Historical fiction fans love to follow the ups and downs of characters through particular time periods. These engaging series — including books from heavy hitters like Philippa Gregory, Bernard Cornwell, and Ken Follett — will transport you through the centuries from 14th-century Norway to the American Revolution to World War II. Check out these engaging historical fiction series below, complete with publishers’ descriptions.
Poldark series by Winston Graham
The enthralling first book behind Poldark, the major new TV series from Masterpiece on PBS…
In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth — believing Ross to be dead — is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew.
Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.
The Cousins’ War series by Philippa Gregory
The inspiration for the critically acclaimed Starz miniseries The White Queen, #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory brings to life the extraordinary story of Elizabeth Woodville, a woman who rises from obscurity to become Queen of England, and changes the course of history forever.
Elizabeth Woodville is a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition. Her mother is Jacquetta, also known as the mystical lady of the rivers, and she is even more determined to bring power and wealth to the family line. While riding in the woods one day, Elizabeth captures the attentions of the newly crowned King Edward IV and, despite her common upbringing, marries him in secret.
When she is raised up to be his queen, the English court is outraged, but Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for her family’s dominance. Yet despite her best efforts, and even with the help of her mother’s powers, her two sons become pawns in a famous unsolved mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the lost princes in the Tower of London.
In this dazzling account of the deadly Wars of the Roses, brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize: the throne of England.
The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett
Ken Follett’s magnificent new historical epic begins as five interrelated families move through the momentous dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage.
A 13-year-old Welsh boy enters a man’s world in the mining pits… An American law student rejected in love finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson’s White House… A housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with a German spy… And two orphaned Russian brothers embark on radically different paths when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution.
From the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty, Fall of Giants takes us into the inextricably entangled fates of five families — and into a century that we thought we knew, but that now will never seem the same again…
The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwell
The first installment of Bernard Cornwell’s bestselling series chronicling the epic saga of the making of England, “like Game of Thrones, but real” (The Observer, London) — the basis for The Last Kingdom, the hit BBC America television series.
This is the exciting — yet little known — story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms.
The story is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed nobleman, who is captured as a child by the Danes and then raised by them so that, by the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex (Alfred’s kingdom and the last territory in English hands) Uhtred almost thinks of himself as a Dane. He certainly has no love for Alfred, whom he considers a pious weakling and no match for Viking savagery, yet when Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he is finally forced to choose sides. By now he is a young man, in love, trained to fight and ready to take his place in the dreaded shield wall. Above all, though, he wishes to recover his father’s land, the enchanting fort of Bebbanburg by the wild northern sea.
This thrilling adventure — based on existing records of Bernard Cornwell’s ancestors — depicts a time when law and order were ripped violently apart by a pagan assault on Christian England, an assault that came very close to destroying England.
Morland Dynasty series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
This wonderful series opens with the back drop of the Wars of the Roses with the marriage between Eleanor Morland and a scion of the influential house of Beaufort. It is a union which establishes the powerful Morland dynasty and in the succeeding volumes of this rich tapestry of English life, we follow their fortunes through war and peace, political upheaval and social revolution, times of pestilence and periods of plenty, and through the vicissitudes which afflict every family — love and passion, envy and betrayal, birth and death, great fortune and miserable penury.
The Morland Dynasty is entertainment of the most addictive kind.
Wolf Hall series by Hilary Mantel
In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king’s favor and ascend to the heights of political power.
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of 20 years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.
Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: He is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?
In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.
The Wars of the Roses series by Conn Iggulden
The first book in #1 New York Times–bestselling author Conn Iggulden’s brilliant new historical series about two families who plunged England into a devastating, decades-long civil war.
In 1437, the Lancaster king Henry VI ascends the throne of England after years of semi-peaceful regency. Named “The Lamb,” Henry is famed more for his gentle and pious nature than his father’s famous battlefield exploits; already, his dependence on his closest men has stirred whispers of weakness at court.
A secret truce negotiated with France to trade British territories for a royal bride — Margaret of Anjou — sparks revolts across English territory. The rival royal line, the House of York, sees the chaos brought on by Henry’s weakness and with it not only opportunity in the monarch, but also their patriotic duty in ousting an ineffectual king. As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who or what can save the kingdom before it is too late?
The Kent Family Chronicles by John Jakes
The first volume in the addictive saga of the American Revolution by the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of the North and South trilogy.
Meet Phillipe Charboneau: the illegitimate son and unrecognized heir of the Duke of Kentland. Upon the Duke’s death, Phillipe is denied his birthright and left to build a life of his own. Seeking all that the New World promises, he leaves London for America, shedding his past and preparing for the future by changing his name to Philip Kent. He arrives at the brink of the American Revolution, which tests his allegiances in ways he never imagined. The first volume of John Jakes’s wildly successful and highly addictive Kent Family Chronicles, The Bastard is a triumph of historical fiction.
Courtney series by Wilbur Smith
He began life at his twin brother’s side, soon running wild on his father’s ranch on the edge of Africa. But violence, desire, and fate sent Sean Courtney into exile — where he would fight and love his way to extraordinary success and heartbreaking failure…
In a place called The Ridge of White Waters, Sean made a life-long friendship, mined a fortune of gold, and met his own demons. Then an act of cunning betrayal struck — and ignited a new adventure to a new frontier.
