When it comes to historical novels, I’m rather fussy. I don’t like to be bogged down with lots of boring details, but I also like for the era to be fully evoked – I want to be in the past when I open those pages. Here are a few historical YA novels that ticked all the boxes for me.
The Luxe, Anna Godbersen
Penguin|3rd July 2008
Society’s elite have secrets, scandal and revenge plots aplenty hidden in their ball gowns and under their hats. They are the most beautiful, the most handsome, the richest and the most privileged. Welcome to 1899 in New York City.
This series was one of the first historical series’ that I fell in love with. I eagerly awaited each instalment, desperate to find out which forbidden relationships would be discovered, who would be blackmailed, who would die and if any of them would get to live happily ever after. An utterly delicious series.
Corgi|5th June 2014
Even though Deepdean School for Girls isn’t too high on crime, Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells set up their very own secret detective agency. When Hazel finds a teacher dead, they’re ready and on the case, but when they return to the scene of the crime, the body is gone. Now they have to prove that a murder took place as well as solve it.
Set in an English boarding school in the 1930s, Murder Most Unladylike is full of wit and charm and I smiled all the way through it and the next two books in the series. It’s clever, thoughtful and I completely love it. Robin Stevens and her heroines are also passionate advocates of a #bunbreak so straight away you know you’re among friends with Hazel and Daisy.
The Other Countess, Eve Edwards
Puffin|1st July 2010
Lady Eleanor has a worthless title, a gold-seeking father and a fiery personality that has captured lots of hearts at Court.
William Lacey is the new Earl of Dorset, and with his father’s title comes his debt, so William must marry a wealthy heiress and restore the reputation of the Laceys.
With William destined to marry high, he and Ellie must fight their attraction to each other, but it won't be easy.
Set in 1582, the first book in Eve Edwards Tudor-set trilogy is one of my favourites. I’m a big fan of the period in general and I love forbidden love divided by class and meddling families so this was always bound to be a hit! The writing is effortless to read and the history made accessible – I'd say this trilogy is a brilliant start for younger readers heading into YA historical.
Atom|5th February 2013
Sophronia would much rather climb trees and dismantle mechanicals that learn how to be a proper young lady. She’s a trial to her poor mother so she's sent to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But it's not quite what she expected. As well as learning how to dance, dress and behave in polite society, the girls are also taught to murder, sneak and investigate. Politely, of course.
This series is just a hell of a lot of fun! It's a Victorian steampunk series where the school is a dirigible, there is a vampire and a werewolf teaching, and there are plenty of dangerous excursions to investigate the mysterious happenings on the ship and Sophronia and her friends are a wonderful cast of characters. Fun, original and action packed.
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, Katherine Woodfine
Egmont|4th June 2015
Sophie has just got a job at Sinclair’s, the newest, biggest and best department store in London. When the precious Clockwork Sparrow is stolen the night before the grand opening of the store, Sophie and her friend Lillian Rose race to crack the clues and track down the thief before it’s too late…
This is another one that’s a lot of fun. Set around the 30s in the heyday of luxury department stores, Sinclair’s feels a lot like Liberty or Selfridges and I really would have loved to explore it, and the London of the time. It’s fast-paced, full of charm, wit and mystery and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Puffin|6th June 2013
It’s 1916 and the First World War is raging. When wartime nurse Helen meets aristocratic artist Sebastian, they can’t help falling I love, even as they’re both posted to the front lines of the Somme. But Helen has a dark secret and when it escapes against the backdrop of a crime, the consequences are devastating. Will they find their way back to each other?
I’m not a fan of war stories, and even though I loved history at school, I hated learning about the world wars – probably because we learned about them over and over again… But I trusted Eve Edwards’ writing and storytelling and went in anyway – I loved it. The story flicks from between before the war and the early days of it and 1916 and I loved the glimpse into how people and the world was changed so drastically by the war. There is an evil cliffhanger at the end though so I’d recommend having Dawn on hand immediately!