What subgenre needs more books?
When I was reading Jayne’s review of the Ellen O’Connell release, Without Words, there were so many elements that appealed to me–the unusual location, the hardscrabble life, the marriage of convenience. The description of the book and the characters brought to mind one of my favorite Western writers, Jo Goodman, and one of my favorite Western romances, A Kiss to Die For by Claudia Dain.
If there’s one subgenre that I’d love to see more books published in it would be Westerns. I enjoy stories about enterprising women and the niches they carved out for themselves. I like the world weary, quiet lawmen. I like dust, the horses, the blackberry pies. It could be because I grew up reading Louis L’Amour books but I love a good Western and there just aren’t enough of them these days.
When I meet with industry folk, we always talk about what we think the next hit trend will be. New Adult is still popular, but it’s not the reader kryptonite that it once was. (And due to the glut of books that can be published to meet new trends, the cycle for trends to rise and fall is super accelerated) I have some ideas based on underserved subgenres and I think Westerns could be one.
I also think historicals could be another. So many big name historical authors are migrating toward contemporaries these days and their absence (even if it is only temporary) could open the door for new voices within the genre. I’m really excited about Erin Satie’s work. I read The Lover’s Knot this past weekend. The heroine is an ink brewer and the details Satie wove throughout the story about the time period and ink brewing was absolutely fascinating. It reminded me of the time I would read a Susan Johnson book and come away better familiar with the time period.
There’s a dire number of good space books with world building like Last Hour of Gann or fantasies along the lines of Warprize as well. I’d be interested in books in those subgenres.
What subgenres are being underserved?
I’m not sure there’s such a shortage of westerns in the romance genre, maybe it’s more a matter of labels. Aren’t a lot of male order bride stories and inspy historicals western-set?
What I’m missing is more related to setting than sub-genre: 20th century historicals. Again, there seem to be quite a few inspys set in the 20th century, but I don’t really relate to books in which faith plays a major role. Another setting that seems to have almost disappeared is medieval romances, and really anything pre-Georgian appears to be in short supply. I appreciate that there are original voices writing regency and Victorian historicals, but I’d like to see more range than that.
There’s also the matter of what’s being published within genres. I like romantic suspense, but don’t love it when the focus is on super extra special forces heroes or made up anti-terror organizations. But I’m pretty sure that’s what sells, because even authors whose original focus was different (e.g. Pamela Clare, Laura Griffin) seem to be gravitating towards terror plots and/or hyper-competent heroes.
I like romantic suspense, but don’t love it when the focus is on super extra special forces heroes or made up anti-terror organizations. But I’m pretty sure that’s what sells, because even authors whose original focus was different (e.g. Pamela Clare, Laura Griffin) seem to be gravitating towards terror plots and/or hyper-competent heroes.
I’d like to read historical romances of people who aren’t nobility and where the era is not just serving as wallpaper. I second the need for spec fiction and sci-fi romances. I’d love reading about everyday people in complicated situations. There is an absolute dearth of erotic romances of any sub-genre featuring equal partners or assertive women.
@Rose: What you said. More Westerns and more anything before or after Regency/Victorian. And swashbucklers! I can barely remember the last musketeer book I read.
Oh, I am so over the Special Forces superhero. I like romantic suspense, but not a superhero who swoops in and saves the heroine. Or the tedious plot of the all-army guy, who manages to unbend enough to fall in love with the heroine.
Military romance that features normal people – not spec forces – Jessica Scott does a great job but would love more
@Dee: Definitely thumbs up to Jessica Scott’s books. I don’t love everything she publishes, but I appreciate the authenticity and the realistic challenges that her characters face.
Nerdcore? Maybe not yet. I do think the first half of the 20th Century is virtually unused for romance and it could be primo.
I’d love more historical fiction set in less-trafficked (by romance authors) settings: turn-of-the-century Lower East Side, San Francisco during the Gold Rush, Prohibition-era Chicago. (The nice thing about urban settings, too: diversity! built into the environment.) As a kid I adored The Thorn Birds, Leon Uris’s Exodus and Shogun — if authors can be respectful of other cultures, I’d love more stuff set in countries that are not the USA or the UK. And I ADORE a bunch of speculative YA fiction (I think I like the speculative stuff that feels kinda historical, like the Girl of Fire and Thorns and His Fair Assassin series) but haven’t found much adult stuff that sings to me.
