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Why I love history & historical fiction // ft. some recommendations

*cue Victorian British accent*

Good day dear bookish friends! Welcome back to my little corner. I hope you have some tea, because it would be a bore to read this without some! Add a little cookies too; don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone!

Today, I shall be speaking with you all regarding my love for historical fiction, a wonderful genre full of interesting stories, quaint times, and dazzling characters. I will also be enlightening you, as well as myself, on the problems of the past and why loving this genre may not necessarily be for you.

And of course, to wrap it all up, I shall share some lovely reads from these bygone eras that I think would warm your little hearts.

Let us begin, shall we?

I like to pretend that I am a duchess masquerading as a modern teenager

*sips tea*

If you have not realized, I am quite obsessed with the past, specifically the glorious era of Queen Victoria of England. I might have said “Long Live the Queen”, but she’s sadly quite dead.

The dresses, the court, the perfect propriety of it all. There is something quite magical about it and I am unabashedly obsessed with it. I think what first called to me was the fashion. I love the poofy skirts, the fashionable extravagant hats, the excruciating beauty of the pinned up hair, the accent, the character, I love just about everything.

My heart is in the past, and sometimes I do wish I was born and raised in such a time. It’s a very foolish thought, but one that I have nonetheless.

Sometimes, and I am quite embarrassed to say this, I go around wearing the closest thing that I have to their dress, fixing myself a nice cup of tea (with a splash of milk), taking my very cheap hand fan, and fluttering around as though I am the Queen of England herself.

GIF of Kermit the Frog sipping tea
even I don’t look as elegant as him *sigh*

Extremely embarrassing, I know. But it goes to show just how much I love it.

There is this wonderful YouTube channel that I love watching called English Heritage that recreates the life of a Victorian household called Audley End. (I may have binged all their The Victorian Way videos featuring the talented and sassy Mrs. Crocombe, the head cook.) If you are searching for a look into Victorian life, I would suggest you visit them and have a peek. And if you are lucky enough to live in the UK, maybe even go visit the actual Audley End House and experience it for yerselves.

But back to the point. I love the Victorian Era, and I find it extremely romantic and interesting. If I could travel back in time, this Era is very high on my places to go.

Why I love history in general

Alright, I’ll quit the fake accent, and talk normally. It’s a lot harder to write in “proper” English than I thought.

In general, I love history because it’s a time that I can’t experience. It’s a different age with different values, beliefs, and ways of life. And the idea that the world used to be so different is really fascinating to me.

It’s kind of like how some people are obsessed with the space and that unknown. I’m obsessed with the past because it’s also kind of unknown. I can’t live it and experience it in it’s true form, and that wonder of “what would it have been like” is what draws me to it.

I’m not a philosopher or someone who really focuses on the beliefs of the people of the past. I’m not the scientist who scorns the seriously horrible living conditions or the terrible medicine. I’m the person who is very unhealthily obsessed with the tiny aspects and details of everyday life.

When do they wake up? What’s the first thing that they do? How do they freshen up? How do they dress (and I mean everything, not just their outside dress)? What are the clothes made of? How is it tailored (a step-by-step guide would be very nice)? What do their rooms look like? How long does it take them to prepare for the day? What do they have for Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? What do they do in a day? I need the details!!

GIF showing Donald Duck shaking an empty purse agitatedly
me when I don’t get the details

I’m an immersive person; I want to be able to imagine myself living their life. Most history books fail me in that regard because they just generalize the clothing of everyone, and the ones that do cover their day-to-day activities, give a very bare rundown of their lives.

Maybe I’m not reading the right history books. Maybe I’m not searching enough. I’ll admit, I’m lazy and I probably could do a better job of looking.

But all these things are what I love about history and what makes it so fascinating to me.

The Problems of Loving History

Of course there are problems with loving history. There are problems with everything, and it wouldn’t be fair to focus on the good and leave the bad.

I think that the problem with loving history is the fact that you can become blinded by this love. Bear with me here.

Let’s use my love of the Victorian Era for instance. I wholeheartedly love it, I am obsessed, and we’ve already established that. And that love is also dangerous because I don’t always take the time to see the negatives of that time. I focus only on the positive and have this really biased view of it.

