Downton Abbey has taken television by storm, drawing a multitude of viewers and fans for years. This historical drama starts in 1912 right after the Titanic tragedy. We follow the Crawley family and their servants in the setting of the family’s Edwardian house.
Though Downton Abbey is not a novel itself, the story was inspired by a book. Not many fans know this hit television show was inspired by To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol Wallace. This 1989 novel detailed the time period when American heiresses traveled to Britain and traded in their money for titles.
If you are looking for historical dramas that take you to a different era and country, here are 20 of our picks. With any of these books, you will find yourself traveling back in time to experience riveting stories with fascinating characters!
The Heiress Gets a Duke – Harper St. George
American heiress August Crenshaw isn’t interested in marriage. She’s interested in the mechanics of the family business. When her younger sister is offered in marriage to Evan Sterling, Duke of Rothschild, August is adamant to stop this loveless marriage.
Evan Sterling becomes interested in fiery August instead, but August won’t go down without a fight. This novel transports readers to Victorian society through the eyes of a headstrong protagonist. Shop the novel here.
American Duchess – Karen Harper
In November 1895, Consuelo Vanderbilt gained a prestigious title after entering a loveless marriage with the Duke of Marlborough. Consuelo begins the new tasks attached to her title at her new home in Blenheim Palace.
However, Consuelo doesn’t let this marriage bring her down. She charms and works her way to a new life of independence. Travel through the Gilded Age, World War II, and other eras as a woman strives for her own freedoms. Get the book here!
Carnegie’s Maid – Marie Benedict
Clara Kelly finds herself masquerading as an experienced Irish maid in one of Pittsburgh’s most prestigious households. Her ambition to keep the charade going is the opportunity to send some money back to her impoverished home. She must not lose her resolve, even if she finds herself developing feelings for her employer, Andrew Carnegie.
At Summer’s End – Courtney Ellis
In 1920s London, ambitious artist Alberta Preston accepts the commission from the Earl of Wakeford to spend a summer painting at His Lordship’s country home, Castle Braemore. Alberta, who goes by Bertie, sees it as an opportunity to get her name out there, but soon discovers a household in decline from the Great War.
Bertie finds herself working on more than just her commission, as she grows close with the earl and begins to find herself in the center of household secrets she never saw coming. Get this fascinating historical drama filled with hope, love, and secrets here.
Lost Among the Living – Simone St. James
In England in 1921, widow Jo Manders agrees to work as a paid companion for her late husband’s aunt. After arriving at the family’s estate in the Sussex countryside, Jo comes face-to-face with family secrets and revelations she never knew.
Jo begins to wonder if she even knew her husband after finding out some of his darkest secrets. According to other locals, the family her husband belonged to is cursed, but things really come to a head when a familiar stranger arrives at the estate. If you are looking for a historical fiction piece filled with family secrets, drama, and more, get the book here.
The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton
This classic novel tells the story of a young woman finding herself in a pearl-clutching scandal. 29-year-old Lily Bart is a beautiful socialite living among the nouveaux-riches of New York, people who have made millions due to railroads, shipping, banking, and other trades.
Lily is looking for a husband who can keep up with her desires for admiration and wealth. When the young woman is accused of being the mistress of a wealthy man, Lily faces exile and a loss of the wealthy conventions she was so used to. Get this riveting classic novel here!
A Room with a View – E.M. Forster
This critically-acclaimed classic novel introduces readers to Lucy Honeychurch, a young woman who has grown up in the culture of the Edwardian era of England. While on a vacation in Italy, a room switch offer introduces Lucy to George Emerson, a charismatic and passionate man who is also a wildly unconventional match for the young protagonist.
This novel is filled with an array of memorable characters and is both a coming-of-age story, as well as a humorous critique of the restrictive England culture in that time period. Piqued your interest? Find the book here.
Longbourn – Jo Baker
We may all know Jane Austen’s famous novel, Pride and Prejudice. Longbourn lets us into the story of one of the more background characters in the book, Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters’ orphaned housemaid, Sarah.
When a new footman mysteriously arrives at the Longbourn residence, Sarah’s entire world will be thrown upside down. This novel pays homage to one of Jane Austen’s most acclaimed works while sharing a story and characters readers will be familiar with yet will have the opportunity to meet all over again. Get Longbourn here!
Rutherford Park – Elizabeth Cooke
Rutherford Park is the Cavendish family’s estate, the epitome of lavish and refined. However, this home now seems to hold its residents captive. Lady of the house Octavia Cavendish feels trapped in her house, as does her husband. Their son is held down by the weight of the responsibilities that await him.
The story of the Cavendish family comes to a head on Christmas Eve 1913 when Octavia spots her husband in a compromising position. Their servant, Emily, also has her own story to tell. Find your copy of this historical drama here.
In a Field of Blue – Gemma Liviero
The year is 1922 in England, and Rudy is struggling to overcome the loss of his brother, Edgar. It’s been four years since Edgar went missing in war-torn France. When a woman named Mariette arrives at the family’s manor claiming to be Edgar’s widow and the mother of his child, Rudy urges her to stay.
This novel is a riveting account of the brutal aftermath that followed World War I, and the viewpoint of a family shrouded with grief, secrets, and hope. Get the book here.
