This year is less than 100 days old but, honestly, no one would blame you for wanting to escape for a little while. Luckily for all of us there are a ton of new historical fiction books being released this year, telling stories that have nothing to do with tax returns, fake news and whatever horrific new law Trump is trying to pass. Historical fiction has gotten a bad rap in the past for being as dull and predictable, perhaps written primarily by old men in sweaters with elbow patches. But that couldn't be more wrong of today's historical fiction. Covering everything from the Golden Age of Hollywood to Revolutionary America, these books are as juicy and compulsively page-turning as any modern fiction.
Taking the facts of times gone by and turning them on their heads, the books we've chosen below take some of the most written about years in history—1950s Hollywood, The Civil War Era, even the rise of Cleopatra to the throne in Egypt—and fill in the blanks of events or merely take inspiration from the times to create entirely new stories of fictional characters while still staying true to the world at that time. Some of these books may teach you a thing or two about history, sure, but they'll mostly just carry you away to times gone by. And who couldn't use a little bit of that these days?
1. 'The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo' by Taylor Jenkins Reid (June 13, 2017)
Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades — revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love — Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
2. 'I, Eliza Hamilton' by Susan Holloway Scott (September 26, 2017)
As the daughter of a respected general, Elizabeth Schuyler is accustomed to socializing with dignitaries and soldiers. But no visitor to her parents' home has affected her so strongly as Alexander Hamilton, a charismatic, ambitious aide to George Washington. They marry quickly, and despite the tumult of the American Revolution, Eliza is confident in her brilliant husband and in her role as his helpmate. But it is in the aftermath of war, as Hamilton becomes one of the country's most important figures, that she truly comes into her own. In Washington, Eliza becomes an adored member of society, respected for her fierce devotion to Hamilton as well as her grace. Behind closed doors, she astutely manages their expanding household, and assists her husband with his political writings. Yet some challenges are impossible to prepare for. Through public scandal, betrayal, personal heartbreak, and tragedy, she is tested again and again and again. In the end, it will be Eliza's indomitable strength that makes her not only Hamilton's most crucial ally in life, but his most loyal advocate after his death, determined to preserve his legacy while pursuing her own extraordinary path through the nation they helped shape together.
3. 'The Hollywood Daughter' by Kate Alcott
In 1950, Ingrid Bergman, already a major star after movies like Casablanca, has a baby out of wedlock with her Italian lover, film director Roberto Rossellini. Previously held up as an icon of purity, Bergman's fall shocked her legions of American fans. Growing up in Hollywood, Jessica Malloy watches as her PR executive father helps make Ingrid a star at Selznick Studio. Over years of fleeting interactions with the actress, Jesse comes to idolize Ingrid, who she considered not only the epitome of elegance and integrity, but also the picture-perfect mother, an area where her own difficult mom falls short. In a heated era of McCarthyism and extreme censorship, Ingrid's affair sets off an international scandal that robs seventeen-year-old Jesse of her childhood hero. When the stress placed on Jesse's father begins to reveal hidden truths about the Malloy family, Jesse's eyes are opened to the complex realities of life and love.
4. 'A Bridge Across The Ocean' by Susan Meissner
It's February 1946 and World War II is over. But the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy. Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark... In present day Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.
5. 'Stars Over Clear Lake' by Loretta Ellsworth (May 2, 2017)
For the first time in decades, Lorraine Kindred has returned to the ballroom where she was swept away by the big bands during the 1940s... and by a star-crossed romance. As she takes in the magnificent energy and brassy sounds of her youth, the past comes to life, along with the fateful decision all those years ago that forced her to choose between personal conviction and social expectations, between the two men who had captured her heart. It had been a time of great music and love, but also of war and sacrifice, and now, trying to make peace with her memories, Lorraine must find the courage to face buried secrets. In the process, she will rediscover herself, her passion, and her capacity for resilience.
