Women's History Month might be winding down, but Bustle's love for women in literature never does. That's why I've got this list of historical fiction books about incredible women. Inspired by real-life heroines, these stories will remind you just how badass women have always been.
You know how the saying goes: "History is written by the victors." That means, more often than not, history is written by old white guys whose stories skim over, leave out, or blatantly ignore the contributions of other marginalized populations, including women. History books are filled with the names, dates, and accomplishments of only a fraction of the people they should cover. Historical fiction novels, on the other hand, are an opportunity to explore the real-life accomplishments of the far too often overlooked others.
With these historical fiction novels, the women from the footnotes of history are given a chance to have their lives explored and celebrated, their stories heard and appreciated, beyond the dates that they lived and died. From tales of unsung World War II heroes to biographies about history's most powerful rulers, these books shine a light on the women who have shaped our past, present, and future — women you might not have ever heard of.
Because March is the perfect excuse to celebrate them, here are nine historical fiction books about incredible women you won't be able to forget.
1. 'Lilac Girls' by Martha Hall Kelly
Inspired by the unbelievable life of a real World War II heroine, Martha Hall Kelly's 2016 debut novel is a beautiful story of love, bravery, and the fight for justice. In Lilac Girls, readers meet three remarkable women: Caroline, a New York socialite busy at work at the French Consulate; Caroline, a Polish teenage and secret messenger for the resistance; and Herta, a young doctor struggling to stay afloat in the male-dominated Nazi society. Though separated by continents, these three women's lives become intertwined, and none of them is ever the same again. An engrossing, powerful real, Lilac Girls is the perfect story to get lost in this WHM.
2. 'The Orphan's Tale' by Pam Jenoff
An fresh and unique story grounded in history, The Orphan's Tale is a remarkable tale of friendship and heroism in the face of utter darkness. Set in Europe during WWII, Pam Jenoff's novel follows 16-year-old Noa, a young girl still healing from the emotional and physical trauma of having and giving up her baby, makes a rash decision that sets off a chain reaction: she rescues another child from a concentration camp-bound train and runs off with it in the middle of the night to join the circus. There, she finds a nemesis-turned-confidant, Astrid, whose friendship will forever change her life.
3. 'America's First Daughter' by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Get to know Thomas Jefferson's oldest daughter, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph, in this well-researched and engaging work of biographical fiction from Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. America's First Daughter draws from thousands of letters and other original sources to recreate Patsy's daily life, from her days in the glittering court of Paris to the years spent on the farms of Virginia and everything in between, meanwhile exposing the complex, intriguing young woman behind the towering shadow of her father. Rich and engaging, America's First Daughter will change the way you see history.
4. 'Victoria' by Daisy Goodwin
A fascinating biographical novel from the creator and writer of the PBS special by the same name, Victoria breathes new life into the astonishing story of Queen Victoria's life and over six decades of rule. In it, Daisy Goodwin uses Victoria's diaries to richly reimagine the incredible story of tiny woman — less than five feet in height — who stood taller than any many in her court, from the surprising day she was crowned Queen of England at just 18 years old, to her early days on the throne when she was deciding what kind of ruler to be, and everything else that followed in her remarkable life. Exciting, intriguing, and inspiring, Victoria will help you get to know, and inevitably admire, the queen like never before.
5. 'Three Sisters, Three Queens' by Philippa Gregory
Get lost in a world of secrets, lies, love, betrayal, and sisterhood in Philippa Gregory's remarkable novel, Three Sisters, Three Queens. An in-depth look at the little-known story of the three Tudor women who were bonded by their sisterhood and destroyed by their desire to rule, The Sisters, Three Queens paints the lives of Katherine, Margaret, and Mary with bold colors and vivid detail you won't soon forget. Compelling, intriguing, and intimate, this book proves historically-based stories can still be page-turners.
6. 'The Summer Queen' by Elizabeth Chadwick
Travel back in time to the 12th century and get to know one of history's most remarkable monarchs in Elizabeth Chadwick's breathtaking The Summer Queen . The first in a well-researched trilogy about Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Summer Queen introduces readers to a young Eleanor just as the world around her begins to fall apart: her beloved father dies, and she is forced to marry Prince Louis VII of France and become Queen at the young age of 13. From her first moment wearing the crown through the Second Crusade, this novel tells Eleanor's story in enough riveting detail and gripping emotion that you'll be reaching for the second book in the series as soon as you've finished the first.
7. 'Someone Knows My Name' by Lawrence Hill
Someone Knows My Name tells the heartbreaking, incredible story of Aminata Diallo, a young black girl abducted from Africa and enslaved in South Carolina, who turns the most horrific circumstances into a chance to make a difference. After being torn apart from her family, Aminata escapes the plantation she's on during the chaos of the Revolutionary War and heads to New York, where she helps pen the Book of Negroes before teaming up with British abolitionists who are trying to create a new colony in Sierra Leone. An inspiring story of one woman's lifelong fight for freedom and justice, Someone Knows My Name is a rich and impressive work of historical fiction you won't soon forget.
8. 'Stolen Beauty' by Laurie Lico Albanese
Spanning the decades between the start of the twentieth century and the destruction of World War II, Stolen Beauty weaves a remarkable tale of love, art, and war centered around two incredible women willing to risk their lives to protect what they believe in. First, there is Adele, a young and beautiful Jewish girl who falls head-over-heels for painter Gustav Klimt amid the growing rise of political unrest. Years later, there is Adele's niece, Maria, who has seen the unrest blossom into war, and who must call upon every ounce of bravery she has to keep her family, her aunt's legacy, and the paintings, alive. A fascinating story of passion, art, history, and love, Stolen Beauty is an inspiring book about two women you won't be able to forget.
9. 'The Women in the Castle' by Jessica Shattuck
In her highly anticipated upcoming release The Women in the Castle (March 28, HarperCollins) Jessica Shattuck weaves a heartbreaking story of three widows haunted by the past and brought together by the will to survive. At the end of World War II in a decaying castle that was once a gem of German high society, three women — Marianne, Ania,and Benita — form a makeshift family out of the ashes the war left them with. But as they get closer and their secrets start to show, they realize there is still a lot of healing to be done. Riveting and emotional, The Women in the Castle is a WWII story like you've never seen before.