What reading historical fiction has done for me…and perhaps you, too!

Reflecting on the pile of books at my reading chair—and listening to others discuss what they are reading lately, I thought I would discuss what reading historical fiction, in particular, has done to enrich my life.

Yes, it has improved me, as the Victorians would say. Improved me in so very many ways that to attempt to list them might require a longer post than we have space for here! But I thought it instructive to try. And to ask you for your list, as well.

Aside from the vocabulary words reading imbues you with, what about the simple pleasures of travel? Travel to concepts you might never have otherwise pondered. Life under a dictator. Sailing from your home to a wild and settled colony. Nursing wounded on a battlefield.

Then, too, reading allows you to travel to lands you might never visit…or might take years to afford to enjoy. I remember as a young girl walking across the streetcar tracks in Dundalk, Maryland to the small local library. There, I took out picture books of England, Mexico, Hong Kong and ever so many other places. I yearned to go to those places—and amazingly, I have gone to many. Later, travel formed another idea in my mind. That of marrying my passion to travel with my passion to write. As a teenager, I told my parents that I wanted to become a foreign correspondent and work in Moscow!

One of the most fabulous novels I read as a young adult was The Egyptian by Mika Waltari. This is a sweeping tale of that land under the rule of pharaoh Aknaton, he of the one god concept. This led me to take numerous courses in undergrad and grad school about ancient Egypt. Recently, when someone stated that they would like to be returned to that time and place, I recommended this book. They wrote back that they had enjoyed it. (And recently, drawn as I am to that land, I read with glee Stacy Shiff’s biography, Cleopatra, a superb work of historical research and divine prose. Closely related to that subject, a book I am in the midst of is Steven Saylor’s Empire about the Roman empire.)

As a child, I read and re–read a series by Elswyth Thane, Williamsburg, which stamped in my mind early colonial and Revolutionary Period American history. Living in the area of the first 13 colonies as a young girl, I recall driving my parents mad with pleas to take me to tour Washington, Philadelphia and the battlefields of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. This passion extended even to my adult life when I took my own children to re-enactments of the battles of Yorktown and Bunker Hill. I recall vividly one reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg, standing with one of my sons watching Pickett’s charge as tears rolled down our cheeks while hundreds of men fell in the endless barrage. And I owe that memorable day more than twenty years ago, to Thane. Close on her heels is another memorable author of the American experience, Celeste de Blasis, and her Wild Swan trilogy.

I read Gone with the Wind many times, and watched the movie almost as many. My daughter (who now has a mad passion for fiction about the Tudors, the Borgias or the French kings) bought me the DVD of Mitchell’s classic a few years ago. I play it and smile at what we now share—a love of historical figures whose lives have outlived their years on earth and brought us much to ponder and debate. Other writers who have affected what I want to see, how I want to be toward others include and certainly are not limited to Bernard Cornwell, (Sharpe, Saxon), Thomas Flanagan (Irish), Anthony Trollope, (all), Phillipa Gregory (Wildacre), Elizabeth Chadwick (Marshall), and Sharon Kay Penman (Welsh trilogy).

In less specific terms, I can recount the enormous number of historical romances and historical fiction wherein the lives of extraordinary women, real and not, have influenced how I think about my own life. As a result of reading about life on wagon trains, in a castle, caught in wartime bombings, I value more dearly peace, civility, running water, food inspection, dentistry, free education, my car and social media! (Yes, even that!)

The beauty of the prose, the accuracy of the historical research (a thing to be noted and treasured!) are those elements that inspire me to write my own works. And to strive to do them as well on both counts as those authors’ whose work I value.

In this all too brief journey through my reading of historical novels, I will now reveal that, while I became a freelance journalist, I never did become a foreign correspondent. Nor have I yet gotten to Moscow.

But I have been so many places where fiction took me first. And when I do visit those places where I have been courtesy of the minds’ eyes of other authors, I have this feeling that all those characters, real and imagined, stand there with me, admiring, laughing, enjoying that all of us live together here and now in (relative) peace and happy literary harmony.

Do come and comment and tell us what historical fiction has taught you about yourself and your world.

Cerise DeLand gets a kick out of reading and writing historical novels. A history buff with a BA and MA in history serves her well to write Regencies and Medievals, as romances, erotica and mysteries. And when she’s not deep into the annals of yesteryear, she writes contemporaries too! See more at


  1. Hey Hon, love your historical! Nothing’s better than hot, sexy alpha males! Can’t wait to get my hands on this one 🙂

  2. I love that you say when you visit those places that you would feel the characters there with you. I completely understand what you mean and feel the same way.


  3. Definitely historical fiction has taught me to appreciate the here and now more. I like to read it to see what life was like for people and all of the hardships they endured to get us where we are now. As techno savvy as some of us may be I still like to read about the days where people actually wrote letters. The mannerisms are fascinating to read about as well. I’m much too modern to live back when but it is fun to read.

