I love historical novels of all sorts, be they romance, adventure, or suspense (I’ve written in all three subgenres!) One category I especially like is the historical novel tightly linked to a major historical event…. and these are surprisingly rare in the field.
Such novels provide fantastic drama as they plunge fictional characters into a dramatic facet of history. Here are my favorite such books (Bonus points if a good romance included):
Race to Splendor, by Ciji Ware. This one features the drama of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. First the buildings crumbled, and then they burned in the devastating fire that raged for days following the quake. The heroine is an architect who is given the rare opportunity to help re-build a hotel. There is a terrific romance as she falls in love with the ne’er do-well hotel owner.
A Fierce Radiance, by Lauren Belfer. This one features the race to develop penicillin. What a fantastic topic for a novel! It’s hard to underestimate how our lives have been improved by the miracle of penicillin and other antibiotics. The crucial years of development coincided with World War II when the American government was desperate to get these drugs developed, mass-produced, and distributed to the troops who were dying on the front. The hero is a doctor and the heroine is a photographer for Life magazine, so there is plenty of dramatic plot twists taking place all over the world. The romance in this book was not terrific, but it was an unusual take on a fascinating topic.
The Bronze Horseman, by Paulina Simmons. Another World War II novel, this one features the siege of Leningrad. The heroine is a Russian girl, stranded and starving behind the Nazi blockade of the city. The hero is the dashing soldier who repeatedly risks his life smuggle food into the city. Sound grim? It is! The Bronze Horseman has achieved cult status as one of the best romance books of all time. It is a novel of staggering beauty and heart-breaking despair. (Warning: the romance doesn’t end so happily in this one….but thank goodness for the sequel that tied up that loose end!)
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. An obvious choice, but I had to add it!
Into the Whirlwind, by yours truly. Is it too early to begin promoting my next book? This is my first historical novel that is tightly linked to an actual historical event, in this case, the Chicago fire of 1871. It is a turbulent love story set amidst the rubble of Chicago as Mollie endures the challenge of survival and the triumph of rebuilding the city. There is a smashingly dramatic romance with lots of storm and stress, but I aimed for a wildly optimistic and uplifting story. Look for it August 1st!