Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What's Hot? What's Not?

Last month, I attended the Romance Writers of America National Conference in Orlando. What a wonderful opportunity to meet authors, editors, and agents and learn to improve my craft and navigate the market. The current market was a major topic of discussion - aside from the rapid changes in the publishing industry as a whole, the subject of popular eras and settings seemed to pop up everywhere. So, here's my question: which eras are your favorites and why?

Let's start with my favorite time period, the years 1861 - 1899. In America, these were the years of the Civil War, Reconstruction, major Western expansion, and the Gilded Age. My two historical romances with The Wild Rose Press, Destiny and Angel in My Arms (coming in November) are both set during the Civil War. I've had terrific feedback from lovers of Civil War romance happy to find a novel with a Civil War setting during this time in publishing. Once popular fixtures of romance, novels set during the years of Lincoln's Presidency are rather hard to come by. I'm perplexed as to the reasons for this apparent aversion publishers have toward Civil War romance...for that matter, toward just about any romance set in America. Have readers truly turned away from American-set historicals? What are your thoughts?

During the years 1861 - 1899, Queen Victoria had a firm and steady grip on her throne. The Victorian age was one of great progress in England, Europe, and America. I have to confess a preference for Victorian-era romances over the beloved Regency romances. Perhaps it's because women were coming into their own, able to explore roles forbidden in earlier history. Even though Victorian women didn't enjoy the freedom to break through barriers that women do today, women of that era made unprecedented strides toward their rights and their status as citizens. In addition, technological advances led to the potential for extensive travel and exciting adventures, while the Victorian sensibility in clothing, architecture, and furnishings was elegant and elaborate. Victorian-era clothing for women was exquisite and feminine, while Victorian architecture (Gilded Age in the United States) produced structures revered for their beauty and unique charm.

Medieval history holds an appeal all its own. Rugged warriors and brave heroines, fighting for a cause, bound by loyalty and love - these are the stuff of legends.

What eras and settings hold the most appeal to you? Have you ever ventured out of your romance comfort zone and read a book with an unusual setting or set during a time period that you usually don't enjoy? What are some books set during historical eras that you'd highly recommend. I'd love to see your thoughts!


Sandra Sookoo said...

By far my favorite is the Victorian age but in America. Seems like that's where all the historicals I write end up LOL Of course, alot of my heroines are active in the child labor law disputes and the push for birth control LOL I really love the whole era :-)

Angi Morgan said...

Medieval or anything with a Scotish hero. Yes, I'm a romance publish marketing statistic. But I have to say that any book that's written well is appealing. Always appealing.

I really miss the western expansion stories.


Victoria Gray said...

Angi - I love a great Western romance. Such rugged men. I think that's one of the things about some (not all, of course, but some) Regency romances - the men aren't all that rugged. I'm not much into the money and titles - show me the muscles ;)


Victoria Gray said...

Sandra -
I love the Victorian age in America, especially the late Victorian era. Women were making such strides! Such an exciting time!

Barb H said...

I'm a medieval fan, myself. And although I love a Scottish hero, my favorite right now is English set--well, of course, since that's what I write :)But I've always liked that historical period, even before I began to write.

Regency comes in a close second, however. I know, like Angi, I'm one of the marketing statistics.
Recently I've discovered C.S. Harris's Regency-set mysteries. Don't know what took me so long to find them, but they're wonderful. Sebastian St. Cyr is a top-notch reluctant hero.

As for the Civil War period and historical Westerns, I do like them, but they're so few these days, as you say. I'm hoping they're poised for a comeback, though. Well, look at the Golden Hearts this year. At least two--including the winner--were historical Westerns. So perhaps there is hope.

Sandy said...


I don't read a lot of historicals, but if it's well-written I enjoy them.

Another GIAMer

Susan Macatee said...

I'm with you, Victoria! The Civil War period is my favorite era to explore. You have Victorian manners, lavish gowns and heroes in uniform! What more could you want? Also, women were coming out of their homes while the men were off to war, doing things women were believed too fragile to do. This period helped spawn the women's rights movement and women were already beginning to stir in this direction. It's a fascinating period to set a romance in. I can't understand why publishers and readers shy away from it.

Victoria Gray said...

It's the same with television shows. One year, the schedule is packed with police dramas, the next, hospital dramas, then sitcoms. Take CSI - good show, and then, along came all the other CSIs...for a while, I was expecting to see CSI Hooterville, with Sam Drucker of Petticoat Junction and Green Acres wearing yet another hat - small town coroner. Give it 10 years and Civil War might be hot again. If only they'd remake the mini-series North and South - that might tweak some interest.

Aislinn said...

I love so many different eras, it's hard for me to pin down a favorite. I like Regencies, but when I want a little muscle (yeah, show me the muscle!), Medieval usually fits the bill.

I'm with you, though. I'd love to read more American-set historicals. Give me western expansion or Civil War or the Colonial period. Each has their own set of problems and conflicts to overcome. With so many possibilities, I wish publishers would take more chances.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I write stories set in the California gold rush era. They're not western but because they are set west of the Mississippi they are designated as westerns. I've asked my agents and a few editors why and they have all said they don't know. There are so many fabulous heroes and stories here in the west - for me a living history since I live here.

Since I love Scottish heroes, I bring them to my stories to add the spice and maybe a kilt every not and then. :)

Victoria Gray said...

One thing I kept hearing over and over again at Nationals is that publishers don't want to take any chances...perhaps the surge in e-books will change that.

Cate Masters said...

I love stories set in the West, but also love any unusual settings - stories that will open up an entirely new world to me. That's what I aimed for with my two historicals released this summer - one set in 1850s Key West, Florida and the other a Native American romance set in the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in 1880s, so I'll have to let you know later how they were received! :)
Congrats on your upcoming release!

Victoria Gray said...

Wonderful settings - I'd love to know more :)

P.L. Parker said...

Really ancient history. Seems like that is my comfort zone.

Sally said...

I love a western but like the time period of 1900 - 1920. The "modern" conveniences of the east haven't made it all the way west yet. There isn't a period I don't like if the story is well told.

Victoria Gray said...

P.L. and Sally,

What is it that you like about those time periods? Ancient history had so many fascinating eras, and the early twentieth century was a period of such change.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Victoria.
Very interesting blog. I am an Aussie but I love American civil war stories. The 1st world war is my favourite era to write about, and that era isn't popular, either. I can't understand it. What more could you want - gallant soldiers and the brave women who waited for their heroes to return home. Other than that, I like Australian stories set in the pioneering times, the 1860s,which is when my latest TWRP release Frontier Wife is set.



Laura said...

Great post, Victoria! I love the Victorian age, especially in England. My first release, More Than Willing, takes place in England in the 1850s.

I'm just happy that so many writers enjoy writing about different eras. That way we can always find something that interests us - no matter what our mood!

Laura Landon