Check It Out Category: Historical Fiction

Fiction: Twelve Days of Christmas Books

How do you choose your holiday comfort read? Some are drawn to covers with holly-decked cottages, snow-dusted couples, or anything in bright red or green. Others select by genre, familiarity of author, or tone. Anything is fair game to help you find the book that fits your mood! These authors are hoping that echoing a familiar carol in the title might tempt your interest for one or all twelve days of Christmas.


Twelve Days book coverTwelve Days 
Teresa Hill
Twelve Days of Christmas book coverTwelve Days of Christmas
Debbie Macomber


Three French Hens book coverThree French Hens
Lynsay Sands
Six Geese A-Slaying book coverSix Geese A-Slaying
Donna Andrews
Ten Lords A-Leaping book coverTen Lords A-Leaping
C.C. Benison


Twelve Days of Pleasure book coverTwelve Days of Pleasure
Deborah Fletcher Mello

International Latino Book Awards

Make the most of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15 – Oct 15) by checking out a brand new winner of the International Latino Book Awards.  Though not interchangeable, the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino enjoy a great deal of overlap, and you can be assured that each of these honorees celebrates the culture in the context of an exciting, thoughtful, and heartfelt story.

Best Novel

Japanese Lover book cover

Historical Fiction – First Place
The Japanese Lover
Isabel Allende

Map of Chaos book cover

Fantasy/Sci-Fi – First Place
The Map of Chaos
Félix J. Palma


Best Latino-Focused Fiction Book

Make Your Home Among Strangers book cover

First Place
Make Your Home Among Strangers
Jennine Capó Crucet

Ana of California book cover

Second Place
Ana of California
Andi Teran


Best Young Adult Fiction Book

Shadowshaper book cover

First Place
Daniel José Older

Weight of Feathers book cover

Second Place
The Weight of Feathers
Anna-Marie McLemore


Best Young Adult Nonfiction Book

Becoming Maria book cover

First Place
Becoming Maria
Sonia Manzano

Enchanted Air book cover

Second Place
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings
Margarita Engle


Book Discussion Questions: Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier

Falling Angels book coverTitle:  Falling Angels
Author:  Tracy Chevalier
Page Count: 324 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Social Commentary
Tone:  Evocative, Dramatic, Strong Sense of Place

In a novel of manners and social divisions set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century England, two girls from different classes become friends, and their families’ lives become intertwined in the process.

These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. With which character did you empathize most? Do you think this was the author’s intent?

2. Did you find the characters believable? If so, what made them ring true?

3. How entrenched is the novel in London during the Edwardian era? Why was this time/place chosen?

4. What details of time period brought the story to life? Did you respond favorably to the degree of description?

5. Could this story have worked in a different time setting? A different place? Does it have something to say to contemporary audiences?

6. Gertrude describes Kitty this way: “a vein of discontent runs through her that disturbs everything around her…She thinks too much and prays too little.” Is this a fair representation? What was your reaction?

7. Is Kitty a bad mother? What about Gertrude’s indulgence?

8. What does Simon add to the story? Some criticism complains that his continued friendship with the girls and their families is the least believable. What do you think?

9. Is someone to blame for what happened? Who bears most responsibility, who shares it, or is it simply circumstance?

10. Which other characters made significant impressions either on the events of the story or on your experience of it? Explain.

11. The New York Times Book Review wrote, “This is Tracy Chevalier’s singular gift: through the particular perspectives of a few finely drawn characters, she is able to evoke entire landscapes…there are no stock characters here, none who are perfectly comfortable in the niche society has assigned them.” Would you agree that there are no stock characters? Was no one in the story comfortable in his/her role?

12. How might you describe the gender dynamics of the story? Were the men uniform in how they viewed and treated women? Were they challenged in these perceptions?

