This week’s Sapphic Book Bingo post features sapphic books that are based on a historical event.
This category, of course, overlaps with historical fiction, but it isn’t identical. For the book to count for this category, it needs to include a specific historical event such as the Great Earthquakes and Fires in 1906 in my novel Shaken to the Core.
The book can also be contemporary fiction that contains an important event that happened in more recent years.
What is the Book Unicorn?
A quick reminder: The Book Unicorn bingo card is an additional bingo card that you can tackle in addition to the regular bingo card or by itself. The goal is to read one book for each of the 12 squares of the Book Unicorn card. Each square represents a harder-to-find theme.
I’ll post book suggestions for one Book Unicorn category each month.
Download your Book Unicorn bingo card
If you haven’t done so already, download your Book Unicorn bingo card here. The PDF is clickable, so you can fill in the titles of the books you read on your computer, or you can print it out and fill it in by hand.
15 sapphic books based on a historical event
Here are my 15 book recommendations for the “sapphic books based on a historical event” category:
Shaken to the Core by Jae
Kate Winthrop, the only child of a wealthy shipping magnate, has the course of her life charted for her by her parents. She’s expected to marry well and produce a successor to the Winthrop empire. But Kate has a very different path in mind. Her true passion lies with photography—and with women.
Alone in the city after losing her brother, Sicilian immigrant Giuliana Russo starts working for the Winthrops as a maid. Despite their different social status, Kate and Giuliana become friends, much to the dismay of Kate’s parents.
As the connection between the two women grows, a devastating earthquake hits San Francisco and ignites fires that sweep through the city for three days and nights.
Will the disaster shatter their tentative feelings for each other, or will they find the courage to save each other’s lives—and their hearts?
Join Kate and Giuliana on a journey of danger and discovery in the action-packed historical romance Shaken to the Core, set against the backdrop of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Johnny’s Girls by Vesna Kurilic
Could you fall for someone who looks just like you?
An apprentice Cartographer, working for a secret society in a city which has just barely made it out of World War II, Lina is just about to embark on her first job assignment in a parallel world. For her, the answer is about to become tricky.Because Karol, the parallel world engineer looking for her help in a missing persons case, is everything she never thought she could be.
Coincidentally, the engineer is also Lina’s exact copy, a one in a million doppelgänger—the one person you’re never supposed to meet.
As the two women team up to find a murderer in this decadent dieselpunk mystery, they will soon discover there’s more to each other than the surface likeness which the eye can see—making this, unfortunately, a matter for the heart to resolve.
And accepting her heart’s desires was never Lina’s strong suit.
Secrets Well Kept by Lynn Ames
It’s March, 1943. World War II rages across the globe, and twenty-five-year-old Nora Lindstrom is about to take a huge leap of faith. One of the few women in the male-dominated field of physics, she travels to an undisclosed destination to undertake a vital, top-secret project that the government insists could help the Allies win the war.
At eighteen, Mary Trask is ready to put high school and the boy who wants to marry her in her rearview mirror. But what alternative could the future hold for the dyslexic daughter of a train conductor? When a cousin in Tennessee provides Mary with a cryptic job opportunity, she jumps at the chance to rewrite her life.
Nora and Mary are drawn together under impossible circumstances. As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, they find solace in their love for each other. But in a place where secrecy is paramount, their relationship is forever changed by the consequences of secrets well kept.
In this new historical fiction novel, award-winning author Lynn Ames returns us to a time where the contribution of women was often overlooked and the casualties of war were not always limited to the battlefield.
Love’s Portrait by Anna Larner
Newly appointed art curator Molly Goode is committed to diversifying her museum’s collection. When Georgina Wright, the museum’s aloof benefactor, asks for Molly’s help in identifying the provenance of a 19th century portrait of social activist Josephine Brancaster, Molly welcomes the opportunity, even if it means spending time with the standoffish financier. But passions soon flare as the women uncover the heartbreaking story of doomed lesbian love behind the watercolor painted by Josephine’s lover, Edith Hewitt.
As their love blossoms, Molly is determined to display Edith’s portrait of Josephine and to tell their story in the museum, but she needs the influential Georgina to help convince the board. When an unforeseen twist in the painting’s provenance forces Georgina to confront her own painful past, will history repeat itself, or can Molly and Georgina’s love prevail?
Basic Training of the Heart by Jaycie Morrison
Socialite Elizabeth Carlton impulsively joins the Women’s Army Corps to escape love’s disappointments and her father’s attempts to control her life. Still, she has never been one to accept discipline imposed by others—not even someone as intriguing as her new sergeant.
