B&N Reads, Historical Fiction

The Best Historical Fiction Books to Read Right Now

Shockingly, there’s more to historical fiction than just World War II (hard to believe, I know). We love historical fiction, delving into a different time, historical event, and sometimes even cultures with stories that enrich our minds while taking our hearts on a journey. With plenty of time periods and moments of history to choose from, we decided to compile some of our favorite historical fiction titles— none of which take place during WWII.  

In Memoriam: A novel

Hardcover $23.24 $28.00

In Memoriam: A novel

In Memoriam: A novel

By Alice Winn

In Stock Online

Hardcover $23.24 $28.00

This haunting novel of love and war, In Memoriam tells the tale of a forbidden romance and the tragedies of war. Taking place during World War I, it tells the story of Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood, best friends who attend boarding school together in the English countryside. Gaunt is half-German and enlists at the persistence of his family to try to prevent anti-German sentiment and to escape his growing feelings for Ellwood, but to his horror, Ellwood jumps to join him at the front, and other boys from their school follow. Gripping and moving, In Memoriam is a must-read.   

This haunting novel of love and war, In Memoriam tells the tale of a forbidden romance and the tragedies of war. Taking place during World War I, it tells the story of Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood, best friends who attend boarding school together in the English countryside. Gaunt is half-German and enlists at the persistence of his family to try to prevent anti-German sentiment and to escape his growing feelings for Ellwood, but to his horror, Ellwood jumps to join him at the front, and other boys from their school follow. Gripping and moving, In Memoriam is a must-read.   

The World and All That It Holds: A Novel

Hardcover $22.99 $28.00

The World and All That It Holds: A Novel

The World and All That It Holds: A Novel

By Aleksandar Hemon

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Hardcover $22.99 $28.00

One for the philosopher, The World and All That It Holds is Aleksandar Hemon at his finest. Spanning decades and continents, this story contains multitudes, making it perfect for lovers of fiction (especially historical fiction) to pick up. At its core is an examination of love of all kinds, but this book is so much more, exploring history, philosophy, and death in a hilarious and heartbreaking way. A modern classic. 

One for the philosopher, The World and All That It Holds is Aleksandar Hemon at his finest. Spanning decades and continents, this story contains multitudes, making it perfect for lovers of fiction (especially historical fiction) to pick up. At its core is an examination of love of all kinds, but this book is so much more, exploring history, philosophy, and death in a hilarious and heartbreaking way. A modern classic. 

A Gentleman in Moscow

Paperback $15.99 $18.00

A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles

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Paperback $15.99 $18.00

A follow-up to Rules of Civility (which tackled 1930s Manhattan), Towles’ latest historical novel takes place in Russia and depicts the life of Count Alexander Rostov, an “unrepentant aristocrat” sent by the Bolsheviks in 1922 to live out the rest of his days in the attic storage room of the Metropol hotel. As the world outside (he’s across from the Kremlin) passes him by, he adjusts to an existence devoid of the arts, leisure, and fine dining he is accustomed to. Yet in other ways his life is expanded immeasurably, as he creates an exquisite new world for himself. His relationships with the hotel staff and a life-altering friendship with a child breathe transcendent joy into every page. 

A follow-up to Rules of Civility (which tackled 1930s Manhattan), Towles’ latest historical novel takes place in Russia and depicts the life of Count Alexander Rostov, an “unrepentant aristocrat” sent by the Bolsheviks in 1922 to live out the rest of his days in the attic storage room of the Metropol hotel. As the world outside (he’s across from the Kremlin) passes him by, he adjusts to an existence devoid of the arts, leisure, and fine dining he is accustomed to. Yet in other ways his life is expanded immeasurably, as he creates an exquisite new world for himself. His relationships with the hotel staff and a life-altering friendship with a child breathe transcendent joy into every page. 

