The Book Most Likely…

With the recent development of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series as a cable show on the Starz network, the subject of influential time travel and historical books has intrigued me, taking me back to the stories that helped shape my own love for historical fiction.

The two titles that instantly come to mind were written for “adult” readers, but back in the (cough) years of my youth, we didn’t have the wealth of YA-targeted historical fiction that we have today. Still, I discovered both of these books in my late teens and early twenties, and they had a profound effect on me as I began writing my first tale of historical romance (which I never submitted for publication, and trust me, that’s a good thing.)

Green Darknessgreendark
Anya Seton

While I have long been a fan of Elizabethan England, and am the proud owner of stacks of research books on the subject, I can point to a single book that spawned my fascination with Elizabethan fiction—and it’s an old one! Anya Seton’s Green Darkness.

Who would have thought a chance book found in my mother’s overflowing bookshelves would end up meaning so much to me? But this story of time travel(!) and mysticism(!) in Elizabethan England(!) was the perfect combination of romance and adventure, and completely immersed me into another time and place.


A Knight In Shining ArmorA-Knight-in-Shining-Armor
Jude Devereaux

Another story that I can hold up as extremely influential in my love of romance, history and time travel is the Jude Devereaux classic, A Knight in Shining Armor. Once again, the combination of time travel(!), Elizabethan England(!) and a completely swoon-worthy romance(!) absolutely transported me, and I found myself creating stories of my own . . . stories which eventually led me to become a published author.

Admittedly, I have yet to pen a time-travel book, but every time I find myself back in the world of the Maids of Honor, I feel like pieces of every romance and historical fiction book I’ve ever read weave their way into the narrative. There’s grand romance, mysticism, spies, political intrigue, over-the-top celebrations and feasts, combat, code-breaking, and royal plots aplenty. All the things I love as a reader.

Not every book is going to hit all readers the same way—what can send one reader swooning can leave another reader cold—so your mileage may vary on the books listed above. But think about what books made a difference to YOU—whether as a reader or a writer. Can you imagine your life without them?


3 thoughts on “The Book Most Likely…

  1. The book with the most profound impact on me as a reader and writer has to be Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle In Time.” It was the first book that really made me want to live in it (as much as I loved the “Little House” books, I was fairly sure I was not cut out to be a frontier girl) and at the same time, felt like I already did because Meg was so much like me. It opened up new imaginative worlds, and gave me new ways of looking at this one. And it was my lightbulb book: hey, someone had to WRITE this, create these worlds and these characters, and she got paid to do it… maybe my little stories could turn into a book too.

    The book that got me into historicals was something no one has ever heard of. As you say, when we were kids, back in the dark ages, the YA section was about two shelves from Judy Blume to Paul Zindel so I moved up to the adult shelves by the time I was 12. While browsing, I happened to notice a title called “The King’s Grey Mare” and I thought, “Oooh, royalty and horses, my favorite things!” I expected some sort of princess-y fairy-tale-y thing. Um, nope. The king was Edward IV of England (so, yes, royalty) but the term “Grey Mare” was a slur upon his wife, Elizabeth Woodville, whose first husband had been a man named Grey. Thus I was introduced to the Wars of the Roses and the fascinating world of York and Lancaster, and I have never looked back. Thank you, Rosemary Hawley Jarman.

  2. jennmcgowan says:

    I loved A Wrinkle in Time, Maryanne!! It’s still on my keeper shelf, and I was convinced that I would stumble across a Tesseract and be able to fold space and time AT ANY MOMENT.

    In fact, i still believe this is possible. 🙂 Which explains my attitude toward deadlines.

    I’m not familiar with The King’s Grey Mare but it sounds like exactly the kind of book that could lead to a lifetime love of history!

    Thank you so much for posting! And here’s wishing you extraordinary fortune for your own historical tales.

  3. “Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

    They are totally real, Jenn. We just have to keep looking. 🙂

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