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10 Escapist Fiction Books to Read When You Need a Break From Reality

Alice Martin is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Rutgers University, where she obsesses over nineteenth-century women writers, the history of the publishing industry, and writing practices. She’s also a regular contributor to Shelf Awareness and a freelance writer and editor. Her writing has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Appalachian Heritage, and Sixfold among other publications. You can find her talking about books, food, and basketball (in that order) on Twitter @AliceJeanMartin.

In the midst of COVID-19 madness, we could all use a little break. As the days go by, the news gets crazier and the need for social distancing gets greater. While we all gather toilet paper and schedule regular phone calls with friends and family, it’s worth stockpiling some great reads to keep you company indoors. And what better books to stock up on than some truly excellent escapism reads? These 10 page-turners have something for everyone: romance, mystery, emotional catharsis, and historical intrigue. Dive into one (or two!) to take a break from the monotony of your apartment walls. Then, make sure to recommend your favorites to a friend! The only thing better than taking an imaginary trip alone, is taking an imaginary trip together. 


The Seven Sisters
by Lucinda Riley

In THE SEVEN SISTERSbestselling author Lucinda Riley offers up a passionate, spellbinding epic about a young woman discovering her family’s pastAfter her adoptive father’s death, Maia receives a clue about her true parentage. Maia ends up in Brazil where she learns uncovers the story of her mother, Izabela, who traveled to Paris in the 1920s. There, her life was changed forever when she met an ambitious sculptor and became engulfed in the romantic art scene. Love this book? It’s the first in a dazzling new series of historical romance!  

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The Seven Sisters
Lucinda Riley

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The French Gardener
by Santa Montefiore

Miranda believes that moving to a lovely country house with a beautiful garden, will guarantee an ideal, pastoral existence for her and her family. Unfortunately, the country is not what she thought, and soon the family has isolated themselves from one another in their unhappiness. When a mysterious French gardener shows up and seems to have an answer for everything, Miranda and her family will discover not only the secret of his past, but the secret to lasting love. THE FRENCH GARDENER is a gentle, moving piece of women’s fiction with an old-fashioned appeal. 

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The French Gardener
Santa Montefiore

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MENTIONED IN:

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Outlander
by Diana Gabaldon

In OUTLANDER, the beloved book that kicked off a New York Times bestselling series, the year is 1945, and Claire, a British combat nurse, has just returned to Scotland from the war to be with her husband. Soon, however, she’s ripped back in time to 1743 when Scotland is being torn asunder by war. In this world of violence, passion, and uncertainty, Claire falls in love with Scots warrior Jamie. Torn between two men and two worlds, Claire must fight for the fate of her life, country, and heart. 

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Outlander
Diana Gabaldon

The relationship that blossoms from friendship to love between Claire and Jamie is, well, pretty swoon-worthy. Claire is confident with a lot of spunk and Jamie is hotheaded with a lot of heart. The combination of these two could be a recipe for disaster, but they—usually—are in harmony.

Read Kara O’Rourke’s review here.

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The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter
by Theodora Goss 

Mary Jekyll is on a mission to hunt down her father’s partner, famed murderer Edward Hyde, in order to collect the reward money. Together with Hyde’s daughter, Diana, and a ragtag group of other female experimentations, Mary learns that her father and Hyde were part of a group of mad scientists who must be stopped. In this mesmerizing page turner, literature’s most famous science fiction monsters will finally meet, and punish, their makers, in order to put a stop to the madness once and for all. 

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The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter
Theodora Goss 

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Once Upon a River
by Diane Setterfield

From the author of THE THIRTEENTH TALE (2006), comes another beguiling tale that celebrates the magic of storytelling. In ONCE UPON A RIVER, a small community along the Thames is shaken when a mysterious girl, pronounced dead, comes back to life one night at the local inn. Three families all claim she belongs to them: a wealthy mother with a kidnapped daughter, a farming family whose son’s forbidden liaison begot a child, and a housekeeper who’s been separated from her younger sister. Before the mystery can be solved, all their secrets must come out. 

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Once Upon a River
Diane Setterfield

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Gods of Jade and Shadow
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Casiopea is miles away from the Jazz Age, city-life she desires, cleaning her wealthy grandfather’s floor. That is, until she accidentally unleashes the Mayan god of death, who forces her to help him reclaim his throne. But helping him will not be easy; it will take her from her small town in southern Mexico, through the Yucatan jungles, to Mexico City, and ultimately to the Mayan underworld. Dazzling and harrowing, THE GODS OF JADE AND SHADOW is a unique fairy tale adventure grounded a complex, slow-burn romance. 

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Gods of Jade and Shadow
Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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The Scent of Jasmine
by Jude Deveraux

In this stunning historical romance, the headstrong, aristocratic Catherine Harcourt is thrust out of her life of gentility and into a dangerous but passionate adventure. At the end of the eighteenth century, while visiting her bedridden uncle in Charleston, Cay agrees to deliver a package to his old friend, Alex, an escaped convict charged with murdering his own wife. When the handoff goes awry, Cay and Alex are forced to go on the run together, where Cay can’t stop herself from getting closer to the man who may be her biggest threat. 

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The Scent of Jasmine
Jude Deveraux

When fulfilling a favor for her godfather puts Catherine Edilean Harcourt in danger, the southern bell must decide if trusting an alleged, yet attractive, convict will be the best or worst decision she’s ever made.

