Life is fast paced, occasionally chaotic and often noisy. Our eyes need to rest from constant exposure to blue light, our brains need a break from all the stimulation, and our ears crave silence. What’s a person to do in this hectic modern age?
Escape to a time of yore, before electricity (let alone portable phones), cars and, dare I mention, modern plumbing—to a time when life was slower, people were each other’s entertainment, and travel by horseback was de rigueur. Here are six novels to make you yearn for quieter times, but also appreciate some of our newer amenities.
Set during the Trojan War, the story is told from the perspective of Patroclus, a friend and confidante of Achilles. The Fates wind their stories together, bonding them in a fast-paced tale that will make you think differently about the events described in the Illiad. Heroism, friendship, and a little bit of unexpected romance will make you wish you could join them around the campfire.
Lusty affairs, salacious gossip, and delicious plotting fill days for the Court of François I. Diane de Pointiers is unprepared when she returns to court after her husband’s death, quickly making an enemy of the King’s favorite when he shows interest in her. Diane finds an ally in the king’s son, Henri, and as their friendship evolves into romance, they shock the Court with their passion. Come for the history and detailed descriptions of life at court, but stay for the romance that will sweep you off your feet.
Courting Mr. Lincoln reimagines the courtship of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd as a love triangle between two men and a woman—but it’s not the men competing for Mary’s charms. Scandalous! Salacious! Except… it isn’t. It’s witty and charming and filled with fascinating dialogue, set in a time when talking to people face-to-face—bantering, informing, flirting, suggesting, and teasing—while dancing and drinking sherry was a huge part of life. If you love to talk and dance and drink sherry, pick up Courting Mr. Lincoln.
Set in China during the Tang Dynasty (seventh century), The Moon in the Palace follows the life of Mei, the future Empress Wu, whose entire world is within the walls of the Forbidden Palace, where political favor is the currency, plotting is the favorite pastime, and falling in love with the wrong person will get you killed. Mei’s rise up the court is a combination of right-place-right-time and clever positioning. She is a fierce woman who takes control of her destiny during a time when choices and freedom were nonexistent. When you finish, you’ll rush to read the breathtaking sequel, The Empress of Bright Moon.
Set in ancient Israel during the tragic siege of Masada, The Dovekeepers follows four bold women, bonded by their shared work taking care of the encampment’s doves. Against terrible odds and in horrific circumstances, their stories unfold as secrets are revealed. Their brave choices will inspire and their hard lives will remind you that maybe present day isn’t as bad as we think.
Becoming Josephine follows Rose Tascher’s journey from Martinique to French high society during the chaos of the French Revolution to marrying Napoleon Bonaparte and becoming the Empress of France. As heads begin to roll, she uses her wits to reinvent herself as Josephine, finds love, and in doing so, discovers who she really is. Rich in historical detail, you’ll want to taste the petite fours and feel the sumptuous gowns.
Bonus: The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Given the medieval, mythical world depicted in these books, one could argue they are based in olden times. Let’s ignore the evil overlords and hordes of orcs, but focus on hobbits instead. The hobbit homeland, the pastoral Shire, would make the ideal place to live. Who wouldn’t want to spend their days in a place with breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, and supper (with a few more meals in between when time allows). Hospitality and generosity are prized, neighbors care about one another, every house has a charming round door, and no one wears shoes. Sounds like heaven.