Five historical fiction titles that belong on your nightstand.


Of all the women in Jenner’s previous title, BLOOMSBURY GIRLS, Vivian was my favorite, so I was excited to see her get her own story, especially since she still needed to find closure regarding her fiancé’s death during the war.

In this book, Vivian jets off to Italy to work in the post-war film industry. It’s important to note that these years were a complex time where people were almost manic to forget the darkness and destruction of the previous decade. Nowhere is this desire stronger than in Italy.  Jenner captures the atmosphere superbly. From the moment Vivian steps off the plane, she (as well as the reader) is immersed in a world caught between the desire to live for the moment and the rules of society (which in this case, are set by the Vatican). Rome is a city rebuilding – making it the perfect setting for Vivian as she tries to find herself.

Over three hundred-plus pages, Vivian navigates a love affair with a mysterious American, fights with the Vatican over censorship, uncovers a mystery regarding a famous Italian actress, and learns the tragic story of an Italian partisan. She also discovers what happened to David and can say goodbye. There’s a lot of conversation about religion, children, war, and loss as Vivian and the other characters in the book come to grips with their post-war selves.


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AMERICAN DAUGHTERS is the story of two strong-minded women from the early twentieth century. Portia Washington and Alice Roosevelt couldn’t be two more different people, and yet they had much more in common than people realize.  It makes sense that they would become friends in real life. 

While their friendship is the book’s hook, AMERICAN DAUGHTERS is really a story about two women discovering who they are as individuals. Alice and Portia begin the book as girls and as the years progress learn how to step out of their famous father’s shadows and carve out identities that are their own. You find yourself rooting for them – especially Portia – to embrace their full potential.  

Huguley does a spectacular job of capturing the two women’s disparate personalities and voices. I was deeply invested in their stories. 

One more thing:  One of the things I like about Huguley’s books, both AMERICAN DAUGHTERS and OF HER OWN DESIGN, is the way she portrays the racism of the times. There’s always a shadow of it, no matter what’s happening on the page. Her books are exactly the reason we need the #ownvoices movement. 


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QUEENS OF LONDON by Heather Webb

If you merged Peaky Blinders with Charles Dickens, you’d get QUEENS OF LONDON. Webb’s latest is a gritty and emotional portrayal of London’s criminal class. 

The book focuses on four women, Diamond Annie, the leader of the Forty Elephants gang; female inspector Lilian Wyles who wants to take down Diamond Annie; shopkeeper Dorothy McBride, the goodhearted yet naive shop girl; and Hira Wickham, a runaway orphan and pickpocket who becomes Annie’s protege. During the book, all four will find themselves at a crossroads, where the road they pick will determine their future. Choose the wrong path and you’ll lose your soul.

Of course, what they discover is that nothing is black and white, especially when it comes to life on the street. 

This was a fun read with lots of action. What I loved was that a time when women didn’t have a lot of rights, these four characters managed to survive because of their wits and talents. Webb does a particularly great job with Diamond Annie, a real-life woman who ruled London’s underground in the 1920s. Even though she is a ruthless criminal, she isn’t heartless. She wants to protect the members of her female gang and do right by them, even if some of her solutions aren’t ethically sound. I found myself sad at her eventual tumble from power.

I also adored Hira who is as plucky as any Dickens orphan. She’s Oliver Twist only smarter and with more grit. 

One of the more fun books I’ve read this year.


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CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS by Denny S. Bryce and Eiza Knight

This well-done book about the real-life friendship between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe taught me a few things. For example, I didn’t know that it was Marilyn’s pressure that finally got Ella a gig at the Mocambo Nightclub. The performance catapulted Ella Fitzgerald to the next level. Nor did I know the two women hoped to record together.

One of the challenges when it comes to writing 20th-century bio-fiction is that your protagonists are often already well-known. It’s tempting to rely on popular stereotypes rather than create three-dimensional characters. Bryce and Knight rise to that challenge. They don’t shy away from the bad stuff. Bryce’s Fitzgerald can be sharp-tongued and insecure while Knight creates a Marilyn who is needy yet savvy. Knight also does an amazing job of capturing Monroe’s dark thoughts. You can feel her unraveling with each turn of the page.

There are a bunch of friendship books coming out on the market this year. CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS is among the best. (Note: I received an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.)


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In 1927, Olivia West challenges the system by entering an air race from San Francisco to Hawaii. Sixty years later, Wren Summers embarks on a journey of self-discovery when she inherits an abandoned farm in Hawaii. The two timelines intersect in a surprisingly endearing way. A breezy yet deeply human story about forging your own path. I couldn’t put it down, nor am I embarrassed to admit the end had me getting teary.

Plus the cover is freaking adorable. (This from someone who dislikes cartoon covers.)


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