So if my Facebook and Twitter feeds are any indications, a lot of romance fans are watching Outlander since it came back to Starz. Aren’t they doing a great job with that conversion from book to TV?
Of course Outlander is a time-travel story, and both eras visited are in the past. It’s quite different than most stories out there—one of the many reasons it’s been such a huge success in both forms—but watching the show reminds me of one of my favorite types of storytelling.
I love books that layer different timelines.
There are some great books that do this, and even more coming out soon.
Jojo Moyes took the world by storm with her masterpiece Me Before You, which I loved (and highly recommend), but which left me feeling restless and unsettled—which makes absolute sense, given the subject matter. I loved her writing, however, and sought other books, and am so glad I did. The Girl You Left Behind is a powerful example of textured storytelling that explores the moral dilemmas of war, while setting up a whopper of a romantic conflict as the heroine and hero are pitted against each other over a painting that may or not be a stolen piece of art from World War I. It’s both lovely and intense. Her next book releases in September, and is apparently a sequel to Me Before You.
Lauren Willig’s hugely popular Pink Carnation series layers individual Regency spies and their romances over the story of the modern-day scholar who is researching them. The final Pink Carnation title, The Lure of the Moonflower, releases this summer. Meanwhile, Willig has written a few terrific women’s fiction novels that explore secrets from the past. They include The Ashford Affair and That Summer, both of which I highly recommend. Her third release, The Other Daughter, looks to be another historical fiction “secrets & lies” winner, taking place in the 1920s London of Josephine Edgar's Bright Young Things.
Susanna Kearsley’s reputation as a master storyteller capable of seamlessly weaving the past with the present seems to get stronger with every book, and her rich details and abundant romanticism have created a devoted following among both historical novel readers and romance fans. The Firebird won a Rita last summer, and I am really looking forward to A Desperate Fortune, which looks to include codebreaking, Jacobites and Paris.
Karen White is known for deftly weaving past secrets into modern tales of truth-seeking and redemption. Her newest book, The Sound of Glass, releases May 12 and sounds like a classic White novel, exploring a Southern family’s buried history which will change the life of the woman who unearths it, secret by shattering secret.
So many great options, I don’t have room for them all! Here are just a few more worth mentioning:
Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale explores the role of French women during World War II.
Beatriz Williams’ Tiny Little Thing isn’t quite so layered time-wise as other books of hers, but it is an elegant and engrossing story of love and family ambition gone awry.
Susan Meissner is an author I’ve had my eye on for a while, though I haven’t had the chance to read her yet. Last year’s A Fall of Marigolds touches on both the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and 9/11, while this year’s Secrets of a Charmed Life revisits England during World War II.
I’ve already mentioned MJ Rose recently, but almost all of her novels connect different times, though usually within a supernatural framework. Her writing is very lush and evocative.
So what about you? Do you prefer your historical novels firmly steeped in one timeframe, or do you enjoy the sprawl of history, hidden secrets and mysteries explored?