6. 'By Any Name' by Cynthia Voigt (April 4, 2017)
Rida is an orphan out of California who dances for the troops in the USO. Spencer is a naval officer with roots deep in New England's upper crust. They meet during World War II at an Officer's Club dance, and Spencer might have been dissuaded if he saw just one engagement ring on her finger, but instead, he sees four. The courtship is easy, Rida wins him and wears his ring alone. But Rida is a wild card, and Spencer's family can't accept her unconventional approach to marriage, motherhood, and life. Even Rida's four daughters struggle to understand her, but for them it becomes a quest — to untangle the mystery of their stubborn, off-beat, clear-sighted, loving, and above all mesmerizing mother.
7. 'Woman Enters Left' by Jessica Brockmole (August 8, 2017)
In the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: She has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and —inexplicably — old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance.
Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. In parallel tales, the three women — Louise, Florrie, Ethel — discover that not all journeys follow a map.
8. 'The Diplomat's Daughter' by Karin Tanabe
During the turbulent months following the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, 21-one-year-old Emi Kato, the daughter of a Japanese diplomat, is locked behind barbed wire in a Texas interment camp, the victim of misfortune and America’s new policies of fear. Plagued by fence sickness, her world changes when she meets Christian Lange, whose German-born parents were wrongfully arrested for un-American activities. Together, they live as prisoners with thousands of other German and Japanese families, but discover that young love can triumph over even the most unjust circumstances. When Emi and her mother are abruptly sent back to Japan, Christian enlists in the US Army, with his sights set on the Pacific front—and a reunion with Emi. Sent away for her safety, Emi lives out the war in a Japanese resort town where many in the foreign community have fled, including both Jews and Nazis. When she overhears a German officer boasting of the men he has murdered in Asia, fate brings Emi back to Leo Hartmann, the son of prominent Austrian Jews, now a refugee in Shanghai — her oldest friend and her first love. Fearing for his life, Emi is determined to find Leo. But will Christian’s devotion be strong enough to stop her?
9. 'The Lost Girl of Astor Street' by Stephanie Morrill
When her best friend vanishes without so much as a good-bye, 18-year-old Piper Sail takes on the role of amateur sleuth in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. Given that Piper’s tendency has always been to butt heads with high-society’s expectations of her, it’s no surprise that she doesn’t give a second thought to searching for answers to Lydia’s abduction from their privileged neighborhood. As Piper discovers that those answers might stem from the corruption strangling 1924 Chicago — and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood — she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.
10. 'An Extraordinary Union' by Alyssa Cole (March 28, 2017)
Elle Burns is a former slave with a passion for justice and an eidetic memory. Trading in her life of freedom in Massachusetts, she returns to the indignity of slavery in the South — to spy for the Union Army. Malcolm McCall is a detective for Pinkerton's Secret Service. Subterfuge is his calling, but he’s facing his deadliest mission yet — risking his life to infiltrate a Rebel enclave in Virginia. Two undercover agents who share a common cause — and an undeniable attraction — Malcolm and Elle join forces when they discover a plot that could turn the tide of the war in the Confederacy's favor. Caught in a tightening web of wartime intrigue, and fighting a fiery and forbidden love, Malcolm and Elle must make their boldest move to preserve the Union at any cost... even if it means losing each other.
11. 'The Drowning King' by Emily Holleman (April 4, 2017)
It's the dawn of a new era for Egypt as Cleopatra and her brother, Ptolemy, are welcomed to the throne after their father's death. Long overlooked by his father in favor of the beguiling Cleopatra, Ptolemy is determined to prove his ability as both man and king — but, at 11, he is no match for his elder sister, who's quick to assert her primacy throughout the land. Their sister Arsinoe is torn between her siblings in one of history's greatest power struggles. As the palace echoes with rumors, scandals and betrayal, Arsinoe's love for her childhood friend Alexander deepens into a forbidden passion that could endanger both their lives. When Cleopatra is forced to flee a rebel uprising, Arsinoe decides she has no choice but to follow her sister into exile. Yet while Cleopatra gathers an army to retake the crown, Arsinoe begins to doubt whether her sister is the champion Egypt needs. Faced with the choice of betraying her family or her country, Arsinoe will determine a kingdom's fate and the course of history.