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We should let the historical genre die

someecards.com - You should just give up in general.

When I began reading romances in the 80s, they were almost all historicals. Books were set during the American Revolution, the early settlement days, the Gilded Age.  They were medievals, regencies, and the old West.  They featured horse racers, steel magnates, and pirates on the high seas.  I read everyone from Phoebe Conn to Judith McNaught to Megan McKinney.  Even my favorite contemporary authors wrote historicals like Jayne Ann Krentz (aka Amanda Quick) and Elizabeth Lowell.  The variety in the 80s and 90s was tremendous and while it was largely Caucasion, there were the occasional portrayals of Native Americans (Susan Johnson’s Absorakees were the best).

Today’s historicals are largely rooted in the Regency era, with few deviations.  The feel of the stories are largely the same, constrained as authors are by the standards and mores of the time.  Some authors have tried for high concept such as Regency Bachelor (Vicky Dreiling) or Regency Charlie’s Angels (Shana Galen) or Regency Brady Bunch (Kiernan Kramer). And while there are a few really wonderful Regency authors, I cannot live on five or six historical authors alone and the genre cannot survive without a steady influx of new authors anxious to share their stories with the world.  Self publishing isn’t likely to save us. Any historical author worth her salt is likely to be picked up by a publishing house in the last five years.

The historical romance genre is dying.  We only need to look at the numbers to confirm this as a truth.  In the end of the year summary of book sales, PW reported that the highest selling ebook historical was A Night Like This by Julia Quinn with 66,192.  What’s even worse is that there wasn’t a new author on that list of bestselling historical ebooks.

It was all established authors with longtime fanbases unlike contemporaries like The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst (72,686) or On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves (in excess of 80,000+).  The top names in contemporary such as Nora Roberts and Sylvia Day outsold Quinn by a factor of more than 10.  Even an older title by Rachel Gibson outsold the highest ranking historical.  Simply Irresistible by Rachel Gibson sold 74,687. Yes, this book was discounted but so was Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens which sold 25,229.  Not one historical romance made the top 100 (and to be fair, neither did Nora Roberts but Sylvia Day did).  PW does not do a list for mass markets (see this list for hardcovers) but we know that the mass market sales have seen a steady and significant decline in the past few years.  In 2012, unit sales of mass markets were down 20.5% from 2011 and down 38% since 2010. Any areas of growth in mass market has been for contemporary authors.

There are two things holding historicals backs. It’s authors and readers.  Yep, that’s right. It’s partly our fault readers.  On the one hand we want different but we are afraid of it too.  In Charles Duhigg’s book “The Power of Habit” which I reviewed back in September 2012,

The book touches on the issue of familiarity and success of music which I think can easily be extrapolated to books.  The example used by Duhigg is the success of Hey Ya by Outkast.

Everyone believed it was a hit.  Executives at Arista had begun singing to each other the line “shake it a Polaroid picture.”  Unfortunately it didn’t catch on with the public.  It was so different than what was playing at the time, so unfamiliar, the listeners would reject it within the first few bars.  The record executives got the radio DJs to play Hey Ya between songs that listeners were familiar with. Listeners would expect to hear song B after listening to Song A and then Hey Ya.  Eventually Hey Ya took hold and became the hit that everyone expected it would be.

This explains, in large part, why “If You Like” shelf talkers and lists are helpful in selling books. Why publishers chase the next Twilight, Hunger Games, and Fifty Shades. Because readers are looking for familiar tropes with the same reward.  It explains why category lines developed by Harlequin are so successful and why it is so difficult to introduce change or something new.

In some ways, publishers try to emulate the sandwich technique with anthologies but they aren’t doing it quite as scientifically.  In other words, if I was packaging books at a bookstore, I would stick Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke (a book that sells okay) in between two of Kresley Cole’s paranormals. Those books all have the same, familiar storyline.  A possessive, jealous hero that pursues the heroine even when it seems she has no interest.  The sandwiching of the new, unexpected storyline (steampunk) still can deliver the familiar emotional end result and thereby elevating a hard to market story that should be a hit.

Because the unfamiliar is hard for readers to swallow, we are likely contributing to the staleness in the genre.  Yet, I actively look for new historical reads. When I heard Anna Randol was going to be writing a book set in Constantinople, I about swooned with glee.  Yet the pacing, trope, storyline, and characters all read like they were from Regency England, only with slightly different costumes.  It may be that readers are fleeing to the historical fiction sub genre because of the very staleness in the romance genre.

I’m not going to launch a historical romance campaign.  I think I’m actively looking for the historical romance genre to die.  For Regency dukes to molder into dust.  For dashing  earls to be crushed.  Only then can the genre reinvent itself.  I don’t want to save the historical romance genre. I want it to die and from the ashes, maybe then, a new and fresh historical voices will arise unconstrained by both reader, editor and agent expectations.

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

144 Comments

  1. Iola
    May 07, 2013 @ 04:14:04

    It would be a shame for historical fiction to die completely – I credit Susan Kaye and Sharon Penman with my good grades in high school history (I’m not American, so we studied English history). But now, twenty-plus years later, I am over the Tudors. I’m over 1870′s America. And I’m almost over the Regency.

    There are several thousand years of documented history, so it should be possile to get some good romances set in a new time and/or place. Please.

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  2. Elle
    May 07, 2013 @ 04:26:09

    No, say it ain’t so!!!

    Historical romances are my ultimate comfort food. I’ve just rediscovered them, after decades in hiatus. They’re so warm and sweet and…familiar (oh darn).

    But wait! What about Sherry Thomas, Courtney Milan, Cecilia Grant…and those authors who introduce steampunk and paranormal elements to the genre? Stronger heroines, non-alpha heroes, some unexpected zings and less tired tropes here and there, still-excellent writing. I don’t mind digging a little deeper for these gems. Because no, the genre cannot die! (But then, what does it mean for the genre to “die”? Perhaps, as the PW ratings indicate–it has, already. Looking forward to what this portends for the future.)

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  3. Caz
    May 07, 2013 @ 05:42:22

    I completely agree that the problem stems from both readers and authors, or rather publishers. Reading the comments to the recent post at AAR – Where Have All the Historicals Gone? it would seem that there IS an appetite on the part of readers for historical romances with different settings, and that there ARE authors out there who are writing them. But it seems that while some readers bemoan the proflieration of “sameness”, others are happy with the status quo, and those authors who are doing something a bit different find their books don’t sell very well.
    We all know that, whether it be films, books or TV shows, there is a tendency on the part of the decision makers to follow the “hey – that was successful, let’s do another one like that!” path, and given the state of the economy, I imagine that attitude is even more entrenched as people are even more afraid than normal to take risks.
    I certainly wouldn’t want the genre to die – and as one commenter has said, there are still some superb authors writing historical romances. But I definitely agree that the spectrum needs to be broadened. It may be simply due to the fact that those titles that are perceived as “niche” don’t get put under the noses of those who tend to stick to the more established type of HR; but until someone with the wherewithal to do it actually takes the risk and allocates the marketing budget, I doubt we’ll see much of a shift.

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  4. Katie T.
    May 07, 2013 @ 06:14:31

    If you’re calling for the death if a genre, why not the current billionaire CEO contemporaries? Harlequin contemporaries in general? I happen to love Regencies and other historical romances; there are gems and pure trash in every genre. Calling for the death of one genre makes no sense even if you want it to be reborn. The style and tone changes throughout the years, too. Look at the rape and pillage stories à la Catherine Coulter of years past versus the writings of authors such as Julia Quinn or Eloisa James today. It’s unfair to call for the extinction of a genre.

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  5. lauren
    May 07, 2013 @ 06:40:54

    Ahhhh! NO! There are still to many authors that write the historical novel with great skill, its the “cheaters” as I call them, those that use the historical as a draw and the story is nothing but contemporary with a few horses and long dresses.

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  6. Mary Anne Graham
    May 07, 2013 @ 07:02:34

    I can’t speak for the genre, but my historicals outsell my contemporaries hands down and always, across all channels. I don’t think historicals are dying but I do think that fresh voices are always welcome. Today, there is nothing stopping writers from getting any type of historical out there. No roadblocks. No rules. Success or failure depends upon readers’ reactions AND how the writer reacts to that response.

    To me, the familiarity of many historicals is the same familiarity as living in the same neighborhood or city rather than picking up and moving every few years. Familiarity isn’t always bad and a familiar Regency may hold within its pages a big surprise!

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  7. Aleksandr Voinov
    May 07, 2013 @ 07:20:12

    You can try to pry my medievals and WWII romances from my cold, dead fingers.

    I also don’t think that a genre is”dying” because it hasn’t had any recent blockbuster (not counting The Song of Achilles, which is by all accounts a historical gay romance). According to that argument, literary fiction as a genre has been dead for decades, with its few-thousand copies sold compared to tens of thousands in popular genres.

    I don’t know the m/f market very well, but I assume there’s a message being filtered down that, if you MUST write historicals, write regency. I know that while I was still working in the German mainstream market (which is extremely conservative), my literary agent told me that only medievals sell and I could do “something else” once I’d established myself first with a bunch of medievals, so gods know what pressures operate behind the scenes in the Big Publishing model and ho wmany ideas get shot down in the synopsis stage.

    In m/m, I’m happy to report, historicals are alive and well. They might not sell as much as contemporaries (just comparing my sales, contemps versus historicals), but we have a pile of extremely talented authors like Erastes and Alex Beecroft and Josh Lanyon in the space., and I fully expect to see a steady flow of good books there.

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  8. Piper
    May 07, 2013 @ 07:21:19

    Jane,

    I appreciate your approach to this important topic today. I have a bit of a stake in it–I am a Golden Heart (RWA’s award for unpublished authors) nominee in the Historical Romance category this year. However, I suspect, that you don’t really want the genre to die, but to instead, phoenix-like, reinvent itself. However, blaming the authors and the readers may be going a bit far. I will explain why:

    It is deeply held tradition that when you are nominated for this award, you will be besieged by requests to submit your work. But, my fellow HR nominees have been left quite alone, for the most part. For me, I thought it was because I had no web presence at the time, but no. It is because a number of us are writing works that are against market trend. Yet, the Golden Heart nominees were selected by reader/writer judges who singled out the eight of us to be nominated for this “up and coming” award. So there are readers who were willing to take a chance.

    So, the “different” and in my case “radical,” historical romances that we have written have not been greeted with this enthusiasm. So, I say that we are out here, trying our hardest, but it has been difficult to find a home for our works out in the traditionally published world. I knew, as an author of historical romances featuring African American characters in the early 20th century, that my path would not be made easy. I received the sweetest rejection letter last week that said that the agent was not confident in her capabilty to sell the story. A nice soft way to say–this is not marketable.

    Another agent who rejected the same work saying that true HR takes place before 1900. Another soft way of saying, I believe, that HR stories that take place after 1900 are not marketable. My other queries have landed in silence. It has been difficult finding people who are willing to take a chance.

    Maybe it is the economy and the change in the industry that is to blame. The numbers that you provide are truly eye-opening, and do help to explain to why people in the industry are not willing to take a risk. Still, for those of us who love writing in this particular genre, we will continue, but may have to take up other time periods/ subgenres that are more marketable to be able to survive. It remains to be seen if self-pubbing might provide a solution to this problem. I’ve had some better success in approaching editors, and I hope that I might break through someday. There are other choices available, but I guess I am foolish enough to give this course a try–for a while.

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  9. Christine
    May 07, 2013 @ 07:53:28

    Hmmmm- I’m not sure you can just announce the decision to let a genre “die” because you are disenchanted with it, however facetiously you meant it. One thing I have learned is how very tiny the online book community is compared to the vast book buying public. Whether a genre thrives or fails will be determined at the Walmarts and Costcos nowadays not by an online op ed. If there is a breakaway historical hit along the lines of “Fifty Shades” you will see a boom in historical romances. Every day I sign onto the web I see articles about how something is causing the death of something else (usually Amazon is to blame) but that is the free market. How many stores, chains and book genres have died out or died down over the years due to societal and market changes? All it takes is one book that captures the zeitgeist of the times and the genre is reborn. Look at such things as pirate movies- before “Pirates Of The Caribbean” the genre was declared a black hole.

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  10. Teresa
    May 07, 2013 @ 08:02:50

    I would encourage authors to keep writing as there are fans of historical romances and not just in the Regency period. Not only has there been a decline in the range of historical romances but a rise in “mistoricals”. I wonder if there is a correlation, as the historical details of the era becomes less important, historical romances are really contemporaries in costume. I am personally looking for romances set in a believable time period. Lynne Connolly’s Richard and Rose series and Darlene Marshall’s Sea Change are ebooks that elevated the current state of the genre.

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  11. AnimeJune
    May 07, 2013 @ 08:04:43

    Interesting article. This makes sense to me, because of the last historical romances I’ve loved, it’s all because they had authors who did something a bit different with the trope. And they ALL included real historical details – none of this misty, vague, “God save the King” wallpaper history.

