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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.

May

  • 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.  

June

  • 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.

July

  • 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.

August

  • 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.

September

  • 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.

October

  • 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.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

59 Comments

  1. Helen Burgess
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 05:08:59

    I am also a reader who started with historical romances and then drifted away. I started to read a book set in 1863, a while ago, and the first thing the hero notices about the heroine is her legs! Now I could imagine that in 1813 but if he could see her legs through a crinoline then he had xray vision! It totally pulled me out of the book and I did not read on. There have been one or two books that intested me but by and large I have been reading paranormals and suspense and re-reading older historicals. Perhaps I just needed a rest as there are quite a few on your list that seem interesting.

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  2. Barbara Sheridan
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 06:02:41

    I started out on western historicals. What I wouldn’t give for another Susan Johnson-esque series with copious footnotes included.

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  3. Marsha
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 06:09:29

    Thank you for putting this list together! I’ll make sure to keep it with my What To Read binder. Sherry Thomas, Victoria Dahl and Jo Goodman in the space of half a year? It’s almost too much to hope for. True, Goodman’s is a Western which isn’t my preference but I think I’ll manage to cope.

    I love historicals (particularly Regencies and Scottish Medievals) with the heat of a thousand suns. I know they’re horse hockey but they’re fun horse hockey and include, to paraphrase Gregg Easterbrook, a history-like substance so I can feel that I’m perhaps learning a bit, too (I have been known to look up and read further about details of battles, rulers, architecture and so on – there’s a dissertation out there for almost any teeny tiny detail presented in historicals – just because a mention in a story piqued my curiosity and so encourage authors, editors and publishers not to discount these kinds of elements).

    The trouble for me, like the commenter before me, is that sometimes there is a detail or a phrase that just brings me right out and I can’t ever get back in once that happens. I closed a book just a few days ago wherein the hero says something like, “I knew you were nothing but trouble in a dress” and I thought, wah? Would he *say* something like that in, like, the year 750? I closed the book and am not going back in.

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  4. joanne
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 06:24:24

    I don’t care to have my swash buckled, and I do wish every story wasn’t about a titled gentleman. Lisa Kleypas has done some marvelously lush stories with heroes who aren’t part of the aristocracy. I absolutely love a story that shows the hero making his fortune within the available trades and industries of a by-gone era.

    Jennifer Ashley's, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie best get here soon. The trope is not one I would have chosen from the cover blurb but the first chapter excerpt has made it a must-read and the limitations for medical or mental health care are often very intriguing.

    Mary Balogh (and why am I the only reader on the planet that doesn’t love her writing?) has four related books that come out one after the other for four months. Waiting six months or a year for connected stories drives me nuts. And makes me lose interest.

    I’ll always love paranormals and some contemporaries but Historicals are my comfort read so please, please, please keep the language and the character’s behavior suited to the era the story is from.

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  5. Jayne
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 06:33:37

    I do wish every story wasn't about a titled gentleman. Lisa Kleypas has done some marvelously lush stories with heroes who aren't part of the aristocracy. I absolutely love a story that shows the hero making his fortune within the available trades and industries of a by-gone era.

    YES!!!

    Mary Balogh (and why am I the only reader on the planet that doesn't love her writing?)

    No, you’re not. I love her older trads – well, most of them. But her longer single title books are much more miss than hit with me.

    Historicals are my comfort read so please, please, please keep the language and the character's behavior suited to the era the story is from.

    Oh God, please yes. I understand that you can’t get all the details correct as we don’t know all the details but at least try and give it the correct period feel and flavor. Check the major facts that you can and ask about others. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there and I’ve seen that people are more than willing to share what they know.

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  6. Louisa Edwards
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 06:41:16

    My first ever romance novel was The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale, followed quickly by Elizabeth Lowell’s medievals (yes, the one where the hero locks the heroine up in a tower and gives her jewelry symbolizing her status as pet–shut UP, I was like 12) and Mary Jo Putney’s Fallen Angels series. To this day, Angel Rogue is a book I use to convert skeptics to a lifelong love of romance.

    Thanks for the list of upcoming releases! Like you, I’ve fallen away from historicals in recent years, although one author I can never get enough of and have continued to read is Eloisa James.

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  7. Heather Massey
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 06:45:05

    I don’t know if this counts, but I’m really looking forward to the steampunk romances in the pipeline (e.g., Meljean Brooks’ THE IRON DUKE, as well as forthcoming works from Katie MacAlister and Ciar Cullen). Presumably some or all of those will take place in the Victorian period.

    I know–technically, steampunk is SF/paranormal, but it seems like a natural extension of the historical romance genre imho.

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  8. Dana
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 06:47:35

    Historicals are my comfort reads too, and I began with Amanda Quick novels (actually my first romance novel was by Cassie Edwards, which put me off the entire genre for a couple of years) and quickly found Loretta Chase, Jo Goodman, Ivory, and Kinsale. I’ve also been loving the new batch of authors writing historicals.

