British drama Poldark returns to American airwaves on September 25, when its second season premieres on PBS’s Masterpiece. For a chance to win a CD of the unabridged audiobook Ross Poldark, the first novel in Winston Graham’s series upon which the first season of the show was based, leave a book recommendation of your own in the comments below. We’ll pick a winner at random and announce it in the comments next Friday, September 30.
For those presently immersed in Poldark and looking for similar novels, try these sagas filled with the elements we love in Poldark: noble heroes (and heroines), swashbuckling adventure, intrigue, family secrets, romance, historical detail, and a strong sense of time and place. For even more reading suggestions, head over to Masterpiece.
The Bastard, by John Jakes
Jakes’ Kent Family Chronicles celebrated the US bicentennial with a rousing saga—8 books in all—that covered US history from the 1770s to 1890. While they may be more nationalistic than Poldark, they’re filled similarly with action, adventure, and a touch of romance. Swoon-worthy and noble heroes battle villains in stories rich in intrigue and historical detail. Another plus: it was also made into a mini-series in the 1970s.
The Ravenscar Dynasty, by Barbara Taylor Bradford
Although Bradford’s intrigues take place in the boardroom rather than on Cornwall’s rugged landscape, the Deravenel Family Trilogy offers family squabbles, skirmishes for power, betrayals, and skullduggery from early twentieth century London into the twenty-first. Add interesting historical details, smoldering and illicit passion, and a handsome upright hero who must contend with enemies inside the family and without, and you have the formula for a gripping saga, albeit one without swashbuckling.
Only Time Will Tell, by Jeffrey Archer
From the Bristol docks in the 1920s to present day Whitehall, Archer’s seven-volume saga covers a vast swath of English history and chronicles the life and deeds of charismatic Harry Clifton. Politics, banking, commerce, and publishing all play roles in this dramatic, fast-paced, and intricately plotted series. Colorful characters interact with historical events and vie for power, while family secrets and intrigue drive the plot and make for compelling reading.
The Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett
While it covers a broader scope both in geography and characters than Poldark, Follett’s Century Trilogy shares a similar tone and depth as it chronicles the fates of five interrelated families–American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh–through dramatic moments in the last century. Social, political, and economic turmoil drive the interwoven family stories in tales filled with action, intrigue, betrayals, and romance set against the authentic historical background.
Sackett’s Land, by Louis L’Amour
From the English fens in 1599 to America’s western landscapes in the nineteenth century, L’Amour’s richly detailed novels chronicle the Sackett family’s adventures. Patriarch Barnabas, falsely accused of theft in England, is shanghaied on a ship headed for the American colonies. He jumps ship, rescues a young woman, and founds a dynasty. His upstanding descendants move west with the nation, valorously fighting for justice with words, fists, and guns.
The Game of Kings, by Dorothy Dunnett
Swashbuckling adventure, family drama, madcap antics, and witty dialog characterize this series starring sixteenth-century Scottish outlaw and rogue Francis Crawford of Lyman. He travels around the known world (Scotland, France, Russia, the Middle East, England) proving his prowess and true worth, while battling to gain his heritage. As does the Poldark series, the Lymond Chronicles combine insight into the politics and social conditions of the time with exciting exploits.
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
If you don’t mind a little time travel (from 1940s back to 1743, to be exact), Gabaldon’s compulsively readable (and viewable) “Outlander” series is a great next read. Nurse Claire Randall finds herself transported back 200 years to a Scotland filled with violence, danger, and revolution. She falls in love with Scottish rebel Jamie Fraser, and the two become involved in historical events in both Europe and America in this dramatic action-packed, emotion-filled tale.
Birds of Prey, by Wilbur Smith
South Africa from the 1600s through the 1980s provides fertile soil for this sweeping historical saga that follows the fortunes of the Courtney family. There is a bevy of manly heroes, cinematic adventures involving espionage, big game hunting, and battles on land and sea, as well as accurate historical details. This first title chronologically stars Englishman Sir Francis Courtney and son Hal who must disprove a charge of piracy.