Past Tense

Historical Fiction Short Stories For Quick Reading

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Rachel Brittain

Contributing Editor

Rachel is a writer from Arkansas, most at home surrounded by forests and animals much like a Disney Princess. She spends most of her time writing stories and playing around in imaginary worlds. You can follow her writing at Twitter and Instagram: @rachelsbrittain

Another week, another slew of great historical fiction to discuss. I go through phases in my reading life, sometimes switching between genres or formats or even lengths of books depending on my mood and how life is going. Usually, I’m reading at least a few books at a time, and one of them is an ebook, and one is an audiobook, with some physical books thrown in on the side. As much as I love holding a real book in my hands, the convenience and portability of ebooks and audiobooks really gets me.

When life gets to be a lot, that’s when I tend to turn toward short stories and short story collections to get me through. Being able to finish a story in one or two sittings gives me the serotonin boost I need and feels more manageable somehow, even if I wind up reading just as much as I would have of a full-length novel. So this week, in addition to new releases, I’m recommending some historical fiction short stories you can turn to whenever you need a break from longer books.

Bookish Goods

An art print of a colorfully illustrated scene with women of various races reading books on cozy chairs and cushions, surrounded by stacks of books as well as plants and a sleeping dog.

Colorful Women Reading Art Print from AnnaIvanir

Decorate your home with your love of reading with this lovely gouache illustration from Anna Ivanir on Etsy. $31

New Releases

The History of Sound book cover

The History of Sound by Ben Shattuck

Release date: July 9, 2024

These interconnected stories set in New England explore how the past is misunderstood, even as it returns to shape the present. Each story is connected to the next, through murders and mysteries and family artifacts that pop up through the ages. The stories span from 1700s Nantucket to modern-day New Hampshire, and paint an atmospheric picture of New England and the people who’ve inhabited it across the centuries.

The Girl Who Crossed Mountains book cover

The Girl Who Crossed Mountains by Lelita Baldock

Release date: July 10, 2024

In 1936, a woman makes the difficult decision to abandon her seaside home and journey across the Pyrenes to France in order to escape the Spanish Civil War. But the reprieve Abene finds there is short-lived. When the Nazis invade, she refuses to stand by and watch innocent people suffer. Abene knows the mountains. She’s made the crossing before, and now she’ll help others do the same. But when her safe house is compromised, and an Allied pilot is shot down, she’ll have to do more than pave the way for others; she’ll have to cross the mountains again and return to the home — and the dangers — she thought she left behind.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just don’t have the attention span to sit down with a full-length novel. And at times like that, it’s short stories and novellas that I look to provide the reading experience that I still desperately crave, even if my brain isn’t cooperating in the way that I’d like.

For today’s Riot Recommendations, I wanted to offer up some more great historical fiction short story collections like The History of Sound, featured in this week’s new releases.

Hamilton's Battalion book cfover

Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole

A trio of bestselling romance authors band together to explore moments of love set during the American Revolution. In Rose Lerner’s “Promised Land,” a woman dresses up as a man to join the Continental Army and arrests an old flame as a Loyalist spy. Courtney Milan’s “The Pursuit Of…” follows a Black American soldier and a British officer who go from trying to shoot each other on sight to falling in love over the course of a 500-mile trek. And in Alyssa Cole’s “That Could Be Enough,” Eliza Hamilton’s maid learns to love again when a surprising new dressmaker shows up at the Hamiltons’ doorstep.

The Radical Element book cover

The Radical Element edited by Jessica Spotswood

The Radical Element brings together an incredible lineup of YA writers from Anna-Marie McLemore to Stacey Lee. Each story follows trailblazing heroines who rebel in ways both big and small as they find ways to pave a life for themselves and others in a society determined to keep girls and women in their place. But these 12 girls know that their place is wherever they want it to be, whether that’s the army or Hollywood.

Not for the Faint of Heart book cover

If you want to talk books, historical or otherwise, you can find me @rachelsbrittain on most social media, including Instagram, Goodreads, and Litsy.

Right now, I’m reading Not for the Faint of Heart, a historical YA Robin Hood retelling by Lex Croucher.