Bring Them Back!

map 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.

I’ve worked in marketing and promotions (albeit in a different arm of the entertainment industry) so I know how much is about profit and how little (sometimes) is about craft or artistry. I know how strong the desire to jump on the “Oh – that was really successful; let’s do it again!” bandwagon is. And I know how stifling it can be. One only has to look at the proliferation of FSoG ‘clones’, with their stylish black-and-white covers, that are flooding the market. My local supermarket, while not having a huge selection of paperbacks, does have part of an aisle devoted to books, and it’s amazing how, over the last year or so, that aisle has turned incredibly monochromatic!

Now, I’m not knocking anyone’s reading preferences. I’ll happily put my hand up and admit to being addicted to Historical Romances and Historical Fiction, and that I don’t read very much outside those genres when it comes to fiction. That doesn’t mean I’ll put up with any old rubbish as long as it’s got a half-naked couple on the front surrounded by a sumptuous, never-ending dress; I like some history in my Historicals, too. I admit to liking 19th Century Britain as a setting, but I’d be delighted to see a surge in stories set in Medieval Ireland, or the 16th Century French Wars of Religion. There’s room for everything, surely, in a market as wide-ranging as it is today. When it comes down to it, the important thing is that the story is good and well-told, whether the hero is a Celtic Clan Chief or a Regency Duke. And as someone pointed out on one of those posts, the Dukes, Earls and Viscounts of HR are the precursors of the billionaires and hard-nosed businessmen one finds in some Contemporaries, so it seems there’s an appetite for stories about wealthy, powerful men regardless of time-period.

But this debate has made me think about all those HRs – and I imagine they are predominantly Regency stories – that are now out of print. I wasn’t a great reader of romances back in the 80s and 90s, and it seems I’ve missed some good books as a result! There’s a Goodreads group devoted to Traditional Regencies which has turned up quite a few great reads that I’d otherwise have missed, but which I’ve had to buy second-hand and in some cases at ridiculous cost. Belgrave House’s Regency Reads arm has already published a large number of old Signet and Fawcett titles as ebooks and is continuing to do so each month; and Intermix (Penguin) is putting out a lot of Signet Regencies, too. Some great books by Carla Kelly, Elisabeth Fairchild, and Elizabeth Mansfield have reappeared courtesy of e-publishers and in some cases, authors themselves are self-publishing their backlists, (Diane Farr, Danielle Harmon, Stella Riley to name but a few) – and that’ s great for someone like me, who is addicted to my Kindle and is new to many of these books and authors. I hope there are a lot of younger readers or readers new to the genre who are discovering some of these truly delightful books for the first time, too.

That doesn’t mean that everything that publishing houses such as Signet, Fawcet and Zebra put out thirty years ago should be re-issued. I’m sure there is plenty of stuff there which shouldn’t have seen the light of day in the first place – just as there is today. But there are undoubtedly some real gems that are languishing out there just gathering dust that people like me who missed them the first time around – and possibly people (also like me!) who are bemoaning the poor writing and characterisation found in many of the HRs being put out today – would be only too eager to snap up. I’ve recently read some lovely books by Charlotte Louise Dolan, Donna Simpson, Nancy Butler, and Cindy Holbrook, to name but a few. Then there are names I see cropping up like Paula Allardyce, Melinda McRae and Dorothy Eden who all sound as though they’ve written books I’d enjoy. I’d love to get my hands on some of Patricia Veryan or Sylvia Thorpe’s Georgian novels without having to stump up £3-£8 postage for each book (depending on where I can get them from). Belgrave House and Signet price their ebooks at under £3, so it does gall that I have to pay as much for postage as for an actual book! (I should also add that there are very few works by these authors in UK libraries – I don’t know if that’s because titles were never published here or if books got so old they fell apart and couldn’t be replaced, but using the library to get hold of these titles is frequently not an option for me.)

So then I got to thinking about how to make authors/publishers aware that they might want to be more proactive in this area of the market. Having poked around the internet for half-an-hour or so, I see that some of those authors I’ve mentioned have websites or Facebook pages. In some cases, of course (Veryan, for instance) the author is no longer with us, so re-publishing would presumably rely on the willingness of the family or their estate.

AAR has a wide readership across the romance industry – readers, writers, publishers and other interested parties – so surely, between us all, we can make a case for dusting off some of these older titles and getting them back out there electronically for a new generation of readers to enjoy.

What titles / authors would you like to see back “in print” (figuratively speaking)? I know I’ve written specifically about HRs but please feel free to include books and authors from other genres, too. Who knows? Maybe someone reading this will be able to make some of our wishes come true. :)

– Caz Owens

42 thoughts on “Bring Them Back!

