Why Historical Romance?

Hi. My name is Anna, and I write historical and historical-adjacent romance. We’ll get to the adjacent part in a minute. Right now, I want to focus on the big picture. Why historical romance? My first instinct is that I was hardwired that way. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawn to times before living memory, though I will grant that, when one is five or so, everything falls into that category, by default. As for the romance part of things, I think I was hardwired for that, as well, because my favorite stories were always the fairy tales with a romance plot to them, even long before I had any inkling that the opposite sex could be anything even remotely close to appealing. I also preferred the more arguably obscure fairy tales, like “Donkeyskin” to any of the Disney versions (Sorry, Walt) and checked out an entire spectrum of Andrew Lang’s fairy tale collections (and wee princess me is now all, “hold on, there are more beyond the color-themed books? I must have them!” because, of course, I must.)

Though I didn’t know the concept of shipping back then, (again, five) in retrospect, I shipped Greek, Roman and Norse gods and goddesses, cartoon characters, and couples in fairy tales and folklore. I’ve often wondered if my birth mother liked romance fiction, too, if, maybe, we’ve ever read and loved any of the same books. I wouldn’t be surprised. Maybe romance, and storytelling, really is in my blood. I’ve written before about how much fun it is to listen to SF/F fans and writers talk about how they fell in love with their genre of choice, hear their origin stories, as it were, and I would love to shine more light on that same experience with readers and writers of romance, particularly historical. Let’s face it, historical romance rocks.

In the same book, we get a peek into the past, the chance to step into a world that we know existed (because, duh, history; we’ve got proof) and a story literally as old as time, and we know that there’s going to be a happily ever after at the end (or a happy for now, in serialized works) but the big question is…how? We know things weren’t as easy for those in the past as they are now; indoor plumbing is a relatively recent invention, and modern medical advances keep a lot of us on the right side of the dirt. That’s not even taking into account things like the internet, gummi bears, and Sephora. I love all of those things, and I’m glad I have them in my life, but when I’m going to dive into story world, nothing is ever going to do it the way historical romance does.

Whether or not actual historical figures come into play, the historical world is critical to the historical romance. How does the time in which these lovers lived affect their falling in love, and their chances for a future together? For my money, it’s not possible to take a couple from Ancient Rome, for example, plop them down in 1901 Texas, and have their love story play out exactly the same way. It can’t. The pieces of the puzzle are completely different, and yet, the objective is the same; finding that one person with whom they want to spend the rest of their lives and then making that happen, no matter what obstacles stand in their way. I’d be hard pressed to find a type of story I find more empowering than that. I can’t even count all the possible variations of setting, era, character type, plot trope, and a million other variables, all of which can be combined in countless ways. It really never is the same story twice.

Right now, those of us in the US, and elsewhere, but I’m in the US, so that’s where I can speak with most authenticity, live in interesting times. Since current events do affect writing and reading trends, I have asked myself if we’re headed for a surge in historical romance. A break from modern life may be exactly what some of us need to restore our resources, live a few adventures and come back, entertained and empowered, to handle the business of day to day life. Which, I should mention, is exactly what the heroes and heroines of historical romances are doing. They don’t know they’re in a historical; they think they’re in a contemporary, because Restoration England, or the American Civil War, Harlem Renaissance, etc? Those are their nows. They don’t know how their current events are going to turn out, if the war is going to go their way, if life will ever be the same again after disease or disaster upsets the routine they’ve always known up to that point. What they do know, however?

They do know love. They know, by the end of the book, that, whatever life throws at them from here on out, they won’t be facing it alone. They have someone by their side who is going to take them exactly as they are, for better and for worse, and they’re going to face it together. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me, and that’s why I do what I do.

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