It takes one generation to make it,
One generation to lose it,
One generation to talk about it,
And one to make it again
These days, a historical romance series usually refers to a group of friends, siblings or colleagues, all within the same generation, but this wasn't always the case. In the 1970s and 80s, a romance series might as easily be a generational saga, with hero and heroine of book one returning as the parents of hero or heroine of book two, who would then become the parents of the lead of book three, and maybe even farther than that.
Valerie Sherwood, for example, often wrote mother and daughter series, often introducing the daughter's story in the second book of the mother's romance. Yes, second book. Sherwood heroines covered a lot of ground. In her Love quartet, original heroine Imogen cut a swath through England, the Netherlands, colonial New York and the Caribbean, giving daughter Georgiana (or Anna, depending on who you ask; it's complicated) some pretty big shoes to fill. Thankfully, such heroines' mamas don't breed fools, and both mother and daughter have heroes who can keep up with them. Sherwood's single title, Born to Love, is a family saga in one volume, covering the years 1666 to 1717 and three women from the same family, all of whom share the same passionate nature and bear the name Dorinda.
Though, as with Sherwood, long out of print (but ripe for an electronic revival) Aola Vandergriff's Daughters of... series follows the three MacLeod sisters and their descendants from the western expansion of 19th century America in Daughters of the Storm, straight through the glittering 1920s in the eighth book of the series, Daughters of the Silver Screen. In between, there's plenty of historical and romantic intrigue, sweeping from San Francisco to Alaska, Hawaii, England, Australia, and even the Titanic. Vandergriff doesn't pull punches when it comes to the harrowing effect WWI has on those who lived through it, and explores issues of ethnic identity, ethics, infertility and raising a child with noticeable differences from others.
Hannah Howell's Murray clan saga, beginning in 1430 with Highland Destiny, introduces strong, stalwart Highlanders who fight as hard as they love, and they're a prolific bunch, begetting not only progeny but sub series. Book number six, Highland Bride, introduces the Cameron clan, and in number ten, Highland Conqueror, readers meet the MacEnroys. If this sounds like readers might need a scorecard to keep track of all the family players, never fear. The author includes a family tree on her website. As of book eighteen, Highland Avenger, the Murrays and company are still going strong fifty years later.
If there were a contest for queen of the historical romance family saga, Jude Deveraux would be a strong contender. Her Montgomerys, first introduced in The Black Lyon and The Velvet Promise, have lived through medieval England and Scotland, crossed the pond to colonial America in The Raider, which also introduces Deveraux's other family, the Taggarts. Montgomerys are present as well during WWII, marrying into Lanconian royalty in The Princess. They enter the modern age in the time travel A Knight in Shining Armor, and with Someone to Love, they're on book number twenty-one and counting. Hardcore Deveraux fans still long for more Edilean books, which would have followed a new family, the McTerns, from eighteenth century Scotland to modern day America.
So, what's the appeal of a generational saga? Some readers and writers prefer not to see their favorite couples age; Sue-Ellen Welfonder, for example, has assured readers she will never turn the patriarch of her Highland series, Duncan, who debuted in Devil in a Kilt, into a bent old man. Jo Beverley, though fans have asked for a second generation of her Rogues, has stated she's not intrigued by the Victorian era in which such progeny would live.
But for others, it's a chance to see the happily ever after play out on a grand scale. Historical events become intensely personal when seen through the eyes of beloved characters at different ages. When younger generations spout off about how mom and dad don't understand what it's like to be young and in love, we readers can both sympathize and have a good laugh at their expense, because we know better.
Do you have a favorite family saga, author you wish would write one, or is one generation enough for you?
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.