Compelling Historical Fictions Set in England


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Historical fiction set in England

One of the perks of reading historical fiction is being able to travel back in time. You’re able to be read about people’s lives and experiences while sitting on your couch. 

I mean, how cool is that? 

In 2021, I am able to immerse myself in a lot more historical fiction set in almost all over the world- England, America, Iran and India. And I have to say, I am particularly fond of historical fiction set in England. The Victorian era is indeed a fascinating period of English history. 

Although I am yet to read the classic historical fiction novels of Rosamunde Pilchersuch as, “The Shell Seekers” or “Coming Home”, I have read a lot more contemporary historical fiction such as “The Lost Apothecary”, “The Last Bookshop in London, “Dear Mrs Bird” etc. So I figured, you might also be interested in reading a lot more historical fiction from beautiful England. 

So if you’re looking to get lost in another time and place while still staying connected to your own world, get started with these amazing historical fiction set in England. 

You’re surely going to love these incredibly talented historical fiction authors just like I did! 

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

What is it about? A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course. Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman. Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register. In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

What is it about?  1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

What is it about? One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society

Dear Mrs Bird  by A.J. Pearce

What is it about? London 1940, bombs are falling. Emmy Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent seem suddenly achievable. But the job turns out to be typist to the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen 

What is it about?  Isabella Waverly only means to comfort the woman fell on a London street. In her final dying moments, she thrusts a letter into Bella’s hand. It’s an offer of employment in the kitchens of Buckingham Palace, and everything the budding young chef desperately wants: an escape from the constrictions of her life as a lowly servant. In the stranger’s stead, Bella can spread her wings. Arriving as Helen Barton from Yorkshire, she pursues her passion for creating culinary delights, served to the delighted Queen Victoria herself. Best of all, she’s been chosen to accompany the queen to Nice. What fortune! Until the threat of blackmail shadows Bella to the Riviera, and a member of the queen’s retinue falls ill and dies.

The House at Mermaid’s Cove by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

What is it about? In April 1943 a young woman washes ashore on a deserted beach in Cornwall, England. With shorn hair and a number stitched on her tattered chemise, Alice is the survivor of a ship torpedoed by a German U-boat. She’s found by the mysterious Viscount Jack Trewella, who suspects that she’s a prisoner of war or a spy. But the secret Alice asks Jack to keep is one he could never have guessed, and it creates an intimate bond he never expected. With her true identity hidden beneath the waves, Alice grasps the chance to reinvent herself. But as she begins to fall for Jack, she discovers he has secrets too—ones echoing the legend of a mermaid said to lure men into the dark depths of the sea.

Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict 

What is it about? In 1909, Clementine Churchill steps off a train with her new husband, Winston. An angry woman emerges from the crowd to attack, shoving him in the direction of an oncoming train. Just before he stumbles, Clementine grabs him by his suit jacket. This will not be the last time Clementine Churchill saves her husband.

Mrs England by Stacey Halls

What is it about? When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby is forced to confront her own demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family – and she should know.

The Strange Adventures of H by Sarah Burton 

What is it about? Orphaned young, H is sent to live with her doting aunt in London. H’s life is a happy one until her lecherous cousin robs her of her innocence, and the plague takes away the city and the people she loves. H is cast out—friendless, pregnant and destitute–into the rapidly emptying streets of London under quarantine.

The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

What is it about? August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler’s forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and blackout curtains that she finds on her arrival were not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.

The Hidden Child by Louise Fein 

What is it about? Eleanor Hamilton is happily married and mother to a beautiful four-year-old girl, Mabel. Her wealthy husband, Edward, a celebrated war hero, is a leading light in the burgeoning Eugenics movement—the very ideas that will soon be embraced by Hitler—and is increasingly important in designing education policy for Great Britain. But when Edward and Eleanor’s otherwise perfectly healthy daughter develops debilitating epileptic seizures, their world fractures. Mabel’s shameful illness must be hidden or Edward’s life’s work will be in jeopardy and the family’s honor will be shattered.

Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

What is it about? Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the ‘Scriptorium’, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor. Esme rescues the slip and stashes it in an old wooden case that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.

