Pam’s Picks: Historical Fiction Books for the Holiday Season

There is such a wealth of great historical fiction books available right now, books that make super Christmas pressies too. Here is my round-up of 2021’s best, and there is something to suit all tastes, from romance to the ancient world.

A Comfortable Alliance by Catherine Kullmann

Can they open their hearts to something much deeper and passionate? Will their marriage only ever be a comfortable alliance?

Six years ago, Helena Swift’s fiancé was fatally wounded at Waterloo. Locking away all dreams of the heart, she retreated to a safe family haven. On the shelf and happy to be there, Helena has perfected the art of deterring would-be suitors. Will, Earl of Rastleigh, is the only son of an only son: marriage is his duty. One of the great prizes of the marriage market, he shies away from a cold, society union. While he doesn’t expect love, he seeks something more comfortable. But how to find the woman who will welcome him into her life and her bed, and be a good mother to their children?

When Will meets Helena, he is intrigued by her composure, her kindness and her intelligence. As their friendship develops, he realises he has found his ideal wife, if only he can overcome her well-known aversion to matrimony. Will succeeds in slipping past Helena’s guard. Tempted by the thought of children of her own, and encouraged by her mother to leave the shallows where she has lingered so long, she accepts his offer of a marriage based not on dangerous love but affectionate companionship and mutual respect.

But is this enough? As Will gets to know his wife better, and the secrets of her past unfold, he realises that they have settled for second-best. Can he change the basis of their marriage? Will Helena risk her heart and dare to love again?

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Rebel’s Knot by Cryssa Bazos

Ireland 1652: In the desperate, final days of the English invasion . . .

A fey young woman, Áine Callaghan, is the sole survivor of an attack by English marauders. When Irish soldier Niall O’Coneill discovers his own kin slaughtered in the same massacre, he vows to hunt down the men responsible. He takes Áine under his protection and together they reach the safety of an encampment held by the Irish forces in Tipperary.

Hardly a safe haven, the camp is rife with danger and intrigue. Áine is a stranger with the old stories stirring on her tongue and rumours follow her everywhere. The English cut off support to the brigade, and a traitor undermines the Irish cause, turning Niall from hunter to hunted.

When someone from Áine’s past arrives, her secrets boil to the surface—and she must slay her demons once and for all.

As the web of violence and treachery grows, Áine and Niall find solace in each other’s arms—but can their love survive long-buried secrets and the darkness of vengeance?

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Discerning Grace by Emma Lombard

Wilful Grace Baxter, will not marry old Lord Silverton with his salivary incontinence and dead-mouse stink. Refusing this fate, she resolves to stow away. Heading to the docks, disguised as a lad to ease her escape, she encounters smooth-talking naval recruiter, Gilly, who lures her aboard HMS Discerning with promises of freedom and exploration in South America.

When Grace’s big mouth lands her bare-bottomed over a cannon for insubordination, her identity is exposed. She must now win over the crew she betrayed with her secret.


Pagan Siege by Sam Taw

Three Violent Clans.
Two Deadly Rivals
One Struggle for Power

Anarchy reigns as the clan leaders revolt, threatening the Chief’s position within the tribe. Wildfires ravage the moors, settlers are starving and homeless, and wise woman, Meliora is no longer in favour. Their fate is now in the hands of fickle and ambitious youngsters, who have sly agendas of their own. Can they end the siege and retake control over the tin mines or will a vengeful leader prevail and slaughter Mel’s entire family?

Brutal skirmishes, bloody rituals and heartbreaking underdogs in the fifth book of the series. Start the adventure now.

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Trysts and Treachery – Box Set by Elizabeth Keysian

In Tudor England, it’s dangerous to be an independent woman or to stand against the dictates of the Crown.

Enjoy this limited time only collection from Award Winning Author Elizabeth Keysian.

