What We're Reading This Weekend: Historical Fiction

01/17/2014 at 10:00 AM EST

What We're Reading This Weekend: Historical Fiction
Twelfth-century Germany, Victorian-era America, China in the 1900s: Our staffers are in the mood for some time traveling, and these three novels do the trick.

Tell us what you think of their choices – and let us know what you're reading.

What We're Reading This Weekend: Historical Fiction| What We're Reading, Amy Tan

Tatsha Robertson, Senior Editor
Her Pick: Illuminations by Mary Sharratt

Who wouldn't want to read about a ballsy 12th-century nun whose divine visions could make the most powerful evil monk shiver in his tunic?

Sharratt offers up a mesmerizing reimagining of the true story of Hildegard von Bingen, probably the most famous nun of the Middle Ages. Expected to live in quiet submission as a bride of Christ under Benedictine rule, she ended up being a fierce advocate for women and the downtrodden. I'm rooting for her all the way.

What We're Reading This Weekend: Historical Fiction| What We're Reading, Amy Tan

Julie Farin, Senior Public Relations Manager
Her Pick: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Edgar Allan Poe's macabre life and mysterious death at age 40 continues to fascinate (in fact, the Morgan Library in Manhattan is just finishing up an exhibition that explores the poet's works and influence). This haunting novel traces the love triangle involving Poe, Frances Sargent Osgood (a poet deserted by her philandering husband), and Poe's deathly ill wife. Such fun.

What We're Reading This Weekend: Historical Fiction| What We're Reading, Amy Tan

Christine Ramage, Managing Photo Editor
Her Pick: The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

As a person who cried all the way through The Joy Luck Club, I knew I would "enjoy" Tan's latest novel. Set primarily in Chinese courtesan houses in Shanghai in the early 1900s, it's the story of incredibly strong women who struggle to live first-class lives as second-class citizens.

The writing, rich with visual detail, immediately had me engrossed in the characters' sometimes shocking but also incredibly romantic lives. I can't put it down!

Check back every week for another round of staff picks, and see more book reviews each week in PEOPLE magazine, on newsstands now. Plus, check out last week's coming-of-age novels and more great book finds here.

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