Hey, you. Yeah, you. Do you read historical romance novels? If so, are there certain time periods in which you love for stories to be set, and certain ones that are an automatic turn-off? How about geographically speaking? Do you prefer your love stories to take place in England? More exotic locales? Are some regions likely to increase your desire to read the tale, or to make you set the book back down?
Inquiring authors want to know. And yes, I ask this question as an author, but I also ask it as a reader, because I have some definite opinions/feelings/biases about those very questions.
I love Regency romance novels. They’ve been my thing for a quite a while, and are the setting in which I intend to write most of my own romances. Give me a Julia Quinn, an Eloisa James, a Sabrina Jeffries book any day! Some people would say, “Boring. Been there, done that. There are already too many Regency romances on the market.” Not for me. I can’t quite explain it – the Regency period is NOT one of the time periods I studied while a history major in college or a history grad student. More’s the pity – what a help that would be for my research! But there’s something about the Cinderella-esque fantasy of the aristocracy – of dukes and earls and viscounts and the like. Especially if those dukes and earls and viscounts are falling in love with the spinsters and governesses and quirky blue stockings to which many of us feel we can relate (O.K., I assume given the high sales of these kinds of books that I’m not the only modern reader who finds something in that period that resonates, at least.). I’d love to think I would have been born a duchess had I lived in the 19th century, but I’m pretty sure I would have been that duchesses’ chambermaid, if anything.
You’d think given my focus on medieval history as a doctoral student that that would be the time period most likely to reel me in. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. I love almost everything written by Lynn Kurland, whose time-travel romances often zip between the medieval period and today. Jude Devereaux‘s A Knight in Shining Armor is in my Top 5 Romances of All Time list. There are numerous fabulous authors of medieval romance, including early favorites of mine, Julie Garwood and Virginia Henley. Still, I don’t go for this time period as much as I used to, and I don’t quite know why. Maybe it’s a guilty reminder of how much I’ve forgotten from my (allegedly) intellectual days. Of course my current addiction to the BBC series Merlin *has* reignited the flame for knights and castles and damsels kicking ass, so perhaps that will induce me to set a future story in Arthurian England.
A third favorite is the American west in pioneering days, although I admit I read more of these (and saw more of these) in the 1980s and 1990s. Nothing like the school marm and sheriff to set the sparks flying. LaVyrle Spencer comes to mind here – boy, are her books wonderful! Linda Lael Miller, Johanna Lindsey, Elizabeth Lowell… oh yeah. Are fewer of these published now, or has my Regency fixation kept me unaware of the newer authors in this genre?
Those three eras in history are the ones most likely to catch my notice when browsing the romances in a store. Eras likely to turn me off? I don’t tend to care for most 20th century romances – and by this, I mean historical, not contemporary. Maybe it feels too close to our current day. If my grandparents were alive in the time period during which the main characters lived, well, that seems to keep me away. Not that there aren’t brilliant works of romantic fiction set in WWI and WWII eras – they’re just not for me. I’m also not as interested in Renaissance/Early Modern era romances (1500s-1700s), although again, I don’t know why. I studied this period a lot in grad school, so why doesn’t it trip my trigger? *shrugs*
I’m a little embarrassed to talk about my geographical preferences, since they are very western-Civ in nature. Maybe it’s because it’s the culture and background with which I’m most familiar, but I do seem to gravitate toward books set in England or America. I’m less likely, to my everlasting shame, to pick up a romance set in Asia or Africa or South America. *hides head* I’m sorry, world! I’m going for painful honesty here! Although I did read a few of Mary Jo Putney‘s romances recently that had her heroines and heroes racing all around the Middle East, and yes, they were excellent. And I’ll take a Lisa Kleypas novel no matter when/where it’s set! I’m just talking general preferences.
O.K., having given you my answers, I’d love to hear yours.
Would you read romances set in ancient Rome? Medieval Germany? (Yeah, I ask about those two because they are the two areas in which I used to be the most learned, and which still fascinate me – and in which I could consider setting future stories.)
What historical time periods and geographic regions do you feel are underrepresented in the romance genre?