Over the weekend, The Telegraph published this article
about novels written in the present tense (specifically addressing those on the Man Booker shortlist) which created a brouhaha when author, Philip Pullman, was quoted:
So… how do you feel about novels written in the present tense, particularly historical novels written in the present tense? Do you like them, eschew them, or do you find your mileage varies?
I think for me it depends on how it’s handled by the author, and whether it suits the subject matter. I won't categorically reject a book because it has been written in the present tense, but it needs to come across in a way that doesn't feel too self-conscious or intrusive to me. Some authors can pull it off better than others. I know I've knocked down novels a notch in my rating when I've found it too distracting. Other times, it hasn't bothered me at all... sort of faded into the background as the story comes alive.
As a confessed grammar nerd, I just have to point out that English does not have a lot of tenses, only two, past and present. Which is fine cause most languages only have three (past, present and future) and there is no future tense in English. You can't have more than three tenses. What this person is talking about with past perfect, imperfect, continuous/progressive, perfect progressive, etc. are all aspects, not tenses. technically there is no "present perfect tense". there is "present tense, perfect aspect"
So technically, changing the tense you are writing in, in no way limits the amount of aspects available. e.g "I was walking" (past progressive) vs "I am walking" (present progressive) or "I had walked..." (past perfect) vs "I have walked..." (present perfect).
So the idea that its limiting an author holds no water. Now the fact that most authors who tell stories in the present tense tend to stick to just plain old present simple "I walk" rather than using a variety of aspects is probably what the person is trying to complain about.
Sorry for that
For my answer to the question, I probably havent read enough books in present tense to judge. the only books ive read which were written in present were the old 2nd person "choose your own adventure" style books. In those the reader pretended to be a character and was able to make choices about where the story would lead. in those cases, telling the story in present tense made sense. "You walk down the corridor when suddenly you see a monster."
However, telling a story in historical fiction, it really only makes sense to use the past tense. In HF everything we read is set in the past so the past tense seems the logical choice.