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Historical fiction beyond Anne Boleyn: Classic authors

Little Women is almost universally beloved by women, while Ernest Hemingway’s reception is a bit more mixed. But whether you love them or hate them, these authors’ life stories are as fascinating as anything they wrote. Many of today’s authors offer wonderful, fictionalized peeks into their lives. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite historical fiction about classic authors.

Hemingway's girl

Hemingway’s Girl
Erika Robuck

Ernest Hemingway

Set in Key West during the Great Depression, Hemingway’s Girl focuses on Mariella Bennet, a fictional young woman whose family is facing hard times. Mariella dreams one day of owning her own business, but in the meantime she is incredibly lucky to have been offered a job as a maid in the Hemingway household. Will she be able to remain true to herself and her dreams when faced with the volatile yet charming Ernest Hemingway?

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
Kelly O’Connor McNees

Louisa May Alcott

Rare is the girl who reads Little Women and does not feel betrayed by Laurie and Jo’s failure to marry, it is perhaps our most enduring literary disappointment. But how did Louisa May Alcott, a woman who, as far as we know, never had a romantic relationship, write so convincingly of a love that could have been? In The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, Kelly O’Connor McNees imagines for us an answer during summer of 1855 — a summer for which Louisa’s documents are missing — in the guise of handsome young Joseph Singer.

The Malice of Fortune

The Malice of Fortune
Michael Ennis

Niccolò Machiavelli

How did Niccolò Machiavelli, a man who believed wholeheartedly in his republic of Florence, come to have his name associated with tyrannical politics? The book that made him famous, The Prince, is based on what he observed of Cesare Borgia. Told from the points of view of both Niccolò and a courtesan named Damatia, Michael Ennis’ The Malice of Fortune proposes a series of events — complete with the murders of whores and run-ins with Da Vinci — that result in Machiavelli’s immortalization of Cesare and the book that would make Machiavelli infamous.

The Age of DesireThe Age of Desire
Jennie Fields

Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton might never have achieved all that she did had she not had Anna Bahlmann at her side. Originally her governess, Anna functioned not only as Edith’s literary secretary, but also as a mother figure. The women were incredibly close, until Edith’s scandalous affair with Morton Fullerton, a man much younger than herself, drove a wedge between the two of them. In The Age of Desire, Jennie Fields takes the reader not only through Wharton’s emotional life, but also the vivid Gilded Age world she lived in.

Girl in a blue dressGirl in a Blue Dress
Gaynor Arnold

Charles Dickens

Girl in a Blue Dress draws very closely from the day-to-day life of its subject, Charles Dickens, focusing on his marriage in particular. Gaynor Arnold bases her novel on the letters given to the British Museum by Dickens’ abandoned wife, although she removes Girl in a Blue Dress from the Dickens family somewhat by changing the names and some details of her characters. After the name changes, it is the essence of the Dickens marriage that remains, from their passionate early days to the affair that would destroy the heart of their union.

Twelve Rooms of the NileThe Twelve Rooms of the Nile
Enid Shomer

Gustave Flaubert

On the surface, Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary, has little in common with celebrated nurse Florence Nightingale, but both would challenge how 19th century women were viewed by society. They also both happened to travel through Egypt at the same time in 1850. In The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, Enid Shomer imagines the friendship that might have taken root had they met on their journeys.

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