If you’re a millennial and you’re anything like me as a romance reader, then you can probably draw a straight line from your days reading the Meet Samantha and Meet Addy to the days of reading Joanna Shupe and Beverley Jenkins.
After all, as the American Girl Doll credo says, we must “look to the past, learn for the future,” and what better way than reading and studying the internal lives of women in our past? In historical romances, like in the American Girl Doll books, readers connect with strong-willed, dimensional, and relatable heroines through the ages. We love seeing brilliant women through history finding their happy endings, whether that’s in the arms of a Duke (in historical romances) or celebrating the end of a war or saving a baby goat (in American Girl Doll books)!
So, whether you were a Felicity Stan or Josefina fanatic, here are some recommendations based on your favorite American Girl doll! Happy reading and if you have any American Girl Doll-inspired recs for us, shout them out on twitter @onfrolic and @writeralys!
Love Kaya? Try Shadows Cast By Stars by Catherine Knutsson!
Reading Kaya books were always rich experiences because you weren’t just reading about a girl and her stories, but the stories of her ancestors, tribe, and people. If you loved this rich storytelling history and the fierce Kaya, then you’ll love Shadows Cast by Stars by #ownvoices author Catherine Knutsson! While this isn’t set in the same time period as Kaya, this dystopian romance is sure to make you root for the heroine, Cassandra, as she races to save her people from the abuse of the government.
Love Felicity? Try The Forbidden Lady by Kerrelyn Sparks!
Hamilton fans, rise up! If you loved Felicity’s covert anti-Monarchy actions, her fiery spirit, her fight for her independence and her serious Horse Girl vibes, then you simply must check out The Forbidden Lady by Kerrilyn Sparks! This Revolutionary War-set romance is filled with the drama, intrigue and fights against injustice!
Love Josefina? Try Dueling the Desperado by Mimi Milan
One of the best things about Josefina as a character was her love of healing — not only the wounds of others, but her own wounds as well. In the fantastic Dueling the Desperado by Mimi Milan, the heroine Araceli flees a horrific event from her past and fights to find her own peace and love in beautiful California, with the help of the mysterious cowboy Michael. The way the headstrong and compassionate Araceli navigates her trauma and finds hope and love in spite of it makes this romance shine, and is perfect for fans of Josefina!
Love Kirsten? Try Before the Dawn by Beverly Jenkins
Kirsten’s story was always marked by her resilience. As an immigrant searching for a new life out on the pioneering western territories of the United States, she has a lot in common with the heroine of Beverly Jenkins’ Before the Dawn, who travels west in search of a new, better life, and finds love in the arms of the willful Ryder. If you loved Kirsten’s determination, grit, and perseverance, you’ll love Before the Dawn!
Love Addy? Try Go With Your Heart by Savannah J. Frierson
As an escaped slave trying to navigate life in the “Free” North, Addy’s stories were always marked by the strong belief she had in herself and her inner voice, rather than in the systems that governed the world. Similarly, Savannah J. Frierson’s heroine, Shiloh, in Go With Your Heart lives these values as she tries to make a new life for herself as a free woman…and choose between the soldier who helped free her and the town doctor who might be falling in love with her…
Love Samantha? Try A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden!
Samantha’s stories were all about Social Justice. Her concerns about child labor and the conditions in sweatshops in New York taught young readers about the importance of using your voice for what is right. In A Daring Venture, Elizabeth Camden creates a heroine who will stop at nothing in the pursuit of justice for the underserved people of New York. A perfect read for any Samantha stans who want to get swept away to the turn of the century!
Love Kit? Try A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott!
Kit Kitteridge’s big dreams of being a reporter inspired countless young girls (including me!) to let their voices and their stories be heard. In A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott, our heroine dreams of being a Hollywood screenwriter during the glamorous 1930’s, and must fight against gender stereotypes and the restrictions of the Studio system to get her dream. If you like your heroines headstrong and independent like Kit, you’ll love A Touch of Stardust!
Love Molly? Try Basic Training of the Heart by Jaycie Morrison!
Molly’s stories, set in the 1940’s, often concerned themselves with her frenemy, a posh British girl housed in their home to save her from The Blitz. Their competitive edge and class and cultural differences gave shape to some of Molly’s best stories, and if you love that dynamic, you’ll love Basic Training of the Heart, which features two fearless female pilots falling for each other as they train to help the United States win World War II.
**BONUS!** Love Melody Ellison? Try Alyssa Cole’s Let It Shine!
Now, if you grew up in the era of Peak American Girl, you might have missed some of the newer editions, like Melody! But, if you identify with Melody’s unending optimism and her desire to do right, then you have to check out Alyssa Cole’s novella Let It Shine, which is also set in the 1960’s!