    The next one I’m anticipating the most is Elizabeth Hoyt’s, To Beguile a Beast, which I think comes out next week.

    And thank you for putting this list together! I’ll be using it to keep track of all the release dates.

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  9. Courtney Milan
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 06:51:32

    @joanne:

    I don't care to have my swash buckled, and I do wish every story wasn't about a titled gentleman. Lisa Kleypas has done some marvelously lush stories with heroes who aren't part of the aristocracy. I absolutely love a story that shows the hero making his fortune within the available trades and industries of a by-gone era.

    I completely agree! (says Courtney Milan, not AT ALL gesturing towards her novella coming out in October, in which the extremely nonaristocratic hero starts out making eighteen pounds a year).

    But I do have to add that the swash-buckling story in question features an untitled gentleman who made his fortune within the available trades of a by-gone era, and is more about the making of that fortune (and the finding of honor) then it is about the buckling (or lack of buckling, as it turns out) of any swashes.

    I do have to say (and full disclosure: Tessa Dare is my critique partner and really good friend, so I am a biased source) that one of the things that makes SURRENDER OF A SIREN so special is the hero. He is not a titled gentleman, but he wants to do right by his family–all of his family, including (as he hails from Tortola) his half-black brother. This is a really phenomenal book that doesn’t gloss over the less pleasant parts of how fortunes were made in that by-gone era.

    And normally I wouldn’t pimp quite this much in the comments section, but Jane did ask for it. ;)

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  10. LizC
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 07:24:52

    I started out with my mother’s historicals ages ago (I was 11). I read all of them. Johanna Lindsey, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Iris Johansen, Virginia Henley, Catherine Coulter, and countless other historicals written in the 70s, 80s, & early 90s.

    I had to give up reading historicals for a while because the inaccuracies and the sameness started to bug me (the perils of being a history major, I suppose) but having only recently discovered authors like Loretta Chase, Julia Quinn, Georgette Heyer, and Joanna Bourne in the last few years I’m definitely experiencing a historical renaissance. My bank account is not happy.

    I’m very excited at the prospect of a new Loretta Chase and Julia Quinn.

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  11. Sherry Thomas
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 07:26:49

    Well, how can I see this thread and not pimp out Courtney Milan‘s full-length debut coming Jan 2010.

    I read it, loved it, and recommended it to my agent. She read it, loved it, and signed Courtney right away. She then sent it to NYC where lots of editors read it and loved it and wanted to publish it. There was an auction–and champagne all around!

    So put it on your TBB and TBR list.

    Meredith Duran’s back-to-back releases totally excite me. If you think her prose was great in DUKE OF SHADOWS, wait until you read her new books. Her talent is astonishing.

    And doesn’t Elizabeth Hoyt have a book coming out like right next week?

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  12. Sherry Thomas
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 07:28:37

    And I learned English reading historical romances. That’s all I need to say about my love for the genre. :-)

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  13. Margie
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 08:16:58

    I think I love historicals because the marriage-of-convenience is one of my favorite tropes and it works very rarely for me in contemporary books. I always feel like there are so many other options today that the marriage never HAS to happen, and then the whole premise of the book is ruined for me.

    Also, for some reason a “rouge” seems so much more acceptable in historical than in contemporary books. While I’ll accept an Enoch or Chase character who goes whoring every night (before meeting the heroine, of course!), I get annoyed with man-slut behavior in modern characters.

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  14. Keri M
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 08:17:44

    I am currently in love with Pamela Clare’s MacKinnon's Rangers series, cannot get enough of those bad boys. Heck, Pamela has even got me to thinking that William the bad guy of the stories, could turn out to be a great guy if the right woman were to come along. :-)

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  15. BevQB
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 08:18:25

    Stephanie Lauren's Mastered by Love because I just can't quit her.

    Just wanted to point this out from Stephanie Laurens newsletter:

    ON 27TH OCTOBER will come the first volume of a new quartet of books, all in paperback. In the first volume, the action takes us back to Somersham Place, where the six Cynster cousins and Chillingworth, along with their wives and families, are gathered to celebrate the Christmas of 1822 – and to assist an old colleague to get a critically important pice of evidence to Royce, Duke of Wolverstone, aka Dalziel.

    Later this year as the release date approaches, you’ll hear a lot more about this special quartet in which the Cynster couples, and Chillingworth and his Francesca, combine with the couples of the Bastion Club led by Royce and his lady, to assist four honorable men to avenge a late colleague and rid the world and their country of a villain of the blackest kind.

    I can’t tell you what a Happy this gives me!

    Also, when you’re at that RT panel on Historic Romance, don’t forget that there are some excellent EROTIC historicals out there, like Samantha Kane’s Brothers in Arms series. I think there’s a HUGE potential for growth in that sub-genre, provided that authors do their research and keep their erotic stories as period accurate as the NY historicals. (heh, note the careful wording of that last statement)

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  16. Theresa S.
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 08:29:21

    Historicals are wonderful to read, but can be a bit of a challenge to edit unless you’re an expert in the time period. I’ve got a decent grounding in history and I still will have to stop frequently during edits to double-check some detail or other, and it’s almost always something bizarre and random like the history of self-striking matches.

    All of which is to say, there may be practical editorial reasons (hello, time management) for the less historical historicals.

    But I’m still a sucker for a richly detailed period piece. Always have been, always will be.

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  17. Jane O
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 08:30:54

    I only started reading romance a few years ago, but I began with Loretta Chase’s MR. IMPOSSIBLE and LORD PERFECT. That gave me what seems to be a permanent preference for historicals. I have enjoyed some contemporaries, but no authors with the same consistency as my favorite historical authors -’ Chase, Guhrke, Julie Ann Long, Eloisa James, Liz Carlyle, Lisa Kleypas, Jo Goodman. (I’d add Meredith Duran, but I suppose I can’t proclaim consistency on the basis of one book.)

    I have disliked all paranormals I have tried, of whatever subgenre, so I certainly hope publishers keep putting out historicals.

    I don’t insist on -’ or even care about -’titled heroes, an English setting or a particular period. I do, however, expect characters to behave in a way consistent with the manners and mores of the period in which the book is set. Putting the heroine in a long skirts is insufficient.

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  18. Leslie Dicken
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 08:32:10

    Yay for historicals. I’m so glad they are making a “come back” so to speak. I cut my romance teeth on them and they’ve always been my favorites. They also make up 75% of the stories I write. I’m not making it to RT this year :-( but I’m thankful for the list you created. I’ll be keeping an eye out for some of those. Julia Ross is one of my historical faves. Stacey Kayne writes awesome western historicals.

    Shameless promo: my historical gothic (and Golden Heart finalist) story will be released from Samhain this July. Keep an eye out for BEAUTY TEMPTS THE BEAST. :-)

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  19. liz m
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 08:43:02

    I didn’t quit historicals, I think the readers bemoaning the Avonization were reading the wrong books, frankly. And I like Avon as an imprint. One more reader complaint before I move on – there’s often a wide gap between what a reader thinks she knows about a period and what she does – in my umpteen years as a romance reader I’ve seen many a discussion about how this couldn’t have been done/said/happened while the item in question was correct for the time, or at least very possible. On the flip said, many accepted things are Heyer inventions. So there you go. Imagine if your Regency Bucks spent their time playing tennis instead of boxing. (But someone played tennis between Henry 8th and the 1970′s, right?)

    I, like the person above, enjoy the fairy tale quality of the historicals. Long ago and in a time far away with a people not quite like our own, this happened. A historical is more cinematic to me, a merchant ivory production instead of the action packed bombast of the contemporary. (Which I like, but in smaller doses) I like the books with deep characterization, where the story is driven by the emotional life of the participants (Balogh, Layton, Ivory, Thomas, Bourne, Quinn, Guhrke) and not so much frantic plotting or quick cut action. I loathe but accept the eroticization of historicals but I seek out those that defy this trend. The physical slots and tabs of the relationship do nothing for me as a reader and set me skimming. Too much skimming and the author is a loss to me.

    I think the sudden success of Bourne and Thomas show there are a number of people hungry for good historicals. A suspension of disbelief is required in any read, it amuses me that the same reader who can devour the paranormals might take their magnifying glass out for the historical. Do the characters make sense in the world the author has created? Do I care about them? Those are the big questions for me. Otherwise, when she whispers “Let me tell you a story” I get my milk and my cookies and open my eyes wide for the duration of the tale.

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  20. Kris Kennedy
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 08:47:34

    I’ll give a second (or third) recs for Courtney Milan, both her Oct. novella, with Mary Balogh, and her single title, Proof By Seduction, out in Jan. She’s a friend, but also an evocative, gorgeous writer.

    Kris

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  21. she reads
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 09:08:52

    I cut my teeth on contemporary (or at least in same century) tales for as long as I can remember, and today contemporary remains my #1 fave and comfort choice. I like the fairy tale happening in the here and now, or very recent past.

    Once in a while a historical novel grabs my attention and I read it, but it’s rare. Part of my issue is that so many authors get into the ‘authentic’ that they bring in details that I’d rather not hear about. I’m reminded of a book I recently picked up, thumbed through, and put back after a gross and too detailed birth scene was discovered. I know they’re not all TMI-filled, and that’s why I read them once in a while.

    They’re just not my bag ‘o happy and I’d rather be reading about a time other than ‘ye olde’.

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  22. Monica Burns
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 09:10:13

    The last GREAT historical I read was Loretta Chase’s book Your Scandalous Ways. That is until last night. I powered through Emma Wildes An Indecent Proposition. I was hooked from the beginning and couldn’t put it down. It had wonderful lush feel with deep emotional intensity that grew as you turned the page. The hero Nicholas is wonderfully alpha but with a tenderness that’s delightful. Caroline (H) tells him he’s nice, and as a reader I believed it whole-heartedly. The same is true of the other couple in the book and their part in the over all plot. Even the secondary characters were great. In truth, I didn’t want this book to end. I don’t rave about many books, but if you love historicals and you pass this one up, I think you’re missing out on a wonderful read.