Lovely War

Paperback $12.99

Lovely War

Lovely War

By Julie Berry

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Paperback $12.99

When Hephaestus catches his wife Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, with Ares, the God of War, Aphrodite attempts to explain the connections between love, war, and art in the mortal world. She illustrates her points with the stories of two WWI-era couples: Hazel and James, a British pianist and the aspiring architect she follows to the front; and Aubrey and Colette, an African American musician and the grieving Belgian girl he meets in the midst of the war. As the four are brought together by friendship and music, Aphrodite hovers nearby, weighing the couples’ (and her own) hopes for a happy ending against the conflicting interests of death and revenge. Lovely War is a story of love, healing, and meddling gods you won’t want to miss. 

When Hephaestus catches his wife Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, with Ares, the God of War, Aphrodite attempts to explain the connections between love, war, and art in the mortal world. She illustrates her points with the stories of two WWI-era couples: Hazel and James, a British pianist and the aspiring architect she follows to the front; and Aubrey and Colette, an African American musician and the grieving Belgian girl he meets in the midst of the war. As the four are brought together by friendship and music, Aphrodite hovers nearby, weighing the couples’ (and her own) hopes for a happy ending against the conflicting interests of death and revenge. Lovely War is a story of love, healing, and meddling gods you won’t want to miss. 

The Davenports (Barnes & Noble YA Book Club Edition)

Hardcover $14.99 $19.99

The Davenports (Barnes & Noble YA Book Club Edition)

The Davenports (Barnes & Noble YA Book Club Edition)

By Krystal Marquis

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Hardcover $14.99 $19.99

Travel back to Chicago in 1910 with this swoony read that looks back on an often-overlooked period of African American history. With four determined and passionate young Black women taking charge of their lives (and hearts), The Davenports is inspired by the real-life story of C.R. Patterson and his family. Meet Olivia, Helen, Amy-Rose, and Ruby as their intertwined love lives take center stage in this delightful debut. 

Travel back to Chicago in 1910 with this swoony read that looks back on an often-overlooked period of African American history. With four determined and passionate young Black women taking charge of their lives (and hearts), The Davenports is inspired by the real-life story of C.R. Patterson and his family. Meet Olivia, Helen, Amy-Rose, and Ruby as their intertwined love lives take center stage in this delightful debut. 

The House of Eve

Hardcover $23.99 $27.99

The House of Eve

The House of Eve

By Sadeqa Johnson

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Hardcover $23.99 $27.99

The author of Yellow Wife, one of our previous monthly picks, is back with an exploration of womanhood and motherhood, sacrifice, and pursuing one’s goals. The House of Eve takes us back to the 1950s when Ruby and Eleanor both face relationships, new motherhood, and strive to achieve their dreams in their separate lives. Ruby, a fifteen-year-old in Philadelphia, has first generation collegiate aspirations, but a taboo love affair threatens to hold her back, while Eleanor, arriving for college in Washington, DC, has ambition and secrets of her own, even as she falls madly in love with William Pride, of one of DC’s wealthy, elite Black families, at Howard University. When their stories collide unexpectedly, they both are forced to make decisions that change the course of their lives.  

The author of Yellow Wife, one of our previous monthly picks, is back with an exploration of womanhood and motherhood, sacrifice, and pursuing one’s goals. The House of Eve takes us back to the 1950s when Ruby and Eleanor both face relationships, new motherhood, and strive to achieve their dreams in their separate lives. Ruby, a fifteen-year-old in Philadelphia, has first generation collegiate aspirations, but a taboo love affair threatens to hold her back, while Eleanor, arriving for college in Washington, DC, has ambition and secrets of her own, even as she falls madly in love with William Pride, of one of DC’s wealthy, elite Black families, at Howard University. When their stories collide unexpectedly, they both are forced to make decisions that change the course of their lives.  

The Two Lives of Sara: A Novel

Hardcover $22.99 $27.99

The Two Lives of Sara: A Novel

The Two Lives of Sara: A Novel

By Catherine Adel West

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Hardcover $22.99 $27.99

Taking place in 1960s Memphis, Tennessee, The Two Lives of Sarah is about a woman with nothing but secrets and a baby in her belly who leaves Chicago to try to outrun her past. Finding a warm welcome from Mama Sugar, the owner of the popular boardinghouse, The Scarlet Poplar, she finds a segregated city with change on the horizon. As she finds her footing, she also starts to find romance with Jonas, a local schoolteacher, but Sarah isn’t the only one with secrets. When Mama Sugar’s past has repercussions that affect both Sarah and Jonah, Sarah must make hard decisions that will impact the rest of their lives.  