Lord of Deception: Despised by the cousin with whom she’s forced to live, the lonely but determined Alys craves escape. The most dangerous thing she could do is fall in love. Especially when the man who tempts her is Kit Ludlow, an exiled nobleman in disguise. Becoming involved in his secret mission proves more perilous than Alys could possibly have imagined.

Lord of Loyalty: An embittered war-hero must protect a crazed beauty. But he’s being blackmailed, she’s being hunted, and falling in love could be a fatal mistake. In honor of a deathbed promise, wounded veteran Sir William Cavendish rescues Isobel Marston from her grasping cousin. But this frenzied young woman proves a nightmare to handle. Soon Will is trying to save her from herself, as well as from those who want her dead.

Lord of the Forest: She failed to save the man she loved. She won’t make the same mistake again. In his forest home, he’s a king among both beasts and men. Living hand-to-mouth in his woodland lair, Lancelot is used to helping himself to what he wants, and he wants Clemence. But when she drags him back into the real world, he soon realizes that she will either bring him salvation or oblivion.

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Forgiving Nero by Mary Ann Bernal

Rome. The jewel of the civilized world is no longer what it was. Strength has failed the Senate. Her legions are in disarray, and the Empire has fallen into Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus Nero’s hands. His reign begins under a cloud of scrutiny, for he is the depraved Emperor Caligula’s nephew. Nero is determined to overcome that stigma and carve a name of his own. One worthy of Rome’s illustrious history.

Politics and treachery threaten to end Nero’s reign before it begins, forcing him to turn to unexpected sources for friendship and help. Many of the Praetorian Guard have watched over Nero since he was a small child, and it is in Traian that the young Emperor places his trust, despite the inherent threat of reducing his mother’s influence. Traian is the father he never had and the one man who does not judge him.

When Traian secretly marries the hostage Vena, it sets in motion a collision of values as Traian comes to odds with his former charge. The whirlwind that follows will shake the very foundations of the greatest Empire the world has ever known, and survival is far from guaranteed.

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Longsword’s Lady by J.P. Reedman

Spirited away to France after the death of her father, the Earl of Salisbury, young Ela is soon found by a wandering minstrel and taken to the court of Richard Lionheart. Aged nine, she is betrothed to the King’s illegitimate half-brother, William Longsword, before being sent for education in the household of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Some years later, Ela and William form a harmonious bond, despite their arranged marriage, and have many children, but their lives are always threatened by uncertainty. King John now rules, and William is his most loyal brother–and his enforcer. When the King tries to seduce Ela while William lies in the dungeons of the fighting Bishop of Bouvines, at last he decides to change his allegiance from the brother he once loved who has now become a tyrant. He returns to the Plantagenet fold only on King John’s demise and the accession of his young nephew, King Henry III. But war and strife is never far away, and on a journey from Gascony, William is shipwrecked and believed dead by most, barring Ela. Men of ambition start clamouring to wed the widowed Countess–and claim the earldom of Salisbury through marrying her…

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The Antonius Trilogy by Brook Allen

Author Brook Allen has a passion for ancient history—especially 1st century BC Rome. Her Antonius Trilogy is a detailed account of the life of Marcus Antonius—Marc Antony, which she worked on for fifteen years. The first instalment, Antonius: Son of Rome was published in March 2019. It follows Antony as a young man, from the age of eleven, when his father died in disgrace, until he’s twenty-seven and meets Cleopatra for the first time. Brook’s second book is Antonius: Second in Command, dealing with Antony’s tumultuous rise to power at Caesar’s side and culminating with the civil war against Brutus and Cassius. Antonius: Soldier of Fate is the last book in the trilogy, spotlighting the romance between Antonius and Cleopatra and the historic war with Octavian Caesar.




Desire & Deceit by Carol Hedges

It is 1868, and the body of a young man has gone missing from the police mortuary at Scotland Yard, an event that has never happened before. Who was the mysterious corpse, and why was he spirited away in the night? These are the questions baffling Detective Inspector Stride and Detective Sergeant Cully as they set out to uncover the truth.