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  23. Monica Burns
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 09:13:19

    @Liz m — Do I care about them? Those are the big questions for me. Otherwise, when she whispers “Let me tell you a story” I get my milk and my cookies and open my eyes wide for the duration of the tale.

    A wonderful description. Exactly how I feel. Tell me the story. Enchant me.

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  24. Tessa Dare
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 09:13:25

    I would like to thank Jane for the very kind mentions, and throw love back at the amazing Courtney Milan, who will enchant you with her Christmas novella and then just rock the romance world in early 2010 with PROOF BY SEDUCTION.

    A few other historicals I’m excited about this summer:
    The new Julie Anne Long, coming out late July, SINCE THE SURRENDER
    The last two books in Eloisa James’ fabulous Duchess series, THIS DUCHESS OF MINE and A DUKE OF HER OWN.
    Lavinia Kent’s debut, A TALENT FOR SIN, releasing in early June

    And for those historical lovers (or converts) looking to keep track of them all, I would pimp SuperLibrarian Wendy’s awesome Upcoming Historical Romances wiki:
    http://superlibrarian.wetpaint.com/

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  25. Michelle
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 09:24:24

    I also started reading historicals in the late 80′s/early 90′s, and they are still my favorite type of romance novel. The only time they lost that appeal for me was when I was in history grad school.

    I miss the variety of settings and the “big-ness” of the stories I could find back then. While I’ve always been able to find good historicals to read and I do appreciate the regency as a setting (even if I did not like the “avonization” of them), I want more choices. It seemed like I could find more stories that would just sweep me away back then. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reread Laura Kinsale, Judith Ivory/Judy Cuevas, Mary Jo Putney, Iris Johansen, old Catherine Anderson etc. to get that big story feel back.

    Thanks for compiling that list. There are several names on it that I did not recognize, and that’s exciting.

    I am one of those who love and adore Mary Balogh’s work. Bless her for being so darn prolific.

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  26. hapax
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 09:25:57

    Avonization

    Am I the only who who, when she sees this term, has a sudden mental flash to THESE OLD SHADES and DEVIL’S CUB and sighs, “I wish…” ?

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  27. Manda
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 09:33:32

    I second Tessa’s excitement over the upcoming Eloisa James and Julie Anne Long books. Those two are outstanding:)

    And I also second Jane’s rec for Kris Kennedy’s The Counqueror. I was lucky enough to read an ARC and I loved it. And I do NOT love the medievals. But KK is something special.

    And I ADORE both Tessa Dare’s and Courtney Milan’s writing. These two are going to be BIG! I can feel it in my bones. Writing like theirs doesn’t come along every day.

    I just read Julia London’s Book of Scandal and Highland Scandal over the weekend and loved them. The Book of Scandal is heartwrenching but sweet and wonderful too. And Highland Scandal is just plain fun. And the historical details about the rift between Princess Charlotte and the Prince of Wales is fascinating.

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  28. Karen
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 10:47:03

    Two years ago I came across Madeline Hunter's BY DESIGN. I had read a few historicals before that, but they were pretty awful. By contrast, the Hunter book was intelligent and the characters had emotional depth. Since then I’ve become something of a freak to my friends because I read two to four historicals a week. They shake their heads and smile indulgently, as if my IQ has wandered off, leaving me with a dent in my wallet and a large TBR pile.

    Well, it’s their loss. I’ve been SO nourished by the talent of people like Hunter, Loretta Chase, Jo Beverley, Mary Jo Putney, and Lisa Kleypas, as well as the newer voices of Meredith Duran, Julie Anne Long, Sherry Thomas and Joanna Bourne. There is something about a well-written, emotionally charged historical that makes my little world a better place.

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  29. LizJ
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 10:51:05

    I’ve liked a lot of the books Avon has published – and many of Julia Quinn’s – and I don’t think Quinn was the problem – it was all the other books that came out that where authors were trying to write just like her (likely under pressure), and not only under the Avon imprint. It’s like going into the YA section these days and trying to find new books that are not paranormals (especially vampire-related). I love historicals (and paranormals too), but I just like variety and authors being allowed to develop their own voice.

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  30. Anthea Lawson
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 12:22:27

    I think Historicals are back and incredibly strong with it! Not only are there fabulous new voices, there seems to be a much wider range of settings and time periods – especially at the Victorian end of the spectrum, which is an awesome period for plot fodder. :) Botanical expeditions? Ladies of science? Bring it on.

    For those who love richly detailed medievals with strong characters, I recommend new author Margaret Mallory. Her first book, Knight of Desire, will be released July 1 from Grand Central. You’ll be hearing a lot about this author as the summer rolls on, including a sweet e-book offer from her publisher during her release month.

    Happy reading!

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  31. ms bookjunkie
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 12:55:29

    SBTB had a video of Jenna Petersen reading from her book LESSONS FROM A COURTESAN (at Lady Jane’s Salon) and when I came across it browsing, I had to get it. No regrets there! (OMG, balls where gentlemen mingle with courtesans, look for mistresses… Why hasn’t it been written before?!…or why have I missed it?)

