The 33 Best Biographical Fiction Novels for Historical Fiction Lovers

Biographical Fiction 1

I’ve always gravitated toward biographical fiction novels. There is something about reading someone’s fictional biography that makes me feel so connected to them.

I generally find biographies to be rather dull, but when they are fictionalized I immediately get drawn into their world. I often find myself googling images or doing further research because I’m so entranced.

That’s why I wanted to gather all my favorite biographical novels in one place. You’ll find fictionalized biographies of princesses, rebels, spies, snipers, and writers below.

*Biographical Fiction Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

Table of Contents

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Biographical Novels Set in America

The personal librarian

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murphy

July 2021 Good Morning America Book Club Pick

This fictionalized version of Belle de Costa Greene was wonderful, I’m so glad it was a GMA pick and a Gilded Age book to boot!

Greene was J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian and later the librarian for his heir. She was also a black woman passing as white. She had to keep her roots hidden in order to hold her job, but I’m glad her real truth is being told now.

Find This Book in: Books set in Libraries

the invention of wings

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

January 2014 Oprah’s Book Club Pick

I picked this book up in Charleston when I was there for a visit in October of 2018. I wanted to pick up a book about the city. When I found out that our hotel was next to the Grimke sister’s home, I knew this was the book for me.

This book tells the story of Sarah Grimke, one of the first female abolitionists, and her slave, Handful.

Carnegies Maid

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict

First off look at this COVER! I loved this biographical novel but I’m sad my copy is an ebook because now I think I need to get the hardback version.

The story revolves around Andrew Carnegie’s housemaid and their fictional relationship. It was fascinating to learn about life in Pittsburg during the 1860s. This story particularly focuses on the different social classes of the American Industrial Revolution.

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Caroline: The Little House Revisited by Sarah Miller

I read Little House on the Prairie for the first time earlier this year mostly because I wanted the background for this exact book. The entire time I was reading the original series, I found myself wondering about the choices the parents were making.

I wanted to know why certain things were being done and I finally got my answers in Sarah Miller’s classic retelling of the story. I didn’t love Little House, but I ADORED Caroline. This fictionalized biography is better than the original series in my opinion.

Marlene

Marlene by C.W. Gortner

When it comes to books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, this would be a natural story to gravitate toward. I found the story to be focused too much on Marlene’s exploits as a bi-sexual woman. Yes, that’s groundbreaking – but it’s not all that defined her.

Which is why she fell flat as a character. I wanted more of her war-time efforts, more of her Hollywood life, more of her relationship with her daughter – just more substance in general. The writing and research were impeccable, as usual, it just didn’t live up to what I thought it could be.

Political Biographical Fiction

Jacqueline in Paris

Jacqueline in Paris by Ann Mah

I had no idea that Jackie Kennedy spent a year abroad living in Paris in the year following the end of WWII. I was fascinated by Ann Mah’s take on what Jackie would have seen in post-war France.

This fictional biography covered it all! The rise of communism, the French people’s disdain for Americans, the struggle to make ends meet for many citizens, and the return to the glitz and glam of the gilded aristocracy.

As far as historical fiction books go, it was one of the most unique ones I’ve read in recent years. I immediately gave it to my francophile mother because I know she will adore it. This book was a must for our ultimate beach reads 2023 post.

american Princess

American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton

We all know I love a good Royal Read but I don’t usually get to read a book about American royalty. We may not have an actual royal family, but dynasties like the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Kennedys, and Roosevelts serve as good replacements. This story is about Alice Roosevelt, daughter of our 26th president, Teddy Roosevelt.

This historical fiction novel covers her life from the moment her father became President to her second breast cancer surgery. And what a doozy of a life she led! I couldn’t help wondering how her antics would have been perceived had she lived in today’s society. I read it in a few days and adored it! #gifted

kennedy debutante

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

I had no idea the Kennedy girls were just as interesting at the Kennedy boys. This Historical Fiction biography told the story of Kick Kennedy during her stay in London before and during WWII. I found her to be a fascinating character.

I spent so much time googling photos of her during this time of her life. It’s crazy how the standards for marriage have changed in such a short amount of time over in London.