Meanwhile, two greedy, unscrupulous, inheritance-seeking brothers, Arthur and Sherborne Harbinger, descend upon London and their very rich dying aunt, each determined to get whatever they can out of her, and prepared to use whatever methods they can to win her favour. And over in her newly rented rooms in Baker Street, Miss Lucy Landseer, consulting private detective, has been presented with her first ever proper case to investigate ~ and finds it is one that will defy even her imaginative and inventive mind.

Set against the hottest summer on record, Desire & Deceit, the ninth outing for this popular Victorian Detectives series, explores how the love of money really is the root of all evil. Once again, Victorian London is brought to life in all its sights, its sounds, its sordid and gas-lit splendour. Another must-read book, teeming with memorable Dickensian-style characters.

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Guardians at the Wall by Tim Walker

A group of archaeology students in northern England scrape at the soil near Hadrian’s Wall, once a barrier that divided Roman Britannia from wild Caledonian tribes. Twenty-year-old Noah makes an intriguing find, but hasn’t anticipated becoming the object of desire in a developing love triangle in the isolated academic community at Vindolanda. He is living his best life, but must learn to prioritise in a race against time to solve an astounding ancient riddle, and an artefact theft, as he comes to realise his future career prospects depend on it.
In the same place, 1,800 years earlier, Commander of the Watch, Centurion Gaius Atticianus, hungover and unaware of the bloody conflicts that will soon challenge him, is rattled by the hoot of an owl, a bad omen.
These are the protagonists whose lives brush together in the alternating strands of this dual timeline historical novel, one trying to get himself noticed and the other trying to stay intact as he approaches retirement.
How will the breathless battles fought by a Roman officer influence the fortunes of a twenty-first century archaeology dirt rat? Can naive Noah, distracted by his gaming mates and the attentions of two very different women, work out who to trust?
Find out in Tim Walker’s thrilling historical dual timeline novel, Guardians at the Wall.

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A Matter of Class series by Susie Murphy

A Matter of Class is a historical fiction saga set in rural Ireland in the 1820s, a time when the country is in turmoil as Irish tenants protest against their upper-class English landlords. Spirited Bridget Muldowney, a landowner’s daughter, and loyal Cormac McGovern, a stable hand’s son, once ran wild around the country estate as childhood friends. However, now that they’re adults, Bridget’s overbearing mother is determined to enforce the employer-servant boundaries between them and plots to keep them apart. The odds are stacked against Bridget and Cormac but love may prove to be a force too powerful to resist, and the consequences of their actions will echo throughout the whole series.
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Lives Trilogy by Anne M.McLoughlin                                                           

Lives Apart: A tale of emigration from Ireland to America after the famine.  Set in County Clare, Boston, San Francisco and Nova Scotia, Lives Apart explores sibling relationships and how a disastrous action can reverberate through the lives of the extended family.  It also looks at the experience of emigration, both for those who had the courage to venture across the Atlantic and those they left behind.

In 1877, young Johanna McNamara leaves her quiet life on the family farm in County Clare and emigrates to America to join her businessman brother Hugh. Full of hope, she is determined to make a success of her life. Tragedy strikes before she finds her feet, and she must put the care of others before her own needs.
Back in Ireland, farming life continues through the seasons, with her brother Art struggling to deal with his troubled son Declan. Sending him to the USA is an option that might help turn him into a man. Little does Johanna know what lies ahead with the arrival of a nephew, whose act of betrayal will blow her life apart.

LIVES WITHOUT END is an emotional tale of family secrets spanning three generations.  Focussing mainly on the beautiful, but emotionally fragile, Bridie, a young bride, full of hope and courage, who, following a tragedy, emigrates from Ireland to build a new life in America.  After her involvement in an affair that would rock society were it to be discovered, she is forced into making a heartbreaking decision.  She returns home to Ireland with her arsenal of secrets, in her search for peace and the meaning of life. Hidden lives, memories of the past – who knows what lies beneath the surface we present to the world?

