Historical Musings #45: My Year in Historical Fiction – 2018

It’s my final Historical Musings post of 2018, which means it’s time for my annual summary of my year in historical fiction! I have kept the same categories as in the previous two years so that it should be easy to make comparisons and to see if there have been any interesting changes in my reading patterns and choices (my 2017 post is here and 2016 is here).

I know the year is not quite over yet, but I like to stick to a weekend in the middle of the month for my Historical Musings posts – and I don’t think I’ll read enough historical fiction in the final two weeks of the year to significantly affect these statistics anyway.


Time periods read about in 2018

No big surprises here – this is a very similar picture to last year, with books set in the 19th and 20th centuries making up nearly half of my reading. The 16th and 17th centuries were popular again too (all those Tudor and English Civil War/Restoration books). Apart from Ancient Greece, very early periods of history are still poorly represented in my reading. Recommendations are always welcome!


31.2% of the historical fiction authors I read this year were new to me.

Down from 47.3% last year. I’m disappointed I haven’t tried more new authors this year – although it does mean I’ve been enjoying books by favourite authors instead.

Three books I’ve read by new-to-me historical fiction authors in 2018:
Smile of the Wolf by Tim Leach
Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce
By Sword and Storm by Margaret Skea


Publication dates of books read in 2018

I’ve been reading a lot of new or recent historical fiction again this year, with the rest spread across the 20th century. Sadly, I haven’t read anything published earlier than 1900 but that could change next year as I do have some older historical fiction on my Classics Club list which I’m looking forward to reading.


14.3% of my historical reads in 2018 were historical mysteries.

Up from 9.6% last year – but not a big difference.

Three historical mysteries I’ve enjoyed reading this year:
Traitor by David Hingley
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
Lamentation by CJ Sansom


I’ve read historical fiction set in 22 different countries this year.

One more country than last year (if I’m allowed to count Martinique, an overseas territory of France). I’m still finding it difficult to get away from mainly reading books set in my own country, England, but while France and Italy occupied the next two positions in both 2017 and 2016, this year Scotland is in second place with France third and Italy a long way behind.

Three books I’ve read set in countries other than my own:
My Beautiful Imperial by Rhiannon Lewis (Chile and Wales)
The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson (Iceland and Algeria)
The English Girl by Katherine Webb (Oman)


Five historical men I’ve read about this year:

William Lilly

Prince Rupert (The Winter Prince by Cheryl Sawyer)
William Marshal (Templar Silks by Elizabeth Chadwick)
Henry Tudor (The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson)
René Descartes (The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd)
William Lilly (The Magick of Master Lilly by Tobsha Learner)


Five historical women I’ve read about this year:

Ana de Mendoza

Jane Seymour (Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir)
Elizabeth I (Young Bess by Margaret Irwin)
Ana de Mendoza, Princess of Eboli (That Lady by Kate O’Brien)
St Hilda (The Abbess of Whitby by Jill Dalladay)
Elizabeth Mortimer (Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien)


Have you read any good historical fiction this year? Have you read any of the books or authors I’ve mentioned here?

28 thoughts on “Historical Musings #45: My Year in Historical Fiction – 2018

  1. Laurie Brown says:

    I’ve got a similar breakdown of eras in my reading, too, and really, it’s hard to avoid. There are certain times and places that get written about waaaaay more than others. Victorian England (London, usually), the Tudors, and the Regency era are represented more than any other eras. I honestly do try and find other times, and I’m happy to see more Medieval periods showing up, but I doubt we’ll be seeing much out of the early centuries of the last millennium.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, there are so many books set in the Victorian, Tudor and Regency periods that it’s difficult to avoid them – especially as I do like reading about those eras, so I’m easily tempted by them! I need to make more effort to look for books set in earlier periods; I know there are plenty of them out there – they’re just harder to find.

    • Helen says:

      I did read the Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy a year or two ago, so you probably did see them mentioned here. 🙂 I have a few of her earlier books on my shelf which I’m hoping to get to soon.

  2. FictionFan says:

    Delighted to see Scotland moving up the league tables – number one slot next year! 😉 You’ve had a great year – lots of countries and lots of eras. Hope next year is just as varied!

    • Helen says:

      Thanks! Where historical fiction is concerned it can be easy to get stuck in Tudor or Victorian England, so I was pleased to find that I had visited plenty of other countries and eras as well. 🙂

  3. Jo says:

    I have read a shameful amount of historical fiction this year but as soon as I pick up a book and immerse myself I always think I should be reading more. Perhaps next year…….

    I do love a good statistic though!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I’ve read some great historical fiction novels this year, as well as a few that were not so great. I’m glad you enjoyed Dear Mrs Bird and the William Marshal book. 🙂

  4. Carmen says:

    Interesting stats, Helen. I’m not surprised that centuries 16th-20th feature more prominently in your reading since those are the centuries historical fiction writers focused on the most. Same with England, Scotland and France. Despite the small representations of other countries, 22 different locales is a lot of variety and experience in reading, which is definitely more than I can claim. 😉 If you want to read more from new authors, it would pay off to request more ARCs towards the first three or four months of the year. I’ve found interesting books that way.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, it’s very easy to find books set in certain time periods and countries. It takes more effort to look for something different but I’m pleased with the variety I’ve read this year. I have received some ARCs for early 2019, but not all of them are new authors!

  5. Judy Krueger says:

    Thank you for this analysis. I haven’t done my own yet but I do believe I had some great historical fiction reads this year. Currently I am reading Julian by Gore Vidal, published in 1964 and set in the 4th century, about the battle between Christianity and Hellenism in the Roman Empire. I thought it would be challenging but it reads as smoothly as anything. Vidal wrote quite a bit of historical fiction and I look forward to reading more of it.

    • Helen says:

      I’d be interested to see your own analysis if you post it, Judy. I’m glad you’re enjoying the Gore Vidal book. I haven’t read any of his books yet and always assumed they would be challenging too, so I’m pleased to hear that’s not the case!

  6. whatcathyreadnext says:

    Fascinating statistics, although I was surprised not to see Ancient Rome as one of your time periods. As someone who also reads a lot of historical fiction, you’ve inspired me to make a resolution to collect the data to do a similar breakdown in 2019. (I’m not sure I have the time or the energy to go back over my 2018 reading.)

    • Helen says:

      It definitely makes it easier if you record the data as you go along, rather than having to go back through it all at the end of the year. Ancient Rome has never been one of my favourite time periods, but I was still surprised to see I hadn’t read a single book set in that period all year!

  7. jessicabookworm says:

    Helen, looks like another great year of historical reading for you. I sadly haven’t read any of the books you mention. However I very much look forward to reading The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson, Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir, Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien and finishing the Munroe series with By Sword and Storm by Margaret Skea.

    Some of my historical reading this year includes: The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland, Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir, The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory, Peach Blossom Pavilion by Mingmei Yip, Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir and Kin by Snorri Kristjansson.

    I wish you more great historical reading in 2019!

  8. Pheebs LaTour says:

    Love this post. Did you read The Illumination of Ursula Flight? Set in the 17th century, but the later bit which you don’t see too much of. And quite different from the usual imagining of a queen etc. I liked the bits about the theatre best.

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