From facing the murderous charge of a towering bull elephant to watching men die unspeakable deaths, Sean fought new enemies, forged new allies — and dreamed of establishing a family on a farm of his own. But in Wilbur Smith’s When the Lion Feeds, the young man who had lived by his courage, sweat, and blood was about to discover that the past still had its claws in him…
Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard
In the tradition of Evelyn Waugh and E. M. Forster, the first book in this critically acclaimed multigenerational saga about an upper-middle-class family in Britain before, during, and after World War II recreates a vanished world.
As war clouds gather on the distant horizon, Hugh, Edward, and Rupert Cazalet, along with their wives, children, and loyal servants, prepare to leave London for their annual pilgrimage to the family’s Sussex estate. There, they will join their parents, William and Kitty, and sister, Rachel, at Home Place, the sprawling retreat where the three brothers hope to spend an idyllic summer of years gone by. But the First World War has left indelible scars.
Hugh, the eldest of his siblings, was wounded in France and is haunted both by recurring nightmares of battle and the prospect of another war. Edward adores his wife, Villy, a former dancer searching for meaning in life, yet he’s incapable of remaining faithful to her. Rupert desires only to fulfill his potential as a painter, but finds that love and art cannot coexist. And devoted daughter Rachel discovers the joys — and limitations — of intimacy with another woman.
A candid portrait of British life in the late 1930s and a sweeping depiction of a world on the brink of war, The Light Years is a must-read for fans of Downton Abbey. Three generations of the Cazalet family come to unforgettable dramatic life in this saga about England during the last century — and the long-held values and cherished traditions that would soon disappear forever.
Kristin Lavransdatter series by Sigrid Undset
Kristin Lavransdatter interweaves political, social, and religious history with the daily aspects of family life to create a colorful, richly detailed tapestry of Norway during the fourteenth-century. The trilogy, however, is more than a journey into the past. Undset’s own life — her familiarity with Norse sagas and folklore and with a wide range of medieval literature, her experiences as a daughter, wife, and mother, and her deep religious faith — profoundly influenced her writing. Her grasp of the connections between past and present and of human nature itself, combined with the extraordinary quality of her writing, sets her works far above the genre of “historical novels.”
Undset’s ability to present a meticulously accurate historical portrait without sacrificing the poetry and narrative drive of masterful storytelling was particularly significant in her homeland. Granted independence in 1905 after 500 years of foreign domination, Norway was eager to reclaim its national history and culture. Kristin Lavransdatter became a touchstone for Undset’s contemporaries, and continues to be widely read by Norwegians today. In the more than 75 years since it was first published, it has also become a favorite throughout the world.
Suffolk Trilogy by Norah Lofts
Can a house built from the ashes of tragedy ever be a place of lasting happiness? Can the hereditary mix of wild gypsy lore, fierce independence, magic and mystery truly settle in a respectable home?
The Town House is the first in Norah Lofts’ enduringly popular Suffolk Trilogy about the Old Vine at Baildon. Built in the late 14th century by Martin Reed, a runaway serf who had defied his master for the woman he loved, the house was to change and grow for six centuries. In its very foundations it held secrets and lies, passionate love and deep despair.
The vast scope of The Suffolk Trilogy — continued with The House at Old Vine and The House at Sunset — involves the reader in a fascinating journey through time. In The Town House, Norah Lofts evokes 14th- and 15th-century life from the perspective of five different characters. Her sympathetic touch and ability to imbue each character with life involves us from the first to the last page. She convincingly recreates the historical era in which each character lives, not merely to set the scene but to add an understanding of why and how they act as they do.
Cavendon Chronicles by Barbara Taylor Bradford
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an epic saga of intrigue and mystique set in Edwardian England. Cavendon Hall is home to two families, the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them. Charles Ingham, the sixth Earl of Mowbray, lives there with his wife Felicity and their six children. Walter Swann, the premier male of the Swann family, is valet to the earl. His wife Alice, a clever seamstress who is in charge of the countess’s wardrobe, also makes clothes for the four daughters. For centuries, these two families have lived side-by-side, beneath the backdrop of the imposing Yorkshire manor. Lady Daphne, the most beautiful of the Earl’s daughters, is about to be presented at court when a devastating event changes her life and threatens the Ingham name. With World War I looming, both families will find themselves tested in ways they never thought possible. Loyalties will be challenged and betrayals will be set into motion. In this time of uncertainty, one thing is sure: These two families will never be the same again. Cavendon Hall is Barbara Taylor Bradford at her very best, and its sweeping story of secrets, love, honor, and betrayal will have readers riveted up to the very last page.
Lavette Family Saga by Howard Fast
In this sweeping journey of love and fortune, master storyteller Howard Fast recounts the rise and fall of a family of roughneck immigrants determined to make their way in America at the turn of the century. Quick to ascend from the tragic depths of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Dan Lavette becomes the head of a powerful shipping empire and establishes himself among the city’s cultural elite. But when he finds himself caught in a loveless marriage to the daughter of San Francisco’s richest family, a scandalous love affair threatens to destroy the empire Dan has built for himself.
The first of a compelling family saga, The Immigrants is a fast-paced, emotional novel that captures the wide range of relationships among immigrant families during the tumultuous events that defined the early twentieth century in America.
The Accursed Kings series by Maurice Druon
From the publishers that brought you A Game of Thrones comes the series that inspired George R.R. Martin’s epic work.
France became a great nation under Philip the Fair — but it was a greatness achieved at the expense of her people, for his was a reign characterized by violence, the scandalous adulteries of his daughters-in-law, and the triumph of royal authority.
Which of these series do you recommend? Let us know in the comments!
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