12 Historical Fiction Novels With All The Glamour Of Old Hollywood

by Kerri Jarema

While I'm not as well-versed in classic movies as I'd like to be, I have an undeniable soft spot for Old Hollywood movie stars and their work. Films like Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, Singin' in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, and Pillow Talk, starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day, are some of my favorite films of all time. Earlier this week, Doris Day passed away at the age of 97, and cinema's Golden Age is definitely on my mind. I'm suddenly desperate to hunker down and while away an afternoon with a stack of films led by the likes of Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn.

But life waits for no movie marathon, so you, like me, might be looking for some stories about the glitz, glamour and undeniable drama of Old Hollywood in the form of historical fiction novels that you can read on your lunch break or during a morning commute. Well, look no further, because I've compiled 12 novels below, all set between 1917 to 1960 (the period most widely recognized as the Golden Age of Hollywood) that put big screen heroines at the forefront. Some of these novels tackle fictionalized accounts of real stars like Jean Harlow and Grace Kelly, while others create legendary actresses of their own, like Taylor Jenkins Reid's Evelyn Hugo. But all of them capture the magic of the bygone era:

'Meet Me in Monaco' by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb (July 23)

Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of actress Grace Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, Meet Me in Monaco follows the unlikely friendship between Kelly and struggling perfumer Sophie Duval.

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'The Great Pretenders' by Laura Kalpakian

After 1950s screenwriting agent Roxanne sells a script by a blacklisted writer, others seek her help. But wading into a life of deception means taking on big risks.

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'The Girls in the Picture' by Melanie Benjamin

The Girls in the Picture is an intimate portrait of the close friendship and powerful creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars: Frances Marion and Mary Pickford.

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'The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo' by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, secrets about their connection will also be revealed.

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'The Hollywood Daughter' by Kate Alcott

In 1950, Ingrid Bergman has a baby out of wedlock with her Italian lover, film director Roberto Rossellini, setting off a scandal that forces 17-year-old Jessica Malloy to re-examine her lifelong hero.

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'All the Stars in the Heavens' by Adriana Trigiani

The movie business is booming in 1935 when 21-year-old Loretta Young meets 34-year-old Clark Gable on the set of The Call of the Wild. Though he’s already married, Gable falls for the young actress instantly, setting off decades of scandal.

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'Stars Over Sunset Boulevard' by Susan Meissner

In dual timelines, Meissner explores the friendship between Violet Mayfield and Audrey Duvall on the 1938 set of Gone With the Wind and in present day, Christine McAllister’s discovery of an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O'Hara in the film.

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'Platinum Doll' by Anne Girard

Girard tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film, from 17-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew's arrival in Beverly Hills to being thrust into the center of the cinema spotlight.

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'Beautiful Invention: A Novel of Hedy Lamarr' by Margaret Porter

After Hedy Kiesler, Austrian actress of Jewish heritage, scandalizes Europe with her nudity in the art film Ecstasy, she feels her husband and homeland for Hollywood. There, Louis B. Mayer transforms her into Hedy Lamarr, an icon of glamour.

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'Marlene' by C.W. Gortner

This biographical novel of one of the most glamorous and alluring legends of Hollywood’s golden age, Marlene Dietrich, traverses the gender-bending cabarets of Weimar Berlin and the lush film studios of Hollywood.

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'The Magnificent Esme Wells' by Adrienne Sharp

This novel of family, loss, and love, is told by Esme Silver, the daughter of a two-bit gangster and a movie showgirl, as she grows up in Golden Age Hollywood and Las Vegas in its early days.

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'City of Flickering Light' by Juliette Fay

Hollywood in the 1920s is like no other place on earth, and dancers Irene and Millie, along with comedian Henry, yearn for a life in the spotlight. But success doesn’t come easy, and nothing can prepare the three friends for what lies ahead.

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