Jackie and Maria and more of the best books of 2020

Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul

Excuse me while I gush about Gill Paul‘s newest biographical fiction book, Jackie and Maria.⁣ Gill Paul is quickly becoming an auto-buy author for me. I loved Another Woman’s Husband and The Lost Daughter, about the Windsors and Romanovs respectively. Paul’s take on a new dynasty, The Kennedys, is equally compelling.⁣

Most people know about Jackie’s life during her White House years, but hearing the tale of what caused her to marry Aristotle Onassis was fascinating. I loved the dual narrators of Jackie and Onassis’s long-time lover, opera singer Maria Callas.⁣ It’s a perfect political novel about music!

Novel Ideas 66

18 Fun Fiction and Non-Fiction Books About Women in Politics

For more biographical fiction about political figures, check out this post.

Historical Biographical Fiction about the British Monarchy

indiscreet princess

An Indiscreet Princess: A Novel of Queen Victoria’s Defiant Daughter by Georgie Blalock

Well before Princess Diana, Meghan Markle, and Wallis Simpson, there was another royal rebel – Lady Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. And what a rebel she was! Why are there not more royal reads about her?

In the late 1800s, it was Louise, an artist, and sculptor, who was seen as quite rebellious. She took courses for the arts at a public school, talked back to the queen, and even had pre- and extra-marital affairs! Quite the scandal for the time.

I loved getting a look at one of the lesser-known (to me) royal figures. I hope to learn about more of Queen Victoria’s offspring in the future.

The White Queen

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen is one of my favorite Philippa Gregory novels, revolving around Elizabeth Woodville and her relationship with the King of England. I love the magical elements of this book as Elizabeth and her mother were said to be witches. We had to put this on our list of witch books.

It’s a really wonderful story. I learned so much about the tumultuous history of Britain. Also of note, Elizabeth was the mother of the boys in the tower which this book covers as well. If you love biographical novels, Philippa Gregory has written more than a dozen for you to read.

Find this book in Biographical Fiction / Best Witch Books / Books with Colors in the Title

American Duchess

American Duchess by Karen Harper

This particular biographical fiction book spans the same time period at Downton Abbey. It too features an American Heiress wed in London society to infuse a ducal estate with much-needed funds.

Unlike Lady Cora, the heroine of this story is a real historical figure. Consuelo Vanderbilt’s wedding to the Duke of Marlborough was considered the wedding of the century at the time, but their marriage left something to be desired.

Consuelo is forced to take up the mantle of duty for her estate and title, and in doing so, she finds her inner strength.

Modern Biographical Novels about the British Royal Family

before the crown

Before the Crown by Flora Harding

After all the royal reads I’ve read over the years, I can’t believe this is my first story about The Queen’s romance with Prince Philip. With the Jubilee coming up now in England, this was a perfect fictionalized biography to read!

I was wondering about how Philip won the heart of then Princess Elizabeth, and this fictional story filled in some fun details. Think of it as a prequel to the first episode of The Crown in the best way!

Every royal-obsessed person needs to add this pick from Books about Queen Elizabeth II to their TBR list and check out our list of books like the crown!

the queens secret

The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper

I don’t think enough is written about Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She was a dynamic lady who was a guiding light for her husband, King George, as well as Queen Elizabeth. This biographical novel focuses on her work behind-the-scenes during WWII.

We get an inside look at the issues between her husband and his brother, King Edward, who abdicated to be with Wallis Simpson. Churchill’s relationship with the then Queen consort is also examined. We love the unique perspective of this pick from books about WWII.

The Other Windsor Girl and more books about Queen Elizabeth II.

The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock

I knew a little about Princess Margaret from what I gleaned from The Crown, but it was nice to focus on her as the main character. I can’t imagine what it would have been like had she been the Queen of England.

She actually reminded me a lot of Wallace Simpson. She was most definitely a royal rebel. She’s still not my favorite royal but this historical fiction biography helped me understand her life, personality, and pressures. This book about QEII will give you a different perspective on being a royal.

We included this pick as one of our favorite books about the royal family for book clubs! So it obviously needed to be in our list of books for book clubs as well.

The Duchess

The Duchess by Wendy Holden

This intimate look at Wallis Simpson was wonderfully written. Never have I had compassion for the Duchess of Windsor in the way I did when I read this historical fiction biography.

