With Valentine’s Day here, it’s the perfect time to immerse yourself in a sweeping, transporting love story. These eleven titles are all epic romances set in the past, during keystone historic moments. From glittering turn-of-the-century England to the rocky coast of post–World War II Italy, the lush courts of nineteenth-century Austria to the growing cities of 1950s America, these tales are sure to engage you with their atmospheric settings and rich details at the same time as they enchant you with love stories that are, in turns, passionate, haunting, romantic, and dangerous.
Two women in 1950s America will take risks and become involved in love stories that entangle their lives forever. In Philadelphia, fifteen-year-old Ruby is determined to become the first person in her family to attend college, but a forbidden romance threatens to tug her back to the life she came from. Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, Eleanor falls in love with a man at Howard University who can give her the life she wants. But to impress his family, long-standing members of the city’s Black elite, she must have a baby and cope with the challenges of motherhood.
From the award-winning author of Yellow Wife, a daring and redemptive novel set in 1950s Philadelphia and Washington, DC, that explores what it means to be a woman and a mother, and how much one is willing to sacrifice to achieve her greatest goal.
1950s Philadelphia: fifteen-year-old Ruby Pearsall is on track to becoming the first in her family to attend college, in spite of having a mother more interested in keeping a man than raising a daughter. But a taboo love affair threatens to pull her back down into the poverty and desperation that has been passed on to her like a birthright.
Eleanor Quarles arrives in Washington, DC, with ambition and secrets. When she meets the handsome William Pride at Howard University, they fall madly in love. But William hails from one of DC’s elite wealthy Black families, and his parents don’t let just anyone into their fold. Eleanor hopes that a baby will make her finally feel at home in William’s family and grant her the life she’s been searching for. But having a baby—and fitting in—is easier said than done.
With their stories colliding in the most unexpected of ways, Ruby and Eleanor will both make decisions that shape the trajectory of their lives.
Betsey has spent her life running from her past and wreaking havoc, all in the name of trying to make a life for herself in turn-of-the-century England. But after her latest scheme gets her fired from her new job in a typing pool, she’s desperate. Fortunately, a young, talented Welsh engineer named John has just the job for her: tour manager for his new Pier & Pleasure Building Company in Idensea. Now, Betsey will have to stop running and face not only her future but the undeniable attraction she feels for her new business partner.
A passionate historical debut novel about a young woman in turn-of-the-century England who finds love and independence at a seashore resort.
ALL BETSEY DOBSON HAS EVER ASKED IS THE CHANCE TO BE VIEWED ON HER OWN MERITS, BUT IN A MAN’S WORLD, THAT IS THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN
When Betsey disembarks from the London train in the seaside resort of Idensea, all she owns is a small valise and a canary in a cage. After attempting to forge a letter of reference she knew would be denied her, Betsey has been fired from the typing pool of her previous employer. Her vigorous protest left one man wounded, another jilted, and her character permanently besmirched. Now, without money or a reference for her promised job, the future looks even bleaker than the debacle behind her. But her life is about to change . . . because a young Welshman on the railroad quay, waiting for another woman, is the one man willing to believe in her.
Mr. Jones is inept in matters of love, but a genius at things mechanical. In Idensea, he has constructed a glittering pier that astounds the wealthy tourists. And in Betsey, he recognizes the ideal tour manager for the Idensea Pier & Pleasure Building Company. After a lifetime of guarding her secrets and breaking the rules, Betsey becomes a force to be reckoned with. Now she faces a challenge of another sort: not only to outrun her sins, but also to surrender to the reckless tides of love. . . .
It’s 1939, and young Alma is sent by her parents to San Francisco to escape the Nazis in Poland. There, she falls for and begins an affair with the quiet and sensitive Ichimei. But soon, Ichimei is forced into an internment camp, and while Alma and Ichimei find ways to reconnect over the years, their love can never be public. Years later, her grandson and caretaker unravel the secret love affair that has defined Alma’s life. Isabel Allende, one of our most enchanting living storytellers, offers a cinematic, multigenerational tale in THE JAPANESE LOVER.
