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Always the analyst looking for an angle, I decided to examine the top blogs participants submitted in my recent survey. Of course, I first had to crawl through the recommendations again, create a spreadsheet and count them. My numbers might be off by one or two, however, the main players are clear.

The top two – Reading the Past and Passages to the Past – are neck and neck at 58 and 56 mentions. The next two – Historical Novel Society and Historical Tapestry – earned 30 and 24 respectively. CONGRATULATIONS TO THE TOP FOUR !!

From there, the numbers drop to 12 or fewer mentions which I think is interesting in and of itself. And beyond that we have scads of small book review sites, some with a historical fiction orientation, some more eclectic, some focused on particular time periods, some concentrating of topics like historical naval fiction or historical romance.

Other than a focus on history, do the top four have attributes in common? I found points of overlap and points of differentiation.

  • generally uncluttered look and feel
  • current post is at the top, ready to read
  • photos of book covers to catch the eye
  • a phrase calling attention to purpose: “the home of historical fiction online” comes from HNS, “the place to be for everything historical fiction” is the byline for Passages to the Past, “news, views and reviews of historical fiction” is the focus of Reading the Past
  • subscribe button readily visible
  • regular book reviews
  • guest posts and author interviews
  • contests and giveaways
  • some sort of index to past reviews
  • links to historical fiction blogs and author blogs
  • opportunity for reader comments, although HNS seems to be an exception

But, there are differences.

HNS – Historical Novel Society – stands out for its awards, conferences, magazines and membership concept. In addition to book reviews, HNS offers feature articles and an online membership directory. You can also subscribe to a daily newsletter that summarizes all sorts of news in the domain of historical fiction. Members have access to market news, information about publishers and agents, a critique service and other possibilities.

Historical Tapestry is written by several self-proclaimed historical fiction fans who have come together to review books. In addition to reviews, each year they focus on an author offering insights and opinions on that author’s body of work. This year Daphne du Maurier is being featured. The site also offers a reading challenge for reader participation.

Passages to the Past offers Live Chat Nights with authors and virtual books tours. On the right sidebar, the blog lists upcoming releases while on the left, the blogger shows the book she is currently reading. The blogger, Amy, offers a comprehensive look at Jean Plaidy novels and a complete list of the Morland series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.

Reading the Past seems to be the most straightforward of the sites which may be what attracts so many readers. Sarah Johnson offers an index to interviews as well as an index to books reviewed and her two historical fiction guides are displayed. It is interesting to note that Ms. Johnson writes every review herself in order to ensure consistency.

Interestingly, these sites were almost never mentioned by UK readers and unfortunately, I have insufficient UK replies to this particular question to say much about that country’s preferences.

Beyond these top four were many other blogs and one or two reader forums. By my count, 142 blogs were mentioned as favourites by only one person. That’s an incredible number of people blogging about books.