Holden’s portrayal of this controversial historical figure focused on the time period when Wallis and King Edward fell in love, but also the time period after his death.

I actually felt bad for both the king, who clearly didn’t want the crown, and the woman he both loved and used to get out of his royal duties. There is so much to talk about it this book about Wallis Simpson, which is why we love this book for book clubs.

Love royal reads? Check out the dozens we’ve rounded up here!

Copy of Novel Ideas headers 3

13 Captivating Books about the Royal Family

For more biographical fiction books about the British royal family, head to this post.

Fictional Biography Novels Set in France

the queen of paris

The Queen of Paris by Pamela Binnings Ewen

I had such mixed feelings reading this biographical novel, in a good way. I hated Chanel who is a ruthless, shrewd woman who will do whatever she needs to in order to succeed, even becoming a nazi spy. I felt no sympathy for her, only disgust… and yet….

The writing drew me in. I don’t agree with Chanel’s choices, but I was intrigued by her life during the war and all she did to try to save her own skin. This pick from books about WWII is a must-read.

It was fascinating to read about regardless of my personal feelings about the heroine of the story. She’s not written to be liked, but rather to be examined and no list of books set in Paris would be complete without her.⁣

I’d recommend this fictionalized biography if you are looking to uncover the more sinister side of the renowned icon.

Code Name Helene  and more of the best books of 2020

Code Name Hélène: A Novel by Ariel Lawson

I LOVED this book so much.  It is so beautifully written, amazingly researched, and absolutely enthralling.  This book is based on the life of Nancy Wake, a nurse and journalist who became a Special Operations Executive during WWII. ⁣

She was an amazing woman and I had never heard of her before this fictional biography.  It has wonderful characters, a fabulous story, romance, adventure, and the terrifying reality of life during WWII.

Find this book in Historical Fiction Books / Best Books for Book Clubs

The age of light

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer

This historical fiction novel is about real-life photographer and model,  Lee Miller. I had never heard about Miller prior to this book, though I was familiar with her lover – Man Ray.

Why We Loved it: She made some life choices that I can’t say I agree with, but I found her to be a strong, feminist woman ahead of her time. This book is a five star read, but be warned – there are some erotic scenes in the novel.

Find this book in Biographical Fiction / Best Books of 2019 / Jazz Age Novels / Art Novels / Best Book Club Books

Mademoiselle chanel

Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner

Coco Chanel is a fascinating woman, who is famed for her stylish, sophisticated fashions. Yet this story explores her connection to the Nazis during WWII and just how far she would go to stay on top.

Why We Loved it: I loved this story, but ended up hating the woman it was about. I grew up loving Chanel designs and idolizing the fashion icon. However, when I learned more about her life, I was scandalized and horrified….but I couldn’t put it down!

Find this book in Books set in the 1920s, Biographical Fiction / Fashion Novels / Books Set in France

books set in france

16 Sensational Books Set in France to Love

Love when Frace is the setting of a book? We do too! That’s why we created this list.

Fictionalized Biographies about Authors

The mystery of Mrs. Christie

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict


⁣Marie Benedict is the master of bringing women back to life in her historical fiction novels. The Mystery of Mrs. Christie is my favorite to date and I found it hard to put down. ⁣In December 1926, Agatha Christie went missing for 11 days. She re-emerged as mysteriously as she disappeared and more questions than answers persist.

Why We Like it: Benedict does a wonderful job of building the mystery using her brilliant imagination and bringing us into the world of Agatha Christie. It is the perfect blend of fiction and mystery and is an absolute delight.

Find this book in Historical Mystery Books / 13 Fiction Books about Writers / Books About Books / Biographical Fiction Novel / 1920s Novels

Brontes mistress

Bronte’s Mistress by Finola Austin

I’m a sucker for the classics, but I don’t know much about the authors of the classics I love. Of course, I knew of the Bronte sisters, but I had no idea that they had a brother or that he was a naughty one 😉.⁣ How could i not read this pick from novels about writers?