Charleston, 1799. A daughter of Southern gentility and a gifted painter, Catherine Edilean Harcourt has no lack of suitors at home in Virginia, waiting to fulfill her dream of marriage and family. But Cay’s adventurous spirit, fostered by growing up with her three brothers, is piqued while visiting her godfather in South Carolina. Bedridden with a broken leg, he asks Cay to fill in for him on an urgent task: on her way to a fancy dress ball, she must deliver a packed horse to an old friend’s son—who also happens to be an escaped convict charged with murdering his wife! Cay agrees to the plan, which doesn’t’ go at all as planned… whereupon she finds herself fleeing Alexander McDowell’s captors, riding blind into the night with the fugitive Scotsman. Through she should fear him, Cay finds herself overwhelmingly attracted to Alex, and drawn into his tale of misguided justice and his innocence as they seek refuge in the steamy Florida everglades. Will trusting him be the worst mistake of her life? Or will falling in love be the salvation both of them have been looking for?

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Escapist Fiction Books to Read When You Need a Break From Reality

By Alice Martin | March 30, 2020

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Fatal Inheritance
by Rachel Rhys

It’s 1948, and Eve is desperate for a change from her drab, London life and loveless marriage. When she learns that she has inherited a beautiful villa overlooking the French Riviera, she can’t pack her bags fast enough. But upon arriving in her new home and entering into her new, glamorous lifestyle, Eve learns that there are many people eager to claim the inherited fortune for themselves. In this engrossing, historical thriller, Eve must solve the mystery of her own inheritance before her good fortune proves deadly. 

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Fatal Inheritance
Rachel Rhys

Get swept away to the enchanting South of France with this “exquisite and shimmering” (Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone) suspenseful historical novel, where perilous secrets lurk under the glitz and glam of seaside wealth.

She didn’t have an enemy in the world…until she inherited a fortune.

London 1948: Eve Forrester is stuck in a loveless marriage, isolated in her gray and gloomy house when out of the blue, she receives a letter. A wealthy stranger has left her a mysterious inheritance but in order to find out more, she must travel to the glittering French Riviera.

There, Eve discovers she has been bequeathed an enchanting villa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and suddenly, life could not be more glamorous. But while she rubs shoulders with the rich and famous, challengers to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge—challengers who would love to see Eve gone forever.

Alone in paradise, Eve must unlock the story behind her surprise bequest—before her unexpected twist of fate turns deadly…

With Rachel Rhys’s “thrilling, seductive, and utterly absorbing” (Paula Hawkins, #1 bestselling author of The Girl on the Train) prose, Fatal Inheritance is an intoxicating story of dysfunctional families and long-hidden secrets, set against the decadence of the Côte d’Azur.

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Escapist Fiction Books to Read When You Need a Break From Reality

By Alice Martin | March 30, 2020

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The Italian Party
by Christina Lynch

In Cold War Italy, American newlyweds Scottie and Michael have set up their dream life in Tuscany. Despite the sunlit days and prosecco-filled nights, it doesn’t take long for Scottie and Michael to see beneath the rosy surface to the shadowy world beneath. When her Italian tutor disappears, Scottie becomes obsessed with discovering what happened to him, the wedge it drives between her and Michael. Meanwhile, Michael’s dedication to fighting communism flags as he uncovers dark secrets about his country. THE ITALIAN PARTY is a fun, witty, slow-burn thriller with postwar intrigue.

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The Italian Party
Christina Lynch

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Escapist Fiction Books to Read When You Need a Break From Reality

By Alice Martin | March 30, 2020

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The Mangle Street Murders
by M. R. C. Kasasian

1882 London: grimy streets, smoke-filled skies, and flickering lamp light. After her father dies, March Middleton is left in the care of Sidney Grice, the famed detective. A mother comes to hire Sidney to solve her daughter’s murder; her son-in-law is the prime suspect, but she’s convinced of his innocent. As Sidney and March investigated the twisted tale in the East End, Sidney can only see the man’s guilt, while March maintains his innocence. Charming, clever, and atmospherically Victorian, THE MANGLE STREET MURDERS is the first in the Gower Street Detective series.  

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The Mangle Street Murders
M. R. C. Kasasian

 

The first in a charming, evocative, and sharply plotted Victorian crime series starring a detective duo to rival Holmes and Watson.

After her father dies, March Middleton has to move to London to live with her guardian, Sidney Grice, the country’s most famous private detective.

It is 1882 and London is at its murkiest yet most vibrant, wealthiest yet most poverty-stricken. No sooner does March arrive than a case presents itself: a young woman has been brutally murdered, and her husband is the only suspect. The victim’s mother is convinced of her son-in-law’s innocence, and March is so touched by her pleas she offers to cover Sidney’s fee herself.

The investigations lead the pair to the darkest alleys of the East End: every twist leads Sidney Grice to think his client is guilty; but March is convinced that he is innocent. Around them London reeks with the stench of poverty and gossip, the case threatens to boil over into civil unrest and Sidney Grice finds his reputation is not the only thing in mortal danger.

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MENTIONED IN:

10 Escapist Fiction Books to Read When You Need a Break From Reality

By Alice Martin | March 30, 2020

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Photo Credit: iStock/NatalGolubnycha

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