There was so much inequality and injustice in the Victorian Era. Of course there is still so much inequality and injustice today, but I’m aware of that to a degree. With the Victorian Era, it’s just a vague idea in the back of my mind that I don’t bother thinking too much about.

The mental asylums. The oppression of women. The rampant racism. The seriously unhygienic lives that the led. The poverty that most people faced. The fact that if I lived back then, I would be horribly discriminated against for my race, religion, and gender.

The Victorian Era was a dark time. Just as it was a time of innovation and change. I just have to be informed and remember the bad just as much as I remember the lovely dresses.

GIF of Cinderella transforming from rags to her ballgown
I am just *so* obsessed with their dresses!!

We all need to be informed about what’s going on in the world. If you’re a history nerd like me, you’ve got a double job to be informed about the evils of whatever time you’re interested in, just as much as the beauty that you study and love.

Loving the past isn’t a bad thing. But when you don’t have the appropriate balance, it could be more harmful to you than good.

And now for….recommendations!

Before we do, here’s a rapid fire list of some awesome things about HF books:

  • usually led by a female MC
  • strong characters who use their brains more than their hands
  • lots of sassy and brilliant dialogue
  • hilariously witty characters (aka lots of very polite insults)
  • the aforementioned lovely dresses (and hats!)
  • sometimes based on a real story
  • sometimes you learn something

Related: How do I feel regarding “Strong Female Characters”?

  • Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon – 5 stars // I just finished this earlier this month and I am so so glad that I did! This is a HF novel set during World War II with the sassiest, most commanding and amazing female MC that I’ve read about it in a long time. And she was real! That should be enough to make you pick it up right now, but some other highlights: a very easy to hate villain, a look into the lives of women during WWII, & what the reality was like for those living on the front lines.
  • A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn – 4 stars // I finished this a couple of days ago and it was a delight to read! Even though the mystery was sorely lacking, I loved following Veronica and Stoker as they ran around the place constantly bickering, insulting one another (Veronica did most of the insulting while sitting there very primly lol), and caring for one another so much. And it’s even better because this didn’t dissolve instantly into a romance like most books!
  • The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee // I read this in 2018, and it is probably time for a re-read, but I did enjoy it when I first read it! Mary was an interesting and different MC because she didn’t come from a stable home or an upper-class family. She’s half Chinese and spent most of her life on the street passing as a boy to survive. Not only that, but the mystery was pretty good and her reluctant partner James Easton was also amazing!

  • The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee – 5 stars // Another amazing read, but this time set in the United States South during the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War. It’s the one and only book that I’ve read set in that time and it was enlightening to see how race and women’s suffrage were key aspects of that time. This one has a Chinese MC and it focuses on family and friendship. A delightful read that I would highly recommend!
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – 5 stars // This was one of my favorite books of 2019, and for good reason. I loved the characters, the story, the unique narrator, the message. My review goes a lot more in depth about everything that I loved, but the summary is that this book was amazing and so special. It also managed to make me cry quite a lot, so I would highly recommend you give it a try!
  • My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows – 5 stars // This book was just a lot of fun, and pretty hilarious at times. I like how it loosely followed the real story of Queen Jane, but then shifts and changes the ending. I don’t remember much about it, but if you’re looking for some comedic relief, I would recommend you check this one out!

And that’s it for today my dear subjects! It was a pretty long post (1,838 words!) and please do forgive me if there were any grammatical issues. I’ve been working on this for nearly 2.5 hrs straight (besides the original 1 hour that I spent writing some of it yesterday), and I’m tired. But I still hope you enjoyed reading this and that you’ll add some of the above amazing books to your TBR.

What is your favorite genre and why? Do you love historical fiction/history? If so, what’s your favorite era? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? Did you love it? And do you think I did an okay job with the GIFs lol?

Be sure to leave your thoughts and reactions in the comments below!!

