1. Love and Louis XIV, by Antonia Fraser.
Fraser, known for her thorough and very readable biographies, chronicles not only the life of the Sun King, but the also dynamics of court life at Versailles. While his rule was absolute, the women in Louis’s life—his mother, his wives, and his mistresses—wielded much power in their own rights and helped to shape the political scene. Stories of court intrigues, family squabbles, and power grabs make this as absorbing of a read as any delectably trashy fiction book.
2. The Princes in the Tower, by Alison Weir.
Weir attempts to solve the mystery of the disappearances, and most likely murders, of young Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York. Weir gives a detailed account of England during the Wars of the Roses and objectively examines each suspect’s motives for killing the young princes. Like a detective, she follows the leads and puts the pieces of the puzzle together to present a very viable suspect and a satisfactory resolution of the mystery.
3. Desperate Romantics, by Franny Moyle.
Desperate Romantics tells the story of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and its members, the artists and models who struck it big in mid-Victorian England. Moyle spares no details while merrily telling us about that personal and professional highs and lows of these friends and artists, of their break-ups and their make-ups, and who strikes it big and who’s left out in the cold.
4. The Girls of Murder City, by Douglas Perry.
Here are the real stories behind the murders that inspired the play and the musical “Chicago.” Perry gives us a sense of time and place in this, exploring not only the murders themselves, but the newspaper industry of the 1920s, the contemporaneous attitude toward women, and Chicago’s criminal justice system. Not only do we get a look at the real Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, but we also get a look at the woman reporter who covered the story and made it famous.
And there you have it! So head to the library or bookstore or turn on your ereader for some awesome summer reading