There are plenty of Westerns that are inspy and sweet- what I want are erotic/hot westerns. Coincidentally Jane, I was complaining about the lack of this sub genre on Twitter this last week. All the hot romance with cowboys (Lorelei James, etc.) are contemporaries. I wanted to read a hot hist western so badly I went through the bother of buying the ebook (I’d originally read it at the library) of Caine’s Reckoning by Sarah McCarty. It was pubbed in 2011! Started rereading- so happy- now that’s what I’m talking ’bout – horses, lawmen, shotguns and saddles, with the bedroom door WIDE open- I want more!
And yes, more epic sci fi romance! *grabby hands*
@marjorie: if you like Carson and Lafevers, you should check out Leah Cypess’s books and Marie Rutkoski’s new WINNER’S CURSE trilogy. Lots of “the speculative stuff that feels kinda historical”, although the romances tend to be more bittersweet.
I want more SFR, I always do — especially ones that take their speculative elements and worldbuilding seriously, instead of just using it for wallpaper.
I want more romantic suspense along the lines of Mary Stewart, innocent bystanders caught up in sinister situations, instead of Special Forces superhunks.
My speculation about what is due to catch fire: Westerns. Gothics (reimagined for a more modern edge) are overdue for a resurrection. I think that PNRs with a more diverse cultural reference (less vampires and angels, more yokai and tzitzmimeh) are going to become more prominent. Oh, and I think that this is the year that mainstream publishers are going to start cashing in on m/m.
I would like to see more historicals and contempoaries with non-nobility/millionare characters. And for contemporaries, ones not set in a small town.
I would love to read more romances set in locations other than North America and Europe.
I would love to see historicals set outside of the late Georgian/Regency/Victorian era and more historicals set outside of England and Scotland. Definitely would like to see more medieval historicals. I would also like to see more fantasy and sci-fi romances. I must say that, at this point, I am pretty bored with most of the offerings in the romance genre. There was only one end of November/beginning of December romance book that I was even slightly interested in reading, and I’ll probably borrow that one from the library since the rest of the series has been so-so for me.
@Michele Mills – have you tried The Wicked West by Victoria Dahl?
Personally I’d just prefer more books where the conflict does not rest on the fact the hero and heroine could solve everything by having one five minute conversation. What is that?! The reader spends the first half of the book practically yelling at the page, “Talk! Talk! Don’t lie about your secret baby/ex-wife/feelings of inadequacy!”
Seriously any genre, stop that.
Personally I’d love to see more realistic “New Adult” where the college age/new working adults actually act like their ages. I’m sorry but I just got through that age bracket and none of that seems realistic. I can’t even begin to tell you how many rich, hot college guys who wanted kids while 18 years old. It’s actually pretty astounding how many 18 and 19 year olds live in beautiful apartments while holding full-time jobs, full course loads, and have time for the amount of angsty relationships they all seem to get into.
I’m 25 and I have never experienced the crazy shenanigans prevalent in New Adult.
So I guess I’m sort of saying what I wish there was less of. Look at me following directions.
I will second/third the call for Fantasy romance. Maybe use some alternative history settings. This allows for using recognizable times & places but allows the author to play with so-called ‘normal’ social settings. The author can upend them and also allows them to utilize race & sexuality in ways that might call into question ‘authenticity’ in a true historical.
Susan Sizemore did something like this in ‘Memory or Morning’ where she took a very recognizable Georgian/Regency England and re-versioned it so that women could be practicing doctors & children born illegitimate were given a place in society. Or kinda like what Guy Gavriel Kay does.
Also some good SF romances. More rollicking space opera romances like Gini Koch’s Kitty Katt series or maybe Near Future romances. We get a lot of Urban Fantasy or stuff set in a dystopian future, but I’d like to see more stuff kind like what JD Robb is doing — Contemporaries with a future twist.
And yeah, I’d also like military back drop romances more along the lines of say Army Wives and less along the lines of Strike Force.
Anyone looking for medieval romances might want to check out Catherine Kean. Her backlist is pretty extensive.
@cleo: I second The Wicked West. I read it recently and enjoyed it quite a bit :)
@hapax: “My speculation about what is due to catch fire: Westerns. Gothics (reimagined for a more modern edge) are overdue for a resurrection. I think that PNRs with a more diverse cultural reference (less vampires and angels, more yokai and tzitzmimeh) are going to become more prominent. Oh, and I think that this is the year that mainstream publishers are going to start cashing in on m/m.”
