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September Watch List: Six Upcoming Historical Novels

By Linda Ulleseit
September 3, 2021

I’m an avid reader. Most people are surprised how many books I read in a month (Check it out on my Instagram). Mostly I read historical novels, although I do love most genres of fiction. Currently I am voraciously devouring stories of real or imagined women in unfamiliar (to me) historical settings.

Although I usually start the month with a book review, I’ve decided to try something new. With the goal of helping you become the first on your block to read a new blockbuster, I’m going to introduce you to six new historical novels coming out this month. I’ve provided links to Amazon, although you can buy them anywhere you purchase your books. Enjoy!


Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash by Tammy Pasterick

“Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash exudes atmosphere and intrigue and gripped me from the very first page…. The storytelling in this novel is second to none, telling a gripping story of the struggle immigrants faced, whilst keeping twists and turns you won’t see coming that serve to keep the story engaging throughout.”  ~READERS’ FAVORITE, 5-star review

This story is set in the steel industry in Pittsburgh, in 1910. Janos and Karina Kovac are immigrants from Eastern Europe. He witnesses a gruesome accident at the mill’s furnace, and she loses her job. Karina wreaks destruction in her family and Janos must rebuild. I like books about immigrants persevering, and this one adds dealing with mental illness to the usual obstacles of poverty and discrimination. Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash will be released on September 21, available for preorder now.


The Stolen Lady: A Novel of World War II and the Mona Lisa by Laura Morelli 

“From the acclaimed author of The Night Portrait comes a stunning historical novel about two women, separated by five hundred years, who each hide Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa—with unintended consequences.” ~from the publisher

Laura Morelli writes compelling fiction about art history. I loved The Gondola Maker, The Night Portrait, and The Painter’s Apprentice, so I can hardly wait to get this one! As she did with The Night Portrait, Morelli employs a dual timeline in The Stolen Lady, featuring a woman who is present at the creation of the masterpiece, and a woman who must save the portrait from the Nazis 500 years later. In 1479, Bellina Sardi is a house servant to Lisa Gherardini, wife of a silk merchant, who becomes da Vinci’s model for the portrait. Bellina’s life is complicated by the secrets she has. In 1939, Anne Guichard is an archivist at the Louvre who is tasked with helping to hide artwork from the Nazis. The Stolen Lady will be released on September 21, available for preorder now.


A Most Clever Girl: A Novel of an American Spy by Stephanie Marie Thornton

“A thrilling novel of love, loyalty, and espionage, based on the incredible true story of Elizabeth Bentley, a Cold War double agent spying for the Russians and the United States, from USA Today bestselling author Stephanie Marie Thornton.” ~from the publisher

Biographical historical fiction is my favorite reading material. Novels with a real setting and fictional character can be very compelling, but a story about a real person hooks me every time. I very much enjoyed Thornton’s novel American Princess, about Alice Roosevelt, so this new one goes right on my TBR. A Most Clever Girl is the story of Elizabeth Bentley, who was recruited by the American Communist Party to spy on fascist at the outbreak of World War II. Bentley’s story is tangled up with the story of Catherine Gray’s family. In 1963, shortly after President Kennedy’s assassination, Catherine confronts Elizabeth, the only person who can tell her the truth about her family. A Most Clever Girl will be released on September 14, available for preorder now.


Harlem Shuffle: A Novel  by Colson Whitehead

“Two-time Pulitzer winner Whitehead (The Nickel Boys) returns with a sizzling heist novel set in civil rights–era Harlem.”  ~Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

The summary for this book begins “Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…” How intriguing is that? The main character comes from a long line of crooks, but he runs a legitimate furniture business. With his second child on the way, cash is tight. Ray fences jewelry for his cousin as a side hustle that gets out of control. Ray’s internal struggle between right and wrong takes center stage in this family saga crime novel about race and power. Harlem Shuffle will be released on September 14, but is available for preorder now.


Brass Lives by Chris Nickson

“A dangerous American is in town, but is he really responsible for a deadly crime spree in Leeds?” ~from the publisher

This is the ninth Tom Harper mystery from Chris Nickson, all set in Victorian England. In this one, Harper is Deputy Chief Constable in Leeds. It’s 1913 and he’s overseeing a national suffragist pilgrimage that his wife Annabelle intends to join. Word arrives that Davey Mullen, an American gangster, is fleeing a bloody gang war back to his birthplace, Leeds. Gangsters, mystery, and suffragists? My kind of book! Brass Lives will be officially released on September 7, 2021, but is available now.


Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

“Portrait of a Scotsman, like all of Evie Dunmore’s excellent books, sits squarely at the unique intersection of history, romance, and women’s rights… a spot where I could happily stay forever.”—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Two Ways

Hattie Greenfield is an Oxford scholar, a suffragist, and heiress, and an artist. She doesn’t need anyone but herself. Why then is she so attracted to the brooding Scottish financier Lucian Blackstone? She sees him as an invigorating adventure. He sees her as an asset to his political plans. That is, until a journey to Scotland paints everything in a different light. This is the third book in the League of Extraordinary Women series. Portrait of a Scotsman will be released on September 7, but is available for preorder now.

Linda Ulleseit
Written by Linda Ulleseit

Linda Ulleseit writes award-winning heritage fiction set in the United States. She is a member of Historical Novel Society, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Women Writing the West as well as a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. Get in touch with her on Instagram (lulleseit) and Facebook (Linda Ulleseit or SHINE with Paper Lantern Writers).

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