Historical Fiction: 17th Century - 19th Century
This reading list features books set through the 17th and 19th centuries, including the Revolutionary War, slavery, the Salem Witch Trials, the Wild West and the Civil War among others in the USA, but also the Victorian era, Regency England and Napoleonic era and more!
These time periods may sound familiar from school lessons, but these books are anything but boring!
When Frederick and Jette must flee her disapproving mother in 1904, where better to go than America, the land of the new? By chance, they find themselves in Beatrice, Missouri. Not speaking a word of English, they embark on their new life together.
Few works of literature are as universally beloved as ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole --- and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.
On the night of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, his frantic wife, Mary, calls for her best friend and confidante, Elizabeth Keckley. But the woman is mistakenly kept from her side by guards who were unaware of Mary Todd Lincoln’s close friendship with the black seamstress. With vivid detail and emotional power, Ann Rinaldi delves into the childhoods of two fascinating women who became devoted friends amid the turbulent times of the Lincoln administration.
When Thomas Rose meets a mysterious French girl known as 'Ling,' he is pulled into a story of adventure and young romance. Thomas decides to help Ling recover the horse she used to dance upon in the circus, a steed named 'Belladonna,' and along the way they are aided by renowned English painter George Stubbs.
At the center of Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning fifth novel is an almost unspeakable act of horror and heroism: a woman brutally kills her infant daughter rather than allow her to be enslaved. The woman is Sethe, and the novel --- part ghost story, part history lesson, part folk tale --- traces her journey from slavery to freedom during and immediately following the Civil War.
William H. "Billy the Kid" Bonney Jr. loves to take risks. But Billy's luck runs out when, during a train heist, a passenger recognizes the nineteen-year-old outlaw. Fed up with his bad ways, Sheriff Willis Monroe, Billy's own cousin, decides to track him down. The Kid's two-timing partners are hunting him, too--and a posse wants Billy (and the sheriff) dead.
Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship --- or an early grave.
Young Jane — or Jenny, as she is called — is a girl with a head full of questions. Surrounded by her busy parents and brothers, Jenny finds a place for her thoughts in the companionship of her older sister, Cassandra. Veronica Bennett invites us into a society where propriety and marriage rule hand in hand — a world where a clever young girl will one day become the beloved Jane Austen.
As the Revolutionary War begins, 13-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.
Woven from the fabric of fact, myth, and imagination, Strauss’s narrative gives poignant, articulate voice to the story of Cheng and Eng, the nineteenth century's legendary "Siamese twins," and humanizes the freakish legend that grew up around them. Sweeping from the Far East and the court of the King of Siam to the shared intimacy of their lives in America, Chang and Eng rescues one of history's most fabled human oddities from the sideshow of history, drawing from their extraordinary lives a novel of exceptional power and beauty.
Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for her family's problems. To escape her guilt, Briony tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see them, and witches are sentenced to death. Then Eldric comes along and changes everything. As it turns out, there are secrets even Briony doesn't know.
In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute.
Sis Goose is a beloved member of Luli's family, despite the fact that she was born a slave. But the family is harboring a terrible secret. And when Union soldiers arrive on their Texas plantation to announce that slaves have been declared free for nearly two years, Sis Goose is horrified to learn that the people she called family have lied to her for so long. She runs away--but her newly found freedom has tragic consequences.
Fifteen-year-old Amari is taken from her village in Africa by pale-faced strangers and sent across the ocean to America. She is sold to a plantation owner in the Carolinas who wants a birthday present for his son. Here Amari meets Polly, an indentured white girl, and the two girls from different ends of the earth bond together in order to survive --- and their friendship just might help them fight their way to freedom.
Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone --- until they are brought together by a zombie invasion!
Inspired by a lifelong passion for Jane Austen, mystery writer P. D. James draws the characters of Austen’s beloved novel PRIDE AND PREJUDICE into a tale of murder and emotional mayhem.
Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London's sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He's not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl --- not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.
Ayanna Bahati was born in Africa, as free as a bird in the sky. At just four years old, she is torn from her home and shipped to America as a slave. At 14, she escapes the plantation and runs north towards freedom. But even the scars on her back and the wounds in her heart won't kill her dreams of achieving the next step in freedom: getting an education.
Violet Willoughby doesn't believe in ghosts. But they believe in her. After spending years participating in her mother's elaborate ruse as a fraudulent medium, Violet is about as skeptical as they come in all matters supernatural. Now that she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death, Violet can no longer ignore her unique ability. She must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate -- and quickly -- because the killer is still on the loose.