Isabel Allende’s latest novel spans from Poland in the 1930s to present-day San Francisco. This sweeping love story explores questions of identity, abandonment, redemption, and the unknowable impact of fate on our lives.
Before the fall of 1939, Grace Baker’s world was defined by her small community in Nova Scotia and her family’s general store. But when World War II breaks out, Grace doubles down on her work of running the store to try to ignore the changing times. Soon, a mysterious stranger named Rudi begins coming to the store and captures Grace’s heart. But Rudi is not who he claims to be, and as Grace uncovers the truth about his identity, she learns her family may not be the people she thought they were, either.
Inspired by a little-known World War II legend, a young woman and a stranger “from away” are caught on opposite sides of war in this enthralling novel about love and second chances from USA TODAY and #1 bestselling author Genevieve Graham.
In the fall of 1939, Grace Baker’s three brothers, sharp and proud in their uniforms, board Canadian ships headed for a faraway war. Grace stays behind, tending to the homefront and the general store that helps keep her small Nova Scotian community running. The war, everyone says, will be over before it starts.
Three years later, the fighting rages on and the harsh realities of war come closer to home when rumours swirl about “wolf packs” of German U-Boats lurking in the deep waters along the shores of East Jeddore, a stone’s throw from Grace’s window.
Then, one day, a handsome stranger ventures into the store. He claims to be a trapper come from away, and, as Grace gets to know him, she becomes enamoured by his gentle smile and thoughtful ways. But after several weeks, she discovers that Rudi, her mysterious visitor, is not the lonely outsider he appears to be. He is someone else entirely—someone not to be trusted.
When a shocking truth about her family forces Grace to question everything she has so strongly believed, she realizes that she and Rudi have more in common than she had thought. And if Grace is to have a chance at love, she must not only choose a side, but take a stand.
Set against the tumultuous years of World War II, Come from Away is a mesmerizing story about strangers, enemies, and friends—and the power of love to transcend the barriers that keep us apart.
In 1960s London, Alba lives an unsatisfying life of leisure and fleeting lovers on a houseboat. But after finding a portrait of her late mother,Valentina—a woman her father won’t talk about—Alba jets off to the Amalfi Coast to learn about her mother’s past. There, she unravels a tale of murder, betrayal, and greed populated by aristocratic landowners, exiled Nazis, and local peasants, at the same time as she begins to find the key to her own future happiness. THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE VALENTINA is as suspenseful as it is lush and inviting.
Set in London during the swinging sixties and Italy’s Amalfi coast after Word War II, The Last Voyage of the Valentina is an epic romance with a dark uncercurrent of suspense from an author the Daily Mail (UK) has declared “is the new Rosamunde Pilcher.”
Exotically beautiful but desperately unhappy, Alba lives on a houseboat on the Thames, where she enjoys a life of leisure and entertains an endless and unfulfilling succession of lovers. But then she discovers a portrait of her dead mother, Valentina—a woman she'd hardly known, whose story has been kept from her by her still grieving father. Determined to learn the truth about Valentina, Alba returns to the olive groves of the Amalfi coast of Italy. There she uncovers a mysterious tale of decadence, deception, murder, and betrayal involving partisans and Nazis, peasants, and counts. Alba's journey leads her not only to the truth of her mother’s hidden past but to the possibility of happiness in her own future.
A sweeping romance of passion and espionage, WHAT WE BECOME follows star-crossed lovers Max and Mecha across decades of longing and loss. In 1928, aboard a luxury cruise ship, the two meet in a ballroom while Mecha is with her composer husband and Max, a career thief, is dancing with unaccompanied passengers. But as soon as their affair blossoms, the two are torn apart. From the French coast on the brink of World War II to Italy during the Cold War, they attempt to find a happy ending together in the midst of global turmoil and political intrigue.