These are great speculations! Westerns and Gothics could be reimagined using the angsty tropes we love in contemporaries. I love the idea about PNR going in a different direction- very fresh. And YES about m/m – KJ Charles being a perfect example.
@cleo: *Gasp* No! I haven’t read that. *pulling out phone/kindle app*
@tina and @marjorie:
Have y’all read Stephanie Dray’s Cleopatra’s Daughter series? It’s set in Imperial Rome, but it has enough fantasy elements to give that alternative history feel to it.
I do feel like I don’t read as many western set books as I once did and I would like to see more (both historical and contemporary). I would love to see more historicals from different time periods (the early 1900’s would be interesting). Also, as library addict mentioned, we need to see more locations in romance. The vast majority of books I read take place either in America or Great Britain. I love those locations but I really enjoy learning about a new (to me) places.
I wish there were more books in Romantic Suspense like Linda Howard’s books.
Contemporaries set within parameters of normal life.
Books with plucky heroines who don’t want to be dominated in bed or outside
Books with considerate heroes in white collar professions who are not into BDSM
Funny non erotic (but sexy) romances set in urban centers with good stories and characters I can care about
Paranormals with unique worldbuilding and characters with higher motivations
I would love to see more f/f pairings in any genre, and not only as side characters. I recently bought a bunch of Cathy Pegau books for just that reason but I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet.
I would love to see more adventure romance — Romancing the Stone kind of stuff. It always seem to be few and far between, but I love the adventure and the quest. I really like Elizabeth Naughton’s trilogy, but then she turned to paranormal.
I second the request for more Sci-Fi Romance too.
I’d like more Fantasy Romance, as well, but it always worries me too. I devoured fantasy as a kid and sometimes find authors who don’t have a fantasy background/grounding often feel really light compared to what I’m expecting.
@Michele Mills: I hope you like it. It’s one of my favorite erotic romance novellas, of any sub-genre. IDK if it’s the only bdsm, historical western erotic romance out there, but I know it’s a damn good one.
Dean Wesley Smith had a good post last week on pulp writing, and how writers there tend to produce more. Westerns were a shorter-length genre, he points out, and maybe 2015 will be the year fast-paced authors turn their sights upon it.
@Heather Greye: Regarding action-adventure & sci-fi romances, Anna Hackett’s Phoenix Adventures series might be up your alley, especially since she combines the two! The first book is AT STAR’S END.
Superhero fiction! He shouted, waving around his six-book series.
I’d also like more of this. I think one of the reasons is that I much prefer the conflict in a story to be external, which is a lot easier to do in an adventure romance than in a contemporary. There’s less room in stories with significant external conflict for issues that could/should have been cleared up with a decent and honest conversation.
Most of what I want — 20th century historicals, fantasy romances and SFRs (but only if the author can do the F/SF part as well as the romance) — has already been mentioned, so I’ll throw out a couple of other suggestions.
Historical paranormals in periods we haven’t seen them set much (I’m thinking Victorian era through the first half of the twentieth century) and contemporaries set in non-English speaking countries (Japan, Sweden, Greece… the sky’s the limit). Also, medievals and fantasy romances in which the characters are people of devout faith– but the books aren’t inspies.
Rose – have you tried Jamie Farrell? she is a mil wife (AF) and has an AF based romance (disclosure, she is now a friend of mine, but I loved her book long before I met her)
have you tried Beth Williamson? she has a historical western series (or 2) – one set post civil war; the other in a similar time frame. She also writes under the name Emma Lang
Eh, I know this is not exactly a subjenre, but going to say it anyway – I would like more m/m romances with the main characters equal in size. That does not mean that I have not read great books with the couples where guys look differently, I did, but too often difference in sizes signals the dynamics I do not care for. Note that I am not asking for two butch guys (huge alphas , whatever you call them) necessarily – those are the only ones I actually do see sometimes. Two regular guys (Betas? Again whatever you want to call them), two femme guys, just the couple where the partners look similar enough size wise – please? Recommendations are welcome, because the only one (literally!) that comes to mind with two (I guess?) Beta characters is ‘Whistling in the Dark”. And I really want more. Thanks.
Janine: “and contemporaries set in non-English speaking countries (Japan, Sweden, Greece… the sky’s the limit).”
One of the things I find so fascinating about older category romances is that so many of them are set in locations that by today’s standards would be considered rather exotic and that you often get very extensive descriptions of the landscape (a good example would be Anne Weale’s “Castle in Corsica” from 1959). A similar thing can also be seen in many of Mary Stewart’s novels.
