Sunday, 19 October 2014

What Has Happened to Historical Romance Novels?

In the 30+ years I've been reading historical romance novels, there has been a lot of change.

But...I don't believe the change has been as wide-ranging in the UK as it has been in the US over that time.

If you're in the UK and not familiar with the US romance market, then you might find this Huff Post Books article 'What Happened to the Historical Romance Novel?' by author Maya Rodale an interesting read - although it is long- but it will help to read it all.

I do buy and read contemporary romances, but if you looked in my bookcases you'd notice that at least 75% of the contents are historical.

Once I'd moved beyond Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer I wanted more, but the choice was limited. They never seemed to have enough time to develop the sub-plots, and even the main story line seemed to be limited to a certain level of intensity- because anything more wouldn't have fitted the pre-set length the publisher required; and of course everything stopped at the bedroom door...

For some years I was able to get my historical romance fix by getting imported US editions from Waterstones or second hand copies from a book stall, whenever I came across them.

Then for a while it picked up. Some of my favourite authors began to have their latest books in a UK edition- usually with a completely different cover, much more artistic and restrained.

With the emergence of Kindle and e-books, readers now have instant access to any type of romance novel they might want, and the wider author base means even more books to choose from.

I've got no problem if an historical romance author writes a traditional no-sex romance, as their characters might be the 'wait until we're married' type; I've read a number like that, and it would have been quite out of place for those characters to have done anything different.

These traditional style stories haven't been any less enjoyable, or lacked depth and intensity.

I certainly noticed more sex scenes in novels (by a few of my favourite authors) a couple of years ago, but that trend seems to have reversed and they've returned to how they were before with one or two such scenes being the norm. Perhaps that was more to do with the 50 Shades of Grey effect...

Personally I think historical romances published in the UK have adapted slightly, but they're a long way from their American cousins. Whether that's good or bad is for each author/reader to decide...

There are now a lot of smaller publishers printing romance novels too...

Contemporary romance heroines certainly don't have the issues that their historical sisters have to deal with...

Whatever your preference, the good news is that romance is thriving, so that's good for every writer, and for their readers.


  1. Thank you for the link, Carol - very interesting. So Dukes appear to be the in thing - and the more dukedoms the merrier! :-) x

    1. Yes, Teresa, Dukes are the favourite. And of course, as it's fiction you can have as many as you might want. ;)

  2. Very interesting, Carol - but how boring if every historical was to have a Duke as the hero!

    1. Agree, Rosemary. You can have too many, and they lose their allure. :)

  3. I'm interested in history so like reading the type of historical romance which features real characters and events.

    1. That's an interesting view, Patsy. I've read a few that have featured real people of the relevant time period, but they don't add much generally. :(

  4. I often wonder what the definition is of an historical romance. I am trying to get a novel published that is set between the two world wars - that's history, isn't it? But I'm never sure whether to bill it as an historical romance!

  5. Interesting thought Lizy. A romance is where the romantic relationship developing during the novel is the main focus of the story. If the plot of the story is the main focus, not the characters relationship then I wouldn't call it a romance.

    Lots of books in other genres have a romance as a background element, but it's not the main point of the story.

    I can't remember who said it, but it was something like, an historical romance is a romance that could only have happened in that particular historic setting. If you can take that romance and transfer it to now, then it isn't really an historical romance.

    (Hope I remembered that right...)

    As to what is defined as historical, I'm sure we all have our own definitions. After all yesterday is now history. :)


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