Banner 7 - historical figures reading

I’ve read a lot of history books in my time, both academic and fiction, and thought I would share some of the ones I’d recommend reading. There are many more out there, and suggestions for further reading are always welcome!

Here are some of my favourites that come with a hearty recommendation. Some are written by the heavy weights of academic writing, whilst others are lighter but no less relevant.

I’ve also put together a list of historical novels – these really are open to interpretation – I might love them, but my taste can be a bit wonky sometimes so I’ve added a little description (no spoilers!) to tempt you.

Academic reading

Hicks, Michael Warwick the Kingmaker 2002

Licence, Amy Anne Neville 2013

The Tudors

Loades, David Mary Tudor 2012

Historical novels

Betts, Charlotte The Apothecary’s Daughter 

Set in 1660’s London, this book offers a great insight into the horrors of the plague. Betts’ research is fantastic and the book is full of beautiful descriptions of the apothecary’s shop and the stink of the London streets. You can’t write about such an event without including harrowing descriptions, but Betts works them into her story well. There is a real sense of fear.

I love her main character, Susannah, and her journey from daughter to wife but always as a woman of independent character and spirit. There is a clever twist in the romance, and the hero has real presence. 

I’d heartedly recommend it to anyone interested in the 17th century.

Author website: 

Penrose, Andrea Murder on Black Swan Lane

This novel may be set in Regency England, but there is no sign of the polite world of Jane Austen. Instead, this is murder mystery delves into the darker side of society, from the rich men’s clubs to the backstreets of London.

The story introduces us to the Earl of Wexford and Mrs Charlotte Sloane and I love the way Penrose has mastered their juxtaposition: he is a scientist, she an artist; he is rich, she lives on the edge of poverty; he is notorious in London, she hides her identity. It’s a romp rather than a history lesson, although it’s obvious Penrose understands (and loves) her era. I struggled when ‘milady’ was used to address Mrs Sloane (I just got visions of Parker in Thunderbirds), but I really enjoyed the characters, particularly the two boys, Raven and Hawk. I’m off to read the second book now…

One word of warning – they can be a bit tricky to get hold of in the UK, but definitely worth the effort. 

Author website: