June is Pride Month of course, and there are many books with LGBTQIA+ themes to read during this month! If you are a historical fiction lover, there are many authors who have created insanely detailed stories about the LGBTQIA+ community in various historical periods. If you’re looking for books that create a realistic atmosphere while still giving strong LGBTQIA+ representation, we’ve got some books that will get your heart pounding.
strangers that become interwoven
The Night Watch is a historical fiction novel by Sarah Waters about four Londoners during World War II whose relationships with one another drive the narrative of the story. Firstly, there’s Kay who is caught in a corner of jealousy over her lover and her lover’s lover. She later meets Viv, who is a straight woman having an affair with a married man. Viv works alongside Helen, a lesbian woman who has her own insecurities regarding her lover’s success as a writer. Finally, there is Duncan, a guy who is in prison for an undisclosed reason. The character’s stories collide in a way that you would never expect. If you are a true historical fiction fan who loves the accurate details brought into the World War II time period, and are looking for a book that brings strong LGBTQIA representation to the table during Pride Month, this is definitely the book for you!
Hedonism, Versailles, and Regency Era England
Set during 18th century England, Henry “Monty” Montague is a bisexual and cheeky aristocrat. After he’s been expelled from Eton, Monty decides to tour Europe before taking over the family estate. Monty also has eyes for his best friend, Percy, who is traveling Europe alongside him. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee details their journey of fun and pleasure, as well as the trouble that they get into when Monty steals an important alchemist trinket from Versailles. Becoming the target of the Duke of Bourbon’s manhunt, all of Monty’s values come into question. This book is the fun-filled historical fiction novel that you didn’t know you needed to get your hands on!
A new take on witch trials
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave follows Maren, a young woman who witnesses the death caused by a powerful storm that sweeps the island of Vardø near Norway. The storm eradicates the island of the most of the male population, which leaves many of the women in shambles. Years later, a new commissioner, Absalom Cornet sails from Scotland with his wife, Ursa, and many suspect that he has sinister intentions. He is known for burning witches back in the Isles, and he is convinced that dark magic had something to do with the storm. This incredible historical fiction novel has a face-paced plot of witch hunting and women loving women. The Mercies is also based off of the 17th century Vardø witch trials, which is a truly fascinating yet heartbreaking piece of history.
A Tale of Transition
You may know the film version of The Danish Girl with Eddie Redmayne starring as Lili Elbe. However, did you know that it was first a book? David Ebershoff wrote The Danish Girl as a fictionalized story about Lili Elbe, who was one of the first women to undergo sex reassignment surgery in 20th century Copenhagen. Gerda Wegener is a portrait artist who asks her then husband, Einar Wegener, to fill in for a female model. This event reveals Einar’s enduring desire to identify as a woman. Einar becomes Lili, and the story follows her continued relationship with Gerda, as well as her transition process. The Danish Girl is a prominent story about gender identity, but it also encourages readers to discover historical pioneers in transgender identity.
WHere Race and Sexuality collide in an important period
The Prophets takes on a different historical period than many of the ones already discussed. This New York Times bestseller by Robert Jones, Jr. takes on the story of two lovers, Samuel and Isaiah, who are enslaved in the plantation South. The two work on the Mississippi plantation during the day, but then spend time in the barn together at night. Amos, another slave on the plantation, has his own suspicions about Samuel and Isaiah’s relationship. Possibly seeking to be seen in the plantation owner’s favor, Amos’ word could disrupt not only Samuel and Isaiah’s relationship, but the stability of the entire plantation. This story calls on the influence of James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, two amazing authors of important queer novels. From its prose to its storyline, The Prophets opens one’s eyes to the many stories that can and should be told from this time period in history.
There are many historical fiction novels that will surprise you with realistic and detailed depictions of LGBTQIA+ characters throughout history. Even if historical fiction is not your favorite genre, these books have captivating storylines and complex characters that do well for LGBTQIA+ representation, something needed year-round.