Winter 2013 YA and MG Historical Fiction Preview

Here are the YA and middle-grade historical fiction reads hitting shelves from January through March 2013.

VICTORIA REBELS by Carolyn Meyer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Pub Date: January 1, 2013

Queen Victoria’s personal journals inform this captivating first-person account of one of history’s most prominent female leaders.

Queen Victoria most certainly left a legacy—under her rule as the longest reigning female monarch in history, the British Empire was greatly expanded and significant industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military changes occurred within the United Kingdom. To be a young woman in a time when few other females held positions of power was to lead in a remarkable age—and because Queen Victoria kept personal journals, this historical novel from award-winning author Carolyn Meyer shares authentic emotional insight along with accurate information, weaving a true story of intrigue and romance.

BORN WICKED by Jessica Spotswood (paperback release)
Publisher: Speak
Pub Date: January 3, 2013

A gorgeous, witchy, romantic fantasy by a debut author! Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and the Beautiful Creatures series!

Everybody thinks Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship–or an early grave. Then Cate finds her mother’s diary, and uncovers a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra. But if what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe–not even from each other.

DELUSION by Laura L. Sullivan
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Pub Date: January 8, 2013

When two beautiful teenage stage magicians in World War II England meet a pair of handsome men who can do real magic, sparks fly. But is it illusion, or delusion? Opening-night jitters are nothing new for Phil and Fee Albion, who come from a long line of stage illusionists. The girls love to dazzle London audiences, but in the aftermath of the Blitz they’re bundled off to the countryside, where they’re safe from bombs and Nazis–and bored to pieces. Phil, always the passionate one, discovers a hidden college of real magicians led by the devastatingly handsome Arden. If only Phil can persuade these unworldly magicians to help England win the war! Daredevil that she is, she’ll risk anything to give her country a fighting chance, even if it means losing her heart . . . or her life.

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pub Date: January 22, 2013

Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies’ maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can’t help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.

For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada’s beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family’s honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name—but it would mean giving up her one true love . . . someone she could never persuade her father to accept.

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pub Date: January 29, 2013

London, 1894. Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns her father is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations were true.

Juliet is accompanied by the doctor’s handsome young assistant and an enigmatic castaway, who both attract Juliet for very different reasons. They travel to the island only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: he has created animals that have been vivisected to resemble, speak, and behave as humans. Worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape the island, even though her horror is mixed with her own scientific curiosity. As the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Publisher: Delacorte Press for Young Readers
Pub Date: February 12, 2013

After leaving Uncle Chester’s homestead claim, orphan Hattie Brooks throws a lasso around a new dream, even bigger than the Montana sky. She wants to be a reporter, knowing full well that a few pieces published in the Arlington News will not suffice. Real reporters must go to Grand Places, and do Grand Things, like Hattie’s hero Nellie Bly. Another girl might be stymied by this, but Hattie has faced down a hungry wolf and stood up to a mob of angry men. Nothing can squash her desire to write for a big city newspaper. A letter and love token from Uncle Chester’s old flame in San Francisco fuels that desire and Hattie jumps at the opportunity to get there by working as a seamstress for a traveling acting troupe. This could be her chance to solve the mystery of her “scoundrel” uncle and, in the process, help her learn more about herself. But Hattie must first tell Charlie that she will not join him in Seattle. Even though her heart approves of Charlie’s plan for their marriage, her mind fears that saying yes to him would be saying no to herself. Hattie holds her own in the big city, literally pitching her way to a byline, and a career that could be even bigger than Nellie Bly’s. But can making headlines compensate for the pain of betrayal and lost love? Hattie must dig deep to find her own true place in the world. Kirby Larson once again creates a lovingly written novel about the remarkable and resilient young orphan, Hattie Inez Brooks.

OUT OF THE EASY by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Pub Date: February 13, 2013

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel, Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

HEART OF GLASS by Sasha Gould
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: March 12, 2013

It is 1585 in Venice, and three months have passed since Laura della Scala solved her sister’s murder after joining the Segreta, a powerful society of women who trade protection for secrets. Now Laura is engaged to her true love, Roberto, and she has never been happier. But the night Laura is sent on her first important mission for the Segreta, Roberto is found with the body of a dead woman in his room. Halim, an irresistibly handsome Turkish prince on a diplomatic visit to the city, identifies the woman as his sister and insists that Roberto be executed for her murder, or the Ottoman Empire will attack Venice. Laura is desperate to save both her city and her fiancé. But as the evidence against Roberto builds and Laura finds herself increasingly drawn to Halim, she begins to wonder whether everything Roberto told her was a lie. What Laura discovers is a conspiracy that involves nearly everyone she knows.