    So I went searching through JP’s website and had a nagging suspicion that I’d read SCANDALOUS–or someone had written the exact same plot. (Everything peachy keen for heroine until her fiancé’s wife turns up not dead–and he knew she was alive! She ends up marrying ex-fiancé’s rake brother who has issues of his own…) After some research I found that I had, in fact, read the book but it had been borrowed. Bummer, I want a reread!

    Since I loved both books, I jumped in the deep end and ordered the three books in her Lady Spies series without doing any research at all. I expect to be very enjoyably entertained by whatever they’re about. (I mean, Lady Spies! What more do I need to know?!) Will comment to let you know how I liked them.

    Also, just noting that what I liked about LFAC and S is that they’re not *standard* Regencies. I mean, they’re set in the time period and are affected by society restrictions, but the books are about the relationships, not about standing around looking good at parties. If you know what I mean.

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  32. Brussel Sprout
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 12:59:12

    I’m a dissenting voice – I love a great historical, I cut my teeth on Woodiwiss and glommed the early Judith McNaught books, but of the 9-10 historicals I’ve read in the past 18 months, only two were really great reads – Jo Beverley’s A Lady’s Secret and Jude Morgan’s An Accomplished Woman. Anne Gracie’s Perfect series were fun and Loretta Chase’s Your Scandalous Ways was passable. The rest I found thin in terms of characterisation and world-building.

    Historicals should have a lovely fairy tale air about them, I entirely agree. But I still want a believable world, which means that by and large the historicals that are published won’t cut it for me. I read reviews and check out excerpts on websites and they just confirm the impression that most historicals may look like big fat thick books but they are actually skinny with characters who behave and speak in anachronistic ways that make a mockery of their settings, whether that’s Regency England or Victorian Britain. Eva Ibbotson is one of the few writers in the historical genre who really captured a true fairy tale element in her romances. There is magic in the air when she writes.

    Increasingly, I get my kicks from historical fiction rather than historical romance. And here, there are great reads – Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is one of the most exciting and interesting books I’ve read in a long while, with a very romantic f/f relationship at its heart. Patricia Finney wrote a terrific Elizabethan trilogy not so long ago, and Jennifer Donnelly’s books are wonderful historical reads as well. Christie Dickason writes a mean historical novel and Rose Tremain’s Music and Silence is one of my favourite novels from some years ago.

    When reading a historical book – whether or not there’s romance there – I want to be immersed in the period, living, breathing, eating, sleeping the world. But too often in recent historicals, the setting is wallpaper with a few frills and petticoats and the odd corset for titillation. Far from experiencing a historical renaissance, I’d say we were moving back into the Dark Ages with a little added psychobabble to explain away the quirks which are used as substitutes for true characterisation.

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  33. Charlotte Featherstone
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 13:17:29

    The think the historical is changing and publishers have allowed for growth within the genre by buying books with varying tones (light to dark) as well as sub-genre’s such as erotic, paranormal elements etc.

    By buying a variety of historicals, we’ll be telling publishers that we don’t want to go back to the glut of one era, one tone historical. Publishers are listening. I know mine is!

    It’s a fabulous, liberating time to be a historical author!

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  34. DS
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 13:55:10

    I think the difference between Urban Fantasy and Historicals is that Urban Fantasy novels only have to be true to their world building. I recognized decades ago that Heyer in her Regency novels was also engaged in wonderfully consistent world building. However, historical novels are supposedly set in some era of the past, so if it isn’t consistent with the era or the book isn’t internally consistent I get irritated, just as I get irritated with fantasists who screw up their world building.

    Oh so rarely though, there is an author who pulls me into the story so thoroughly that I never think to question any of their historical assertions until the book is done– and then I don’t care.

    I haven’t read a really good historical romance published this year, and I’ve only read a handful published in the past couple of years.

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  35. Janine
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 14:06:03

    I’ve thought for a while that we are in a historical renaissance. Though not every historical out there is great, there have been enough impressive books being published that I’ve been getting happier and happier with the subgenre over the last couple of years.

    As long as others are pimping their crit partners’ upcoming books, I want to put in a good word for mine, since I love their writing and enjoyed their upcoming books immensely.

    Set in the late 1890s, Sherry Thomas’s May release, Not Quite a Husband is a beautiful, heartfelt story of a couple whose marriage was annulled a few years earlier (they lied and said they hadn’t consummated it). Now, having heard that Bryony’s father is ill, Leo comes to India to escort Bryony through the mountains of what was then the North West Province of India (and is now Pakistan). There is a rebellion brewing against the British, and their enforced togetherness as well as the danger reawaken Bryony and Leo’s love. Bryony is a dedicated physician and Leo is man who once had the world at his feet, and now no longer cares, but their journey is one of discovery and healing. This gorgeous road romance moved me to tears both times I read it. There is an excerpt here.

