Young Adult Historical Novels: Nineteenth Century Europe


19th Century Man O' War Ship

Nineteenth century Europe offers the excitement of shipwrecks, adventure on the high seas and the pursuit of criminals through the murky streets of London.

It also offers the thrill of romance. Aristocrats displayed their teenage daughters in magnificent ball gowns during a summer season of lavish parties devoted to finding them wealthy and well-connected husbands. Naturally, the girls didn't always fall in love with the men their parents wanted them to marry.

In nineteenth-century Europe, the rich could be very rich indeed and the poor so poor they often turned to crime rather than starve. Many young people struggled with hunger and the death of loved ones during the Irish Potato Famine. Some novels mix social themes like these with adventure and/or romance, so if you don't find what you're looking for in one category, it's worth checking the others, too.

19th Century Pink Dress
Abbreviations for Awards and Honors:

ALANCB = American Library Association Notable Children's Book
BBYA = An American Library Association "Best Books for Young Adults" pick
CM = Carnegie Medal
CMH = Carnegie Medal Honor Book
IBBY = International Board on Books for Young People Honour Book
JFA = Josette Frank Award
NA = Newbery Award
SOA = Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction


Jump to:

The British and Irish: Adventure
The British and Irish: Mysteries
The British and Irish: Romance
The British and Irish: Other Themes
Continental Europe and Iceland


The British and Irish: Adventure

Click on the title for more information from Powell's Books or another online source, or if you're outside the U.S., try The Book Depository.


Avi, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1990), about a thirteen-year-old girl, the only passenger on a ship sailing from England to Rhode Island in 1802, who is caught in the middle when the crew mutinies. Recommended for ages 10-12.

Avi, The Escape from Home (1996), about two Irish peasants, a fifteen-year-old girl and a twelve-year-old boy, who join with a wealthy lord's eleven-year-old son and try to gain passage on a ship sailing to America; #1 in the Beyond the Western Sea series. BBYA.

Avi, Lord Kirkle's Money (1996), about three Irish friends on a difficult journey to America; #2 in the Beyond the Western Sea series.


Linda Collison, Star-Crossed (2006), about a sixteen-year-old British girl who stows away on a ship sailing to Barbados so that she can attempt to claim her rightful inheritance and is attracted to both the surgeon's mate and the bosun's mate. Recommended for ages 14-17.

Catherine Jinks, How to Catch a Bogle (2013), a supernatural tale about a ten-year-old orphan who works as a lure for monsters in her job as apprentice to a bogle-catcher. Recommended for ages 9-12.


Iain Lawrence, The Wreckers (1999), about a fourteen-year-old boy who survives a shipwreck only to find himself in worse danger after he is washed ashore on the Cornish coast; #1 in the High Seas trilogy.

Iain Lawrence, The Smugglers (1999), about a sixteen-year-old boy and his father who discover the captain and crew of their newly purchased ship are dangerous criminals; #2 in the High Seas triology. BBYA.

Iain Lawrence, The Buccaneers (2001), about a seventeen-year-old sailor who helps to rescue a man adrift in a lifeboat and then discovers the man may be a danger to the ship; #3 in the High Seas trilogy.


Carolyn Meyer, The True Adventures of Charley Darwin (2009), about young naturalist Charles Darwin and his voyage around the world on the Beagle. Recommended for ages 12-17.

Michael Morpurgo, Twist of Gold (1983), about an Irish brother and sister who travel to America in search of their father. Recommended for ages 9-14.

Kenneth Oppel, This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein (2011), about a teen who tries to concoct a forbidden Elixir of Life to save his desperately ill twin brother; inspired by Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein. Recommended for ages 12 and up.


Showell Styles, Midshipman Quinn (1956), about a fifteen-year-old boy who serves as a midshipman in the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars; #1 in the Septimus Quinn series. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Showell Styles, Quinn of the Fury (1958), about a young British naval officer in command of a captured French brig and his adventures in the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars; #2 in the Septimus Quinn series. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Showell Styles, Midshipman Quinn and Denise the Spy (1961; also titled Midshipman Quinn Wins Through), about a young British naval officer during the Battle of Cape Santa Maria off the Portuguese coast in the Napoleonic Wars; #3 in the Septimus Quinn series. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Showell Styles, Quinn at Trafalgar (1965), about a fifteen-year-old boy who serves as a midshipman in the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars; #4 in the Septimus Quinn series. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Showell Styles, The Midshipman Quinn Collection (1999), a collection of all four Midshipman Quinn novels in a single volume. Recommended for ages 9-12.


E.V. Thompson, Cassie (1991), about a sixteen-year-old pregnant Cornish girl who goes to Spain in search of her lover, a soldier with Wellington's army.


Eleanor Updale, Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? (2004), about a petty thief in Victorian England who begins a new life after he injured, caught by the police and sent to jail; #1 in the Montmorency series. BBYA.