STARSTRUCK by Rachel Shukert
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pub Date: March 12, 2013

Every week they arrive in Los Angeles–beautiful and talented young hopefuls who dream of becoming stars. It’s all Margaret Frobisher has ever wanted—and when she’s discovered by a powerful agent, she can barely believe her luck. She’s more than ready to escape her snobby private school and conservative Pasadena family for a chance to light up the silver screen.

The competition is fierce at Olympus Studios and Margaret—now Margo—is chasing her Hollywood dreams alongside girls like Gabby Preston, who at 16 is already a grizzled show-biz veteran caught between the studio and the ravenous ambition of her ruthless mother, and sultry Amanda Farraday, who seems to have it all–ambition, glamour . . . and dirty secrets. Missing from the pack is Diana Chesterfield, the beautiful actress who mysteriously disappeared, and there are whispers that Diana’s boyfriend—Margo’s new co-star—may have had something to do with it. Margo quickly learns that fame comes with a price, and that nothing is what it seems.

Set in Old Hollywood, Starstruck follows the lives of three teen girls as they live, love, and claw their way to the top in a world where being a star is all that matters.

STRANDS OF BRONZE & GOLD by Jane Nickerson
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Pub Date: March 12, 2013

The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .

When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.

Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.

If you know of any additional Winter 2013 YA and MG historical releases, please share them in the comments section.


List compiled by Cat Winters, author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds, a WWI-era ghost tale coming April 2, 2013, from Amulet Books/ABRAMS. Visit her online at, Twitter, and Facebook.


4 Ways to Help Today’s Readers Relate to Historical Characters

One of the toughest jobs for a historical fiction writer is creating a world that the modern-day reader can relate to. How do you bridge the gulf between the characters of (sometimes ancient) history and the young people of the twenty-first century? You fix on the wants and needs that never change, no matter what the age.

1. Everyone wants love.

Children want validation. People fall in love (or lust). Though love will look different in different societies—the relationship between the sexes, the way children are raised, how friendships form—people always yearn for acceptance and affection. Build some of that into your story.

2. Kids rebel.

As a girl grows into a woman, she develops her own ideas, distinct from her parents. Kids have always questioned the status quo, though their “rebellion” make look quite subtle next to, say, the baby boomers of 1967. Know what rebellion looks like in the society you’re portraying, and write accordingly. If the breakout is extreme, be sure the reaction to it is equally so. The behavior of a young woman who elopes with a stranger may be upsetting to her parents even today, but in some societies it was a scandal of epic proportions.

3. People grieve for lost loved ones.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because the infant mortality rate was high in 1700, no one grieved when a child died. The death of a child, parent, or spouse has always been a cause for soul-searching and grief. Put yourself in your characters’ shoes. Some will react with great emotion, others will seal themselves off from emotion. A man whose wife has lost three babies in stillbirth may be cold and unconnected to his fourth child to avoid being hurt again.

4. People dream, sometimes big.

What do your characters dream of? Is it a homestead in the West? The right to vote? A good marriage? A real education? People have never stopped dreaming or striving for something better, even if they’re peasants or slaves. But again, scale those dreams to fit the character’s circumstances. Is a slave likely to dream of becoming president? He certainly might, but realize that if he does, his contemporaries are likely to laugh at him.

Stay true to what makes people tick, and your readers will latch on to those same universal desires in their own lives.


Claire M. Caterer is the author of The Key & the Flame, a fantasy set in an alternate version of medieval England. Look for it in April 2013 from Margaret K. McElderry Books / Simon & Schuster. Connect with Claire on her website, Twitter, or Facebook page.




image: painting by Peter Paul Rubens of himself and family, 1630s, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Public domain.

