2020 Novels Taking Readers on a Journey to the Past

Put down the time turner, Hermione Granger. You don’t need magic to travel back in time; all you need is a book! Historical fiction fans are in for a treat this year, with an impressive crop of books hitting shelves just waiting to transport readers through space and time. These stories not only have the power to entertain, they also shine a light on forgotten figures and events, and on darker moments in our history that must be remembered if we want to avoid repeating them. Here’s a list of 20 new and upcoming releases to add to your 2020 TBR.

These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card

Maisy Card’s debut novel follows a Jamaican family through generations from colonial Jamaica to present-day Harlem, exploring the far-reaching repercussions of a long-held secret.

Summer Darlings by Brooke Lea Foster

This buzzy summer read is set in 1960s Martha’s Vineyard where Heddy Winsome is nannying for one of the island’s wealthiest families and quickly learning that no one is quite as happy as they seem.

Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins

The second installment in Beverly Jenkins’ Women Who Dare series features Spring, a rancher working in Wyoming after the Civil War who catches the eye of the reporter writing a story about her brother.

Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Mobsters, magic, and more await readers in Alaya Dawn Johnson’s latest. This alternate history set in New York in the late 1930s follows Phyllis LeBlank as she flees the mob with her ex, police informant Dev Patil.

The Library of Legends by Janie Chang

Inspired by real events, Janie Chang’s latest takes place in 1937 after the bombing of Nanking. Minghua University student Hu Lian and her classmates are tasked with transporting a 500-year-old collection of myths to western China, a journey of 1,000 miles.

Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams

In Beatriz Williams’ latest, photographer and war correspondent Janey Everett travels to a Hawaiian surfing village in 1947 in search of Sam Mallory, an aviation legend who disappeared during the Spanish Civil War.

Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian

Cat Sebastian returns this summer with a tender historical romance. After searching high and low, Will Sedgwick has finally found Martin Easterbrook, his oldest friend. Whisking a sick Martin away to the English countryside, Will vows to never let him go again.

My Calamity Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows

The Lady Janies series rewrites the stories of famous Janes in history, and the latest installment transports readers to the wild west with Annie Oakley, Wild Bill, and the one and only Calamity Jane.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab returns this fall with the highly-anticipated novel about a young woman who makes a bargain to live forever, but be forgotten by everyone who meets her. Beginning in 1714 in France, the story follows Addie across the centuries of her life until she meets someone who remembers her.

A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley

This historical romance takes readers to London in 1814, where West Indian heiress Patience is doing whatever it takes to be close to her son, who was taken from her after she questioned the mysterious circumstances of her husband’s death. The Widow’s Grace helps Patience get a job working for her son’s guardian: the Duke of Repington.

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed

The past and present intertwine in this YA novel told from the perspective of two teen girls: Khayyam, who is spending the summer in Paris with her parents and searching for a lost painting, and Leila, the painting’s subject and a 19th-century concubine dreaming of a different life.

The War Widow by Tara Moss

After the war ends, war correspondent Billie Walker returns to Sydney in 1946 and reopens her late father’s private investigation agency. Soon, she finds herself on the trail of a missing young man. When her sources are murdered, Billie realizes she’ll need to put her life on the line if she hopes to find the truth.

Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas

Make room on your fall TBR for the fifth Lady Sherlock installment, which finds Charlotte Holmes stepping in to help a friend who’s in trouble in London.

The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan

Love the Gilded Age and magic? Pick up The Age of Witches, which follows two cousins at odds over how magic should be used and the young girl caught between them.

The Boy in the Red Dress by Kristin Lambert

Set in 1929 in New Orleans, this YA novel follows Millie as she attempts to solve a murder and clear the name of her best friend Marion, the star drag performer at her aunt’s speakeasy.

Atomic Love by Jennie Fields

Jennie Fields takes readers to 1950s Chicago where physicist Rosalind Porter finds herself torn when an FBI agent asks for her to spy on the man she once loved, believing that he has potential ties to Russia.

This Light Between Us by Andrew Fukuda

In this YA novel, a Japanese American boy and a French Jewish girl begin exchanging letters in 1935, relying on each other as they weather through the Nazi occupation of France and the American internment camps in the wake of Pearl Harbor.

The Winter Companion by Mimi Matthews

Set in 1860, this historical romance takes place in a remote coastal abbey in England. Lady’s companion Clara Hartwright fatefully crosses paths with Neville in this fourth and final installment in the Parish Orphans of Devon series.

Give the Devil His Due by Sulari Gentill

A murderer is on the loose in Sydney, Australia, but luckily Rowland Sinclair is on the case! Sinclair was prepared to race his 1927 Mercedes S-Class in a charity event for the Red Cross, but when a journalist is found dead, it becomes clear he’ll need to put on his sleuthing cap once more.

A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe

Jessie Lesage and her husband Victor, a member of the Michelin family, travel to Vietnam to begin managing a rubber plantation. Just as Jessie’s realizing that her new life—from the plantation to the friends she’s made—isn’t what she thought it would be, secrets from her past begin to catch up with her.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some publishers have rescheduled publication dates for certain books (read more here). The books above may be impacted after the publication of this article.

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows.

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