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Dublin’s Girl by Eimear Lawlor

1917. A farm girl from Cavan, Veronica McDermott is desperate to find more to life than peeling potatoes. Persuading her family to let her stay with her aunt and uncle in Dublin so she can attend secretarial college, she has no idea what she is getting into. Recruited by Fr Michael O’Flanagan to type for Eamon De Valera, Veronica is soon caught up in the danger and intrigue of those fighing for Ireland’s independence from Britain.

The attentions of a handsome British soldier, Major Harry Fairfax, do not go unnoticed by Veronica’s superiors. But when Veronica is tasked with earning his affections to gather intelligence for Sinn Féin, it isn’t long before her loyalty to her countrymen and her feelings for Harry are in conflict. To choose one is to betray the other…

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Daughters of War by Lizzie Page

As a teenager in Chicago, May always dreamed of travelling the world. So when she falls in love with George Turner, she can’t wait to return to London as his wife. Two beautiful daughters follow, but George isn’t the husband he promised to be. Ten years on, May is wondering if she’s made a terrible mistake.

The Great War has been declared in Europe, and all around, brave young men are being called up to serve. George, banned from conscription himself, has taken to the bottle, and May suspects he’s seeing other women too. He even sends her beloved daughters away to school. She misses them terribly every day.

Then May meets veteran nurse Elsie, who persuades May to join the war effort. May knows nothing of nursing – it will be difficult, dangerous work, but her heart is telling her it’s the right thing to do and the only way to carve out a life for herself and her daughters away from George.

But when George does the unthinkable, May’s children are put at risk. Miles away on the front line and unable to reach them, will May be reunited with her little girls before it’s too late?

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Her Secret War by Pam Lecky

A life-changing moment: May 1941: German bombs drop on Dublin taking Sarah Gillespie’s family and home. Days later, the man she loves leaves Ireland to enlist.

A heart-breaking choice: With nothing to keep her in Ireland and a burning desire to help the war effort, Sarah seeks refuge with relatives in England. But before long, her father’s dark past threatens to catch up with her.

A dangerous mission Sarah is asked to prove her loyalty to Britain through a special mission. Her courage could save lives. But it could also come at the cost of her own…

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The Irish Clans Series by Stephen Finlay Archer

The Irish Clans is an epic story immersed in the tumultuous Irish revolutionary wars. The once mighty McCarthy and O’Donnell Clans, overthrown in ancient times, are not extinct. They are linked on two continents by a medieval pact entwining military history and religious mythology. Divine intervention plays a pivotal role in unearthing the secrets of the Clans’ treasure and heroic exploits. The patriotism and passion of Celtic heritage lies at the heart of this intriguing story.

In The Irish Clans: Book 5, Revolution, the Clans implement a plan to utilize the McCarthy gold for the coming revolution before rebel forces begin hostilities.

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Heart of Cruelty by Maybelle Wallis

Birmingham, 1840: Jane Verity, deserted by her lover, endures the cruelties of the workhouse.  Coroner Doughty rescues her on his way to an inquest on a young inmate. As Jane works in his household she deciphers the corrupt secrets of the workhouse, the truth behind his inquests, and the lies at the heart of his marriage. As she tries to convince him, he falls in love with her, but if he acts it will destroy him…

Heart of Cruelty is a gripping and authentic novel about passion that triumphs over reason, and about the abuse of power.

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The Lucky Country by Rose M Cullen

A searing journey into the Australian Outback for an emigrant family in the early 1960s.

The Glendon family seek a new home and fortune in The Lucky Country after Patrick’s farm in Ireland is bankrupted by a freak storm. Their journey traverses the epic landscape of Australia and their fate collides with a cast of equally lost souls on the vast wheat and sheep station in Western Australia owned by Jack Anderson, a man as tough and ruthless as his pioneering father. Where indigenous storyteller, Ben Down, is as uprooted as any of the immigrants he encounters, the ways of his ancestors in his ‘Born Country’ no longer possible.

