Readers' Favorite

July 3, 2024

Ancient History, Family History, Historical Romance - take your pick!

by MK French

Today, I have a sampling of this month's historical fiction.  Whether you are looking for ancient history of the Greek gods, something a bit more contemporary, or prefer period romance - here are three novels to add to your reading list.

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

The Curse of the Flores Women by Angélica Lopes

book cover of historical fiction novel The Curse of the Flores Women by Angelica Lopes
July 2024; Amazon Crossing; 978-1662516139
audio, ebook, print (235 pages); historical fiction

Alice Ribeiro is constantly fighting with all the strength her eighteen-year-old self can muster. When a family veil is passed down to her, Alice wants to discover the hidden history of the women in her family. Seven generations ago, the small town of Bom Retiro shunned the Flores women because of a “curse” that rendered them unlucky in love. They learned lacemaking to support themselves, but their peace was threatened. In learning about her family history, Alice learns about herself and her own resilience for the future.

In dual timelines, we learn about Alice in 2010 reacting to the assaults women still experience in Rio de Janeiro, marching in protests. She and her mother don't get along, but her aunt gives her the veil on a visit, and she learns that the stitches are a code that tells the story of a woman miserable at being given in marriage without being asked. The other timeline takes place almost a hundred years before, with the lacemaking cooperative broken by one of their own getting married to a rich and powerful man after two meetings. He has no interest in the girl as a person, only as someone to replace the wife who died and sees nothing wrong with forcing his way into her bed or hitting her.

There have always been women working to help other women out of terrible situations that men place them in. It can be something small like Alice switching seats so a woman won't be harassed by a fellow passenger, or large like Ines making arrangements so Eugenia could escape a marriage she didn't want. Learning about Ines and Eugenia helps Alice see that there is always a way to fight back, and giving them a voice helps her see a better future. The friendships at the turn of the century were strong and sustained them when those who were supposed to protect them were actually oppressors. Little rebellions are still rebellions, and lacemaking was once a woman's only means of making an independent income.

This look into Brazil's past was fascinating and very similar to the lives women had here as well. I found their story so compelling that I couldn't put the book down, and had to read it in a single sitting.

Daughters of Olympus by Hannah Lynn

book cover of historical fiction novel Daughters of Olympus by Hannah Lynn
July 2024; Sourcebooks Landmark; 978-1728284293
audio, ebook, print (448 pages); ancient historical fiction

After an act of violence, Demeter avoided humanity and took solace in plantlife and her daughter Core. Young and determined to make a life for herself, Core accidentally drew the eye of Hades. After her kidnapping, even though Core found some solace as Queen of the Underworld, Demeter would stop at nothing to get her daughter back.

The story begins with the Titans and overthrowing Cronus. Zeus is cruel and manipulative, as Poseidon and other male Olympians can be. The cruelty is almost the point, and Demeter is traumatized. The few comforts she has includes her daughter Core, who wants to explore the world. First, we get Demeter's POV, allowing us to see how it all shaped her decisions and how she treated Core. Then we see Core, what she did and how she changed, and the transformation into Persephone. This book follows the myth, weaving in related ones so that there's a cohesive narrative where many myths seem to stand alone without a timeline. The novel gives personality to the gods, and we see the world as they do. It's a fascinating view, and very well done here.

Buy Daughter of Olympus at Amazon

Viscount in Love by Eloisa James

book cover of historical romance novel Viscount in Love by Eloisa James
July 2024; Avon; 978-0063347410
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); historical romance

Viscount Dominic Kelbourne is now the guardian to twins, but his betrothed elopes. Dominic decides to marry his fiancée’s sister Torie, and their fevered kisses convince society it's a love match. Torie marries for the sake of the twins but hopes they can have a real marriage.

We see how Dominic and Leonora interact in early chapters, and there is not only no love between them but hardly even any respect. Leonora kept pushing off their wedding date for over two years, and his sister's twins have unorthodox behavior due to being emotionally neglected for years. Their outrages and impolite behavior put off Leonora, and she wants them shipped off to the country so that she doesn't have to ever deal with them. It's not what Dominic wants, and his insistence on keeping the twins close and then eventually introducing them to Society is the final straw that drives Leonora away. In the meantime, Torie and Dominic often interacted and had more of a relationship even though it wasn't romantic. There is physical attraction and mutual love of the twins binding them together. Neither truly believes the other can love them, leading to courting and developing their relationship further.

I like that Dominic is the one to chase Torie and that he recognizes her inner worth even though she is unable to read or calculate sums. Her own family and the rest of society put her down for it, and she's borne the brunt of those "jokes" for so long that she doesn't recognize Dominic's instinct to champion her. The twins give Dominic advice and care about Torie as much as she cares about them. They're not just plot devices, but intelligent and outspoken children who have finally attached to people who care about their wellbeing. Both Dominic and Torie know a lot about their chosen fields, yet are easily hurt if they feel belittled. Understanding each other deepens their love, and I really liked that aspect of their romance.

Buy Viscount in Love at Amazon

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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