Cloudmaker by Malcolm BrooksWhat it is: an atmospheric coming-of-age story about a Montana teen and aspiring aviator who tries to secretly build his own airplane during the summer of Amelia Earhart's final flight.
Read it for: the cast of indelible secondary characters and the way the construction project deeply touches each of their lives.
About the author: Malcolm Brooks has published nonfiction in Outside and Montana Quarterly, and the novel Painted Horses, another quietly atmospheric, western-set story.
Libertie by Kaitlyn GreenidgeWhat it's about: In Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, free-born Libertie Sampson wrestles with the conflict between her physician mother's desire for her to go to medical school and the developing music industry that she feels drawn to.
What makes it unique: its portrayal of the lives of well-to-do African Americans who were free before the Civil War; Libertie's eventual journey to Haiti, which explores cross-cultural relationships in the African diaspora.
You might also like: Book of the Little Axe by Lauren Francis-Sharma, another story of a Black woman's story of migration and self-determination.
Rhapsody by Mitchell James KaplanWhat it is: the sweeping and character-driven story of pioneering Jazz Age pianist and composer Kay Swift, her decade-long affair with George Gershwin, and her career after his early death.
Appearances by: Duke Ellington, Dorothy Parker, and an up-and-coming brother-sister dancing duo -- Adele and Fred Astaire.
Try this next: Mary Sharratt's Ecstasy, which follows aspiring young Viennese composer Alma Schindler and the conflict between her ambitions with those of her eventual husband, George Mahler.
The Eyes of the Queen by Oliver ClementsWhat it is: the gritty and richly detailed story of Welsh polymath John Dee, who served as court astronomer, political advisor, and rumored secret agent to England's Queen Elizabeth I.
Is it for you? Although technically still "Tudor fiction", Eyes of the Queen has some scenes of graphic violence alongside the usual court intrigue, which may not appeal to all readers.
You might also like: Phillip Depoy's A Prisoner in Malta, the intricately plotted tale of another famous figure in English history (Christopher Marlowe) who was rumored to work for Elizabeth I as a spy.
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara CollinsIntroducing: Frannie Langton, a Jamaican servant languishing in Newgate Prison as she awaits trial for the murders of her employers.
Why you might like it: Framed as Frannie's confession, this debut offers Gothic atmosphere, vivid recreations of both West Indian sugar plantations and Georgian London, and a penetrating exploration of Enlightenment-era scientific racism.
Want a taste? "The cold seemed to carry its own smell, like raw meat, and came on me sudden as a cutpurse.”
The Nugget by P.T. DeutermannWhat it is: a compelling historical thriller, unfolding in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor and following the exploits of Navy Ensign Bobby Steele on land, at sea, and in the sky.
Why you might like it: The story hits the ground running, deftly combining the action and adventure of modern military thrillers with the exciting historical setting.
Try this next: The Saboteur by Andrew Gross; Hell's Gate by Bill Schutt.
The Fifth Column by Andrew GrossWhat it is: a spare, fast-paced story of personal turmoil, espionage, and terrorist plots inspired by the true story of the Duquense Spy Ring.
Starring: Charles Mossman, a Jewish man reconnecting with his wife and daughter after serving time for manslaughter; the Bauers, the Mossman family's likable new Swiss neighbors who vociferously denounce Nazism but appear to have other secrets.
Read it for: the relatably halting first steps of his investigation, which Charles (who puts the "amateur" in "amateur sleuth") begins after being rebuffed by authorities.
Blame the Dead by Ed RuggeroWhat it's about: Once a Philadelphia beat cop, Lieutenant Eddie Harkins is ordered to investigate the case of an unpopular army doctor whose death took place during a German air raid on their Palermo base but has all the hallmarks of an inside job.
Read it for: the long list of suspects who all had good reasons to want the unlikable doctor dead; the well-rendered Italian setting, which is one of the less-featured locations for American World War II fiction.
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