The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill
Despite the restrictions of her 19th-century Quaker community, 24-year-old amateur astronomer Hannah Price searches the skies above Nantucket with her telescope each night in the hope of discovering a new comet. Her father expects her to marry (and soon!), but Hannah only cares about astronomy — until she meets Isaac Martin, a black sailor from the Azores who asks Hannah to teach him the science of navigation. Although Hannah’s staunchly abolitionist neighbors condemn slavery, they do not recognize racial equality, which presents considerable obstacles to Hannah and Isaac’s relationship. Loosely based on the life of Maria Mitchell, the first American woman to become a professional astronomer, The Movement of Stars is a thought-provoking and dramatic story about breaking down boundaries of gender and race.
Fever by Mary Beth Keane
In 1883, Irish immigrant Mary Mallon arrives in New York to pursue her dream of becoming a cook. Success seems within reach when she’s hired by a wealthy Manhattan family, but quickly recedes when her employers fall violently ill. She flees, but the pattern repeats itself and the death toll rises until the New York Department of Health catches up to her. As an asymptomatic carrier of salmonella typhi, the strain of bacteria responsible for typhoid fever, Mary appears healthy but is capable of infecting others. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary,” the city’s notorious patient zero is placed under quarantine and spends the rest of her life alternately campaigning for her freedom and, despite the danger to all involved, attempting to return to the work she loves.
The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh
Left destitute after her father’s death, 19-year-old Frances Irvine has little choice but to marry her cousin, Dr. Edwin Matthews, and accompany him to South Africa. Although she only knows Edwin well enough to realize that she doesn’t like him, she accepts his proposal and travels to Cape Town. En route, she meets dashing diamond smuggler William Westbrook, with whom she embarks on a passionate shipboard affair — an interlude that will haunt her as she begins a slow, painful transition from spoiled girl to mature woman. With its dramatic plot and a richly detailed African setting serving as a lush backdrop for its protagonist’s journey of self-discovery, The Fever Tree may appeal to fans of Lauren Willig’s The Ashford Affair or Deanna Raybourn’s A Spear of Summer Grass.