39 thoughts on “Why I love history & historical fiction // ft. some recommendations

  1. I really love this post 😍 I didn’t even realize how long it was until you pointed it out at the end!! And I love the tone of the introduction. I love the dresses and parties and society of the past too, it always looks stunning 😍 although like you I am aware that there were plenty of drawbacks too. History was my favourite subject at school. My favourite periods of time are the Tudor era (I will forever be fascinated by the many wives of Henry VIII 😂) and the Victorian one too (: I also love Ancient Greece thanks to all of its mythology. Tbh I’d love to know more about the periods of time and places that I don’t know enough about too. I just love history I guess. I was addicted to the Horrible History books when I was younger 😂
    My favourite genre tends to be fantasy but I do want to start picking up more historical fiction too. I even own a couple of unread books in the genre. I particularly love books that blend historical settings with magic like The Dark Days Club 😍
    I have all of your recommendations on my TBR. And I think you did a great job with the GIFs.
    Have you ever seen the TV series Victoria if you’re into the Victorian Era? Also The Young Victoria movie. And Downton Abbey.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the Victorian Era as well. I mean it came with its own issues but as you said, the court, the politics, the fashion. I love it all. I may also have a slight (read crazy) obsession with anything royal family related so I think that ties in 🙈😂

    Another HF topic I love reading about is the World Wars and after finishing Enchantée, I think the French Revolution as well. Something about reading from the characters POV portrays the extreme conditions better than any history textbook ever could 🙌

    Unfortunately, I’ve only read The Book Thief from your list of recs but I have My Lady Jane and A Spy in the House on my TBR for a while. Code Name Hélène sounds amazing and I will definitely check it out 💁‍♀️

    I’d suggest to you the Sally Lockhart series by Phillip Pullman because I really enjoyed them!!! I only read the first two and they had their fair share of problems but I still enjoyed the books 🙃

    I think I told you about the Time Riders series before but those are incredible. They’re more MG than YA imo but they’re so good. The characters, the plots, the writing and word building!!! It all just gets better and better 🤩🤩

    Thanks for this amazing post, I actually shared it with my friends because I loved it so much 😽💖
    And sorry for the extremely late comment, this week was a mess 🙈

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yesss!! I’m also very obsessed with both the victorian era and anything royal. it’s just soo fascinating!!

      Exactly! I also love the World Wars, because there is always going to be a different story and perspective depending on who’s narrating it. The Book Thief is from a German girls perspective, and then Code Name Helene is from an Australian born French housewife’s perspective. Same time period, but totally different stories. And like you said, no history book will ever come close to that

      I hope you enjoy!! They are all awesome!

      I actually read the first Sally Lockhart book years ago, and idk why I didn’t continue. I might pick it up again and see. Thanks for the recommendation 💖
      Well, you probably did and I just can’t remember as always 😂🤦🏾‍♀️ But I’ll check it out too! Though My library doesn’t have it now, but I’ll look into it.

      Aww, thank you for sharing it! I’m so glad you liked it! And don’t worry, I’m behind on everything as well 💖✨

      Like

  3. Awesome post! I totally understand why you love history…. Personally, I really love history, the subject in school, movies, documentaries and non-fiction books, but for some reason, I’ve never been able to enjoy historical fiction and I don’t know why?! I read and absolutely loved My Lady Jane (in fact, I’m rereading it right now haha) but I love that one because of the humor and England and just the fantasy aspect and the altered version of the original story! But I will definetely look into the books you recommended and maybe find some great ways to overcome my weird relationship with historical fiction! Which of the recommended books has the most similarities to My Lady Jane – cause I will def try that one! Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I’m starting to realize that loving history doesn’t automatically make someone a historical fiction fan 😂 Honestly, I find fiction history more interesting than the dry history books. They’re both good, but historical fiction is more engaging in a way. Yes, I’m so glad we both loved it! I can’t wait for Calamity Jane!!
      Well, out of the ones I recommended, none of them are similar to MLJ. It’s the only paranormal historical fiction that I’ve read, and it’s set centuries before the rest.
      A Curious Beginning and The Agency Series are both set during the Victorian Era; Code Name Helene and The Book Thief are set during WWII; and The Downstair’s Girl is set just after the American Civil War in 1865ish.
      So, I’m not sure which one to recommend, but if you like mysteries, The Agency Series is the best for that. A Curious Beginning is also a mystery, but the mystery isn’t the best. The rest are just like contemporaries or coming of age stories set in the past.
      Hope that helped in any way! Happy reading 💖

