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November 10, 2022

Two Novels for Fans of Historical Fiction

by MK French

Today I have two books of historical fiction that were published this autumn. Both of them are the third book in their series, but you don't have to have read the previous books to enjoy these. 

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Dawnlands by Philippa Gregory

book cover of historical fiction novel Dawnlands by Philippa Gregory
November 2022; Atria Books; 978-1501187216
audio, ebook, print (512 pages); historical fiction

In 1685 England, King Charles II died without an heir and many people don't want his brother James to take the throne. Ned Ferryman wants to return from America with his Pokanoket servant to join the rebel army. His sister Alinor and her daughter Alys are convinced to save the queen in exchange for the chance to return to Tidelands and rule. Alinor’s son wants nothing to do with the war, but is coerced to create an imposter Prince of Wales.

Dawnlands is the third book of the Fairmile series,  but I missed the first two books of this generational saga. That's okay, I don't feel like I missed anything. Any pertinent information regarding relationships are supplied by context, and there's enough new tension to roll with it. The family is once again embroiled in situations borne of royal issues. England is firmly Protestant at this point, but the Stuart King James and his wife Mary Beatrice are Catholic. The religious tension trickles down to the people as well, though merchant's tend to avoid conflicts of principles. Johnny verbalized it the most with Ned: money is the only thing of value for most people, as it's the way of getting power, comfort and safety. Ned is an idealist, believing all people are equal regardless of gender, nationality or religion. This is obviously not a common sentiment for the time period, and his efforts to make changes are stymied because of his lack of wealth.

As an epic story spanning generations, we have different priorities between the characters, discussions of past events, and the current political instability to bring it to the reader's attention. We see the harsh reality of slavery in Barbados before it became so widespread in the American colonies, the need to survive at all costs (however it's defined by the characters) and how for some characters that drive to succeed ultimately leaves them alone at the end. They don't fail, exactly; Johnny is a businessman, and Livia schemes her way to the top no matter who she has to manipulate. It was fascinating to see this play out against history. Focusing on the family means we have a vested interest in this era of history in England, and the impact it had on the common people, not just the nobility and royalty.

Buy Dawnlands at Amazon

Birthright by Kathryn Amurra

book review of historical romance novel Birthright by Kathryn Amurra
September 2022; Indie; 979-8847619547
ebook, print (348 pages); historical romance

Nerilla's mother had been a patrician woman marrying beneath her social class. Planning to correct that mistake, Nerilla selected a patrician man to marry, even though she knows he's only doing it to obtain her father's legendary sword as her dowry. When it's stolen by a thief, Nerilla will do anything to get it back. Jovian had taken it because a soothsayer told him that getting it will unlock the past he can't remember. Together they must decide on whether they want the perfect plans they initially laid for themselves, or their true birthright.

Birthright is the third book in the Soothsayer's Path series, after Soothsayer (review here) and Admonition (review here). Some names may be familiar if you read the earlier books, but don't worry if you haven't. This is a self-contained novel, and the soothsayer is the primary link in the series.

Nerilla is an only child, as her father is, and is concerned about family connections and social class. She does care about her parents, animals and other citizens in society as well, which makes the first meeting with her betrothed all the more jarring. It's clear to us that they don't suit at all, but she never expected to actually love her husband. All she expects is respect and perhaps fondness, and to live a comfortable life. She can be impulsive, but isn't a complete idiot and realizes that going along with a stranger that she knows as a thief isn't a good idea. Jovian is more honorable than the thieving would imply; he's trying to get coin enough to help his friend buy his daughter back from where she was taken. The two travel to find the girl, then the sword, and along the way the two of them get to know each other better. Lying about how they know each other and to book passage for the journey on ships of course will come back at them, but I enjoyed seeing a lot of fun tropes play out in the book. By the end, the two learn what they really want out of life, and that titles aren't always part of the best path forward.

Buy Birthright at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE)

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever. 

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