  1. I’d love to see some of the Judith Ivory/Judy Cuevas historicals back in print. I know Avon released some of them a few years back, but there are a few that are still elusive. Oh, and some of Candace Camp/Lisa Gregory’s old books! Her current work is okay, but some of the older ones such as Rosewood or Heirloom that I’ve found in used bookstores are fabulous.

    I saw the author comments you mention, too, and I do wish publishers would take on more historical settings and market them. I can imagine how hard it must be for an author to market her book in the indie market. As a reader who is actively looking for historicals, I find them difficult to locate so I know casual readers probably aren’t aware of a lot of the smaller releases.

  2. Two that I can think of off the top of my head:

    Playing the Jack by Mary Brown
    A Night in Eden by Candice Proctor

    • Oh yes – Candice Proctor would be a wonderful author to see in re-release! I know she went on to write suspense, but I would love to read more of her historicals. I missed most of them the first time around.

      • I agree with Candace Proctor as well!!! A Night in Eden is one of my all time favorites.

  3. Two things.
    First, I don’t think the problem is the Regency settings or the dukes and earls. I think the problem is that too many books simply aren’t very good. The characters have no depth, the plots make no sense, and the pages are filled up with mental lusting. I recently read/skimmed half a dozen newish historicals. Three depended on a secret that was being kept for no reason more serious than a momentary embarrassment, two depended on one of the characters keeping an infantile grudge, and one had the characters desperately chasing something that everyone forgot about after the first third of the book. There are mediocre books in all subgenres, but hitting a series of them in rapid succession can induce despair in the reader.
    Second, the loss of brick-and-mortar stores and the rise of ebooks makes life very difficult for new authors. Yes, ebooks make it easier for the author to publish a book, but it doesn’t make it easier for the reader to find the book. Was a time when I could browse the shelves of any one of several stores and find something new that looked interesting. Now the only bookstore within reach is a B&N that carries more toys than books. Alas and woe is me.

    • I completely agree with what you say about some of the books just not being very good. I read several HRs towards the end of last year which had been put out by major publishers which were absolutely dreadful for many of the reasons you state.

      For me, it’s all about the characters and the story; I can forgive the odd minor inconsistency if the author makes me care about what happens to the characters.

      Finding romance novels has always been a problem to an extent, even when there were lots of brick-and-mortar shops. Without getting into the debate as to the image of this particular genre, I think there is definitely a kind of “snobbery” on the part of bookshops when it comes to romantic fiction. It might just be a problem in the UK, mind you – but even when I was working in central London (which I did for a number of years) and was surrounded by book shops, finding historical romances in particular was incredibly difficult, so for me, Amazon suddenly opened up the market. But that said, I do agree it’s nice to be able to browse through shelves occasionally.

      • Caz, in the UK we’ve got quite a lot of romantic fiction, but the definition is somewhat broader than romance” as it exists in the US. As far as I know, in the UK the only publisher which guarantees (a) one central romantic relationship and (b) promises it’ll end with a “happily ever after” is Mills & Boon. In any case, I have the feeling that romantic fiction might be declining in popularity in the UK. Certainly that’s the impression I’ve received from looking at the Public Lending Rights statistics; on a more personal note, my local library just removed the “romance” section and (apart from a small rotating stack of Mills & Boons) incorporated the romantic fiction into general fiction.

    • Ditto. I read mostly historicals and rarely read them now for the reasons you give and I’m tired of nice guy heroes which dominate the genre.
      I would love to see more books like Stormfire by Christine Monson or Rosemary Roger’s type saga like the Steve & Ginny series.

  4. Candice Proctor writes as C. S. Harris and has a fabulous mystery series Sebastian St. Cyr. I would also recommend Tasha Alexander and Deanna Raybourn. I am reading a stand alone new book by her called A Spear of Summer Grass set in Africa after WWI. Also try Jacequiline Winspear’s Masie Dobbs series.

    All are excellent writers. Some of the books have more romantic elements than others but I am pretty much done with all the light fluff.

    I assume everyone has tried Carla Kelly or Roberta Gellis. Very good writers.

    • I didn’t know about the ProjectoR/Harris link, so thanks for that. I’ve enjoyed Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia books, and liked A Spear of Summer Grass very much.

      • Sandy beat me to it – I was going to point out that link! I endorse everything she says about the Sebastian St Cyr series, and Tasha Alexander and Deanna Raybourn. I would also add Teresa Grant (aka Tracy Grant) and Lauren Willig.

  5. I would really love to see Belgrave Square (aka Hearts are Trumps) by Rachel Summerson republished. That was an amazing book.

    I’m glad to see that some of the books from Frances Murray, Patricia Finney, P.F. Chisholm, Diana Norman, and Judith Merkle Riley are available as ebooks. I hope they will all be available eventually.

    • Thank you so much, mb, for giving my ‘Hearts are Trumps’ a mention. You’ve made my day.