  4. Cerise, One of the things historical reading has taught me is that truth is often as fascinating as anything we can make up. Queen Elizabeth was declared a bastard by virtue of laws her own father (Henry VIII) had enacted–and then declared eligible for the throne anyway.


    Queen Victoria, the oh so proper sovereign, had something close to twenty illegitimate cousins.

    She did?!

    Prinny’s sister Sophia had a child out of wedlock.


    And each area we look into–fashion, food, child rearing, courtship–seems full of curious and even unbelievable quirks.

    Fiction is fascinating, and historical reality is too.

  5. I love to read historicals, when I was in school History and I didnt mesh…memorizing was my downfall.

    Now, I just love to pick up a historical and travel to places I will never see , but can enjoy thru a book. It also gives me a sense of what my ancestors went thru ..I love to think of them while reading a good historical.



  6. I love historicals and history! Anything to do with human beings is fascinating to me and gives me perspective about my own life.
    Congratulations Cerise on another sizzling release!
    XXOO Kat

  7. Love reading historicals, love reading about history. It makes appreciate what we have, it was such a hard time that they lived through. Makes me really happy for running water and electricity. A lot of things that we take for granted.

    skpetal at hotmail dot com

  8. Historicals give me a sense of place and time. I think they have a sweeping grace and elegance that’s sometimes hard to achieve in contemporaries. Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart wrote magnificent historical suspenseful romances and I still have every one of them.

  9. Growing up, I stayed as far away from history as possible. I love reading about them in books, well now I do. It’s great to get away. I even find myself dusting off my encycledias to research more info.

    tsteinerid (

  10. Honestly I lovehistorical fiction makes me apperciate what i do have and what back then didnt but at the same time it makes me wish i were back there at times away from the hustle and bustle the technology deff shows me women are strong no matter what era and the places wow the places i can read and dream about going there one day

    great post ty

  11. I love history, and that is one of the reasons that I have been a lifelong avid reader, especially of historical romance. I know that some readers state that they want a romance, not a history lesson, but I think the two go hand-in-hand. The setting of the book, the era, culture, social mores, religious beliefs, fashion, art and literature of the times all affect the way the characters would develop as people. Therefore, they are very important elements of the story line details. I appreciate the amount of research and love of subject an author invests into a well-written contemporary or historical romance. Human beings repeat the same pattern of behavior over and over–whether in a suit of armor or a business suit! I believe that the key to our future unlocks the doors to the past. Historical romance is a very pleasurable way to be entertained while being enlightened! Love, romance, intrigue, and human drama are timeless.

    I firmly believe that opposites attract! The sparks that fly ignite the fuel of dueling wits, and barbed tongues become entagled in passionate kisses. It’s a wicked good combination of chemical attraction, physical passion, and mental seduction ; )I love a sparks-fly, armored hearts romance! Anything worth having is worth fighting for–especially when it’s the love of a lifetime! The skill of the author in crafting the characters and building the story line enhances “hard fall” love stories and makes them enjoyably turbulent and immensely satisfying romance reads : )

    Risky and risque are some of the more enjoyable elements of Regency Romance. A sharper air of mischief, perhaps due to a spoiled social set seeking to relieve boredom, is part of the fun. Mystery, murder, and mayhem all add to the mix. However, it is the contrast between “the upstairs and downstairs” which gives a deeper, meatier flavor to certain Regencies. The Ton would not have their drawing rooms and other comforts without the working class, whose labor allows for the luxury of others. Some of the most interesting and satisfying Regency relationships are those between “Societal and Servant”. When there is affection and codependency, whether obvious or subtle, the relationship becomes even more enjoyable. The London of modern day would not be the same without the old and royal one of the past!

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  12. THank you so much for coming here and leaving your comments about history.
    As a former teacher of high school and college history classes, and a buff of history of any period and any place, I get a kick out of attempting to recreate the challenges of those who came before us.
    The road to do that is often long, complicated and intriguing. For ex., I recently began my next erotic romance Regency, LADY HIGGINBOTTOM’S BOTTOM, and “discovered” that the conflict between the hero and heroine was vastly wider than I anticipated. What do I mean?
    He is an author of medieval romances similar to Sir Walter Scott. He has hit his own writer’s block!
    She? Has hit a turn in the road of her life.
    And with the help of a few outrageous bits of chicanery, they will each find a way to a richer life, individually and together.
    All because…he has a block and so does she.
    KYM, you have won the bag of goodies. I will email you privately!

  13. Historical Fiction has led to my seeking out more of my own family history. I have chased up documents from as far back as possible: Birth, death, migration. History is so alive.

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