Historical Romance

I’ve been thinking – and you know that usually means trouble. When I did that signing last week with Eloisa James, she asked if I ever wanted to write historical romance again.

The answer, of course, is yes. I really do want to write historicals again.
Which got me to thinking about what kind of historicals I’d like to write.


Of course, there is the unfinished business at Kinfairlie, and the four books linked to the Jewels of Kinfairlie series that I’d like to write and/or finish. Those four siblings and Rosamunde deserve to have their stories told. But I was also thinking about a new series, and what tone or balance those books might have.

The thing is that the historical romance market has changed considerably since I first sold to Harlequin Historicals in 1992, and I think that’s because reader expectations have changed. I was never happy with the impetus to avoid history, religion and politics in historical romance, mostly because the romances in the 80’s that were chockful of those details were the ones I loved the best. I don’t think I’m alone in missing that as a reader – in fact, I think that desire for historical detail is what has driven the increasing popularity of historical fiction. Much of this historical fiction features female protagonists, lots of history religion and politics, and even love affairs. Sometimes there’s even sex. There certainly is more of a focus on relationships and emotion than was once the case in historical fiction. My own suspicion is that readers who liked history moved away from the romance section when historical romance became closer to costume drama, and began reading authors like Philippa Gregory.

The market has also been flooded with Regency romances, a setting that is a steady performer. I wonder, though, whether there’s been too much Regency – too many dukes and rakes – just as I wonder whether there have been too many vampires in recent years. It’s hard to be certain when trends will end.

As as reader, I also really like romantic suspense in an historical setting – which includes gothics. I think I’ve read everything Phyllis A. Whitney and Mary Stewart wrote and read each one several times over. I wrote THE ROGUE because I was interested in moving in that direction. And FALLEN, certainly, has a similar gritty and suspenseful tone. Those books are challenging to write but fun, too.

So, I think that might be the direction to pursue. I have to entertain myself first, right? I’ve been pushing some ideas and some settings around my desk, starting to play. This is the fun part.

Tell me what you think. Are you done with vampires? Are you done with Regency? What are you reading in historicals these days? Erotic historical romance? Paranormal historical romance? Costume drama historical romance? Gothic/romantic suspence historical romance? Time travel historical romance? Historical fiction with romantic elements? Something completely different?

8 thoughts on “Historical Romance

  1. I am about done with vampires. I have a very few writers that I read. I like some urban fantasy but I am graviting back to some historical fiction. One of my favorite authors is Roberta Gellis. I love her Roselynde Chronicles series. I find myself really looking for books with great plots and lots of detail these days. I still want a heavy romantic element but I need a good story.


  2. I tend to select my vampires very carefully, if you will. I think the market is flooded with them. Fantasy isn’t my first read off the shelf, unless it’s realistic, if that makes sense. Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series is an example of what I mean.

    I prefer historicals where everything isn’t pretty and everyone isn’t proper. I guess that means sex– where did the barre sinister come from if no one was having wicked sex back then?


  3. Re: vampires – never really have been into them, only those written by my friend Kathryn Smith. Regency, if done well (as in those by Ms James, Jo B, Mary B, Kathryn S and more) I still quite enjoy, but also love anything set in the decades before and following the Regency (Madeline H’s Victorians are fun).

    Right now I’m not reading much romance as our budget is pretty tight, so I can’t buy what I like and the library’s collection of romance tends more to the costume Regencies/Medievals and lots of men in kilts (not really my thing these days).

    I’d LOVE to see more meaty historicals back on store shelves, set in pretty much any time period!


  4. Oh, Sandy, you’re right about Roberta Gellis! I have to dig deeper into my keepers and get to her books again.

    I like gritty, too, LA. I’ve wanted to write a Regency for a while about people who aren’t noble. Underbelly of society stuff. I think it would be fun to explore those two coexisting worlds and their intersections.

    Or – of course – there’s my beloved medieval era, all guts and noble impetus, poetry and violence. I’d love to write a sweeping romance set during the Crusades, Jerusalem ankle-deep in blood, vendors selling fake relics, honor and integrity and true love forevermore. Oh yeah.


  5. Okay – I don’t think there are too many vampire books because I’ve just discovered them in the last year to eighteen months.

    I normally read Romantic mystery & suspense (Harlequin Intrigue) however about eighteen months ago I discovered erotica, paranormals, and just plain contemporaries.

    I read my first historical regency last month – and it will most likely be my last. They are just not something I can read. Now if you had a regency historical that had paranormal elements or time travel elements – I would be more likely to read one again.

    However right now I have a real fondness for dragon shifters and I can’t wait until Kiss of Fate comes out next year.


  6. Last night I was thinking about the fact that I would love to see a big historic romance do well again.

    I am a big fantasy buff, but I am now more selective in the pararomance titles. I love both the Mary Jo Putney and the Amanda Quick Historic/Paranormal romances, as well as Robin Owens and Michelle Sagara.

    The shape shifter novels have to be special for me to buy them (Nalina Singh). I look forward to reading your Dragonfire books this weekend. No more vampires unless they involve Sookie or Anita (still).


  7. I loved all those older gothics and would like to see more, Victorian mysteries. I haven’t really tired of any regencies or vamps, but I do like combo genres and love time travels, and more stories with common heros would be good. Medievals are still a big favorite, I’d love something with the Crusades, and also like the magical touch, involving Druids.


  8. GOD YES! I miss the details of historical romances! Some of the stuff I read today has no substance what-so-ever.


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