Past Tense

Read in Solidarity with the People of Iran

Hi historical fiction fans!

Normally I would talk about how excited I am that it’s finally fall and that a nice autumn breeze is starting to fill the air here in the Southern United States. But you’ve seen the subject line of this week’s newsletter. You know what’s going on. (Or, at least, I hope you will after reading this newsletter.) And it just feels disingenuous to talk about the weather. I hope you’re all staying safe. I hope you’re all staying strong. I hope you’re all being good to one another. Let’s get into it.

Bookish Goods

Bookish Calendar from Etsy, source:

Literary Desktop Calendar

Keep your love of books with you every day with this gorgeous literary desktop calendar from Obvious State. $12

New Releases

The Deception Book Cover

The Deception by Kim Taylor Blakemore (September 27, 2022)

A former child medium who has fallen on hard times looks to a woman who knows all the spiritualist trickery and deception that would help fill Maud’s parlor again. But Maud was once a true believer, and as those determined to expose spiritualism’s fraud creep ever closer, she must reckon with the choices she’s made–and the dangerous friends she’s tied her fate and fortunes to.

Shrines of Gaiety

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson (September 27, 2022)

Following the Great War, a glittering new nightlife takes over London, and one woman is determined to see her six children become the stars in the clubs of 1920s SoHo. But success breeds enemies, and underneath this world of dances and drinks, a dark underbelly of corruption and greed lie in wait.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling powerless when I see atrocities taking place throughout the world. And I find myself once again in that position following the death of Jina Amini (also known by her Iranian name, Mahsa), a Kurdish woman brutally beaten by the morality police in Tehran for improper hijab. Her death has led to mass protests, with people taking to the streets and cutting their hair. In response, the government has cut off internet access, arrested upwards of 1,200 people and killed dozens more, including children, according to Amnesty International.

What I’ve seen time and time again in the last few days regarding how to help the people of Iran is to keep talking about what’s going on; to amplify their voices; to not let the Iranian government and the world sweep this under the rug. So let’s keep talking, let’s keep supporting the people of Iran, and let’s read some Kurdish and Iranian historical fiction as we stand in solidarity with the brave people risking–and losing–their lives amidst this humanitarian crisis.

Take What You Can Carry Book Cover

Take What You Can Carry by Gian Sardar

An aspiring photojournalist in Los Angeles follows her Kurdish boyfriend home to northern Iraq for a wedding where she hopes to acquire a better understanding of his childhood and heritage. But the reality of a town patrolled by the military and under constant threat takes her by surprise. Still there is so much love and beauty here, and when she captures a tragic moment on film, she must find the courage to stand up even with all their lives upended and on the line.

Note: This book takes place in Iraq, not Iran, but deals with Kurdish history, which is inextricably tied to the ongoing protests in Iran as Jina Amini was a Kurdish woman.

The Stationery Shop Book Cover

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali

Amidst the upheaval of 1950s Tehran, a dreamy teenager finds reprieve–and love– in Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood stationery shop, full of books and pens and colorful ink. But just before Roya is to marry her betrothed, Bahman, violence erupts, the result of a coup that changes the course of the country irrevocably. Sixty years later, after moving on and immigrating to New England, Roya finally comes face to face with the man she once loved and can ask the questions she has always held in her heart: what happened to you, why did you leave, and how could you forget me?

To Keep the Sun Alive Book Cover

To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari

On an orchard in the small Iranian city of Naishapur, a former judge and his wife tend to their fruit and generations of family on the eve of the Islamic Revolution, watching first hand as corruption and extremism change the face of their country.

More Iranian historical fiction to check out: The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar, The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, The Immortals of Tehran by Ali Araghi, Disoriental by Négar Djavadi, and Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading The Gospel of Wellness by Rina Raphael. What about you?

Past Tense

What’s in an Oral History?

Hi historical fiction fans!

