I was finally lured into trying one of Georgette Heyer's Regency books by seeing rave reviews of this one from what seemed like my entire online acquaintance. The Grand Sophy did not disappoint: it's an entirely delightfully witty, madcap romantic comedy. Read my review here.
Thorofare by Christopher Morley
The Third Man by Graham Greene
Written specifically to serve as the source material for the screenplay of the excellent 1949 film, this novella has comparatively less material, but it's definitely worth reading for its crisp storytelling and wry wit, and its slightly different angle on the story through the medium of fiction. I actually read it through twice. If you've seen the movie and liked it, you'll probably enjoy the way the book complements it, as I did.
Until That Distant Day by Jill Stengl
Here is that rare thing, at least in my experience—a recently-written historical novel that completely captivated me. Though it's billed as historical romance (and there are satisfying touches of love interest involved in the plot) this is more a story of a family, a sister and brothers struggling to survive and preserve their relationships with each other as they are pulled different ways by the tumult of the French Revolution. Extremely well-written and very hard to put down!
The Winslow Boy by Terence Rattigan
A play, not a novel—I seem to have read quite a lot of plays this year (more on that in my year-end roundup). I saw the 1999 movie years back and liked it, but reading the play impressed me even more. The characters and the pre-WWI setting are alive on the page, the play itself an absorbing and thought-provoking study of justice and the cost of standing for conviction. I ended up reading this one twice, too. Find my (short) Goodreads review here.
Pastoral by Nevil Shute
Plenilune by Jennifer Freitag
Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris
Rabble in Arms by Kenneth Roberts
This is detailed, excellently-written, fascinating historical fiction, based around Burgoyne's invasion from Canada and the campaigns leading up to the Battle of Saratoga during the Revolutionary War. I couldn't believe how much history I learned that I'd never had a clue about before (full-scale naval battles on Lake Champlain, anyone?), especially since I've walked over some of the very ground where it took place.
Pendragon's Heir by Suzannah Rowntree
This one is slated for publication in 2015, but I read an advance version of it in 2014 and it definitely belongs on my best-of list—I literally couldn't put it down all day. A splendid historical fantasy and fascinating twist on Arthurian legend—you're going to want to keep an eye out for this one. As a matter of fact, you can check back here on Saturday the 20th for an announcement of the release date!
A good half of this list I acquired via library; The Grand Sophy and Until That Distant Day I bought on Kindle, while for Plenilune as well as Pendragon's Heir I was fortunate enough to be an advance reader! Thorofare, meanwhile, was an impulse purchase of an out-of-print used book which really paid off.
Previous years' top-ten lists: 2011, 2012, 2013.