10 Favorite Historical Novels of 2013

Exploration of old and new historical fiction defined this past year. As I participated in the online course “Plagues, Witches, and War: The World of Historical Fiction” offered by the University of Virginia and led by author/professor Bruce Holsinger.

I learned the historiography of the historical novel traces back to the genre’s prototype, Cyropaediawritten by Greek historian and philosopher Xenophon in fourth century BCE. The book was a fictionalized biography of the life of Cyrus the Great of Persia. British journalist and literary critic George Saintsbury (1845-1933) consider it to be one of the earliest examples of the genre, although Saintsbury states that it was not intentionally written as historical fiction, but as a political treaty that happened to utilize the modern conventions: a story set in the past, imagined dialogue, and based on historical written accounts.

That said, here are my favorite reads of 2013:

The Forsaken Inn1. The Forsaken Inn by Anna Katharine Green. Published in 1890, Green is the inventor of the historical mystery niche. Don’t be surprised when you find yourself holding your breath as you push to find out what happens next! And what a great book cover, adore it.





The Love-Artist2. The Love-Artist by Jane Alison.  This story is told in feverish prose and much of it reads like poetry. It is the imagined missing chapter of Roman poet Ovid’s life, “the why and how” behind this word-artist’s exile from Rome. It is a driving exotic read.





Illuminations3. Illuminations by Mary Sharratt. I’ ll put this simply: I loved this novel. It is a spellbinding chronicle of the life of the German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, visionary, and polymath Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179). I adored the subject matter, the story line, the characterizations, the settings, the writing, the pacing, the scenes: everything.




Seduction4. Seduction by M.J. Rose This is an evocative Gothic time-slip mystery. Rose’s storytelling is in a league of its own. This book is ambiance, art, mythology, psychology, and scent. Exploring the implications of reincarnation. And delving into nineteenth century French novelist Victor Hugo’s life while on self-imposed exiled to the British Island of Jersey. Where, he led hundreds of séances at his windswept coastal home, trying to make contact with his departed daughter. While the modern day mythologist, Jac L’Etoile, becomes entwined with Hugo’s past secrets and the island’s mysterious Celtic ruins. I loved this novel.

The Book of Lost Frag5. The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J Rose. Welcome to another of M.J. Rose’s incredible historical time-slip novels: some authors take us by surprise, by storm, as did this novel for me. I love the things the thriller brought together:  art, scent, mythology, reincarnation, spirit. I read the novel in two sittings.  Loved it.





The Passion6. The Passion of Artemisia by SusanVreeland. This is an important and fascinating story about Renaissance Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi. I wish for everyone  to read this novel and to learn about the artist’s incredible paintings and life story.





The Brenden V7. The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin. While researching for a short story idea, I came across the work of Severin’s. This story is part history, part legend, part pure adventure. Severin’s is in a class of his own too. He recounts famous tales of lore and reconstructs the maritime crafts that sailed the famous protagonists through their harrowing journeys. This is the first book in a series of travel log yarns that are unforgettable and profoundly inspiring.



P of Artist8. Portraits of an Artist by Mary F. Burns. In this account of the American portrait painter, John Singer Sargent, you’ll be taken into the art world of nineteenth century Paris and coastal England. It is told incredibly from fifteen first person points of view, the personages that posed for his portraits. I loved the writing and voices in this book, along with poignant and insightful reflections of what the artist thinks and cares about.



The Art Forger9. The Art Forger by B.A. Shaprio. Suspenseful and imaginative this story plunges into the murkiness of the infamous art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, still the largest unsolved art theft in history. It is a fascinating time-slip novel that lets you into the world of art and artists, craft, forgery, and the obsessions of the art connoisseur. What would you do for the sake of art? Recognition? To house one of the world’s greatest paintings?



C1o. Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara. I really loved this story: tension on every page as you live the plight of the female painter. I could deeply relate to the protagonist, the  sacrifices one makes to create, how nothing seduces the artist more than the desire to bring forth images, and the electricity between artists.





I highly recommend these novels. If you like stories of the arts, creatives, adventure, and living passionately you’ll adore every one these! 

Currently Reading:  Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks and Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

To Read List: The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose (releases April 8, 2014), Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland (releases August or September 2014), The Last Queen of India by Michelle Moran (release date not yet available),The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman: A Novel by Naslund Sena Jete, The Mask Carver’s Son by  Alyson Richman, A Burnable Book: A Novel by Bruce Holsinger (releases February 18, 2014), Tierra del Fuego by Sylvia Iparraguirre

I’m really looking forward to the new year. I will begin seeking representation for my novel CUT FROM THE EARTH in 2014!  Woo hoo!  

Interview with International Bestselling author M.J. Rose

300 MJRBWSome writers’ stories take us by surprise, by storm, author M.J. Rose’sTHE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES, was such a story for me.  I love the things the time-slip mystery thriller brought together:  art, scent, mythology, reincarnation, spirit. I read the novel in two sittings.  And I was so charged up by the story line and psychological characterizations I rushed to posted on M.J. Rose’s Facebook page, letting her know how much I enjoyed the read.  Then I went to her website to investigate more about this author and her works, to find this prolific writer had yet another tantalizing novel within days from being released:  SEDUCTION. Wheels charging in my head, I decided to pursue an interview with this trailblazing novelist: a founding member of International Thriller writers; the first writer to start a marketing company for authors AuthorBuzz.com, and to have her eBook go from being self-published to picked up by a New York mainstream publishing house.

