- Historical romance
Historical romance is a subgenre of two
literary genres, the romance noveland the historical novel.
Historical romance is set before
World War II.cite web | title = Romance Novels--Subgenres | publisher = Romance Writers of America| url =https://www.rwanational.org/eweb/dynamicpage.aspx?webcode=AboutUsGenre | accessdate = 2007-04-16] Many historical romances include contemporary attitudes, as, for example, the heroines often have far more education than was the norm in their time period. [Thurston, pp. 76-77.]
This subgenre includes a wide variety of other subgenres, including
The following subgenres are commonly seen within historical romance.
These books feature
Vikingsduring the Dark Agesor Middle Ages.cite web|title=Historical Designations: Genres, Time Periods & Locations|publisher=All About Romance|url=http://www.likesbooks.com/periods.html|accessdate=2007-07-19] Heroes in Viking romances are typical alpha maleswho are tamed by their heroines. Most heroes are described as "tall, blonde, and strikingly handsome."Cite web|title=Vikings|publisher=Romantic Times|url=http://www.romantictimes.com/books_themes.php?theme=75|last=Ryan|first=Kate|date=October 1997|accessdate=2007-07-20] Using the Viking culture allows novels set in these time periods to include some travel, as the Vikings were "inverterate adventurers, founding and conquering colonies all over the globe." In a 1997 poll of over 200 readers of Viking romances, Johanna Lindsey's "The Fires of Winter" was considered the best of the subgenre. The subgenre has fallen out of style, and few novels in this vein have been published since the mid-1990s.
These romances are typically set between 938-1485. Women in the medieval time periods were often considered as no more than property who were forced to live at the mercy of their father, guardian, or the king. Always a
lady, the heroine must use her wits and will and find a husband who will accept her need to be independent, yet still protect her from the dangers of the times. The hero is almost always a knightwho first learns to respect her and her uncommon ideas and then falls in love. Heroes are always strong and dominant, and the heroine, despite the gains she has made, is usually still in a subordinate position. However, that position is her choice, made "the sake of and with protection from an adoring lover, whose main purpose in life is to fulfille his beloved's wishes."Cite web|title=Themes: Medieval Knights|publisher=Romantic Times|url=http://www.romantictimes.com/books_themes.php?theme=94|last=Benninger|first=Gerry|date=Julyy 1999|accessdate=2007-07-20]
Pirate novels feature a male or female who is sailing, or thought to be sailing, as a
pirateor privateeron the high seas. Pirate heroes are the ultimate "bad boys," who "dominate all for the sake of wealth and freedom."Cite web|title=Themes: Pirates|publisher=Romantic Times|url=http://www.romantictimes.com/books_themes.php?theme=77|last=Ryan|first=Kate|date=January 1998|accessdate=2007-07-20] The heroine is usually captured by the hero in the early part of the novel, and then are forced to succumb and eventually fall in love with their captor. On the rarer occasions where the heroine is the pirate, the book often focuses on her struggle to maintain her freedom of choice while living the life of a man. Regardless of the gender of the pirate, much of the action in the book takes place at sea.
These novels are set between 1832 and 1901 England, beginning with the
Reform Act of 1832and including the reign of Queen Victoria. Those set during this period but in a fictional countrymay be Ruritanian novels such as those by Maxwell.
Colonial United States
These novels are set in the
frontierof the United States, Canada, or Australia. Unlike Westerns, where women are often marginalized, the Western romance focuses on the experiences of the female.citation|last=Regis|first=Pamela|title=A Natural History of the Romance Novel|publisher=University of Pennsylvania Press|date=2003|location=Philadelphia, Pennsylania|isbn=0812233034|page=163] Heroes in these novels seek adventure and are forced to conquer the unknown. They are often loners, slightly uncivilized, and "earthy."Cite web|title=Themes: Frontier|publisher=Romantic Times|url=http://www.romantictimes.com/books_themes.php?theme=9|last=Martin|first=Constance|date=September 1999|accessdate=2007-07-20] Their heroines are often forced to travel to the frontier by events outside their control. These women must learn to survive in a man's world, and, by the end of the novel, have conquered their fears with love. In many cases the couple must face a level of personal danger, and, upon surmounting their troubles, are able to forge a strong relationship for the future.