As Ana waits at her husband’s deathbed for his final breaths, she remembers the long and tumultuous journey that brought her to this moment. After war ravages her homeland of El Salvador, Ana escapes to a convent in the US and is then placed as a nanny with a wealthy but spiritually bankrupt family. As Ana gets to know this dysfunctional family on the grounds of their lavish estate, she begins to see how she can bring love and support back into their lives and is soon bonded to them in ways even she couldn’t have imagined.
When a nanny from war-torn El Salvador moves in with a wealthy American family, the result is an inspiring story about the power of love to cross cultural boundaries.
Cecilia Samartin’s most impressive work yet, Vigil is told from the perspective of Ana, a middle aged woman who is waiting at the deathbed of her husband as he loses his battle against cancer. While she waits, she thinks back on her life and the incredible journey that brought her from war-torn El Salvador, to a convent in the U.S., and finally to a wealthy California estate where she was employed as the nanny for a dysfunctional family caught up in the throes of decadent life. Despite her traumatic past, she is able to bring a wealth of love and harmony to her affluent yet spiritually bereft employers—gifts that no money could ever buy.
In the course of Samartin’s work as a psychotherapist, she has been awed by those rare individuals who not only survive after having endured unimaginable trauma, but flourish, and are able to promote the same in those around them. Vigil is the story of one such woman and the family that she sets her heart on saving. A heart-wrenching story of love and loss, Vigil is Cecilia Samartin’s most powerful novel to date. As Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander said, “Samartin writes with shimmering grace about homeland, exile, passion, and loyalty.” Readers will be spellbound by Vigil’s magical language and provocative themes.
In this powerful debut, two men must decide what is worth risking to advocate for a better world. In 1894, John and Henry write a controversial book arguing that homosexuality is not a crime but harmless and natural. The topic hits close to home: while both are married, John has a male lover and Henry’s wife has a female partner. But when Oscar Wilde is arrested on the eve of the book’s publication, John and Henry must decide if they publish what they know is right or keep their book from print to protect their loved ones.
A brilliant and captivating debut, in the tradition of Alan Hollinghurst and Colm Tóibín, about two marriages, two forbidden love affairs, and the passionate search for social and sexual freedom in late 19th-century London.
In this powerful, visceral novel about love, sex, and the struggle for a better world, two men collaborate on a book in defense of homosexuality, then a crime—risking their old lives in the process.
In the summer of 1894, John Addington and Henry Ellis begin writing a book arguing that what they call “inversion,” or homosexuality, is a natural, harmless variation of human sexuality. Though they have never met, John and Henry both live in London with their wives, Catherine and Edith, and in each marriage there is a third party: John has a lover, a working class man named Frank, and Edith spends almost as much time with her friend Angelica as she does with Henry. John and Catherine have three grown daughters and a long, settled marriage, over the course of which Catherine has tried to accept her husband’s sexuality and her own role in life; Henry and Edith’s marriage is intended to be a revolution in itself, an intellectual partnership that dismantles the traditional understanding of what matrimony means.
Shortly before the book is to be published, Oscar Wilde is arrested. John and Henry must decide whether to go on, risking social ostracism and imprisonment, or to give up the project for their own safety and the safety of the people they love. Is this the right moment to advance their cause? Is publishing bravery or foolishness? And what price is too high to pay for a new way of living?
A richly detailed, insightful, and dramatic debut novel, The New Life is an unforgettable portrait of two men, a city, and a generation discovering the nature and limits of personal freedom as the 20th century comes into view.
In this haunting novel, one woman discovers her husband’s dark secrets on atmospheric, turn-of-the-century Big Sur. Trudy has been raised by her aristocratic parents to be the ideal wife to her childhood friend in Milwaukee. But she feels trapped in the life set out for her. After falling in love with the enigmatic Oskar, she forsakes her life with her family to move with him to a remote job in a lighthouse. There, surrounded by wilderness and the standoffish family inhabiting the lighthouse, Trudy makes a startling discovery that will change her life forever.