A Very Victorian Thanksgiving

Inspired by Katy’s amazing post on Tudor Thanksgiving celebrations, I thought I’d look up some information on Victorian-era Thanksgivings! It hasn’t come up in the Cahill Witch Chronicles because the books are set in an alternate version of the 1890s where witches, not Pilgrims, fled religious persecution and colonized New England in the mid-1700s. In their society, there is a sort of combination Thanksgiving + Independence Day celebration on January 10, when the Brotherhood celebrates the fall of the Great Temple of Persephone and the Brothers’ ascension to power. But some of the information I found was quite fascinating (and could doubtless be appropriated for the Cahills’ Christmas celebrations)!

According to Mary J. Lincoln’s 1895 gem of an article “A Thanksgiving Table and How to Set It,” a standard Thanksgiving menu for six or eight might include the following: cream of chestnuts, croutons, fricasee of oysters, roast turkey, giblet stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, diced turnips, new cider, apollinaris (a sparkling water), white velvet sherbet…(take a breath)…and roast duck, currant jelly, hominy, brussel sprouts, apple and celery salad, plum pudding, hard sauce, squash pie, mince pie, fruit, nuts, confectionery, and coffee!

Mrs. (I presume?) Lincoln’s article goes on to suggest covering the table with a silence cloth (a thick felt used beneath the tablecloth to pad and protect from dings and scratches), and assumes you have doubtless “planned to use your finest linen, brightest silver, clearest glass and prettiest china.” She admits one may use fruit or flowers for decoration. Other table-setting instructions include: a piece of embroidery at each of the four corners to hold the dishes of olives, cranberry sauce, and currant jelly; the carving rests, knives, and forks at the host’s place; the soup ladle in front of the hostess; and dainty salts and peppers in between every two guests. One may read the full article for her lengthy take on silverware, though she admits “much depends upon the individual taste of the one who attempts to follow these hints in making the effect elegant yet simple, symmetrical but without stiffness, and convenient as well as harmonious.”

I shall pass over Mrs. Lincoln’s suggestions of the preparatory work, and go on to table etiquette! She suggests re: seating arrangements that “husbands and wives are not seated side by side, that the old ladies have agreeable companions, and that the awkward or infirm guests are seated by her, where she can give them special attention.” After the offering of thanks, the epic meal begins!

Soup comes first, followed by the oysters (which may be served from the kitchen) and olive course while the host carves the turkey (which is first served to the hostess, then passed to her left), followed by the main course of turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, potatoes, turnips, and vegetables. Mrs. Lincoln has rather passionate feelings about cider: “sherry, claret or champagne, even if allowed, can not compare with it on this occasion.” This is followed by the sherbet, which “prepares the way for the full enjoyment of the duck and its accompaniments, the hominy and Brussel sprouts” (second dinner so soon?). And then, if the guests haven’t exploded yet, it’s time for salad, cheese, and wafers, finally followed by puddings and pies. Afterward, the maid serves the coffee in the parlor. I daresay it would be needed to wake the guests from their food-induced stupor!

What amusements might follow? In such a group, playing at the piano and singing might be favored. Victorians were also fond of games like chess, draughts (checkers), charades, and putting on amateur theatricals. A November 1895 article by Rose Seelye Miller explains how forfeits were given for losing a game, and often made a game unto themselves. Some of the penalties for the loser may include bobbing for apples, carving a face onto a potato, blowing out a lighted candle with eyes blindfolded, or blindfolding two people and making them try to shake hands. Miller also suggests several logic puzzles, such as leaving the room with two legs and coming back with six (which may be solved by bringing in a chair), or putting one hand where the other cannot touch it (placing hands upon the elbows of the other arm). Mrs. Miller suggests that forfeits should NOT include kissing, judging it a tasteless country amusement, and admonishing that “a girl makes herself cheap who permits promiscuous kissing.”

Those Victorians had lots of rules, no? Dear Readers, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving – and despite Mrs. Miller’s qualms, perhaps got in a little kissing, too!

 Jessica Spotswood grew up in a tiny one-stoplight town in Pennsylvania, where she could be found swimming, playing  the clarinet, memorizing lines for the school play, or – most often – with her nose in a book. She’s been writing since fourth grade but studied theatre in college and grad school. Now she lives in Washington, DC with her brilliant playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey. BORN WICKED, Book 1 in The Cahill Witch Chronicles, is herfirst novel. Book 2, STAR CURSED, will be out in June 2013.

