Dec 10 2012 2:45pm

A Delicious Escape: Light Historicals

One Night with a Prince by Sabrina JeffriesLight historical romance is a delicious escape from everyday life, one that offers even more of a holiday from reality than contemporary or dark historical. Here's a rundown of what light historicals are, and what makes them so much fun:

What makes your Historical Romance “light”:

  • The struggle or main conflict should be light. At the end of the day we're not supposed to be stressed out over a stolen kiss or a scandalous boob-grab. Even if it’s our worst nightmare in real life, we won't bat an eyelash when reading about the heroine’s wardrobe malfunction during that super-important life-altering gala/dinner/sermon/event.  (According to Wikipedia, safety pins were issued U.S. patent #6,281 on April 10, 1849, so depending on the time period of your light historical, those bustiers could be constantly bustin’ from all that bosom-heaving!)
  • The banter and flirting between the characters has to be light and comedic, which feels extra-deliciously juicy, especially when immersed in such a prim and proper time period!
  • We should laugh at least once (or smile frequently) while reading, because something comedic has to happen!

What makes your Historical Romance non-light (dramatic and/or heavy):

  • The hero/heroine was/is suffering in poverty and we are constantly reminded of it
  • The hero/heroine is raped and/or severely beaten/attacked/abused
  • Massive amounts of blood

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLeanNOTE:  There is NO major bloodshed!  A character might have a cut or scrape, or perhaps a bloody lip, but nothing to make us squeamish. Blood might trickle down a villain's nose (after the heroine slapped him) or if there is a semi-serious duel scene, and someone gets cut/shot (remember, only scrapes and nothing that would require more than three stitches), then yes, only that type of minor bloodshed/violence is acceptable.

On the surface, light historical romances are great fluffy reads for the following (obvious) reasons:

  • Technology (lack of it): No modern-day gizmos to complicate things! No cell phones interrupting a conversation, and no shrieking alarm clocks, and no obsessing over his/her texts, so the characters have more time.
  • Time (too much or not enough): No one has a nine-to-five, so there’s more time to obsess over every love letter, more time to stare lovingly into each other's eyes, more time for face-to-face meetings, and more time for trysts and romance!  However, there are no cars or telephones, so that trip to the ball/dinner (or any in-person event), better show some results in-terms of developing relationships and starting/breaking rumors! (Who knows when the characters will meet again, or if their circumstances will be the same?)
  • We can excuse certain rude behavior that would normally piss us off royally: Is the irritating matriarch seriously pressuring the heroine to marry that rich jerk?  Well, of course she is, because that's just how things were back then.  And men were chauvinist pigs, so when the hero is so honorable and respectful, the contrast is huge—and the heroine swoons. Hard.
  • The characters are super-wealthy members of the ton:  The heroine’s lifestyle involves parties, charities, art/culture, and “being a lady," and if she doesn't want any of that, that's fine too!  This is “light” historical. She can chill out in her library all day until it's time for tea.  (And remember, no need for a paycheck = no annoying coworkers.)
  • No medical concerns, no cancer, no bowel movements, no body hair to discipline, no running out of toilet paper, etc.—basically nothing inconveniently disgusting.
  • … and still an HEA (of course!)

But here’s why cheesy light historicals matter MORE than just the obvious reasons—at the end, they teach us that you are supposed to want a significant other who wants you.  (And by “wants,” I mean “loves, cherishes, and respects.”)  This imprints on our minds not to pine after the undeserving jerk.

A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa KleypasThe heroine can be as defiant as she pleases, as if gently raising her middle-finger (with laced gloves), in her own form of rebellion.  This is especially delicious when we see the breaking point, after so many chapters of suppression, she throws her hands up and says, “Screw this and screw your rules! I’m going to go after my own dreams!”  Or maybe it’s that key moment where she silently vows to beat them at their own game, to show the world just how feisty she really is... We might roll our eyes a little bit and say, “Oh, yeah right...”  But deep down, we know... It’s a true inspiration to believe, just for a few seconds, that the hero/heroine could actually do this, and get away with it (without any devastating punishment/consequences that would’ve happened then or could’ve happened now).  

Just give it a try.  Embrace that light-heartedness! Embrace the cheese! You might feel inspired.

I have a few suggestions if anyone wants to convert to light historicals, or if you just need something light and fun to balance out your stress:

  • One Night with a Prince by Sabrina Jeffries (Royal Brotherhood #3)
  • Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase
  • Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean (Love By Numbers #1)
  • Loving Lady Marcia by Kieran Kramer (House of Brady #1)
  • A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas (Wallflower Series Holiday novella!)

Do you have a favorite light historical?  If so, what made it so enjoyably light?

(Note:  “Embrace the cheese” is just a figure of speech.  If you are lactose-intolerant, do NOT embrace any cheese/dairy product.)


Jena Briars is a California girl living in D.C., feeding her brain one romance novel at a time...When she's not busy at work, or being distracted (sometimes ambushed) by her cat, she reviews romances on her website Throughout the Pages.

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Love love love light historicals for a fun read. Actually recently finished Eloisa James's Duchess in Love, and while there was a death (secondary character), overall I came away much cheered. Eloisa's so great with banter and the situations the hero and heroine found themselves in were quite entertaining.
Jena Briars
2. CutMyTeethOnKleypas
YES! Eloisa does a great light historical! Her duel scene in Desperate Duchesses had me gripping the pages but laughing at the same time...
Alisa HIlde
3. Alisa HIlde
Pretty much anything by Julia Quinn.
4. carmenlire
Julia Quinn is my go to for light historical romances, although she can be serious with the best of them. Lisa Kleypas' A Wallflower Christmas is wondeful-- I read it at least twice a year. I do like Eloisa James' banter too; it's always so quick, funny, and witty.
Jena Briars
5. CutMyTeethOnKleypas
@Alisa HIlde

YES - I remember discussing with another romance fan that Francesca's story - When He Was Wicked (book 6 of the Bridgertons?) was a bit of a tearjerker! - But you don't feel a major sadness/heaviness afterwards... (still guaranteed to make you smile!)
Miranda Mason
6. GovernessInRed
Great post, Jena!

I love fun banter between characters! I believe some humor is important in novels.

One of my favorite historical romance novels is one that I read years ago and I still love it. LOVING JULIA by Karen Robards. I enjoyed it so much and it made me laugh and cry. It is passionate and such a page turner. I would highly recommend it to everyone.

I agree with you totally! Another of my favorites is NINE RULES TO BREAK WHEN ROMANCING A RAKE by Sarah MacLean. It's wonderful. :)
Jena Briars
7. CutMyTeethOnKleypas
@GovernessInRed - Loving Julia, eh? I'll have to check that one out, and here I thought Karen Robards mainly did romance suspense/mystery! (And yes, MacLean has a few new ones I've added on the TBR list!)
Miranda Mason
8. GovernessInRed
Yes! LOVING JULIA is wonderful. You'll have to check it out.

I'll have to check out the books you have listed. I just have a one of them on my TBR list.
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