Are We in a Historical Renaissance?
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I remember reading historicals in my teens. I checked out Whitney My Love from the Library and hid it under my head. I loved the Iris Johansen Loveswept historicals. I introduced myself to Amanda Quick at the age of 19 and started a life long love affair with her writing. Many of my favorite books of all time are historicals: Black Silk by Judith Ivory; Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase; Betrothal, Chieftan, Border Lord by Arnette Lamb; Honor’s Splendor, The Lion’s Lady by Julie Garwood. The list could go on and on. All of these books were published in the early 1990s. Their popularity, for the most part, seems timeless as many are still in print.
In my romance world, historicals are the backbone. They are my comfort read, my true love. I am far more lenient with historicals than I am with most other sub genres, in part because I want to believe. There is a sense of fairy tale quality to the stories and within the pages, I can easily let go all the agonies of the day, losing myself to the world created with ink and words.
For the last five years, though, many within the romance community have bemoaned the sameness of historicals. We were given mostly frothy, wallpaper type regencies. There was even a term for it – Avonization – named after the prevalence of books that Avon put out that seemed to be similar in tone (light), style (Julia Quinn-ish) and period (Regency). Readers would bemoan that they would rather die than read another Regency (a slight, but only slight, exaggeration).
I began drifting away from historicals a while back, reading less and less within the genre. I started picking up more urban fantasy, paranormal romances, and romantic suspense.
But then, just when we all thought historicals were dead, we had the year of Sherry Thomas, Joanna Bourne, a new one from Loretta Chase, a sensitive trilogy from Suzanne Enoch, and still more. This year, we are getting even more new authors and new gems from established ones; and as I reflect on the future of historicals, it is hard not to be excited.
I’m off to Romantic Times convention this year and will be attending a panel for historical romances at RT tomorrow. I am supposed to tell you what readers are saying about historicals so speak up! I want to hear from you as to what you are excited about. What you want to see in your historicals. Why you love historicals and why you don’t. Here’s a few books that I am marking down on my calendar.
- Suzanne Enoch’s Notorious Gentleman trilogy ends in May with Always a Scoundrel and provides the perfect closure for the series she began with After the Kiss.
- Sherry Thomas’ third book, Not Quite a Husband, a late Victorian set marriage-in-trouble (in real trouble) romance.
- Jennifer Ashley’s, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, featuring a hero with Asperger syndrome.
- Evangeline Collins’ Her Ladyship’s Companion a cast off wife exiled to a country estate takes a hired lover and falls in love with him.
- Tessa Dare’s novella from Samhain, Legend of the Werestag. (This is not a paranormal like the title might suggest but a totally wonderful short story. Don’t miss it).
- Kris Kennedy’s The Conqueror is a debut work and will be only $3.99. I have it on good authority that Kennedy is an author to be watched.
- Elizabeth Hoyt’s To Beguile a Beast. Hoyt’s historicals are all loosely woven around a fairy tale. The hero in this story lost his eye when captured by Native Americans and the heroine is a courtesan who is escaping her former lover.
- Newcomer Jennifer Haymore’s A Hint of Wicked featuring a true and challenging love triangle.
- Jackie Barbosa’s collection of stories in Behind the Red Door.
- Meredith Duran’s Bound by Your Touch with a very naughty lord and woman of science.
- Mary Jo Putney’s return to straight historicals with Loving A Lost Lord
- Shirl Henke’s Chosen Woman set in 1893 Oklahoma territory
- Bobbi Smith’s Runaway set in late 19th C Colorado
- Julia Quinn’s annual offering, What Happens in London
- Loretta Chase’s 2009 release, Don’t Tempt Me
- Anne Mallory’s For the Earl’s Pleasure. I liked her last year’s release and am interested in her next release.
- Meredith Duran’s Written on Your Skin
- Tessa Dare’s Goddess of the Hunt. I loved the heroine in this book, Lucy. She thinks she knows what she wants and tries to get it and instead finds the love that will last her forever.
- Stephanie Lauren’s Mastered by Love because I just can’t quit her.
- Tessa Dare’s Surrender of a Siren. This is a swashbuckling romance for all those who like the swash and the buckle and those who don’t. (I fall into the latter category if you are wondering).
- Gerri Russell’s To Tempt a Knight, set in 1330s Scotland and described to me as an “adventure romance.”
- Mary Blayney’s A Stranger’s Kiss.
- Victoria Dahl’s One Week as Lovers. I haven’t read this one yet, but I love her contemporary voice and Janet/Robin loves her historical voice so I’m excited to read this.
- Laura Lee Guhrke With Seduction in Mind. LLG is a very consistent author.
- Liz Carlyle, Wicked All Day. This is the story of Marquess of Rannoch’s illegimate daughter. I can’t wait. Plus, I can work on the family flowchart between now and mid September.
- Jo Goodman, Never Love a Lawman. I think this one’s a western? Whatever it is, I know I’ll love it. Okay, I’m hopeful.
- Claudia Dain’s next entry into the Courtesan series, How to Dazzle a Duke. I love this series.
- Tessa Dare’s A Lady of Persuasion. I haven’t been able to read this one yet, but I’m excited to. It involves a jilted lover from GOTH and the sister of the hero in SOAS.
- Courtney Milan’s debut work is a novella called, This Wicked Gift in the The Heart of Christmas anthology. It’s a story of a bookshop owner and a clerk and a gift of the magi type of love story. Charming and heartfelt, it brings forth all the sentiments of the holidays without being overly maudlin.
- Carolyn Jewel’s Indiscreet. Her voice is so moving.
- Jo Beverly’s Lord Wraybourne Bethrothed. Beverly might be Jayne’s favorite author. I accosted Beverly at the RITA awards last year.