13. Was the title aptly chosen? In which passages are falling angels referenced or illustrated? Other angel imagery?

14. Chevalier has said, “I used to make all sorts of pronouncements [like] ‘Men and women [are] absolutely equal.’ Now…I understand how things aren’t equal.” What in this book supports this view? Do you agree?

15. What did you think of Caroline Black? Of how the suffrage movement was depicted?

16. The cemetery is a recurring symbol, a “site of beginnings as well as endings”. What are examples from the story that support its importance? What message is the author trying to convey?

17. Which events would you consider most significant to the characters? Did these seem important as you read them?

18. What is gained by having multiple narrators? Were there narrators you enjoyed more than others? Would you personally have preferred the story told by one person?

19. Chevalier has earned a reputation as a novelist who expertly articulates the way women negotiate the demands of society. Is this true in Falling Angels?

20. Did you enjoy the author’s style?

21. People characterized the book as “a thoughtful exploration of the ways people misread each other by being trapped in their own perspectives.” Would you agree? Would you have described it with a different theme?

22. How did you feel at the end of the book?

23. What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?

24. Was this book what you expected?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!


BookPage feature on release of Falling Angels
IndieBound interview with author Tracy Chevalier
The New York Times review of Falling Angels
Background, review, and questions from Reading Group Guides
The Independent‘s “General History of Women’s Suffrage in Britain
BBC Radio4: Tracy Chevalier and Audrey Niffenegger tour Highgate Cemetery


Park Lane book coverPark Lane
by Frances Osbourne

Wayward Winds book coverWayward Winds
by Michael Phillips

Foxs Walk book coverThe Fox’s Walk
by Annabel Davis-Goff

RITA Award Spotlight: Historical Romance and Inspirational Romance

Romance displays

As Romance Awareness Month draws to a close, the Library is celebrating with dual displays. Here you may find the recently announced honorees of the 2016 RITA Awards, which celebrate excellence in the romance genre. Often the most exciting races are those for historical romances and inspirational romances, and you can see several favorites below.

Historical Romance: Long

Tiffany Girl book coverTiffany Girl
WINNER:  Deeanne Gist

Earls Just Want to Have Fun book coverEarls Just Want to Have Fun
Finalist: Shana Galen


Bella and the Beast book coverBella and the Beast
Finalist: Olivia Drake
If the Viscount Falls book coverIf the Viscount Falls
Finalist: Sabrina Jeffries
Finalist: Grace Burrows


Historical Romance: Short

Say Yes to the Marquess book coverSay Yes to the Marquess
Finalist: Tessa Dare
Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy book coverThe Secrets of Richard Kenworthy
Finalist: Julia Quinn
Finalist: Elizabeth Hoyt


Inspirational Romance

A Noble Masquerade
WINNER: Kristi Ann Hunter
Mountain Midwife book coverThe Mountain Midwife
Finalist: Laurie Alice Eakes
Finalist: Becky Wade


Book Discussion Questions: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings book coverTitle: The Invention of Wings
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Page Count: 373 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Moving, Authentic, Strength

The story follows Hetty “Handful” Grimke, a Charleston slave, and Sarah, the daughter of the wealthy Grimke family. The novel begins on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership over Handful, who is to be her handmaid and follows the next thirty-five years of their lives. Inspired in part by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke (a feminist, suffragist and, importantly, an abolitionist), Kidd allows herself to go beyond the record to flesh out the inner lives of all the characters, both real and imagined

These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. How many of you would say you enjoy historical fiction? What is it about historical fiction that you enjoy? For others, what don’t you enjoy about it?

2. Did this book meet your expectations? Why or why not?

3. Did you like the way the story was told, with each chapter going back and forth between Sarah and Handful? Why or why not?

4. In the book who needed wings and how did they obtain them? Where does the author use the image of birds and flight?

5. What qualities in Sarah, Nina, and Handful did you most admire? What other admirable characters were there in the story?

6. Understanding the time and the family Sarah was brought up in, what made Sarah desire and fight for a different life for herself, other women and slaves?

