Google+ YA Romantics: New YA Historicals: From Frothy to Gritty

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New YA Historicals: From Frothy to Gritty

Since I just wrapped up my YA historical giveaway, I thought I'd do a round-up post on three new YA historicals. Like paranormal fiction, historical fiction ranges from the light and frothy to the dark and gritty. I'm up for all of it!  But if you have a preference, I hope this post helps you make up your mind about these brand-new titles.

Review of Wentworth Hall by Abby Graeme
Wentworth Hall

by Abby Graeme

Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

May 1, 2012

Source: bought from independent bookstore

My summary: It's 1912, and eighteen year old Maggie Darlington has suddenly gone from vivacious to moody. Her younger sister Lila longs to be taken seriously, while their parents cope with the unexpected arrival of their fourth child. Times are changing, too. Some titled British families can no longer afford to maintain their estates. Rich arrivistes from the colonies are shaking things up, the servants are restive, and a mysterious gossip columnist is spilling everyone's secrets.

My take: Fans of the Luxe series by Anna Godbertson will love this book. It's told from multiple POVs, giving it a true upstairs/downstairs perspective. While it's not long on historical detail, it is full of plotting and scheming, romance, parties, and secrets.

Are you looking for something with a little more historical heft?


by Katherine Longshore

Published by Viking Juvenile

on May 15, 2012

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

My summary:  Kitty, Gilt's narrator,  is one of the girls of Norfolk House, a protege-slash-lackey of the Duchess of Norfolk. The girls dream of going to the Tudor court of Henry VIII, meeting royals and wearing beautiful jewels and gowns. The most ambitious and cunning of the girls is Catherine Howard. Cat practices her flirting on a local boy as she schemes her way into an invitation to be a lady in waiting to Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's fourth wife.  When Cat catches the king's eye, she's able to bring the Norfolk girls to court. But court life is filled with intrigue, double-crosses and betrayals. Kitty will have to watch her step so she doesn't lose her head.

My take: I'm a total sucker for this kind of story. I watched the Tudors (but not up to season 4, which featured Catherine Howard) and the highlight of my trip to England was a day spent at the Tower of London. Gilt is a fantastic blend of history and fiction. The book makes the most of the real-life intrigue that seems to have been a part of court life, while also looking at the issues of female friendship and male vs. female roles in society.

The title is a nice conceit. Gilt is but a shiny overlay, and this book doesn't gloss over the grim realities and hypocrisies of the time. Women's virtue is prized, yet their sexuality and fertility are all they have at their disposal to better their circumstances. At the time of the story, Henry VIII was no handsome storybook hero, but an overweight, short-tempered man with a roving eye and a festering leg wound. Kitty calls him "mean and piggy." Wellborn men and women were all looking for a leg up, so to speak. "Looking for advancement," Cat says. "Looking for a crack into which they can wedge a fingernail. To chip off the gilt."

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Tudor history will know that things can't end happily for poor Cat. But I greatly enjoyed watching all the twists and turns of this tale play out.

Do you love historical thrillers? Then don't miss...

Review Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Code Name Verity

by Elizabeth Wein

Published by Hyperion Books for Children

May 15, 2012

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

My summary: Verity is an agent captured by the Nazis in occupied France. Her captors give her paper and tell her to write down everything she knows about the British war effort. Instead, she writes down the story of her friendship with Maddie, the young British pilot who flew her into France. Verity tells the reader she's doomed -- she'll be killed by her captors if she doesn't talk, shot for treason if she does. So she spins tales, even cracks jokes. Is anything she writes true, or is it all just layer upon layer of deceptiont?

My take: The story begins in an epistolary form, with Verity's writings. She's compared to Scheherazade, the young girl in a Persian folk tale who volunteers to spend one night with the king, knowing that he has killed every woman he has entertained. But Scheherazade's stories so captivate the king that he keeps her alive for 1001 nights. I was captivated too, especially once I began to learn more about Maddie. The friendship between Maddie and Verity is realistic and heartfelt.

Code Name Verity is the kind of crafty story that slowly, cleverly spins its web around you, then tightens it until you're gasping for breath. There are layers of subterfuge, twists that left me open-mouthed and, at the heart of it all, the touching story of a deep and abiding friendship. 

How do you feel about historical fiction? Have you read any of these, or are you planning to?

Readathon update: I've finished two books. Starting Of Poseidon today!


  1. I'm really not much for historical novels, so I don't know how much I would like these. I have heard that Code Name Verity is really good though. Great reviews!

  2. I loved loved loved Gilt and Code Name Verity, and I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction. but those two captured my heart. <3

    Wentworth Hall does sound good, and I love the cover for it.

    Ashelynn @ gypsy book reviews.

    1. I love historical fiction of all kinds -- so glad you liked those!

  3. I'm not usually one for historical fiction, but all three of these titles make me want to change my mind. Especially Wentworth Hall. I hear it is Downton Abbey for book lovers.

    1. It does take place in the Edwardian age, like Downton Abbey, and looks at the servants and the nobility, so yes, it has a similar feel.
      You know how I love Downton ;)

  4. I adore Historical Fiction! I can't get enough of it. Although I really haven't read too much of it in YA that I do like. What I love about Historical Fiction is that it's fun and frothy. Gilt was very accurate which made it more dark.I didn't enjoy it as much but I liked how the author kept true to history and I'm interested in the second bk. I got a copy of WentWorth Hall from a friend this week and I'm eager to try it. I DID however read Keeping The Castle and it was beyond amazing! The perfect historical ya fiction book to date!

    1. I'm sure you will love Wentworth Hall. I don't think I've read Keeping the Castle. Will have to keep my eye out for that.

  5. I don't read much historical fiction either. Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices is about it lol and mostly only cause of Jem. Although Gilt sounds pretty good. I do like that time period and all the crazy Henry VIII stuff! Wentworth Hall sounds decent since you said it's more parties and gossip than historical details. I've always wanted to give The Luxe a try. I've heard it's like historical Gossip Girl and love me some Gossip Girl although mostly for Chuck Bass.

    1. You should definitely try all those. The Luxe series is fun and Wentworth Hall has the same feel. But if you love the Tudor stuff, you should definitely try Gilt!

  6. this is like... 3 reviews in one! lol you are reading like the breeze!

    1. LOL I thought it was so clever and now I have no post for Saturday!

  7. I favour Historical over Contemporary. I have all of these on my wish list.

  8. I like this round up feature! I enjoyed Gilt too. I knew the fates of some the cast going in, but it was like watching a train wreck, I couldn't look away! Can't wait to read Wentworth Hall (thanks to a very cool blogger!) and I'm starting Code Name Verity TONIGHT, woo hoo!

    1. You're going to love Code Name Verity. The formatting in my e-ARC was a little weird, but after a while I didn't even notice -- it was good!!


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