Happy Thanksgiving, Tudor Style

The classic image of Henry VIII is of this glaring, fat man clutching a turkey leg.  Am I right?  Perfect for Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately, Henry probably didn’t enjoy turkey very often – it is indigenous to North America (in fact – for this very reason – Benjamin Franklin lobbied for it to be the national bird instead of the bald eagle.)  It was introduced to England in the mid-sixteenth century, so Henry probably didn’t get to eat a lot of it before he died in 1547.

However, Henry could easily content himself with the vast array of other meats he could consume (and probably did).  Imagine this: Hampton Court Palace on a frosty November night.  The hall is decorated with eye-poppingly vivid tapestries, the ceiling painted in gold and red and blue, the fire at one end blazing, the windows sweating with the condensation of hundreds of people’s breaths.

Henry sits at a table on a little elevated platform.  Perhaps one of his wives is with him – perhaps not.  Perhaps one of his trusted advisors is with him (Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell) – perhaps not.  Perhaps one of the dukes of the realm – but then again, Henry had a habit of incarcerating his friends…

There might be a center piece on the table – something gaudy and symbolic.  A fortress or a cage of birds with gilded feet or a ship made entirely of sugar paste.  A peacock roasted and then refeathered or a replica of St. Paul’s Cathedral made of pies (usually meat pies, not fruit!)  Not necessarily the stereotypical roasted boar with the apple in its mouth.  These things were huge, surrounded by canes and flowers, often brightly painted, and frequently covered in gold or silver.  The plates were gold and silver gilt, as well, not only on the tables, but on the groaning “buffets” up against the wall.  And the goblets – sometimes studded with jewels or painted with scenes of chivalry. (an aside – Henry’s French contemporary, Francis I, had a cup that he liked to shock the ladies with – when the wine was drained from it, there was revealed a rather suggestive scene painted on the bottom.  That Francis, what a card).

Then came the food – up to 240 different dishes.  Take a minute.  Think about that.  This Thanksgiving, I’m making maybe six different dishes for dinner. I’ll be adding the requisite canned cranberry and some olives and pickles, so let’s bring that up to ten.  Two different pies.  So twelve things.  Now multiply by twenty, and serve maybe seven hundred guests.  My meal takes me two days to create.  Can you imagine?  The food preparation areas in Hampton Court Palace are huge, but on Twelfth Night in 1533, extra work space had to be set up in tents in the garden.  Holy Hell’s Kitchen, Batman.

Meat was plentiful.  Deer, boar, beef, pork, lamb, rabbit.  Dishes made from all those delicate inner bits we don’t see often in America anymore – kidneys, livers, brains, hearts – even udders.  Swan, peacock, guineafowl, goose, chicken, duck, pheasant.  Tiny songbirds.  Sometimes one stuffed inside another to make a kind of matroyshka doll of roast bird.  And fish – pike, herring, mackerel.  And bread!  Loaves and loaves of the stuff, all made from the finest flour because coarse flour was for lesser people.  And butter by the truckoad (if they’d had trucks).

Vegetables were the food of the poor, and therefore did not often grace the royal table.

Then came the sweets.  Spiced wafers, jellies formed into the crests of the attendant guests, sweetened cream, strawberries, cheeses, marzipan, sweet pastries, fruitcakes, gingerbreads coated in gold leaf and “subtleties” made almost entirely of sugar forming scenes from myths or romances.  Beautiful, but apparently hard on the teeth.  And fruit – sometimes enough for each guest to have ten oranges, an immense extravagance at the time.  And when Henry got bored, he amused himself by throwing sugar plums at his guests.

Which isn’t surprising, considering the amount of alcohol consumed.  Water was considered unhealthy – and considering the state of the Thames at the time this was unarguably true – so they drank ale and “small beer” (a low-alcohol, porridgy beverage) as a staples.  French and Rhenish wines almost as sweet as malmsey and sugared wines served with dessert.  And hippocras – wine mixed with honey and spices and believed to be an aphrodisiac.  Once the meal was over, the guests could totter off to bed with a posset made of sugared ale curdled with hot milk, eggs and grated biscuit.


So this year I am thankful.  I am thankful that I don’t have to cook for Henry VIII, but only for my forgiving and appreciative family.  And I am thankful I don’t have to subject myself or my guests to some of the less delicate of the Tudor delicacies.