7. Sarah fought against what was expected of her throughout her life. Use your imagination and tell me what her life would have been like had she acquiesced. Could she have been happy?

8. What significance did the fleur-de-lis button hold for Sarah? What was the significance of Charlotte’s story quilt? What was the significance of the rabbit-head cane that Handful receives from Goodis? What was significant about the spirit tree?

9. What gave Handful and Sarah strength to do all that they did?

10. What does having an ally mean when facing a difficult task? Who were Sarah’s allies throughout the different times of her life? Who were Handful’s allies?

11. How are the two causes of abolition and women’s rights similar? How are they different?

12. What were some of the pivotal moments in the story? Give examples of where you saw Handful moving toward freedom. Give examples of where you saw Sarah moving toward freedom.

13. Did you find the ending satisfying?

14. If this book was made into a movie would you go see it?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!


Reading Group Guide on Sue Monk Kidd’s website
Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Discussion Guide
Discussion questions from blogger, Wide Lawns
Q&A video with Oprah and Sue Monk Kidd
NPR interview with Sue Monk Kidd
More about the Grimke Sisters

A Mercy book cover Miss Emily book cover The Wedding Gift book cover







A Mercy by Toni Morrison
Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor
The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden





Fiction: Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

Margaret the First book coverWell-behaved women seldom make history,” and it isn’t for lack of trying that the once-notorious Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, is now largely unknown. After a shy, sheltered girlhood, a later life at court led to a new-found confidence in her intelligence, imagination, and ambition. She unabashedly flouted social norms, even earning the nickname “Mad Madge”. The one thing she did retain from her youth was her passion for writing, and she published extensively under her own name and with the support of her husband, both of which were nearly unheard of in the 17th Century. Danielle Dutton presents the life of Margaret the First in a series of personal tableaus that play out in short and fast-moving chapters.  You’ll be introduced to a fascinating woman from history who still has quite a bit to say to the world today.

This title will count as category F in the Summer Reading Challenge: Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900.

For more pre-1900 biographical fiction about fearless characters in the arts, try..

Exit the Actress book coverExit the Actress
by Priya Parmar
The Master book coverThe Master
by Colm Tóibín
In America book coverIn America
by Susan Sontag


It’s not too late to join the Summer Reading Challenge.
Not sure how to get started?  We have advice!
Share what you read and see what other people are reading using #MPPLsummer16

For reading suggestions, email us at or tweet at us @MPPLIB

New Book Spotlight: Historical Fiction Thrillers

Looking for a page-turner that will bring you back in time? Check out one of the newer releases below!

City of Secrets book coverCity of Secrets
by Stewart O’Nan

A moral thriller about the Jewish underground resistance in Jerusalem after World War II follows the experiences of Brand, a hunted refugee, who assumes a different identity and commits himself to the revolution while accepting increasingly dangerous missions.

The Letter Writer book coverThe Letter Writer
by Dan Fesperman

Taking a job with the NYPD four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a former small-town cop investigates the discovery of a body in the Hudson with the assistance of a mysterious, well-educated man who has uncanny knowledge of the city and its denizens.

High Dive book coverHigh Dive
by Jonathan Lee

A tale inspired by the 1984 Brighton Hotel bombing assassination attempt on the lives of Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet is told from the perspectives of an IRA bomb maker, a former star athlete-turned-hotel manager and the manager’s teenage daughter.


Email us as for more suggestions.
Head here for new and forthcoming nonfiction titles.
Summaries from Novelist.

Fiction: HHhH by Laurent Binet

hhhh book coverLaurent Binet’s debut HHhH follows along two men as they escape from Czechoslovakia, are recruited by the British secret service as agents, and attempt an assassination on one of Adolf Hitler’ most feared lieutenants, Reinhard Heydrich, known as the “Butcher of Prague.”  Binet also manages to twist in an awareness of his hand as the writer of this historical fiction, a work resulting from the melding of fact, personal accounts, and his imagination, yet still retains his gripping pace.

