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Not the Usual Time or Place: Historical Fiction in Rarely Explored Settings

There are plenty of books to choose from whenever you want to immerse yourself in Ancient Rome, Victorian London, or Europe during the World Wars, but maybe you are wanting to try somewhere (and some time) new. Here are some historical fiction novels set during less-explored times and places.

Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan
It's the season of Fallow, in the era of iron. In a northern misty bog surrounded by woodlands and wheat fields, a settlement lies far beyond the reach of the invading Romans. Here, life is simple or so it seems to the tightly knit community. A girl named Devout comes of age, sweetly flirting with the young man she's tilled alongside all her life, and envisions a future of love and abundance. Seventeen years later, though, the settlement is a changed place. Famine has brought struggle, and outsiders, with their foreign ways and military might, have arrived at the doorstep. For Devout's young daughter, life is more troubled than her mother ever anticipated. But this girl has an extraordinary gift. As worlds collide and peril threatens, it will be up to her to save her family and community.

Island Queen : A Novel by Vanessa Riley
A former slave rises above the harsh realities of being owned and colonialism on Montserrat working hard to buy freedom for herself, her mother, and her sister and becoming an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter. Based on the true life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas.

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end -- but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.

Oil and Marble : A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo by Stephanie Storey
Florence, 1501-1505. Leonardo was a charming, handsome fifty year-old at the peak of his career. Michelangelo was a temperamental sculptor in his mid-twenties, desperate to make a name for himself. After winning the commission to carve what will become a sculpture of David, Michelangelo lives at the foot of his misshapen block of marble struggling until the stone finally begins to speak. Leonardo is obsessed with his ungainly flying machine and haunted by a merchants wife, whom he is commissioned to paint. Her name is Lisa, and she becomes his muse. Their envy, ambition, and artistic genius create a rivalry such as Florence has never seen.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
In early 1900s Korea, prized daughter Sunja finds herself pregnant and alone, bringing shame on her family until a young tubercular minister offers to marry her and move with her to Japan, in the saga of one family bound together as their faith and identity are called into question.

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist and confidante to the wealthy women of the upper class. Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow - a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
A vivacious dance-hall girl in 1930s colonial Malaysia is drawn into unexpected danger by the discovery of a severed finger that is being sought by a young houseboy in order to protect his late master's soul.

To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari
The year is 1979. The Iranian Revolution is just around the corner. In the northeastern city of Naishapur, a family, including their friends and servants, ranging from young to old, reveal the personal behind the political, reminding us of the human lives that animate historical events.

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
1970s Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears, Maite searches for her and journeys deeper into Leonora's secret life of student radicals and dissidents. Elvis is an eccentric thug who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock 'n' roll. But as Elvis searches for Leonora, he comes to observe Maite from a distance and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music, and the unspoken loneliness of his heart. As Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the secrets behind Leonora's disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives.

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez-her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro's inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost. As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future-but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything-not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart.

 

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