A breeze is in the air, I’ve hung dried oranges above the fireplace, and I keep wearing clothes that are decidedly too warm for the continued heat. Can you tell I’m really ready for autumn? I’m just done with the heat, y’all. I want hot drinks and cardigans and leaves crunching under my feet when I go out on walks with my dog. And by gosh, I’m gonna act like it’s fall whether or not the weather currently reflects it. Who’s with me?!

Bookish Goods

Etsy So Many Books Mug

So Many Books… So Little Time Mug

Can you ever have enough bookish mugs? I don’t think so. $20.

New Releases

The Last Dreamwalker Book Cover

The Last Dreamwalker by Rita Woods (September 20, 2022)

After the passing of her mother, Layla learns that the strange and vivid dreams she’s experienced all her life are an inheritance from her Gullah Geechee family. Layla is a dreamwalker; she can inhabit and influence the dreams of others. But along with this gift come dark memories and terrifying enemies connected to her family’s past. The Last Dreamwalker combines magical realism with Gulla Gechee history to create a fascinating and unforgettable story.

An Indiscreet Princess Book Cover

An Indiscreet Princess by Georgie Blalock (September 27, 2022)

Among the royals, there is always a rebel. And in Queen Victoria’s time, it was Princess Louise. The fourth daughter of the queen, Louise sees royal life as a cage rather than a fairy tale. And when she escapes the palace to attend the National Art Training School, she scandalizes the public by sculpting nude models and falling madly in love with a famed sculptor. But will she be able to resist the hold of royal life forever or will duty draw her back to the life she hated?

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

Oral histories usually refers to a compiled collection of interviews used to create a snapshot of a time, place, or event. But they don’t always have to be nonfiction. Even if I was confused the first time I read Daisy Jones and the Six Googling whether the band was real, you don’t have to be. Check out these three fictional oral histories full of colorful characters and dramatic events.

The Final Revival of Opal and Nev Book Cover

The Last Revival of Opal and Neve by

In the 1970s, iconic interracial rock duo Opal and Neville Charles become a sensation. But one bold, antiracist protest and the violent repercussions that follow tear the duo apart just as Opal is reaching her peak. Years later, their attempt at a reunion is still haunted by the past, and as music journalist S. Sunny Shelton curates an oral history of her idols, she discovers there’s far more to the story than anyone has uncovered before.

Daisy Jones and the Six Book Cover

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Another oral history about a fictional musical group, Daisy Jones and the Six follows the tumultuous rise and fall of a 1970s rock band. Their story is the stuff of legend, and everyone knows how a producer realized the only thing that could make hot new singer Daisy Jones and upcoming band the Six even bigger is bringing them together. But what they don’t know is why the band broke up at the height of their success. Until now, that is.

The Savage Detectives Book Cover

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Natasha Wimmer

Told through the eyes of the people whose paths they crossed is the story of two realist poets — Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima — and their search for the vanished poet Cesárea Tinajero that turned into a life on the run after a violent showdown in the Sonora desert. Funnily enough it’s also set in the 1970s. The seventies are clearly a hot setting for fictional oral histories.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. (I know how did it take me this long to get around to it??) What about you?

Past Tense

Royal Historical Fiction Fit For a Queen

Hi historical fiction fans!

We finally got some weather in the low seventies this past weekend and you better believe I took advantage of that to spend time reading outside and soaking up some vitamin D. I’m so ready for pretty fall days where I can listen to audiobooks while I walk my dog and spend afternoons in the backyard. I love summer, but with as sweltering as it’s been this year I am more than ready for a reprieve.

Bookish Goods

Jane Austen Bookmark from Royalty Now on Etsy:

Jane Austen Bookmark

I’m so in love with the work Royalty Now does in creating modern interpretations of historical figures like this Jane Austen bookmark. $5

New Releases

Lessons Book Cover

Lessons by Ian McEwan (September 13, 2022)

The author of the best-selling Atonement is back with the story of one man’s life across decades of historic moments and cultural upheaval from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Covid-19 Pandemic. It’s a story about weathering events beyond our control and how even when we come through the other side, we are shaped by them.

