Past Tense

Queens of Historical Fiction

Hi historical fiction fans!

In my determination to finally start feeling like it’s fall here in the Southern U.S., I’m writing this newsletter to you from outside. Unfortunately, it’s still in the mid-80s here, so it’s a somewhat sweaty experience. If only a crisp autumn breeze would come my way!

Deciding whether to read the books we’re talking about this week, however, should be no sweat at all. In addition to two great new releases, I’m sharing some “herstory,” (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) about queens of the past. Calling all my pals who went through a phase of reading all about the Tudors in middle school with those Royal Diaries books. This one’s for you.

If that’s not enough books for you, check out The Deep Dive, where Book Riot’s editorial team writes for casual and power readers alike. During the month of September, all new free subscribers will be entered to win Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, plus 5 mystery books from The Deep Dive. To enter, simply start a free subscription to The Deep Dive. No payment method required!

Bookish Goods

A spread of colorful Shakespeare postcards featuring large quotes from Shakespeare.

Shakespeare Postcards from BookishlyUK

Keep up with your bookish friends with these lovely Shakespeare postcards that would double as fun wall art. $14.26

New Releases

All You Have To Do Is Call Book Cover

All You Have to Do Is Call by Kerri Maher (September 19, 2023)

In the early 1970s, a secret women’s health organization defied the laws attempting to control women’s rights and bodies. Three women, two working as Janes and one who is only beginning to feel that her life as a housewife is no longer fulfilling, grapple with the mental dissonance of the lives they lead. A historical novel that is, unfortunately, timely once more.

The Phoenix Crown Book Cover

The Phoenix Crown by Kate Quinn and Janie Chang (September 19, 2023)

The lives of four women living in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century were forever changed by the 1906 Earthquake and the disappearance of a railroad magnate with a collection of priceless Chinese artifacts. Six years later, one of those artifacts—the Phoenix Crown—is being worn at Versailles—and someone is determined to get it back.

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

Riot Recommendations

I went to see the musical Six last week, and I’m pretty sure it’s reignited my preteen fixation on the Tudors. But the Tudor queens aren’t the only ones to have made a profound mark upon history. Here are three fascinating queens you should definitely be reading about:

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen Book Cover

Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir

First up is one of the books I’m eyeing as I embark on a Tudor reading marathon. Alison Weir has written numerous books about the Tudors, Plantagenets, and other royals, including this book about Katherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII’s first wife, who starts off this series about the six wives of King Henry.

cover of Queen of Exiles by Vanessa Riley; illustration of a Black woman in fancy dress

Queen of Exiles by Vanessa Riley

The queen of a newly free Haiti, Marie-Louise Christophe, rules alongside her husband for 10 years before he is overthrown, leaving Marie-Louise and their daughters on their own. Forced to flee to Europe, Marie-Louise must redefine herself and her daughters to prove they are every bit the equal of their royal peers. Even in exile, she knows she is a queen. It’s ensuring everyone else knows it, too; that’s the real battle.

Sisi Empress on Her Own Book Cover

Sisi: Empress on Her Own by Allison Pataki

Before Megan Markle or Princess Di, there was Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary, beloved by her people and known by the endearment, “Sisi.” But as monarchies fall, Sisi’s own marriage crumbles, and World War I approaches, will Sisi be able to save her family and her empire without losing herself?

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 Goodreads, Instagram, and Litsy, my favorite bookish social media.

Right now I’m reading Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies by Hayley Nolan.