Eleanor Updale, Montmorency on the Rocks (2005), about a former petty thief who returns to London, where he is tempted to return to his old life of crime; #2 in the Montmorency series.

Eleanor Updale, Montmorency and the Assassins: Master, Criminal, Spy? (2006), about a former petty thief who learns of a murderous conspiracy and must call on the help of someone he despises in order to catch the criminals; #3 in the Montmorency series.

Eleanor Updale, Montmorency's Revenge (2007), about a former petty thief who finds that his public duties conflict with his mission of revenge against a killer; #4 in the Montmorency series.


Patricia C. Wrede, Mairelon the Magician (1991), historical fantasy about a girl in Regency London who disguises herself as a boy to survive as a street thief, and a wizard pretending to be a stage magician who offers to make her his assistant. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Patricia C. Wrede, The Magician's Ward (1997), historical fantasy about an apprentice to a magician who must find out who has stolen her master's supernatural powers; sequel to Mairelon the Magician. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, Sorcery and Cecelia (1988), historical fantasy written in the form of letters exchanged by two girls, one having her debutante season in London, the other stuck at home, who become involved in a magicians' feud.

Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, The Grand Tour (2004), historical fantasy about two cousins from England who go to the Continent for their honeymoons with their new husbands and encounter a conspiracy to take over Europe with magic.

Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, The Mislaid Magician (2006), historical fantasy about two young mothers who discover that England's new network of railways is causing damage to the country's ancient underground magic.


The British and Irish: Mysteries

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Alyxandra Harvey, Haunting Violet (2011), about a fraudulent medium's daughter who begins seeing real ghosts, including a girl who wants her killer found and brought to justice. Review

Y.S. Lee, A Spy in the House (2010), about a London girl rescued from the gallows, trained in detective work and sent to a wealthy household to track down some missing cargo ships; #1 in the Agency trilogy. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Y.S. Lee, The Body at the Tower (2010), about a London girl trained in detective work who is sent to investigate a murder while disguised as a boy apprentice; #2 in the Agency trilogy. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Michaela MacColl, Always Emily (2014), a mystery in which the young Brontë sisters Charlotte and Emily investigate a series of burglaries and a neighbor's death, as a mysterious stranger arrives on the moors. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Sarah MacLean, The Season (2009), a mystery/romance about a seventeen-year-old girl who tries to help an earl's son find out the truth behind his father's death, while her mother tries to find her a rich and respectable husband.


Philip Pullman, The Ruby in the Smoke (1985), about an orphaned London girl who must learn the truth about a missing ruby before the criminals searching for it track her down; #1 in the Sally Lockhart mystery series. Review

Philip Pullman, The Shadow in the North (1989), about a young woman whose financial consulting business draws her into a mystery when one of her clients loses a fortune; #2 in the Sally Lockhart mystery series.

Philip Pullman, The Tiger in the Well (1990), about a young woman whose life is up-ended when a stranger shows up claiming to be the father of her child; #3 in the Sally Lockhart mystery series.

Philip Pullman, The Tin Princess (1994), about a London girl, once impoverished and abused, who marries the prince of a small European country and soon finds herself queen and in desperate danger; #4 in the Sally Lockhart mystery series.


Tarun Shanker, These Vicious Masks (2016), about a girl searching for her missing sister in Victorian London with the aid of a dashing gentleman, where she discovers that she and her sister may have supernatural abilities; #1 in a forthcoming series.


The British and Irish: Romance

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Meg Cabot, Nicola and the Viscount (2002), about a sixteen-year-old who is certain she wants to marry a handsome, wealthy viscount until another man questions his character.

Meg Cabot, Victoria and the Rogue (2003), about a sixteen-year-old heiress who has grown up in India and, when sent to England to find a husband, becomes engaged to an earl while still aboard ship on her way there.

Marissa Doyle, Bewitching Season (2008), historical fantasy about seventeen-year-old twin girls who feel differently about their debut season in London, but are both alarmed when the governess who teaches them magic is kidnapped in a plot against Princess Victoria. Recommended for ages 14 and up.

Marissa Doyle, Betraying Season (2009), historical fantasy about a girl who, wanting to prove herself as good a magician as her twin, travels to Ireland to study magic, where a handsome young man pays court to her on his mother's orders; sequel to Bewitching Season. Recommended for ages 14 and up.

Marthe Jocelyn, Folly (2010), about a fifteen-year-old country girl who goes to work as a maid in London, the friend who introduces her to an all-too-handsome young man, and a six-year-old boy sent to a foundling home. Recommended for ages 14 and up.

Lynne Kositsky, Rebecca's Flame (1999), about a Jewish girl and a Catholic boy from Ireland who migrate to Canada during the Potato Famine.

Regina Scott, La Petite Four (2008), about a sixteen-year-old girl unhappy about her rushed engagement to an aristocrat she doesn't trust, which will cause her to miss the ball she and her friends have been eagerly anticipating.

Kathryn Smith, Anna and the Duke (2001), a romance about a young woman engaged to the son of a wealthy duke who discovers that her fiancé is scheming against his stepbrother, the real heir. Recommended for ages 14 and up.

Kathryn Smith, Emily and the Scot (2002), a romance about an eighteen-year-old girl who leaves for Scotland rather than face gossip during her London season. Recommended for ages 14 and up.

Kirsty White, The Wildest Dream (1998), about an Irish girl who falls in love with a poor boy during the Potato Famine.


The British and Irish: Other Themes

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Donna Baker, The End of the Rainbow (1998), about a Welsh girl searching for her grandmother in London in the 1860s.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted, The Education of Bet (2010), about a sixteen-year-old girl in Victorian England who wants to go to school and switches places with a boy who would prefer to join the military. Recommended for ages 12 and up.


Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty (2003), about a rebellious sixteen-year-old girl in Victorian England who encounters a supernatural mystery at the finishing school she is sent to after her mother dies; #1 in the Gemma Doyle trilogy. BBYA.

Libba Bray, Rebel Angels (2005), historical fantasy about a girl and her friends at a Victorian finishing school who must resist the temptations of London society and travel into an alternate realm on a mission of restoration; #2 in the Gemma Doyle trilogy.

Libba Bray, The Sweet, Far Thing (2007), historical fantasy about a girl and her friends on the verge of leaving their Victorian finishing school to enter society who also have responsibilities in an alternate realm; #3 in the Gemma Doyle trilogy.


Helen Frost, The Braid (2006), a story told in the form of braided poems written by two sisters who are separated when one leaves Scotland to try to find a better life in Canada. BBYA.

Patricia Reilly Giff, Nory Ryan's Song (2000), about a twelve-year-old girl who must take care of her younger brother during the Irish Potato Famine. BBYA.

Linda Holeman, Search of the Moon King's Daughter (2002), about a girl who goes to London to rescue her younger brother after her mother, a laudanum addict, sells him into service as a chimney sweep. BBYA.

Mary Hooper, Fallen Grace (2011), about an orphaned girl in 1861 London who must look after her simple-minded elder sister and accepts work as a paid mourner at the funerals of the well-to-do. Review at Rebecca's Book Blog

Marie-Louise Jensen, Between Two Seas (2008), about a girl from Grimsby, England, who travels to Skagen, Denmark, in the late 1800s, searching for her long-lost father.

Eileen Kernaghan, Wild Talent (2008), about a Scottish farm girl with mysterious powers who flees to London, is introduced to Madame Blavatsky's theosophist salon, and later discovers the Paris of artists, anarchists and esoteric cults.

Michaela MacColl, Prisoners in the Palace (2010), about a sixteen-year-old girl who accepts employment as a lady's maid for England's Princess Victoria. Recommended for ages 12 and up.


Marita Conlon McKenna,
Under the Hawthorne Tree (1990), about three Irish children who must fend for themselves during the Potato Famine after the father leaves to find work and doesn't come back and the mother goes to find him; #1 in the Children of Famine trilogy. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Marita Conlon McKenna, Wildflower Girl (1991), about a thirteen-year-old Irish girl orphaned in the Potato Famine who travels to America and becomes a servant for a wealthy Boston family; #2 in the Children of Famine trilogy. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Marita Conlon McKenna, Fields of Home (1997), a continuation of the story begun in Under the Hawthorne Tree of three siblings who have lived through the Irish Potato Famine; #3 in the Children of Famine trilogy. Recommended for ages 9-12.


Nicola Morgan, Fleshmarket (2004), about a boy whose quest for revenge on the surgeon he believes killed his mother takes him into the world of the men who sell dead bodies for medical research. BBYA.

Kirsty Murray, Bridie's Fire (2005), about a girl who travels to Australia after her family dies during the Irish Potato Famine. Recommended for ages 9-13.

Kate Pennington, Brief Candle (2004), about the fourteen-year-old Emily Brontë, who would one day write the classic novel Wuthering Heights.

Caroline Pignat, Greener Grass (2009), about a fifteen-year-old Irish girl who loses her job and her home during the Potato Famine.

Caroline Pignat, Wild Geese (2010), about an Irish who travel to America on a "coffin ship" with the boy she loves so she can search for her family; sequel to Greener Grass.

Staton Rabin, Betsy and the Emperor (2004), about a fourteen-year-old English girl who lives on the island of St. Helena with her family when Napoleon Bonaparte is sent there as a prisoner. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Ann Rinaldi, Mutiny’s Daughter (2004), a novel which imagines what the daughter of a Polynesian woman and Fletcher Christian, who led the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789, might have experienced as a fourteen-year-old in England.