Palmares Book Cover

Palmares by Gayl Jones (September 13, 2022)

Jones’s first book in more than 20 years follows an enslaved Black girl on a Portuguese plantation who escapes to a fugitive settlement for former slaves called Palmares. But when the settlement is destroyed, Almeyda sets off on a sweeping journey across Brazil to find her lost husband, encountering the strange, wonderful, and terrible along the way.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

I still vividly remember reading The Royal Diaries books and being fascinated by the lives of historic princesses and queens as a young reader. Books about Elizabeth I and Anastasia sparked my imagination. These three historical fiction books about royals explore courtly intrigue and palace life in China, Russia, and Iran.

The Moon in the Palace Book Cover

The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel

How does a palace concubine become Empress of China? Mei knows nothing of the courtly arts the other concubines use to gain the attention of an Emperor, but her curiosity and intellect set her apart. Soon, Mei is in a unique position to seduce the most powerful man in China, but as divided loyalties split the palace in two, she will first have to survive the coming battle before taking up her rightful place as along the Emperor’s side.

The Last Grand Duchess Book Cover

The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull

The eldest Romanov sister, Olga, will be the last Grand Duchess of Russia — but she doesn’t know that yet. As she comes of age during a time of shifting cultural mores and unrest, she finds hope and love outside the palace walls. But when war breaks out across Europe and protests turn to revolution, she will watch 300 years of Romanov rule come to a terrible end.

Equal of the Sun Book Cover

Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani

In 16th century Iran, the court is thrown into turmoil when the Shah dies before naming an heir. The Shah’s daughter and protégée, Princess Pari, knows more about politics than almost anyone around her, but her attempts to instill order after her father’s death are met with resentment. Equal of the Sun is the story of an incredible woman and a political player at the heart of a power struggle of epic proportions.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading Hamra and the Jungle of Memories by Hanna Alkaf. What about you?

Past Tense

The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 in Historical Fiction

Hi historical fiction friends!

I’m traveling to visit family this week, so you know I’ve packed way more books than any person could reasonably read within four days of travel. And that’s not even to mention my phone and Kindle which contain full libraries worth of books in their own right. But what can I say? I’m a girl who loves her books. And if that means they take up half the space in my carry on, so be it.

Bookish Goods

Woodland Rifle Co Book Sleeve from Etsy:

Woodland Book Sleeve

May or may not have already ordered this gorgeous woodland book sleeve for myself. $25

New Releases

The Attic Child Book Cover

The Attic Child by Lola Jaye (September 6, 2022)

Celestine, a 12-year-old boy kidnapped from Africa and kept in the attic by an English explorer in 1900s London, and an orphan girl whose fortunes have turned and left her living in the same attic, are brought together through the years by the mystery of the items Celestine left behind.

On the Rooftop Book Cover

On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (September 6, 2022)

Against the backdrop of a rapidly gentrifying 1950s San Francisco, a mother dreams of musical stardom for her three daughters who perform on stage as The Salvations. But as the girls become women with dreams of their own — dreams outside their stage mother Vivian’s purview — and the community is slowly being bought out from under them, Vivian struggles to hold onto the life she envisioned for herself and her daughters.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

You know I love to tie these recommendations into historical events that happened on the same (or similar) dates as today, and both of these books feature a devastating hurricane that hit the Florida Keys on Labor Day Weekend in 1935. To misquote a TikTok trend: If I had a nickel for every historical fiction book about the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, I’d have two nickels — which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice.

The Last Train to Key West Book Cover

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

Three women running to and from Key West find themselves trapped during one of the worst storms to ever hit Florida. And, even if they survive, Mirta, Helen, and Elizabeth will never be the same.

Under a Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye

When a wealthy white woman is murdered while a storm is brewing just off the coast, a Black veteran finds himself suspected of a terrible crime even as he struggles to find his place in a country he once fought for — but doesn’t seem to have a place for him anymore.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading The Cartographer’s Secret by Tea Cooper. What about you?

