The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey BlakeWhat it is: a richly detailed, character-driven story of frustrated ambition and compromise set in Victorian London.
Starring: Nora Beady, an orphan who dreams of becoming a doctor, a taboo profession for a woman of her time; Dr. Horace Croft, who took Nora in as a child and trained her in medicine and anatomy; Dr. Daniel Gibson, a new surgical resident and potential threat to Nora's arrangement "assisting" Dr. Croft at his clinic.
Reviewers say: The Girl in His Shadow is "the best kind of historical fiction, transporting readers to a place and time peopled with memorable characters" (Library Journal).
The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel CleetonWhat it's about: This well-researched and intricately plotted novel revisits the Pérez family (first introduced in Next Year in Havana), this time through the eyes of socialite Marina, who gets involved with the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain.
Why you might like it: Marina's story runs parallel with that of Grace Harrington, a young reporter whose perspective provides historical context for U.S. involvement on the island.
Characters inspired by: pioneering journalist Nellie Bly (Grace) and Cuban revolutionary Evangelina Cosio y Cisneros (Marina).
The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario EscobarWhat it is: the moving and fast-paced story of a young French woman's battle to protect her small seaside town's library (and the people who take refuge there) from Nazi destruction, told in epistolary form.
Starring: Jocelyn Ferrec, the titular librarian; Adolf Bauman, the dissolute Nazi officer Jocelyn is forced to host in her home; Hermann von Choltiz, another officer charged with managing cultural artifacts of Nazi-occupied territories; Marcel Zola, a famous (fictional) Parisian author who becomes Jocelyn's unlikely confidante through letters.
Try these next: From These Broken Streets by Roland Merullo; Ellen Feldman's Paris Never Leaves You.
Hold Fast by J.H. GelernterThe premise: One of the best agents in Britain's fledgling intelligence apparatus, Thomas Grey, resigns from service in abject grief after his wife's untimely death.
The problem: The war with Napoleon is raging, and even after Thomas sets sail for a new life in Boston, circumstances force him back into the fight for Britain, and for his own life.
For fans of: naval adventures like the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian and Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels; stylish spies like James Bond.
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan HarrisWhat it is: the lyrical, haunting story of a diverse group of people attempting to build lives for themselves as the American Civil War draws to a close.
Starring: Prentiss and Landry, two recently freed brothers planning to track down their mother in the North; George and Isabelle Walker, a couple who hire the brothers to work on their Georgia farm; Caleb Walker, George and Isabelle's presumed-dead son, who shares a forbidden romance with another soldier.
Read it for: the complexity of the characters, who often inhabit moral gray areas; the poignancy of everyone's plans for the future, which hang in limbo while they wait for the war to finally end.
Build Your House Around My Body by Violet KupersmithWhat it is: the sweeping, interconnected stories of Vietnamese women living before and after the American war in Indochina, full of moving detail and questions about the supernatural.
Why might you like it: Although parts of the narrative take place close to our own time, history lovers will find much to appreciate in the shadow of Vietnam's tumultuous history that lingers over the evocative atmosphere.
About the author: Build Your House is the follow-up to Vietnamese American author Violet Kupersmith's well-received first book The Frangipani Hotel.
Ridgeline by Michael PunkeWhat it's about: Based on real people, Ridgeline chronicles an 1866 event now known as the Fetterman Fight, a decisive Lakota victory in Red Cloud's War, a conflict between allied Native peoples and the U.S. over American violations of the Fort Laramie Treaty.
Read it for: the compelling sense of foreboding that hangs over every page; the flesh-and-blood characters who are as flawed and multifaceted as real people.
About the author: Michael Punke is a former government official, attorney, and professor whose previous novel, The Revenant, was adapted into an award-winning film of the same name.
Island Queen by Vanessa RileyWhat it is: the engaging and richly detailed story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, an 18th and 19th-century Caribbean woman who built a business empire in the Leeward Islands to buy freedom for herself and her family.
Did you know? The real-life Dorothy's descendants include English opera singer Henrietta Simon Sala and her journalist son George Augustus Sala, who attracted the patronage of Charles Dickens and rose to prominence at The Daily Telegraph.
You might also like: Edward P. Jones' Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Known World, another atmospheric novel about a former slave who becomes wealthy and prominent in a slaveholding society.
Light Perpetual by Francis SpuffordWhat it's about: In 1944, 168 people died when the Germans bombed a crowded London Woolworths store. Light Perpetual imagines an alternate timeline in which five of the bombing's youngest victims managed to survive.
Read it for: the poignant, compelling descriptions of everyday details, which underline the fragility of life.
Reviewers say: "...all five protagonists come to vivid life in this spectacularly moving story" (Publishers Weekly).
A Woman of Intelligence by Karin TanabeWhat it is: a fast-paced, character-driven 1950s spy story about a dissatisfied Manhattan housewife who jumps at the chance to work as an FBI informant.
What goes wrong: Her assignment is monitoring an old boyfriend believed to be working for the KGB, but her controlling husband takes this renewed connection to mean she's having an affair.
About the author: Reporter-turned-novelist Karin Tanabe's other works of historical fiction include The Gilded Years, The Diplomat's Daughter, and A Hundred Suns.
Contact your librarian for more great books!