Past Tense

Escape to the Islands with Historical Fiction

Hi historical fiction fans!

Another week, another newsletter. This week we’ve got bookmarks, great new historical fiction releases, and some book recommendations that will whisk you away to the islands. Let’s talk about them!

But first: What do S.A. Cosby, Khaled Hosseini, Sarah Bakewell, and Yahdon Israel have in common? They’ve been guests on Book Riot’s newest podcast, First Edition where co-founder Jeff O’Neal explores the wide bookish world. Subscribe to hear them and stay to hear Book Riot’s editors pick the “it” book of the month.

Bookish Goods

Four reversible botanical bookmarks featuring illustrations of cactuses, ferns, mushrooms, and flowers with tassels.

Reversible Botanical Bookmarks from Curious Prints

Isn’t it odd how you can have a hundred bookmarks but never seem to have a bookmark handy when you need one? Might as well as these gorgeous botanical ones to your unused collection. $6

New Releases

Queen of Exiles Book Cover

Queen of Exiles by Vanessa Riley (July 11, 2023)

The author of Island Queen and Sister, Mother, Warrior is back with another incredible historical fiction novel, this time about the woman crowned queen in the wake of the Haitian Revolution. When her husband, the king, is overthrown, Louise flees to Europe with her daughters in tow. There, she works to establish herself — and her daughters — as the equal of any royal in the continent.

The Madwomen of Paris Book Cover

The Madwomen of Paris by Jennifer Cody Epstein (July 11, 2023)

Two women at a Paris asylum, one a patient and one an attendant, are drawn together in the wake of a doctor’s relentless obsession. Josephine is another in a wave of women sent to Salpêtrière asylum in the throes of an epidemic sweeping Paris: hysteria. She becomes a favorite of Doctor Charcot, who shows her off to audiences while under hypnosis. She and the doctor are growing famous, but Laure, instructed to care for Josephine, fears her returning memories could be her undoing. A diagnosis of hysteria is survivable, after all. But a diagnosis of lunacy, even for the doctor’s new favorite, could mean Josephine never sees the outside of Salpêtrière again.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

Vanessa Riley’s new book, Queen of Exiles, has me thinking about historical fiction books set on tropical islands. Really, is there anything more fitting for summer?

Hotel Cuba Book Cover

Hotel Cuba by Aaron Hamburger

Sisters fleeing the fallout of WWI and the Soviet Revolution in Russia are turned away from the U.S. by discriminatory immigration laws and head for Cuba instead. Life in Prohibition-era Havana is just about as far from shtetl life as could be, but soon Pearl and Frieda begin to adjust. Life and love find them on the island, and their plans to rejoin their sister in New York grow more and more complicated.

Diamond Head Book Cover

Diamond Head by Cecily Wong

A family reminisces about the circumstances that brought them from China to Hawaii during their patriarch’s funeral. This family saga spans continents and cultural pivot points, from the Boxer Rebellion to Pearl Harbor. But throughout it all, the Leong family stand together and try to leave behind what they believe is an ancient curse of fate that has followed them all the way from China to the shores of Oahu.

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 whatever new Twitter alternative is trending this week.

Right now I’m reading The Antiquity Affair by Lee Kelly and Jennifer Thorne. What about you?