    Cecilia Grant, Sherry Thomas, and Loretta Chase do this for me.

    I’m frankly tired of all the “bachelor club” or “bluestocking club” nonsense in lesser historicals. It WAS possible to be an educated woman in that time without being a pariah or an utter moron in everything that isn’t book-related.

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  12. Eliza
    May 07, 2013 @ 08:10:35

    I’m in the camp with those where you can try to pry historical romances from my cold dead hands.

    I think Caz is right about various media (and other industries for that matter) jumping on bandwagons of what they think will sell at any one time, that is, until some other bandwagon comes along to jump on. Even so, tried-and-true favorites usually hold their own anyway despite any hoopla. There have been historical settings since there have been stories and novels; if black dresses and jeweled necklaces haven’t vanished yet, why would historicals? ;)

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  13. Kristi Lea
    May 07, 2013 @ 08:14:06

    I started reading romance in the late 80′s/early 90′s when my mom’s bookshelf was full of fat, meandering historical romances. Some probably had more history than others (pirates, shieks, lusty kings, some heroines lived through all of it in a single volume!) :) During high school (early 90′s), I snubbed any book less than about 400 pages because it was simply over too fast. A friend tried to share some of her Harlequins, but while the stories were good, they were just too short. Then I took a long hiatus from reading much romance (or any other fiction) during and right after college (classwork, you know), and when I tried to come back to it, I had trouble finding books that appealed to me.

    The push toward shorter manuscripts (maybe 300 pages) means that the stories are full of lovely characters, but lack that extra richness of the historical flavor. I know that’s not entirely true, and that there are some wonderful authors out there who manage to compact both a good story and a rich historical world and still make their length targets. But a lot of them rely on the reader understanding the time period before they even open the book (because so many are Regency, of course).

    For me as a reader, I miss the longer books. These days if I want a big, meaty story that will last longer than a single weekend, I hit the sci fi/fantasy section. Or General Fiction and hope for some good historical fiction that actually has emotion.

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  14. Patricia
    May 07, 2013 @ 08:29:38

    I’m having trouble taking your call for the death of historical romance very seriously considering you wrote in today’s news update, “Wouldn’t it be spectacular to see Indian writers writing historical romances or Korean writers writing historical romances? These are my dreams.”

    I do agree that the HR subgenre has become a bit stale and far too limited. And yet, there are some stellar authors working in that field now. If HR sales are lower than contemporary while the genre finds its way out of the current rut, I’m okay with that. Blockbuster sales are not necessary to justify any genre.

    I also suspect you underestimate the value of selfpublishing in addressing the issues in the historical romance genre, although I don’t have any numbers to back that up. I seem to recall Courtney Milan writing that several of her recent books outsold any of the HR ebooks on the recent Publishers Weekly list. I hope someone with more knowledge than me can talk about what self publishers are (or aren’t) doing to expand the current HR horizons.

    I miss the wide range of settings that I found in my first romances back in the late 80s. (Not the rapey-ness that drove me away for years, though.) I don’t want historical romance to die, though. I just want it to get better.

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  15. carmen webster buxton
    May 07, 2013 @ 08:33:58

    I hadn’t realized historical romance wasn’t selling as well as it had in the past. If so, it’s certainly different from other kinds of historical fiction. Hilary Mantel is doing very well with the Tudor period (if only she didn’t write the past in present tense!). And there are a number of popular historical mystery series such as C. J. Sansom (also Tudor) and Anne Perry (Victorian). But any kind of historical takes a fair amount of research, and maybe that’s part of the problem. For me, the appeal of historical fiction is that it takes me to a different time. When the setting and the characters don’t feel authentic, the story falls flat instead.

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  16. Kat Morrisey
    May 07, 2013 @ 08:39:51

    I hope it doesn’t die. I just found it! I was getting tired of contemporary and PNR and decided to try a historical (Stephanie Laurens’ Devil’s Bride which I picked up when it was on sale) and fell in love. I’ve been glomming on books by her, Julie Garwood, Courtney Milan, and Tessa Dare, among others.

    For me, as a reader, I tend to read in cycles. One minute I’m reading all contemporaries, the next it’s a focus on NA, and then (like now) historicals, highlanders and steampunk. I don’t mind the cycles because (1) it keeps me reading and (2) it gets me to forget about the ever present tropes I see over and over again in one genre. At least for a little while. (Like at the moment, I’m trying to avoid contemporaries. This despite the fact I WRITE in that genre. But if I see one more billionaire CEO in a book my head might explode. Hence the break).

    Also, the media (including social media) has a lot to do with it. If there was a hit as big as 50 or Sylvia Day’s book, then maybe people who start glomming on historicals again the way so many are eating up billionaire CEOs. But in order to do this, there has to be lots of readers (especially and most important readers), reviewers, bloggers, authors and others out there talking the genre up and showcasing their fave authors, books, etc. (Isn’t this one of the ways that NA got so big? All the social media talk about several books and then slowly NA authors were being recognized until BOOM! There they are, all over everywhere it seems and with their own genre (or is it a sub-genre?) even!) And please note: I’m saying this in general of course when I talk about media/social media talking up the genre and creating interest in it/reminding people it’s out there. A lot of reviewers, bloggers and readers already do this, including Dear Author. In fact, it was either this site or SmartBitches that I found the mention of the sale that got me to buy Devil’s Bride and started me on this kick!

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  17. Jane O
    May 07, 2013 @ 08:44:40

    I love historicals, and they are my favorite reading in the romance genre.

    That said, far too many of the newer historicals I have picked up have been DNF for me. Most of these were the “big concept” books, which seems to mean they start out some weird “hook” — an idiotic premise that requires the characters to behave and think in totally ahistorical ways. Changing the period or the setting will make no difference so long as the book simply takes contemporary characters and dresses them up in pretty clothes. A modern sitcom in Victorian or Regency or Restoration garb is still a modern sitcom.

    What I really want in historical romance is the same thing I want in any romance, or in any book for that matter: convincing and interesting characters and a convincing and well-thought-out plot. Frankly, I don’t find this all that often in contemporaries either.

    Maybe it isn’t just historicals that are in trouble. Maybe it’s any romance that doesn’t feature fantasy or erotica.

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  18. Lynne Connolly
    May 07, 2013 @ 08:51:36

    I was told by an editor at a big publishing house that nobody wanted the traditional Regency with a little sex book. So I self published, and one of the books went stellar. Absolutely nuts.
    So I’m writing another just for self-publishing. My Richard and Rose series is a steady seller, but wouldn’t show up on the figures because they’re Samhain books and I don’t think they figure.
    Because of the renewed interest, I’m looking at going back to writing the historical romance, but the full-bodied, historically accurate, mid-Georgian version.
    Maybe it’s because reading many of the historical romances these days is too much like reading stories set in small town America, a genre which is doing really well right now? Two genres that are so similar might be cannibalizing. It’s not just the lack of historical accuracy, it’s the attempt to insert modern figures and attitudes into a pseudo-historical setting. That particular type of romance has had it’s day, maybe, and now it’s time for another type.
    Of course I’m rooting for it because I have a vested interest in the revival of the “real” historical. But I’m also looking at it as a reader, because, frankly, the current type of historical romance bores me and I stopped reading it a year ago.
    There are always exceptions. I had the good fortune to talk to Laura Kinsale at the RT Convention and she gave me details of the book she’s working on right now which sounds immensely exciting. I don’t know if I can give details, because I didn’t ask her if if I could (too busy fangirling!) but believe me, it bucks the trend and good. I can’t wait.

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  19. Angelia Sparrow
    May 07, 2013 @ 09:31:28

    I’m picky about my historicals, but I do like them, both reading and writing.

    I can’t bear the thought of giving up pirates and highwaymen, my steampunk or medievals, or even westerns, WWII and 1970s recent historicals.

    I don’t read Regency, but I know that’s not all there is available.

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  20. EGS
    May 07, 2013 @ 09:42:08

    I disagree that we should let HR die, but I do agree that there needs to be more variety in terms of time and place. The market is so saturated with Regency England HR that publishers think that’s all people want to read, and thus hesitate to publish anything “exotic.” Which only continues the cycle of Regency England HR being the primary place setting. But I think with the accessibility of self-publishing nowadays, authors can more easily publish those non-Regency HR. So I don’t think HR itself needs to die–but the obsession with Austen-esque HR needs to die down.

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  21. emdee
    May 07, 2013 @ 09:46:46

    I don’t read contemporaries. I like to be taken away and I love history. The great historical authors such Quinn, Balogh, Sherry Thomas and Hoyt are my comfort food. Let a genre die? Are you kidding? Sounds like a mean girl to me.

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  22. Rebecca (Another One)
    May 07, 2013 @ 09:47:49

    @Piper: I would like to read these. I really am enjoying the 1920′s books, and AA characters would be a refreshing change.

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  23. Historical Romance – Lament, or Let it Die? | Badass Romance
    May 07, 2013 @ 09:52:40

    [...] at Dear Author, this morning Jane says We should let the historical genre die. Which is a bold statement, but I realize I agree with what she’s saying.  Although I have [...]

  24. Melanie
    May 07, 2013 @ 09:54:49

    I went to the “Historicals are alive and well” panel at RT last week. It was interesting that one of the authors who had been writing for over 20 years said the death knell of Historicals has been talked about for as long as she can remember. She said all things in books are cyclical.

    One other thing the authors talked about was the popularity of Downton Abbey. I would love to see romances set in that era, and I think many others would, too.

    Maybe the sub-genre feels stale, but I still love it and especially enjoy some of the newer authors like Sarah Maclean, Courtney Milan and Cecilia Grant. Writers seem to be stretching into Victorian times a bit, and I welcome that trend.

    Remember when you and Sarah had your Save the Contemporary campaign a few years back? Contemporaries have seen such a resurgence — there were many panels on them at RT last week, too. I hope Historicals will see the same. Not a death, but a renewal.

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  25. Darlene Marshall
    May 07, 2013 @ 10:14:26

    No.

    I refuse to listen to the naysayers, the pundits, the experts who tell me that pirate romance is a dead end, that historicals are a lost cause, that we’ve had it with history.

    A good story is a good story. Long after most of the 50 Shades knock-offs lose their luster, people will still come back to reading a Mary Balogh or Loretta Chase or Courtney Milan because you can come back to it. These books stand up to a second or a third or a 10th reading because they’re well written and they last beyond the freshness date of a familiarity with current pop culture.

    At the end of the day I have to write the book I can write, and want to write, and for now, that’s historicals. I believe if I write it, the readers will come to it.

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  26. Ridley
    May 07, 2013 @ 10:19:04

    Hilarious.

    Think New Adult’s all the same and a superficial marketing gimmick? You’re a vicious, no good hater.

    Think erotic romance and historical romances are all the same and a superficial marketing gimmick? Here, have this Tuesday letter of opinion spot.

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  27. pamela1740
    May 07, 2013 @ 10:19:47

    Although I have been among those discussing this in a very lamentatious fashion this week, I am inclined to agree with your sentiment about letting go. It’s attention-getting to call for the death of a genre, or to prophesy it, but it seems to me what we’re really talking about is the cycle of death and rebirth. Many readers seem to agree that it’d be OK to let go of the current overpopulation of Regency lords and ladies. But we still read/buy some of them… perhaps we’re all just waiting for the genre to re-invent itself, as you suggest — and meanwhile, I will persevere in my heat-seeking mission to find historical romance that’s not admitted to Almack’s, wherever and however I can find it…!

    Also, I apologize for the out-of-context quote from a post I made on my blog this morning. I am still too new with the blog, and also a new member of this site, so I didn’t realize if I posted a link to this thread on my blog, it would show up here in the comments (above – the Badass Romance link). Please advise as to how/whether I have messed with the appropriate protocols! And thanks for offering another space to continue the dialogue on this topic I find hard to resist.

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  28. Anna Bowling
    May 07, 2013 @ 10:27:15

    “Die” is a strong word, and I’m not one for wanting the complete annihilation of any particular genre, especially my favorite one, but change? Yes, there is a need for change.

    I love historical romance, and I mean giddy, head over heels, hold hands and spin around in a field of daisies, until we collapse to the ground, dizzy and spent and drunk on both history and romance. Feeling that book hangover where coming back to the flesh and blood world is somewhat…off because the world within that book was so real and vivid that there’s some culture shock involved. Yeah, that stuff.

    I still look for that stuff, still have that stuff pounding in my blood when I sit down to write, and know without a doubt that historical romance is the genre I love…but that the current iteration, well, I have some issues. Is historical romance dead? I don’t think so. Comatose? Maybe. There’s so much history beyond the current “preferred” or “acceptable” periods, so many other stories to be told, that I can’t quite get my head around how historical romance got itself painted into a corner. I do believe there’s a way out, and that way probably involves climbing the walls (which many historical romance writers and readers may consider that they’re doing already) and dancing across the cieling, which can be a daunting prospect.

