Historical Fiction Spotlight is a new feature that I came up with in order to highlight some books from one of my favorite genres — historical fiction. I feel like sometimes this genre gets pushed to the wayside, but there are so many great books about so many different things! In each spotlight, I’ll share 10 books from a different time period. While I might not have read every book I show, I promise that they come fully vetted and are all on my TBR list!
This week, my Historical Fiction Spotlight is going to be focusing on The Gilded Age! The Gilded Age was a time period in U.S. history spanning from 1870-1900. This era was characterized by economic growth, the influx of European immigrants, and industrialization.
This is my favorite Historical Fiction Spotlight that I’ve done so far! I’m so interested in reading all of these books, and some of them are even new releases or 2013 titles!
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
This is Newland Archer’s world as he prepares to marry the beautiful but conventional May Welland. But when the mysterious Countess Ellen Olenska returns to New York after a disastrous marriage, Archer falls deeply in love with her. Torn between duty and passion, Archer struggles to make a decision that will either courageously define his life—or mercilessly destroy it.
One of my all-time favorite classics.
Savage Girl by Jean Zimmerman
An alluring, blazingly smart eighteen-year-old girl named Bronwyn, reputedly raised by wolves in the wilds of Nevada, is adopted in 1875 by the Delegates, an outlandishly wealthy Manhattan couple, and taken back East to be civilized and introduced into high society. Bronwyn hits the highly mannered world of Edith Wharton-era Manhattan like a bomb. A series of suitors, both young and old, find her irresistible, but the willful girl’s illicit lovers begin to turn up murdered.
This a 2014 new release that sounds really intriguing!
The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert
On the eve of the 1898 Omaha World’s Fair, Ferret Skerritt, ventriloquist by trade, con man by birth, isn’t quite sure how it will change him or his city. Omaha still has the marks of a filthy Wild West town, even as it attempts to achieve the grandeur and respectability of nearby Chicago. But when he crosses paths with the beautiful and enigmatic Cecily, his whole purpose shifts and the fair becomes the backdrop to their love affair.
One of a traveling troupe of actors that has descended on the city, Cecily works in the Midway’s Chamber of Horrors, where she loses her head hourly on a guillotine playing Marie Antoinette. And after closing, she rushes off, clinging protectively to a mysterious carpetbag, never giving Ferret a second glance. But a moonlit ride on the swan gondola, a boat on the lagoon of the New White City, changes everything, and the fair’s magic begins to take its effect.
Another 2014 new release! I’m beyond excited to read this one after looking at the blurb.
It Happened At the Fair by Deeanne Gist
A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the Fair’s Machinery Palace makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.
These all sound so good! I love the combination of the World’s Fair with a teacher of the deaf (for some reason).
My Notorious Life by Kate Manning
Inspired by the true history of an infamous female physician who was once called “the Wickedest Woman in New York,” My Notorious Life is a mystery, a family saga, a love story, and an exquisitely detailed portrait of nineteenth-century America…Axie’s story begins on the streets of 1860s New York. The impoverished child of Irish immigrants, she grows up to become one of the wealthiest and most controversial women of her day.
An infamous female doctor who was known as “the Wickedest Woman in New York?” Sign me up!
The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz
Trudy is a polished, college-educated young woman from a respectable upper middle-class family, and it’s only a matter of time before she’ll marry Ernst, the son of her parents’ closest friends. All should be well in her world, and yet Trudy is restless and desperate for more stimulation than 1897 Milwaukee will allow. When she falls in love with enigmatic and ambitious Oskar, she believes she’s found her escape from the banality of her pre-ordained life. Alienated from Trudy’s family and friends, the couple moves across the country to take a job at a lighthouse in the eerily isolated Point Lucia, California. Upon arriving they meet the light station’s only inhabitants—the Crawleys, a family whose plain appearance is no indication of what lies below the surface. It isn’t long before Trudy begins to realize that there is more going on in this seemingly empty place than she could ever have imagined.
Although not as highly rated on Goodreads as some of the others on this list, I loved this author’s other book, Drowning Ruth, so I’m excited to check this one out.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.
Umm…what?! How cool does this book sound? I’m not a huge fantasy person, but this book sounded way too awesome to not include it on this list!
Sailor Twain, or: The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel
One hundred years ago. On the foggy Hudson River, a riverboat captain rescues an injured mermaid from the waters of the busiest port in the United States. A wildly popular—and notoriously reclusive—author makes a public debut. A French nobleman seeks a remedy for a curse. As three lives twine together and race to an unexpected collision, the mystery of the Mermaid of the Hudson deepens.
Uh, are you kidding me? Could there possibly be any more unique books on this list? This book sounds so freaking cool.
The Luxe by Anna Godberson
Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan’s social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City’s elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud threatens Elizabeth’s and Diana’s golden future. With the fate of the Hollands resting on her shoulders, Elizabeth must choose between family duty and true love.
I definitely couldn’t make this list on a YA book blog without including The Luxe! The most well-known Gilded Age YA novel/series. I haven’t read this one yet, but I own it and am excited to try it out, even though I know it’s apparently a bit fluffy.
Faithful by Janet Fox
Sixteen-year-old Maggie Bennet’s life is in tatters. Her mother has disappeared, and is presumed dead. The next thing she knows, her father has dragged Maggie away from their elegant Newport home, off on some mad excursion to Yellowstone in Montana. Torn from the only life she’s ever known, away from her friends, from society, and verging on no prospects, Maggie is furious and devastated by her father’s betrayal. But when she arrives, she finds herself drawn to the frustratingly stubborn, handsome Tom Rowland, the son of a park geologist, and to the wild romantic beauty of Yellowstone itself. And as Tom and the promise of freedom capture Maggie’s heart, Maggie is forced to choose between who she is and who she wants to be.
Another YA pick, Faithful has a beautiful cover and the plot sounds interesting, with a little bit of romance thrown in there, too!
Honorable Mentions: The Invention of Sarah Cummings by Olivia Newport, Love at Any Cost by Julie Lessman, Josiah’s Treasure by Nancy Herriman, A Violet Season by Kathy Leonard Czepiel, Bright and Distant Shores by Dominic Smith.
Have you read any of these books? Any of them look especially interesting to you? Have you read any Gilded Age historical fiction novels that didn’t make it onto the list?