Unfortunately, today we have the problem that romances with unusual settings or set-ups (non-dukes in historicals – gasp!) often don’t sell particularly well. (Back in the day, one publisher rejected “Castle of the Wolf” because they already had one historical with a German setting in their program. Yay.)
I see this question a lot across a number of romance blogs. The other question is, do any readers contact the publishers of the books they read to request these types of books? I mean send a real letter not an email. It’s possible that you don’t see more of these books because you are not making your interests known. Publishers respond to interest and SALES. Or the lack of sales. My advice is to troll indie press websites for fresh authors and/or a variety of books. That’s what I do when the pickins are stale. If you are searching to get out of a reading slump, don’t stick with the big, established publishers releases. You’ll only get more cookie-cutter stories. Gotta be proactive. Just sayin.’
I would love (LOVE) more Fantasy Romance that is NOT paranormal/shifter. I just finished Grace Draven’s “Master of Crows” and I absolutely loved it! I’ve not read (non-PNR/shifter) Fantasy Romance in some time and I was shocked by how excited and happy it made me. Automatically went out and bought her (really short) backlist.
I’m going to go “hurrah” for the call for more Westerns: I thought one of the best ones this year was Molly O’Keefe’s SEDUCED and I hope we see more in the series. So yes to the Western. Like many have already mentioned, I’d like to see a movement away from (but without abandoning) England and Scotland for histrom. I’d like to see period settings beyond the 19th century. I’d like to see more swashbuckling, Colonial-set romances like Donna Thorland did this year. I’d like to see more of the hybrid romance, suspense but still seeped in history work of Susanna Kearsley and my more recent discovery of Simone St. James. I love writers to nod to Mary Stewart in their work. I’d like to inspirational romance redefine itself beyond the evangelical/Protestant vein to other denominations, faiths, and … gasp … even agnostic and atheist characters. That would be refreshing.
I’d like more … how do I phrase this? Highbrow historical? I’d like to find more books like Julia Ross’s and Pam Rosenthal’s. Stuff that leans towards historical fiction, but with a central romance. And like several others, I’d like more contemps set in major metropolitan areas rather than small towns. And PNR that isn’t all vamp/were and fated mates.
For those looking for hot Westerns, have you read Diane Whiteside? Her “Devil” series of historical Westerns sound like exactly what you’re all asking for:
Both Jayne and I read/reviewed Diane Whiteside back in 2006 and 2008. Haven’t revisited. I also read Beth Williamson back in the day. Didn’t realize she wrote as Emma Lang. Unfortunately her work didn’t resonate with me either. I don’t remember setting being vital in those books but there was a lot of sex going on.
@Isobel Carr: Julia Ross. Ooooooh, Julia Ross! *runs to her bookshelves and hugs the Julia Ross novels* She wrote marvelous books.
I just realised that I may have a request that is more appropriate for the initial question. Shifters! Yes, there are tons of them, but what I would like is something different from “I am your mate, you are my mate, hear me roar and now lets go roar together”. And those (the books I consider unusual) are the only books about shifters that I am buying these days. Good example – Kaje Harper’s werewolves. “Infected” by Andrea Speed, this kind of stuff – because most writers seem to think that unusual shifters means to make them shifters more and more weird species. Not interesting in the cockroach as a shifter, no.
I think Westerns are coming back, too! Jane, you might try Summer Chaparral by Genevieve Turner. I’ve been raving about this book to anyone who’ll listen. Lovely setting details & charming, quiet, hard working characters. I also loved The Obsession by Liliana Lee/Jeannie Lin, for an unusual historical with a strong, sexually aggressive heroine. Meow.
I haven’t noticed any dearth of Regencies or “typical” historicals but it’s nice to see the field widening. This happens when there is a surge in overall popularity within that subgenre, IMO, not a downward trend.
Take any and all of the genres and have the main characters older and in some cases more mature. I know that not all of the writers are in their 20’s or 30’s. I like to read books across the spectrum of genres and it gets old reading about 20 year old characters and their existential angst.
@Sandra Schwab: Please don’t make me run upstairs to look at my Julia Ross books! I just finished PT for my knee/hip and now I need to go look at them but I really can’t, darn you!
What I want more of is basically in the “I’ll know it when I read it” category, so I don’t have a specific request, but I enjoyed everyone else’s.
