Historia has put together a list of books to look out for in 2021 from HWA members – an overview of the best in historical writing published this year. After a difficult and often disappointing year for writers, publishers and booksellers, it’s heartening to see historical writing, both fiction and non-fiction, flourishing in 2021.
First to be published in 2021, on 5 January, is Deborah Swift‘s ebook, The Lifeline, set in Shetland and in Nazi-occupied Norway. Deborah has written a piece for Historia about the Norwegian teachers’ strike, which plays a major part in her book.
On the same day The Tobacco Girls, the first of a new series set in Bristol during the Second World War, tells the story of a group of working-class girls. It’s written by working-class Bristolian Lizzie Lane.
Three books come out on 7 January. The Three Paradises by Robert Fabbri plunges into the turmoil left after the death of Alexander the Great. The Wolf Hunt is the third in Tim Hodkinson‘s Whale Road Chronicles and follows Einar Unnsson and the Wolf Coats into exile and danger. In Jennifer Macaire‘s A Remedy In Time, Robin Johnson must travel back to the Ice Age to fight a deadly virus. Jennifer’s written a Historia feature on researching the Palaeolithic.
On 21 January six books by HWA authors are published. A Prince and a Spy by Rory Clements sees Cambridge professor Tom Wilde once more drawn in to international espionage against Nazi Germany. (Read Carolyn Kirby’s Historia review.) Holly Green‘s Secrets of the Frontline Nurses, the third in her series set during the First World War, raises the dangers – and the heartbreak – for Leonora.
In The Straits of Treachery by Richard Hopton British officer George Warne suspects treachery in Sicily in 1810. And in Andrew Martin‘s Powder Smoke a chance encounter in a bar sets railway policeman Jim Stringer in train for his most dangerous investigation yet. The paperback edition is out in November.
On 28 January, Catherine Hokin‘s ebook The Lost Mother is released. It traces a woman’s search for her birth mother and the tragic Second World War tale she uncovers, both in Germany and the US. She’s written about Goebbels and the German film industry for Historia.
Seven books come out on 4 February. David Gilman‘s Shadow of the Hawk, the seventh in his Master of War series, takes Thomas Blackstone into intrigue and danger in Castile in 1364. The paperback edition follows on 5 August. The Puritan Princess, Miranda Malins‘s novel about Oliver Cromwell’s daughter, Frances, is released in paperback. Miranda’s written about the story behind her book for Historia.
On the same day, The Fall of the House of Byron by Emily Brand, which follows the tempestuous and scandalous lives of Lord Byron’s ancestors over three generations, comes out in paperback, and Emily’s feature about a mad, bad Byron is in Historia. In The Diplomat’s Wife by Michael Ridpath Emma and her grandson Phil’s attempt to solve a mystery that has haunted her since the Second World War puts them both in more danger than they could have imagined.
Still on 4 February, The Love Letters of Kings and Queens, edited by Dan Smith, offers a glimpse of the private feelings of these public figures. Lullaby Beach, Stella Duffy‘s new novel, tracks a family’s joys and misfortunes from 1950s London to the present.
And DV Bishop‘s debut, City of Vengeance, is the first in a series of historical thrillers set in Renaissance Florence. He’s written for Historia about the value of walking in his characters’ footsteps.
The first of Angus Donald’s new Fireborn series, The Last Berserker, comes out as an ebook on 11 February and in paperback on 25 February. Bjarki and Tor set off to Saxony to learn the secrets of the berserkir; but in eighth-century Europe pagans and Christians must clash. Michael Jecks will review it for Historia.
Seven books by HWA authors are published on 18 February. Laura Shepherd-Robinson‘s much-anticipated Daughters of Night, postponed from last year, is out: Caro Corsham, investigating the death of a courtesan in the glittering yet dark London of 1782, finds her reputation – and her life – under threat. Laura won the 2019 HWA Debut Crown Award for her first novel, Blood & Sugar.
