Past Tense

Murderesses on Trial in Historical Fiction

Hi historical fiction fans!

This week we’re talking murder most foul. Or, well, at least people accused of murder most foul in historical fiction. We’ve also good some neat new releases, bookish goodies, and other historical fiction goodness for you.

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Bookish Goods

Stationary cards illustrated with colorful watercolor bookshelves

Bookshelf Stationary from A Thing Created

This lovely little stationary set on Etsy is perfect for readers, librarians, teachers, and book lovers alike! $25

New Releases

Madame Pommery Book Cover

Madame Pommery: Creator of Brut Champagne by Rebecca Rosenberg (April 25, 2023)

A newly widowed etiquette teacher with no experience in making champagne decides to create a new version of the drink to support her family, and, in the process, takes champagne from a dessert drink to a dry beverage to be enjoyed anytime. It’s a story of determination, discovery, and invention from a mother determined to change the face of champagne forever.

Where Waters Meet Book Cover

Where Waters Meet by Zhang Ling (May 1, 2023)

After the death of her beloved mother, Rain, Phoenix discovers a suitcase full of mysterious artifacts from her mother’s life. In order to learn the missing pieces of her mother’s early life, Phoenix must travel to China to visit her aunt. But it’s not just her mother’s past that Phoenix discovers along the way, it’s also truths about herself that she never could’ve imagined.

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

Riot Recommendations

Another new release I’m excited about this week, The Maiden, follows an accused murderess in 17th century Scotland. I love a historical fiction novel that slowly uncovers the truth of crimes that may — or may not — have occurred, so let’s talk about a few other (accused) murderesses in historical fiction.

The Maiden Book Cover

The Maiden by Kate Foster

In 1679 Edinburgh, a woman is arrested and charged with the murder of her lover. The broadsides have already decided her guilt, and it’s certainly true she had an affair. But does taking a lover also make her guilty of murder? Based on a true story, Foster provides a feminist twist to the lives and fates of women so often silenced by the strong tides of history.

Alias Grace Book Cover

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Another book based on a true story, Alias Grace imagines what might have really happened to young accused (and convicted) murderer Grace Marks in 19th century Canada. Certainly, her employer and his housekeeper were brutally murdered. Certainly, Grace was there. But was she an innocent victim herself, or a willing co-conspirator as so many believe? And can an expert in the new field of mental illness and mesmerism finally get to the truth or will he fall prey to Grace’s tangled web of truth and lies?

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins cover image

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

After being freed from life on a plantation in Jamaica, Frannie Langton expects to begin life anew. But instead, she’s sold into bondage of another sort as an unwilling servant in London. And although she forges a surprising bond with the strange lady of the house, she soon finds herself accused of the brutal double murder of her employers. Frannie knows no one will believe the truth, especially coming from a Black woman, and that her story is more likely to indict her than free her. But, still, Frannie tells her story, and, in doing so, shows that the whole of English society is to blame.

That’s it for now, folks! 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 Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya.