My favourite books (discounting some of the classics) are by authors who (a) write a good story, (b) create strong believable characters and (c) research their setting or hisorical background thoroughly.
They include the novels by Penny Vincenzi, especially the Spoils of Time trilogy (No Angel, Something Dangerous and Into Temptation), although I could include any of the blockbusters by Ms Vincenzi (and I can name-drop here, as she lives just across the road from a friend of mine, in a leafy Victorian avenue in Wimbledon, and I met her one morning when she was returning from a walk with her dogs on Wimbledon Common!)
Next is The Sunne in Spendour by Sharon Kay Penman, by far and away the best novel I have ever read about Richard III and the 15th century Wars of the Roses. The amount of historical research Sharon does for her novels is phenomenal and is one of the reasons I would hesitate to write a historical novel, even though I’m an historian by profession and fairly knowledgeable about the 15th century. But it would take me years to do that kind of research!
I'd also include John Jakes’ Civil War books (and also his Kent Family chronicles) and Winston Grahame’s Poldark series, all soundly researched and all with wonderful characters. .
If I could write like any of these authors, I’d be more than happy. And, for me, reading books like these are a more valuable lesson in ‘how to write’ than any or all of the writing advice books and articles!