Also on 18 February, three paperback editions of popular books come out: The Lady of the Ravens is the first in Joanna Hickson‘s Queens of the Tower series. Under the shadow of the Tower, Elizabeth of York and Joan Vaux must negotiate the treacherous world of the Tudor court.
And Guinevere Glasfurd‘s ambitious novel set in 1816, The Year Without Summer, which was shortlisted for the 2020 HWA Gold Crown Award, is also published in paperback. It’s been longlisted for the 2021 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction as well. She’s written a feature for Historia about the inspiration for her book.
Kevin Sullivan‘s thriller, The Figure in the Photograph, set in Glasgow in 1899, is published in paperback on 18 February. On the same day, the sequel, The Art of the Assassin, will be published in hardback, with the paperback to follow on 19 August. Both novels feature Juan Camarón, a Spanish photographer whose innovative camera technique unexpectedly helps police to solve a series of murders.
And still on 18 February, A Beautiful Spy is Rachel Hore‘s latest novel. Minnie is recruited to infiltrate the Communist movement in 1928. But the Russians are notorious for ruthlessly disposing of people whose allegiance they suspect (hardback and ebook; the paperback is out in September).
On 25 February there’s another paperback reissue: Fortune’s Soldier, the first in the Ballantyne Chronicles by Alex Rutherford. In 1744 Nicholas Ballantyne meets Robert Clive on a ship bound for India and the two men’s lives stay twined through the years that follow. And Angus Donald’s The Last Berserker is out in paperback. He reveals the secrets of becoming an elite Viking warrior to Historia.
Martine Bailey‘s second Tabitha Hart mystery, The Prophet, is published on 26 February. Tabitha’s attempt to solve the murder of a girl she once knew draws her and her unborn child into danger when a dark prophecy is made. Read Martine’s Historia feature about childbirth and superstitions.
The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds by TE Kinsey comes out on 1 March. Lady Hardcastle is back, this time in a new series introducing the jazz band the Dizzy Heights to sleuthing as they search for stolen jewels and try to unmask a murderer.
Matthew Harffy begins a new series on 4 March. In A Time for Swords, novice monk Hunlaf discovers he has a talent for combat when the Vikings raid Lindisfarne. Should he continue with his monastic life or learn to be a warrior and fight these terrifying new enemies? And Matthew has some advice for historical fiction authors on writing battle scenes.
There’s more action adventure on 4 March with the paperback release of Theodore Brun‘s A Burning Sea, the third in his Wanderer Chronicles series. When Erlan Aurvandil is betrayed and sold to a Byzantine general, Queen Lilla journeys east to find him.
On the same day, Sara Sheridan‘s Where are the Women? A Guide to an Imagined Scotland comes out in paperback. She and illustrator Jenny Proudfoot imagine a Scotland where women are commemorated in statues and streets and buildings, even in thenames of hills and valleys.
Sarah Hawkswood‘s mystery Blood Runs Thicker is published on 18 March. In 1144, when an unpopular lord is found dead, investigators Hugh Bradecote, Serjeant Catchpoll, and apprentice Walkelin have plenty of suspects.
Also on 18 March, Bloodlines, the latest in Chris Bishop‘s Shadow of the Raven series, set in King Alfred’s Wessex, is published. Edward, his stable boy, may have a lineage which Alfred’s enemies could use to threaten the throne of Wessex. Can the king keep the lad out of their grasp? Read Chris’s Historia feature about horses in war in Alfred’s time.
On the same day, The Unwanted Dead by Chris Lloyd comes out in paperback. Paris detective Eddie Giral is driven to find the murderer of four refugees, while avoiding both the Nazi occupiers and the Resistance – and facing his own moral dilemmas.
Andrew Taylor‘s The Last Protector entangles James Marwood and Cat Lovett in Richard Cromwell’s return to England in 1668, and it’s out in paperback on the same day. Andrew won the 2020 HWA Gold Crown for The King’s Evil. Read about what winning meant to him.
