Historical fiction is a funny thing. I find when I read it that a lot of times, it feels a lot like reading fantasy. Not because all fantasy is based in historical times (although much of it is,) but because often the time period I’m reading about is so different from our own times that it might as well be another world. That said, historical fiction does offer something fantasy can’t – a fresh look at a real event. Fantasy can offer perspective on human actions, and sometimes even re-write history. But the historical fiction perspective is something different. Good historical fiction thrives on good research, but is of course fiction, which allows for this new perspective. And speaking for myself, historical fiction almost always teaches me something or makes me interested in learning something about the period.
But of course most importantly, good historical fiction – like any good fiction – is fun to read. So check out these historical fiction novels set in Tudor England:
The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope – This is the book that made me think of the Tudor period for this list. The Perilous Gard is one of my absolute favorite books, and Kate is one of my absolute favorite heroines. When Kate is banished at Queen Mary’s order, she is taken to a house arrest of sorts at the Perilous Gard, an isolated castle in the forests of England owned by the Heron family. There she finds a mystery surrounding her host and his brother, as well as rumors about an ancient and dangerous race of fairies. Before she knows it, her curiosity gets her much more deeply involved with the Herons and the Fair Folk than she could have imagined.
Tarnish, by Katherine Longshore – Tarnish is one of admittedly many takes on Anne Boleyn, looking at her life at court before she became queen, and her relationship with courtier Thomas Wyatt. Anne is an outcast when she first comes to court, and struggles to find a place. When Thomas Wyatt takes her under his wing, he assures her that if she plays his game, she will find acceptance at court. Anne agrees, but what neither of them count on is that the stakes of their game will be raised when they start to fall for each other…and Anne attracts the attention of King Henry VIII.
VIII, by H.M. Castor – This book is another story involving King Henry VIII, but this time from his own perspective. VIII introduces us to Hal, the young Henry before he became king. He is a good fighter, an idealist, and determined to not rule like his family has. But as Hal grows into all his powers and privileges as King Henry VIII, it will be harder to escape his past – and harder to control his future. Like BBC’s The Tudors, VIII starts with a Henry very different from the fat balding man with a string of deserted and dead wives behind him that most of us are used to thinking of. But throughout the novel, Castor shows us how he became that man.
The Fool’s Girl, by Celia Rees – Shakespeare in Love gave us one suggestion about the inspiration for Twelfth Night, but The Fool’s Girl gives us a wholly new one. Violetta is the daughter of Viola and Orsino, the lead characters in Twelfth Night. She arrives in England, accompanied by the fool Feste, to try and stop a plot of the villainous Malvolio. There she meets Shakespeare, who hears her story – leading to him writing his famous play – and assists her and Feste. Combining characters from Shakespeare’s plays and historical figures of his time, The Fool’s Girl will appeal to fans of Shakespeare, fans of historical fiction, and fans of engaging and awesome heroines.