7 Upcoming Historical Fiction Books Inspired by Real-Life Women

Posted on February 28, 2017 by

A photo of Jenni L. Walsh and the cover of her new book Becoming BonnieThis is a guest post by Jenni L. Walsh. Walsh’s debut novel, Becoming Bonnie, is the untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. It releases on May 9.

I love historical fiction, but more so, I love to cozy up with a novel inspired by actual history and events, often finding myself googling various search terms to quench my curiosity. If you add a real-life woman to the mix, I’m even more intrigued. That’s probably why I was drawn to tell my own spin of Bonnie Parker’s origin story, and why the books below are at the top of my to-be-read list in the coming months. In honor of Women’s History Month this March, I’d love to share these women and their stories with you.

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The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott

The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott

I always enjoy a familiar story through someone else’s eyes. That’s what happens in The Hollywood Daughter as Jessica Malloy, the daughter of Ingrid Bergman’s publicist, reacts to one of Hollywood’s biggest scandals from the 1950s. Bergman — already a major star after movies like Casablanca and Joan of Arc — has a baby out of wedlock with her Italian lover, film director Roberto Rossellini. Previously held up as an icon of purity, Bergman’s affair shocks legions of her American fans, including Malloy, who begins to learn hidden truths about her own family and opens her eyes to the complex realities of life and love.

Release date: March 7

Search terms: Ingrid Bergman scandal, McCarthyism


Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

A novel about the first female detective? Yes, please. Set in the tumultuous years of the Civil War, Kate Warne infiltrates the seedy side of Chicago in ways her fellow male detectives cannot. She goes undercover in many forms — as a seductress, an exotic foreign medium, a rich train passenger — all depending on the day and on the robber, thief, or murderer she’s been assigned to nab.

Release date: March 21

Search terms: Kate Warne, Lincoln assassination


Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Alex and Eliza: A Love Story by Melissa de la Cruz

With the popularity of Hamilton, it’s no wonder this novel is on my to-be-read list. Set in 1777 during the American Revolution, Alex and Eliza brings to life the romance of Alexander Hamilton — George Washington’s right-hand man — and the young Elizabeth Schuyler. Elizabeth descends from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, while Alexander is an orphan, and a bastard one at that. When Alex and Eliza meet, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

Release date: April 11

Search terms: Eliza Hamilton legacy, Alexander Hamilton affair


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The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo

This feels like a ‘behind the scenes’ story and I love that. In 15th-century Italy, Simonetta Cattaneo is proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence and is invited by Sandro Botticelli to pose for him as his muse. They develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his infamous masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

Release date: April 25

Search terms: Simonetta Vespucci images, The Birth of Venus


The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

Set in England, 1815, this novel immediately caught my eye at the mention of time travel, and of course, the mention of Jane Austen. There are hundreds of Jane–Austen inspired books to choose from, but Flynn puts an unusual twist on the legacy of one of the world’s most celebrated and beloved authors: Two researchers from the future are sent back in time to meet, befriend, and steal a suspected unpublished novel from Jane Austen herself.

Release date: May 2

Search terms: Jane Austen unpublished manuscript


The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

When a novel is about a secret, unsolved mystery, or a potential hoax, I’m already halfway to a purchase. A great premise, like this one, gets me the rest of the way there. In 1917, two young cousins — Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright — convinced the world they had done the impossible and photographed fairies. A century later, Olivia Kavanagh becomes fascinated by their photos, especially when she realizes how the girls’ lives intertwine with her own, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined.

Release date: August 1

Search terms: Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright photographs, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Cottingley Fairies Case


The Wardrobe Mistress by Meghan Masterson

The Wardrobe Mistress: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Meghan Masterson

I sat up straighter at the mention of Marie Antoinette, someone I’ve always found fascinating, and I was further intrigued that the novel is told through the point of view of her undertirewoman, Giselle Aubry, who is asked to spy on Marie Antoinette. Set at court in Versailles, Aubry is torn between her loyalty to the queen and to her growing involvement with a young patriot. Sounds scandalous!

Release date: August 15

Search terms: Palace of Versailles, Marie Antoinette gossip


Which of these do you plan to read? Tell us in the comments!


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