    Meredith Duran’s end of June book, Bound by Your Touch is a beautifully written tale of an alcoholic viscount who loves nothing better than to immerse himself in scandal — the more shocking, the better — and a spinster anthropologist who must keep her family’s name above reproach so her younger sister can marry well. When she exposes his Egyptian artifact as a fraud and he threatens to reveal to the public that her father was the one who sold him the fraud, their arguments and adventures only begin. While unearthing the origins of the forged stela, they also uncover hidden depths in one another, and discover that they make each other feel more alive than they have in years. This rich, complex book reminded me of some of Judith Ivory’s work, and coming from me, that’s high praise. An excerpt can be found here.

    I started rereading (or rather reading the final version) of Meredith Duran’s end of July book, Written on Your Skin last night and ended up staying up until five in the morning. At one point I was laughing so hard that it was a struggle to keep from waking my husband who was sleeping next to me. But if that makes the book sounds lightweight, it isn’t. Set in the 1880s (like Bound by Your Touch – the books are connected), it’s the story of a man who was forced to spy for his country against his will and freed only on inheriting a title, and the American businesswoman who once saved his life and now needs him to use the skills he most abhors in himself. The opium-smoking, PTSD suffeing Phin is at once dangerous and vulnerable, and the clever Mina is far from the airhead role she plays, as well as determined not to be in the power of any man. It’s a fabulous book I loved to bits, and you can find an excerpt here.

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  36. MaryK
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 14:12:12

    I’m dying to read Jennifer Ashley's The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie! I have a thing for books with unusual and “wounded” heroes like Connie Brockway’s As You Desire and Loretta Chase’s novella “THE MAD EARL'S BRIDE.”

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  37. Robin
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 14:23:20

    I am writing my review of the Jennifer Ashley book right now, so I will just say now that I really enjoyed it. I also loved Ashley’s pirate series, but this one seems historically richer. Maybe writing all that historical fiction has made her historical Romance more nuanced in that regard? Whatever it is, I’m likin’ it.

    Also, the Goodman book is definitely a Western. Most of my favorite Goodman books have been the ones set in the good old US of A, and I have no doubt this will be no exception.

    I know I will be reviewing the Dahl book, too, but have not read it yet. But I’m looking forward to it because I think the hero, introduced in the last book and clearly more than he appears, is going to be very compelling hero material.

    Also, I just got an email today about Broken Wing’s Judith James’s new historical, which is going to be published by Sourcebooks. It’s called Highland Rebel and will be released in September. I’m sure I’ll be reviewing that one, too.

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  38. SonomaLass
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 14:56:10

    I’m really excited about the quality of historical romance lately. I love Sherry Thomas, Victoria Dahl and Carolyn Jewel, as well as some more established authors on your list. These upcoming releases make me squee!

    I like how we’re getting out of the Regency some of the time without necessarily flying back to Renaissance/Medieval times. I love Georgians, Victorians, Edwardians — and I would love some Restoration romance, too (seems a great fit, from the perspective of a theatre historian). I’m also very excited at the thought of steampunk romance. Glad Heather Massey mentioned those!

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  39. Robin
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 15:06:03

    @Barbara Sheridan: *sigh* Not even Susan Johnson is writing Susan Johnson-esque historicals anymore. I think we may have seen the end of the footnote in historical Romance, much to my disappointment.

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  40. Susan/DC
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 15:12:15

    My first romances were historicals and they are still my favorites. While I want a sense that the book is true to the time and place, I know much less about Regency London or Renaissance Italy than I do about today’s world. It’s therefore relatively easy for me to become engrossed in the fairy tale and overlook mistakes. However, set a contemporary Harlequin billionaire book in the world of high finance (or even business in general) or something else I know about, and I’m totally pulled out of the story if there’s an error.

    I’ve loved a lot of the authors previously mentioned (and am extremely grateful for the list of upcoming books). One author not yet named who I think does a very good job of creating strong heroines who are nonetheless true to their time is Zoe Archer. I very much liked both her historicals: “Lady X’s Cowboy” (a Victorian) with a businesswoman heroine and a cowboy (obviously) hero and “Love in a Bottle” (a Georgian) with a botanist heroine and a charming scoundrel for a hero. She has a new series coming out in the not-too-distant future and I’m looking forward to it.

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  41. Deb Kinnard
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 15:46:12

    Tell them, s’il vous plait: more medievals well written medievals. Fewer titles set in the 1800s. I’d like to see stories set early in the 20th century — is there no interest in writing/reading about that fascinating period between the wars? What about the early 1900s? As far as England: no more dukes (there just weren’t that many).

    And above all: no more bonnet books!

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  42. MB
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 15:47:48

    I think that “Lord Wraybourne’s Betrothed” is a reprint. Is that correct?

    It’s a wonderful book, btw, if it’s the one I’m remembering.