With her mother dead of the plague, and her beloved brother newly married and moved away, Cornelia van Rijn finds herself without a friend or confidante--save her difficult father. Out of favor with Amsterdam's elite, and considered brash and unreasonable by his patrons, Rembrandt van Rijn, once revered, is now teetering on the brink of madness. Based on historical fact, I Am Rembrandt's Daughter is a powerful account of a young woman's struggle to come of age within the shadow of one of the world's most brilliant and complicated artists.
Ivy, the youngest in a family of thieves, con artists, and roustabouts, seems destined for an unhappy fate—until she and her brother are plucked from their surroundings by a charitable benefactor and sent to school. From the scams of the slums, where Ivy develops an unfortunate taste for laudanum, to the gardens of the most talented artists of the age, where Ivy’s striking hair and incandescent eyes propel her into a career as a model, Ivy is a story of nineteenth-century sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
Eva feels like an orphan—but she’s not. Sadie Lewis, the woman who gave her up at birth, is alive and well in Denver. And Eva sets out to find her, carrying only an address on a slip of paper. But Denver holds more surprises than Eva can bear. In a novel that pulses with the sights, sounds, and wild dangers of the frontier West, Elisa Carbone explores the many faces that family, and freedom, can take.
When the Yankees arrive in Roswell, Georgia, spunky and determined Leigh Ann places a French flag upon the family’s mill. She hopes the Yankees will then spare the mill from destruction, but her actions have disastrous results. Sent north with the women and children who worked in the mill—all branded traitors for making fabric for Confederate uniforms—Leigh Ann embarks on a journey that requires her to find her own inner strength. Only then will she be able to rise above the war raging around her.
When Claire Louise discovers her brother tending to a Confederate soldier who is responsible for Robert E. Lee's "lost order" (causing the South to lose the Battle of Antietam), she is forced to make a difficult choice between family and friends. Award-winning historical novelist Ann Rinaldi paints a story of family, courage, and secrets during the forty-seven-day siege of Vicksburg, a battle that has sometimes been ignored in history because it ended the same day as the Battle of Gettysburg.
As Josephine grows up on the tropical island of Martinique, she dreams of moving to Paris to live a life of glamour. An arranged marriage to a French nobleman brings her to Paris, but not to the lifestyle she dreamt of. After a divorce and a terrible time during the French Revolution, she holds a party that Napoleon, the general who has grown famous after a series of military victories, attends. A tumultuous relationship develops that is filled with separations and fights, and the most passionate declarations of love ever uttered.
In England in 1662, a time of religious persecution, fifteen-year-old Susanna, a poor country girl and a Quaker, and seventeen-year-old William, a wealthy Anglican, meet and fall in love against all odds.
The phenomenally versatile, award-winning author, Candace Fleming, gives teen and older tween readers ten ghost stories sure to send chills up their spines. Set in White Cemetery, an actual graveyard outside Chicago, each story takes place during a different time period from the 1860's to the present, and ends with the narrator's death.
Jennie feels the tingling presence of something unnatural in the house now that Will is dead. As Jennie seeks the truth, she finds herself drawn ever deeper into a series of tricks and lies, secrets and betrayals, and begins to wonder if she had every really known Will at all.
Even as a teenager, Sherlock Holmes is ready to solve any mystery and inevitably pursue danger. When he comes up against John Wilkes Booth, President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, and his coconspirators, Sherlock just might not yet be man enough to stop a second Civil War from starting.
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Cane River comes the paperback debut of an epic work of fiction that tells the dramatic, intertwining story of two families and their struggles to make a place for themselves in a country deeply divided in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Sarah Tracy has spent her entire life under constant supervision; now, at eighteen it's time for her to get married. Then she sees an advertisement looking for a young woman to oversee Mount Vernon, the beloved family home of George Washington. With consummate skills, feminine wiles, and a true sense of diplomacy, Sarah single-handedly manages to keep Mount Vernon out of the Civil War. But while she is able to influence generals, soldiers, and even the president, she learns she doesn't hold such sway over her own heart -- as she also discovers true love.
Something odd is going on in the basement of an old house in London. An inexplicable gap has formed, a gap in time that links the present to the past. And twelve-year-old Tom, who discovers the gap while on a visit to his grandmother, is torn between both worlds. Fast paced and vivid, SIGN OF THE RAVEN is a mystery, a time-travel fantasy, and a historical novel with modern-day appeal.
It’s England, 1783. When the rich and beautiful Sovay isn’t sitting for portraits, she’s donning a man’s cloak and robbing travelers—in broad daylight. But in a time when political allegiances between France and England are strained, a rogue bandit is not the only thing travelers fear. Spies abound, and rumors of sedition can quickly lead to disappearances. So when Sovay lifts the wallet of one of England’s most powerful and dangerous men, it’s not just her own identity she must hide, but that of her father.
Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos
Sugar was the substance that drove the bloody slave trade and caused the loss of countless lives but it also planted the seeds of revolution that led to freedom in the American colonies, Haiti, and France. With songs, oral histories, maps, and over 80 archival illustrations, SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD tells of how one product can reveal the grand currents of world history in new ways.
When Eliza Monroe, the daughter of the future president of the United States, is sent off to boarding school outside of Paris, she isn’t happy. But things start looking up when she discovers her roommates are relations of their own famous icons --- that is, until she learns that they are mortal enemies.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M. T. Anderson
Fearing a death sentence, Octavian and his tutor, Dr. Trefusis, escape through rising tides and pouring rain to find shelter in British-occupied Boston. Sundered from all he knows --- the College of Lucidity, the rebel cause --- Octavian hopes to find safe harbor. Instead, he is soon to learn of Lord Dunmore's proclamation offering freedom to slaves who join the counterrevolutionary forces. In Volume II, M. T. Anderson recounts Octavian's experiences as the Revolutionary War explodes around him, thrusting him into intense battles and tantalizing him with elusive visions of liberty.
Melanie Benjamin, author of ALICE I HAVE BEEN, shines a dazzling spotlight on another fascinating female figure whose story has never fully been told: a woman who became a 19th-century icon and inspiration --- and whose most daunting limitation became her greatest strength.
In seventeenth-century Scotland, sixteen-year-old Maggie Blair is accused of being a witch and sentenced to be hanged. She escapes, but instead of finding shelter with her principled, patriotic uncle, she brings disaster to his door. Betrayed by one of her own accusers, Maggie must try to save her uncle and his family from the king’s men, even if she has to risk her own life in the process.
Someone is setting fires in New York City. It is 1741 and, as a colony of Britain, America is at war with Spain. The people in New York City are on a heightened state of alert, living in fear of Catholics acting as Spanish secret agents. Phoebe, an enslaved girl, watches as the town erupts into mass hysteria. The mob won't rest until they find a mastermind behind the plan--someone Catholic--and there's suspicion that Phoebe's teacher Mr. Ury is a priest.
They say there are a hundred ways to die on the Oregon Trail, and the long wagon journey is broken only by catastrophe: wolf attacks, rattlesnakes, deadly river crossings, Indians, and the looming threat of smallpox, “the devil’s paint.” Through it all, orphans Aiden and Maddy and a hundred fellow travelers move forward with a growing hope, and the promise of a new life in the Washington Territory. But one question haunts them: who will survive the journey?
Cornelia Greene’s mother, Caty, was once a beautiful bride who lifted the troops’ spirits at Valley Forge. Cornelia knows that rumors of Caty’s past hurt Cornelia’s father, but Caty claims she’s just a flirt. So Cornelia is shocked when she learns that Nathanael Greene may not be her real father.
As an unlucky 13th child who is also the seventh daughter in her family, life at the edge of the Great Barrier Spell is different from anyone else's that Eff knows. When the government forms an expedition to map the Far West, Eff has the opportunity to travel farther than anyone in the world. With Lan, her twin brother William, Professor Torgeson, Wash, and Professor Ochiba, Eff finds that nothing on the wild frontier is as they expected.
Elsabeth James can hear people's thoughts and sometimes see what they see. When she sails with her sister, father and governess to America, however, she does not foresee that their ship will be wrecked in a storm. She washes up on a South Carolina plantation, where she falls in love with a boy she meets there and learns magic and healing from an unexpected source.
Eleven-year-old Harriet Whitehead feels like an oustider until she befriends Nat Turner, a slave preacher with gentle manner and eloquent sermons about an all-forgiving God. Upon his request, Harriet draws a map that turns out to be the missing piece that sets Nat’s secret plan in motion and makes Harriet an unwitting accomplice to the bloodiest slave uprising in U.S. history.
In THE MINISTER'S DAUGHTER, Julie Hearn spins a darkly complex dual tale of deception, witchcraft, hypocrisy, and betrayal set in seventeenth-century England during the conflicted days of the Civil War.
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives at her new London boarding school, a series of brutal murders breaks out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago. The police are baffled. But Rory discovers she can see the murderer when no one else can --- and he’s not the only one she sees.
Scotland, 1863. In an attempt to escape her past in Glasgow, Bessy Buckley takes a job as a maid in a big house outside Edinburgh working for the beautiful Arabella. And it seems that Arabella has a few secrets of her own, including her near-obsessive affection for a former maid who died in mysterious circumstances. But who is really responsible for what happened to Nora?
Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father has taught her that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure --- or kill. When Jessamine falls in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined...