      I wrote only two Rachel Summersons – the other one is ‘Dishonorable Intentions’. After a gap (children), I wrote nine more under my two middle names, Elizabeth Hawksley.

      I am working towards getting them out as ebooks.

  6. I’d personally love to see ALL of Dinah Dean’s historical romances re-published, particularly The Cockermouth Mail and The Road to Kaluga/Flight from the Eagle.

    And I’d love to see Bride of the MacHugh and My Lord Monleigh, by Jan Cox Speas, re-published as well. Jan’s daughter Cindy, who’s a friend, has made a Kindle version of her mother’s War of 1812 novel My Love, My Enemy available here: http://jancoxspeas.com/

    • Oh great – now you’ve told me about a writer of Napoleonic Russia romances!! They are few and far between and now I must find them . . .

      And The Cockermouth Mail – Regency period with wounded Peninsular hero- ditto.

  7. Here is a list of books I would like to read as ebooks:

    Ashworth, Adele: Duke of Scandal
    Becnel, Rexanne: A Dove at Midnight
    Gaffney, Patricia: To Have and To Hold
    Goodman, Jo: All I Ever Needed
    Hunter, Jillian: Indiscretion
    Krahn, Bettina: Behind closed doors
    Leigh, Tamara: Saxon Bride
    Paisley, Rebecca: A Basket of Wishes
    Proctor, Candice: Night in Eden
    Putney, Mary Jo: Shattered Rainbows
    Sutcliffe, Katherine: A Fire in the Heart
    Howard, Linda: Duncan´s Bride

  8. Madeleine Brent should most definitely be brought back into print again, especially as I’ve realized that I haven’t read half the books yet!

    Also, Carol Townend’s award-winning SAPPHIRE IN THE SNOW. I still regret donating my copy to the library. :´(

    • I totally agree on bringing Madeleine Brent’s books back into print (or e-book format). I read most of them as a teenager. My favourites were Tregaron’s Daughter, Merlin’s Keep, The Golden Urchin, Moonraker’s Bride, and there was another one about a girl who grew up in a circus (?Kirkby’s Changeling)

      • Madeleine Brent is a pen name of Peter O’Donnell of Modesty Blaise fame who unfortunately passed away a few years ago, so any reprints would require the permission of his estate.

        Still, I’ve always loved his Modesty Blaise novels and would love to read his Madeleine Brent books someday, if only because O’Donnell was one of the comparatively few male writers who “got” women.

  9. Dean Dean: Everything part in particular her Russian Trads and Medievals
    Madeline Brent: His globe spanning Gothic Romances
    Patricia Veryan: Golden Chronicles, Jewelled Men, Saguinet Crown series
    Judith Ivory’s books as Judy Cuevas – Dance & Bliss
    Julia Ross: The Seduction, My Dark Prince etc
    Mary Balogh: Her 90s long angsty novels: Beyond The Sunrise, Heartless, Longing, Truly, Deceived etc
    Clare Darcy: Trad Regencies
    Sara Seale: Wonderfully written old Mills & Boon/HQs like Dear Dragon & Dear Professor
    Anne Stuart: Early HQs and backlist are being released slowly there are many still unavailable like Catspaw, Glass Houses

    • Yes, yes to Patricia Veryan and Julia Ross! (Can’t comment on the others.) I’ve spent ages accumulating the Veryan books in print so that I can read the series in order. And I love all those luscious books by Julia Ross – just wish there were more.

    • I remember reading some Clare Darcy years ago so yes, I’d love to be able to revisit them. I have a battered copy of Balogh’s Tangled which was a true angst-fest, but I loved it just the same.

      And definitely yes to the Veryan books.

    • Mary Balogh has been in the process of putting some of her backlist into ebook format, and just a few days ago she asked fans on her Facebook page and her website to let her know which books they would most like to see reissued. So, let her know!

  10. I agree with Madeline Brent. Would also love to see Victoria Holt’s complete backlist such as King of the Castle and Dorothy Eden’s Winterwood.

  11. I would like to read Judith Ivory’s books.
    I can add that the problem is greater if you are a foreigner, because they only translate those books that are a hit.
    Yes, a lot of monochromatic books in our shelves… -even erotic ‘clones’ of FSoG written in Spanish by authors that a couple of years ago were writting paranormal! I guess when something different comes, they would write about the new trend.
    Completing the backlist of your favourite authors in English could be very difficult. Translated? Impossible unless you’re Kleypas.

    • I loved Wedded Bliss and A Worthy Wife by Barbara Metzger, which are both available as ebooks. Carla Kelly’s The Lady’s Companion is available from Intermix as is Elisabeth Fairchild’s The Christmas Spirit is going on my forthcoming Top Ten List.