      Liked by 1 person

      1. OMG thank you!!!! And then I will definitely try The Agency Series because I really do love a good mystery!!! And I so get why you prefer fictional history rather than dry history… So many people don’t fancy that, but I guess I’ve always just loved that?! Also in school and then my dad loves talking about it hahah!
        Happy reading and thanks so much for the help!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. omg i love your blogging voice in this post 😂 & I know we’ve already talked about this, but I’m fascinated by the past too! aghhhh, it’d be so fun to actually see how it really was instead of reading about it from a history book or watching a (probably somewhat inaccurate) recreation on television. i’m not big on reading historical fiction though, and I have no idea why, haha. I guess I’m just not interested in World War I or World War II, and most historical fiction books are set there? I also don’t like reading about misogyny, homophobia, racism, etc., & since history was chock-full of those…. yeah 😕 great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh, but a historical fiction i really enjoyed was The Silence of Bones by June Hur! It’s set in Joseon Korea, and the central mystery is so good ❤ also, i'm really excited for These Violent Delight by Chloe Gong, which is set in 1920's Shanghai. I just love the 1920's so much because it was a time of glitz and glamour—one of my favorite things about The Diviners series actually ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I saw a review of The Silence of Bones on another blog and I actually have it on hold at my library! I’m so excited to read it!! Glad you enjoyed it too 💖 I just searched Chloe’s book and I AM SOLD!!! I can’t wait for that book already! It sounds amazing 🥺 I hope it doesn’t disappoint us both!

        I’ve heard so much about The Diviners, but for some reason, I’ve never read it/added it to my TBR? Ok, I’ve re-read the synopsis, and I can see why I hesitated. Idk, do you think I should read it?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know right TVD’s premise has me *screaming*. literally everyone i know is excited for it!!!

        honestly, there are some things i don’t love about The Diviners, but my favorite thing about it is the fact that the author clearly did her research on the 1920’s, & the spooky factors are well-done imo. the characters aren’t my favorites, but i know a lot of people consider them to be. also, it’s best if you go into the series knowing that each book has its own self-contained mystery that gets resolved at the end of the book despite there being a main villain (who gets defeated only in the last book). the series honestly isn’t for everyone, so i’m just gonna be honest & say that I genuinely don’t know whether you’ll like it or not 😂 the second book seems to everyone’s favorite, but i gave it 2 stars, because it’s middle was USELESS

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hahaha, thank you!! I was determined to write the whole thing in a “victorian accent” but that grew tiresome rather quickly 😂 Yess, I feel like most shows are somewhat inaccurate, even tho I’m no real historian 🤦🏾‍♀️ And I also would love to bust all these myths about the past, especially about corsets (they aren’t the total death traps people make them out to be) and things like that.
      Loll, I understand what you mean. So many are set during the world wars, or in the Victorian era and it’d be nice to see different periods as well. (That WIP I’m working on is going to be a lot farther back, and it’s going to be set in the Arab world so I’m excited!!)
      Haha, the past was a really *interesting* time indeed. Thank you ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such an amazing post Rukky!!! Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and I love books about history 💜 My favorite historical setting is homesteading and pioneering and stuff, but I also love books about the Victorian era! (The clothes…) When I was 8 or so a librarian recommended the Secrets of the Manor series to me, and I’m not sure if it starts in the Victorian era, but it’s about fancy rich people in giant houses, so 8 year old me LOVED the series 😂 I still think that it’s pretty good, although I haven’t read it in a few years.

    I completely agree though that reminding yourself that the times seen as magical and amazing we’re not so great for everyone. In most of the historical periods that I read about, I would be discriminated against because of my religion and gender. Some books do draw attention to those bad things though. Hattie Big Sky is about a young girl homesteading (?) during WWI and brings attention to the unjust anti German sentiment that was hurting Germans who were not doing anything wrong. It’s a really good book, and is relatively short, so I’d definitely recommend it!

    Code Name Hélène looks like an amazing book!!! I’ve also been wanting to read My Lady Jane for a really long time 🙂

    Also, your gifs look great! I love the Cinderella one because the dresses in the Victorian Era…

    Happy reading 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Aria! Thank you! Haha, I might check it out then! I was obsessed with the American Girl historical series when I was young because they had books from different periods. There were some from the Revolutionary War, the Suffrage Era, WWII, Great Depression, etc. and now I realize that the books were probably really cringy, but I loved them nonetheless.

      Yeah, when I realize that I’d be discriminated against for three different reasons, I realize the past isn’t as awesome as I like to think. Oh I’ll check it out! I’ve forgotten the name of the other book that you recommended to me (smh) but I did add it to my TBR yesterday and I’m so excited!

