2022 Historical Must-Reads
Travel through time with these reads.
2022 is jam-packed with amazing historical fiction novels— from sweeping romance epics to murder mysteries of the Harlem Renaissance, intergenerational tales of self-discovery, and untold stories about women who changed the course of history. Women.com has you covered on all the best historical must-reads to add to your list all year long!
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1. On Gin Lane by Brooke Lea Foster
Prepare to pack your beach bag this summer with the ultimate historical summer read from Brooke Lea Foster. When Everleigh “Lee” Farrows’ fiancé named Roland brings her to the Hamptons in the summer of 1957, she has no idea her life will soon change. As a young socialite, she lives her best glamorous life with Roland as he bestows on her a luxury beachside hotel on the prized Gin Lane. But when the hotel mysteriously burns down opening weekend, Lee’s “perfect life” of Bellinis and Manhattan social circles begins to unravel, leaving her no choice but to face her past traumas and discover who she really is.
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2. Our Last Days in Barcelona by Chanel Cleeton
Shocking family secrets are revealed in this captivating and evocative espionage drama. Exiled from Cuba after the revolution in 1964, Isabel Perez sets out to Barcelona to find her missing sister. What she finds is an unearthed piece of family history that will change her life forever. We then are transported to Barcelona in 1936 from the point of view of Isabel’s mother, named Alicia as she flees Cuba to Barcelona with her daughter in tow during a time of Spanish turmoil. As their stories intertwine, both are faced with choosing between their families’ expectations and following their hearts.
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3. The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont
Get ready for a beguiling mystery ride inspired by the real-life disappearance of Agatha Christie. The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont is a brilliant historical fiction that explores what Agatha might have discovered during her disappearance, in part told through the point of view of her husband’s mistress. Whether you’re an Agatha Christie fan or haven’t yet delved into her masterful work, this page-turner about star-crossed lovers, heartbreak, revenge, and murder is guaranteed to be loved.
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4. The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani
This masterful and epic novel set in Tuscany will warm your heart and make you cry all the same time. Matriarch Matelda Cabrelli is a proud grandmother who never shies away from saying what’s on her mind. As she nears the end of her life though, she ponders the stories she hasn’t yet told, including the tales of her mother Domenica’s two great loves: Domenica's childhood best friend Viareggio, and the father Matelda never knew--a mysterious sea captain who her mother met in the midst of WW2. Seeking to tell her mother’s story, Matelda and her granddaughter Anina see how their own lives intertwine and parallel each other to that of Domenica’s, uncovering the mysteries, passions, and tragedies in their family’s history.
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5. The Lives of Diamond Bessie by Jody Hadlock
This haunting and engrossing read is inspired by the real-life story of a young Irish immigrant who’s forced into sex work to survive. When she was sixteen years old, Annie Moore was sent to live in a convent after getting pregnant out of wedlock. When the nuns take her baby from her after giving birth, she escapes, determined to reunite with her child. To support herself on her journey, Annie becomes a highly sought-after “demi-mondaine” and takes on the name Bessie. She eventually meets and marries the son of a wealthy jeweler, and finally feels she can return to proper society. But when she suffers the ultimate betrayal, that dream of salvation from a man is taken from her. Her journey for redemption soon becomes a journey of revenge. Along the way she has to face whether or not revenge is worth the price she must pay.
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6. Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Set in Montgomery, Alabama in 1973, Take My Hand is a searing and empathetic read about a young Black nurse in post-segregation times who wants to support the women in her community as best she can. During her first week as a nurse, Civil Townsend’s job leads her to a worn-down one-room cabin where she’s shocked to learn her new patients are two young Black girls aged just 11 and 13. Civil discovers a horrific act that was inflicted on the two girls, and sets out on a path to protect them from this evil. Decades later, Civil is a doctor ready to retire as her daughter is all grown up, and she’s led a long career. But in order to find peace in retirement, she must face the people and stories that shouldn’t be forgotten.
