I missed out on what many consider The Golden Age of historical romance. Now, the idea of what constitutes a “golden age” of anything is highly subjective, but for the sake of this post, I’m talking about those days when it wasn’t frowned upon for authors to hop around time periods and settings. Back when publishers were not toeing the party line that authors should stick to one setting and one time period to make it easier for marketing. Back when authors could publish one book set in medieval Ireland and the next in the American West and the sky wouldn’t turn black or come crashing down to Earth.
Then, single-title Regency England took off like a rocket, and the rest, as they say, was history. There was no more hopping around. Publishers told authors that in order to build an audience—an audience made up of readers who wanted a steady diet of one food group, apparently—they needed to stick to one setting and one setting only. Give readers what they want, publishers said, and what they want is whatever is selling at the moment.
I am the type of reader who does not like to read too much of the same thing in a row for fear that burn-out will set in. As much as I love historical western romances, I do not read them exclusively. As much as I love category romance, I tend to hop around to all the different lines and sample all the flavors available. It keeps my palate fresh, and keeps me, as the reader, from becoming bored.
This is why I am always desperate for historical romances that are set in locales we do not see every day of the week. Hey, England, Scotland, and America are nice, but there is a whole wide world out there with a whole wide range of history, people, and love stories begging to be explored.
Opening a well-written, engaging historical romance is like taking a really frugal vacation through time and space. I would never want to stuff myself into a corset every day of my life, but it sure is romantic to think about wearing one. I will probably never have the opportunity to visit Australia, South Africa, Mongolia, Russia, or Brazil, but I sure would love to read about those places. Not in a travel brochure, or in a nonfiction narrative, but as the backdrop to a grand, passionate love story. At its core, the romance genre is about exploring basic and universal human emotions. No matter our differences, no matter our backgrounds, we can all relate to feelings of happiness, sadness, anger, and love. If I can get all that, and get a glimpse into a time or place I will never have the opportunity to visit firsthand, then I say bring it on!
Publishers consider these types of books “hard sells,” and maybe they’re right. Maybe they are. However, it’s amazing what people will buy and read when a work is well written, engaging, and given enough of a marketing push. If someone had told me that a trilogy of suspense novels written by a dead Swedish writer and translated into English were going to take off like a rocket, I would have told them to get out of my way and stop wasting my time.
Yeah, and we all know how that story turned out.
Want to discover some authors who write off-the-beaten-path? Check out the Unusual Historicals blog
And here is some recommended reading:
Scoundrel's Kiss by Carrie Lofty (medieval Spain)
Song of Seduction by Carrie Lofty (Regency-era Austria, ebook)
Zoe Archer's Blades of the Rose series (Mongolia, Greece, frontier Canada)
Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare (Regency-period high seas, shipboard romance)
Surrender to an Irish Warrior by Michelle Willingham (medieval Ireland)
Innocent in a Harem by Michelle Willingham (Ottoman Empire, ebook short story)
High Seas Stowaway by Amanda McCabe (Venice and Caribbean)
Image courtesy of Erika Thorsen via Flickr
Wendy Crutcher, Fighting For Truth, Justice, and the Right to Read What You Want