      I hope you enjoy both!! They were both a delight to read.

      Aww thank you! Yes, it’s such an appropriate gif!! Happy reading to you too ❤✨

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read some of the American Girl books. I read the whole Rebecca series and a few others. I feel like before I started blogging, I didn’t pay attention to whether or not the book was cringy (Do I though?) or really anything else about the book other than what it was literally about.

        I also forgot the book I recommended to you (oops) but I really hope you enjoy it if you read it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m with you ALL the way. I also loved Code Name Helene, and I agree with you about the Deanna Raybourn – it was good but… I’m worried about it getting too romantic, plus that reason why her life was in danger was… um… unbelievable for me. I won’t be reading that series. BUT… I can recommend the new Tara Moss series instead. Mind you, it is 1950s Australia, but still… I’m loving Billie Walker, she’s really going to be fun to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! I’m glad to find someone who loved CNH! (Marceline and all that?? It hurt so so muchhh! 😭) Haha, yeah, the mystery could use a lot of work, but I enjoyed their banter quite a lot. I’ve heard that it’s a reallly really slowburn tho, so I don’t know. Oh thank you for the rec! I haven’t heard of Tara Moss I think, and that does sound interesting!

      Thank you!! ✨❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, that’s sad…but agreed the aesthetic is amazing!! Yes, fantasies set in the past/victorian times are really fun, bc they have the essence of the time, but they also put their own twists to it, making it kind of like a mash up between some modern aspects and Vicorian times ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed this post so much! I love historical fiction, too, and you’re absolutely right. It’s important to recognize the good and the bad about history. I also enjoyed The Book Thief and My Lady Jane. I’m excited to read the next Janie, My Calamity Jane, too. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally forgot Calamity Jane was coming out and I’m excited all over again!! I loved reading the very tiny few paragraphs about her in my history book (it’s really annoying how all the good stuff in history has barely any info about it 🤦🏾‍♀️), and I can’t wait to see what the authors do with her story!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love history too (I’d call myself a history nerd) – and I also love historical reads. I loved The Book Thief and I would also recommend All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This post was super interesting. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is the post I needed!! I have been looking for HF recommendations for some time now and I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned so that’s pretty cool. 😊 I am also a big history fan mainly because I am such a curious person in general. 😅 My favourite era has to be the Victorian one, too! That’s why I want to read more classics written by Victorian authors. But I also enjoy to read about Ancient History and the Women Civil Rights Movement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s awesome!! I hope you enjoy them ❤ Haha, I like the Victorian Era, but I’m not very keen on classics 😂 I’m more of action and dialogue, so I get bored with it easily. But then, classics probably have a lot of details that history books don’t really offer. Hmm, maybe I should try and read more…
      Anyways, I hope you enjoy them!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. OMG, same! I really love the Victorian Era too. I also love anything “monarchy”. I love reading about titled men and women and glorious lives in court. I also feel a bit envious of people who were able to live in that era. I do forget to remind myself that those times are dark and not perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yesss I love the monarchy!! That’s what drew me to it in the first place! Anything that takes place in Court is amazing as far as I’m concerned lol. The political intrigue, the scandals, the careful game of words, it’s all so much fun to read about.
      But yeah, it’s easy to forget that beyond that small privileged group, most everyone else was living in hardship and poverty 😌

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This was such an enjoyable post! I too am a massive History nerd though I’m more of a Medievalist myself, but I can understand your love of the Victorian Era. The Agency looks interesting and of course, I love The Book Thief. Have you ever read Fingersmith by Sarah Waters? It’s of the same Victorian/Mystery genre and I think you might enjoy it.

    Side note: Do you watch Bernadette Banner on youtube? She’s an Edwardian/Victorian fashion person who sometimes works with English Heritage that you might enjoy 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay, I’m so glad you liked it!! That’s interesting; what’s your favorite aspect of that time? I actually have Fingersmith on hold and hopefully I’ll get it soon! Thank you for recommending it ❤

      Oh yes, I saw some of her videos but haven’t really watched them just yet. But I’ll definitely check some out, because it sounds exactly like the kind of thing that I’d be obsessed with 😂😂 Thank you again!!

      Happy reading and history nerding (if that’s even a word lol)! ❤✨

      Liked by 1 person

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