This story was fascinating to me because while I don’t condone modern-day infidelity, I understand how women back in the day had limited options. I loved Lydia and her (selfish) views of the world around her and I felt how hard it must be to be a woman in historic times.⁣

Her antics were utterly entertaining as were the antics of her children. I was rooting for her the entire time, even when I wanted to slap her and tell her to come to her senses.⁣

Z a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Zelda Fitzgerald gets her moment in the sun in this fictionalized biography of her life. Zelda, often belittled by her husband, was actually the muse behind his stories.

He drew inspiration from her diary and her life for characters like Daisy in The Great Gatsby. Yet, their marriage kept Zelda from reaching her own greatest potential. A fascinating character study of the woman behind the man.

the christie affair

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

February 2022 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

I adored this mystery novel set during the 11 days of Agatha Christie’s disappearance. It’s told from the perspective of Christie’s husband’s mistress and it is utterly absorbing. This biographical novel is totally fictional because there is no account of what actually happened to Agatha Christie during those 11 days.

There are layers of mystery throughout, with a side of a love story. It’s actually a hotel novel because the majority of the book takes place at a small hotel.

I never felt I would be able to sympathize with a mistress but I was cheering for her by the end. If you love mystery books, historical mystery books in particular, this is a must-read.

Romanov Family Biographical Fiction Novels

The Tsarinas daughter

The Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten

I’ve been enthralled with the Romanovs since I saw my first Faberge egg. While most of my reading has focused on the fall of the dynasty, I was intrigued by this biographical fiction novel set after the reign of Peter the Great.

Why We Liked It It was FASCINATING to see the cultural backdrop of Russia’s imperial court. I loved learning about the court intrigue and the ruthless way power changed hands.

Find this book in Cozy Winter Books / Royal Reads / Romanov Novels

The Last Grand Duchess

The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull

I love stories about the Romanov Dynasty. Ever since I saw a collection of Faberge eggs when I was a child, the story of the last members of the Russian Imperial family have always fascinated me.

This biographical historical fiction story revolves around the eldest daughter, Olga. Its dual timeline switches between the family’s life after the revolution and Olga’s childhood and the events that lead to the revolution in the first place.

Why We Loved It: We all know how this tragic story ends, so this book is all about the journey. I love that Turnbull focused on a sister other than Anastasia.

Find this book in Ultimate Beach Reads 2022 / Romanov Historical Fiction / Biographical Fiction

romanov Empress

The Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner

If you are into biographical historical fiction, this is a great one for your list. I had no idea that the Tsarina was such a force.

Think the British Monarchy is the only one with scandalous stories worth telling? Think again! This book is all about Empress Marina’s life. As the mother of the last Tsar of Russia, it was compelling to read about the events of the Russian Revolution as they unfolded.

I loved how the author laid out the family’s struggle with adjusting to the people’s needs. Empress Alexandra and her dependent relationship with Rasputin is also covered in the novel. I’d love to see a mini-series made about this family.

The lost daughter

The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul

I was OBSESSED with Gill Paul’s book Another Woman’s Husband ir?source=bk&t=beyondth06 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=3ced3ede7e538e6243e3c50134e534ed& cb=1569623666419when I read it earlier this year so I was eager to try another of her books. The Lost Daughter follows a similar format of skipping between two different timelines, this time exploring the Romanovs. The first tells the story of Grand Duchess Maria in 1918 and the second is set in 1973 when Val Doyle seeks to investigate her father’s dying words.

Why We Liked it: Maria’s story drew me in immediately, but I floundered a bit when it skipped over to Val’s portions. I just didn’t feel a connection to her and found myself wishing it would get back to Maria’s parts. Still, it was a good biographical historical fiction royal novel if you are interested in a lesser-known Romanov. 

Find this book in Books about the Romanovs / Books like The Crown / Biographical Fiction

More Royal Biographical Fiction

The marriage portrait

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

December 2022 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

I couldn’t put down this biographical fiction book set in Italy in the 1550s. Maggie O’Farrell just has a way of writing that is utterly captivating.

It’s the story of Lucrezia, daughter of the Grand Duke of Florence, and her unfortunate life as a child bride to the ruler of Ferrara. I always thought that British royal history had all drama, but this story proved me wrong! Those Italians are masters at the art of poison and murder.