Taking place in 1960s Memphis, Tennessee, The Two Lives of Sarah is about a woman with nothing but secrets and a baby in her belly who leaves Chicago to try to outrun her past. Finding a warm welcome from Mama Sugar, the owner of the popular boardinghouse, The Scarlet Poplar, she finds a segregated city with change on the horizon. As she finds her footing, she also starts to find romance with Jonas, a local schoolteacher, but Sarah isn’t the only one with secrets. When Mama Sugar’s past has repercussions that affect both Sarah and Jonah, Sarah must make hard decisions that will impact the rest of their lives.  

Harlem Shuffle

Paperback $14.99 $17.00

Harlem Shuffle

Harlem Shuffle

By Colson Whitehead

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Following up his back-to-back Pulitzer Prize winning novels, Colson Whitehead returns with a vivid, wildly entertaining heist novel that makes you feel as if you’re walking down a bustling 125th Street in 1960s Harlem. A veritable page-turner from start to finish. 

Following up his back-to-back Pulitzer Prize winning novels, Colson Whitehead returns with a vivid, wildly entertaining heist novel that makes you feel as if you’re walking down a bustling 125th Street in 1960s Harlem. A veritable page-turner from start to finish. 

The Black Kids

Paperback $12.99

The Black Kids

The Black Kids

By Christina Hammonds Reed

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Paperback $12.99

Whether you were an adult, a child or just a thought, the 1991 beating of Rodney King by the LAPD was undoubtedly one of the earliest displays of racial injustice to be televised since the civil rights movement. With honesty and heart, this indelible coming-of-age story explores issues of race, class and violence as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl within a city on fire. Christina Hammonds Reed’s debut novel The Black Kids is perfect for fans of The Hate U Give and Dear Martin

Whether you were an adult, a child or just a thought, the 1991 beating of Rodney King by the LAPD was undoubtedly one of the earliest displays of racial injustice to be televised since the civil rights movement. With honesty and heart, this indelible coming-of-age story explores issues of race, class and violence as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl within a city on fire. Christina Hammonds Reed’s debut novel The Black Kids is perfect for fans of The Hate U Give and Dear Martin

Dread Nation

Paperback $10.99 $11.99

Dread Nation

Dread Nation

By Justina Ireland

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Action-packed, terrifying, and unputdownable, Dread Nation is Civil War historical fiction that will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished it. Jane McKeene was born two days prior to the dead beginning to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, changing America forever. To keep the nation safe, the laws in place require certain children to attend combat schools to learn how to face the dead, and Jane is one of them. She uses the opportunity to become an Attendant, training in both weaponry and etiquette. But when families around Baltimore County start to disappear, Jane finds herself in the middle, fighting desperately for her life against powerful enemies.  

Action-packed, terrifying, and unputdownable, Dread Nation is Civil War historical fiction that will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished it. Jane McKeene was born two days prior to the dead beginning to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, changing America forever. To keep the nation safe, the laws in place require certain children to attend combat schools to learn how to face the dead, and Jane is one of them. She uses the opportunity to become an Attendant, training in both weaponry and etiquette. But when families around Baltimore County start to disappear, Jane finds herself in the middle, fighting desperately for her life against powerful enemies.  

The Fountains of Silence

Paperback $12.99

The Fountains of Silence

The Fountains of Silence

By Ruta Sepetys

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Paperback $12.99

The Fountains of Silence is a riveting read taking place in Spain under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. We follow Daniel, the eighteen-year-old son of an oil tycoon who’s hoping to connect with his mother’s culture through his camera lens. This is the heartbreaking story of the repercussions of war, the impact silence has on a culture and country, and unforgettable love. Daniel’s photography introduces him to Ana, whose family’s struggles reveal the effects the Spanish Civil War still makes, and to face uncomfortable questions that might have dangerous repercussions.  

