12 Historical Fiction Novels To Help You Escape The Real World For A Little Bit

by Sadie Trombetta

For a lot of people, summertime means vacation and travel, but not everyone has the luxury to take time off from work and see the sights. If you're stuck at home this summer, you can still go on a journey around the world and through time with these new historical fiction novels. From the glamour of Old Hollywood to the tragedies of World War II, there is nowhere these books can't take you.

Whether it's while lying on a beach, riding the subway to work, or sitting at home on the couch, readers are always traveling if they have a book with them. Reading has the power to freeze time, pluck readers out of the present, and transport them to another time and place entirely. No matter what is happening in the real world — work, family drama, political catastrophe — books can serve as a much-needed escape from it all, especially historical fiction books.

Well-researched and rich in detail, historical fiction novels are doorways into another world in another era. Each page, overflowing with real-world building and historical accuracy, is like taking another step away from the present and into the past.

If you want to take a trip without leaving your couch, crack open one of these 13 historical fiction novels you won't want to miss this summer reading season.

'The Lost Letter' by Jillian Cantor

A beautiful story of romance in the midst of chaos, The Lost Letter is a powerful novel that proves love is timeless. Kristoff is an eager apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver in Austria 1938 when his teacher disappears. Under the command of the Germans, Kristoff is forced to spend his days making stamps for his conquerors alongside Elena, his teacher's beautiful and captivating daughter, and his nights forging papers with the Austrian Resistance underground. Over fifty years later, Katie Nelson discovers a unique love letter while going through her father's things with a World War II-era stamp on it.

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'The Alice Network' by Kate Quinn

Selected by celebrity book club queen Reese Witherspoon, Alice Quinn's The Alice Network is one of the most talked about historical fiction novels of the summer, and for good reason. It's 1947, and even though the war is over, chaos reigns supreme, but that is the least of Charlie St. Claire's problems. Unmarried and pregnant, she is exiled by her family to Europe to get rid of her embarrassing "problem," but instead of doing as she is commanded, Charlie sets out on an adventure to find her cousin, Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war. It's this mission that leads her to Eve Gardiner, a once promising star of the secret Alice Network of spies who is little more than a drunk, depressed shell of the woman she used to be. Together, the unlikely duo seek out the truth in an unforgettable adventure readers will be thrilled to be a part of.

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'The Women in the Castle' by Jessica Shattuck

Another gripping historical novel that focuses on the aftermath of World War II, The Women in the Castle is a captivating story about three women bound together by pasts they'd rather forget and secrets they would die to protect. After the war, Marianne von Lingenfels makes plans to return late husband's family home to try and rebuild something from the ruins and create a home for the wives of the other fallen Nazi resistors. But her makeshift family, which includes a six-year-old boy whose mother is in enemy hands and a young mother with two sons of her own, isn't the happily-ever-after anyone was looking for, and together, they must face the realities of their past and their uncertain futures. An emotionally raw and powerful read, The Women in the Castle shows the side of war so rarely seen: the aftermath.

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

Revisit the heyday of old Hollywood in Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, an enchanting story about and an aging actress and her long and bumpy ride to the top. Evelyn Hugo was once a larger-than-life movie star whose scandals, many of them marriages, landed her on the front page of all the papers. Now an old recluse, Evelyn finally decides its time the world knew her story, and hires floundering magazine reporter Monique Grant to write it for her. Monique, astonished to have landed the gig but ecstatic at the opportunity it presents, dedicates her time to chronicling every affair, every controversy, every tragedy, and every secret Evelyn has to share. A titillating read that takes you back to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood in the 1950s and beyond, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an addicting summer read you won't want to miss.

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'Lincoln in the Bardo' by George Saunders

A unique father-and-son story starring Abraham Lincoln and his dead son, Lincoln and the Bardo is an affecting novel about life, death, love, and family that will change the way you see the famed president. A year into the Civil War, President Lincoln loses his young son, Willie, not to battle but to illness. Deeply affected by the loss of his child, Lincoln visits Willie's body in the crypt often to morn, and while he struggles to find a way to move on and live, Willie struggles in a ghostly purgatory to try and find a way to be dead.