The Bermondsey Bookshop by Mary Gibson

What is it about? Her mother died in a fall, her father has vanished without trace, and now her aunt and cousins treat her viciously. In a freezing, vermin-infested garret, factory girl Kate has only her own brave spirit and dreams of finding her father to keep her going. She has barely enough money to feed herself, or to pay the rent. The factory where she works begins to lay off people and it isn’t long before she has fallen into the hands of the violent local money-lender. That is until an unexpected opportunity comes her way – a job cleaning a most unusual bookshop, where anyone, from factory workers to dockers, can learn to read and then buy books cheaply. A new world opens up, but with it come new dangers, too. Based on the true story of the Bermondsey Bookshop, this is the most inspiring and gripping novel Mary Gibson has yet written.

Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

What is it about? London, 1782. Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline ‘Caro’ Corsham is already in a state of anxiety when she finds a well-dressed woman mortally wounded in the bowers of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. The Bow Street constables are swift to act, until they discover that the deceased woman was a highly-paid prostitute, at which point they cease to care entirely. But Caro has motives of her own for wanting to see justice done, and so sets out to solve the crime herself. Enlisting the help of thieftaker, Peregrine Child, their inquiry delves into the hidden corners of Georgian society, a world of artifice, deception and secret lives.

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal

What is it about? 1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea. But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.

The Secrets of the Lake by Liz Trenow

What is it about? The war may be over, but for Molly life is still in turmoil. Uprooted from London after the death of her mother, Molly, her father and younger brother Jimmy are starting again in a quiet village in the countryside of Colchester. As summer sets in, the heat is almost as oppressive as the village gossip. Molly dreams of becoming a journalist, finding a voice in the world, but most of the time must act as Jimmy’s carer. At just ten years old he is Molly’s shadow, following her around the village as she falls under the spell of local boy Kit. Kit is clever, funny and a natural-born rebel. Rowing on the waters of the lake with him becomes Molly’s escape from domestic duty. But there is something Kit is not telling Molly.

The Lady Brewer of London by Karen Brooks

What is it about? 1405: The daughter of a wealthy merchant, Anneke Sheldrake suddenly finds her family bankrupted when her father’s ship is swept away at sea. Forced to find a way to provide for herself and her siblings, Anneke rejects an offer of marriage from a despised cousin and instead turns to her late mother’s family business: brewing ale. Armed with her mother’s recipes, she then makes a bold deal with her father’s aristocratic employer, putting her home and family at risk. Thanks to her fierce determination, Anneke’s brew wins a following and begins to turn a profit. But her rise threatens some in her community and those closest to her are left to pay the price.

The River Within by Karen Powell 

What is it about? It is the summer of 1955. Alexander, Tom and his sister Lennie, discover the body of their childhood friend Danny Masters in the river that runs through Starome, a village on the Richmond estate in North Yorkshire. His death is a mystery. Did he jump, or was it just an accident?

The Stolen Baby by Diney Costeloe

What is it about? Plymouth, 1941. As sirens blare all around, the Shawbrook family take refuge in a packed shelter. Bombs have already begun to fall through the night sky when they realise their infant son, Freddie, has been forgotten in the rush, left to sleep in his crib. Terrified, Vera, his young mother races to find him and bring him to safety. The next morning, air raid warden David Shawbrook returns from his watch to find the shelter pulverised, and his family seemingly all dead. Dirty footprints inside their home betray the looters who have rifled through the house.

A Bright Young Thing by Brianne Moore

What is it about? In 1931 England, Astra Davies defies all the conventions. Clever, witty, and determined, Astra smokes, drinks, plays a mean piano, and gallivants around London with her beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. But Astra finds herself in a tight spot when her parents die suddenly, leaving her with a raft of debts. With few marketable skills and a closet full of family secrets, Astra has two choices: find a rich husband or make her own way.

The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable 

What is it about? In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics. Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

At Summer’s End by Courtney Ellis

What is it about? When an ambitious female artist accepts an unexpected commission at a powerful earl’s country estate in 1920s England, she finds his war-torn family crumbling under the weight of long-kept secrets. From debut author Courtney Ellis comes a captivating novel about finding the courage to heal after the ravages of war. Alberta Preston accepts the commission of a lifetime when she receives an invitation from the Earl of Wakeford to spend a summer painting at His Lordship’s country home, Castle Braemore. Bertie imagines her residence at the prodigious estate will finally enable her to embark on a professional career and prove her worth as an artist, regardless of her gender.