The Fountains of Silence is a riveting read taking place in Spain under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. We follow Daniel, the eighteen-year-old son of an oil tycoon who’s hoping to connect with his mother’s culture through his camera lens. This is the heartbreaking story of the repercussions of war, the impact silence has on a culture and country, and unforgettable love. Daniel’s photography introduces him to Ana, whose family’s struggles reveal the effects the Spanish Civil War still makes, and to face uncomfortable questions that might have dangerous repercussions.  

The London Séance Society (B&N Exclusive Edition)

Hardcover $23.99 $30.00

The London Séance Society (B&N Exclusive Edition)

The London Séance Society (B&N Exclusive Edition)

By Sarah Penner

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Hardcover $23.99 $30.00

If you loved The Lost Apothecary, then pick up Sarah Penner’s next book, The London Séance Society. Taking us back to Paris in 1873 in an enchanting tale of truth, illusion, and the risks women will take for vengeance of loved ones, this book features a spiritualist known for conjuring the spirits of murder victims in order to identify their killers, a woman trying to find answers about her sister’s death, and a high-profile murder in England. This novel is full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish! 

If you loved The Lost Apothecary, then pick up Sarah Penner’s next book, The London Séance Society. Taking us back to Paris in 1873 in an enchanting tale of truth, illusion, and the risks women will take for vengeance of loved ones, this book features a spiritualist known for conjuring the spirits of murder victims in order to identify their killers, a woman trying to find answers about her sister’s death, and a high-profile murder in England. This novel is full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish! 

The Book of Everlasting Things: A Novel

Hardcover $23.99 $29.99

The Book of Everlasting Things: A Novel

The Book of Everlasting Things: A Novel

By Aanchal Malhotra

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Hardcover $23.99 $29.99

If you loved All the Light We Cannot See, then get ready for your new favorite book, The Book of Everlasting Things. This novel features a sweeping love story of two people separated by circumstances beyond their control. Catapulting readers into 1938 Lahore when the city is ravaged by Partition, the city’s new divide separates Firdaus, the calligrapher’s apprentice, and Samir, the perfumer’s apprentice by a new border. Samir, a Hindu becomes Indian, and Firdaus, a Muslim, becomes Pakistani, making their love forbidden and separating the two. As the two make fateful decisions, their lives reflect how hard it is to move on with their lives while their hearts and memories are intertwined.  

If you loved All the Light We Cannot See, then get ready for your new favorite book, The Book of Everlasting Things. This novel features a sweeping love story of two people separated by circumstances beyond their control. Catapulting readers into 1938 Lahore when the city is ravaged by Partition, the city’s new divide separates Firdaus, the calligrapher’s apprentice, and Samir, the perfumer’s apprentice by a new border. Samir, a Hindu becomes Indian, and Firdaus, a Muslim, becomes Pakistani, making their love forbidden and separating the two. As the two make fateful decisions, their lives reflect how hard it is to move on with their lives while their hearts and memories are intertwined.  

Hour of the Witch

Paperback $13.99 $17.00

Hour of the Witch

Hour of the Witch

By Chris Bohjalian

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Seventeenth-century New England was not a safe place, especially for women. The fear of sin and Satan’s power over faithful Puritans fueled mass hysteria and witch hunts. Any small action outside of being a “good wife” had the potential to spurn allegations of witchcraft, so what was a woman to do if she found herself in a marriage marked by cruelty and domestic abuse? Chris Bohjalian’s latest unputdownable thriller feels timely despite the historical setting, full of twists and the impossible and sometimes terrifying choices women must face in the pursuit of safety. 

Seventeenth-century New England was not a safe place, especially for women. The fear of sin and Satan’s power over faithful Puritans fueled mass hysteria and witch hunts. Any small action outside of being a “good wife” had the potential to spurn allegations of witchcraft, so what was a woman to do if she found herself in a marriage marked by cruelty and domestic abuse? Chris Bohjalian’s latest unputdownable thriller feels timely despite the historical setting, full of twists and the impossible and sometimes terrifying choices women must face in the pursuit of safety. 

