Before the Kardashians, before Hollywood, royalty were the original celebrities. We can’t help our fascination with the royals. Princess Diana was known as The Face That Launched a Thousand Magazines. The media went into a frenzy when Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier of Monaco. And on the other side of the Atlantic, the American press compared the Kennedy years to Camelot.
Psychologists suggest that we look for comfort in consistency, and royalty gives us that during uncertain times: they’re always on, adhere to protocol and maintain their traditions. Or is it just the glamour of crowns and gowns? One thing’s for sure: royal weddings, royal babies, royal scandals and anything peripheral to royalty seems to hold an enduring fascination. Here are 8 delicious works of historical fiction to feed your fascination about royalty — who apparently do not always adhere to protocol.
The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel by Georgie Blalock
The Honorable Vera Strathmore is impoverished, clever and witty. Princess Margaret likes her friends to be amusing and soon after they are introduced, Vera becomes a lady-in-waiting to the mercurial princess. Seen through Vera’s eyes, this is a tale that takes you behind the sparkle and glamour of royal society to the choices two women of vastly different classes must make between duty and passion.
The Secret Bride (In the Court of Henry VIII #1) by Diane Haeger
Interest in the Tudors never seems to fade, especially when it comes to Henry VIII and his unfortunate wives. But there was so much more going on in Henry’s court and this first book in Haeger’s trilogy is a great place to start. Mary Tudor is Henry’s youngest sister. Widowed when Louis XII of France dies, she is determined to marry for love this time, instead of being used as a political pawn.
Grace Kelly only made a dozen movies before marrying Prince Rainier, which brought her everlasting fame. This story encompasses Grace’s life as an actress, her romances before Rainier, her reasons for leaving Hollywood to become a royal wife and mother, and her subsequent struggles to live up to the monarchy’s expectations. Great historical fiction that brings humanity to an icon. (Read our full review here.)
The Moon in the Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel
History has not been kind to Empress Wu, China’s only female emperor. This award-winning duology casts a different light on the woman known to her loved ones as Mei — her tactics to survive in a dangerous, deceitful court and the decisions she must make to save her family and the prince she loves. Richly detailed, with characters that live in your mind long after you close the book. (Read our full reviews of The Moon in the Palaceand The Empress of Bright Moon.)
And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis by Stephanie Marie Thornton
A novel that offers a convincing and intimate portrayal of the world’s most famous and enigmatic First Lady. This novel explores the complex woman behind all those magazine covers and the challenges she surmounted to build a life according to her own terms after JFK dies. Whatever you thought you knew about Jackie, this richly-detailed and well-researched story will make you take another look. (Read our full review here.)
American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt by Stephanie Marie Thornton
Alice Roosevelt was a fashionable beauty dubbed “the American Princess,” but Theodore Roosevelt’s wild and wayward eldest daughter was not content to live in the background. Smart, politically savvy and blessed with a wicked wit, she negotiates her way through two world wars, a family feud, the Great Depression and an unhappy marriage.
Thelma, Viscountess Furness, and mistress to the Prince of Wales, must go to New York where her identical twin sister Gloria Vanderbilt is embroiled in the most sensational child custody battle of the century. Before Thelma leaves, she asks her good friend Wallis Simpson to look after the Prince for her. The rest is history. But this is Thelma’s story and refreshingly, it doesn’t dwell on the familiar tale of Edward and Wallis. Instead, the central love story is between sisters Thelma and Gloria.
Born in the Caribbean, married in France to a philandering husband, imprisoned during the revolution, abandoned by her lovers — not exactly a happy life. Then she falls in love with Napoleon Bonaparte, a promising young general. This novel provides a colorful and sympathetic portrayal of an unusual woman negotiating to survive during a turbulent time in history.
Janie Chang writes historical fiction with a twist of the supernatural. She belongs to a family with 36 generations of recorded genealogy and always brings stories about her ancestors into her books. Her first novel, Three Souls, was a finalist for the 2014 BC Book Prizes Fiction Award and one of nine Canadian books nominated for the 2015 International Dublin Literary Award. Her second novel, Dragon Springs Road, was a Canadian national bestseller and nominated for the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award. Born in Taiwan, Janie has lived in the Philippines, Iran, Thailand, and New Zealand. She now lives in beautiful Vancouver, Canada with her husband and Mischa, a rescue cat who feels the staff could be doing a better job. For more information about Janie, please see: www.janiechang.com