If your wife is interested at all about Australian history, perhaps Kate Grenville? She wrote a trilogy of books about early 19th century Australia. I'll come clean and say I haven't read her (although I'd like to). She has won quite a few prizes in my neck of the woods and I get the feeling she paints colonial Australia, particularly black and white relations, in a fairly stark way.
I'm not sure if this is too regional or too dark (I believe there's quite a bit of violence depicted). But I thought I'd throw it out there.