There’s a lot to love about the current crop of historical romance novels: Fans of Georgian, Regency and Victorian books can easily find stories set in their favorite eras. Series have become the norm, a sure way to let readers revisit favorite characters again and again. Fast-paced stories fit our busy modern lifestyles, and ever-advancing technology allows us to keep up with the latest releases on our computers, ereaders or even our phones. With all that going for us, why would the modern reader ever take a look back?
Well, read on.
While some readers decry old school romances as “un-PC” or “rapetastic,” filled with purple prose and alpha jerks, others say there’s another way to look at the first generation of the modern historical romance. Sure, there are some aspects of books written in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s that won’t fly with readers of the new millennium, but managed to hit the right note for the contemporary audiences of their time. Others, though, have timeless appeal and can even fill quite a few items on the modern reader’s wish list.
Like historical fiction about real historical figures? Old school has several such examples. Adora by Bertrice Small was inspired by the life of Ottoman Empress Theadora Cantacuzene, and Pamela Jekel’s Sea Star plays with numerous ’what ifs’ about infamous pirate Anne Bonny.
Want a greater variety of historical settings? Old school again. Marsha Canham has taken readers through medieval England in her Robin Hood trilogy, the American west in Under the Desert Moon, fought the Battle of Culloden in The Pride of Lions and Blood of Roses, which takes two books to tell the tale of one extraordinary couple. Board a Mississippi riverboat in Straight for the Heart before heading for The Wind and The Sea for a seafaring adventure where the heroine is the tough, daring pirate.
Feel like reading a book that’s all on its own, without sequel, prequel, spinoff or companion, yet has all the scope of a great series? Sweep through 19th century London and California in Laurie McBain’s Tears of Gold or explore the squalor and splendor of Georgian London in Jennifer Wilde’s Angel in Scarlet (Oh, and if you’re looking for a great romance written by a male author, “Jennifer” was actually a gentleman named Tom E. Huff).
On the other side of the coin, if there’s no such thing as a series that goes on long enough, or you’ve ever wondered how your favorite couples would handle their children falling in love, old school has generational sagas aplenty. Aola Vandergriff’s Daughters of… series follows three sisters and their descendants from the westward expansion of the 1850s, to Hawaii, Alaska, Australia, and China before coming to rest in the early days of the movie industry in Daughters of the Silver Screen. Bertrice Small’s O’Malley and Skye’s Legacy series take a total of twelve books to trace the descendants of iconic heroine Skye O’Malley through several generations.
For those who want to see a heroine who isn’t virgin pure when she meets the love of her life, say it with me now: old school. Valerie Sherwood’s heroines often do more than merely kiss a frog or two before finding their heroes, and their stories frequently overlap with their daughter’s romances, a plus for readers searching for mature heroines in their historicals. Try Lisbon, which follows heroine Charlotte through 18th century England and Portugal as well as a complicated path to her one true love.
While some old school authors, such as Sherwood and Vandergriff are currently out of print, others, like Marsha Canham or Cynthia Wright, are self publishing their backlist. Print publishers, such as Sourcebooks, are busily providing classic titles by Laurie McBain and Jennifer Blake to the attention of today’s reader, and more are inevitably sure to follow.
What old school romances are on your keeper list? Your wish list?
Anna C. Bowling considers writing historical romance the best way to travel through time and make the voices in her head pay rent. She welcomes visitors to her blog, Typing With Wet Nails and to follow her at Twitter.