I’ll take any genre without insta-love! This trope appears far to much across all types. Westerns would be fun if they are not too grim, as real life on the frontier could be. I just love romance in my romance.
@Sirius – mm where both heroes are equal in size? That’s an interesting challenge. The two that come to mind are Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen (two ginormous college hockey players) and Quid Pro Quo by Aleksandr Voinov and LA Witt (two twinks – this is straight up erotica). I have others in mind, but I have to look them up because I don’t usually remember physical descriptions.
@Janine: “Also, medievals and fantasy romances in which the characters are people of devout faith– but the books aren’t inspies.”
Yes, yes, yes PLEASE!
I love historicals and paranormals, so I especially like historical paranormals like Colleen Gleason’s Gardella Vampire series (Loved it!) or Cassandra Claire’s Infernal Devices series. I’d like to read more in that genre. How about medieval paranormals? Regency paranormals?
@P. J. Dean: You said it far more eloquently than me.
I’m exclusively self-publishing these days, so I have some freedom over what I write. But at the same time, I’ve bills to pay and mouths to feed, so I’m just as driven by sales as any publisher. Sure, I could’ve kept writing fantasy romances, but when I switched to contemporary romances, my sales more than quadrupled. Guess which genre I’ll be focusing my efforts on?
This is a reader driven market, and sales speak. If you want a certain kind of book, more than likely, it’s out there already. You just need to look for it, buy it, and make it the next trend.
@Crista McHugh: Thank you, Christa! Sometimes I feel like one hand clapping. The books that readers want are already written and out there. This untried surplus goes ignored while readers continue to voice boredom with their routine selections. I’m kind of surprised that the selective and knowledgeable group of readers who frequent this site find it difficult to locate the kinds of books they desire. The readers I’ve encountered here seem quite capable. I know that people might not want to launch a search like they are looking for the Holy Grail but the stuff is out there. Just like that “X-Files” motto says.
Crista (spelling correction. My bad.
I’m nervous at the thought of m/m going mainstream, because that tends to mean DMR, geographic restrictions, expense, and general unavailability. I discovered m/m because it was pretty much all that was available when I bought my e-reader. I’d hate to lose them.
I read Scarlet Blade by Jez Morrow, which is an m/m historical. I’d somehow thought it was a pirate romance, but it was more of a Zorro thing. I’d love to see more stories set in the Spanish north american colonies. Such an interesting time.
And, no, I don’t write letters to publishers. They don’t seem to think readers are their customers, so I don’t really see them starting to all of a sudden listen to us now.
I love fantasy romances like those of CL Wilson, Jeffe Kennedy, Sharon Shinn, and Anne Bishop. Sometimes this is sold as romance, sometimes as pure fantasy, but I love it. (And this is distinct from urban fantasy, which I am just tired of.) And it’s hard to find, alas…. So I wish there was more!
@P. J. Dean: and @Crista McHugh: while I appreciate both your sentiments, it’s actually very hard to find a book that you think will suit your tastes. I’ve spent entire evenings reading sample after sample and not coming up with anything I want to pursue past 10%. Sometimes it is very much like the holy grail and this idea that readers hold all the power and “you just need to look for it (where), buy it (okay), and make it the next trend (how?)” seems a bit disingenuous.
The “also boughts” on Amazon are helpful but if an author is prolific, then all you get are that author’s works. Or say, the historical by Jo Goodman that is on sale has also boughts by customers that aren’t Westerns. Sure, I can join a goodreads group but how many of them do I have to belong to in order to find what I’m looking for?
And I guess what’s wrong with readers saying “gosh, I wish there were more books in X genre?”Sometimes it can spur discussions about X genre.
I get that authors want to write what’s commercially successful and I don’t begrudge an author that right ever. She or he should absolutely try to maximize the dollars/time/whatever. But why say that all the books the reader wants are already out there?
I’m actively looking and trying new authors and new content all the time. And you know what? 75% of the time, the stuff I end up reading is not very good. All of that negative experience tends to make me retreat to the tried and true.
@Jane: Setting and plot are important to me too. I really enjoy erotic romance with a plot and world building I can sink my teeth into. I’m getting a little tired of erotic rom mainly consisting of BDSM/sex clubs, Billionaires and contemporaries. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still into the Billionaire trope, but I am so hungry for something different. And I say this as someone who reads prob 75% self pub/Indie. I want Westerns with all the time period qualities, hard working heroes/heroines and plot that make them charming, but flipped so they’re not sweet or inspy, but have edgy sex scenes.
