Where Have all the Medievals Gone? – AND a Contest!

I’ve enjoyed historical fiction for as long as I can remember,but it was only in the early 1990s that I started reading historical romance in earnest. As a broke student, used bookstores were my main source of books and these allowed me to range across all kinds of different time and place settings(though I quickly learned that many of the older “You’re a slut!” “Oh, you were a virgin. Now I love you.” books were definitely not my thing). Though I love visiting many time periods, medieval romances quickly became my favorites.

I blame E.L. Konigsberg and Norah Lofts for this. In middle school, I discovered A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver as well as The Maude Reed Tale. Even though I knew from my reading that the Middle Ages were a difficult time in which to live, these two books drew me in. The sweeping epic that was Eleanor of Aquitaine’s life fired my imagination, and mindset of the medieval world seemed so very exotic to me. The history and the huge personalities of the time made me daydream quite a lot.

What’s not to catch the imagination about the Middle Ages? The mixture of faith and earthiness, light and darkness, and the huge social and political upheavals of the time make for intriguing story material – and I’m more than happy to gloss over the less attractive facts of the period in order to enjoy my characters. In the Middle Ages, it seems to me that heroes and heroines truly could be larger than life. The daring feats of knights in battle could become the stuff of legend (and of romance!), and some of the women’s stories lend themselves well to big, sweeping romantic epics. Think of the ladies who defended the castle while the knights were away, or of the women who accompanied husbands on political missions and trade journeys. Not to mention all the changes wrought as countries rose and fell, and entire social systems were altered forever in the years following the Black Death, just to mention a couple of things. There’s a lot of great material to be found.

And it used to be an easy fascination to feed. Between new releases and the USBs, I found Roberta Gellis, Marsha Canham, Laura Kinsale, Rexanne Becnel and Julie Garwood. And it seemed like the major publishing houses released new medievals every month. Up until that point, I had never known anything other than a varied selection of settings, so it never occurred to me that one day books like this would be difficult to find.

Gradually, I started to notice fewer medieval settings, though. If I stuck to the major releases in Borders, I could only find one every few months by 2005 or so. Authors I used to read switched time periods or left the historical market all together. Harlequin Historicals has remained a reliable source for medieval romance, but it has otherwise gotten very hard to locate them. In addition, many of the books that I do find are either humorous and wallpapery, which can be good in small doses but lack a certain sense of place, or they seem more like fantasy/paranormal books than proper historicals. Some of these can be very good, such as Carrie Lofty’s What a Scoundrel Wants, which I enjoyed last year. However, these still don’t fill that desire for a substantial, meaty medieval read.

Thankfully, as I look further afield, I’m starting to find more medievals at smaller publishers such as Leisure or Medallion, or some of the ebook publishers. It’s still a challenge to find medieval romances, but I keep hoping that the lure of this complex time and the creative, strong people who made it will draw more authors and readers. There are many fresh plots out there just waiting to be written, so long live the medieval!


AND…when I was bemoaning the lack of good medieval romances out there, one of my AAR colleagues put me in touch with author Catherine Kean. To help get us started on our medieval romance reading, the author has graciously donated a signed copy of her novel, A KNIGHT’S TEMPTATION to be given away and she says,

“I’m often asked to talk about my favorite part of writing medieval romances. Every part of the writing process—including crafting interesting characters, an authentic setting, and a page-turning plot—is important to me, but I especially love creating that delicious tension between my hero and heroine. Some scenes I can’t WAIT to write, because I can practically see the sparks zipping from my computer keyboard….I hope you enjoy A Knight’s Temptation as much as I loved writing it for you.”

To enter the contest, simply comment below with the title of your favorite medieval romance between now and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 24, 2009. Good luck!

-Lynn Spencer

This entry was posted in Books, Historicals, Romance reading, Settings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

72 Responses to Where Have all the Medievals Gone? – AND a Contest!

  1. Priscilla says:

    There is nothing like a good Medieval. My favorite is Ransom by Julie Garwood. I loved Brodick Buchanan as the hero. It is hard to pick a favorite as Julie Garwood wrote so many very good ones. Another favorite is her book The Secret.

  2. Theresa N says:

    I love historicals the women and men seem so much stronger. My favorite are the Angelique novels written by Sergeanne Golon.

  3. Karin says:

    Lynn: This is a great subject.

    After a very quick search…out of all the authors mentioned in this thread so far – 14 of them are currently releasing medievals. And as a result of so many posters listing their favorites, I now have a medieval TBR list of current and past medievals that will last me a long while! Thanks!

  4. Kris Kennedy says:

    Oh, I love this subject, and I agree entirely that we need more great medievals, and not just b/c I have my debut medieval, The Conqueror, coming out in a few weeks from Kensington. :-)

    Like Terry said near the top of the comments, I was totally hooked on the Brother Cadfael series. The first medieval romance I read was Marsha Canham, Through A Dark Mist, and loved it.

    Oh, and I do believe Jill Barnett is working on another medieval. :-)


  5. MarissaB says:

    Elizabeth Lowell’s Untamed. I’ve just started reading medievals, so I am glad to see everyone else’s favorites. I will have a lot to choose from.

  6. Jo-Ann W. says:

    I miss medievals too! My favorite is For My Lady’s Heart by Laura Kinsale. It’s just about perfect. Thanks.