The latest James Burke adventure by Tom Williams, Burke in Ireland, is published on 19 March, 2021. The ideas of the French Revolution are fuelling unrest in Ireland, where a new nationalist movement is being brutally suppressed. Can Burke prevent a full-scale rebellion? Tom tells Historia about why he chose this setting.
On the same day, A Book of Secrets by Kate Morrison is also out as a paperback. This acclaimed debut tells the story of a girl from Ghana hunting for her lost brother through an Elizabethan underworld of spies, plots and secret Catholic printing presses.
Lorna Cook‘s new novel, The Girl from the Island, is published as a paperback and an ebook on 1 April. Lucy’s search for the author of a note written in occupied Guernsey in 1940 uncovers the story of a woman who vanished from the island one night.
On the same day, KJ Maitland‘s The Drowned City is out. It’s 1606, and Daniel Pursglove is sent to Bristol, where a giant wave has just devastated the city, to find a Catholic spy – in return for his own life being spared.
Also on 1 April, The Heretic’s Mark, the fourth in SW Perry‘s Jackdaw Mysteries series, sees Nicholas Shelby and Bianca flee to Padua, where a fervently religious young woman involves them in a radical – and dangerous – plot.
On 12 April, Deborah Swift‘s The Poison Keeper takes us to 17th-century Naples, where young Giulia Tofana swears revenge on the man who killed her mother. But his brother controls the Camorra, and Giulia is put forward as this man’s future bride.
Henry VII and the Tudor Pretenders by Nathen Amin is published on 15 April. This comprehensive account examines the conspiracies against the new Tudor monarch, with particular emphasis on Lambert Simnel, Perkin Warbeck, and Edward, Earl of Warwick. Nathen’s writing a Historia feature on the subject.
Linda Porter‘s Mistresses: Sex and Scandal at the Court of Charles II comes out in paperback on the same day. In it, the historian paints a vivid portrait the of women who shared Charles’s bed, including his Queen, Catherine of Braganza, who she writes about for Historia.
The Queen’s Rival by Anne O’Brien retells the story of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, and her plots to overthrow the weak King Henry VI and place her son, Edward, on the throne. The paperback edition is also out on 15 April. As is the second in Carol McGrath‘s Rose Trilogy series about Eleanor of Castile, The Damask Rose, in paperback and ebook editions.
Lady Rosamund and the Horned God, Barbara Monajem‘s second Rosie and McBrae mystery, comes out on 20 April. On the same day, The Vanishing Children by Graham Brack, the fifth in his Master Mercurius series, is out as a ebook.
Still on 29 April, Ben Kane‘s Crusader, the second book in his Lionheart series, takes the newly-crowned Richard I and his companion Ferdia via marriage, siege, and conquest to the Holy Land – where Saladin is waiting. Read an extract from the beginning of this book.
Liz MacRae Shaw‘s Had We Never Loved So Blindly is published on 30 April. When John Norman joins the Navy and Felicity MacDougall takes a job at Bletchley Park, their long-distance relationship is put under stress. Liz writes for Historia about her search for other historical fiction covering these areas.
Jeff Dawson‘s Ingo Finch Mystery trilogy is reissued on 6 May. No Ordinary Killing, The Cold North Sea and Hell Gate are all paperback editions; the audiobooks were released in March and April. Geraint Jones‘s Legion (The Raven and the Eagle book 3) is out in paperback and ebook formats on the same day.
Circus of Wonders is the HWA Debut Crown-shortlisted Elizabeth Macneal‘s second novel, out on 13 May. Nell, the ‘leopard girl’, is the star of Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders. But who gets to tell her story? And, as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the secret binding him to his brother?
Deborah Swift‘s The Poison Keeper, based on the true story of Giulia Tofana, a 17th-century Neapolitan poisoner, is published as an ebook on 18 May. Giulia swears vengeance on her mother’s killer. But many more will die when she perfects Aqua Tofana.