You know I need? I need Elizabeth Hoyt to start writing westerns! Perfect! *opening gmail*
@Michele Mills: I’m starting to sound like goldilocks with my complaints about a couple of historicals being sex heavy, but one thing I mentioned to a friend of mine was the lack of raw sexual attraction in historicals. I think Westerns would be the perfect setting for that. So I’d love to see the gritty contemporaries move to historical period.
I need to try Jenn Bennett too because I think the setting she’s writing in is really unique but shied away because of the Asian villain in her first book.
I’d love to see more Medieval books. I enjoy the frothiness of Regencies just fine, but I imprinted on The Once and Future King as a kid, so the combination of fealty, chivalry, and romance brings me to my knees. Give me a knight willing to die for his lady’s honor and/or at her word and I am a very, very happy reader. For My Lady’s Heart by Laura Kinsale is the sort of thing I’d love a new take on.
For non-romance genres, I’d love to see more science fantasy, of the sort where the setting is indistinguishable from fantasy but the underpinnings are actually SF-based, in the vein of Pern, C. S. Friedman’s Coldfire trilogy, or The Gate of Ivrel. (And I’d be up for a Romance that used the same kind of setting concept, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.) The idea of humans who have lost so much that what advanced science they’ve retained has become indistinguishable from magic even to them is super, super compelling to me.
Spaaaaaace! Space. Space. Space. I have avoided The Last Hour of Gann so far because some of its themes are a one-way ticket to nopeville to me, but it does seem to have opened discussion out there about SFR.
@alia re “lost ancient technology” settings: The Sharing Knife, maybe? I recommend Lois McMaster Bujold for everything short of the common cold, though.
@Colorwheel: I understand your reservations re Last Hour of Gann. Has Bookpushers recommended a book to me…Catherine Spangler -> http://catherinespangler.com/shadow-fires/
@Jane: I don’t mean to be dense but I don’t know what else a reader would do if what he/she is reading is not keeping their interest or making them yearn for more. A reading slump kind of demands one look for something else, take a break or re-read favorites. I’ve done all this year. Yes, finding new reading material is like digging through a slush pile but I do not honestly know what a reader (and yes, I am a primarily a reader before I am a writer) is to do. There is not a thing wrong with voicing a desire to see more of a certain subgenre. Except readers do make it known to publishers what they want by buying it. Case in point. Paranormal was King for a long time. Its still around but NA has taken that crown. Because readers want it. I suppose what I’m saying is almost everything that commenters are wishing for in this thread exist. The only catch might be that the stories have not been written by their favorite, known authors. As far as finding books to fit one’s tastes…That is a hit or miss. But you have that crap shoot going on with the work of known writers. i know of two series by a couple of biggies that I dropped long ago because they went south after too many books. Only a few authors turn out satisfying books all the time. Apparently I didn’t understand the point of the post. But I still stand by my initial comment. I salute any writer who writes to the market to live. I don’t as it would be too nerve wracking for me. And my books aren’t mainstream anyway.
I was overjoyed to read that you think there should be more westerns. I’ve written two westerns with a strong-willed female hero, Nora Hawks. Over the past six years of writing and publishing them I’ve discovered several things.
1. Westerns have been stereotyped nearly to the point of extinction. With most reviewers and all contests westerns are not even listed as a genre.
2. The 19th century west was where America started — the heavy-duty capitalism, media hype, the American Dream.
3. Women were the last non-entities. Even after slaves were freed and freed males could vote, women could not.
4. A lot of the struggles women had at that time, they still have today.
5. There were a lot of strong, intelligent women involved in the Westward expansion, enduring hardships we can barely imagine today, raising families, often alone.
So, thanks, Jane, for giving westerns a well-deserved shout-out.
@alia: “I’d love to see more science fantasy, of the sort where the setting is indistinguishable from fantasy but the underpinnings are actually SF-based”
I would think Doris Egan’s Ivory trilogy would be just your cuppa (all that plus a lovely understated romance) but alas, the books are out of print and not in digital format. Still, you can get used paperbacks fairly reasonably, and I think it’s available for inter-library loan at US libraries.
Oh, Doris Egan / Jane Emerson, when are you going to leave TV and come back to books, and give us the sequel to CITY OF DIAMOND?
