit, they turn to young doctor Peter Griggs and his radical technique of psychological profiling.
Unexpectedly pulled into the search for this serial killer, Marion realizes she must take a terrifying risk. (on store shelves on June 13th)
Get ready to be transported to 15th-century China to follow the inspiring story of Tan Yunxian, a woman born into privilege but determined to break free from societal norms.
Raised by her grandmother, one of the few female doctors in China, Yunxian learns the art of Chinese medicine and forms a deep bond with Meiling, a young midwife-in-training.
But when Yunxian is forced into an arranged marriage, she faces challenges from traditional customs and societal expectations as she strives to pursue her passion for helping other young women.
See's known for her signature themes of friendship, empowerment, and resilience (see her featured on my favorite friendship stories book list), so readers will be transfixed. (on store shelves on June 7th)
Immerse yourself in the world of Ancient Greece with this stunning debut novel that follows Clytemnestra, the notorious villainess of Greek mythology, as she forges her path to becoming a legendary queen.
Commended for its feminist perspective of this young woman, portraying Clytemnestra as a self-determined warrior queen who avenges her suffering instead of enduring it, is the perfect retelling for Circe fans. (on store shelves May 2nd)
In the war-torn London of 1939, young Hazel and Flora find refuge in a rural village during World War II. But tragedy strikes when Flora mysteriously disappears, leaving Hazel with guilt that haunts her for decades.
Twenty years later, Hazel's life takes an unexpected turn when she receives a mysterious book that holds clues to her sister's disappearance. This sends her on a quest to uncover the truth, confront her past, and reconcile with her life now.
Readers have praised this as a unique combination of historical fiction and mystery with a beautiful fairytale layer. (on store shelves on May 2nd)
This novel is a debut novel currently on the top of Crystal Smith Paul’s to-be-read list.
The narrative starts in 1746 and is based on the true story of Charles Sancho, a composer, writer, and the first known person of African descent to vote in a British general election. A story of triumph, Sancho was orphaned on a slave ship, only to one day lead the fight to end slavery in Britain.
Writer Paterson Joseph is an award-winning actor who wrote and starred in a play about Sancho that ran in the UK and the US in 2018, this book was an evolution of his interest in Sancho’s life. (on store shelves now)
In Janika Oza's sweeping multigenerational saga debut, a teenage boy from India is taken to East Africa in 1898 to work on the British-led East African Railway.
When he commits a brutal act for survival, the consequences of his actions reverberate through four generations, spanning continents and decades. (on store shelves on May 2nd).
Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction, this debut is set against the backdrop of the Jamaican diaspora in 1980s London.
Yamaye finds solace in the pulsating rhythms of underground dub reggae clubs until she meets Moose, a soulful carpenter who offers her a different future.
But when violence tears her world apart, Yamaye embarks on a transformative journey through the Bristol underworld and back to Jamaica, where her past and present collide with explosive consequences in this unforgettable story of resilience and homecoming.
Take advantage of the incredible playlist that goes with this book to immerse yourself in the beautiful culture and music. (on store shelves now)
In this heart-stopping novel inspired by actual events, two former female spies, bound by their shared past, embark on a perilous quest to track down an infamous Nazi doctor in the aftermath of World War II.
Written by the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls, this highly-rated new spy story offers another pulse-pounding tale of courage, loyalty, and determination to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Rosanne Maras, a young girl with the unique ability to see colors as sounds, faces challenges after losing her family in a car accident and being taken in by the Calverts, who mistreat her.
Sent away to a psychiatric hospital after falling pregnant and confiding in the wrong person, Rosanne's fate is uncovered years later by Helen Calvert, who witnessed Hitler's pursuit of a pure Aryan race and is shocked to learn about the truth of Rosanne's condition and the eugenic practices in America.
To learn more about these practices, be sure to listen to my podcast interview with debut novelist Meagan Church, who shared how her aunt’s real-life story intersected with this horrific time period in human history.
Set against the backdrop of World War II, young Bea is sent to America by her working-class parents to escape the bombings in London.
Adopted by the Gregorys and seamlessly woven into their affluent lifestyle, Bea is torn between her two worlds as she grows up, facing heartaches, forgiveness, and love in this coming-of-age story that explores family and identity.
This story utilizes war as a backdrop but not a focal point and provides short chapters that keep the plot moving quickly.
This novel is the remarkable true story of Belle de Costa Greene, who served as the personal librarian to J.P. Morgan and became the first director of the Morgan Library Museum.
In a singular role during the early 20th century, Belle, a Black woman passing as White, made significant contributions to the world of art and literature.
The narrative follows Belle’s home life and rises in upper society as she makes a name for herself, procuring rare manuscripts and art to build Mr. Morgan’s personal collection.
Constantly threatened by the shadow of her true identity, Belle navigates a world dominated by men, evading advances from various suitors. However, her heart is unexpectedly captured by a man who harbors a secret of his own
This beautifully written New York Times bestseller came with the highest praise from today’s podcast guest. Crystal shared that this was her favorite book and encouraged readers to take advantage of this incredible story.
The story, published in 2016, follows the lives of two half-sisters from Ghana. One sister marries the British governor of the Cape Coast Slave Castle, while the other is imprisoned in the castle's dungeon, awaiting transport to America.
The narrative winds between Ghana and America as their children and descendants live very differently. What she appreciated the most was how the timelines connected, highlighting historical events and their impact on each generation.
This novel was also discussed in our Celebrity Book Deep Dive podcast episode as one of the most impactful reads ever selected for Jenna’s Book Club. Sadly, it has been a banned book in many school libraries.
Looking for a few more pics? Here is a short list of our book club member favorites!
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins Valdez (a 2023 MomAdvice Book Club selection)
What historical fiction book are you most excited to read? Be sure to let us know if you have read anything this year that didn’t make today’s list! I’d love to expand our list with your favorites too!
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