Bonus: This novel received starred reviews from Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist AND Kirkus! An impressive feat!


Book Discussion Questions: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

The Other Boleyn Girl book coverTitle: The Other Boleyn Girl
Author: Philippa Gregory
Page Count: 664 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Dramatic, Romantic, Suspenseful

The daughters of a ruthlessly ambitious family, Mary and Anne Boleyn are sent to the court of Henry VIII to attract the attention of the king, who first takes Mary as his mistress, in which role she bears him an illegitimate son, and then takes Anne as his wife.


These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

1. On p. 54 Anne said to Mary, “You are all ready for the pleasures of bed and board, but the woman who manages Henry will know that her pleasures must be in managing his thoughts every minute of the day? Do you think a young girl of 14 has the capability to be so calculating, much less the sexual prowess to seduce him?

2. On p. 59. Anne talked about the family’s strategy of using Mary to catch the king’s desire. Her Uncle Howard asked why Anne didn’t try for the king herself. She said, “I thought of it, but I’m a Howard. What matters most is that one of us catches the king. It hardly matters which one.” Do you think Anne meant what she said at the time? How did she change?

3. Describe Mary’s relationship with Queen Katharine. On pg. 29 she professes her love and admiration for the Queen and feels she can’t betray her. How could Mary then have an affair with the King?

4. Did Mary truly love the king – when she first began her affair with him? What about the king attracted Mary? How did that attraction change – and when?

5. On p. 144 Did Anne ever really love Lord Henry Percy? Or was she using him to become Duchess of Northumberland?

6. Henry was first and foremost a spoiled child; when he was given a present, he loved the giver (p. 177). Do you think that is an accurate description of Henry? Was he a good king?

7. How does Anne’s rein as Queen parallel that of Katharine’s? Did you feel sorry for Anne at all?

8. How would you describe Anne and Mary’s relationship? In what ways were they the same? In what ways were they different?

9. Anne tells Mary, “You can’t desire the king like an ordinary man and forget the crown on his head.” What does this statement reveal about the difference between Anne and Mary’s nature?

10. Were you surprised that George flaunted his relationship with Sir Francis Weston, knowing that homosexuality was a crime?

11. Was George a loyal brother? How was his relationship different with Mary than Anne? What did you make of the intimate kiss between George and Anne that Mary witnessed? Did you believe that Anne’s deformed premature baby was George’s?

12. Describe Mary’s relationship with William Stafford. Did she love him like he loved her? Did their relationship change Mary and how she viewed her family and the court? Knowing the kind of man William was, how could he tolerate George and Anne? How could he not argue with Mary when she said that no matter what, they were still family?

13. After Anne is arrested, Mary pleads for her by saying, “We did nothing more than that was ordered. We only ever did as we were commanded. Is she to die for being an obedient daughter? (p. 650) What is your reaction to these arguments? Did Henry have no choice but to sentence her death?

14. How would you describe the parents of Mary, Anne and George. Were you surprised by their actions, particularly their mother’s?

15. How many of you were familiar with the history of King Henry VIII’s court? Were you familiar with the degree of corruption in the court? Did reading this novel change your view of what you already knew? Were you familiar with Mary Boleyn – or just Anne?

16.How would you rate this novel compared to other historical novels?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

Other Resources:

Lit Lovers’ discussion questions
Author website
AV Club’s comparison of the book vs. the film
About Philippa Gregory
Video interview with Gregory

Nefertiti book cover Wolf Hall book cover The Sister Queens book cover

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot

Staff Pick: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Cathleen staff pick photoThis unlikely frontier love story (based on the biblical story of Hosea, of all things!) has stayed with me for years. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is a narrative of unconditional commitment that breaks through terrible brokenness and betrayal to invite real trust. Somewhat controversial, but absolutely rewarding.