On 21 May, Catherine Hokin‘s latest novel, The Secretary, comes out in ebook format. In 1980 Nina Dahlke sets out to discover the secrets of the ruined Tower House in East Berlin. What did her grandmother flee from 40 years before? Historia is publishing an exclusive extract from Catherine’s book.
The White Rajah by Tom Williams, based on the true story of James Brooke, governor of Sarawak, and his struggles to defend the land he loves, is re-released as an ebook on 21 May. It’s also available in paperback. Deborah Swift has reviewed Tom’s book for Historia.
Bernard Cornwell says goodbye to Uhtred of Bebbanburg in War Lord, the 13th of the Last Kingdom series. Caught between King Æthelstan in the south and King Constantine in the north, can Uhtred preserve his freedom – and his life? It’s out in paperback on 27 May.
On 30 May, Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey by Sharon Bennett Connolly, in which she traces the 300-year history of this powerful family, is published. Sharon has written about the Warennes for Historia.
Elizabeth Buchan’s Two Women in Rome comes out on 3 June, 2021. Archivist Lottie Archer unravels a tragic love story beset by the political turmoil of post-war Italy and begins to confront the losses in her own life. You can find out about medieval miniatures, one of the most intriguing aspects of the background to her book, in her Historia feature.
The Long Journey Home is Cecily Blench‘s first novel. Kate and Edwin meet in Rangoon in 1941. Escaping to India, they become separated. Will they survive their journey and find the peace they both seek? It’s published on 10 June, as is the ebook of The Serpent King, the fourth of Tim Hodkinson‘s Whale Road Chronicles, in which Einar Unnsson, wants revenge for his mother’s death – but he’s a Wolf Coat, and must go with them on their latest quest. The paperback edition is out on 2 September.
Stacey Halls‘s new novel, Mrs England, is also published on 10 June. Newly-qualified nanny Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners. But soon it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England.
On 15 June, From the Mill to Monte Carlo comes out in paperback. Anne Fletcher uncovers how Yorkshire mill worker Joseph Hobson Jagger beat the odds at roulette to win a fortune. Who was he, and what happened to his millions?
The Windchime, Alexandra Walsh‘s new dual-timeline novel, is published on 29 June. Set on the Pembrokeshire coast, it explores the contrasting treatments of mental health in the Victorian era and the present day.
King John, Henry III and England’s Lost Civil War by John Paul Davis is published on 30 June. It shows how, in the first 18 years of Henry III’s reign, the future direction of England as a political state, the identity of the ruling family and the fate of Henry II’s lost Angevin empire hung in the balance.
Published on the same day, Writing in Ice: A Crime Writer’s Guide to Iceland by Michael Ridpath is both a voyage around Iceland and its stories, and advice on how to put together a good detective story, based on his own experiences. His Historia feature about the book is up on 4 July.
Out on 8 July, Nicola Cornick‘s new novel, The Last Daughter, moves between the present, when Serena attempts to uncover the truth about her sister Caitlin’s death, and Anne Lovell’s torn loyalties during the War of the Roses. What is the link between Anne and Caitlin?
For Lord and Land, Matthew Harffy‘s eighth Bernicia Chronicles book, also hits the shelves on 8 July. While Beobrand is entangled in a struggle for Northumbria between Oswiu of Bernicia and Oswine of Deira, Cynan faces deadly enemies in Rheged.
The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn comes out in paperback on 22 July. Nat Davy is called Queen Henrietta Maria’s dwarf, but he is more than that; he’s her friend. Spanning the decades of the English Civil War and the Interregnum, it’s based on the true story of Jeffrey Hudson.
Annie Garthwaite‘s debut novel, Cecily, revisits the Wars of the Roses through the eyes of one of the women whose plotting began the conflict: Cecily Neville, Duchess of York. It’s published on 29 July.
