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Historical Fiction Reading Guides

Using historical novels for your reading group will provide you with a way to engage in the events that have made our world what it is today. By discussing these events you can open the minds of your members to new possibilities and perspectives.

List of titles:

Brief Gaudy Hour

The infamous love of King Henry VIII and the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn, undertook a rocky journey from innocent courtier to powerful Queen of England. The beauty and charms of Anne Boleyn bewitched the most powerful man in the world, King Henry VIII, but her resourcefulness and cleverness were not enough to stop the malice of her enemies. Her swift rise to power quickly became her own undoing.

Churchill's Hour

In this stunning novel, political insider Michael Dobbs brings alive the curmudgeon persona of Winston Churchill. It is 1941, a year of desperation for England battered by the war. Churchill has only one hope, that the U.S. will come to his country's aid, but Roosevelt is unable to do so because America is wedded to isolation.

The prime minister's agony is compounded by a very personal dilemma. Pamela, the wife of his dissolute son, Randolph, has fallen in love with FDR's special envoy to England, Averill Harriman. With England threatened by a German invasion and a desperate Russia devastated by the advancing Nazi onslaught, Churchill must convince America his cause is theirs. How he does so is so damning he will take the secret to his grave. Following his acclaimed Churchill novels Never Surrender and Churchill's Triumph, Dobbs' taut reimagining makes England's feisty prime minister jump off the page.

Churchill's Triumph

World War II is about to end when the world’s three most powerful men gather at Yalta in the Soviet Crimea: an idealistic and exhausted Franklin Roosevelt, a dyspeptic and feisty Winston Churchill and a brutal Joseph Stalin. Once proud allies, they will lie and cheat and deceive each other. And, while doing so, they will change both the map and the destiny of Europe.

In this riveting historic novel, you become a fly on the wall of history. For those fatal eight days at Yalta, you are privy to the heart and mind of England’s prime minister who hopes he has enough strength to negotiate with the Russian dictator and enough whiskey to last the week. Carrying the burden of history, Churchill becomes Europe’s conscience, when, to save the peace agreed to at Yalta, he must decide whether to commit a devastating act of betrayal.

Great Maria

Her father is a robber baron…

Her husband has grand ambitions and a quick temper…

She will become...the Great Maria.

A lush portrait of the eleventh century that leaves out none of its harshest nature, Great Maria is Cecelia Holland at her most evocative. A mere fourteen years old, strong-willed Maria is betrothed to Richard. Theirs is a marriage of conflict, yet one that grows over the years into respect and partnership. As they struggle—at times against each other, at times side-by-side—Maria and Richard emerge as full-blooded characters you’ll never forget.


Never Surrender

This extraordinary work of historical fiction by bestselling author Michael Dobbs finds Winston Churchill at his lowest ebb—pitted in a personal confrontation with Adolf Hitler and the ghosts from his past.

The battle begins on Friday, May 10, 1940, when Hitler launches a devastating attack that within days will overrun France, Holland and Belgium and bring Britain to its knees at Dunkirk. Never Surrender is about Churchill’s courage and defiance, his ability to lead a nation during three of the most crucial weeks in its history. Without the physical forces necessary to stave off German attack, Churchill uses the force of words to stand in Hitler’s way, to show that no accords will be made.

To read this book is to live these tense days at Churchill’s side, to experience his feelings of deep inadequacy as he deals with defeatist ministers, intransigent generals and a military disaster of biblical proportion.

Sins of the House of Borgia

A Notorious Duke
An Infamous Duchess
An Innocent Girl

Violante isn’t supposed to be here, in one of the grandest courts of Renaissance Italy. She isn’t supposed to be a lady-in-waiting to the beautiful Lucrezia Borgia. But the same secretive  politics that pushed Lucrezia’s father to the Vatican have landed Violante deep in a lavish landscape of passion and ambition.

Through a Glass Darkly

Peopled by a cast of unforgettable characters, here is the story of a great family ruled by a dowager of extraordinary power; a young woman coming of age, seeking love in the midst of a storm; her mother, the cruel and self-centered Diana; and of a man haunted by a secret that could turn all of their dreams to ashes…

To Catch the Lightning

What is the price of our dreams?

Beginning in the late 1890s, Edward Sheriff Curtis undertook the seemingly overwhelming odyssey of capturing the past, of documenting and photographing the fading way of life of the American Indian.

In To Catch the Lightning, Alan Cheuse has created a remarkable portrait of the man who would become a legend. Drawn on his epic journey by a series of female muses, Curtis turns his lens on a landscape of unparalleled beauty and tradition. Curtis' desire to complete his destiny as foretold by Chief Joseph, to photograph all of the hundreds of western American Indian tribes, is a haunting tale of the struggle between ambition and duty.

The architect of the finest lasting visual record of a culture close to extinction, Curtis stands as a testament to the power of the sacrifices we make for the dreams that compel us.

With the ear of a poet and the eye of a historian, Cheuse has crafted a masterwork of American historical fiction. Lyrical, beautifully written, and impressively researched, To Catch the Lightning is a novel of the American spirit.


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