    Where exactly those handholds on walls and cielings are, I think we’re still figuring out. Maybe we do need a clean slate. I have wicked fantasies (and yeah, that would probably be an attention-getting title, Wicked Fantasies) of declaring a year of No Regencies or the like and seeing what else might appear in that gap. I’m not going to tell anyone what to write, but a call to fling open the windows and let in some fresh air, well, I think it’s time. High time.

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  29. Sherwood Smith
    May 07, 2013 @ 10:28:29

    I think the Regency is comfort food for many, but the problem is too many authors doing their research in Georgette Heyer, and those inspired by her subsequently. It leads to a smudgy copier effect. Readers seem to split along the “I want modern women and sex with my dukes and silken gowns and haut ton” and those who want the immersion into the period, but have reread Jane Austen 456,798 times. I published my own ‘silver fork’ Regency through Book View Cafe, Danse de la Folie, no publicity to speak of, but it has sold surprisingly well to those who want the immersion experience. I think the readership here doesn’t want their face rubbed in death and grotty teeth and syphilis, but longs for the kind of atmosphere that Jane Austen evoked.

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  30. Moriah Jovan
    May 07, 2013 @ 10:33:54

    I gave up on historicals in the early ’00s for homogeneity. Even most of the authors who have been considered fresh and new and groundbreakers lately aren’t really.

    @piper #8

    A) After having been in the RWA-Avon-Harlequin editor-agent assembly plant for six years in the early 90s, I will just co-sign everything you said.

    B) I would read your book in a heartbeat.

    @KristiLea #13

    You also totally hit the mark.

    Another point to consider is how long it takes for an author to write something that doesn’t involve a template, whether it’s one she built herself or not.

    Here’s the thing: Until publishing starts getting oodles of mail from people wanting A, B, and/or C, and they actually read this mail, and then somehow scrounge up some consideration for readers (whom they don’t acknowledge), nothing’s going to change.

    Particularly when (and I’ve seen this more times than I care to count), there are a lot of readers who will say, “I want A, B, and C,” but when they get it, they are unhappy it doesn’t follow the template.

    Yes, Laura Kinsale may be able to write new and different things each time (and she’s given oodles of time to do it in), but … who else can and expect to get published? Nobody, that’s who.

    And so we rely on self-publishing to fill that gap. People who want different historical romance, who are truly tired of the big pubs’ selection, would probably find it in places like Smashwords or Wattpad. Yeah, it takes some doing, but it might be worth it for those who really want that.

    The historical isn’t dying. It’s just trapped in diverse authors’ hard drives.

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  31. Patricia Rice
    May 07, 2013 @ 10:46:10

    Yes, the talk at RT was the dying numbers of historicals. Mine still sell better than my contemporaries, so readership is certainly seeking the familiar–while looking for different. This is nothing new and part of the cycle. Unfortunately, publishers have been pushed into a position where only books that sell in large quantities are profitable, which isn’t new authors or new genres.
    Fortunately or not, authors can still write what they like and make a living by publishing electronically. My westerns were on the top of the Amazon lists last year–but they’d never sell to NYC again. My hope is that readers will find the next best historical subgenre in digital, and the market will refresh itself.

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  32. Ridley
    May 07, 2013 @ 10:48:19

    I think this essay by Tobias Buckell is apropos.

    When you get to a point where you’ve read an amazing number of books, you change. You’ve read so much that what may seem new or interesting to most (and even to the writer of the book you’re reading) is just a variation to you. Your expectations regarding the work change.

    Due to subjectivity being what it is, many writers can mistake what’s happening and view it as the books getting worse, not their own aesthetic changing. Two things can happen. One, despair at what they perceive is the dying of quality. You see this a lot with people who hit a certain number of books read: they begin to rail against the dreadfulness of everything. It can lead to bitterness, cynicism, and outright hatred of something they previously loved.

    Secondly, and you see this with a lot of artists, is that they begin to gravitate toward something that feels new to them. They seek out ‘artist’s artists’ and are not happy when those voices aren’t welcomed by the mainstream, because these are stories aimed at people who’ve simply consumed a terrific amount of fiction to be able to enjoy the work.

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  33. Marianne McA
    May 07, 2013 @ 10:50:23

    And the upshot of this post is that I’ve bought another Regency romance…

    (To be fair, the blurb on Amazon doesn’t mention mouldering Dukes or dashing Earls – just a smuggling marquess.)

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  34. LG
    May 07, 2013 @ 10:53:52

    Selling something outside a person’s comfort zone by using something they’re familiar with isn’t a bad thing. Futuristic romance was what brought me from science fiction and fantasy books to romance – selling me on romance using a bunch of contemporaries and historical romances wouldn’t have worked nearly as well, and why should it have? I tried contemporaries and historicals after I became more comfortable in the romance genre and got a better feel for tropes and character types I enjoyed. You don’t force readers to change their tastes so they’ll start trying new things, you work with their tastes.

    Personally, I’m still finding variety in historical romance, I’m just finding more of it in e-books put out by small presses than I am in traditionally published print books. Part of the problem is that a lot of the traditionally published historicals I see (mostly at Walmart, because my visits to actual bookstores are rare anymore) fail utterly at giving me a good first impression. I see a wall of women in gorgeous, jewel-colored dresses – individually, not so bad, but when taken all together, they create an impression of sameness that makes no single book stand out enough for me to even want to read their descriptions. Avon is particularly bad – their oh-so-cute titles only increase the impression of sameness.

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  35. Aisha
    May 07, 2013 @ 10:55:58

    Personally I think a negotiated transition is preferable to a revolution. Yes, it might take longer to see real change and it might be riddled with compromise, but there is also far less wanton destruction and blood on the floor. And frankly, whose to say that what rises from the ashes would be so much better than what we have currently?

    I am also wary of nostalgic hankerings for a previous golden age that the present suffers in comparison to. I admittedly don’t know much about the rapey old days of historical romance fiction, but I would suspect that even then there were predominant patterns and trends (in terms of settings and tropes) that eventually got stale.

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  36. thetroubleis
    May 07, 2013 @ 11:07:24

    To be honest, my main issue with historicals is that I can only read about rich white people for so long without getting bored. It’s ridiculous that I get so excited over the chance to read about working class people, let alone people of color.

    I want to read about thriving Black communities, queer people in the Jazz age, immigrants, migrant workers and shop owners. I want to recognition that not every society in the history of the world had an issue with the existence of queer and trans* people.

    It seem to me that if authors are willing to branch out in one way, they make the rest of their book as conventional as possible, which is understandable, but not what I’m really into reading. I would love to read about romance at a school for the D/deaf, see a person disabled in the age of induszation find love, to read a book set outside of Western Europe or America that isn’t tainted by colonialism. The recent discovery of chinese coins in East Africa could led to an epic romance full of intrigue and travel, but the idea of majority POC societies interacting with each other seems to be something the average reader either doesn’t know about or finds “unrelatable.”

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  37. Sherry Thomas
    May 07, 2013 @ 11:11:10

    On the one hand, I’d like to see more diversity. On the other hand, I am always a little leery when the locale/time period/ethnicity of h/h is the first thing that’s pitched to me about a book. The novelty factor goes only so far, if it cannot be matched by story execution.

    A lot of historical romance subgenres have already died or are on life support: Viking, Civil War, Americana, western. My fear is that the regency romance as we currently know it–people tend to use that as a broad umbrella term for anything from the Georgian Era to the end of the Victorian Era–might go the way of the traditional regency, which became ever more homogenized and uniform, and then one day just sort of disappeared.

    On the other hand, ebook might not be the most accurate barometer of a book’s overall sales. I was astonished to learn at RT that a contemporary author’s ebook sales was four times her print sales. She and I are probably at a similar point in our careers and we are at the same publisher–so no price differentials–but my ebook sales account for maybe 20% of my sales, on the high side.

    So it’s possible that the current historical audience skews older and it’s possible that many of these readers prefer paper. And it’s probably a foregone conclusion that unless we see a demographic shift, the current tastes will remain what they are. (The genre could die a fiery death a la chick lit, and come back as something else. Or it could slowly deflate to a niche that would support a handful of trad-pubbed authors and a small eco-system of self-pubbed authors.)

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  38. Lil
    May 07, 2013 @ 11:15:05

    I think that one thing overlooked here is that there are always new readers who are encountering the dashing dukes, etc. for the first time. For that matter, they are encountering Jane Austen for the first time. And frequnetly that first encounter takes place on television.

    The problem for them isn’t the same-old-same-old. I worry that the problem may be that they aren’t all that accustomed to reading books at all. Yes, I know about the enormous success of Harry Potter, but many of those readers were actually older. I know some young readers who devoured the books, but I know others who stopped reading and waited for the movies.

    Do they want the meaty historicals I love? Maybe. Maybe the problem is that publishers are afraid they will only buy a nice quick read with nothing new or challenging, just a few smexy scenes.

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  39. Jeannie Lin
    May 07, 2013 @ 11:20:18

    I debated whether to post something here, but what the heck.
    As a lover of Courtney Milan, Cecilia Grant, Sherry Thomas, Deanna Raybourn…I can’t help but die a little inside whenever these conversations take place. A creative Regency is as different as readers seem willing to go? Writers who are pushing historical settings are pushing them from Regency England to…drumroll please…Victorian England.
    I look at Joanna Bourne, whose work is amazing and bold and seems to be universally applauded, but hasn’t yet hit a list. (I wish I could buy a thousand copies myself, Joanna. I really do) Go across the channel to France and you might as well be writing in ancient China.

    This is a rare online rant. I try to avoid them, but I will try to end a little positively. It’s not that readers don’t want the unusual, but under the current models of discoverability, with publishing gatekeepers and current search algorithms, these books are not being put in front of readers. Readers can’t go out and seek something they don’t even know exists.

    So what’s left is, how to get a foot into the door and in front of the eyes of readers? The answer doesn’t seem to be to try to sell a series to a publisher and pray for a huge promotional push. I like Pat Rice’s observations about the digital market. I loved Jane’s example of how Hey Ya! had to be sandwiched between popular songs to be accepted. I do like that with self-publishing, perhaps authors can have some hand in their own fate. That is where this conversation has left me brainstorming.

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  40. Kim
    May 07, 2013 @ 11:29:04

    I still enjoy reading historicals, even though almost all of them are set in 19th Century England. One major problem that I see is with distribution. When I go into the book departments of Target & WalMart, they’re simply not carrying many romance books anymore. Case in point, I wanted to buy Meredith Duran’s latest book, That Scandalous Summer, and no store in my area stocked it. How can an author hit the bestseller’s list if the book is unavailable at most retail booksellers?

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  41. wikkidsexycool
    May 07, 2013 @ 11:41:42

    “Those books all have the same, familiar storyline. A possessive, jealous hero that pursues the heroine even when it seems she has no interest. ”

    This.

    Unfortunately, the alpha-hole has been top dog for so long, that many thought the gravy train would never end. There’s insta-love, or “mine” that’s gotten out of hand in so many genres now (even in YA, all it takes is one look, because the hero and heroine are just that hot looking). It appears tropes have overtaken good story telling in far too many novels.

    This post is an interesting start at warning new and established writers that readers are looking for more than just the same old, same old in characterization and settings.

    As far as diversity in historicals, I’m all for it. Time and again I pluck down money for books with big ballroom gowns swallowing up the heroine (a cover trope that needs to go away) and the heroine is either blonde, brunette or a redhead, as if they’re the only women who existed back then.

    However, I also agree that the hook can’t just be that the heroine or hero is of another race. The story and character development have to be there. As a newbie author, I use these threads to find out what not to use in my stories, however, try as I might I’m not able to write a lot of historical romance even though I read them often.

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  42. Caz
    May 07, 2013 @ 11:42:08

    @ Jeannie Lin

    It’s not that readers don’t want the unusual, but under the current models of discoverability, with publishing gatekeepers and current search algorithms, these books are not being put in front of readers. Readers can’t go out and seek something they don’t even know exists.

    Yes, that’s it exactly, and what I was getting at when I said that people (publishers) are reluctant to take risks – except, of course, you said it much better!

    @Kim – I live in the UK, and finding a bookshop with a decent romance section is difficult. And finding one that stocks a reasonable selection of HRs is even moreso. (Apologies if I’m offending anyone who can immediately name several, but there aren’t any in the areas I know!) The supermarkets might have the odd Harlequin/Mills & Book historical, but even in the larger chains like Waterstones and W.H Smith, I’ve never seen a book by Meredith Duran, Sherry Thomas, Courtney Milan, Cecilia Grant. I’ve seen the odd Julia Quinn and there might be a few Heyer titles, but other than that, nada.
    Thank goodness for Amazon!

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  43. pamela1740
    May 07, 2013 @ 11:56:50

    @ Jeannie Lin

    Word. Especially about Joanna Bourne – I wish I could buy more copies, too.

