a question for those in the romantic know

My understanding of romance subgenres is that Regencies are a separate category from historicals. So not counting those — what time period/place combinations are the most commonly depicted in historical romance novels?

(My money’s on Scottish highlands of whatever period as the runaway winner, but feel free to tell me I’m wrong.)

0 Responses to “a question for those in the romantic know”

  1. unforth

    Oh man, I think this is probably a tough question to answer. As a fringe romance reader, here are the ones I see a lot:
    Anything Scottish Highlands
    Anything Irish pre-English
    England 18th c. to early 20th c. (some Regency ones are their own sub-genre, but others aren’t – as in, there are a set of Regency romance novels that imitate J.A. and don’t have much sex, etc., but there are others that are more like “other” Romance novels)
    Anything with nobility and/or lords and ladies, in a 18th – 19th c. style (ie, not Medieval style)

    I’ve read Scottish Highlands, Irish, various English time periods (include sex-filled Regency, and one or two set later in the 19th c.), and pirates. I’ve also read one that had knights and such in it – but that seems less common.

    From my place as a complete dilettante and occasional reader of the genre? My money is also on Scottish highlands as the most common. It’s the accents. And the kilts. 🙂

  2. midnight_sidhe

    I only started reading romance a couple of years ago (when I discovered that I was running out of fantasy); also my tastes are pretty particular (I almost never read American-set historicals, for instance, so I have no intuitions about how many there are). So this should be taken with a grain of salt.

    My sense is that it’s probably Regency England first, Scottish highlands second. Regencies are a separate subgenre, but they have to be distinguished from Regency-set historicals, which are set in the same period but follow a slightly different set of conventions; they’re also usually longer. My understanding is that in the current market, “true” Regency romances are disappearing in favour of the longer historicals, but this shift started before I started reading the genre.

    There seems to be a newer trend of romances set at some point in the Victorian era at the moment; I was reading a blog post about that the other day, but I can’t remember where I found it. Mediaevals (usually set in England) and then Georgians are also not too hard to find, but books set in other time periods or in countries outside England (or the US) are scarcer.

    • Marie Brennan

      My purpose in bringing up Regencies as their own subgenre was mostly to cross that time period off the list, since otherwise it’s the 800-pound gorilla in the drawing room. 🙂 I’d forgotten that Regency-set historicals go into the latter category.

      books set in other time periods or in countries outside England (or the US) are scarcer.

      This does not surprise me in the slightest, and was part of the reason I asked.

  3. diatryma

    Scotland feels about right, but since I don’t pick those up, I can’t give you numbers. I can only talk about specific authors, really.

  4. nojojojo

    Lots of Scottish and Irish pre-conquest stuff, as others have pointed out. What always stuns me is how little stuff I see set in the Roman era, the medieval era, or the Renaissance. But I guess it’s easier to write about eras that everyone else is writing, because then you don’t have to research it as well — the mistakes will be lost in the mass.

    • Marie Brennan

      I suspect it also maps to the eras that come with pre-existing romantic material. Why do we have so many Regency-period books? Because of Jane Austen. Then you have all the Celtic Twilight folks romanticizing Ireland and Scotland. Etc. Roman era, not so much.

      I am surprised by the lack of Renaissance romance, though. You’d think Elizabeth’s court would be familiar enough in the popular consciousness to fly without too much effort, and you’ve got Shakespeare as your romantic pioneer in the period.

    • skirmish_of_wit

      I wonder if part of the relative absence of medieval/Renaissance books has to do with language: people get hung up on thees and thous and archaic formulations (or, alternately, readers have such divided opinions on how accurate or modern dialogue should be) in a way that they don’t get hung up on imitating Austen.

      ETA: On second thought, people do all kinds of great and also terrible things with Scottish dialects, so never mind.

      The solution is clearly more Roman-era romances! Then you’re translating from Latin anyway.

      • Marie Brennan

        I can’t imagine it would be that hard to establish a genre standard of pseudo-Elizabethanism. That’s what people have done with Austen (or more to the point, Heyer), such that half the Regencies I look at recycle the same five bits of period slang while otherwise employing a verbal style that isn’t nearly as close to reality as people like to think.

        Mind you, my head might explode at the pseudo-Elizabethanism they’d end up with. But still, I don’t think it’s that much of a hurdle.

  5. athenais

    There’s a lot of American West romance set between 1860 and 1900, most coming in around 1880 so they can work in frontier towns, cattle rustling, saloon girls, hard-jawed ranch owners and a half-Indian hero (for the requisite torn-between-two-worlds tension).

  6. j_cheney

    Hi there. I do read quite a bit of Romance, although not so much Historical.

    I’d have to say that Regency England 1800-1820ish (people bend this rule as suits them) is the most heavily covered time period for Historical Romance, followed by an unspecified time-period-but-medievalish Scottish Highlands.

    As for separating Regencies from Regency Historicals (two sub-genres of Romance) sex is pretty much the dividing line. Regency = no sex, Regency Historical = sex.

    However, I’m pretty sure that time period is the clear hands down winner, even once the proper Regencies are removed. (Actually, I don’t beleive any publishers are currently printing Regencies. Zebra stopped a few years ago, and many of the Regency authors I loved are now writing Historicals)

    • Marie Brennan

      I’d forgotten that some Regency-era books count as historicals instead, but my real reason for excluding them was simply because they are so overwhelmingly the dominant period. I’m curious what else is common once that’s out of the way, like Scotland or the American West.

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