      In terms of the books I’ve acquired expensively that I’d love to have electronically -

      Fallen Angel and Three Lords for Lady Anne and everything else by Charlotte Louise Dolan! Covington’s Folly and The Country Gentleman by Cindy Holbrook; Lady Delafont’s Dilemma by Donna Simpson; Prospero’s Daughter, The Ramshackle Suitor and others by Nancy Butler.

      I’m sure there are others, but those are just off the top of my head for starters :)

    • Oh, and I forgot to add the historicals by Annette Motley, a British author who was writing in the 80s. I absolutely LOVED The Quickenberry Tree, a family saga set around the time of the English Civil War. It’s been OOP for ages, but as she was a Brit, second-hand copies are relatively easy to get hold of. I’d just like it as an ebook, pretty please…

  12. As well as Patricia Veryan and Julia Ross, I’d like the following authors to be published in ebooks:

    Nita Abrams – only one is in Kindle
    Marguerite Bell
    Jean R Ewing – the earlier name for Julia Ross – lots of lovely old Regencies
    Anthea Malcolm – Tracy Grant writing old Regencies with her mother

    I do want to say, though, that some of the authors who are in ebooks which I’d like to buy are just too expensive. The price is important as even crazy fans won’t buy them when they’re much more expensive than a secondhand copy incl P&P, and you certainly won’t get new readers trying them. I was working through my favourites to check both availability and price on Amazon Kindle, but kept finding their backlists to be much more than I’d pay for a new ebook! I stopped listing after these few:

    Elizabeth Goudge – reduce the price
    Georgette Heyer – massively overpriced
    Mary Blayney – only four that I can see, and overpriced
    Kate Ross – a real favourite, but the ebooks are so expensive!
    Adele Ashworth – not all out as ebooks, and all except one overpriced
    Madeleine E Robins – only two out, and massively overpriced
    M.M. Kaye – too expensive
    etc…

    • What I find frustrating is that MM Kaye is in ebook in the UK – and most are far more affordable. I’d like to pick up the “Death In…” series and Nook UK (can’t see them on Amazon UK) has them for just £4.99 each while the paperback versions in the US are $16!

      I have no problem paying the same for an older book as a new one. It’s quality not how recent it was published that counts and I’d pay more for an old Dinah Dean than a new almost anyone else. But I do hesitate buying more expensive ebooks when I already have the paper version whereas that $1.99 Heyer sale a couple years ago was a windfall to back up my paperback collection.

  13. Good blog post Caz!

    If there werent used booksites these books I am not sure how I would be able to find copies of these at all.Its also very nice that there are so many devoted fans of these sometimes obscure titles. But sometimes those are the best ones :)

    As I stated before authors whose works I would love to see as ebooks

    Clare Darcy
    Joy Reed
    Julie Caille
    Paula Allardyce/Ursula Torday
    Sheila Walsh
    Sarah McCulloch
    Fiona Hill
    & many many more

    • Kagana, have you tried any bookswapping sites? I’ve gotten some great OP books through paperbackswap. I don’t know if you’re in the US, but I think there are sites that are international as well.

      I have a Clare Darcy called Elyza that I doubt I’d replace with an ebook, because I love the cover so much. Well, I suppose I could just keep the cover. :-)

      • Actually its “Kagama” lol but typoed

        I am on bookmooch but if you find a regency romance/historical romance its always “wont send to your country” :/

        Its easier altough sometimes more expensive to buy.

        I really like Lady Pamela by her.

        You could always frame the cover ;)

  14. Is anyone familiar with R. T. Stevens’s FLIGHT FROM BUCHAREST? Wonderfully romantic tale set in WWI, about a British officer who must smuggle a Romanian princess out of war-torn Europe. Yummy! Published in 1976, it was later re-released in paperback under the sappy title IN MY ENEMY’S ARMS, complete with cover art that made it look like one of the sexy historicals, which it is NOT. I found a very good hardcover edition w/dustjacket at bookfinder.com, and snapped it up!

    • Flight From Bucharest is one of my favorite romances, but I liked another R.T. Stevens novel, My Enemy, My Love (also known as Appointment in Sarajevo) even more.

      • I only read MY ENEMY, MY LOVE once, when it first came out, and I don’t remember that much about it. Apparently it didn’t make the impression on me that FFB did! Clearly, it’s time for a re-read! Good thing I was able to find a used copy at a low price!

        By the way, when the animated movie ANASTASIA first came out, I took my daughter, who was still a little girl back then, to the theater to see it. The train scene struck me so forcibly that I couldn’t help wondering if the screenwriter(s) was/were familiar with FFB. Not that I’m suggesting plagiarism by any means, but I couldn’t help wondering if it was perhaps influenced or inspired by the book. When my daughter got older, I mentioned this similarity to her, and it made her curious enough that she read the book. Now it’s one of her favorites, too!

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