Summertime Historical Fiction

Summer is almost here! And this summer, I believe we all need a break from the doldrums and stress of everyday life over the past year. With things looking up and the potential to travel high, I hope you can enjoy a vacation with some reading time. 

While sitting on the beach or by the pool, the last thing you want to do is read about tough times. And with historical fiction, most of the books center around hard things happening. History is not for the weak-hearted! On my beach vacation in early April, I read a book about teenagers in the Soviet gulags. It was a fantastic book but my physical location made it challenging to really be engrossed in a book about people suffering in frigid Siberia!

There are historical fiction books that can be enjoyed during the summer months. Books that are a bit lighter or more hopeful. Books about beachy destinations or events happening during the summer months. Read below for some ideas on books to pick up this summer!

All links are Amazon affiliate links. You can also find these books in my shop where proceeds go to independent bookstores and creators. 

Categories in Historical Fiction

There are several categories of historical fiction that I find easier to read on vacation. 

Compulsively Readable Historical Fiction:

These books are the ones where you can’t turn the pages fast enough! They are sometimes lengthy but the story captivates you so completely that you can’t put it down. Perfect for a day at the beach!

My favorites in this category include:

Beachy Reads:

Setting is key in books you take to the beach! While you’re sitting in the sand, the last thing you want to read about is snow or fall foliage! There are some great historical fiction books with beach settings – check out books by Beatriz Williams and Elin Hilderbrand (I’ve got her Summer of ‘69 book in my beach bag!).

Some of my recent favorites include: 

Travel Destinations:

Of course, if you’re traveling somewhere new this summer, be sure to check out what historical fiction is set in your destination. We’re headed on a deep south road trip so I’m planning to read some classics by William Faulkner, Ruta Sepetys’ NOLA-based, Out of the Easy, and Jeff Shaara’s novel about the siege of Vicksburg, A Chain of Thunder. Check out my blog for books linked to specific destinations or feel free to email me for suggestions! 

Historical Romance:

Historical romances are often afterthoughts in the literary world (thanks to the garish and laughable covers!). However there are new historical romances where the heroine is not your typical lady in distress. These are some of the quickest books to read and are very fun – but be forewarned about the racy open-door content! My favorites in this genre are Evie Dunmore’s A League of Extraordinary Women novels where you’ll learn about women suffragists in England (the newest one comes out in September!).

Historical Mysteries:

I’m not a huge fan of modern-day thrillers, but I think historical mysteries are fun to read. The fast-pace and “who done it” of these books make them great for vacation reads. On my list to read this summer are the first books from the Veronica Speedwell and Maisie Dobbs mystery series. I’ve also got The Lost Apothecary on my immediate to-read list. A surprise in this category is the latest by one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Susan Meissner. Her book, The Nature of Fragile Things, is part historical fiction/part mystery set in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. You’ll fly through the pages to find out what happens!

Epistolary Novels:

Nothing is a quicker read than epistolary novels. Composed solely of letters or diary entries, the plot of these novels moves very quickly. How do the authors tell a whole story in just letters? I’ll never be able to write a novel like this but I love how easy they are to digest!

Favorites include:

YA Historical Fiction:

Sometimes young adult books can be great to read on a vacation. They’re usually short and don’t contain some of the more graphic historical details. I’m looking forward to reading Stacey Lee’s new release, Luck of the Titanic, this summer. If you haven’t read the YA alternate history novels, American Royals and Majesty, they would make excellent beach reads!


I know, I know, reading a long tome written hundreds of years ago doesn’t sound like a fun beach read. However, sometimes the long summer days are perfect to tackle a book you’ve always wanted to read. Some classics, such as those by Jane Austen or L.M. Montgomery, will surprise you at how witty and fun they are to read! Make it the summer of Anne (of Green Gables fame) or Emma (one of Jane Austen’s protagonists). You could even make it a family affair by watching one of the many movie adaptations of the books after you’re done!

Summer is also a good time to see what classics your teen is required to read and do a read-along with them. I’m anxiously awaiting my rising junior’s summer reading list!

Alternate Life or Time Travel Fiction:

This is one of my favorite categories! While not technically historical fiction, these books usually showcase several different times in the history of a person’s life. Even the little details, like what clothes the person is wearing or what music is popular, are fun to explore. These books ask the big questions of life in a thought-provoking yet easily digestible way. They’ve had the biggest impact on my life and are some of my favorite books I’ve ever read.

Some of my favorites in this category are:

New Releases in Summer 2021

I’m excited about the new historical fiction releases coming to stores this summer! These are will be all over #bookstagram so you’ll want to preorder them!

Our Woman in Moscow

by Beatriz Williams

(publication date 6/1/21)

I’ve mentioned Williams above in beachy reads but this book’s setting is very different. I love learning about the Cold War and am fascinated by women who risk their lives by spying. I can’t wait to read this one!

Island Queen: A Novel

by Vanessa Riley

(publication date 7/6/21)

This novel about a black woman enslaved in the West Indies in the 18th century looks fantastic! The plot takes you from Montserrat to England and is based on a real-life woman.

A Woman of Intelligence

by Karin Tanabe

(publication date 7/20/21)

I’ve already read an ARC of this book and I can tell you, it’s one of the smartest and most compelling stories about motherhood/work/life balance that I’ve read! All of her books are excellent!

Three Words for Goodbye: A Novel

by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

(publication date 7/27/21)

I love any book about sisters and this one about two sisters on a journey to 1937 Europe looks great!

The Show Girl: A Novel

by Nicola Harrison

(publication date 8/10/21)

After reading Wild Women and the Blues and City of Girls, I’m fascinated by books about showgirls and dancers. 

The Bookseller’s Secret: A Novel of Nancy Mitford and WWII

by Michelle Gable

(publication date 8/17/21)

I’ve enjoyed several of Gable’s books set in Paris (A Paris Apartment and I’ll See You In Paris), and I’m looking forward to reading this new book about one of the infamous Mitford sisters!

What types of books do you like to read in the summer? Does your reading change based on your vacation destination? Let me know what you have on your summer TBR list in the comments below!

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