Q: Will you please tell us about the inspiration for the novel THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES.

Several years ago, I went to a brocante – a flea market  – in Cannes, France. It was a perfect morning to peruse antiques; warm with a little breeze to mingle the scent of fresh flowers with seaside town’s fresh salty air. One table that caught my attention offered an intriguing mix of items laid out as if they were resting on an elegant woman’s vanity.Next to a shagreen jewelry box – opened to reveal strings of pearls, was a pair of fine creamy white kid gloves.  Sunshine glinted off the silver trim of a turquoise cloisonné hair brush set and illuminated the gold lettering on a group of leather-bound books all about mythology.There were also a dozen perfume decanters scattered around. Some were cut crystal with fancy repousee silver caps. Others were intricately sculpted pieces of glass-work  – the kind created by Lalique and Baccarat in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Sadly all the bottles were empty except for one with an inch or so of thick, dark perfume coating the bottom.  It was the least ornate flacon.  A residue of glue was visible to show where a label had once been pasted. It was capped with a green ceramic stopper shaped into a lotus – a flower that I recognized from Ancient Egyptian tomb paintings.

3000 The Book of Lost Fragrances

An engaging suspenseful read! Recommended!

As I daydreamed about the woman who’d owned all these treasures, I picked up the bottle, uncapped it and sniffed. In Remembrance of Things Past, Proust wrote about how the taste and smell of a Madeline returned him to his youth with an immediacy that nothing else ever had. For me it was the scent in that bottle that returned me to a day years before.Suddenly I wasn’t in the square in front of the Hotel De Ville in that French town but was sixteen years old, standing on the hill overlooking Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, talking to a boy who I’d just met. He was telling me about Plato’s theory of soul mates.

And I was falling in love.

The scent in the bottle in the flea market was his scent. He’d worn a cologne – discontinued before he was even born – that he’d found in a house his parents had rented one summer. It had been so long since I’d even smelled it – or even thought of it. But suddenly everything about that meeting – and learning about soul mates- and being sure I’d found one – and the tall boy with sly smile who had sadly long since died– came rushing back in that one inhalation. The Book of Lost Fragrances is a very much a suspense novel weaving history into a tense hunt for an important treasure but the theme for book – an ancient scent that would help people identify their soul mates – came to life that lazy day in the South of France. I bought the bottle from the antique dealer and it sits on a shelf with the rest of my perfume collection. I’ve never opened it again… I don’t want the scent to evaporate any more quickly than nature will insist upon.It’s enough to know that memories lay captured inside and they were strong enough to inspire a novel.

2. The physiological understanding/depiction of your characters is of the highest caliber. How did you achieve this authenticity?

Thank you. I wish I knew – if I did I’d stress less over it. I agonize while writing to make my characters come alive and never  quite feel I’ve done a good enough job. Whatever works comes from truly being inside the story, caring about the characters passionately and seeing them as real.

3. On your website you have this stamp “Indie Next List” can you tell us more about this seal? What it means to be selected by Indie Booksellers?

Thousands of independent booksellers nominate the books that they think are worthy to be chosen. Twenty books are chosen monthly – a #1 book and then 19 others that are all equal. I’ve been so lucky to have my last five books chosen and consider it one of the most important achievements in my career. I grew up in bookstores and these booksellers hand picking my books is just an amazing honor.

4. Will you share with us about your writing process?

I spend months, sometimes years, reading and researching. Then more months making a journal for my main character – filling it with bits of the things that make him or her real to me: Imagine a scrap-book for an imaginary person.  Then I write a first draft straight through – without re-reading, working 3 -4 hours a day, 6 days a week.

Then the hard part is done and I get to do the joyous part . I love re-writing. So I rewrite the book form 2-5 times.

5. Please tells us about your latest release: SEDUCTION. What inspired you to write this story?

300 Seduction

M.J. Rose’s Latest Release!

In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo suffered a devastating loss when his beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, in a desperate effort to contact her, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances on the Isle of Jersey where he was exiled. In the process, he claimed to have connected with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Jesus, and most frighteningly, the Devil, known to Hugo as the Shadow of the Sepulcher. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published—or so it was believed.  And that’s where the novel starts.

Jac L’Etoile is a present day mythologist who’s escaped to the Isle of Jersey in the wake of devastating losses of her own hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. Invited by an old friend, Theo Gaspard, Jac figures the trip will be a welcome distraction from her private life. But Theo, a troubled soul himself, has secret motives and hopes she will help him discover something much different from the Druid ruins that lured her there—Hugo’s lost conversations with the Shadow of the Sepulcher.

My first ghost story.

As for inspiration. A trip Paris and Victor Hugo’s home there inspired me to read Les Miserables. I became obsessed with Fantine. I kept wondering if someone had inspired Hugo to create her? I started reading more and more about him. I read his poetry. Sought out his watercolors and drawings… But it was coming across a description of his belief in reincarnation and his experimenting with séances that made me decide to write about him… and the woman who might have inspired him to create Fantine.

6. I love your novels book jackets: THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES and SEDUCTION. Who is the jacket designer? They have done a fabulous job by the way!

My publisher’s art department does the cover with a wonderful and talented artist named Alan Dingman – alandingman.com .

Thank you M.J. Rose for the interview!

To Buy M.J. Rose’s latest in print release: SEDUCTION!