Five Reasons You Should Be Reading Historical Romance

Today in the world of Romance, Paranormal is queen.  I don’t know who started it, Stephanie Meyers or Sherrilyn Kenyon or even Anne Rice.  Whoever gets the credit, the Romance world is awash in vampires, shape-shifters, and even angels these days.

But it wasn’t always this way.  Oh no.  In fact, Paranormal is a brand new baby sub-genre in the grander scheme of things.  Long before there was Bella Swan there was Elizabeth Bennett, Jane Eyre, and even Scarlett O’Hara.  There was a time when the art of seduction was a slow dance at a formal ball, a stolen glance from a theater balcony, or a letter written in the dead of night and delivered by a footman.  There was a time when the touch of a gloved hand revealed more than any howling at the full moon.

Okay, okay, I hear you saying it.  I hear you say that you love your vampires and werewolves.  I hear you saying that history is that stuffy collection of names and dates that old Mrs. Winterbottom made you recite in high school.  Who wants to relive all that when the heroine can have superpowers?

My friends, you don’t know what you’re missing.

And so, to tempt your tastes and tickle your imagination, I present you with five reasons why you should be reading Historical Romance.

1. It’s better than any History class

Think history is all about boring kings and battles and oppressed women?  Think again!  Yesterday’s tabloid gossip is the stuff of today’s textbooks.  Scandals abounded in the past.  Men had very public mistresses and women rocked the social and political world.  In some centuries laws reduced women to no more than property, but in other eras women had as much equality as they do today.  And there’s no telling what went on between a man and a women behind closed doors.  Historical Romance fills in those blanks with delicious detail.

I had a fellow writer remark to me once that he was shocked and amazed at how accurate and well-depicted history is in Historical Romance.  It’s what you learned in school with breasts and hips and sinew.  Historical Romance writers go to great lengths to make sure that what you’re reading is as true and vibrant as possible.  Because every second of history was filled with personality and longing, action and sex.  You’ll never look at your old family pictures the same way!

2. Nothing says sexy like a corset

Let’s face it, the modern world leaves nothing to the imagination.  The modern world has no imagination.  “Wham, bam, thank you ma’am” is a modern invention.  But when a modern vixen wants to get schmexy what does she put on?  A bustier.  And what is a bustier but a nylon corset?

Corsets were meant to shape and lift.  Yeah, sure, they were there to make a lady’s waist small, but more than that they the ultimate push-up bra.  A corset is a garment that constricts while it reveals.  It hides and displays all at once.  And that’s just what you’ll find in a Historical Romance heroine.

The act of removing a corset is as much a metaphor for sex as the act itself.  The breathless anticipation, the straining against bonds until the heroine feels she is about to burst, and the ecstatic relief that comes as the last clasp pops and the flesh is free to be kissed and caressed.  It’s like opening a present on Christmas morning.  The shiny layers come off revealing the pulsing prize beneath.

Give me a book where the hero has to quest his way through corset closures to claim his prize any day!

3. Less is More

Where is the romance in a modern world where we list everything on eHarmony and make spreadsheets of the profiles we study to find “true love”?  How satisfying is it really to notch up your bedpost looking for that one man who will be there in the morning?  Is it the obvious we’re after or is it the hint of what might come?

courtesy of valentinesdayclipart.net

The juiciest parts of a good Historical Romance are not laundry lists of positions and speed and friction.  They are the glances across crowded ballrooms, the inappropriate lingering of fingers at the crook of an elbow.  A tender press of lips against the back of a slender neck in a dark garden carries far more titillation than the full monty.History was a subtler time, a suggestive time, a naughty time.  A hero in a Historical has to be clever to seduce his heroine in a world where the strictures of society prevent him from walking right up to the girl and hitting on her.  But does that mean he’s less masculine?  Oh no!  Quite the contrary.  Because….

4. Tight breeches hide nothing

Historical Romance is packed floor to ceiling with some of the most sensual alpha males you’ll ever want to meet.  And the clothes men wore back in the day were tight.  Whether he’s wearing medieval chausses or 19th century breeches, men’s clothes left nothing to the imagination.  Muscle, sinew, and a whole lot more were right there on display.  We’re talking some serious eye candy here!  In the wild it is the male of the species who has the brightest feathers.  The same goes for History.