Past Tense

The Best Historical Audiobooks

Hi historical fiction friends!

I’ve had a migraine the past few days which always has a bad impact on my reading. Focusing on text feels like someone is trying to gouge my eyeballs out of my head, so ebooks and physical books are a bit of a problem during a migraine. Just about the only way I can get any reading done is with audiobooks, which also provide a nice distraction from the pain.

I’m a big believer that listening to audiobooks is just as legitimate a form of reading as any other, and I use them not only when I’m physically unable to read but also as a supplement to my other reading. Audiobooks are the perfect soundtrack for walking my dog, getting through chores, or long road trips. Basically what I’m saying is: thank goodness for audiobooks!

Bookish Goods

image source:

Books Definition Shirt

A funny shirt that also encourages strangers not to talk to you? Excellent. $25

New Releases

Carrie Soto Book Cover

Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid (August 30, 2022)

This much-anticipated new release from the author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six follows a retired tennis star returning for one last competition.

The House of Fortune Book Cover

The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton (August 30, 2022)

Following the Miniaturist, this sequel/companion novel returns to 1700s Amsterdam to tell the story of Nella Oortman’s niece, Thea. But as the family struggles to maintain appearances even as their fortunes fall, Nella feels a strange prickling at her neck and fears the miniaturist has returned.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

I looked into some of the best rated audiobook performances (according to Audible) to give you a taste of where to begin with historical fiction audiobooks.

Daughters of the Dust Audiobook Cover

Daughters of the Dust: A Gullah-Geechee Novel by Julie Dash

Audible Hall of Fame narrator Bahni Turpin brings her experience as a television and film actress to this novel about an anthropology student from New York who goes to Sea Islands off the Carolina coast in the 1920s to explore her origins as part of a proud Gullah-Geechee family tracing their roots back to the Ibo in West Africa.

The Personal Librarian Audiobook Cover

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Robin Miles is another Hall of Fame narrator whose brilliant voice work has brought to life books as diverse as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and The Fifth Season. In The Personal Librarian, the incredible legacy of J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, is brought to light. A Black woman who passed as white, Belle became a fixture of New York City society and a powerful force in the world of art and literature as she helped curate Morgan’s world-class collection.

The Prophets Audiobook Cover

The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.

Karen Chilton leans into a southern accent in her rendition of The Prophets that really brings this Civil War era story about love and betrayal to life.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading African Town by Charles Waters. What about you?

Past Tense

Mouthwatering Foodie Historical Fiction

Hi historical fiction friends!

I had a wonderfully bookish weekend between helping a friend get signed up for a new library card and going to the grand opening party for a local bookstore. If only every weekend could be so book-centric!

Bookish Goods

Arthur Library Card from Etsy:

Arthur Library Card Sticker

Having fun isn’t hard when you have this Arthur-inspired library card sticker! $3

New Releases

The Forty Elephants Book Cover

The Forty Elephants by Erin Bledsoe

Inspired by the first all-female gang in London, The Forty Elephants tells the story of Alice Diamond and 1920s London, where gang violence and pickpockets run rampant. When she’s recruited by a notorious group of female thieves, she finally finds success and a desire for more — no matter the cost.

The Ghetto Within Book Cover

The Ghetto Within by Santiago H. Amigorena

The English translation of this French sensation follows a Polish exile living in Argentina who struggles with guilt and identity, wondering what caused him to flee when so many others — including his own mother — remained. Inspired by the author’s grandfather, this novel is part biography and part fiction as Amigorena confronts the toll of trauma and silence.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

Make sure not to read these books on an empty stomach.

The Rib King Book Cover

The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard

A stolen recipe plants the seeds of rage for a groundskeeper after a caricatured likeness of him is used to market a rib sauce stolen from a white family’s talented Black cook. Humiliated and increasingly distraught, August Sitwell’s rage grows into an explosion that will wreak tragedy for everyone around.