In Royal Service to the Queen by Tessa Arlen 

What is it about? Marion Crawford can remember each of the wonderful years when she was governess to the little Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose: included in their lives, confided in, needed, trusted, and loved. These memories will never dim, ever. In Marion’s mind, she will always be their Crawfie.But things become increasingly complicated as the young royals navigate adulthood. It is May 1945 and Princess Elizabeth–the heiress presumptive to the British throne–has fallen in love, and the only member of her family who is happy for her is her governess. No one in the young princess’s life thinks that Prince Philip of Greece would be a suitable husband for the future Queen of England. No one that is, except for Marion Crawford.

The Governess of Penwythe Hall by Sarah E. Ladd

What is it about? Cornwall, England, 1811 Blamed for her husband’s death, Cordelia Greythorne fled Cornwall and accepted a governess position to begin a new life. Years later her employer’s unexpected death and his last request to watch over his five children force her to reevaluate. She can’t abandon the children now that they’ve lost both parents, but their new guardian lives at the timeworn Penwythe Hall . . . back on the Cornish coast she tries desperately to forget.

Promised by Leah Garriott 

What is it about? Fooled by love once before, Margaret vows never to be played the fool again. To keep her vow, she attends a notorious matchmaking party intent on securing the perfect marital match: a union of convenience to someone who could never affect her heart. She discovers a man who exceeds all her hopes in the handsome and obliging rake Mr. Northam. There’s only one problem. His meddling cousin, Lord Williams, won’t leave Margaret alone. Condescending and high-handed, Lord Williams lectures and insults her. When she refuses to give heed to his counsel, he single-handedly ruins Margaret’s chances for making a good match—to his cousin or anyone else. With no reason to remain at the party, Margaret returns home to discover her father has promised her hand in marriage—to Lord Williams.

The House at Silvermoor by Tracy Rees

What is it about? Fourteen-year-old Tommy has been destined to a life working down the mines since the moment he was born. But he has bigger plans for his future. His best friend Josie from the neighbouring village is equally restless. The wealthy family that owns the mines are dictating harsher conditions than ever. The one source of intrigue and pleasure in their grim Yorkshire life is their fascination with the deserted house between their two villages. Heston Manor has been shut up and uninhabited for years following a family tragedy. And when they discover that its mysteries aren’t all in the past, their lives change forever…

This Lovely City by Louise Hare 

What is it about? London, 1950. With the war over and London still rebuilding, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for labour. Arriving from Jamaica aboard the Empire Windrush, he’s rented a tiny room in south London and fallen in love with the girl next door. Playing in Soho’s jazz clubs by night and pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home ― and it’s alive with possibility. Until one morning, while crossing a misty common, he makes a terrible discovery.

Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers

What is it about? 1957, south-east suburbs of London. Jean Swinney is a feature writer on a local paper, disappointed in love and — on the brink of forty — living a limited existence with her truculent mother: a small life from which there is no likelihood of escape. When a young Swiss woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud. But the more Jean investigates, the more her life becomes strangely (and not unpleasantly) intertwined with that of the Tilburys: Gretchen is now a friend, and her quirky and charming daughter Margaret a sort of surrogate child. And Jean doesn’t mean to fall in love with Gretchen’s husband, Howard, but Howard surprises her with his dry wit, his intelligence and his kindness — and when she does fall, she falls hard.

To Marry an Earl by Karen Thornell

What is it about? Katherine Cartwright knows through bitter experience that true love is fiction and trust should not be bestowed easily. Now, after two unsuccessful London Seasons, her atrocious father has decided to marry her off to the highest bidder to pay for his gambling debts, ridding himself of the daughter he never wanted. A profitable deal is struck, and Kate is packed off to the home of her betrothed, an earl she has never met. Or so she believes.

That’s the best list of historical fiction set in England.

Tell me some of your favorite historical fiction in the comments!

Stephy

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