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  43. ReacherFan
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 15:49:42

    I get the feeling I’m older than most on this blog, certainly older the ‘Ja(y)nes’. :-) I won’t say how long ago I first read historicals, but Anya Seton was my introduction and her Kathrine and That Winthrop Woman remain two of my favorites. Part of my problem was I had already read authors like Thomas Costain, Mary Renault, Leonard Cottrell, and Edith Hamilton, fiction and non-fiction. I had little patience for all the badly written romance out there. Beatrice Small was good as were several others, but it was a shallow field. As for pirates, Rafael Sabatini was just wonderful.

    Then Garland and Quick attracted me, not with great historical detail, but lively characters that were fun. Then everyone was writing Amanda Quick and Judy Garland and Julia Quinn. I just read Celeste Bradley’s ‘Seducing the Spy‘. It was mildly amusing and totally forgettable. I got it through PaperBackSwap.com (and boy is that pretty much a waste of time). It sells for $7+tax. While certainly not ‘free’ from PBS, a least it wasn’t full price. It gets 4.5* on Amazon. It’s worth about a C- (2.75*). I’m not sure if I’ll even bother reviewing it on my blog.

    While I will welcome a renaissance in historical romance, not to mention a serious reduction all those too-cute-for-words cozy mysteries and oh-the-drama-vamps-weres-fey paranormals and not-another-run-amok-secret-shadow-agency and the rest of the over worked, over-wrought, tropes, plots and characters out there, I am not holding my breath.

    I am delighted to see Loretta Chase has a new book coming out. The Last Hellion is my favorite of hers. I am re-reading an old ‘keeper’ copy of Lord Perfect.

    In the meantime, I shall bemoan the lack of truly talented and original writers and the proliferation of the me-too’s.

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  44. joanne
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 16:50:17

    @Coutney Milan:

    novella coming out in October, in which the extremely nonaristocratic hero starts out making eighteen pounds a year

    I’ll be watching for the release of that anthology, thank you!

    AND: Seriously, CONGRATULATIONS on your first full length Historical Novel. It sounds wonderful, and it’s on my list. (shopping, not hit)

    @ BevQB: Thank you for making my day because Dalziel! FINALLY.

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  45. Janine
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 17:53:07

    Besides the aforementioned Meredith Duran and Sherry Thomas books, I’m also looking forward to or interested in the following books (a couple of these have not yet been mentioned in this thread, I think):

    A Most Lamentable Comedy by Janet Mullany, which is coming out in early May but only in the UK.

    The Surgeon’s Lady by Carla Kelly comes out in early June.

    Don’t Tempt Me by Loretta Chase (end of June)

    Loving a Lost Lord by Mary Jo Putney (end of June)

    Since the Surrender by Julie Anne Long (end of July)

    Indiscreet by Carolyn Jewel — (early October)

    Also, I don’t know when Pam Rosenthal and Lydia Joyce’s next books will be out, but I will be reading them.

    And since steampunk has been mentioned, Lord Foster’s Devils by Ginn Hale (the sequel to Wicked Gentlemen).

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  46. Robin
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 18:17:07

    @ReacherFan: I would also like more risk taking, moving prose, and historical detail (aka LONGER books), and I hope that as historicals trend away from history lite (eau d’histoire) we get more of that. But I have to say that this year has really been the most memorable in quite a while where historicals are concerned, at least for me. Just the fact that I’m not bored or appalled all the time is a big step forward for me. And there really have been some stand-outs, especially among new authors (and authors like Julie Ann Long who IMO is really hitting her stride).

    Also, I’ll add False Colors to the list of historicals I’m anticipating, even though it’s been released already.

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  47. ReacherFan
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 20:46:17

    LOL – I’d been watch Fred Astair and Judy Garland on youtube doing ‘We’re a Couple of Swells’ and named her instead of Julie Garwood the writer. :-) Freudian slip.

    @Robin – I love to see a list of some really worthwhile historicals. Separating the wheat from the chaff is so difficult. I just got The Spymasters Lady, but that’s about it for new ones.

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  48. Sherry Thomas
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 21:17:22

    @Janine,

    Set in the late 1890s, Sherry Thomas's May release, Not Quite a Husband is a beautiful, heartfelt story

    You forget to say it’s hot! My own critique partner, no less. You know all the beautiful and heartfelt in the world isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit if it weren’t for the hot. :-)

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  49. Lorraine
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 22:15:35

    I love historicals. They, and paranormals are all I read.

    My favorite era is medievals…they’re wonderful. Whenever I finish one I feel so relaxed and pleased with the world. I can’t wait to read Kris Kennedy’s The Conqueror *I loved Brenda Joyce’s book by the same name…I know, lots of old skool offensiveness, but I loved it*

    FWIW I hope the historical renaissance will include more diverse choices in eras and settings. In the last decade it seems that the Regency era has become the era of choice for many writers. I wish they would broaden their horizons and try something different. One of my favorite reads of the last several years was Claudia Dain’s To Burn. Not only does it have great characters and writing, but it takes place in Britain right as the Roman Empire is falling…how interesting is that! In all my decades of reading romance, I’d never read anything about that period…I loved it! I’d like to see more books written about the Dark Ages…Charlemagne, anyone?

