The term “historical fiction” looks like a bit of a contradiction at first glance. How can something be historical (ie real facts) and fictional (ie made up) at the same time? A historical fiction novel is set at some time in the past. It sets up the actual conditions of the time period, such as how people lived, what they ate and what they believed in. The characters might be based on real people or they might be imaginary.
The difference between a history textbook and a historical novel is that the novel doesn’t list facts, it tells a story in a historical setting. The story follows the life of a particular person or group of people rather than following historical events. I think people like to read historical novels because they can relate to the way the characters are feeling. They can imagine what it would have been like to live at that particular time in history.