Guest Post: What Makes a Successful Historical Fiction Novel?

I am excited today to bring the first guest on the blog for January’s feature focusing on historical fiction. Today, blogger Melissa Beck from The Book Binder’s Daughter is taking over!

What makes a successful historical fiction novel?

One of my favorite genres to review on my blog is historical fiction.  I started reading historical fiction several years back when I picked up Phillipa Gregory’s novels about Henry VIII and the Tudors Dynasty.

What, exactly, constitutes an historical fiction novel?   For me it is really any book that puts the reader in the mindset of a previous period of time and era.  Some books are obviously historical fiction, like those set in 19th century Britain, or during World War II.  But what about a book that is set in the 1980’s or 1990’s?  Would that be considered historical fiction as well?  I would answer yes to this question because during those two decades there were no cell phones with texting, no computers with internet, or e-mail.  Without all of these advancements, especially in technology, we are indeed reminded of a different era in time.

What makes an historical fiction novel a great read?  Like any other book, an historical fiction novel should have interesting characters with which one can sympathize, no matter what the setting.  The plot should also be interesting and contain themes that will keep the reader thinking long after the last page is finished.   An historical fiction novel will stand out, in my mind, if it makes the reader want to know more about the time period in which it is set.

21894404For example, this summer was the anniversary of the centenary of World War I, so I decided to read and review a series of historical fiction books set during The Great War.  I chose 6 novels, all with different settings that also highlighted various countries that were involved in the conflict.  I learned a great deal about World War I and I kept researching various aspects of the war which these books brought up.

One of the best I read was The End of Innocence by Allegra Jordan.  It focused on a group of Harvard students from different countries who were called to fight when war broke out.  Even though these young men were friends and classmates at school, when they were called to fight for their respective countries they became enemies on the battlefield.  History books tend to focus on dates and numbers and facts; but this novel gave me a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices that these soldiers, these human beings, made when going off to war.

I have to end my post with a mention of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read.  It is actually a series of two books written by Stuart Shotwell:  Edumund Persuader and Tomazina’s Folly.  They are both set in England in the early 19th century.  These books are the perfect storm of historical fiction greatness with memorable characters, engaging plots and interesting themes.  They explore topics such as love, marriage, redemption, forgiveness, and pride just to name a few.  They will not only make you appreciate the setting of 19th century England, but they will also make you become more contemplative about your own life in the 21st century.  I invite you to stop by my blog and read the full reviews of these books as well as the plethora of other great historical fiction novels I have reviewed.

***** About the Blogger *****

 ~ Melissa Beck ~

~ The Book Binder’s Daughter ~

profile-picture2-e1403752257961I am a High School Latin/Ancient Greek/History teacher, avid reader, N.Y. Giants fan, and Rush (as in Canadian Prog. rock) fan. Some might say that my reading choices are rather eclectic.  I enjoy reading a wide range of books from Classics to historical fiction, to history and travel writing.  I especially like to support small press and indie authors.

I read serious literary fiction with well-developed characters, mellifluous prose and an interesting plot.  The philosophy behind my blog is threefold; I spread the word about books through my reviews to readers who are likeminded, I give away books to my readers to spread around the enjoyment of good books. Lastly I believe it is important to help authors connect a bit more with their readers through interviews and guest posts.

The best way for me to enjoy a good book is with a cup of Chinese black tea, steeped with the correct temperature of hot water and for just the right amount of time and finished off with a splash of raw milk.

My father was a book binder for 44 years, so yes, I actually am the “Book Binder’s Daughter.”

Find Melissa: Blog | Bloglovin | Facebook | Twitter

7 thoughts on “Guest Post: What Makes a Successful Historical Fiction Novel?

  1. Great guest post. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction and Philippa Gregory is one of my favourite authors! Definitely adding all the books mentioned to my TBR list and checking out Melissa’s blog. Thank you!

    • My favorite of all time is also Outlander! I can’t even count how many times I’ve reread it.
      One of my students is using an excerpt from Code Name Verity for her UIL Oral Reading selection. It was an interesting piece she picked out – of course in the middle of the book! I’ll have to peruse the book the next time we meet.

  2. Love this post. I definitely need to read more Historical Fiction. I love all kinds of books so I should check out ‘The End of Innocence’ and ‘Edumund Persuader’. I’ll put them on my very long TBR 😉

  3. You have some interesting insights here. I’ve never been so brave as to take on a full-length historical fiction work – only shorter prose, but even then the amount of research to get the feel and the detail just right is daunting. I never though of reading companion works. Thanks for the tip!

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