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Hottest New Historical Fiction

Cindy Burnett
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Go As a River by Shelley Read

Go As a River by Shelley Read is a compelling and beautiful new historical fiction book.

The historical fiction genre continues to grow exponentially with more and more great titles publishing. It is a favorite of mine because I love being transported to another time and place and learning about something new to me while also becoming engrossed in a compelling story. 2023 is already chock full of some great historical fiction reads, and here are 5 that I particularly enjoyed:

Go as a River by Shelley Read Go as a River is a stunning and unforgettable debut set in rural Colorado that tells the story of one woman’s hardscrabble existence and how she learns to make her way in a man’s world. Seventeen-year-old Victoria Nash keeps her family’s household running while her father and brother tend the family’s peach farm in 1940s Iola, Colorado. When she meets a young Native American man on his way through Iola, the pair fall in love, but their relationship sets in motion a shocking chain of events that ultimately sends Victoria into the mountains and onto a new path. Read’s incredibly strong sense of place and ability to bring the natural world to life is the backbone of the story, but the characters stole my heart, particularly Torie, and this book will stay with me for a long time.

Homecoming by Kate Morton – In the South Australian town of Tambilla, a delivery driver discovers a dead body on Christmas Eve, 1959, on the grounds of a magnificent mansion. An investigation ensues surrounding the shocking and mysterious death. Six decades later, Jess, an unemployed journalist in London, is called back to Australia because her grandmother Nora has been sent to the hospital. While staying at her grandmother’s house, she stumbles across a book called the Turner Family Tragedy of Christmas Eve, 1959, that chronicles the police investigation into a long-ago murder. When she delves into the book, she is stunned to discover that her family may have a connection to the decades-old killing. Morton’s prose is stunning, and the book within a book made for such a compelling read. She brings Australia vividly to life, and I was sad to leave the setting and the characters when the book was over.

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan (coming out in May) - As World War II escalates in 1939 and London is frequently bombed, Hazel and her younger sister Flora are sent out of the city to stay in a quiet rural village away from danger. To help her sister avoid getting homesick while staying with another family, Hazel creates a new world for them to escape to called Whisperwood. One day while playing by the Thames, Flora disappears, and Hazel feels responsible for years to come. But when as an adult two decades later, Hazel happens across a picture book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars, she is stunned because she never shared the story of Whisperwood with anyone. The book’s discovery sets Hazel on a path to discover Flora’s fate. I was so curious to learn what happened to Flora!

Time’s Undoing by Cheryl Head – This dual timeline story focuses on 1929 Birmingham (known then as “Magic City”) during its heyday as a steel supplier. Master carpenter Robert Lee Harrington relocates his family to Birmingham for a job, and with its booming economy, the city is a great place to live except for the fact that the Klan is very active there. In the 2019 timeline, Robert’s great-granddaughter, Meghan McKenzie, the youngest reporter at the Detroit Free Press, becomes interested in his murder and why his body was never found so she travels to Birmingham to investigate, stirring up secrets that have been long buried and that someone does not want uncovered. This one is a page turner; I read it in a day.

Two Wars and a Wedding by Lauren Willig – In September 1896, Smith College graduate Betsy Hayes, an aspiring archaeologist, heads to Athens eager to work at some of the most renowned and famous excavation sites, but finds her dreams stymied by men who don’t believe women should pursue this line of work. She eventually allies herself with philanthropist Charles, Baron de Robecourt, whose views are more open-minded about women. But when tensions between Greece and Turkey escalate, Betsy’s archaeological sites are turned into battlefields where she finds herself caring for the wounded. In June 1898 at the start of Spanish-American war, Betsy is anxiously trying to track down her ex-best friend Ava to make amends with her. When Betsy learns Ava might be with the Red Cross in Cuba, Betsy joins the Red Cross as well and accompanies Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders there in hopes of finding Ava. I learned so much history in this one.

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

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