From the author of Drowning Ruth, a haunting, atmospheric novel set at the closing of the frontier about a young wife who moves to a far-flung and forbidding lighthouse where she uncovers a life-changing secret.
In 1898, a woman forsakes the comfort of home and family for a love that takes her to a remote lighthouse on the wild coast of California. What she finds at the edge of the earth, hidden between the sea and the fog, will change her life irrevocably.
Trudy, who can argue Kant over dinner and play a respectable portion of Mozart’s Serenade in G major, has been raised to marry her childhood friend and assume a life of bourgeois comfort in Milwaukee. She knows she should be pleased, but she’s restless instead, yearning for something she lacks even the vocabulary to articulate. When she falls in love with enigmatic and ambitious Oskar, she believes she’s found her escape from the banality of her preordained life.
But escape turns out to be more fraught than Trudy had imagined. Alienated from family and friends, the couple moves across the country to take a job at a lighthouse at Point Lucia, California—an unnervingly isolated outcropping, trapped between the ocean and hundreds of miles of inaccessible wilderness. There they meet the light station’s only inhabitants—the formidable and guarded Crawleys. In this unfamiliar place, Trudy will find that nothing is as she might have predicted, especially after she discovers what hides among the rocks.
Gorgeously detailed, swiftly paced, and anchored in the dramatic geography of the remote and eternally mesmerizing Big Sur, The Edge of the Earth is a magical story of secrets and self-transformation, ruses and rebirths. Christina Schwarz, celebrated for her rich evocation of place and vivid, unpredictable characters, has spun another haunting and unforgettable tale.
In 1853 Europe, the Habsburgs are the most powerful family, ruling an empire that reaches across much of the continent. Young emperor Franz Joseph is engaged to be married, but when the empress-to-be’s fifteen-year-old sister Sisi travels to Court, she unintentionally captures his heart—and the throne. Now, she must learn how to keep the heart of the man she loves as she wins over an empire. This absorbing novel, full of intrigue, is a New York Times bestseller.
In 1853, Emperor Franz Joseph is Europe’s most powerful ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS tells the little-known and tumultuous love story of “Sisi,” the woman who became Franz Joseph’s wife, and the Austro-Hungarian Empress, when she was just fifteen.
Part of Martha Waters’s delightful Regency Vows series that is perfect for Bridgerton fans, TO SWOON AND TO SPAR is the story of Viscount Penvale and his clever, determined wife, Jane. Penvale agrees to marry Jane only when his estranged uncle insists that he must do so in order to buy his beloved ancestral home, Trethwick Abbey. But Jane is quite attached to the Abbey herself and, with the help of the housekeeper, plots to stage a haunting to scare Penvale off and keep the place for herself. Too bad Penvale isn’t so easy to frighten and actually rather charming . . .
The Regency Vows series that is “sure to delight Bridgerton fans” (USA TODAY) returns with this story about a viscount and his irascible new wife who hopes to chase her husband from their shared home so that she can finally get some peace and quiet—only to find that his company is not as onerous as she thought.
Viscount Penvale has been working for years to buy back his ancestral home, Trethwick Abbey, from his estranged uncle. And so he’s thrilled when his uncle announces that he is ready to sell but with one major caveat—Penvale must marry his uncle’s ward, Jane Spencer.
When the two meet in London, neither is terribly impressed. Penvale finds Jane headstrong and sharp-tongued. Jane finds him cold and aloof. Nevertheless, they agree to a marriage in name only and return to the estate. There, Jane enlists her housekeeper for a scheme: to stage a haunting so that Penvale will return to London, leaving her to do as she pleases at Trethwick Abbey. But Penvale is not as easily scared as his uncle and as their time together increases, Jane realizes that she might not mind her husband’s company all that much.
With her trademark “arch sense of humor and a marvelously witty voice” (Entertainment Weekly), Martha Waters crafts another delightful romp for all historical romance fans.