Say Oui to Paris: 13 Favorite Historical Novels Set in France

Paris, Eiffel TowerParis is a city of artistic inspiration for writers, painters, and dreamers alike. Is it any wonder why legions of literary folks have succumbed to her beauty? Some of the world’s most cherished books are set in Paris, or other parts of France; in fact, an earlier post on favorite novels set in France has been one of the most popular articles here on the blog. This second feature covers historical fiction — classics and new books alike.

Most travellers agree that Paris deserves a return trip. In fact, each time I travel to France, I fall in love just a little bit more. The same could be said for many places I love to visit, but France holds a special place in my heart due to the work I’ve done in perfumery and the books I’ve written about it.

For this return to the literary shelves I gathered books readers have recommended. And yes, keep those recommendations coming…

Historical Novels Set in France

On this list you’ll find beloved classics as well as new historical fiction. Soon I’ll post a list for contemporary books set in France (fabulous new novels), and still another for nonfiction (cooking, wine, and style), so stay tuned. Better yet, follow along so you won’t miss a thing.

As I writer, I solemnly promise to uphold this literary tradition (someone has to travel to Paris to write, n’est-ce pas?). France and French culture seeps into many of my writings, from perfumery, to fashion, to art. Be sure to sign up on my mailing list — my next book will whisk you back to Paris, too, naturellement. Plus, you’ll discover one of my favorite hotels in Paris….

For those of you who are new to this lively discussion, check out the first list of books set in France, too. Don’t forget to add your favorite nonfiction or novels set in France to the comment section, too. And now, in no particular order, your fellow readers’ favorites:


The Perfume Collector: A Novel by Kathleen Tessaro

 The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay

 Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell

Paris: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd

 The Invisible Bridge  by Julie Orringer

 The Age of Desire: A Novel by Jennie Fields

Paris Requiem




Paris Requiem by Lisa Appignanesi


 The Paris Architect: A Novel by Charles Belfoure

 A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition by Ernest Hemingway

 Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind

 Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (and Les Misérables, the movie starring Hugh Jackman)

Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War by Jennifer Robson

Escape from Paris by Carolyn Hart







31 thoughts on “Say Oui to Paris: 13 Favorite Historical Novels Set in France

  1. Oh my, do NOT miss Angelique! The penultimate set in France historical novel! And don’t let the title or cover fool you. I think it was published in the 60s so it is out of print but you can easily find it. I stole it from mom’s bookshelf back in the day and never gave it back. It’s the reason I am independent. It’s the reason I went to Versailles. It’s the reason I learned to speak French. You know, the first book you ever fall madly in love with – how you can’t get over it, even if it isn’t the literary novel of a lifetime? That’s what that novel was to me.

  2. Hi Jan. Please don’t forget to add Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” set in the heart of the French Revolution. One of my favorite love stories. Possibly even better than “Les Miserables” which I also love. Both have brilliant social commentary that puts the stories in perspective.

    • These are certainly wonderful additions! So glad you reminded me. Be sure to grab your copy of Say Oui to Paris: 35 Best Books Set in France, if you haven’t already. Glad you joined us here 🙂

  3. Cheri and The Last of Cheri by Colette! Gide’s The Counterfeiters. The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson. The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose. Judith Rock’s wonderful mystery series, starting with The Rhetoric of Death. Moi aussi – Floats the Dark Shadow, with painters, poets, occultists and a serial killer.

  4. Hi Jan. Offhand I can think of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (set in northern France); Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris and Ninety-Three; Emile Zola’s Nana, La Curee (The Kill) and L’Assommoir (all set in Paris); Honore de Balzac’s Eugenie Grandet and Pere Goriot; Simone de Beauvoir’s The Mandarins and Wartime Diary.

  5. Good to read your list. May I mention another French historical?
    “Elegant writing, excellent research, ripe with the intrigue, passion and danger of the best historical novels” – Elizabeth Buchan wrote in the Sunday Times, reviewing “The Mirror Makers,” by Clare Colvin. It’s set in the court of the Sun King against the background of the building of the palace of Versailles, and features an early case of industrial espionage.

  6. I am looking forward to The Cleaner of Chartres: A Novel by Salley Vickers : An ancestor Abbe Sieyes accompanied the vicar general there where he eventually became a canon of the cathedral and chancellor of the diocese of Chartres. Sieyes was eventually made a Count by Napoleon. We are descended from his brother Felix. How cool is that? Also I just bought A Paris Apartment – dreaming of the movie!

    • Hello Marguerite! Sounds like you have a great reading line-up. And…I just noticed that you joined our email club for updates — welcome! Hope you enjoy our free gift, Say Oui to Paris: 35 Best Books Set in France. Great getting to know you 🙂

  7. I just downloaded Say Oui to Paris – what a wonderful list. I’ve read many of these books and have a few more on my “to be read” shelf, but I’m always looking for more titles. Thank you. I have one more to suggest, Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland, which tells the story of Renoir’s famous painting. Seeing his painting in the Musée d’Orsay a few years ago was a highlight of my visit to Paris.

    • Faye, what a wonderful addition to the list, thank you! The Musée d’Orsay is one of my favorite museums in Paris, and I recall the painting quite well. I’ll certainly add it to my reading list, too!

  8. Thanks for the list Jan! I’ve just finished Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris. The setting is a small town in the Loire, mostly during WWII occupation. I’m looking forward to reading a few from your list.

  9. I just discovered that my ancestors on my maternal grandfather’s side were living in France in the 1600’s. Would love to read an historical novel set in that time period. Any suggestions?

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