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  44. Patricia
    May 07, 2013 @ 12:00:56

    @Jeannie Lin, I love your books. I only know about them because I read an online review, either here or at Smart Bitches (I don’t remember which). If I didn’t happen to be reading when that one book was reviewed I would have no idea you existed and I would be poorer for it. So yeah, discoverability is a real issue. If I wanted to read more books “like Jeannie Lin’s” I would have no idea where to start.

    I suspect the sheer volume of Regencies has made them almost a self-sustaining ecosystem, and conversely the lack of volume in other settings/time periods/etc. makes it hard to sustain a community for those readers. And without a pre-existing community of readers, an author has difficulty reaching an audience and building a career. It’s a vicious circle and I have no idea how to fix it.

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  45. Stephanie Draven
    May 07, 2013 @ 12:39:09

    I grew up reading my grandmother’s romances. Vikings, gladiators, pirates, sultans, civil war heroes and more. Those books took me to other worlds and taught me things I didn’t know. They tackled stories that could not be tackled outside of their historical contexts. (Think Bertrice Small’s KADIN.)

    I loved lords and ladies of the Regency, too. I have been delighted by Julia Quinn, Sarah MacLean, Janet Mullany, Tessa Dare and so many more. But I always knew that if I were to write historical romance, I would start somewhere else on the historical timeline.

    That may be why I started blogging with other like-minded authors on Unusual Historicals long before I penned my latest 1920s erotic romance for Berkley Books.

    Over the years I’ve watched these authors of unusual historicals struggle to get traction for books outside of the Regency era. It’s hard going and discoverability is–as Jeannie Lin (who writes fabulous Tang Dynasty China romances) pointed out–part of the reason why.

    Readers can’t look for what they don’t know exists.

    But would they want it if they did know? Reading is a social exercise now more than it has ever been. People read, in part, for a shared experience with their friends. Much like people watch the same television shows so they can talk about it at the water cooler, people choose books that other people are reading. Which means that successful books in the romance genre tend to be the ones that are most accessible to the largest number of readers.

    I don’t know if consumer tastes can be shaped or directed otherwise. I begin to suspect my eclectic taste, my desire for variety, makes me as unusual as the time periods that I like to read about and write about. Trust me, if I knew how to make my new flapper romances the “in” thing that everyone was dying for, I would be doing it.

    But I cannot wish for the death of a genre when so much wonderful work is being done in it, and when I know that tastes go in waves. Right now, people are in the mood for contemporaries. At some point, they’ll be in the mood for something else.

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  46. Gen Turner
    May 07, 2013 @ 12:56:49

    @Moriah Jovan: “The historical isn’t dying. It’s just trapped in diverse authors’ hard drives.”

    I can relate to this, having written an historical set in 1890s California that is sitting on my drive right now. My plan is to go the traditional query/agent/publisher route with it, but if that doesn’t happen, there is now the option of self publishing.

    But as many, many commenters have pointed out, discoverability is a huge issue with self publishing.

    I know that there are quite a few authors writing unusual or less popular settings–my critique partner is one–and some have chimed in here as well. (Piper, I would love to read your book!) (And if you’re looking for a great Civil War romance, my CP, Emma Barry has one coming out from Crimson in July!)

    So for all those writers with historicals trapped on their hard drives: maybe it’s time to set them free?

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  47. Moriah Jovan
    May 07, 2013 @ 13:01:41

    @Gen Turner: Well, far be it from me to advise Piper to self-pub, but I can look at her with big puppy-dog eyes and say, “Pretty please?” in a sweet-starving-orphan sort of way.

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  48. Kate Pearce
    May 07, 2013 @ 13:02:01

    I think everything goes in cycles and we’ve had a long period of what I would describe as ‘historical lite’. I like a bit more grit in the historicals I write and read so I actively seek out interesting time periods like Jeannie Lin and Stephanie Draven.
    I’ve decided that if traditional publishing doesn’t want those books, I’ll self-publish them because there is definitely an interest and a market for the more unusual time periods there.

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  49. John
    May 07, 2013 @ 13:18:31

    Publishers just don’t get it right now. I think some are trying to innovate and expand (Harlequin does publish Jeannie Lin and also did the latest Raybourn novel, from what I recall), but I think they are doing it too conservatively to see good sales. Why not do an entire month’s worth of non-regency categories for the historical line, release them all at once, and see what the collective sales are on the titles. Are they the same, significantly lower or higher? A lot of what we buy is based on what we see in front of us and what is offered, and offering one or two things here or there does not make for a very accurate test of how consumers will take to different time periods in historicals.

    If five out of six books offered are Regency/Georgian/Victorian historicals, won’t those naturally appear to override the one unusual book in the bunch? That’s why more submissions are needed, why more books need to be self-published, and why more risks need to be taken in traditional publishing. Until we have a lot of product that people consistently test and bring to the attention of the public, we won’t see how effective changing things is.

    That being said – I do think Jane is right in that the genre is dying. Part of it is overpopulation, part of it is a consistent sameness. Changing the style of story and the setting being offered would probably help to revitalize it, but we either need to see that push for experimenation and innovation or a knock-out surprise bestseller that meets the profile of the historicals that we want more of.

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  50. Tina
    May 07, 2013 @ 13:39:09

    @Patricia Rice:
    Mine still sell better than my contemporaries, so readership is certainly seeking the familiar–while looking for different.

    I wonder though, is that because your reader base is more familiar with your historical work and somewhat resistant to following you to contemporary? I ask because I seem to have noticed something like this on various message boards over the years. Readers who reject authors who venture to write outside of the zone they are familiar with. And it might not always be an overt rejection just more of a “it just doesn’t feel the same…” vibe because they are used to reading your work in a certain way.

    I admit, I have followed historical authors to contemporaries and vice versa and haven’t always been thrilled with the book in what I refer to as the ‘non-native’ area.

    On Historical romance front I too am weary of the western European setting where life seems to only have happened within a 20 year time span. I don’t want Historicals to die though, I want them to grow. Outward. Expand to become more inclusive of other places and times and people.

    I have to wonder if despite all the lately oft-repeated weariness about the samey-ness is that the books still sell isn’t just because some people still really like to read them but because that is just what is there? And if you want to read a historical what other choices do you have? If I want bread and the only bread they sell at my grocery store is Wonder white bread then that is what I will buy, unless I learn how to bake it myself.

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  51. LJD
    May 07, 2013 @ 14:05:38

    I would hope it wouldn’t have to completely die for the genre to reinvent itself, but…hmmm.

    I think I’ve said this before, but…I also wonder why we’re not seeing more success in historical romance from epubs. It seems like this would be the place for more boundary pushing, at least initially. And there do seem to be more non-19th century England historicals when I look at the historicals published by Carina, for example. But I’m not hearing much about these books.

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  52. Anthea Lawson
    May 07, 2013 @ 14:14:47

    “Any historical author worth her salt is likely to be picked up by a publishing house in the last five years.”

    And then left to molder in obscurity when her books are just different enough to not sell strongly. Kensington’s Zebra Debut line (now folded) picked up a lot of interesting historical romances (and GH finalists) back in the mid-to-late 2000′s that were outside the norm. But due to the line faltering, mis-marketing (covers that looked *very* contemporary), and increasingly smaller print runs, a lot of those authors got dumped. Many of them are happily self-publishing today.

    As a reader, I was tired, too, of the ‘same old’ settings and tropes, so I wrote a historical romance set in the early Victorian period that centered around a botanical expedition to Tunisia. In retrospect, it’s amazing that story even sold to NY. My second novel was partially set on the Isle of Crete. Both books had ‘poor numbers’ (despite the first title garnering a RITA nomination), and I was dropped by my publishing house. Being an idiot, my third MS featured a sexy violinist hero in 1830… another thing that publishers don’t buy (musician heroes). Sigh. I’ll be self-publishing that book later this summer.

    I think there are wonderful historical romance authors publishing OUTSIDE the confines of NY, which will hopefully infuse new energy into the genre. (Not to dis the excellent historical writers still within the system, who are frequently discussed here – Thomas, Duran, Grant, Bourne, et. al.)

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  53. Sunita
    May 07, 2013 @ 14:23:44

    I used to read more Historical Romance than any other subgenre, but I eventually found myself reading fewer and fewer books because of the dominance of not-very-historical Britain-set romance. I still love them, though, and I’m always on the lookout for ones that suit me better. After reading this post I went back and looked at what I had read in Historical Romance over the last six months.

    I read 12 books I classified as HistRom. Of these, 5 were by debut authors. 8 met my definition of “unusual” in some way, but only 2 of the 12 were set somewhere other than Britain or the US. 8 were British-set in the Regency or Victorian eras. 6 were from NY publishers (and Harlequin), 6 were from small presses or self-published.

    I finished 7 and DNF’d 5. Out of 12 authors, I’d definitely read other books by 4 of them, and I’m highly unlikely to read anything more by 5 of them (for others it would depend on the book).

    So, even being fairly selective and avoiding books that I thought I wouldn’t like, my batting average for Historical Romance is not great. Interestingly, of the four I’d definitely read again, two are debut authors to whom I gave mediocre grades.

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  54. Mo
    May 07, 2013 @ 14:33:18

    @Lynne Connolly:

    It’s not just the lack of historical accuracy, it’s the attempt to insert modern figures and attitudes into a pseudo-historical setting.

    Oh, I agree with this 110%. I would far rather see true Regencies come back and actually have historical accuracy in the historicals I read than read another historical about the puppy-loving girl who makes her soon to be husband give money to some charity for saving dogs. I’ve also read some that have pushed the envelope in good ways like Eve Silver’s His Dark Kiss.

    I adore historicals (and shameless gush here, but Richard and Rose are a pair of favs) and it’s fun and interesting to get a well-research glimpse of the past.

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  55. Dabney
    May 07, 2013 @ 14:36:46

    @Ridley: Thanks for sharing this. It informs much of what I see around me in the arts every day.

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  56. Courtney
    May 07, 2013 @ 14:39:40

    I would hate to see the genre die as some of my favorite books of all time are historicals – Lisa Kleypas’s and Julie Garwood’s books in particular. That said, I’ve tried a lot of different historical authors over the years and I am typically unsatisfied for the reasons Jane mentions. Every book has a heroine who (1) takes society by storm; (2) rejects handsome hero; (3) refuses to marry until she does; and (4) defies convention.

    Like all books, when historicals are done right, they’re pure magic (Derek Craven remains one of my all time favorite tortured heroes).

    I wonder about the relatability (sp?) factor too since it’s hard for modern, contemporary women to relate to some of the heroines. The arranged marriages, failure to educate, marry to breed, etc. could be a turn-off for some readers in today’s times.

    I also think romance has gotten sexier-and I’m not talking erotic romance. When I read a “romance” book, contemporary, suspense, paranormal, etc., there’s a certain amount of sex/heat I’m expecting. No, it doesn’t have to be constant and it shouldn’t be sex for sex’s sake, but I expect a certain amount of sex/sexual tension scenes in a full length book. I gave up on Julia Quinn and Eloise James because the few books I read had very few love scenes. This is likely a constrain of the genre given the time period, but still I don’t want to read a 300 page book that features one or possibly two love scenes.

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  57. Ciny
    May 07, 2013 @ 14:50:36

    I disagree that it is the fault of the authors and readers. Aside from self-publishing or the indies, the readers have to purchase what is sold to them. If historical dies out, I’ll save a lot of money but I read very few contemporaries, and if I do, they better darn sight be a suspense. I read for escape and I get enough real life in, well, real life.

    Part of the problem with the historicals is that authors are constrained by being politically correct. Heaven forbid they write a scene that is historically accurate because someone will be offended. I think this is why they’re all frothy and cookie cutter.

    I heard a buzz about a submission call for rough drafts…looking for fresh new voices in romance. Yet practically every entrant received the same “the idea isn’t what we’re looking for.” I would wager the only things accepted (if any) were Regencies.

    I get so thrilled to find a medieval, Victorian or Western that I squeal with glee in a store and snatch it right up. But with WalMart selling maybe 10 titles in their ever-shrinking book department and BAM having nearly everything spine out, they’re hard to spot.

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  58. Isobel Carr
    May 07, 2013 @ 14:51:33

    My real issue with historicals is not that so many are Regency-set, it’s that so many seem to be set in a generic Romanelandia version of the Regency (one where basics like proper title usage, law, and an understanding of period mores seem to be unimportant). As others have said above, we’ve been in a cycle of the light and frothy romps, and that’s just not my thing as a reader. I’d be buying a LOT more historicals if more of the ones being published were *my* kind of historical. I still love the era in other genres. I mean, I can’t get enough of C.S. Harris and Tracy/Teresa Grant, both of which are Regency-set. And I still love it when it’s done well in romance (Jo Bourne, Miranda Neville, Carolyn Jewel).

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  59. Dabney
    May 07, 2013 @ 15:17:05

    This is one of these “whatever” conversations for me. In the past year, I’ve read slightly more 60/40) contemporaries (I’ll lump erotic romance in with contemps here.) than I have historicals. When I look at my GoodReads rankings, I’ve given eleven books a five star rating. Four were historicals; four, contemps; one, NA; one, mystery; and one, erotica romance. I’ve given fifty books a four star rating. Of those, seventeen were historicals; twenty-nine, contemp/erotic romance; and four, romantic suspense.

    I would be unhappy if any of my preferred genres vanished and I doubt that will happen. I suspect that what’s in vogue in romance, just as it is in the rest of our culture, changes with the seasons. Here’s betting that sometime in the next two years, racy historicals are again on romance readers’ top lists.

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  60. Is the Historical Romance genre in trouble? - Wikkid.Sexy.Cool.
    May 07, 2013 @ 15:17:09

    [...] an interesting discussion going on at Dear Author, regarding the woeful state of the  Historical Romance genre. Here’s the [...]

  61. Piper Huguley
    May 07, 2013 @ 15:28:51

    @John

    You bring up a good point. A lot of the publisher forces now seem to be driven by the self-pub lists. At least in the contemporary world, there is the singular example of Bella Andre who was snapped up by Harlequin after her spectacular success in self-pubbing. One Kimani editor admitted in interview in December that she actually inspects the self-pubb lists for new talent. After she said that, two of my chaptermates were approached by Kimani to submit proposals–one has since been signed to a contract. And the one who signed the contract admitted that it wasn’t for the money, it was for the distribution and the exposure. Times certainly have changed.

    I don’t see the same kind of movement happening for historicals which is partly the reason I have not taken the self-pub leap–yet.

    @Moriah Jovan

    Your eloquence about the historical novels living on hard drives hit home for me. I am committed to give this course of action a certain amount of time and then if I don’t see things happening, I do intend to self-pub, not as a last resort, but as an alternate choice. In the meantime, I am trying to find out as much as I can to learn and grow before I would make that large leap. So no need for large puppy dog orphan type eyes–The Bledsoe Sisters series (there are five books) will come to you soon, one way or another!

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  62. Melissa Blue
    May 07, 2013 @ 15:39:06

    Hmm. I’ve felt the genre doldrums before. I think it had less to do with the landscape of whatever genre looked the same, but that every author wrote the same book. If that makes any sense. Because the things is you can take that Beauty and the Beast trope and re-write it a gazillion times and every time it feels like a fresh story. Except when authors don’t make it fresh or publishers don’t allow the “fresh” take. So, you can totally write a historical that is set in India, but it’s not a Brit who is the hero, but an every day man and woman who fall in love. You can bury it in culture, but if it still reads like a Regency, it still reads like a damn Regency. lol

    But things do change in cycles. Or, if they don’t you have to stumble on it because different will never truly be mainstream. That’s why it’s different.

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  63. Lauren
    May 07, 2013 @ 15:41:18

    This from the person who was baffled by the fact that a group of readers wished New Adult would die because they hated XYZ about the genre?

    Yet you want the same for historicals?

    Either this post was incite a debate, or it is increadibly hypocritical. Whatever the case, it severely undermines your credibility . Which is sad, since I used to love this site.

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  64. wikkidsexycool
    May 07, 2013 @ 16:19:38

    @Cindy

    “Part of the problem with the historicals is that authors are constrained by being politically correct.”

    Not for where I’m sitting. It’s been business as usual, with male and female leads who are white, super hot, and ultimately have a HEA. There’s gritty, hard hitting, in your face subjects that could be part of historical romance, but what’s out there from major publishers usually consist of a virginal heroine or a rakish duke, or even an older heroine who behaves like a virgin who finds love admit the stiff social conventions of the time period. Oh, and secret babies. Some authors do it better than others. But political correctness? I’m not sure in what context you’re speaking of, so some examples would help with my confusion over your statement. If anything, books are being published with scenes and dialogue without regard to this not being 2013 but 1920 or 1950 in racial depictions (for example, the latest Raybourn novel a “Spear of Summer Grass” where Africa is some mystical dark, romantic “thing” instead of simply being Kenya filled with Kenyans who live, work and love like any other person).

    But I get that “Africa” is simply the backdrop for a story of two lovers from opposite worlds. I knew that when I purchased the book.

    Most, though not all the heroines are standard for the genre, while the men are able to sleep with anything walking and still come up smelling like roses, though harboring some deep, dark past or secret.

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  65. Jennifer McQuiston
    May 07, 2013 @ 16:22:40

    This post is certainly thought-provoking. I am a new debut historical author, and I hope the picture isn’t quite as bleak as this… But regardless of the future of my own writing, I am a reader first, and I confess I would be highly disappointed to see the sub genre die. I prefer to read historicals over any other sub-genre. Call me crazy, but I would rather imagine my heroes as strapping men of yore (of all social ranks, albeit preferably with a penchant to bathe) than shape-shifting werewolves.

    I can respect opinions from readers who feel the historical market is trending in way that doesn’t give them warm fuzzies, but is declaring the subgenre “dead” an accurate reflection of the views of the majority? I don’t claim to have the answer, but my hope is that everyone reads (and reviews!) what makes them happy. For me, it’s historicals. Still.

    Finally, there is a tendency for some reviewers and commenters to trash talk “mistoricals” in favor of personal preferences toward high drama. In my opinion, this is partly what casts historicals in a desperate light. Why are lighter historicals so maligned when say, scat-producing were-elephant heroes seem an acceptable thing to write about? No specific trope within the romance genre will appeal to every reader’s tastes, and one person’s escapist fiction is another’s DNF. I am one of those readers who enjoys historical romps right alongside my historical fiction, and would love to see more reviews of lighter historical romance by reviewers who actually have some appreciation for the trope.

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  66. Ros
    May 07, 2013 @ 16:41:09

    @Jennifer McQuiston: I don’t think ‘mistorical’ is supposed to contrast with ‘high drama.’ A book can be as deep, dark and angsty as you like but still live in a mistorical world with no period precision. And a light, fun historical can still convey the time and place accurately.

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  67. leslie
    May 07, 2013 @ 16:44:42

    @Lauren: I agree.

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  68. Lynn S.
    May 07, 2013 @ 16:56:10

    In other words, we should be a bunch of regency rakes and kill the horse to liven things up a bit. It certainly provokes a reaction among the skirted set.

    I think the problem has more to do with length than content. So many of the regency-set historicals are traditional regencies in disguise and what can be a delight at the 200 to 250 page length often sinks under the weight of 350 to 400 pages. I adore Jane Austen’s Persuasion and the wisdom that let it be at exactly the length it is.

    @Ridley: Except for the latent snottiness, Buckell has a nice way of fleshing out the definition of jaded.

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  69. Debbie Kaufman
    May 07, 2013 @ 17:12:45

    I remember when I first started shopping my 1918 missionary romance set in the jungles of Liberia, Africa. The missionaries were considered an interesting hook, but the universal comment from editors was “Can’t you set that somewhere else?” No, I couldn’t. The cannibals, the adventures, the history, none of it fit anywhere else. Multiple publishers insisted that their readers didn’t want books set outside the US or outside the 1800s. When Harlequin bought me in 2011 (The Doctor’s Mission, Nov. 2011) they had just expanded from two Love Inspired Historicals a month to four. Now I see them taking a chance on other time periods, other locations, and adding more diversity to the genre. I’ve been told to keep writing my African missionaries (Journey of Hope, Jan. 2014) and to expand my settings. There is still a strong base of the popular prairie romances in the list, and Regencies are popular in LIH, but the growth of the unusual settings and time periods give me hope that once HQ proves successful in diverse historicals, maybe the rest of the publishing world will eventually get a clue.

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  70. Dre Sanders
    May 07, 2013 @ 17:17:27

    My question is why didn’t a romance writer author A Discovery of Witches? This is what we should be asking ourselves. An academic who isn’t a great writer combined meticulous research with phenomenal storytelling and reached bestsellerdom. Many of the authors mentioned here are fully capable of doing the same thing with even better pacing, a better romance and better writing craft. Write fresh stories and if trad pubs turn them down, self-publish.

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  71. Lucy Woodhull
    May 07, 2013 @ 17:26:35

    It’s the readers and writers? I think we must also put at least some (if not the majority) of the blame on presses afraid of anything even slightly different. I don’t write historicals, but as someone who writes different kinda stuff, it’s hard out there for an unusual writer in romance. I think the genre needs to learn to breathe and grow a bit, or it’ll be literal wallpaper before long. The formula is the backbone, but it can also be stifling, as evidenced by the fact that historical = Regency only.

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  72. Jennifer McQuiston
    May 07, 2013 @ 17:31:18

    @Ros:

    Definitely agree! Although… I do think the tendency is to toss around the term more when a lighter historical is on the table. For what it’s worth, I enjoy historical fiction alongside mistoricals. I seem to bat for both sides.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Mostly, I am just batting for historical romance in general.

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  73. Cindy
    May 07, 2013 @ 17:56:12

    @wikkidsexycool I was thinking more in terms of how all of the heroines are all written the same, all of them being kick ass. I like a kick ass heroine from time to time, but I also like the guy being the one who saves her. And let’s look at, admittedly non-romance, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn which has been redone to take offensive terms out even though they were correct for the period and area the story was set in. Things that are considered taboo now are rarely portrayed even though they would be correct for said time period. The one that comes to mind is Sandra Hill’s The Norse King’s Daughter which came out in 2011, I was stunned that she was able to use a 13 year old concubine for the king. Did that happen back in the medieval times? Yep. But you certainly don’t see it used in historical romance, even as background.

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  74. JennyME
    May 07, 2013 @ 18:44:16

    Why is it that Christian historicals have a wider variety of setting/character type than the mainstream, sexy ones? I still love Westerns and it seems like Christian publishers are the only ones putting them out. I’m not at all interested in religion but gravitate toward these books for a change of pace.

    Anyone remember Maid to Match? The characters were servants at the Biltmore mansion–yes, please! In the end the book didn’t diverge wildly from established tropes but the setting and jobs (real jobs! no spying Dukes!) of the H/h made it memorable.

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  75. Jackie Horne
    May 07, 2013 @ 18:51:25

    Does anyone know the source of the oft-repeated statistic that historicals with “Duke” in the title sell better than other historical romances? I’ve often felt that this one “fact” has unduly influenced the type of historical romance books making it past the publishing gatekeepers of late…

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  76. wikkidsexycool
    May 07, 2013 @ 19:11:10

    @Cindy,

    Thanks for clarifying. I get your point about some heroines. But I do think the kick ass ones are still lagging behind the waif who doesn’t think she’s attractive (but she’s really truly lovely) and wonders why the hero would even look her way.

    As far as Huck Finn, I think one of the best posts I’ve read on why this classic is problematic, and how it could affect a student is this one by Macon D:
    http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2010/07/force-non-white-students-to-read-great.html

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  77. Jennifer Lohmann
    May 07, 2013 @ 19:16:14

    I run a romance book club and recently solicited ideas from members about what they would like to read. Here was the list, as it relates to historicals:
    Victorian/Regency without titled characters
    Medieval/Greek/Roman-set romances
    World War I/Jazz Age
    Revolutionary War/French and Indian War
    Books set in India (I’ve expanded this to non-English settings to save my sanity as I look for books).

    I don’t think this list of requests was fully about readers being sick of dukes, earls, and the like, but because they can discover a new duke book if they want one (book club folks–you read DA and should tell me if I’m wrong). Some of the readers are sick of dukes, some just want the option of another historical and don’t know where to find it. I solicited ideas on twitter.

    I would love to see the alternative historicals come out someplace, but I would hate for it all to be digital (either only or mostly). I’ve lots of readers who read ebooks, but also lots who don’t. Those who don’t should have access to the books everyone is talking about too.

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  78. theo
    May 07, 2013 @ 19:21:24

    @Patricia Rice:

    Mine still sell better than my contemporaries, so readership is certainly seeking the familiar–while looking for different.

    I think it’s more than that. I had a favorite author who wrote time travel and I loved the books. Couldn’t get enough of them, still read them a couple times a year. Then that author changed to Urban Fantasy. I won’t read them. Not because I think she’s any less talented, but because that’s not my genre of choice. I just don’t like them and it’s probably one of the few genres that I don’t like. It might be that what you’re experiencing is not a loss of readership with your contemporaries for any other reason than they prefer historical to anything else. So it could be that simple and as more contemporary readers find your newer books, those will grow in popularity as well.

    @Lynne Connolly:

    It’s not just the lack of historical accuracy, it’s the attempt to insert modern figures and attitudes into a pseudo-historical setting.

    I find I want to both applaud this comment and yell in frustration as well and it stems from so many comments I see on the First Page posts. So many comments want to impose 21st century attitudes and ideas in the H/Hn’s that we read about on First Page Saturdays and Sundays and yet, so many turn around and beg for historical accuracy. The attitudes and moors of one time period don’t always translate easily to another, but to keep the accuracy, attitude must go. To get the current attitude, I think a lot of the accuracy has to be discarded, and by this, I don’t mean historical facts when it comes to time and place. I’m talking about the actions and ideas.

    So what’s the answer? Maybe the light fluff HRs that are out there now are an attempt by some authors to satisfy the majority with a Q&D rather than write for the accuracy and take a chance that those who want to impose 21st century attitudes on 1800′s characters will stop buying them. I have no idea. I’m just tossing out ideas and asking rhetorical questions. I do know that I would hate to see the HR genre die. There’s a lot to be said for it and a huge readership that would be devastated if the genre disappeared.

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  79. Kim in Hawaii
    May 07, 2013 @ 20:13:41

    @JennyME: Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist.

    I alternate reading Historicals and Contemporary for relaxation. When reading historicals, I prefer to read books set in Regency England for pure escapism. I’m a bit like Goldilocks – not to hard, not to soft, just right to satisfy my love of all things English (having lived in the Europe with the military, I live to revisit England through romance). My life is stressful enough as it is, especially with a deployed husband, to get emotionally involved in downtrodden characters in exotic locales. So I seek that “getaway” into Regency England.

    I applaud any effort to bring a variety of characters, settings, etc., to any genre. How about Jane invite an editor from one of the NY publishers to explain why they seemingly are unwilling to break out of the white Duke hero and white virgin heroine in “wallpaper” Regency England.

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  80. Melissa Jarvis
    May 07, 2013 @ 20:17:22

    I am a published author who writes time travel historical romance, and there are so many areas of history yet to be fully explored. I also pride myself on being historically accurate (except when my agent characters mess with the timeline, even then, it’s fairly minor.) I’ve written about 1793 France in the midst of revolution, the effects of the Gold Rush on California’s ranchero culture, the Spanish Inquisition and 1920s Egypt. And I find new facts and mysteries every day. The same thing goes for the historicals I read. I think the rise of ebooks, smaller publishing houses (of which I am with) and indies have allowed us to write in periods that traditionally have not been featured. What the writer seems to be talking about is the misconception that all historicals are Regency, Middle Ages, Westerns, etc. I love those periods too, and the power is in telling a good story as it’s always been, not jumping on the popularity bandwagon.

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  81. Jane
    May 07, 2013 @ 20:20:43

    @JennyME – that’s a really good point. There is a lot of diversity in Christian historicals (and a lot of prairie books, it seems).

    I love the historical genre so I hope that there is a rebirth and soon but I feel glum about its prospects. I keep hoping something will break out of the self published ranks but I haven’t seen anything yet.

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  82. txvoodoo
    May 07, 2013 @ 20:22:34

    Yet the pacing, trope, storyline, and characters all read like they were from Regency England, only with slightly different costumes.

    This is my problem. I love historicals, but I also want them researched. Not just to namedrop actual people who lived then, whenever then was, but for culture, foods, How They Lived, and how they would react to plot points. These things would be different in different eras.

    It’s asking a lot, I guess. But…I want it.

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  83. Ella Quinn
    May 07, 2013 @ 20:44:24

    You’ve certainly generated a fantastic debate.

    You wonder why the same historical authors appear on the best seller lists? Ask yourself how many publishers send their new authors on book tours. I’m going to guess none. While you’re at it, ask how many authors contracted in the past year have been offered print contracts. The answer is few. Debut authors are left to do most of the marketing themselves. That is much different than 20 or more years ago when authors such as Eloisa James began.

    You say you want to burn the field so that new crops will grow, but you don’t say what it is exactly you want to see. There is probably every conceivable type of historical out there for you to read already. Rather than expunging historicals as a whole, what would you change, or what is it you are looking for that you haven’t found?

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  84. Evangeline
    May 07, 2013 @ 20:54:08

    @Sherry Thomas: [[On the one hand, I’d like to see more diversity. On the other hand, I am always a little leery when the locale/time period/ethnicity of h/h is the first thing that’s pitched to me about a book. The novelty factor goes only so far, if it cannot be matched by story execution.]]

    I agree. There have been a number of “unusual historicals” published (Jade Lee’s Tigress series comes to mind), but because the execution wasn’t to readers’ and reviews’ taste, poor word of mouth=low sales=(to publishers) risky investment in anything other than Regency. I can’t say I’m the best writer EVAR, but I recognize that I must balance familiar elements with my unusual settings, so I try my best to couch my historical backdrop within a high concept.

    On that note, I was a “hard drive” writer (h/t Moriah Jovan). I spent a lot of time being discouraged by what I wanted to write and what is out there on the market. It got to the point where I would either not submit or would let the MS molder 30-50% into the draft out of preemptive pessimism. Just last night, I opened up a few of these MSS–one set in Paris, one set in upstate Massachusetts, another featuring an African-American h/h–and laughed because I couldn’t believe I talked myself out of going forward with them out of fear. Yet, that fear is somewhat legitimate: of never being published or experiencing tanking sales because of one little element (setting, ethnicity of h/h, etc) that has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. Yes, there are e-publishers and now self-publishing, but if a majority of historical romance readers buy print and this has yet to budge, the concept of discoverability and “The Power of Habit” will work against me.

    I do plan to be a hybrid writer, but in this call for rejuvenation, death, or rebirth, don’t forget that at the end of the day, writers must think about business alongside the creativity. Writers already face an uphill battle for income and readership on top of wooing people away from video games, movies, YouTube, etc. If a business mogul looked at how much time I’ve spent writing and researching “unusual” historicals and how much money I’ve spent on research materials, and then looked at the HR market, they’d tell me to quit or write Regencies, LOL. So writing what I do is purely a love of labor, and point blank, I want to recoup my investment via being published–and then some!

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  85. Jane
    May 07, 2013 @ 20:59:56

    @Evangeline: I agree with you whole heartedly. It is hard for an author to spend time on a project that may not make any money versus a project that is bound to make some money. It’s a huge risk that may never pay off.

    I don’t know why the historical readers aren’t gravitating toward digital. To some extent that it is a vicious cycle. The historical readers want a certain type of book that publishers are putting out, but the historical readership is shrinking in part because of age and in part because of boredom. It’s the shrinking market of readers that concerns me the most.

    Without vibrant new authors and a ton of younger readers, the genre will contract until it is nothing more than a niche which would be a travesty. I’ve always seen historicals as the backbone of the romance genre. But how to attract the new reader or lure the disenchanted reader back to the fold.

    I did think that with the success of Downton Abbey, we’d see more upstairs/downstairs romances but while I’ve been pitched a few, there haven’t been many. I’m not sure if this is the delay in the publishing cycle or what.

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  86. Frances Housden
    May 07, 2013 @ 21:02:28

    Have to say that I hope your prediction that the Historical Romance is dying is way off the mark. My first Scottish Medieval Romance was published by Harlequin Escape Publishing on Feb. 1st as an ebook. They are the Australian equivalent of Carina. Not having any experience of my work being published as an ebook before, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my Amazon rankings and was thrilled when it reached #3 in all genre on iBooks and stayed at #1 in Historical Romance on iBooks for 4 weeks. All I can hope for now is that book 2 in my series is received with the same welcome, and that the portents you foresee as imminent death of the genre are only a slight chill.

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  87. Jane
    May 07, 2013 @ 21:03:38

    @Ella Quinn: It may be true that historical authors aren’t being sent on tour or aren’t being given print contracts but neither are contemporary authors. In just the last year, we’ve seen an explosion of successful indie authors but other than a couple of established authors, they have all been contemporary.

    The numbers show a serious contraction in the historical market. As for what I want? I’ve already stated it. Something different than what is being published now – different types, different settings which will give rise to different plots and conflicts.

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  88. Moriah Jovan
    May 07, 2013 @ 21:13:33

    @Evangeline:

    Just last night, I opened up a few of these MSS–one set in Paris, one set in upstate Massachusetts, another featuring an African-American h/h–and laughed because I couldn’t believe I talked myself out of going forward with them out of fear.

    I had to laugh (sadly) at this. I had my epiphany one night when I was dog tired, discouraged with what I was doing (not writing), and opened up the last manuscript I completed. ELEVEN YEARS BEFORE. I had gotten an agent with that manuscript. Anyhoo, I hadn’t written anything since. So I opened this thing up and read all night long. It was like reading something somebody else wrote and it was GOOD. I went to bed just heartsick I’d given up on myself. Next morning I woke up with new ideas and started writing again.

    @Jane:

    It is hard for an author to spend time on a project that may not make any money versus a project that is bound to make some money. It’s a huge risk that may never pay off.

    Yeah, but you know what? I may end up poor and bitter, but I’ll be damned if I can STOP writing now that I’ve had the freedom I’ve had to do what I want. Maybe nobody’ll buy it, but I’ll still end up writing it. Dammit.

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  89. C.J. Archer
    May 07, 2013 @ 21:16:44

    I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while now so your post is timely. I often browse the Romance bestseller lists on Amazon and I’ve noticed the lack of historicals. If there are historicals in the Top 100 romance category, it’s usually by a big name author who’s been popular for many years, or an indie author who has bought a Bookbub ad or done a promotion in some way. Most of the time they fall out of the Top 100 very quickly. Hardly ever are these books set outside the Regency genre and they almost all have the word duke/duchess in the title.

    I have a vested interest in the genre expanding beyond these boundaries, so in some ways I hope you’re right and the genre AS WE KNOW IT will shift, but I don’t want to see it die off, nor do I think it will. As a writer of non-Regency historical romances, I get frustrated with my relatively low sales figures. My YA historical paranormal romances do better (go figure), but they’re also a pretty tough sell. Not too many teens and twenty-somethings want to read stuff set in the past. It’s all about the now.

    BUT I do believe something will happen to give the genre a boost. Something big. Twilight kind of big (ok, maybe not that big, but you get the idea). Right now contemporaries are popular and they’ll reign over the bestseller lists for some time, but I predict the rejuvenation will happen. That’s the beauty of indie publishing. Those square-peg stories that agents and editors wouldn’t even look at now have the opportunity to find readers, albeit in smaller numbers. Maybe I’m biased, but I think the genre has life in it yet, but in a morphed form. Perhaps it’ll be something paranormal, or a different time period or setting. I don’t know, but I’m hopeful. It’s just not going to happen in the next year or two, or possibly even five. All we need is that 1 big break-out book and the rest will be history (cue eye-rolling at my bad pun).

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  90. Renee Bernard
    May 07, 2013 @ 22:02:37

    @Melanie:

    Thank you. As moderator/captain who ran the “Historicals are Alive and Well” panel at RT 2013, and author who is hip-deep in historicals, I appreciate the readers who enjoyed our discussion in KC and who support the genre. The genre continues to evolve, although apparently, not fast enough for some…but I agree with many of the posts in that a good story is a good story and readers will always support a talented storyteller when it comes down to it. No one has the power to call for the death of a genre. And one person’s opinion doesn’t change anything. Read what you want. Write what you’re inspired to write. And buy the books that appeal most to your soul.

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  91. Evangeline
    May 07, 2013 @ 22:02:57

    @Jane:
    You don’t have to say this twice. I’ve always argued that historical romance has no “gateway drug” for audiences who don’t read romance and/or would never think to pick up a romance novel for pleasure (I think it was Robin/Janet or Liz McC who mentioned they craved romantic stories in their fiction but did not realize where to obtain it). History lovers won’t touch it, historical fiction readers mostly look down on it, and period drama aficionados don’t know it exists.

    As for digital readership, I too agree that it’s a vicious cycle and also that there is still a plethora of choice available in the print market–when I walk into a used book store, I can find a ton of new-to-me historical romances published in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s. The irony of historical romance is that it doesn’t date. When someone wants to read contemporary romance, they’ll be hard pressed to want to pick something up from 1994 or even 2001, and the market obliges with hundreds of new releases each month from Harlequin, other NY publishers, e-publishers, and self-published authors. A Mary Jo Putney title from 1994 reads just as well as a Julia Quinn title from 2001, which reads just as well as a Joanna Bourne title from 2013.

    Speaking of Downton Abbey-esque novels, it’s hitting mainstream fiction and YA fiction first. Basically, that period drama obsessed, history loving, or historical fiction reading audience who would never pick up a “trashy Harlequin” or “bodice ripper” (my tongue is firmly in cheek as I write this, considering my “bodice rippers” are set in the early 1900s).

    @Moriah Jovan: That’s the impetus that made me determined to write the WWI romance percolating in my brain for nearly a year. If I go down, I want to go down with guns blazing, lol.

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  92. Discovering the Good C+: How Readers Could Help Reboot Historical Romance | Something More
    May 07, 2013 @ 22:17:48

    [...] about the decline (in numbers, quality, new authors, readers) of historical romance. Jane’s suggestion at Dear Author that “We should let the historical genre die” has generated a lot of [...]