Marvelous: A Novel of Wonder and Romance in the French Royal Court

Hardcover $25.60 $32.00

Marvelous: A Novel of Wonder and Romance in the French Royal Court

Marvelous: A Novel of Wonder and Romance in the French Royal Court

By Molly Greeley

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Hardcover $25.60 $32.00

If you love Beauty and the Beast, prepare yourselves for this recreation of the astonishing true story behind the legend. Taking place in 1547 set in the French royal court of Catherine de’ Medici, this novel follows Pedro Gonzales, a young boy from Tenerife who’s covered head to toe in hair, setting him apart from other kids. Then there is Catherine Raffeline, a beautiful young girl who’s offered to the queen to be Pedro’s bride in exchange for paying off her father’s debts. Meeting for the first time on their wedding day, the story is gorgeously written, heartbreaking and hopeful, and readers will be delighted to add it to their shelves.  

If you love Beauty and the Beast, prepare yourselves for this recreation of the astonishing true story behind the legend. Taking place in 1547 set in the French royal court of Catherine de’ Medici, this novel follows Pedro Gonzales, a young boy from Tenerife who’s covered head to toe in hair, setting him apart from other kids. Then there is Catherine Raffeline, a beautiful young girl who’s offered to the queen to be Pedro’s bride in exchange for paying off her father’s debts. Meeting for the first time on their wedding day, the story is gorgeously written, heartbreaking and hopeful, and readers will be delighted to add it to their shelves.  

Pachinko

Paperback $17.99 $19.99

Pachinko

Pachinko

By Min Jin Lee

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A story of love and sacrifice among so much more, Pachinko is must-read. Taking place in 20th-century Japan, this book follows teenage Sunja who falls for a wealthy stranger near her home in Korea. While he promises her the world, when she finds herself pregnant, she discovers that he’s married. Sunja rejects him and accepts a marriage offer from a minister passing through on his way to Japan. Her abandonment of her home and the rejection of her son’s powerful father has dramatic repercussions that ripple down through generations.  

A story of love and sacrifice among so much more, Pachinko is must-read. Taking place in 20th-century Japan, this book follows teenage Sunja who falls for a wealthy stranger near her home in Korea. While he promises her the world, when she finds herself pregnant, she discovers that he’s married. Sunja rejects him and accepts a marriage offer from a minister passing through on his way to Japan. Her abandonment of her home and the rejection of her son’s powerful father has dramatic repercussions that ripple down through generations.  

Last Night at the Telegraph Club (National Book Award Winner)

Paperback $10.49 $11.99

Last Night at the Telegraph Club (National Book Award Winner)

Last Night at the Telegraph Club (National Book Award Winner)

By Malinda Lo

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Paperback $10.49 $11.99

Set in San Francisco in 1954, Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a must-read coming-of-age story about a Chinese American teenager learning to understand herself, her sexuality, and her culture during a time and place where she is seen as less than. This important work of historical fiction is sure to resonate for years to come. 

Set in San Francisco in 1954, Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a must-read coming-of-age story about a Chinese American teenager learning to understand herself, her sexuality, and her culture during a time and place where she is seen as less than. This important work of historical fiction is sure to resonate for years to come. 

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy: A Novel

Hardcover $23.99 $28.00

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy: A Novel

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy: A Novel

By Jamie Ford

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Hardcover $23.99 $28.00

This book is a unique read spanning 250 years from the past to the characters’ present in 2045. When Dorothy’s daughter starts remembering things from the lives of their ancestors, Dorothy seeks radical help in the form of an experimental treatment to try to stop inherited trauma. The treatment gives her an intimate connection with the women in her ancestry, and along the way, she discovers that trauma isn’t the only thing she inherited— there’s also been a stranger who’s loved her through all her genetic memories. In order to break the cycle, she’s determined to find that love in the present day for her and her daughter, no matter what the price might be. 

This book is a unique read spanning 250 years from the past to the characters’ present in 2045. When Dorothy’s daughter starts remembering things from the lives of their ancestors, Dorothy seeks radical help in the form of an experimental treatment to try to stop inherited trauma. The treatment gives her an intimate connection with the women in her ancestry, and along the way, she discovers that trauma isn’t the only thing she inherited— there’s also been a stranger who’s loved her through all her genetic memories. In order to break the cycle, she’s determined to find that love in the present day for her and her daughter, no matter what the price might be. 