Sergeant Gale Rains is accustomed to challenges, but she’s never had a recruit quite like this one. Rains surrendered much of her Sioux heritage to the Army to escape the hardships and pain of her youth. Now a drill instructor, her calm, steady manner and firm hand have molded women from all walks of life into WACs. But not one of them has ever touched her. Why should this spoiled party girl be any different?
With the whole world at war, victory is never certain as two women wage their own battles of will and desire.
Galveston 1900: Swept Away by Linda Crist
On September 7-8, 1900, the island of Galveston, Texas, was destroyed by a hurricane, or ‘tropical cyclone’, as it was called in those days. This story is a fictional account of Mattie and Rachel, two women who lived there, and their lives during the time of the ‘great storm’. Forced to flee from her family at a young age, Rachel Travis finds a home and livelihood on the island of Galveston. Independent, friendly, and yet often lonely, only one other person knows the dark secret that haunts her. Madeline “Mattie” Crockett is trapped in a loveless marriage, convinced that her fate is sealed. She never dares to dream of true happiness, until Rachel Travis comes walking into her life. As emotions come to light, the storm of Mattie’s marriage converges with the very real hurricane. Can they survive, and build the life they both dream of?
The Breath Between Waves by Charlotte Anne Hamilton
Penelope Fletcher gave up everything to board the RMS Titanic.
Forced to travel to America for her father’s new job, Penelope left her home in Scotland, her beloved grandmother, and even her girlfriend, who promptly got engaged to someone else. Heartbroken, Penelope isn’t looking forward to the weeklong journey. Or that her parents want her to find a husband in America. To make matters worse, she also has to share a cabin with a complete stranger.
Ruby Cole, her spunky Irish roommate, is unlike anyone Penelope ever met. They become fast friends as they bond over crushing family expectations and sneaking into lush parties together. That Ruby likes women, too, comes as a surprise to Penelope, but she knows their affair can only be temporary. Because as soon as the Titanic arrives in New York, Penelope will have to marry someone of her father’s choosing.
Before long, though, they’ll both have to decide what–and who–is really worth fighting for.
Once in Berlin by Jo Havens
It’s 1938 and Europe teeters on the edge of war.
In Berlin, life for Mila Nessian – genius mathematician, billionaire and womaniser – is one long party. A spot of rocket science by day, the Third Reich’s prettiest daughters by night. She knows what they whisper behind their hands – that Germany’s most dazzling mind has nothing but a calculator where her heart should be, a sliver of ice instead of soul. She smirks through yet another boring cocktail party and hopes they’re wrong.
Cecelia Balfour is dragged to Berlin by her socialite mother – and it’s the last place she wants to be. Cecelia has lost a lover and worries that her heart is too bruised to ever properly love again. To distract her, to maybe get her back in the game, her cousin at MI6 sets up a play: flirt with Mila Nessian, capture her secrets, lure her back to London.
Because what Mila is working on could steer the course of the coming war. The Nazis want her brilliance, British Secret Intelligence wants her silence, and Cecelia – once she has laughed with her, slept with her, sipped champagne on a zeppelin with her and lost her heart to her – Cecelia wants her love.
Can she win Mila’s trust and save her from the powers that control both their lives?
96 Hours by Georgia Beers
Numbers carved on the hearts of every American.
Numbers that transformed millions of lives.
Numbers that threw two women together.
Erica Ryan is flying home from London after a disastrous business trip. Free spirit Abby Hayes is flying into New York City to visit her mother before jetting off again when their flight is diverted to Gander, Newfoundland. The people of Gander are generous, and Erica and Abby are invited into a stranger’s home. It’s a simple act of kindness, and it draws the unlikely pair together.
For 96 hours Erica and Abby share a rollercoaster of emotions and eventually find themselves drawn to one another. Will their nascent connection survive everyday life when they return home?
Map of Ireland by Stephanie Grant
In 1974, when Ann Ahern begins her junior year of high school, South Boston is in crisis—Catholic mothers are blockading buses to keep Black children from the public schools, and teenagers are raising havoc in the streets. Ann, an outsider in her own Irish-American community, is infatuated with her beautiful French teacher, Mademoiselle Eugénie, who hails from Paris but is of African descent. Spurred by her adoration for Eugénie, Ann embarks on a journey that leads her beyond South Boston, through the fringes of the Black Power movement, toward love, and ultimately to the truth about herself.