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7. The Blue Butterfly by Leslie Johansen Nack
Leslie Johansen Nack’s latest novel is a vibrant and complex historical fiction account of Marion Davies’ thirty-four-year relationship with William Randolph Hearst. Davies is known as one of the great actresses of her generation and Nack proves just how timeless her story really is, taking readers on a whirlwind journey of her life— from an illustrious movie career spanning two decades, a secret child, a surprising love affair with Charlie Chaplin, and Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane which threatened to invalidate all her success.
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8. The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
Set in Kiev during WWII, we meet quiet Ukrainian librarian and history student Mila Pavlichenko whose life is altered by Hitler’s invasion of Russia. With her whole life built around books and caring for her young son, Mila soon joins the fight and becomes a lethal sniper known as Lady Death. When she’s celebrated as a national hero for killing three hundred Nazi invaders, Mila is sent on a tour to America on a goodwill tour. But she grapples with loneliness, loss, and trauma, and is still reeling from war wounds. When an unexpected friendship forms with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper, she begins to see glimmers of hope and connection. That is until, an enemy from her past returns for a deadly duel, forcing her to face her demons and become the woman she was always meant to be.
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9. Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner
Three girls reshape a London bookstore run by men stuck in their ways in this enchanting and heartwarming novel set in post-war London. From the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society comes Bloomsbury Girls, a tale that follows Vivien, Grace, and Evie as they set out to make their century-old workplace--Bloomsbury Bookshop--change with the times. Each dealing with their own complex web of relationships, grief, goals, and dreams, they come together to create a future that is more rewarding than society would ever allow.
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10. A Ballad of Love and Glory by Reyna Grande
This sweeping historical romance set in 1846, follows Mexican army nurse Ximena Salomé and Irish immigrant soldier John Riley as they fight for survival--and their forbidden love. After the annexation of Texas, the US Army seeks to provoke war with Mexico to claim the Rio Grande boundary. Ximena joins the Mexican Army as a nurse to honor her husband who was shot dead on their ranch by Texas Rangers. She then meets John, a former Yankee soldier who now faces death as he’s formed his own battalion to aid Mexico against the Yankee army. Heartbreaking and poetic, this spellbinding epic brings to light a largely forgotten moment in history through the eyes of two incredible characters you can’t help but root for.
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11. The Wedding Veil by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Four women are connected across generations by a veil that once belonged to socialite Edith Vanderbilt in this historical fiction fairytale. Julia Baxter’s cherished wedding veil, bequeathed to her great-grandmother by a mysterious woman on a train in the 1930s, has always been a symbol of a happy marriage. But on the morning of her wedding day, she discovers her fiancé hasn’t been the man she thought he was and calls it off. Meanwhile, her grandmother Babs is reeling from the death of her husband and moves into a retirement community where she unexpectedly reconnects with an old flame. In 1914, Edith Vanderbilt is also grieving the death of her husband, and trying to keep the family estate together. Hoping to prepare her daughter Cornelia to inherit everything, Cornelia has dreams of her own that go beyond the safe confines of her family name. As each of these women’s story unfolds, we learn that this beloved wedding veil is much more than a family heirloom. Hopping seamlessly back and forth between present-day and the early 1900s, The Wedding Veil is a masterclass in storytelling.
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12. Harlem Sunset by Nekesa Afia
This unputdownable mystery set in the Harlem Renaissance is worth reading again and again! Following the death of notorious murderer Theodore Gilbert, Louise Lloyd is thrust into the spotlight. As one of several girls who were kidnapped nearly a decade ago, she wants to celebrate her 28th birthday with her girlfriend Rosa and best friend Rafael, and put the past to rest. But as they celebrate at Rafael’s speakeasy, she meets Nora Davies, one of the girls she was kidnapped with. Following a night of drinking and talking, Rosa wakes up the next morning covered in blood with no memory of the previous night, and Nora lying dead on the dance floor. Louise knows Rosa couldn’t have killed her, but she soon discovers a chilling plot to frame Rosa for Nora’s murder. She will stop at nothing to unearth the truth and save the woman she loves.
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