I don’t like queer historicals, they’re so depressing.
In the past, I’ve bemoaned a lack of variety in historical romance settings, and we’ve even voted on where readers wanted to see historical set (Result: we like 19th c. England but wouldn’t mind reading about other places and times, too!). However, over the past few years I’ve been seeing change in the historical market overall.
Historical romance once dominated the market. When I started reading romance as a 1990s high school student, the vast majority of books out there were historicals – and they were set all over the place. When I started at AAR in 2003, it was harder to find a wide variety of historical settings, but there were still plenty of books. 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
Some weeks ago, I wrote about what I have learned from historical romance, focusing on historic events and places of interest. But this is not the only way these books have shaped me: I have also picked a number of words from them. With this I don’t mean technical terms like words for carriages, clothing etc, which only describe items in their historical context and which I understand, but – for obvious reasons – don’t use in daily conversation. What I mean are words that are old-fashioned in present-day English, but which I have picked up from historical romances and that have slipped into my usage of English, sometimes to the astonishment of my listeners. As a non-native speaker, it can be difficult for me to distinguish between words that are commonly used in present-day English, and those that are regarded as unusual by native speakers!
I am a history geek – for some reason unknown to me, when it comes to history, my brain registers and stores a multitude of little details presented to it, unlike, say, names of trees or car brands. I regularly astonish people by knowing historical facts that are way out. Yet I hardly ever open a book of historical fiction, even less often a book of reference. I have learnt what I know about history from reading romances.
For every wallpaper historicals out there, there is a novel that is meticulously researched, and manages to imbue historical facts with so much life by linking them to the lives of characters I am intrigued by, that those facts just stick to my memory like a burr.
I sat down to write something kind of snarky about language use in historicals after having come across some particularly heinous examples lately, but I soon found myself thinking about something entirely different: Are we in the midst of a renaissance of the historical romance?
I think we may be getting there. Recently I read – and was blown away by – Anne Stuart’s Ruthless. The novel is a great one any way you choose to judge it, but it’s also noteworthy for taking place in 1765 in France. Yes, that’s right, I said France. But, refreshing as that different time and setting may be, I loved this book because it is a voluptuous (and, yes, I really think that word applies), full-bodied (yes, I like it, even if it is redundant), lush romance between a truly dissolute rake and a strong, self-reliant woman. And, even better, it reminded me of a classic of the author’s from a l-o-o-o-o-n-g time ago that I have saved since I first read it – Lord Satan’s Bride. And I am excited – oh, my, am I excited – about the remaining two books in the trilogy.