History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

13 November 2007

What Historical Setting is Overlooked in Romance?

I've been surfing the net lately, reading AMAZON reader's groups, and someone posted the question "What historical setting would you like to see more of in romance?"

I've seen this question a few times, but the answer that turns up repeatedly and continues to surprise me is ROMANCE IN ANCIENT ASIA. Of the 30 or so regular posters on one AMAZON reader's group, many responded they would like to see ancient Japan as a setting for a romance. China, too.

Traditionally, these are places and times that romance publishers have nixed or not encouraged writers to write about. We all know it only takes a good movie or blockbuster book to set the trend in historical fiction, romantic historicals included, but we haven't seen many mass market/ trade paperbacks set in Asia.

What do you think authors and readers? What period in history may soon experience a revival in the romance genre? What would you like to see more of?



Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I've always loved books set in the twenties and thirties (I grew up on "Brideshead Revisited" and "Chariots of Fire" :-). I'd also love to read (and possibly write) about South America in the early 19th century, when a lot of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies were breaking away and becoming their own countries. And I find it baffling that the French Revolution isn't considered a popuar romance setting. To me it flows naturally into the Regency (so much Regency politicals is a reaction to the French Revolution). And I get so many comments on my website whenever I blog about "The Scarlet Pimpernel." :-)

5:12 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

And yes, I watch The Avitar...a little action and romance in ancient Asia, all in animation. ;-)

5:12 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

I know what you mean, Tracy about The French Revolution...I think it might be offputting for romance readers looking for an HEA...and well, it's just hard to forget the horror of the period and suspend belief for the romance, maybe?

I think South American romance will see a rise at some point. I'm reading "Like Water for Chocolate" again, and wow, I love it this time round, too.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Lauren Willig said...

I couldn't agree more about the Brideshead generation and the French Revolution! What's always baffled me, though, is the dearth of Restoration romances. One would think the hedonistic court of Charles II, with all those seething political intrigues and the cultural clashes going on in the country at the time would make a perfect haven for historical fiction, but aside from "Forever Amber" and that Rose Tremaine book, it's hard to think of many....

5:29 PM  
Blogger Camilla Bartley said...

I'm all about Restoration England.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I'm with Camilla, I'm all about Restoration England. Maybe it's all those years of theater history and reading Restoration plays. It was such a bawdy time coming after years of Puritan repression and being ruled soley by Cromwell in his role of Lord Protector. One of my favorite books is Forever Amber as well. Lauren, Claire Thornton has written a trilogy of novels that Harlequin Historicals published.

I also love the Gilded Age and I also don't understand why the French Revolution isn't more popular. Although you have the horror of Madame Guillotine, it can also be heroic. Look at Pimpernel with his daring rescues of French aristocrats.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

I just wrote a loooong post, and Blogger ate it; so I'll try to remember what I said. I love the French Revolution and every time I've proposed setting a story there, my agent (who personally loves France, and the period) throws up her hands and tells me that it's not commercial and that American readers hate the French. Hoydens and their fans may be the exception, but this seems to be the received wisdom in the publishing field, and I blogged a bit about that after the Historical Novel Society convention last June.

Our own Lauren has managed to turn this into a win-win situation by winking at our well-known and much beloved Pimpernel story and keeping much of her action in England.

I, too, adore the English Restoration, but just last week, when I proposed Hortense Mancini to my editor, she told me that the period was glutted and one of her other authors who sets her books during that era has been encountering a lot of competition from other publishers. To ME, that suggests that the period is popular, but my editor seems to think that the market won't support, e.g., 3 historical novels about Nell Gwyn in the spate of a couple of years.

Some editors will tell you, "I just want a good story!" but they don't really mean that. What they really mean is "I just want a good story -- set in a commercially marketable era."

The ancient world is underrepresented in general (Asia, Greece, Rome), and editors will insist it's because there isn't a market for it, unless you're writing about someone insanely famous, a household name such as Helen of Troy -- which I did.

I love the Brideshead era, and I love 19th c. America, particularly the Five Points neighborhood in NYC in the 1820s and 30s (Helen Jewett is also on my To-Write short list) but I've hit stone walls when I propose period American lit to editors. I've got 80pp of a story set in post Revolutionary War Long Island when the British soldiers still remained, mingling with the newly victorious colonials) which has never gotten any interest.

6:05 AM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

More Rome would be fun, and the Dark Ages or Early Middle Ages as they're called here (which I prefer).

But since I know a lot about Rome, I'd want good research. Not a pseudo-Wicca Celtic girl with a 20th century name on one side of the Hadrian's Wall and a Roman patrician with a Germanic name and inexistant military rank on the other. :) But the Hoydens won't do such a thing, I'm sure.

12:11 PM  

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