• Carolyn Steele Agosta

Historical Fiction Series - Long Ago and Far Away

I began reading historical fiction when I was only about nine – starting with the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, my high school teacher introduced me to the novels of Thomas B. Costain, and then it was off to the races.


Among the historical fiction authors that I’ve enjoyed, are writers such as Diana Gabaldon, Ken Follett, Sir Walter Scott, Alexandre Dumas, Phillippa Gregory, Leon Uris, Winston Graham, R.F. Delderfield (additional historical series beyond the Swann Trilogy), Edward Rutherford, Leo Tolstoy, James Clavell, Patrick O’Brian, Mazo de la Roche, and C.S. Forester. I wholeheartedly recommend any of them.


But I’d like to focus on three particular authors.


First, Eleanor Hibbert. Her name might not be familiar to you, but it should be. She’s written over 200 books. However, she’s written them under various pseudonyms, such as Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt, Philippa Carr, and at least five other names. As Jean Plaidy alone, she wrote 91 books! This kind of output staggers me. Her books are meticulously researched, and I just can’t fathom how she did it. I particularly enjoyed her Queen Victoria series (written under the Jean Plaidy name), but all her books are eminently readable.


Next, Inglis Fletcher. Again, not the best-known name out there, but she wrote a series of books set in the Carolinas, and I found them in the local library’s NC Authors area. There are twelve books in the series, covering a period from 1585 to 1788, about the settling of coastal North Carolina and the years before and after the Revolutionary War. Very readable and enjoyable.


And finally, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Another writer with incredible output, she has written 89 books (although she sounds like a slacker, after Eleanor Hibbert!) in a variety of genres. I began reading her Morland Dynasty books following the recommendation of someone on Goodreads and absolutely love them. She has the knack of intertwining historical fact with riveting fiction, and her characters are fully-realized, not just bent into the shape required to fit the facts.


There are 35 books in the Morland series, covering the years from 1434 to 1931. I truly recommend you read them in order. Her website is https://cynthiaharrodeagles.com. Some of the earliest books may be available only on Kindle or used copies.


I can also recommend her War at Home series – six books set in England during World War I. In addition to these and other historical books in her bibliography, she’s also written contemporary novels, romances, fantasy, and a detective series, The Bill Slider Mysteries, twenty-one fast-moving police procedurals. I don’t usually read that kind of thing, but I enjoyed hers.


I know I am leaving out many wonderful authors here, but hey, it’s 6:30 am, and I haven’t had my second cup of coffee yet.


One guilty admission – I’m currently reading the second book in Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles, set before, during and after World War II. Why a guilty admission? Because – let’s face it – the writing is sloppy. There’s way too much dependence on the reader being willing to suspend disbelief, there’s a lot of unneeded detail and a lot of briefly skipping over more important plot points. I definitely get the feel of an author who’s just racing through, rather than thinking through. But what the hell. It’s a rollicking good story. His work doesn’t hold up to R.F. Delderfield or Ken Follett, but especially in this time of quarantine, it’s a fun adventure. Even if I feel my I.Q. falling as I read.


Tell me about your favorite historical fiction series. I particularly enjoy stories set in the 1800s, but I’m open to anything.

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