The Book of Salt Book Cover

The Book of Salt by Monique Truong

After fleeing Saigon in 1929, a Vietnamese cook serves first as a galley at sea and then as a live-in cook for the eccentric hosts of a literary salon in Paris. It’s a story of food, identity, belonging, and what it means to call a place home.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading Another Appalachia by Neema Avashia. What about you?

Past Tense

Think You Can Solve These Historical Mysteries?

Hi historical fiction fans!

I’m just coming out of a book slump (I hope), so I’m ready to dive into some really great books this week. It’s always interesting to see which books it is that help get you out of slump. Novellas and graphic novels are usually my go-to fixes, but this time it was a middle grade fantasy novel. I think I just needed something lighthearted after a couple of stressful weeks. But now I’m hoping to get caught up on a whole bunch of historical fiction and SFF and romance books I’ve been planning to read.

Here’s hoping you’re reading is going better than mine has been!

Bookish Goods

Rainy Day Bookmark from Etsy; image source:

Rainy Day Bookmark

Anyone else love a good bookmark? This rainy summer day one is so cute, especially with the window pane details. Just to die for. $5

New Releases

Mother of Strangers Book Cover

Mother of Strangers by Suad Amiry

Set in Jaffa in the 1940s and ’50s, this story tells the tale of a 15-year-old mechanic, Subhi, and the peasant girl he hopes to marry one day, Shams. But the Mediterranean port city is soon being bombed indiscriminately, and the Palestinian families who remain must figure out how to survive.

Midnight on the Marne Book Cover

Midnight on the Marne by Sarah Adlakha

In this alternate history novel set during WWI, a nurse and an American soldier find love in the midst of war. But the choices they make affect the outcome of the war, and when Germany wins, leaving behind a brutally occupied France, they must decide whether their choices were worth it. And if they had the opportunity to go back and change them, would they?

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

What’s better than a murder mystery? A murder mystery set in a historical setting, of course! Can you solve these historical mysteries before the fictional sleuths investigating them do?

The Lamplighters Book Cover

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

Inspired by a real historical mystery, this story follows three lighthouse keepers who go missing one night on a remote island off the Cornish coast. What happened to them? When a writer comes to visit the wives and girlfriends those men left behind two decades after their disappearance, what truths will finally be uncovered?

Murder in Old Bombay Book Cover

Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March

In late 19th century British occupied India, Captain Jim Agnihotri recovers in a military hospital after a skirmish left him injured, rereading his favorite Sherlock Holmes mysteries. But when a case in the local papers catches his attention, what is being called the crime of the century becomes the Captain’s first job as an investigator. He’s determined to find out what exactly happened to cause two young women to fall from a clock tower in broad daylight.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading Lapvona by by Ottessa Moshfegh. What about you?

Past Tense

Robin Hood, Gatsby, and Dr. Moreau Reframed in Historical Fiction

Hi historical fiction friends!

Do you ever look at all the books on your shelves and think “oh boy I’m not going to be able to finish all of these in my lifetime” and then proceed to put three books on hold at your library and pre-order five other upcoming releases? Yeah, me, too. What can I say, I’m just happiest surrounded by books, and I’ve given up pretending I need to read every single book I already have before reading all the new books that interest me. There’s too little time to worry about that when I could be reading instead.

Bookish Goods

Novel Tea Storybook Tins from Etsy, source:

Storybook Novel Tea Tins

I love Novel Tea Tins, and while my favorites are the tins in the shape of actual novels, I also like the idea of getting a selection so I can try a few different flavors without breaking the bank. And the tins are still pretty dang adorable. $30

New Releases

Bronze Drum Book Cover

Bronze Drum by Phong Nguyen (August 9, 2022)

Based on the true story of two warrior sisters who raised an army in ancient Vietnam to overthrow the Han Chinese invaders, Bronze Drum follows Trung Trac and Trung Nhi as they try to stay true to Vietnamese traditions even as Confucianism and heavy taxes are forced upon them. But frustrations are reaching a boiling point, turning toward war, and these two sisters will be at the heart of the conflict to come.