E.V. Thompson, Ben Retallick (1980), about a young Cornish tin miner searching for his true love; #1 in the Retallick Saga.

E.V. Thompson, Chase the Wind (1977), about a young Cornish tin miner and his love for the wild daughter of an alcoholic; #2 in the Retallick Saga.

E.V. Thompson, Harvest of the Sun (1978), about a young Cornish tin miner and his sweetheart who are being sent to Australia as convicts when their ship wrecks on the coast of South Africa; #3 in the Retallick Saga.

E.V. Thompson, Singing Spears (1982), about a Cornish family in South Africa as war breaks out between the white settlers and African natives; #4 in the Retallick Saga.

E.V. Thompson, The Stricken Land (1986), about two young men during the Boer War in 1899; #5 in the Retallick Saga.

E.V. Thompson, Lottie Trago (1990), about a couple who return to Cornwall from Africa in 1864; #6 in the Retallick Saga.

E.V. Thompson, Ruddlemoor (1995), about the son of a couple who take over a china clay works in Cornwall; #7 in the Retallick Saga.

E.V. Thompson, Fires of Evening (1998), about a Cornish couple and their grandson in 1913 as the First World War begins; #8 in the Retallick Saga.

E.V. Thompson, Brothers in War (2006), about a young South African man sent on a secret expedition from Capetown to Lake Tanganyika in 1915 during the First World War; #9 in the Retallick Saga.

E.V. Thompson, The Restless Sea (1983), about smugglers on the Cornish coast in 1810; #1 in the Jagos of Cornwall Saga; also available along with the story Becky in Becky and The Restless Sea.

E.V. Thompson, Polrudden (1985), about a Cornish fisherman who rescues a French boy from a shipwreck; #2 in the Jagos of Cornwall Saga.

E.V. Thompson, Mistress of Polrudden (1993), about a young woman who arrives expecting to take a position as governess for a Cornish family; #3 in the Jagos of Cornwall Saga.


Jill Paton Walsh, Grace (1991), about Grace Darling, a lighthouse keeper's daughter who helped rescue survivors of an 1838 shipwreck off the British coast and then became a celebrity against her wishes. Recommended for ages 12 and up.


Jennie Walters, House of Secrets (2005), about a fourteen-year-old girl who is pleased to become a housemaid for an aristocratic family, until she uncovers a tragic secret; #1 in the Swallowcliffe Hall trilogy.

Jennie Walters, Standing in the Shadows (2006), about a kitchen maid in 1914 whose world changes dramatically with the beginning of the First World War; #2 in the Swallowcliffe Hall trilogy.

Jennie Walters, Shelter from the Storm (2007), about a girl who is sent to stay with her grandmother, a housekeeper at a manor, and tries to help a German refugee as a second war with Germany threatens to break out; #3 in the Swallowcliffe Hall trilogy.


Continental Europe and Iceland

Click on the title for more information from Powell's Books or another online source, or if you're outside the U.S., try The Book Depository.


Tony Cliff, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (2013), a graphic novel about a nineteenth-century Turkish official whose quiet life is disrupted by a young woman with a daredevil plan to rob the sultan. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Allan W. Eckert, The Great Auk (1963; also titled The Last Great Auk), a novel about the life of last great auk known to exist, which died in the mid-nineteenth century. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

Jessica Day George, Princess of the Midnight Ball (2009), a romantic tale about a German soldier who, at war's end, finds work as a gardener at the royal palace and is called on to rescue the twelve princesses by breaking the enchantment they are under; based on the Grimm's fairy tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." BBYA.

Jessica Day George, Princess of Glass (2010), a romantic tale about a German princess sent to Brittany, where a maidservant enchanted by a wicked fairy is her rival for the prince she loves; sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball.

Josef Holub, An Innocent Soldier (2005), about a sixteen-year-old farmhand and his experiences as a soldier during Napoleon's ill-fated invasion of Russia. BBYA. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Eileen Kernaghan, The Snow Queen (2000), historical fantasy about a middle-class girl and a pagan shaman's daughter in Denmark who end up traveling together into the far north on a rescue mission; a retelling of a Hans Christian Anderson story. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Gladys Malvern, Stephanie (1956), about a niece of Josephine Bonaparte who grows up in poverty until Josephine summons her to Paris, sends her to a finishing school, and brings her to Napoleon's court.

Carolyn Meyer, Marie, Dancing (2005), about a fourteen-year-old ballet dancer in the Paris Opera who models for the artist Edgar Degas.

Mette Newth, The Dark Light (1998), about a thirteen-year-old Norwegian girl sent to a leper colony after she falls ill with leprosy. Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Suzy Vitello, The Empress Chronicles (2014), about a present-day Oregon girl with OCD who has to go live on her father's goat farm, where she finds a diary written 150 years earlier by Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria.


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