  7. Casey says:

    I love Madeline Hunter’s early medievals as well as Elizabeth Lowell’s Untamed/Forbidden/Enchanted series. I am always looking for new ones.

  8. Jane Squires says:

    I have not read but one midevil novel that I know about. My daughter however loves that period as I had to make a renassiance wedding dress for her in 2002. I still have it hanging in my closet and her and her husband split up two years ago.
    I am open to reading them and even reviewing them.
    Enter me to win.

    I am a visitor to Cathering Kean’s website often.

  9. Raquel says:

    My very first favorite medieval was Taming the Wolf by Deborah Simmons. I love de Burge brothers and their father.
    I was thrilled to find there would be a new de Burge book near future!
    My other favorites are By Possession and By Arrangement by Madeline Hunter. I prefer meaty medievals.

  10. JOYE says:

    I really like to read historicals and especially medievals. I don;t remember the names of the ones I have read but I enjoyed the early books of Roberta Gellis, Bertrice Small, and Marsha Canham. There were a couple by Johanna Lindsey too. My all time favorite was vy Judith McNaught- A Kngdom of Dreams

  11. nancy says:

    Dorothy Dunnett. All books. especially the Lymond series, starting with Checkmate. Crisp precise writing, not guff or fluff. Exciting complex plots, action for all genders. Strong smart heroes and heroines. Readers are assumed to have a brain.

  12. Eva says:

    Heart of the Dove by Tina St. John; Julie Garwood’s The Bride; Madeline Hunter’s By Arrangement; and Dance of Desire by Catherine Kean!

  13. Darlene says:

    The Wolf and the Dove

  14. Karen says:

    Katherine by Anya Seton. As a young girl, I loved the historical fiction (his medieval settings) by Thomas B. Costain. Post-college, I began my “modern” reading of medieval romances with the whole Roselynde series by Roberta Gellis. I love Elizabeth Elliott as well. I have to admit I haven’t been drawn to medievals in quite a while but wouldn’t mind giving them another chance.

  15. cheryl c. says:

    I love historical romances, and the Medieval period is one of my favorites. Nicole Jordan’s THE WARRIOR is a wonderful Medieval. I also loved all of Julie Garwood’s books and A KINGDOM OF DREAMS by Judith McNaught.

  16. Margaret says:

    Among my favorite medievals are the series by Claudia Dain which includes The Holding, The Marriage Bed, and The Willing Wife. Great heroes and tortured heroines. Also Julie Garwood’s Ransom which has the best hero, Brodick. Would love to win the book!

  17. Suzi-Q says:

    As a teenager, I read and re-read Norah Lofts’ multi-generational house stories, and Katherine [the best historical romance ever.]

    Most historical romances are jarringly anachronistic. I appreciate the writers who can make an alien mindset come alive with internal logic. Religious faith mixed with violence and treachery… Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart and Claudia Dain’s The Holding are among the most compelling books I have read recently.

  18. Karen H in NC says:

    I think my favorite medieval book is ‘Candle in the Window’ by Christina Dodd. This historical time period is not my current favorite and I don’t read them like I used to. I do have TBR books by Madeline Hunter & Mary Jo Putney that fall into that time period.

  19. Lori J. Johnson says:

    I can’t believe that no one so far has mentioned Anita Mills great, medievel series: Lady of Fire, Fire and Steel, Hearts of Fire and The Fire and the Fury. This series has everything even great villians.

  20. wanda flanagan says:

    Im a big fan of Julie Garwood’s works

  21. Anne Gilbert says:

    I love the medieval time period too, if it’s writtten well, and the author has doen his or her research propoerly. Like meny of you, I started out on Katherine by Anya Seton. I loved it as a teenager, and I’ve read a lot of good ones since. I would note two things here: one is the misapprehension among many of you that medieval people “hardly ever bathed”. If you know anything about the period, this isn’t true. Which leads me into the second thing, which is why there are fewer medieval romances or other medieval-themed books around at the present time: most people who write these things unfortuately especially most romance writers, don’t do much research into the period they’re writing about. Just this morning, while having been accidentally dumped into shopping, I came across a romance that was supposed to take place in Anglo-Saxon times. The apparent hero had some name like “Wulfson”, which would never have been anyone’s name unless they were known as something likie Edward Wulfson. They would have had a name like Wulfhere or something similar. If they were “continental” it would have been Rolf or Ranulf or again, something similar. Same thing for the woman, who had a name like “Tamora”,which sounded like she was born in some suburb to excessively “ditzy” parents! I knew, when I saw the names, that wahtever the author was writing about, she did only the most superficial research into the period she was writing about.l Too bad. If she’d taken the trouble to pay more attention to such details, I might have taken a longer look.
    Anne G

  22. Rosebud says:

    My very favorite Medieval series was written by Brenda Joyce. The first book was The Conqueror and it was the start of the De Warrene Saga which carried forward with many books in different eras. Reading The Conqueror was my first romance novel in decades and she got me hooked on the whole genre. If she should write another one today, I would rush to buy it. I think it’s more the author than the time period. It takes a lot of research to successfully write a book on a period out of our time. These books were hefty too unlike the ones now that are 400 pages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>