I feel like I have been waiting on Connie Brockway’s The Songbird’s Seduction forever even though the truth is I have only had it on order since early June. I’m not typically a fan of Ms. Brockway’s but my keen desire for the book comes from three key factors: It involves a treasure, foreign locations and the Edwardian era. While one of those is an issue of plotting (treasure), the other two factors are issues of setting. And the fact is I’m a settings junkie. Continue reading
I’m in the middle of a World War II romance right now that I’m reading for review. It’s okay, but not anything to write home about. I’ve been seeing more WWII stories come across my desk, but few are mainstream romances. There are inspirationals galore. Small press and indy books have always had them here and there. And they pop up in fiction, often with a romantic element. Mainstream romances, though? Not so much.
I feel like the time could be ripe for it, though. It’s not all that unusual for indie publishing to start a trend that New York later gloms onto (Fifty Shades, anyone?), and there’s a lot of appeal to the WWII setting. It comes complete with a built in conflict (the hero could die! Anyone could die!) and a cause that almost anyone could feel good about. Besides, those retro clothes are so cute. I can even overlook the fact that nearly everyone smokes (although I find that less cute).
My so-so WWII romance got me thinking about others that I enjoyed a lot more. In no particular order:
Crossings by Danielle Steel – A huge caveat here: I read this when I was fifteen, and I have absolutely no idea whether it stands the test of time. Chances are it doesn’t. But it was the first Danielle Steel book I read (a lady I babysat for loaned it to me), and though I would soon decide that if you read one Danielle Steel book you’ve read them all, I loved this one. As I recall, it had a love triangle involving the heroine, an older husband who appeared to be working for the Vichy government in France but was secretly saving priceless French art from the Nazis, and an American soldier. And it ended with the fabulous cliched line, “Strong people cannot be defeated.” Or so I remember, anyway.
The Shell Seekers and Coming Home by Rosamunde Plicher - The Shell Seekers was a huge hit of the late eighties, and deservedly so. Coming Home came later and isn’t related, but is just as good. Both are sweeping sagas full of danger, competing love interests, and homefront sacrifices. Shell Seekers is more UK set, and if I remember correctly Coming Home wanders the globe a bit (or at least the heroine’s family gets spread out). They are worth seeking out if you’ve never read them.
Black Out and All Clear by Connie Willis – I am a straight up Connie Willis fan girl. I read both of these when they came out and considered reviewing them. But since I’d already written two DIK reviews of previous books, I decided that everyone already knew I loved Connie Willis. Many of her books (including these two) are loosely connected in that they feature time traveling British historians of the future who go back to various periods to study them. Black Out and All Clear are essentially one story in two books, and they cover several different historians who all get stuck in the past as they are observing various aspects of World War II. Most, but not all, all in London during the Blitz. If you like this setting at all, these books are not to be missed.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – Almost everyone I know loved this book, but it’s certainly a tear jerker. Keep a box of tissues handy for this one.
The Unsung Hero (and other early Troubleshooter books) by Suzanne Brockmann – remember how her early Troubleshooter books all had a WWII subplot woven in? That was awesome, and in some cases, better than the main plot. In Unsung Hero both plots are fabulous, and the hero is…hair challenged. You see that often in real life but rarely in romance novels.
I’m sure I am forgetting something fabulous. What great WWII books have you read? And will anyone admit to also reading Crossings? I can’t be the only one.
The Special Title Lists are one of the more popular features at AAR. They’re also one of the more interactive. Nearly a year ago, as a result of reader requests, we once again began updating the Special Title lists. Since we started the process we’ve updated 19 lists and have begun several new lists.
Earlier this month I wrote here about wanting to start a new Special Title List for Big City Romances. You gave me a lot of great suggestions for some of your favorite romances set in big cities. And after reading some of your comments and reviewing some of my own concerns, we’ve decided to limit the list to contemporary romances set in big cities. Continue reading
There have been a couple of posts – one of them here at AAR, a later one at Dear Author – in the last couple of weeks that have talked about the decline in both the quality and availability of Historical Romances. Lots of different perspectives were offered, and some of the more frequent criticisms that came up were to do with the fact that many HRs today are perceived as being too formulaic, or that there are too many stories in which characters living in the early 19th Century act and speak as though they are from the 21st. It seemed that one of the biggest complaints, however, was to do with the fact that so few Historicals are being published that stray outside the Regency period and/or are set outside England.
Speaking as someone who reads Historicals almost exclusively within the genre, I found much to chew over in these discussions – including the perspectives of some authors who do write novels set in different time periods and locations, in which they explained how hard they find it to sell their work to a major publisher because it doesn’t fit what seem to be their preferred parameters – i.e 16th Century (for historical fiction) or 19th Century Britain. Continue reading
I missed a lot of the old school historical romances the first time around, but starting in college, I began to discover them in used bookstores. There are definitely some aspects of Ye Olde Romance that are best forgotten (such as A Pirate’s Love and similar rapefests), but the older books had their good points, too. Roberta Gellis has long been a favorite of mine, and I remember how her stories could span years of a couple’s story, taking them through all manner of places and conflicts. Continue reading
I have read several comments by different overseas authors that U.S. publishers advise them that they must sanitize their books to remove language and settings that make them uniquely different. Just recently, Sarah Mayberry in her interview here stated “Australian writers are constantly being told by the big mainstream publishers that U.S. and U.K. audiences don’t want to read about Australian heroes and heroines and settings.” Well, for me that is completely wrong. It is no secret that I love to do armchair traveling by reading books that incorporate the author’s native colloquialisms, dialect, or traditions. I read numerous Canadian, Australian and British authors. Continue reading
Nearly three years ago Lynn asked, “Is the 20th Century “Historical” Enough Yet?” I’ve written here about my love of Post-World War I and World War II era mysteries and have indicated I would like to read more romances set in those eras. But until recently I would have said I’m not ready for a romance set in the late 1960s or early 1970s. In fact, just last month in a post I wrote here about whether contemporaries could become historicals, I commented, “I’m not sure if I’m ready for a romance — written today — set much before 1990. I know too much about the time period and the limitations many women faced. On the other hand, I won’t reject it outright.” Continue reading
Lately I’ve been thinking about the boundary between contemporary and historical romances as I try to place new submissions for the Special Title Lists appropriately. Although not a romance, my reading of the Flavia de Luce mysteries also has me thinking of this boundary.
The Flavia de Luce mysteries, set in post-World War II England, are considered historical mysteries. But what if they were romances? According to Wikipedia and numerous other Web sites, contemporary romances are set after World War II, while historical romances are set before or during World War II; by that criterion if Flavia grows older and falls in love her book might be considered a contemporary romance. I say “might,” because Wikipedia also notes that contemporary romances are generally “set in the time when they were written, and usually reflect the mores of their time.”
When I first began reading romance, India was a popular setting for books. A lot of the books had to do with English characters of the British Raj falling in love, such as Mary Putney’s excellent Veils of Silk. Others were sweeping historical sagas detailing the occupation of India like The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye. The descriptions of the lush, hot land beguiled me as a reader. I became an armchair traveler, visiting exotic temples, cool palaces filled with tinkling fountains and of course, devouring information on the Kama Sutra.
When the Regency domination of historicals began, exotic books were dropped in favor of glittering ballrooms. India became a casualty of the Napoleonic Wars. And perhaps evolving attitudes toward colonialism have made the British Raj look a little less romantic as well. Continue reading
I have never read a book by Tana French and the first time I saw her name was in the Eagerly Awaited August Books where both Dabney and Lynn indicate that they are looking forward to her new release Broken Harbor. Then while surfing the Web, I came across her name again. She wrote an article for Publishers Weekly outlining her writing tips.
A few of them didn’t resonate, but this one did:
There’s no such thing as ‘men’ or ‘women’. There’s only the individual character you’re writing. One guy emailed me asking me how to write women, and I couldn’t answer, because I had no idea which woman he meant: me? Eleanor of Aquitaine? Lady Gaga? If you’re thinking of ‘men’ or ‘women’ as a monolithic group defined primarily by their sex, then you’re not thinking of them as individuals; so your character isn’t going to come out as an individual, but as a collection of stereotypes. Sure, there are differences between men and women on average – but you’re writing an individual, not an average. If your individual character is chatty on the phone or refuses to ask for directions, that needs to be because of who he or she is, not because of what he or she is. Write the person, not the genitalia.