If you’re looking for the best historical fiction authors to binge their backlists. This post contains my personal favorites who always deliver compelling stories about a given time period.
I focused on those who write all or mostly historical fiction from whom I have read several of each of their novels. I also chose those authors whose books are also popular with my readers. Many of these authors’ books are consistently best sellers on my blog.
Below are the best historical fiction authors, with descriptions of what you can expect from them, their most popular titles, and my top picks.
Best Historical Fiction Authors
My top pick from Beatriz Williams: Summer Wives
Beatriz Williams writes what I like to call “soap opera historical fiction.” Her books all take place in different time periods, but they are filled with lots of drama — kind of like a historic Elin Hilderbrand read.
My top pick of Williams is Summer Wives. Set on an exclusive New England island in 1951 and 1969, it has all the makings of a historical fiction beach read: love, money, class, and a murder mystery. I was completely and utterly immersed in this one and all of it’s historical era “rich people problems!”
You may also like these books by Beatriz Williams:
- A Hundred Summers: Another great read about “frenemies” in the Summer of 1938 in Rhode Island, when a massive hurricane hits. It’s a light read and a real page turner.
- Our Woman in Moscow: A most Anticipated Novel of Summer 2021 According to Bustle, Buzzfeed, and Shereads, about a woman in 1948 who goes missing with her family, presumably in Russia, and her sister who poses as the wife of counterintelligence agent in an effort to free them.
- The Golden Hour: For fans of British royalty, this is a World War II-era Bahaman saga about the duke and duchess of Windsor, spies and traitors. I loved the imagery of Nassau in this one.
My top pick from Chanel Cleeton: Next Year in Havana
Chanel Cleeton is known for writing historical fiction set primarily in Cuba. She is really good at teaching you Cuban history while also creating suspense through strong female leads.
My top pick of Cleeton’s is her book Next Year in Havana, which is a Reese’s Book Club pick that’s also one of the best sellers on this blog! A modern day woman travels to Cuba after the death of her grandmother, and uncovers the secrets of her family, including a love affair, during the Cuban revolution in 1958, when the family was forced to flee. It’s a real page turner from which I also learned a lot.
Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.
You may also like these books by Chanel Cleeton:
- When We Left Cuba: An instant New York Times bestseller about a female Cuban exile in 1960s Florida, risking it all to take back her country when she is recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro’s inner circle.
- The Last Train to Key West: One of Bustle’s Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2020 about three different women’s lives and how they became forever changed by the Florida Keys hurricane of 1935.
- The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba: One of 2021’s Most Anticipated Historical Novels and Best Beach Reads about three revolutionary women at the end of the 19th Century.
My top pick from Kristin Hannah: The Nightingale
Kristin Hannah is a super beloved author who writes mostly historical fiction featuring female leads in really emotional and riveting circumstances. When you read one of her books, be prepared to cry!
My top pick of Hannah’s is arguably her most popular book, The Nightingale, a #1 New York Times bestseller, Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year, Goodreads Best Historical Novel of the Year, People’s Choice Favorite Fiction Winner, #1 Indie Next Selection, a Buzzfeed and The Week Best Book of the Year, and a top seller on my blog. about two sisters fighting for love and survival in World War II France. You simply won’t believe everything these women, and the people in their lives, encounter.
You may also like these books by Kristin Hannah:
- The Great Alone: A #1 New York Times Instant Bestseller, a People “Book of the Week”, and Buzzfeed’s “Most Anticipated Women’s Fiction Reads of 2018” about a young girl who moves to Alaska in the post Vietnam War era and grapples with her PTSD stricken father and her first love. This imagery in this one had me completely enamored with the time period and setting.
- Firefly Lane: A #1 New York Times bestseller about two female friends and their tear jerking, turbulent friendship and love lives from 1970s to the present, filled with lots of pop culture references, particularly from the 1980s.
- The Four Winds: #1 New York Times bestseller, #1 USA Today bestseller, #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller, and #1 Indie bestseller, about a woman fighting for the survival of her family in Dust Bowl era America.
Martha Hall Kelly
My top pick from Martha Hall Kelly: Lilac Girls
Martha Hall Kelly writes really engrossing historical fiction novels about really harrowing circumstances. Her writing is extremely engrossing, compelling, and downright beautiful.
My top pick of Kelly’s is easily Lilac Girls, a New York Times bestseller that’s also one of my all time favorite books. It’s based on a true story and takes place primarily in a concentration camp in World War II, where a female doctor engages in performing horrific scientific experiments on female prisoners. Meanwhile, an American socialite becomes a hero to these women. I was utterly shocked at the events portrayed in this book, and the fact I didn’t know about them sooner, yet Kelly also breathes hope into this difficult subject matter, and she keeps their stories alive.
You may also like these books by Martha Hall Kelly:
- Lost Roses: Another harrowing tale that takes places in 1914, as Russia’s imperial dynasty begins to crumble and three women, in different places, attempt to escape and/or help others escape. I thought it made for a great prequel to Lilac Girls, while also being a stand alone story.
- Sunflower Sisters: A New York Times bestseller in which a Union nurse during the American Civil War crosses paths with a young enslaved girl, and a Southern plantation mistress whose husband enlists.
My top pick from Toni Morrison: Beloved
Where to begin? Toni Morrison has won every award from the Nobel Prize to the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and so many more. Prior to her death, she wrote Black historical fiction about the darkest of circumstances in her signature poetic prose. Everyone simply must read at least one Toni Morrison book.
My top pick of Morrison’s is Beloved, a New York Times bestseller which was difficult to read both literally and figuratively, but reading summaries of it online helped me really “get” the novel. It’s about a former slave, haunted by the memory of her dead baby Beloved, particularly after meeting a troubled young girl of the same name.
You may also like these books by Toni Morrison:
- The Bluest Eye: Winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, this is the story of a young Black girl who wishes to have blue eyes so she can be deemed beautiful in America, and so her incomparably difficult life may be different.
- Sula: The story of two young friends who become enemies as adults, when one becomes a pillar of the Black community and the other, a pariah.
- Song of Solomon: A New York Times bestseller that follows a man as he comes of age in the Black community, from his rust belt city to the place of his family’s origins.
Those are the best historical fiction authors.
Related Historical Fiction Posts
If you liked this post, you will love these posts:
- All of Kristin Hannah’s books ranked
- Best WW2 Historical Fiction books
- Full review of The Nightingale
- Full review of The Book Thief
- Full review of The Great Alone
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