We should Not Be Afriad of the Sky Book Cover

We Should Not Be Afraid of the Sky by Emma Hooper (August 9, 2022)

In a Portuguese village during the golden age of the Roman Empire, five young girls live an idyllic life of friendship and races through the lemon orchard. But when they’re abducted by the commander who lives on the hill, they find themselves at the center of a deadly standoff just as the edges of the empire are beginning to crack.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

I’ve come across several great historical fiction retellings of classic fiction recently, and they’re just too good not to share.

cover of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

If you aren’t already a fan of Silvia Moreno-Garcia and her incredible range, here is a great place to start: her new take on The Island of Dr. Moreau. Carlota Moreau has grown up on her father’s isolated estate, where his part-human part-animal hybrids roam free. It’s a life of relative peace compared to the strife on the Yucatán peninsula, but the arrival of a careless stranger sets off a dangerous chain reaction that could upend all their lives forever.

Travelers Along the Way Book Cover

Travelers Along the Way by Aminah Mae Safi

I’ve been a fan of Safi’s fiction ever since I read her novel, Not the Girls You’re Looking For, and interviewed her for Book Riot. But I was absolutely and completely blown away by her first historical fiction novel, Travelers Along the Way, which reimagines Robin Hood as a young soldier in the Holy Lands during the Crusades. It’s an absolutely incredible tale of friendship, bravery, and compassion, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Beautiful Little Fools Book Cover

Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor

Who shot Jay Gatsby? In this historical reimagining, three women are wanted for questioning in regards to the death of West Egg’s most illustrious resident. One, Daisy Buchanan, once thought she would marry Gatsby. Another, Daisy’s best friend Jordan Baker, is guarding secrets that ruined her golf career and could now ruin her friendship with Daisy as well. And third, a suffragette named Catherine McCoy, is fighting for the right’s of women, especially her sister, Myrtle Wilson, who’s trapped in a loveless marriage. Each woman was pulled into Gatsby’s circle over the past few years. And each of them could’ve killed him. But did they? Only time will tell in this tale of love and obsession, greed and power.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading Bronze Drum by Phong Nguyen and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. What about you?

Past Tense

The Old West Like You’ve Never Read It Before

Hi historical fiction fans!

I just got home from some much needed staycation time with my family, most of which was spent reading by the pool. Family members seen: 11. Books finished: 5. All in all, I’d say that’s exactly the kind of vacation I needed this year. I hope all of you are finding time to read and rest amidst all the work, too!

Bookish Goods

Brass Lady Macbeth Bookmark from Literary Emporium on Etsy

Brass Lady Macbeth Bookmark

Literary Emporium is one of my favorite bookish shops on Etsy, and this brass snake bookmark with a quote from Lady Macbeth is a perfect example of why. Just stunning. $11

New Releases

Mademoiselle Revolution Book Cover

Mademoiselle Revolution by Zoe Sivak (August 2, 2022)

As the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and an enslaved woman, Sylvie de Rosiers enjoys the comforts of a lady. But as the Haitian Revolution begins, Sylvie and her brother leave Saint-Domingue for France, only to find themselves enmeshed in another society on the brink of uprising.

Mercury Pictures Presents Book Cover

Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra (August 2, 2022)

Maria Lagana grew up watching movies at the cinema with her father. Now, an associate producer at Mercury Pictures in Hollywood, Maria likes to keep her personal and professional lives separate even as both feel the strain of a world at war. Just as American enters WWII, a figure from her past returns, and Maria must finally confront the truth of what happened to her father all those years ago.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

My father is a big fan of classic Western movies, and my sister and I were jokingly taught by our mother to chant “no John Wayne!” as little kids to tease our dad. When it comes to the world of historical fiction, though, books set in the American West are much more nuanced and diverse. Here are several I recommend to refresh your understanding of what a Western really is:

Book of the Little Axe Book Cover

Book of the Little Axe by Lauren Francis-Sharma

Rosa Rendón was once a free Black woman living in Trinidad, but now she lives among the Crow Nation in Bighorn, Montana, where her husband, Edward Rose, is a Crow chief. As her son comes of age and seeks his vision in order to become a man, he begins to question all the secrets Rosa is keeping about her past. In order to help her son move forward, Rosa must retrace her past back to the painful events that forced her out of Trinidad as it changed hands from Spanish to British rule.