@P. J. Dean: I agree with Jane. I have hundreds of free samples and books. Literally HUNDREDS and I have a hard time finding things I like. There are only so many hours in a day and millions of books are published in the US on a yearly basis.
The only thing a reader can do is to purchase books by authors that write what they like and rec those books to their friends.
As I mentioned earlier, I just discovered Grace Draven via an anthology. I would have not run into her without that anthology (it was rec’d by DA) but after I read her book I went and bought her backlist. What else is there to do?
@cleo: I have read Sarina Bowen’s book, thanks :). This is true, I forgot they are same size, thanks. Now, I do not read erotica too often, so kept passing “Quid pro quo”, but since the main characters are two twinks, I will get at least a first book. I do not see that too often at all. I did not pay attention to sizes till I got fed up :). When one keeps seeing big guy and small guy over and over and over and OVER, one tends to do that sometimes. I do not care about sizes per se but it feels like this type of pairing prevails massively you know? And even that would not have bothered me if it would not have signaled “damsel in distress” story so often. Not always, but often in my experience. Thanks again I really appreciate it,
Speaking as someone who writes fantastical historical adventures with romantic threads set in the Old West, hear, hear. And I have a new release…
More heist books. There’s any number of movies and tv series but not nearly enough books.
Ohhh another one – sports romances that feature something other than football, baseball or hockey
These “alerts” that there are shortages of books in a particular genre can cause problems. Authors who are not familiar with the genre or sub-genre should not view these alerts as an invitation to gin out something they have little knowledge of. If you’re going to write a Western you had been know the era. It needs to be historically accurate and reflect the mores and values of the era and not try and overlay today’s values on those of 150 years ago. The same applies, even more so, to military subjects, regardless of the era. You had better know what you’re talking about. I’ve seen so many military-related novels in which its very apparent the authors know not what he’s talking about. Vets will see right through it. One of the worse mistakes authors without a military background make is to use former senior officers as “subject matter experts.” If you are writing about enlisted men, a former officer is not going to give you an accurate picture. All I’m saying is, research the subject in depth and find advisors who truly know the subject. My own Western romance novel, “The Hardest Ride,” required more research than many of my non-fiction military history books.
I have a heist-light book (well it’s a paranormal romantic suspense with heist elements? Does that make sense?) coming out in January. Because I too miss heists. But it turned out, when I reread a ton of classic heist books and the Goldberg/Evanovich heist series, that I miss the IDEA of heist books more than the actual books. The actual books feel very 80s, and took me right back to Moonlighting and shoulder pads.
I completely agree. I wrote a Western romance many years ago (and it’s buried, very deep, buried!). It was so much research and I still couldn’t get the voice right – I am in awe of people who write historicals. Because a historical needs details, and yet the details have to be right – it’s an intense genre.
I suppose we shouldn’t keep our fingers crossed for Joanna Bourne or Elizabeth Hoyt to take up Westerns … (And it was a Western that sent me to start writing romance in 1994 – it was so wildly poorly researched that I said the classic hubris-filled “I can do better…” Ha. Ha.
I would love more romances set in the 1920’s or against the backdrop of one of the World Wars. I guess we can start considering them historical this far along, eh? :) I have seen a few mysteries set in those times, some that I have been intrigued enough to pick up (Phryne Fisher books are one such), but I’d like some straight up romances (of any type, m/f, m/m, f/f, menage) set in those times; those are what I would like to see more of.
@Heather Greye: I’ll second Heather Massey’s rec of Anna Hackett’s series and add Jael Wye’s Once Upon a Red World series from Carina Press (book one is Ice Red)
Love Dear Author’s readers! Just a little perspective that might be helpful. I write medieval romance for Harlequin (not a sales pitch for my books!) and every month, Harlequin Historicals releases 4 books at retail: 2 Regencies, 1 Western, and 1 “other.”. Many of our sales, ultimately come from international releases. International readers, as a group, do not care for Westerns. (Or inspirational.). I think that’s because the Western concept (rugged loner who follows his own code) is such a U.S.-centric trope. It just doesn’t travel very well overseas.
Also, reading other reader comments over many years, I find they like the Regency because it is generally a “Cinderella” sort of fantasy, that is close enough to our current sensibilities to be understandable. The medieval mindset, if it is at all realistic, is much more difficult for a modern reader to identify with. (As a writer, I have limited options for my heroine’s journey. She pretty much must end up married.). On the other hand, the early 20th century (I’d love to write some!) is seen as TOO close to reality. Once you have the car and the telephone, you lose some of what many readers see as “romantic.”.