Happy Holidays, everyone!

Fun Footnotes to Elizabethan England

While researching Elizabethan England for my tale MAID OF SECRETS, I learned about a wide range of strange-but-true experiences and every day events for the intrepid Elizabethans–who also seemed more hardy than I would have been in the same situation. As Claire pointed out in her research blog earlier this week, personal hygiene was quite a different experience for the men and women of that day: the men and women of the lower classes would bathe infrequently, while those of the upperclasses might bathe every few weeks. Because clothing was so expensive, however, people from all classes would dress with a shift of plain material close to their bodies–usually of linen. This shift would be laundered as frequently as possible, keeping bodily oils away from the more costly heavier garments that would only be hand-cleaned.

I’m very cold! And so is my parrot!

Dang. That was Cold.

And the garments were heavier. During Elizabethan England and for hundreds of years after, Earth endured what was known as “The Little Ice Age.” NASA defines the term as a cold period between AD 1550  and AD 1850, with three particularly cold periods:  one beginning about 1650, another about 1770, and the last in 1850, each separated by intervals of slight warming. The winters got so cold that the River Thames would freeze over — in fact, in 1683-84, considered the worst frost in English history, the Thames froze for two solid months, with the ice reaching a thickness of 11 inches in London. Solid ice was reported extending for miles off the coasts of the southern North Sea (England, France and the Low Countries). Near Manchester, the ground was frozen to 27 inches, and in Somerset to more than four feet. This is COLD.

What did this mean for Elizabethans? Lots of clothing, particularly in wintertime. This is why you often see the nobility dressed in what would seem to be suffocating layers of material in many of their portraits. This particular fact made things a little difficult for me, as my spies had to slip in and out of costumes to make sure they moved through the castle undetected. This was no mean feat, as many Elizabethan garments were actually separate pieces that were tied together at the seams… so assembling a garment was not unlike putting together a puzzle.

To help make their jobs a little bit easier, I set my first tale of spies during the Elizabethan high summer. Still not a warm summer by our standards, but at least the girls weren’t buried in yards of extra cloth!

Fake it ’til you Make it.

John Dee, Elizabethan soooooper-genius

But Elizabethans kept busy to combat all of that cold, and one of the more interesting things I discovered was their penchant for new inventions. My favorite inventor plays a minor role in Maid of Secrets, but will be seen much more actively in later books: John Dee, astrologer to the Queen.

John Dee is credited with building a wooden beetle that could fly. He was an avid scholar, and filled his life with science, experiments, astrology and mathematics, which he aligned with magic, the supernatural, and alchemy. He had arguably the largest library in Europe, and was considered a master of both science and the arcane. Also in Maid of Secrets, you’ll read about a character named Sophia Dee, ward to this famous man and potentially a master of the arcane in her own right.

But Dee wasn’t the only experimenter or inventor. During the Queen’s long and illustrious reign, here are just a inventions that also came into use–I take this list from, a site I used as a jumping-off point for many cool research journeys into Elizabethan England:

1565: Conrad Gesner of Switzerland invents the pencil
1568: Bottled beer is invented in London (Cheers!!)
1583: Leonard and Thomas Digges invent the telescope
1589: William Lee invents the knitting machine
1591: Sir John Harington invents the flush toilet in England (Woohoo!!!)
1593: Francis Bacon invented the frozen chicken (See “The Little Ice Age,” above?)
1593: Galileo invents a water thermometer
1600: William Gilbert publishes treatise “On the Magnet”. William Gilbert is referred to as the father of the science of electricity and magnetism

Whew! And that’s just the beginning of cool things that you can find in Elizabethan England. They definitely kept busy!

SNEAK RESEARCH PEAK: What fascinating book do I have on tap for future reading? Deborah Harkness’ The Jewel House, a study of science and scientific theory in Elizabethan England. Can. Not. Wait.

Because the first thing you learn the moment you start researching… is there’s always more you can learn.

Jennifer McGowan has been writing fiction since well before she knew any better. A past Romance Writers of America Golden Heart winner and 2011 Golden Heart finalist, Jenn is represented by agent extraordinaire Alexandra Machinist, of Janklow & Nesbit.

Jenn’s debut novel, MAID OF SECRETS, will be published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 7, 2013. You can find Jenn online and on twitter.