These novels could also fall into the Western subgenre, but always feature a Native American
protagonistwhose "heritage is integral to the story." These romances " [emphasize] instinct, creativity, freedom, and the longing to escape from the strictures of society to return to nature."Cite web|title=Themes: Native Americans|publisher=Romantic Times|url=http://www.romantictimes.com/books_themes.php?theme=98|last=Martin|first=Constance|date=November 1999|accessdate=2007-07-20] Members of Native American tribes who appear in the books are usually depicted as "exotic figures" who " [possess] a freedom to be admired and envied." Often the Native protagonist is struggling against racial prejudice and incurs hardships trying to maintain a way of life that is different from the norm. By the end of the novel, however, the problems are surmounted. The heroes of these novels are often fighting to control their darker desires. In many cases, the hero or heroine is captured and then falls in love with a member of the tribe. The tribe is always depicted as civilized, not savages, and misunderstood.
When surveyed about their reasons for reading Native American romances, many readers cited the desire to learn about the beliefs, customs and culture of the Native American tribes. The novels within this subgenre are generally not limited to a specific tribe, location, or time period. Readers appreciate that native tribes "have a whole different way of life, a different way of thinking and a different way of looking at things".citation|last=Kitzmiller|first=Chelley|title=Write Byte: The Allure of the Native American Romance|date=
November 3, 1997|publisher=All About Romance|accessdate=2007-08-28|url=http://www.likesbooks.com/indian.html] In many cases, the tribe's love of nature is highlighted.
Historical romance novels are rarely published in hardcover, with fewer than 15 receiving that status each year. The contemporary market usually see 4 to 5 times that many hardcovers. Because historical romances are primarily published in mass-market format, their fortunes are tied to a certain extent to the mass-market trends. Booksellers and large merchandisers are selling fewer mass market paperbacks, preferring trade paperbacks or hardcovers, which prevent historical romances from being sold in some price clubs and other mass merchandise outlets.
In 2001, historical romance reached a 10-year high as 778 were published. By 2004, that number had dropped to 486, which was still 20% of all romance novels published. Kensington Books claims that they are receiving fewer submissions of historical novels, and that their previously published authors are switiching to contemporary.citation | last = Dyer | first = Lucinda | title = Romance: In Its Own Time | newspaper = Publishers Weekly | date =
June 13, 2005| url =http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA607853.html?industryid=23602&industry=Romance+Books&q=paranormal+romance+genre| accessdate = 2007-04-30] cite web | title = Romance Writers of America's 2005 Market Research Study on Romance Readers | publisher = Romance Writers of America| date = 2005 | url =https://www.rwanational.org/eweb/docs/05MarketResearch.pdf | accessdate = 2007-04-16]
The first historical romances appeared in 1921, when
Georgette Heyerbegan writing romances set during the English Regencyperiod (1811-1820), when the Prince Regent ruled England in place of his ill father, George III. Heyer was inspired by Austen's novels. Although Austen had also written romances set in the Regency period, hers were contemporary novels, describing the times in which she lived. Because Heyer's writing was set in the midst of events that had occurred over 100 years previously, she had to include more detail on the time period in order for her readers to understand. [Regis (2003), pp. 125-126.] Unlike the other romance novels of the time period, Heyer's novels used the setting as a plot device. Her characters often contained more modern-day sensibilities, and more conventional characters in the novels would point out the heroine's eccentricities, such as wanting to marry for love. [Regis (2003), p. 127.] Heyer was a prolific author, and write one to two historical romance novels per year until her death in 1974. [Regis (2003), p 125.]