Of course, it only takes one breakthrough book to create a new groundswell. So keep searching for that “one” that’s going to change the game!
I agree wholeheartedly with Gordon. I researched my Time in Yellowstone series (time travel adventure with a romantic thread set in the Old West — 90% historical, based on real events) to a faretheewell. Speaking as a former librarian, I remembered too many patrons dissatisfied with “wallpaper” historicals.
I keep thinking about how I remember a time (only 15 or so years ago at most) when historical romance readers were begging for Victorians because they were few and far between, but were told (in discussions like this one) that Victorians were too close to our own time to sell well. So I’m guessing that if we give it another 15 years, early twentieth century will take off. But it’s hard to be patient.
Yes! More gothics please. And Simone St. James is terrific!
@Janine: Just one follow on. I’ve been advised that anything in the early 20th century should be marketed as historical fiction, not historical romance.
Mature women. Has this been mentioned above? I scanned the comments first but was surprised not to see it leap out at me.
More stories about us who are well beyond New Adult. I’m talking thirty-five, forty-plus and on up. As the population of older women grows, there ought to be many who share my interest in reading about ourselves. I’ve received great tips here on DA about several good romances that I much enjoyed, but I’m hungry for more. And not just sweet contemporary “widow/granny finds widower” stories, either. Give me the sub-genres in all the flavors: PNR, erotic, suspense, IR, LGBT, UF, SciFi…
I don’t think it’s just my imagination…but I feel like I belong to an under-served market. It should offer a great opportunity to enterprising authors.
Jeannie Lin writes amazing non-North American/western historicals. And I think she also has a new alternative history out.
Go forth! Go forth and read!
As an aside, I also want more sci fi romance. It can be as different as Smith’s Gann book is from Bujold’s funnier Barrayar, I’ll be up for it.
Why? Something over 100 years in the past clearly is historical (end of WWII is my limit), why should there be no romance during that time?
@Drano: Oh, there’s romance. Just not “historical romance.” (Joke.) Per my previous speculation, I think for many romance readers, once you get into a world with telephones, cars, and airplanes, you have left the land of fairy tales and entered the real world. Harder to suspend disbelief, perhaps? Different expectations of how realistic the story should be? Interesting question.
@Tsuki: For more realistic, atypical NA, I recommend Rainbow Rowell’s _Fangirl_.
@hapax: The Ivory series is available at Open Library! I heard about it from Liz Mc2 and actually have it checked out right now, but it should be going back soon.
I’m very late to this thread, but as I coincidentally just finished reading my very first Western novel, I’d give it a plug, as it was very, very good: The Sweet Spot, by Laura Drake. It’s about a Texas married couple in their 40’s who have broken apart after the death of a child — broken apart in every way possible. The woman, up to that point housewife and mother, has to run the ranch herself, in the midst of her grief. The novel shows beautiful how she finds back to strength, and they find back to each other. It is very well written and extremely moving.
I’m also happy to see many readers looking for books set in less familiar locations. That’s been my pet peeve for many years — I was tired of books set in North America and Britain, wanted to see more of my own familiar locations (Guyana, South America), and so that’s why I became a writer in the first place — to provide those books. Good stories can be set anywhere, yet publishers (as I’ve found) are reluctant to leave the tried and trusted.
@Mzcue: Yes, yes, yes, older women all the way! The main female character book mentioned in my last post (The Sweet Spot) is forty-something; my own books always feature mature women, somehow. I myself am 63, so I NEED maturity in my reading.
@sharonmaasbooks: Bless you Sharon, you made my day. I’ll have to look for your books. In terms of an untapped market, I’m not sure what could beat mature women romance readers. After all, we’ve been reading and buying books for all these years. I know that the marketplace for literature has a youthful slant for many genres, but why should our age group be overlooked? Many of us have kept our chassis and sensuality in good shape. Romance is always a welcome boost.
I’m late to this thread, but the mention of Ellen O’Connell’s Without Words reminded me that I enjoyed the one I read by her and that I had several others in my TBR. Just finished Sing My Song, a Western with a couple who meet in horribly difficult circumstances and persevere, grow and change on the way to their HEA. Really nice detail from the period (as far as I know) and she did a really good job of making that ‘hardscrabble’ life with all its perils real while still keeping a sweetness to the romance. I just bought Without Words (great review!) and am going to be doing a glom of her others.