The Island of Sea Women
by Lisa See
This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.
Why you might like it: This lyrical and heartbreaking novel presents a detailed look at life in a matrifocal society whose ancient traditions are threatened by modernity.
The Orphan's Song by Lauren KateWhat it's about: Raised in a Venetian orphanage, singer Violetta and violinist Mino form a strong but complicated bond rooted in the music they share.
Read it for: sympathetic characters, a bittersweet love story, and an atmospheric setting.
The Burning Chambers by Kate MosseWhat it is: a swashbuckling saga set in 1562 Carcassonne against the backdrop of France's Wars of Religion.
Starring: Minou Joubert, a bookseller's daughter who receives an anonymous message containing a warning; fugitive Huguenot Piet Reydon, who protects Minou while fleeing his pursuers.
Read it for: secrets, star-crossed lovers, stolen relics, and the Inquisition.
The Electric Hotel by Dominic SmithIntroducing: French film director Claude Ballard, a pioneer of cinema who once worked with the Lumière brothers and now, in 1962, languishes in obscurity as a resident of Hollywood's Knickerbocker Hotel.
His masterpiece? The Electric Hotel, a film that he made with the help of an Australian stuntman, a seductive French actress, and a theater owner turned movie producer.
Reviewers say: "an irresistible and dizzying international tale of early cinema" (The Washington Post).
The Summer Country by Lauren WilligWhat it is: a compelling family saga by the bestselling author of The English Wife, set in colonial Barbados and full of mystery and romance.
1812: Charles Davenant arrives in Barbados to run Peverills, his family's sugar plantation, which proves challenging to say the least.
1854: Englishwoman Emily Dawson inherits the now-derelict Peverills and, with the help of brusque but attractive local doctor Nathaniel Braithwaite, learns about its tragic past.
In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles WinslowIntroducing: Azalea "Knot" Centre, a book-loving, hard-drinking schoolteacher in rural West Mills, North Carolina; and her good friends, Otis Lee Loving and Valley, who help her out of one jam after another.
Read it for: a complex and uncompromising heroine whose unconventional life is rendered in evocative prose.
Reviewers say: This debut depicts "a community so tightknit and thorough it becomes easy to forget the people in it don’t exist" (New York Times).
The Sisters of Versailles by Sally ChristieWhat it's about: the five de Nesle sisters, four of whom became mistresses of King Louis XV.
Why you might like it: Gossip and intrigue swirl as the young women navigate the gilded palace of Versailles, vying for power and influence.
Series alert: This is the 1st book in a trilogy that continues with The Rivals of Versailles and The Enemies of Versailles.
The Last Tudor by Philippa GregoryStarring: Lady Jane Grey and her sisters, Katherine and Mary, all potential heirs to the disputed throne of England.
For fans of: Susan Higginbotham's Her Highness, the Traitor, which also depicts the political drama of the succession crisis caused by Henry VIII's death.
Should you start here? Although it's the 7th installment of the Cousins' War series, The Last Tudor can be read and enjoyed on its own.
Cleopatra's Shadows: A Fall of Egypt Novel by Emily HollemanIntroducing: Arsinoe and Berenice, the half-sisters of Cleopatra.
What happens: After their father is deposed in a palace coup, 12-year-old Berenice declares herself ruler, setting the stage for a bloody conflict that will pit sister against sister.
Try this next: Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra, a biography of the iconic ruler that also delves into dynastic dysfunction.
The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai RandelThe situation: Concubine Mei's beauty, wit, and charm have helped her win the love of Pheasant, the new emperor -- as well as the undying enmity of his wife, Empress Wang, who seeks to destroy her.
Why you might like it: Set in Tang Dynasty China, this historical novel follows the life of the woman who would become Empress Wu, a saga that began with The Moon in the Palace.
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