The modern romance genre was born in 1972 with Avon's publication of
Kathleen Woodiwiss's " The Flame and the Flower", the first romance novel "to [follow] the principals into the bedroom."citation | last = Athitakis | first = Mark | title = A Romance Glossary | newspaper = SF Weekly | date = July 25, 2001| url =http://www.sfweekly.com/2001-07-25/news/a-romance-glossary/ | accessdate = 2007-04-23] citation| last = Zaitchik | first = Alexander | title = The Romance Writers of America convention is just super | newspaper =New York Press | date = July 22, 2003| url =http://www.nypress.com/16/30/news&columns/feature.cfm| accessdate = 2007-04-30] Aside from its content, the book was revolutionary in that it was one of the first single-title romance novels to be published as an original paperback, rather than being first published in hardcover, and, like the category romances, was distributed in drug stores and other mass-market merchandising outlets. The novel went on to sell 2.35 million copies.Citation | last =Darrach | first =Brad | title = Rosemary's Babies | newspaper = Time
January 17, 1977| url =http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,918604-2,00.html|accessdate=2007-07-17] Avon followed its release with the 1974 publication of Woodiwiss's second novel, "The Wolf and the Dove" and two novels by newcomer Rosemary Rogers. One of Rogers's novels, "Dark Fires" sold two million copies in its first three months of release, and, by 1975, "Publishers Weekly" had reported that the "Avon originals" had sold a combined 8 million copies.Thurston, pp 47-48.] The following year over 150 historical romance novels, many of them paperback originals, were published, selling over 40 million copies. Unlike Woodiwiss, Rogers's novels featured couples who travelled the world, usually were separated for a time, and had multiple partners within the book.cite web | last = Marble | first = Anne | title =Bodice-Rippers & Super Couples | work= At the Back Fence Issue #160 | publisher =All About Romance Novels | date = May 15, 2003| url =http://www.likesbooks.com/160.html| accessdate = 2007-04-30]
The success of these novels prompted a new style of writing romance, concentrating primarily on historical fiction tracking the monogamous relationship between a helpless heroines and the hero who rescued her, even if he had been the one to place her in danger.citation | last = White | first = Pamela | title = Romancing Society | newspaper = Boulder Weekly | date =
August 15, 2002| url =http://www.boulderweekly.com/archive/081502/coverstory.html | accessdate = 2007-04-23] The covers of these novels tended to feature scantily clad women being grabbed by the hero, and caused the novels to be referred to as "bodice-rippers." A " Wall St. Journal" article in 1980 referred to these bodice rippers as "publishing's answer to the Big Mac: They are juicy, cheap, predictable, and devoured in stupifying quantities by legions of loyal fans." [Thurston, p 67.] The term bodice-ripper is now considered offensive to many in the romance industry.
In this new style of historical romance, heroines were independent and strong-willed and were often paired with heroes who evolved into caring and compassionate men who truly admired the women they loved. [Thurston, p 72.] This was in contrast to the contemporary romances published during this time, which were often characterized by weak females who fell in love with overbearing
alpha males.citation| last = Grossman | first =Lev | author-link=Lev Grossman|title = Rewriting the Romance | newspaper = Time |date= February 3, 2003| url =http://www.juliaquinn.com/images/news/time-specific/time-magazine/JuliaQuinn.pdf | accessdate = 2007-04-03] Although these heroines had active roles in the plot, they were "passive in relationships with the heroes."Citation | first =Jennifer | last =Crusie | author-link =Jennifer Crusie | editor-last =Kaler | editor-first =Anne | editor2-last =Johnson-Kurek | editor2-first =Rosemary | contribution =This Is Not Your Mother's Cinderella: The Romance Novel as Feminist Fairy Tale | contribution-url =http://www.jennycrusie.com/essays/thisisnotyourmothers.php | title =Romantic Conventions | year =1998 | pages =51-61 | publisher =Bowling Green Press] , Across the genre, heroines during this time were usually aged 16-21, with the heroes slightly older, usually around 30. The women were virgins, while the men were not, and both members of the couple were described as beautiful. [Thurston, p 75.]
In the late 1980s, historical romance dominated the romance genre. The most popular of the historical romances were those that featured warriors, knights, pirates, and cowboys. In the 1990s the genre began to focus more on humor, as
Julie Garwoodbegan introducing humorous elements and characters into her historical romances.cite web|title=Susan Wiggs - And Now (as usual), Something New|publisher=All About Romance Novels|url=http://www.likesbooks.com/susanwiggs.html|date= May 25, 2003|accessdate=2007-07-25]
*citation|last=Regis|first=Pamela|title=A Natural History of the Romance Novel|publisher=University of Pennsylvania Press|date=2003|location=Philadelphia, Pennsylania|isbn=0812233034
*cite book|last=Thurston|first=Carol|title=The Romance Revolution|publisher=University of Illinois Press|location=Urbana and Chicago|date=1987|isbn=0-252-014421-1
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