I found the story, which also revolves around the painting of the titular marriage portrait, to be fast-moving and fascinating. It’s one of those historical fiction books that had me googling what was real and what truths were bent.  

the girl in white gloves

The Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher

I adored this royal read about Grace Kelly and had trouble putting it down. The storyline is split between Grace’s rise to Hollywood stardom and her future as a settled princess. The writing was so captivating that I found myself sneaking pages on my Kindle all over town. 

Kerri Maher brought Grace Kelly to life in this biographical fiction book about her life. I had no idea about her home life struggles, her many romances, or the state of her marriage to Rainer. 

Find this book in Biographical Fiction / Books Like Evelyn Hugo / Books with a color in the Title / Books Like the Crown

The Queen's Fortune

The Queen’s Fortune by Allison Pataki

The Queen’s Fortune had everything I love in a historical fiction novel – royalty, drama, a touch of romance, a strong female protagonist, and action. This book starts out all action and it doesn’t let up!⁣

I devoured the story of Napoleon, his former lover, and the dynasty that he helped her create with her eventual husband, who happened to be his #1 frenemy. They didn’t know what frenemies we’re back then but Napoleon and Bernadotte were the OGs.⁣

This is one of the biographical fiction books set in France that we could have put in so many categories and is a great place to start.

the second duchess

The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas

The Duke of Ferrara has taken a second wife after possibility having killed his first duchess. While first ignoring the rumors, soon Barbara decides she needs to investigate what happened to Lucrezia de Medici.

I liked the mystery aspects of this biographical fiction story. I was certainly living in fear that something would befall Barbara as her pool of suspects grew larger.

More Biographical Historical Fiction Novels

Diva

Diva by Daisy Goodwin

Daisy Goodwin has done it again with this incredible biographical fiction about Maria Callas, famed Opera singer, and lover of Aristotle Onassis. 

As usual with Daisy Goodwin’s stories, I found myself transfixed by the story of Maria’s life and her relationship with Onassis. It was fascinating to see how their courtship affected her performances and how she grew to become an unstoppable force in an industry ruled by men.

Why we like it: I had previously read Gill Paul‘s story Jackie & Maria and thought I might find this book redundant, but I was wrong. They bring two different perspectives that flush out the Maria – Onassis- Jackie O love triangle. #gifted by St. Martins Press

Find this book in Music Books / Biographical Fiction / New Historical Fiction Books

Hamnet

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

I had this book on my TBR for so long and I am so happy that I finally had a chance to read it. This is the story of Shakespeare’s life, family, and extraordinary wife during the time of the plague.

Shakespeare himself is never actually mentioned by name in this extraordinary and heartbreaking book that was so hard to put down. I know why it made so many lists of top books for 2020. And if you are looking for biographical novels about writers, this one is a must-read.

Find this book in Biographical Fiction Novels / Books About Books

the most beautiful girl in cuba

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Chanel Cleeton is back with a prequel to the Perez family story. This time, she examines their ancestor, Marina during the 1896 war between Spain and the US on Cuban soil. This is one of our favorite Gilded Age books set internationally.

Evangelina Cisneros, dubbed The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by the New York newspapers, and journalist Grace Harrington’s stories are also the focus of this biographical novel.

Why I Liked it: Cleeton’s vivid imagery and captivating stories make learning about Cuba’s tragic history compelling and helps give context to the Cuba we know today.

Find this book in Gilded Age Books / Biographical Fiction / Chanel Cleeton Books

The Diamond Eye and more goodreads choice awards 2022 books

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn’s stories of the women heroes of WWII continue to dazzle every time. The subject for this story is Soviet Sniper Mila Pavlichenko, commonly known as Lady Death.

The story flashes between her time in on a diplomatic tour of the U.S. when she befriended Eleanor Roosevelt and her life leading up to and during the war. We learn about what motivated her to become the most decorated sniper in the army, what life was like on the battlefields of war, and how love plays a role in her life.

But the tension is really heightened by the narration of an assassin out to kill President Roosevelt and frame Mila for the murder. I adored this biographical historical fiction story by Quinn.

Which biographical fiction novel are you most interested in reading?

Historical Fiction

Ultimate List of Historical Fiction

Love Historical Fiction? The Ultimate List of Historical Fiction is the perfect list for you. It is carefully divided by time.

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