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Paperback  The Lucky Country by Rose M Cullen | 9781839458705 (

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The Duty of Daughters by Wendy J Dunn

Doña, Beatriz Galindo. Respected scholar. Tutor to royalty. Friend and advisor to Queen Isabel of Castile.

Beatriz is an uneasy witness to the Holy War of Queen Isabel and her husband, Ferdinand, King of Aragon. A holy war that saw the Moors pushed out of territories ruled by them for centuries. In a time when most women possessed little control over their lives, Beatriz seeks control of her own destiny—even if this means placing herself in danger. Beatriz readies Catalina of Aragon, the queen’s youngest child, for a very different future life. She teaches Catalina how to survive exile and exist without Queen Isabel’s protection. She prepares her to be England’s queen.

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Uneasy Quest by George Nash

Death and oblivion are never far away.

Ireland, 1169: a foreign army has landed in County Wexford. Invited by Diarmaid MacMurrough, King of Leinster, Strongbow’s Norman invasion of Ireland has begun…

Huw Ashe, a young Welsh archer, and his Norman father have joined the invading forces to escape a death sentence in Wales. Becoming a ruthless warrior, Huw forges alliances with the powerful warring factions of Munster and makes new and dangerous enemies. With Bridín O’Brien, an Irish noblewoman, he finds a love that bridges class and language barriers and endures separation, conflict and hardship.

As Huw and his family become the targets of a vicious revenge quest, he and Bridín must strive to find a safe haven from threats old and new, as war and upheaval take hold in Ireland and Huw risks losing everything.

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A Matter of Conscience by Judith Arnopp

A Matter of Conscience Henry VIII: the Aragon Years

‘A king must have sons: strong, healthy sons to rule after him.’ On the unexpected death of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales his brother, Henry, becomes heir to the throne of England. The intensive education that follows offers Henry a model for future excellence; a model that he is doomed to fail. On his accession, he chooses his brother’s widow, Caterina of Aragon, to be his queen. Together they plan to reinstate the glory of days of old and fill the royal nursery with boys. But when their first-born son dies at just a few months old, and subsequent babies are born dead or perish in the womb, the king’s golden dreams are tarnished Christendom mocks the virile prince. Caterina’s fertile years are ending yet all he has is one useless living daughter, and a baseborn son. He needs a solution but stubborn to the end, Caterina refuses to step aside. As their relationship founders his eye is caught by a woman newly arrived from the French court. Her name is Anne Boleyn. A Matter of Conscience: The Aragon Years offers a unique first-person account of the ‘monster’ we love to hate and reveals a man on the edge; an amiable man made dangerous by his own impossible expectation.

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In This Foreign Land by Suzie Hull

March, 1914. When talented artist Isobel embarks on a journey to Egypt, it’s to reunite her best friend Alice with her husband, Wilfred – and to use the stunning sights of Cairo as inspiration for her own paintings.

A whirlwind romance was the last thing she expected, but when Isobel meets Wilfred’s handsome brother, Edward, neither can deny the strong connection between them – especially when unexpected tragedy strikes, leaving them all reeling.

Just as they get to grips with their grief, WW1 erupts, and the lovers are forced to separate. They promise to meet again in London. But when Edward is listed as ‘missing – presumed dead’ only weeks after landing in France, Isobel is devastated, unmarried and on the brink of ruin. She has only one way to save her honour… but it means betraying the love she holds so dear.

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6 thoughts on “Pam’s Picks: Historical Fiction Books for the Holiday Season

Add yours

  1. A very interesting selection. Look forward to reading some of them. Thanks for including my ‘Lives’ ones. Much appreciated Pam.
    Anne McL

    Liked by 1 person

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