Summerset Abbey – T.J. Brown
Summerset Abbey follows the stories of Rowena, Victoria, and Prudence, three young women in England in 1913. Having been raised as sisters, the three girls must live under their uncle’s guardianship after their father’s death. All three will face family secrets, romance, and finding out the meaning of loyalty and family.
If you are looking for a captivating story filled with three strong protagonists, look no further. Drama, fascinating historical settings, and more lie here.
Habits of the House – Fay Weldon
1899 is ending, and the Earl of Dilberne is facing serious financial problems. Everyone in the household is feeling the effects of these problems, including Lord Robert, who is looking to secure a wife and dowry for his son. The arrival of Minnie, a gorgeous Chicago heiress with money and a reputation that needs mending, could be the solution to their problems.
This novel is a favorite for many readers due to its wit, historical details, and intriguing characters. Get your copy here!
The Fortune Hunter– Daisy Goodwin
A captivating story that details historical figures’ public lives and private desires, The Fortune Hunter follows a love triangle for the ages. Empress Elizabeth of Austria, also known as Sisi, is in an unfulfilled marriage to the older Emperor Franz Joseph. She soon grows a reciprocated infatuation with Captain Bay Middleton. Captain Bay Middleton is the dashing, young, and finest horseman in England, who is in a courtship with heiress Charlotte Baird.
Money, romance, and the futures of complex characters are what this historical drama revolves around. Engross yourself in the story and grab your own copy here.
The Duke and I – Julia Quinn
The hit Netflix series Bridgerton is based on these novels by author Julia Quinn. The first novel, The Duke and I, follows the story of Daphne Bridgerton in Regency London. Daphne agrees to go into a fake courtship with her brother’s best friend, Simon Bassett, Duke of Hastings. Daphne yearns for marriage and a reputation that warrants it, while Simon wishes to ward off potential proposals.
This story will appeal to any historical drama/romance buff. If you’re interested in diving into the books that serve as the inspiration for the television series, grab your copy of The Duke and I here!
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Named one of the best books of the century by Modern Library, Brideshead Revisited explores the compelling world of English aristocracy through the eyes of Charles Ryder. The novel is told in flashbacks from the 1930s and onward, capturing the devastation of World War I.
Charles Ryder falls in love with the wealthy and aristocratic Flytes family, owners of the Brideshead Estate. This work offers readers a glimpse of all the glitter and what it attempted to cover up in England at the time. Find your copy here.
The Edwardians – Vita Sackville-West
This bestselling novel was first published in 1930 and has since captivated a multitude of readers. Sebastian is an heir to Chevron, a vast estate. He loves his patrimony but loathes the social responsibilities that come with it. After meeting Leonard Anquetil, an arctic explorer, and becoming infatuated with Lady Roehampton, a married society beauty, Sebastian finds everything in his life in disarray.
It may be up to his younger sister, Viola, to show Sebastian a world beyond what he has known and help him discover what’s important to him. A historical drama bringing Edwardian society under the microscope, you can start reading your copy from here.
Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
Fanny Price is taken from her impoverished parents’ home and raised in Mansfield Park with her rich cousins. The Crawfords arrive in the neighborhood bringing with them a taste of London life, glamor, and flirtation. Fanny finds herself dealing with this new family, who are unlike anyone she’s met.
This is considered one of Jane Austen’s most profound works, examining social class and moral integrity through the lens of a quiet heroine. Get your copy here!
North and South – Elisabeth Gaskell
This classic novel tells the story of Margaret Hale, who is uprooted with her family and forced to live in the industrial town of Milton in the North of England. Margaret gets a glimpse of the poverty and suffering of mill workers, developing a passion for social justice. Margaret develops a strong conflicting relationship with mill owner John Thornton, based on the treatment of his workers.
This historical drama is filled with conflict, romance, and much more. Grab your copy here.
The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell
Though this is a much more eerie book than the other ones we’ve mentioned, this novel still has historical elements that allow readers to travel to an earlier period. Elsie finds herself widowed and pregnant just weeks after her wedding to young heir Rupert Bainbridge.
The servants in his estate are hostile, and there are rumors swirling of a painted wooden figure in the home that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie. Elsie is doubtful until she notices the figure’s eyes following her. Grab this eerie and striking novel here.
The House at Riverton – Kate Morton
Grace Bradley worked at the Riverton House as a young girl, where in the summer of 1924 a young poet shot himself. The only people who know the truth behind the events that transpired are Grace and the two daughters of the Riverton House, Hannah and Emmeline. Decades later in 1999, Grace is taken back to the Riverton House by a young director making a film about the events of the summer of 1924.
The books mentioned above are great novels to dive into historical drama. Whether you are looking for romance, conflict, or just the chance to read about a time period filled with a wondrous culture, pick up any of these novels to be transported. Which one will you read first?
Historical Drama FAQ
What is a historical drama?
A historical drama is a dramatic work set in a past time period.
Why are historical dramas popular?
Oftentimes, historical dramas may put a lens on families from the wealthiest social class, allowing them to illustrate a glamorous and enthralling image for readers.
How can you tell a story is historical fiction in general?
Historical fiction is set in a real place, during a culturally recognizable time.
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