Daughters of Nantucket: A Novel

Paperback $19.99

Daughters of Nantucket: A Novel

Daughters of Nantucket: A Novel

By Julie Gerstenblatt

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An emotional novel full of valiant women, Daughters of Nantucket takes readers back to 1846. While the men of Nantucket spend most of their days at sea, the women there have a rare independence, but with that comes their own struggles. Following three extremely different women, the book focuses on a fateful sweltering July night when a fire breaks out in town, spreading quickly, and the three women must reevaluate their priorities and lives in the face of it all.  

An emotional novel full of valiant women, Daughters of Nantucket takes readers back to 1846. While the men of Nantucket spend most of their days at sea, the women there have a rare independence, but with that comes their own struggles. Following three extremely different women, the book focuses on a fateful sweltering July night when a fire breaks out in town, spreading quickly, and the three women must reevaluate their priorities and lives in the face of it all.  

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook

Paperback $16.95

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook

By Ellen Marie Wiseman

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Paperback $16.95

Best read with the lights on and the doors locked. A chilling, propulsive novel that blends fact with fiction, and transports you to the infamous WIllowbrook State School on Staten Island in the 1970s. A young woman goes looking for her missing sister and ends up in her own worst nightmare, mistakenly locked away in the last place anyone would choose to be. If you’re a fan historical fiction, horror or true crime—or you’re just looking for the next discussion-worthy book club pick, don’t miss this shocking mash-up of Girl, Interrupted mixed with American Horror Story

Best read with the lights on and the doors locked. A chilling, propulsive novel that blends fact with fiction, and transports you to the infamous WIllowbrook State School on Staten Island in the 1970s. A young woman goes looking for her missing sister and ends up in her own worst nightmare, mistakenly locked away in the last place anyone would choose to be. If you’re a fan historical fiction, horror or true crime—or you’re just looking for the next discussion-worthy book club pick, don’t miss this shocking mash-up of Girl, Interrupted mixed with American Horror Story

Luck of the Titanic

Paperback $12.99

Luck of the Titanic

Luck of the Titanic

By Stacey Lee

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Paperback $12.99

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be on the Titanic when it sank? We all know the iconic movie scenes of Jack and Rose, but this novel brings the voyage to life in a new way that will rivet readers. The novel follows Valora Luck, a girl with big dreams of being a circus performer in New York and a ticket to take the Titanic to get there. When she’s turned away at the gangway because of her race, she is determined to get on the ship anyways. Between her dreams, her twin brother who’s been at sea for two long years, and the influential circus owner she hopes to audition for all aboard the ship, she stows away, scheming to make all her dreams come true … until the night that changes everything and all that matters is survival. 

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be on the Titanic when it sank? We all know the iconic movie scenes of Jack and Rose, but this novel brings the voyage to life in a new way that will rivet readers. The novel follows Valora Luck, a girl with big dreams of being a circus performer in New York and a ticket to take the Titanic to get there. When she’s turned away at the gangway because of her race, she is determined to get on the ship anyways. Between her dreams, her twin brother who’s been at sea for two long years, and the influential circus owner she hopes to audition for all aboard the ship, she stows away, scheming to make all her dreams come true … until the night that changes everything and all that matters is survival. 

Essex Dogs: A Novel

Hardcover $24.99 $30.00

Essex Dogs: A Novel

Essex Dogs: A Novel

By Dan Jones

Hardcover $24.99 $30.00

Historian Dan Jones makes his historical fiction debut with Essex Dogs. Set during the Hundred Year’s War, this thrilling novel focuses on a platoon of archers fighting for the throne of the largest kingdom in Western Europe. A band of brothers head deep into enemy territory to fight in a bloody war where rules and chivalry are left to the wayside. Told through a full cast of characters, this novel will illuminate the stark realities of medieval war. 

Historian Dan Jones makes his historical fiction debut with Essex Dogs. Set during the Hundred Year’s War, this thrilling novel focuses on a platoon of archers fighting for the throne of the largest kingdom in Western Europe. A band of brothers head deep into enemy territory to fight in a bloody war where rules and chivalry are left to the wayside. Told through a full cast of characters, this novel will illuminate the stark realities of medieval war.