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  50. Moth
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 22:17:40

    I know what I want is some more interesting settings. India. The Mediterranean. The East. Anywhere that’s not England, France or Italy please. I know we’ve got some books out already like that and some more coming out this year (like Sherry Thomas’ offerring) but I’m a glutton and I want MORE!!!

    I’d also like a little change with the time periods. I’d like a nice WWII romance. I was very sad that Carrie Lofty had abandoned her MS set during the silent film era. THAT sounded interesting. Oh and I would die for a single-title romance set in Rome or Egypt that wasn’t a total wall-banger.

    What else? *thinks* I think I’d like a book set during or right before the American Revolutionary War- a la The Raider by Jude Deveraux (incidentally the only one of hers I ever re-read anymore).

    This is a fun thread. :)

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  51. CC
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 23:26:46

    Love historicals- they easily make up a third of my bookshelves- that said I cannot read most historicals set in the time period I work in, too much for me to pick at- I usually read books set in Europe or very early settlement of North America where my knowledge is less. No matter where/when a book is set there are things that I can overlook and other things that are such minutiae that I honestly expect them to be screwed up.

    Then there’s the rest of the mess. I can appreciate that editing historicals probably takes twice as long as others but I’ve read, or attempted to read, books where: the man inherits a title and actually goes down a layer in the nobility food chain rather than up, the person sends a telegraph over fifty years before they’re invented, people grew up in towns, states, or countries that didn’t exist in the time period, and I still can’t get used to all the bathing that goes on is so many books set during time periods when people bragged about not washing.

    That’s the books in the past, the books I would like to see in the future don’t take place in England or Scotland particularly during the Regency period, don’t involve the nobility, have honest repercussions for the heroines spunk and spirit and are set in time periods of exploration and change.

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  52. Kaetrin
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 23:28:10

    Mary Jo Putney’s got a new book coming out? SQUEEEE!!!

    Also for the books by Carolyn Jewel, Jo Beverley, Sherry Thomas (the one set in India? All I can say is YAY!) Meredith Duran, Loretta Chase, Victoria Dahl, just to name a few – WOW – Man I’m looking forward to this year’s books!!

    I’m even excited by the new Stephanie Lauren’s quartet (although now I know who Dalziel is cause I read the post – #@(*%#!!!)

    Thanks for the inspiration Jane.

    Oh, and I love all things Balogh. Some more than others I admit, but all things by her I must have.

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  53. Janine
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 00:39:34

    You forget to say it's hot! My own critique partner, no less. You know all the beautiful and heartfelt in the world isn't worth a bucket of warm spit if it weren't for the hot. :-)

    :: Hangs head in shame::

    Yeah, Not Quite a Husband is steamy enough that it should come with instruction to read it in an air conditioned environment and drink something icy at the same time. As well as a warning to store it in the refrigerator so the pages won’t spontaneously combust like movies shot on silver nitrate film.

    Seriously it’s probably your hottest book, which is saying something. But you know, I think I said beautiful and heartfelt because it’s that emotional quality that really makes a book memorable to me. There are a lot of hot books out there, but not so many that are beautifully written and make me cry as well.

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  54. Evangeline
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 03:42:13

    Huzzah for the renaissance, but I’d like there to be more books out there not set in Britain or with British characters ;) I’ve grown rather fond of American men during research for my WIP, and I’ve grown even fonder of the possibilities and opportunities available for American women (lawyers!), and most fond of the history right smack-dab in my own backyard.

    And can I say Hurrah for the Duran books? I’m glad Janine gave a summary of both releases because the blurbs left me scratching my head in confusion. :D

    Oh, don’t forget Beverly Kendall and Erica Ridley for upcoming historicals!

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  55. Leslie
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 04:07:59

    @robin: Thanks for mentioning False Colors (Alex Beecroft). That’s next on my TBR list. I just finished Trangressions by Erastes which was also just released from Running Press. It was great. I’d highly recommend it.

    @moth: Looking for WWII? Might I suggest Paper Moon by Marion Husband which takes place in 1946 as people are trying to put their lives back together after the war. While it can be read as a standalone, it’s better to read Husband’s first book, The Boy That I Love which takes place 26 years earlier and has a similar theme: putting lives back together after WWI. Both books share characters so it is worth reading them together.

    L

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  56. votermom
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 07:12:27

    I’m getting so many titles from this thread!
    Brussel Sprout, I also dislaike “wallpaper settings” so I am giving your recs a try.

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  57. Notable historicals « Romantic Reads
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 14:08:45

    [...] Posted by Leah under News, Trends No Comments  Over at DearAuthor, Jane has highlighted some upcoming historicals that defy tradition, [...]

  58. Rei
    Apr 24, 2009 @ 06:42:33

    If you like historicals, you might be interested in checking out Phillipa Gregory – she’s one of the more popular historical romance writers here in the UK. Opinions around me vary from huge fan to disgusted – I’d be interested to see what you think. I rather liked The Constant Princess from her.

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  59. yoli
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 17:03:51

    nice site/blog/post

    ReplyReply

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