The past was also a world without texting, without Facebook, and where you could find yourself engaged to a girl if you looked at her wrong.  So men had to become the masters of the stolen glance, innuendo, and unspoken, radiant heat.  Historical Romance heroes ooze sex out every pore while gliding seamlessly through the steps of a formal dance.  They whip out their swords and show their power through action.  Oh, and they occasionally fight duels too.

And it might do to remember that this is the world that your Paranormal vampires come from.  Everything an immortal hero learned about seducing a woman he learned in the past.  Why not take a ride back to his origin to find out what formed him?

5. There’s something for everyone

The sheer variety of Historical Romance, the depth and diversity of all of history, means that no matter what your fancy there’s something for you.  I’ve read pirate romances, Regency romances that take place in the city and in the country, and Georgian romances.  I write medieval romance and western romance.  There are Historical Romances that take place in England, in Scotland, in early America, Ancient Rome, feudal Japan, and everything in between.  You name it, we’ve got it.  And that’s not even counting time-travel romances or steampunk!

So if you think Historical Romance isn’t your thing, if you think that Paranormal is the only thing that will give you a thrill and make your heart beat faster, maybe it’s time to reconsider.  If it’s action you want, adventure you crave, it’s all right there.  If you like tales of suspense mixed in with your love story, yep, we’ve got that.  And we know how to bring the Happily Ever After and bring it in style!

Don’t know where to start?  There are scads of brilliant Historical Romance novelists out there.  Some of my absolute favorites are Elizabeth Hoyt (her novel The Leopard Prince is my favorite romance ever), Lisa Kleypas, Elizabeth Boyle, and Julia Quinn.  Those are just some of my favs.  Who are yours?

Please leave a comment so that the uninitiated reading this will know who their next favorite author is.

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24 thoughts on “Five Reasons You Should Be Reading Historical Romance

  1. I really, really enjoyed this post. As a reader of hist.romance since i was 15, every point you make is so very valid… I began with Anya Seton, read all the Sergeanne Golon books by the time I got to uni and stayed with hist.fict (Dorothy Dunnett) and hist romance (mega-lists of authors) from then on.

    As a writer of hist.fict/hist.romance I shall print off your post and stick it on the board above my computer. Sometimes we need to be reminded of what can make our work as attractive as it can be!
    Thank you!

    • Aw, thanks! It’ll be an honor to be stuck to your board above your computer. 😉

      And I agree with you. We do need reminders sometimes, especially when our particular slice of romance isn’t the slice most people these days reach for first. Our day will come again! =D

  2. Wow. Great post. And soooo true. I’ve often thought the reason men need viagra nowadays is because they’re desensitized. As you said, everything is there on display, nothing left to the imagination. And we all know what the imagination can do! I have tons of favorite historical authors, but to name a few: Jude Devereaux, Judith McNaught, Carolyn Davidson, Linda Lael Miller, Georgina Gentry, and so many others, it would take up all this space.

    • Thanks Callie! Ugh, yes, there is way too much desensitization in the modern world. Some days it seems like the romance of romance is gone. 😛

  3. Wonderful post as always! I agree with these points completely, and I do feel like a lot of the subtlety of sexual tension gets lost in present-day romance. I think any fan of romance should definitely give historical romance a try, especially since – as you pointed out – there are so many time periods to choose from! Everyone has periods from the past that they’re more interested in or can connect to on some level; why not add romance to make it all the more fun?

  4. Great post! I too, always gravitated to the historical romances and time travels first, reading medievals, regencies, Scottish Highland flings and early America up to the Civil War. I loved historical romances so much I now write them. My specialty is American Civil War.

  5. This is a great post. It is for this reason that I believe that historical authors must be as accurate as possible.
    I just got back from BEA and paranormals are on the way down; at least for this next buying season.

    • Well, I feel sad for all the hard-working Paranormal authors, but I hope this means we Historicals can become popular again! I keep saying that someone needs to make a hit movie set in a historical time period. That would help.

  6. Excellent post. I for one love historical romances , always have, always will. I love historical romance novels and write them. I love the time period before the American civil war. That doesn’t mean I don’t like other time period. This article gave more good reason why this gender is still alive today. I believe it always will be.

  7. Wonderful post, Merry, and so true! Historical romance provides a wonderful escape for me – something that other genres don’t always do! Love learning something new about different time periods, especially when I’m guranteed a happy ending! Historical romances rule!

  8. Great post, Merry! I am sharing with all my non-historical reading friends. As for my faves, Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Suzanne Enoch and Allison Chase all come to mind, but there are really too many to list.

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