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'The Orphan Mother' by Robert Hicks

A well researched and beautifully crafted story about America after the Civil War, The Orphan Mother is a moving tale about family, friendship, loyalty, and love. Mariah thought the worst was behind her. She survived the Civil War and has built a peaceful life for herself as a free working woman in Tennessee. But when her adult son is senselessly murdered, Mariah's entire life comes crashing down around her, and she is forced to confront the ugly truths around his death and life during Reconstruction.

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'The Enemies of Versailles' by Sally Christie

The last book in Sally Christie's stunning Mistress of Versailles trilogy, The Enemies of Versailles brings to life the most fascinating of King Louis XV's mistress: Jeanne Becu. A beautiful but lowborn woman, Jeanne quickly captures the heart of the aging king when she bursts into court, but the princesses in Versailles are not having it. Shocked and appalled by their father's behavior, the girls are determined to bring Jeanne down, no mater the costs. A truly tantalizing read about one of the most scandalous eras in France's history, this trilogy finale will make you wish the series would never end.

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'Stars Over Clear Lake' by Loretta Ellsworth

Split between the 1940s and the present, Stars Over Clear Lake is a sweeping story about the fateful encounter that transformed one woman's life, and the place where it all happened: Surf Ballroom. A glamorous dance hall where young women could lose themselves to the music, soldiers could count down their last moments on American soil, and wannabe musicians could become the real thing, the Surf Ballroom had the power to change lives. In the 1940s, it changed Lorraine Kindred's, and now, decades later, her return there brings the past back to life.

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'The Baker’s Secret' by Stephen P. Kiernan

Set in a small village in Normandy on the eve of D-Day, Stephen P. Kiernan's The Baker's Secret is a dazzling story about one brave young woman's unbreakable spirit. Emma has learned everything she knows from her town's talented Jewish baker, Ezra Kuchen, so when he is forcefully removed from his bakery by German soldiers, she is as heartbroken as she is helpless to stop it. Emma might not have been able to save Ezra, but in the years following his capture and their town's occupation, she spends every day secretly making contraband bread to share with her fellow villagers until eventually, she builds up an entire trading network that helps her town not only survive, but fight back. An inspiring tale of courage and hope, The Baker's Secret is a truly touching story of World War II you won't soon forget.

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'The Hollywood Daughter' by Kate Alcott

A remarkable novel that shows the dark side of Hollywood's glitz and glamour, Kate Alcott's The Hollywood Daughter examines how one fan's life is changed when her idol, Ingrid Bergman, is knocked from her star-studded pedestal following a scandalous affair. Jessica Malloy has always looked up to Ingrid, famed movie star and her father's client, but when her hero has a baby out of wedlock, she is forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about the hypocrisy Hollywood, the truths about her own family, and what it means to grow up. Rich in detail and raw with emotion, The Hollywood Daughter is an sensational read by a master storyteller.

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'Where the Light Falls' by Allison Pataki and Owen Pataki

Written by sister-brother duo Allison and Owen Pataki, Where the Light Falls is a sweeping romantic novel that takes readers to the heart of Paris and to the center of all the action of the French Revolution. Following the lives of three different people — a determined lawyer and family man itching to join the cause, a young widow determined to break free from her uncle's rule, and a denounced nobleman-turned-soldier — this fascinating novel weaves a compelling tale of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and bravery. Compulsively readable, Where the Light Falls is one summer adventure you won't want to miss.

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'The Last Tudor' by Philippa Gregory

Master of historical fiction Philippa Gregory returns this summer with another installment in her titillating The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels collection. In The Last Tudor, readers get to know Lady Jane Grey —England's queen for only nine days, but their martyr for all of history — and her two sisters, Katherine and Mary, all of whom buck expectations and defy orders in order to shape their own destinies during the Tudor dynasty rule. Poised to be another outstanding addition to the best-selling saga, this late-summer release is worth waiting for.

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