In Every Port by Karin Kallmaker
Jessica has it all. An expensive condo in the city of dreams, San Francisco. A high-powered, prestigious career as a management consultant that takes her all over the country… To passionate Roberta, in Chicago. To delicious Marilyn, in San Antonio. To all those cities and all those willing women Jessica has recorded in her well-used little black book.
Sex with these women doesn’t really mean a thing, Jessica tells herself. It’s all just good times. Because she is not really a lesbian. No, of course not. Her sexual adventures are merely keeping her occupied until she decides to settle down … with a man.
Then she meets Cat, the alluring young hotel executive who lives across the hall from her new condo. What is Jessica to make of her chaotic feelings, her yearning — and yes, her deepening love — for the sensuous, captivating Cat, who offers entrancing friendship, but nothing more?
Waiting for the Violins by Justine Saracen
Antonia Forrester, an English nurse, is nearly killed while trying to save soldiers fleeing at Dunkirk. Embittered, she returns to occupied Brussels as a British spy to foment resistance to the Nazis. She works with urban partisans who sabotage deportation efforts and execute collaborators, before résistante leader Sandrine Toussaint accepts her into the Comet Line, an operation to rescue downed Allied pilots. After capture and then escape from a deportation train headed for Auschwitz, the women join the Maquis fighting in the Ardenne Forests. Passion is the glowing ember that warms them amidst the winter carnage until London radio transmits the news they’ve waited for. Huddled in the darkness, they hear the coded message, “the long sobs of the violins” signaling that the Allied Invasion is about to begin.
Two Wings to Fly Away by Penny Mickelbury
In 1856 Philadelphia, runaway slave Genie Oliver uses her dress shop as a front for her work with the Underground Railroad; and reluctant heiress Abby Read runs a rooming house not just because she hates the life of the idle rich society woman, but because she has no intention of ever marrying a man. When the daughter of Abby’s free black servant is grabbed by rogue slave catchers, an unlikely group of people come together, first out of necessity, and then, gradually, in friendship. And in the case of Abby and Genie, something much more.
The Sea Hawk by Brenda Adcock
Dr. Julia Blanchard, a marine archaeologist, and her team of divers have spent almost eighteen months excavating the remains of a ship found a few miles off the coast of Georgia. Although they learn quite a bit about the nineteenth century sailing vessel, they have found nothing that would reveal the identity of the ship they have nicknamed “The Georgia Peach.” Consumed by the excavation of the mysterious ship, Julia’s relationship with her partner, Amy, has deteriorated. When she forgets Amy’s birthday and finds her celebrating in the arms of another woman, Julia returns alone to the Peach site. Caught in a violent storm, she finds herself separated from her boat and adrift on the vast Atlantic Ocean. Her rescue at sea leads her on an unexpected journey into the true identity of the Peach and the captain and crew who called it their home. Her travels take her to the island of Martinique, the eastern Caribbean islands, the Louisiana German Coast and New Orleans at the close of the War of 1812. How had the Peach come to rest in the waters off the Georgia coast? What had become of her alluring and enigmatic captain, Simone Moreau? Can love conquer everything, even time? On a voyage that lifts her spirits and eventually breaks her heart, Julia discovers the identity of the ship she had been excavating and the fate of its crew. Along the way she also discovers the true meaning of love which can be as boundless and unpredictable as the ocean itself.
As War Goes By by Aimée
1940, England. War has a way of engineering the most unlikely encounters. When Penelope Lowes sits next to Clarissa Cartrew in the packed train, she has no idea they are both going to the same place, about which they’ve both been sworn to secrecy. Nor that her journey will take her much further than her original destination, Bletchley Park.
As World War Two wreaks havoc in the world, it also makes people grow up faster. Penelope’s initiation to love during her stint as a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force has not been the most auspicious, and if anything has made her even shyer and more gauche than before. Meanwhile, Clarissa enjoys the social scene, and does not lack admirers. She is decided to make the most of her opportunities, away from the constraints of her aristocratic background.
When Penelope – Penny – is recruited by the Special Operations Executive to become a Special Agent, she doesn’t hesitate long before agreeing. Only the thought that she may not see her friends ever again could make her waver between heart and duty – a young driver has recently shown her the power of a simple kiss, and her friendship with Clarissa is blossoming. Duty wins, and life and war go on…
No one knows what the future entails – will they get a second chance?
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