Who are your favorite historical fiction authors?
Are you a romance purist? Do you stick to themes you know and love?
There are two wonderful novels I’ve read recently, each with fascinating historical tidbits that brought the books alive.
The first is Susan Meissner’s As Bright As Heaven.
When the Bright family moves from their small tobacco town to Philadelphia in 1918, they know life will be different. Their father has been invited to partner with his uncle, an undertaker, with expectations to take over the business, a plan interrupted when he is conscripted into the army. Even worse, the family faces the worst epidemic in American history, the Spanish flu—and nothing will ever be the same.
Meissner’s look at the times—from anti-German sentiment, to the emotional toll of war, to the devastation of the epidemic—is tightly woven into a story told from the Bright family’s alternating voices: mom Pauline, academically gifted teen Evelyn, middle child Maggie who’s lovestruck by her neighbor headed off to war, and seven-year-old Willa, who is often left to her own devices when the rest of the family is struggling to deal with staggering tragedy.
Meissner often looks at grand events from intimate perspectives, to great effect, and this is a smart, thought-provoking study of one family’s experience of cataclysmic times. The last third of the book includes some coincidental plot points that can strain plausibility, but relying on a “truth is stranger than fiction” mindset helps make it clever and satisfying rather than hard to swallow.
Overall, I found the book lovely and captivating, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. And if you’d like to learn more about the flu epidemic—a national crisis practically forgotten in history, so kudos to Meissner for bringing it into focus— I also highly recommend the PBS American Experience Influenza 1918.
I don’t usually talk about books by men. I try very hard to stick with titles by women, since I feel that men’s books tend to be reviewed, discussed and talked about more than those penned by women. However, occasionally a title sneaks in that I simply can’t resist—or that someone in my book club picks, and that I am completely charmed by.
Mitch Albom creates his most unforgettable fictional character—Frankie Presto, the greatest guitarist ever to walk the Earth—in this magical novel about the bands we join in life and the power of talent to change our lives.
There’s a lot to love in this lyrical novel about music, talent, life and choices, and there’s a grand romance at the heart of it.
It begins in another era we rarely hear about—Spain under the dictator Franco—and follows the (fictional) legendary guitarist Frankie Presto through music history, as narrated by Music himself. Frankie leaves Spain in a boat, drifts through life as a musician and meets Elvis Presley, performs at Woodstock, records the most famous bootleg track ever…and touches myriad lives along the way.
The book is brilliant, whimsical, touching, compelling, heart-breaking, uplifting—it hits all the feels, as they say, and might possibly be Mitch Albom’s masterpiece.
Highly, highly recommend, as does everyone in my book club!
Yet we’re at the beginning of Women’s History Month!
So I want to invite you to a month’s worth of women’s historical authors, who’ll be daily hosts at The Romance of Reading FB page. I am so excited—and honored—to have this amazing set of historical romance and women’s fiction writers, who are also history experts and enthusiasts. (See below for a complete list of participants.)
I hope you can join us for chats, giveaways and the amazing opportunity to visit with some of the best historical authors around! What a great way to celebrate Women’s History Month!
So what are you reading this month? Are you a fan of historical fiction?
Heather Webb Sarah M. Eden Joanna Bourne Ella Quinn
Willig, Williams & White Jeannie Lin Chanel Cleeton
Mary Balogh Valerie Bowman Piper Huguley & Diana Rubino
Weina Randel Lisa Bern Ellen Marie Wiseman Theresa Romain
Nicola Cornick Joanna Shupe Racheline Maltese & Erin McRae
Eloisa James Christi Caldwell Susan Meissner Sherry Thomas
Camille Di Maio Susanna Kearsley Kristin Harmel Lenora Bell
Ariel Lawhon Lorraine Heath Jenna Blum Kate Quinn
Lisa Wingate Kerrigan Byrne