How Much of These Hills is Gold Book Cover

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang

Home and belonging are central themes in this novel about a Chinese-American family living in the American West. Though they’ve lived there longer than most of the white settlers around them, Lucy, Sam, and their Ba and Ma are still viewed as outsiders and forced to the fringes of society. And misfortune after misfortune test the limits of their bonds to one and other in this beautiful story that moves backward and forward in time.

Outlawed Book Cover

Outlawed by Anna North

Ada’s life looks good at seventeen, with a new marriage to a husband she loves and work she enjoys as apprentice to her midwife mother. But after a year of marriage without any pregnancies in a society where barren women are often hanged as witches, she decides to join up with a gang of outlaws run by a preacher-turned-robber in order to survive. The Hole in the Wall Gang is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women like Ada, but an audacious plan to do so might just get them all killed.

A few other diverse historical Westerns to check out: Inland
by Téa Obreht, The Round House by Louise Erdrich, and The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading Briefly, a Delicious Life by Nell Stevens. What about you?

Past Tense

Hot Summer Days and Heat Waves in Historical Fiction

Hi historical fiction fans!

I hope you’re all surviving the heat for those of you also in the Northern Hemisphere. My part of the southern U.S. has been hitting record heat waves with temperatures over 100°F (38°C) most days. It’s been a constant effort to stay cool and hydrated, but good books have helped me find relief from the heat and the ups and downs of life, as always.

Bookish Goods

Old Books Candle from Smells Like Books on Etsy

Old Books Candle

I know I’m not the only one around here who loves the smell of old books. I mean, used book stores? Old libraries? It’s the best smell, and now you can smell it anytime. $24

New Releases

The Half Life of Valery K Book Cover

The Half Life of Valery K by Natasha Pulley

A former nuclear specialist is taken from a Siberian prison in the 1960s by an old professor, only to find that his new work in a mysterious, unnamed city, detecting radiation levels in local animals, might be even worse than imprisonment.

The Librarian Spy Book Cover

The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin

Ava is a librarian turned spy during the Second World War, having moved on from her quiet job at the Library of Congress to work undercover in Lisbon. Through a series of coded messages, she becomes connected to an apprentice at a printing press in France, passing secrets back and forth even as the war ravages Europe.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

Sometimes it’s nice to envision colder climates when it’s as hot as it’s been lately in so much of North America and Europe. But sometimes solidarity is good, too. These books take place during boiling hot summers and in hot climates.

When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky Book Cover

When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky by Margaret Verble

A young Cherokee horse-diver preforming in the Glendale Park Zoo one Nashville summer (which I can attest from experience get ungodly hot) is drawn into a mystery when disaster strikes the show, only for strange occurrences–unexplained illnesses, apparitions–to begin haunting the park.

The Dance Tree Book Cover

The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

During the boiling hot summer of 1518 in Strasbourg, a pregnant beekeeper, her best friend, and her mother in law are rocked by the return of someone long lost to them during six years of penance for a sin no one will speak of. In the midst of the heat, a dancing plague begins to take over the town square, and the religious fervor of the men in charge of the city threaten everyone and everything Lisbet holds dear, from her bees to her best friend.

Last Summer on State Street Book Cover

Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe

During one life-changing summer, four girls in the housing projects of Chicago watch their friendships, families, and homes built up and torn down. As Fe Fe looks back on that summer in 1999, just before her home was demolished, she considers the power of childhood bonds built in the blink of an eye and the racism that brought grief into her childhood years too early.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield and The Plotters by Un-su Kim. What about you?