A genre is a category of artistic composition such as writing. Historical romance is a popular genre that has been the mainstream of romance novels for many years. It’s a broad category of fiction set in various centuries, which was first popularized as early as the nineteenth century by Walter Scott who wrote such books as Ivanhoe.
In today’s modern era of writing, historical romance can be categorized from the ancient world up to 1950 (per Romance Writers of America). A few of the favorite time periods on bookshelves are:
- Medieval Period
- Viking Age
- 17th Century
- Scottish Highlands
- American Eras
- Colonial America
- Civil War
- Georgian Era
- Regency Era
- Victorian England
- Early 20th Century up to WW2
- Roaring Twenties
- 30’s and 40’s
During the 1970s, the genre took off and was affectionately known as the “bodice ripper” years, which led to mass-market paperbacks. Some of those books, I am happy to say, I read when I was in my twenties.
Kathleen Woodwiss’s historical romance, The Flame and the Flower, literally set the genre on fire, followed by steamy romance covers of domineering men and women melting at their touch. It was the time of Fabio, scantly dressed males, and women with dresses falling off their shoulders. Sexy couples jumped off the covers toward women who were starving for romance. The book covers were an art form from mainstream publishers.
Since that time, the genre has remained relatively the same until recently. The onset of the me-too movement has begun to change some weak-willed, easily seduced female characters into spunky and spirited ladies. In addition, the publishing world has called for more diversity in authors and stories, which is long overdue. Readers do not seem to mind these changes even though there may be a deviation from reality.
There are many well-known traditionally published authors in the twenty-first century, such as Mary Jo Putney, Lisa Kleypas, Eloisa James, Elizabeth Hoyt, Sabrina Jeffries, Tessa Dare, just to name a handful. In addition, there are quite a few independently published authors in the genre who are making a name for themselves on the Amazon best-selling charts.
Historical romance immerses readers into different centuries. They are a great way to learn and enjoy history, especially if it was not your favorite subject in school. I like to think it is a welcome change from contemporary romance and problems that we deal with day-to-day. It gives us an opportunity to live vicariously in other time periods, with different values, ways of courtship, and lifestyles.
Yes, authors do romanticize centuries that were fraught with their own challenges. Nevertheless, a knight in shining armor, a Scottish highlander, or a duke to sweep us off our feet and make ravishing love to us might be just what you need to get your mind off twenty-first-century challenges and recent woes.
Enjoy your next historical romance novel! Take your choice of a brawny Viking, kilted Highlander, English aristocrat, a handsome military man, or a cowboy on the wild west plains of America. It’s a world of romance, waiting just for you.