The Fresh Fiction Podcast

Conversations about what you’re reading, what you’re watching, and what you’re listening to

Fancy Dresses and Learning Stuff: Pop Culture Historicals (Interview with Vanessa Riley)

Posted on May 5th, 2021


Checking In!

Is Gwen a scammer now? She learned how to use OfferUp!

Danielle is sleepy because of rainy weather.

Deep Dive: Pop Culture Historicals

Gwen and Danielle are OBSESSED with costume dramas and historical fiction and romance. We’re not sorry about it at all, nor are we sorry about how much fun you’re going to have when you watch these shows and movies or read these books.

Danielle mentioned a monthly romance blogger twitter chat, hosted by @readRchat. Historicals and Fairy Tales come up a lot!

Gwen’s Gateway Historicals: Anne of Green Gables, Road to Avonlea, Little Women, Pride & Prejudice

Gwen’s Sexy Historicals: North and South, The Serpent’s Kiss, Dangerous Liaisons, Washington Square, The Favorite, The Great

Gwen’s Modern/More Recent Historicals: Velvet Goldmine, Never Let Me Go (sorta), Lovecraft Country, Watchmen (THEM is a new show on Amazon), The Crown

Gwen’s Biopics: Chaplin, Rocketman, What’s Love Got to Do with It, Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (we also digressed a bit about the recent Chadwick Boseman episode of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour for their thought-provoking commentary on why biopic performances work so well but the movies don’t always pan out).

Danielle hasn’t met an Austen and Little Women adaptation she doesn’t love: Emma 2020, Mansfield Park 1999, P&P 2005; LW 1994 and 2019. Special shout out to Clueless (which is sort of a historical film now, LOL to mask our tears)—the best adaptation of Emma to date.

Danielle is trash for anything related to the War of the Roses and Tudor England: The White Queen, The White Princess, The Tudors, and Game of Thrones

Danielle is here for PRETTY historicals: Downton Abbey (and most Masterpiece historical dramas), Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, Harlots

Danielle recommends “literary” shows, too: Dickinson (VERY anachronistic), Lovecraft Country/HBO, Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Julie and The Great Gatsby (even Moulin Rouge!, too), Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina

Danielle has a TON of historical romance recommendations!

Beverly Jenkin’s does such a phenomenal job with American history and Black history, portraying the hard things people went through but also showing how joyful their lives could be—she spoke about this on NPR with Karen Grigbsy Bates. TEMPEST is among D’s favorites, but you can’t go wrong with any of Ms. Bev’s books.

Alyssa Cole’s Loyal League series is about Black spies for the Union army.

For regency romances, Danielle turns to authors like Tessa Dare, Olivia Drake, Sarah MacLean, and Vanessa Riley!

In terms of historical fiction, Danielle still gravitates to stories with romantic elements. Chanel Cleeton’s Perez Family Saga set during the rise of Castro and the Cuban Revolution. Her book NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA was a Reese Witherspoon book club pick. It’s also based on her family’s history!

Gwen loves a true classic of the historical romance genre: Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels. For historical fiction, she enjoys Phillipa Gregory!


Recs from Vanessa:

Here’s a photo from Vanessa’s Instagram that shows her amazing IKEA Bookshelves (something similar to Vanessa’s shelves can be found here)

You don’t have to read Book 1, A DUKE, THE LADY, AND A BABY, to follow along with AN EARL, THE GIRL, AND A TODDLER, but Vanessa recommends it for better insight with some of the references in Book2.

Vanessa’s website is a treasure trove of information about her historical research!

Learn more about Dorothy “Doll” Kirwan Thomas ahead of the release of ISLAND QUEEN this July.

Look for *major announcements* coming soon! Vanessa also shared that she has a new historical fiction novel, SISTER MOTHER WARRIOR, about the women who shaped the Haitian Revolution.

For more about Vanessa, go to, sign up for her newsletter, and follow her on the socials: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.


Goals/Comfort & Joy

Danielle’s wants to re-read all of Jane Austen this summer! This goal is inspired by the Jane Austen & Co. Race and the Regency webinars. Ibi Zoboi discussed remixing the regency and her YA P&P retelling PRIDE; Dr. Tricia Matthew (who wrote a very detailed review for Bridgerton in the LA Review of Books) talked about abolition and racism tied to Wedgewood china, and so many others. Recordings are available on the Jane Austen Co’s website:

Gwen is going to move for to move for 30+ minutes a day, perhaps while listening to the Newcomers podcast with Lauren Lapkiss and Nicole Byer which is tackling Tyler Perry’s oeuvre this season; also lighting a candle every day helps her set a routine and signal to her brain to start working!  


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