Everyone keeps saying the historical romance market is dead. Yet despite the industry’s attempts to bury it, readers keep insisting it’s still alive by snapping up copies of any title a brave and solo publisher dares to put on the market, thereby showing the ol’ genre still has some life in ‘er yet. But…
Mostly those titles are in a select few “safe” historical eras and locations. If you’re a fan of historical romance at all, you can probably rattle off those eras without trying too hard:
- Medieval Britain – preferably the Plantagenets, even better if it’s during Richard’s reign.
- Regency novels. (Gag me. I am not a Regency fan at all. Personal taste, I know, but the mannered style of these novels I just don’t get.)
- Victorian Britain, especially late Victorian, especially London during the Season.
- Western America during the late 1800’s.
Anything outside these few safe and traditional eras and locations is considered a risky, atypical historical romance.
Until recently, many publishers may have shied from publishing the novel no matter how well it was written, based purely on that fact alone. Even if you could find a publisher who will buy your book, many readers won’t buy the book because they aren’t comfortable with the era or the location. If they can’t visualize it in their heads, they won’t read it. While there are many readers who love reading about new and exotic places, there are many more readers who want the comfort of the familiar and the known. It’s little benefit to know that readers are raving about your romance set in 1923 Paraguay, when those readers number in the single digits, and your royalty cheque was held over until next semester because it didn’t make the minimum amount to be generated this period.
Authors like me who just love playing around in the historical danger zones have found the odd safety valve here and there. My favourite hack: Time travel. Instead of setting an entire novel in one era, I have my characters travel through time, sometimes dropping into four different times in the space of a single story, never spending long enough in any one period to alienate a reader, but long enough for me to muck about with the history, language and politics of the day before hauling my characters back to the present.
I love writing time travels!
Call it the cheat’s way of writing historical novels, when you can’t write historical novels anymore, and have to get your fix. The one good thing about paranormals and magic: It can solve all sorts of things if you apply it creatively.
What’s your favourite historical era? Read any good books set in it lately? Wish you had?