  93. Selena Laurence
    May 07, 2013 @ 23:20:18

    I don’t write historical and doubt I ever will, as I’m far too lazy to do the research. I do, however, read it, along with contemporary, paranormal, steampunk…you get the picture. Popularity ebbs and flows, and perhaps historical is in a slump right now, but you can not say that there is nothing new or different or worth reading in historical romance if you haven’t looked at cross-over historical/mystery/romances like Tracy Grant, C.S. Harris, Deanna Raybourn, Joanna Bourne, and Tasha Alexander. These are great books, written by great writers, and proof that if you look just a bit beyond the surface, there is a world of interesting work available, and the genre is far from dead. Maybe not “in vogue” this year, but neither are Vampires, the Zombies have beat them out.

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  94. Angela Booth
    May 07, 2013 @ 23:34:34

    @Lynne Connolly: That sounds wonderful Lynne. I love Georgians; looking forward to reading. :-)

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  95. Lindsay Townsend
    May 08, 2013 @ 04:17:05

    My forthcoming medieval historical romance ‘Dark Maiden’ has an African/English heroine who is an exorcist. I wrote it with paranormal elements – paranormal as believed by people in the Middle Ages.

    I feel historical romance is undergoing a re-birth. With the rise of ebooks I’ve found many historical romances dealing with unusual periods and set outside the British Isles. You do need to search for them, but I don’t mind that. Quite often they do not have many reviews, but again, with the ‘look inside’ or free sample feature on many, I can read and decide for myself.

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  96. Ella Quinn
    May 08, 2013 @ 06:35:50

    @Jane:

    Yes, but, you saying you want something different, is like saying I don’t know what I want to eat, but I want you to figure it out.

    By virtue of the genre, contemporary books have a much wider area to pull stories from. I don’t read them, because they don’t appeal to me, though I realize a great many people do.

    As for ebook contracts, RWA released a study last year showing that fully 55% of romance books are still sold in paper. Which means authors like me who have ebook contracts have a much harder time reaching 100% of the market.

    To me, the trick in crafting a good or even great historical is working within the constraints of your period, and understanding the mores enough to stretch or break them in a believable fashion. That’s what I hope I do in mine. I won’t know how well they’ll sell until September when the first book releases.

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  97. Monica E. Spence
    May 08, 2013 @ 07:17:31

    Small publishers, such as eTreasures Publishing ( eTreasures.com), takes chances with different time periods. My own novel, LOVE IS NOT PROUD, is set in the Sixteenth Century Renaissance in Florence, Italy and involves (fictitious) members of the Medici family. I will have a Colonial era novella appearing in the anthology MOMENT AFTER DEATH, which is slated to be released in September.

    I am pleased to see eTreasures is willing not only to give new authors, like me, a chance for publication, but also look beyond the Nineteenth Century for the settings for their novels.
    Monica E. Spence

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  98. Jane
    May 08, 2013 @ 07:29:07

    @Ella Quinn: I’ve already said what I’m looking for and, I don’t necessarily think it is the burden of the reader to define the market.

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  99. Kris Bock
    May 08, 2013 @ 08:37:34

    I’ve only been reading historical romances for a year or so, so I’m still finding plenty to enjoy. But the ones I haven’t enjoyed so much share a problem – there’s usually about a hundred pages that are boring because either they’re repeating the same conflict we’ve already had, or nothing much happens. I feel like these romances are suffering from the standard that historicals are long, 350+ pages. I hope the growing e-book market will allow authors to experiment with length and focus on what’s right for the book, not what is traditional.

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  100. Lauren
    May 08, 2013 @ 08:45:54

    I miss finding good historical romances, although I keep trying.

    One of the best author transitions, in my opinion, is Karen Marie Moning. I loved her Highlander series years ago when the came out, and only bought the first of her Fever series books because I recognized her name, was taking a trip, and needed something to read.

    I do not want to die before that series finishes.

    Most of the other authors I pass over. I used to buy Amanda Quick’s books the minute they hit the stores, even in hardcover, and now all I do if feel a twang of sorrow when I see a new one sitting on the shelf. I would love to be able to buy it, and curl up outside on a chair, while I immerse myself,but…..

    There are only so many years of being bored by the Arcane society before I stop wasting my money. Julie Garwood’s historicals in the 90′s for me were autobuys, but how many times can you reach “Ach, Lass, I’m going to ravish yer wee little body” before you roll your eyes and look for something new? Her contemporaries are horrible. The same goes for Julia Quinn – the bad musical family is not interesting enough to write a series on. I feel the same about Julia London’s series.

    It’s not just historical authors that I have a problem with. I understand that Suzanne Brockmann can only write about so many Navy SEALs, but her new series, with the world building is horrible. It is like she read KMM series and thought “Hey I can do that too! I’ll name my hero Mac and go from there!”.

    I’ve gone to the mystery section for a while. There isn’t as many love scenes and feel good moments, but it isn’t all tea parties and bad espionage plots either! I haven’t given up totally -I keep coming to DA and SBTB looking for reviews that make we want to buy romances!

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  101. Best of the Non Regency Historicals
    May 08, 2013 @ 10:02:20

    [...] response to my article yesterday which I provocatively titled “We should let the historical genre die”, I received [...]

  102. Lila Gillard
    May 08, 2013 @ 10:17:52

    I am a historical romance writer and reader. Calling for the genre to die is extreme but look at all the conversation it is generating–hurray! Historicals do feel trapped IMHO. I don’t care if I’m in a Regency, Victorian, Edwardian, Scottish Highlands, American West, Viking, Far East…but I beg for fresh plots.

    Laura Kinsale and Joanna Bourne are perfect examples to me of authors who serve up depth, meaningful plots and true transportive experiences. Many historical fans I know point to Outlander or The Bronze Horseman as favorite romances, even though they are not strictly designated as such. Courtney Milan is only getting better. To me she is a beacon for us newbie writers looking to break out. Proof stories that are a little different can become strong sellers.

    I think readers to want diversity and choice in the marketplace but are not being offered the choice. This is a waste. My books are about to go on submission and take place in Australian penal colonies. When I queried agents the response was either YEAH SOMETHING NEW or No England? No Earls? No Thanks. I’m betting on readers wanting new adventures. And hope to god I’m right.

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  103. thetroubleis
    May 08, 2013 @ 10:46:31

    I don’t really understand the repeated concern that an unusual setting or characters of color, etc are just gimmick to sell a book given that things like Dukes and bluestockings have been used as gimmicks for decades. For some reason (mostly racism) duds with characters of color are seen as tainting all books with H/H of color, which is just absurd.

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  104. Eliza Lloyd
    May 08, 2013 @ 11:08:31

    @Jackie Horne: I would say that a duke in the regency era is the same as a billionaire in a contemporary. Since we are talking about fantasy when we talk romance, those phrases which signify power, authority, wealth and by default, handsomeness, are automatic draws. No one wants the grubby mechanic down the street to be binding, whipping and drooling over us.

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  105. Janine
    May 08, 2013 @ 11:14:08

    I said this on Twitter yesterday: I think the challenges historicals face aren’t strictly about setting. Setting is part of the problem, but when I read regencies from the 1990s, they still feel fresh and exciting in a way that some of today’s books don’t. So I think a lot of the problem isn’t just the setting, but the absence of risks taken in many of today’s historical romances. Or what Moriah Jovan calls Da Rulez.

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  106. Mary Gillgannon
    May 08, 2013 @ 17:21:58

    I have a historical romance series set in the dark ages, as well as two Viking books. The earlier ones were published in the late 90′s. When I tried to sell the fourth book in the dark age series and my second Viking book, I couldn’t even get editors to even look at them. They rejected them on the time period alone. I ended up self-publishing these books, but sales have been underwhelming. I tell myself there must be readers who would enjoy these books, but I have yet to find them. I’m about to re-release a couple of medieval romances that were also published in the late 90′s. But I’m not optimistic that they’ll do that well. I hope I’m wrong.

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  107. Susan Macatee
    May 08, 2013 @ 18:45:26

    I write historical romances set during and around the American Civil War, not because it’s a popular genre, but because I’m passionate about the period. I’m published with a small electronic publisher because the big New York publishers told me Civil War romances don’t sell. And my stories vary with diverse heroes and heroines. In two of my stories, the heroines are soldiers, disguised as men, since women weren’t allowed to serve in the army in the nineteenth century. I cut my teeth reading historical romances and wanted to make a difference in the genre. I’d hate to see it die, but do agree that all those Regencies and Scottish Highland romances have saturated the market, and readers don’t seem to have an interest in the wide variety of historicals offered.

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  108. Kellie
    May 08, 2013 @ 19:08:32

    I don’t understand the argument. Let the genre die so it can rise from the ashes? Only then can it reinvent itself? What? Why?

    Why not just keep publishing good authors and good books? Reading tastes are cyclical. Some historical romance will hit big and the pendulum will swing back again. Maybe all the way back to huge fat 125K-word books, since paper price isn’t an issue with ereaders.

    Re “any author worth her salt”: the financial models for print pub and epub are very different. Historicals with non-Regency, non-medieval settings are financially viable in epub format.

    What’s the viewership for Mad Men? Downton Abbey? Spartacus, Rome, the Tudors? Etc

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  109. Kellie
    May 08, 2013 @ 19:26:04

    PS–Jane, are you British? You wrote “lawyer” so I thought American. The top 100 list you reference is from the Guardian and must show UK sales only (hence the appearance of Jeremy Clarkson, who I’d never heard of). If you look at an American list (ex: USAToday’s bestselling 100 books of 2012), you’ll find plenty Nora Roberts–in this case, four.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2013/01/16/100-best-selling-books-of-2012/1839803/

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  110. Jane
    May 08, 2013 @ 19:29:31

    @Kellie: No, I’m not British. I wasn’t convinced that the Guardian article was one that was solely Brit numbers. The USA Today top 100 was their list of top selling books and so I wasn’t really sure how accurate that was (and if you look at the Top 100 hardcovers from PW, a list that is US, I don’t recall many, if any, Nora Roberts there).

    As for your earlier comment, yes, if the historical genre dies or the current incarnation then maybe the reader expectations die along with it. To the extent that readers (like me) hold back movement/progress toward other types of historicals, then that reader expectation has to be snuffed out before we can move on. If you believe the “Hey Ya” theory (and I do), then readers gravitate toward familiar. But what is familiar is becoming so stale as to create a dying genre.

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  111. Susan
    May 08, 2013 @ 20:49:19

    I love historical fiction (and non-fiction) in general, and read way more historical romances than contemporaries, so I’d be very sorry to see them disappear. (When I want to escape, I want to go far away.)

    Like many others, I grew up reading HRs that had a wider variety of settings and time periods than we seem to find now. I also agree with another poster that wouldn’t mind seeing longer/meatier works. One of my favorites from “back in the day” was Valerie Fitzgerald’s 1981 (?) Zemindar, set in 1857-58 India during the Mutiny. I think that’s a book that still holds up today, and wish more like it were being written now.

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  112. Alison Stuart
    May 08, 2013 @ 22:26:11

    Hi Jane…The “historical is dead” has been a cry for as long as I have been writing but it keeps limping on.

    I write award winning/award nominated stories set in the English Civil war and in 1923 (Downton Abbey – with ghosts) … but can I find an audience for them? Firstly I can’t find a mainstream publisher prepared to take a risk with an “unknown” period of history so I have gone to the epublishers which is fine but how, in the sea of self published ebooks, do you make your voice heard above the rabble, convince readers that these are stories they may like???

    I have tried writing Regency but, as you pointed out, there are no original plots and the readership for this period is so knowledgeable I wouldn’t dare get the slightest flick of a fan out of place!

    I don’t know what the answer is!

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  113. Patricia
    May 08, 2013 @ 23:19:36

    As long as we’re on the subject of what’s wrong with the historical genre, can I just say that I am absolutely sick of rakes and rogues? I have no interest in reading any more about them, whether they are true rakes or pseudo-rakes (men with inexplicably bad reputations despite the fact that their behavior clearly shows them to be decent guys). That rag has been wrung out so many times it’s now completely threadbare. Please, it’s time for something new.

    Also, I don’t want to hear how many prostitutes the hero screwed before the heroine came along. That’s creepy, not hot.

    There. I’m glad I got that off my chest. Carry on.

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  114. Diane R Jewkes
    May 09, 2013 @ 11:59:07

    As a writer of historical romance I object to your statement that it is a dying genre. Throughout your article you keep referring to just one segment of historical; the Regency. While they are popular, they are far from being the only historical out there. My book is set in New Mexico in the late 1890′s and there are tons of other books set outside the Regency period that are loved and sell well. Heck, my publisher has even designated a book set in the 1970′s as “historical”. While that now makes me feel older than dirt, it does illustrate the breadth of the genre. So no, the historical is not dead, nor is it stagnant. Your reading choices and your research parameters are too narrow.