The Ambassador: Joseph P Kennedy at the Court of St James’s 1938-1940 is biographer Susan Ronald‘s latest book, coming out on 3 August. Using many new sources, she argues that Kennedy was a Fascist sympathiser and an anti-Semite whose only loyalty was to his own ambitious family.
Sara Sheridan’s The Fair Botanists is out on 5 August. In the summer of 1822 two young women are drawn to Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens as the rare Agave Americana plant draws near to flowering. But what secret is Belle hiding from Elizabeth? And Sara Sheridan’s Celtic Cross, the ninth in her Mirabelle Bevan Mystery series, is released on 12 August.
The Good Death, the latest in the Oswald de Lacy series by SD Sykes, whose The Bone Fire was longlisted for the HWA Gold Crown Award in 2020, is published on 19 August. On the same day, VB Grey‘s Sisterhood, about the decades-long repercussions of twin sisters swapping roles during the Second World War, is out. As is Wolf at the Door, the ninth Bradecote and Catchpoll book by Sarah Hawkswood. Finally on 19 August, the paperback edition of Kevin Sullivan‘s The Art of the Assassin is published.
The paperback edition of Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England by Annie Whitehead comes out on 30 August. Castles of England by another Pen & Sword author, John Paul Davis, is published on the following day.
August Blood (working title) by Mark Ellis, the latest in his Frank Merlin series, is expected in the second half of the year.
Matthew Harffy‘s A Time for Swords and Tim Hodkinson‘s The Serpent King are out in paperback on 2 September. On the same day, Resistance by Mara Timon takes three women behind the enemy lines in occupies France. But not all their enemies are German. Who can they trust?
Also on 2 September, Rachel Hore’s A Beautiful Spy comes out in paperback (see 18 February). The Hidden Child, Louise Fein‘s second novel, is published on the same day. In inter-war London, a successful couple must confront their fears and their lies when their daughter is found to have epilepsy, a condition her eugenicist father campaigns against.
Anne O’Brien‘s new book, published on 16 September, is The Royal Game. Led by three visionary women, the Paston family rises from obscurity to the very heart of politics and intrigue at the Yorkist court.
Gill Paul‘s The Collector’s Daughter comes out on 30 September. Her novel is about Lady Evelyn Herbert, who was the first person to enter the tomb of Tutankhamun for 3,000 years, and who lived in the real Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle. But were her subsequent tragedies caused by the ‘curse of Tutankhamun’?
A large number of books by HWA authors are to be published in September 2021, but we’re waiting for further details. Here are the ones we know about:
The Forgotten by Mary Chamberlain
A new Sharpe novel by Bernard Cornwell
Ghosts of the West (Drabble and Harris book 3) by Alec Marsh
Rebel by Geraint Jones
The Castles of England by John Paul Davis
Barossa Street by Rob McInroy
Paul Fraser Collard’s tenth Jack Lark book, Commander, comes out on 28 October. It’s 1869 and Jack is in Egypt, where he’s offered work on an expedition into the Sudan to eradicate the slave trade and open the area to commerce. How can he refuse?
AJ West‘s The Spirit Engineer is expected to be published in October. Why did Professor William Jackson Crawford, published author, respected psychic investigator, father and husband, poison himself on the rocks near Bangor in Northern Ireland?
Tracy Borman‘s Crown and Sceptre (working title), a new history of British monarchy, will come out in November.
National Treasures by Caroline Shenton tells the gripping and sometimes hilarious true story of how an unlikely bunch of men and women saved London’s museums, galleries and archives in the Second World War. It’s also out this month.
There’s no information yet about books by HWA authors published in December 2021.
Historia will highlight all these books on or near their publication dates. You can pre-order them using the links in the text.
Many of the authors have agreed to write features for Historia about the background to their books near the time of publication. There will also be reviews of some of these books, as well as author interviews.
If you’re an HWA member with a book coming out in 2021 and you’d like Historia to cover it, email the editor, Frances Owen, at email@example.com with details.