Jessamine Luxton is heartbroken when her true love, Weed, mysteriously disappears. But her father, who was obsessed with Weed’s secret knowledge of dangerous plants, may be involved --- and she will stop at nothing to get Weed back.
Raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers, the boy and his mother are the only persons in their household assigned names. Young Octavian begins to question the purpose behind his guardians' fanatical studies, but only after he dares to open a forbidden door does he learn the hideous nature of their experiments --- and his own chilling role in them.
Heartbroken over the tragic death of her fiancé, 17-year-old Zora Stewart leaves Baltimore for the frontier town of West Glory, Oklahoma where she discovers that she possesses the astonishing ability to sense water under the parched earth. But when her aunt hires her out as a “springsweet” to advise other settlers where to dig their wells, Zora finds herself longing for love the way the prairie thirsts for water.
Odile is descended from the Cagots, a much-despised race whose women were reputed to be witches. Now, racing to escape the bloodbath of 1870’s Paris, she must determine if the claims are true, while also helping a young Doctor Jekyll who seems to be abusing the salts that she gave him in a most disconcerting way.
It’s 1849, the year John Huffman’s father is sentenced to London’s Whitecross Street Prison. He’s been put away for gambling debt—leaving fourteen-year-old John and his family out on the street. But it seems gambling is the least of their problems: Father Huffman is accused of treason. Surrounded by a cast of sinister and suspicious characters, John’s not sure what to believe…or whom.
Young Charley Darwin hated school—he much preferred to be outside studying birds’ eggs, feathers, and insects. And so, at the age of twenty-one, he boarded a ship called HMS Beagle and spent five thrilling but dangerous years sailing around the world, studying plant and animal life that was beyond anything he could have imagined.
Here, just in time for Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his groundbreaking On the Origin of Species, historical novelist Carolyn Meyer tells the story of his unconventional adventures. It’s the story of a restless childhood, unrequited teenage love, and a passion for studying nature that was so great, Darwin would sacrifice everything to pursue it.
Wendy Darling is not the perfect girl her parents would like her to be. Intrepid, outspoken, and willful, she's always getting into trouble. One evening, confined to the nursery by her horrible nanny, she sneaks out to spy on one of her parents' glamorous parties. Their world is lavish, rich with excess -- and off limits to Wendy. On this evening Wendy uncovers a secret she had not bargained for. It catapults both her and her brothers, Michael and John, into a series of confusing events as she tries to make sense of the mystery and intrigue that lie at the heart of her family.
Samuel, 13, spends his days in the forest, hunting for food for his family. He has grown up on the frontier of a British colony, America. Far from any town, or news of the war against the King that American patriots have begun near Boston. But the war comes to them. And he learns that he must go deep into enemy territory to find his parents: all the way to the British headquarters, New York City.
In an isolated cabin, 14-year-old Sig is alone with a corpse: his father, who has frozen to death only hours earlier. Then comes a stranger, who claims that Sig's father owes him a share from a horde of stolen gold. Sig's only protection is a loaded Colt revolver hidden in the cabin's storeroom. The question is, will Sig use the gun, and why?
Bet feels confined by her place—neither family nor servant—in the home of her wealthy benefactor. Will, the boy who’s been like a brother to her since they were four, is unhappy with his fate as well. So Bet makes a plan: She’ll pretend she’s a boy and take Will’s place at school. When she arrives at school, Bet finds boys act rather brutish when they don’t think there’s a girl in their midst. But brutish Bet can handle it. It’s the stirrings of attraction for her roommate that get Bet into real trouble.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough unfolds the dramatic story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence --- when the entire American cause was riding on their success.
Charles Darwin's THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, published in 1859, still creates tension between the scientific and religious communities. This same debate raged within Darwin himself: his wife, Emma, was quite religious, and her faith gave Charles a lot to think about as he developed his groundbreaking theory.
Provoked by the horrors he saw every day, Charles Dickens wrote novels that were originally intended as instruments for social change --- to save his country’s children.
CHASING LINCOLN'S KILLER is a fast-paced thriller about the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth: a wild 12-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia.
The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the twentieth. In 1819, the Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with twenty crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than ninety days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger, disease, and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival. An intense and mesmerizing read, In the Heart of the Sea is a monumental work of history forever placing the Essex tragedy in the American historical canon.
Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard recount one of the most dramatic stories in American history --- the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and how this one gunshot changed the country forever.
Salem, Massachusetts, 1692. In a plain meetinghouse a woman stands before her judges. The accusers, girls and young women, are fervent and overexcited. The accused is a poor, unpopular woman who had her first child before she was married. The nightmare has begun: The witch trials will eventually claim twenty-five lives, shatter the community, and forever shape the American social conscience.