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What makes a good historical novel?

Is the historical novel dead? I'm working on a novel about the eruption of Mt. Pelee on the island of Martinique in 1902. Do you have any ideas about what makes a historical novel good? My two main-ish characters were the only survivors of the eruption in the city of St. Pierre. One joined the circus as a freakshow, and was part of a growing trend of racial and ethnic "others'" on display in circuses and museums at the turn of the twentieth century, but the other history has mostly forgotten (granted, if he had been entirely forgotten, I wouldn't have known about him). Their lives after the eruption unfold on this uncanny parallel level.

So tell me what you liked about different historical novels you've read. Or tell me why you hate historical novels.