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  115. Jody
    May 09, 2013 @ 13:02:29

    Historicals are the cornerstone of romance fiction going back to the modern father of historicals Sir Walter Scott with his Waverly series and Ivanhoe. In romance fiction if you go back the founders of the the genre you will find that most were historicals and they created the foundations on which many other subgenre grew from including romantic suspsense, paranormal, inspirationals, and even young adult. I don’t buy the premise that historicals are stale, there are expecations that readers have and if you depart from that even if you are trying to up date the actual history of the period readers want a certain kind of book and if you want to generate sales ( remember t his is a business not just a craft) you have to at least be aware of expectations. And yet I have been reading historical fiction and romance for over 45 years and historicals have grown the industry as much if not more than contemporaries have as they moved into urban fantasy and futuristics.

    For me I keep seeking the authors who are able to blend a lot of historical conflict in their stories which are a blend of historical fiction and romance historicals, authors like Diana Gabaldon.

    HIstoricals are the foundation of romance along with contemporaries and if you look at sales they aren’t going anywhere espeically if you include all the subgenre’s that are historicals but are promoted in other subgenres.

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  116. Jody
    May 09, 2013 @ 13:43:37

    Also don’t like medieval warriors or knights, or rogues and rakes? Where do you think the modern day contemporay bad boys of romantic supsense, urban fantasty ect nd Navy SEALS and military warriors came from? They have the same attributes that were born in historicals be it romance or historical fiction. They are just updated to meet the expections of contemporary reader. All these heros be they contemporary or historical ( and the subgrenes they include) share the same attributes be they positive or negative and it is their growth within the plot that will grow the industry. Maybe it isn’t the characters but the plots that need to be update in historicals but its getting publisher ( who run a business to make money) to do a better promotions of new plots bet the elements of new historical periods or new conflicts that challenge the old ideas of romance history ( fearing that it effects salses which is lways thir botom line) . Contemporaries don’t have that problem for the most part because they change with the current events of our life. Face the facts todays contemporary heroes are born of the historical warriors and knights, only updated for the period, and with new historical periods and realistic hsitorical plots being encouraged– I do research for authors and know they are always looking for new elements to grow the historicals plots- you will see more new historicals with elements that are truer to history and readers who are looking for this kind of book will grow the industry. Yes the following are well established historical authors but looking at just their digital sales ( then add their paper sales and you get some healthy numbers to prove there are historical readers out there… historical sales are not dead. How many midlist contemporaries are making these kind of sales… talking midlist not people like Nora Roberts et all ?

    A Night Like This, Julia Quinn (Avon) 66,192
    The Ugly Duchess, Eloisa James (Avon) 59,333
    The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae, Stephanie Laurens (Avon) 55,093
    The Duke is Mine, Eloisa James (Avon) 47,983
    Sins of a Wicked Duke, Sophie Jordan (Avon) 46,687
    A Week to be Wicked, Tessa Dare (Avon) 44,792
    A Rogue by any Other Name, Sarah Maclean (Avon) 44,380
    A Kiss at Midnight, Eloisa James (Avon) 42,624
    Winning the Wallflower, Eloisa James (Avon Impulse) 40,954
    Never Seduce a Scot, Maya Banks (Ballantine) ~38,600
    Seduced by a Pirate, Eloisa James (Avon Impulse) 34,516
    A Lady Never Surrenders, Sabrina Jeffries (Pocket) 34,290
    The Seduction of Sebastian Trantor, Stephanie Laurens (Avon Impulse) 31,027
    Never Love a Highlander, Maya Banks (Ballantine) ~30,200
    The Lady Risks All, Stephanie Laurens (Avon) 29,100
    Seduction of a Highlander, Maya Banks (Ballantine) ~28,400
    The Fall of Rogue Gerrard, Stephanie Laurens (Avon Impulse) 26,466
    How the Marquess was Won, Julie Anne Long (Avon) 25,980
    The Duke and I, Julia Quinn (Avon) 25,640
    Devil’s Bride, Stephanie Laurens (Avon) 25,229

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  117. Jane
    May 09, 2013 @ 16:06:19

    @Jody: Why would you compare midlist contemporary authors to frontlist historical authors? The fact that frontlist historical authors are selling fractionally what frontlist contemp authors are is the problem; not that midlist authors don’t stack up against frontlist authors.

    ReplyReply

  118. Linkspam, 5/10/13 Edition — Radish Reviews
    May 10, 2013 @ 07:32:26

    [...] We should let the historical genre die [...]

  119. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity’s pleased that by the end of next week, we’ll should actually have leaves on the trees in Minneapolis
    May 10, 2013 @ 08:01:16

    [...] Should the historical romance genre die? [...]

  120. malk
    May 10, 2013 @ 19:42:13

    Just some observations from a former fan of historical fiction.

    Back in the 80s and 90s I loved historical fiction. You could buy all sorts of historical stories off the shelves at bookstores, even at grocery stores. Nowadays, the only thing you can find on the shelves are regencies. And if you ask me, not all the regencies are realistic. They remind me, in many cases, of current day women wearing long dresses and giving their partners oral sex. For some reason, I just can’t buy this, and I am sure others out there feel the same way. I’m just not interested in regencies, and while I know a lot of people love them, I’m sure there are just as many who don’t.

    I think the larger problem, however, is the general populace. There is much less of an emphasis on history than there used to be in the schools, and, as a former teacher, I know a lot of young people are convinced of a lot of myths about history that simply aren’t supported. I don’t think as many are interested in period pieces as used to be. But there are plenty of middle-aged and older people yearning for historicals with dignity — hence the success of Downton Abbey.

    I am an aspiring historical author and can’t decide whether to stick with romance or just do general historical fiction. I don’t think I’m still a fan of historical romance.

    ReplyReply

  121. Sexy Saturday Round-Up | Lady Smut
    May 11, 2013 @ 04:43:49

    [...] I sat in on the historical romance RITA-nominees Shindig event on Thursday night and this post was brought up several times: Should we allow the historical genre to die? [...]

  122. The Firebirds :: 2012 Golden Heart ® Finalists » 2013 GH Finalist: Piper Huguley
    May 12, 2013 @ 23:29:34

    [...] Dear Author got into the fray and weighed in with the provocatively titled: “We should let the historical romance die.”  I commented there: [...]

  123. Sick of the Regency? » Risky Regencies
    May 13, 2013 @ 02:12:32

    [...] Last week on my Diane’s Blog, I mentioned the discussion on Dear Author titled  We Should Let The Historical Genre Die. [...]

  124. Don’t Let The Historical Romance Die | cara ellison
    May 13, 2013 @ 03:25:10

    [...] Author recently published a controversial article calling for the death of the historical romance novel. The central idea was that the historical needs to die and be born again into something less [...]

  125. Bring Them Back! « All About Romance’s News & Commentary Blog
    May 13, 2013 @ 06:25:53

    [...] have been a couple of posts – one of them here at AAR, a later one at Dear Author – in the last couple of weeks that have talked about the decline in both the quality and [...]

  126. Imani
    May 13, 2013 @ 13:11:43

    Well, I’d like a mechanic (or the historical equivalent because what a weird comparison?) to dribble all over me. Keep your stuffy Dukes.

    How about historicals about the *servants*. That would be such a cool and refreshing change. Surely Downton Abbey will convince some agents/publishers to take a chance on it? Just…do something. Historicals were my first love — cut my teeth on Nan Ryan — but I can barely stand them these days.

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  127. LG
    May 13, 2013 @ 13:17:37

    @Imani: “How about historicals about the *servants*. That would be such a cool and refreshing change. ”

    I’d like books like those, too. The only ones I can think of are an inspirational romance (Deeanne Gist’s Maid to Match, starring a maid and a footman) and a manga series (Kaoru Mori’s Emma, starring a maid and a member of the gentry – lovely series, but I’d have liked it more if Emma had ended up with Hans, the footman).

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  128. Aisha
    May 13, 2013 @ 14:48:17

    @LG – I third that. Yes, please.

    ReplyReply

  129. Never Say Die: Speaking Up for Badass Regencies | Badass Romance
    May 13, 2013 @ 22:38:28

    [...] historical romance over the past couple of weeks. Last week I tossed around my own musings on the provocative yet substantive discussion launched by the influential All About Romance and Dear Author blogs. This week finds historical [...]

  130. Lusty Wenches and Hawt Spies: Loving the Historical | Lady Smut
    May 14, 2013 @ 00:15:55

    [...] them. Also, I sat in on the Shindig historical romance panel that included the RITA nominees. The Dear Author post was a topic of [...]

  131. Can a Genre Die? | Merry Farmer
    May 15, 2013 @ 05:30:14

    [...] little corner of the writer’s world was all in a tizzy last week after an article published at Dear Author that suggested that the Historical Romance genre be allowed to [...]

  132. In the Hammock
    May 21, 2013 @ 12:27:35

    While I respect your post, I have to put in my two cents and say that I disagree wholeheartedly!! Historical romance is by far my favorite genre of books, and I would be terribly unhappy were it to disappear. Sure, fine, the other books are selling better, but to wipe out an entire genre completely isn’t fair to readers who have different tastes.

    ReplyReply

  133. Politics and the Romance Novel | Emma Barry
    May 28, 2013 @ 05:53:53

    [...] in historical romantic fiction that’s been widely explored in the past month (see for example this recent post at Dear Author). A novel about upper-class white people in the Regency period tends to be seen as [...]

  134. The Role of Romance | Elise Cyr
    Jun 12, 2013 @ 17:02:24

    [...] About Romance’s Where Have All the Historical Romances Gone? Dear Author’s We should let the historical genre die Badass Romance’s Historical Romance–Lament, or Let It Die Little Miss Crabby Pants [...]

  135. Wait, historical fiction is doomed? When did this happen? | The Rambling Jour
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 22:15:44

    [...] So last night, instead of doing something constructive, like washing dishes or vacuuming, I was perusing articles on Dear Author.   Admittedly, it’s a site I’d never visited before.  So.  You know, there was the urge to get “caught up.”  An article from May 7 caught my eye: “We should let the historical genre die.”  You can read the article in its entirety here. [...]

  136. Book Club: A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant
    Jul 15, 2013 @ 09:05:07

    [...] really don’t know. I read the DA piece a couple months back about Letting the Historical Die, and thought it made some good points. I worry that, to the mass of romance readers and potential [...]

  137. MikiS
    Aug 06, 2013 @ 20:36:18

    @wikkidsexycool:

    An example of political correctness in historical romance: I was listening to an audiobook of Amanda Quick’s. I think it was “A Perfect Poison”. The heroine tells the hero that she named a fern brought back from a safari after her mother. He says something like “Oh, you discovered this fern?” She says: “No, the natives in the region found it. We were just the first to bring it back here.” (Or something like that – I’m not at home, so I can’t fact-check the exact wording).

    ReplyReply

  138. Jessie Clever
    Sep 04, 2013 @ 12:03:11

    I think your arguments are spot on, and I applaud you for saying all of these things out loud while everyone else is thinking it! I write Regencies that don’t just break the mold but smash it to bits, and I received a negative review that said it wasn’t a typical regency romance, and I wanted to tell the reviewer: THANK YOU! I hope more authors are brave enough to smash the mold because I need something to read.

    ReplyReply

  139. Is Historical Romance Dead? | Jessie Clever
    Sep 04, 2013 @ 12:14:55

    […] supports this argument, and I applaud Draven for making it.  Case in point was made in a recent blog at Dear Author where Jane Litte makes the valid argument that authors are holding back evolution […]

  140. Historical Romance Week | Genevieve Turner, Historical Romance Writer
    Sep 15, 2013 @ 14:41:47

    […] lively discussion on the current state of historical romance was set off by two blog posts: one at Dear Author and another at AAR. The discussion sparked several other excellent posts on the subject. (A nice […]

  141. Movers, Shakers, and History Makers | Edie's Blog
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 13:53:19

    […] don’t want to save the historical romance genre,” Dear Author founder Jane Litte stated in May 2013. ”I want it to die and from the ashes, maybe then, a new and fresh historical voices will […]

  142. Colette
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 12:29:57

    I partly agree.
    Historical Romance books are not text books but they do need to be a bit realistic and accurate. I love Jane Austen’s works but not all books have to be like her.
    Though I love to read RR books, I want something different in them. Most plots are repetitive and I could tell what will happen from the start. Not to mention, how porny they have become. Its like reading a soft core porn story.
    So, should the genre die? I don’t know but I hope they get better.

    ReplyReply

  143. The Trouble with Historical RomanceEvangeline Holland | Evangeline Holland
    Feb 26, 2014 @ 19:22:53

    […] was a comment on Dear Author’s latest post about historical romance, which was written to address AAR’s Lynn Spencer’s lament about the decline of […]

  144. Big Fat Anniversary Post: Late Bloomer in Romancelandia | Badass Romance
    Mar 12, 2014 @ 08:43:21

    […] the first couple of months there was a whole kerfuffle about whether historical romance was “dead” – and that conversation was energizing for me, inspiring some of my favorite posts. […]

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