In 1972, Avon Books published “The Flame and the Flower,” by Kathleen Woodiwiss — a hefty historical romance that traded chastity for steamy sex scenes. It arrived in the thick of the sexual revolution, and readers loved it: It was an instant bestseller that’s credited with birthing the modern romance genre.Here, a dozen people — authors, editors, agents, cover artists and one mononymous male model — recount how the modern romance industry came together and took off.
Will Netflix stay close to the series of books for Season 3 and 4? Assuming they follow in order, then An Offer From a Gentleman and Romancing Mister Bridgerton should be in those seasons. Only time will tell. Will you watch? Of course, this will be years in the making probably through 2025 or later. Julia Quinn must be extremely excited to be living an author’s dream. Sending her kudos with a tinge of envy.
Fans of the smash hit have now been treated to yet more exciting news, with confirmation that the show has been commissioned for its third and fourth series.
Uninhibited sexual pleasure in the city of love during the 19th century could cause a 21st-century woman’s cheeks to blush. Prostitution and brothels were at their heyday, and they served a purpose to meet the needs of men both rich and poor. After all, marriage was an institution for producing children; prostitutes and mistresses were for pleasure. The brothel was a place of relaxation for men and accepted as normal practice in society.
How many prostitutes were there during this time period? Brothels or mansions of tolerance, as they were called, housed 15,000 prostitutes in 1883. Between 1871 through 1903, approximately 155,000 women were registered card-carrying ladies of pleasure. Women were required to register at the Bureau of Morals if they wished to work in the profession. Afterward, they received a huge laundry list of regulated behavior for their conduct indoors and outdoors. During that time period, 725,000 were arrested by the police for suspected prostitution because they failed to register with the Bureau.
Jobs were scarce for women and the survival of the poor difficult. Even married women participated in prostitution. There were roughly 125 Paris brothels in business during the 1870s. Brothels were considered a cleaner and more regulated system of pleasure, keeping individuals from sexual perversion by giving them an alternative to the women on the streets. Women willing to give satisfaction to the male population were rampant on every corner, and like any other morally questionable practice, it carried consequences.
We tend to romanticize all this into lovemaking in historical romance novels without penalty, except perhaps a baby or two out of wedlock. Unfortunately, all those pleasures carried risks, especially contracting syphilis. How many had the disease? You might wish to sit down. Fourteen to fifteen percent of deaths were attributed to sexually transmitted diseases. Some reports carry it as high as 17%. One-tenth of the population contracted syphilis. You may think that’s not many, but one-tenth of the population equated to four million people. Syphilis was attributed to 40,000 stillbirths yearly, when gone untreated, progressed into a dastardly end. Half of the cases were contracted between the age of 14 and 21. As one report put it, young people could not wait to dispel their chastity.
Treatment for syphilis was inadequate and understanding by the medical community of the disease somewhat lacking. There were hospitals and clinics set up to specifically treat the disease, but many found it embarrassing to seek treatment. Effective treatment really didn’t arrive until approximately 1910 with the onset of better antibiotics. Earlier, Mercury and Potassium iodide were used.
Nowadays, we’re probably a bit more sophisticated when it comes to sex and STDs. After all, we’ve evolved, right? We can insist on blood tests before we hop in bed with a man or use methods of birth control and protection. I guess social progression does have its trade-offs, but I have a sneaking suspicion with the number of historical romances sold each year women would rather fantasize in another century with handsome aristocrats and take their chances. After all, it’s just fiction and not reality.
The last new cast member to be announced was Merlin star Rupert Young, who is taking on the role of Jack. Jack is the newest member of the ‘Ton with high connections and a bit of a mystery. As Jack is a brand new character created for the TV series, not based off anyone in the books, we don’t know much more about him just yet.
I write this post from the lens of an independently published author. However, I’m sure it resonates with those who are traditionally published as well. As an avid reader of historical romance, you are on the finished side of creative work. Have you ever considered what it is like to be the creator of that story you hold? Here are some brutally honest thoughts on what it’s like to write a book, and why it consists of a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.
The Blood – The life of a book is in the blood. Authors create characters out of thin air and give them life. They’ve chosen their names, where they live, their personalities, their backgrounds, and the paths they will walk to find love. When an author pours their soul into any creative work, they bleed. A part of them becomes imprinted on the page. Woven into the creation are their thoughts, struggles, and life experiences that are hidden between chapters and in the prose.
Once created, it’s released to the public. Authors tend to bleed when a reviewer writes a snide or hateful review. Whether the work is a Nobel Prize-worthy piece of literature or a run-of-the-mill self-published Kindle creation, authors are very attached to their stories regardless of the love and hate they may receive from readers. As a result, every book produces some drops of blood during and after the creative process. Even popular authors bleed. Here is a good quote:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
The Sweat – It’s the hours writing. It’s the voices in an author’s head demanding to be heard. It’s the plotting. It’s the point of view. It’s the tense. It’s the overused words. It’s the dialogue. It’s the punctuation. It’s those grammar classes we never paid attention to in grade school coming back to bite us. It’s the hours of research, and finally, those damn typos that never seem to go away. Frankly, it’s hard work. You bleed and sweat, and your reward for the hours you took to create a story is a 35 cent royalty from a 99 cent priced book.
After a writer finishes writing and editing, there is plenty of work before release. It’s the formatting, the cover art, the copyright registration, the Library of Congress, the ISBN assignment, and working with distributors. After release, comes the expense and sweat of marketing. On top of that, you sweat worrying what people will think about it and hope you don’t have to bleed too much when the comments start rolling in. Writing a book can be stinky business as this author states:
“Sometimes the ideas just come to me. Other times I have to sweat and almost bleed to make ideas come. It’s a mysterious process, but I hope I never find out exactly how it works.”
J. K. Rowling
The Tears – Tears can arrive for many reasons when writing a book. They could be author tears of self-doubt. Authors are not all confident arrogant individuals. Remember this quote from the Oscars in 2014? No wonder we cry.
“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”
Robert De Niro
The tears also arrive because authors are emotionally involved in their characters and story. Sometimes their character’s journey reminds them of their own hurt inside, and they cry while writing. At other moments, it raises empathy for the plight of others having to live the situations we create on paper. Emotional involvement in characters is an inevitable part of being an author. Without it, characters are dry and lifeless. Consider this quote:
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”
Then there are tears of release when an author holds the printed book and flips through the pages. They feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in what they have created. Authors also cry when people trash their work, and shed tears of joy when people praise their stories.
Is the blood, sweat, and tears worth it all? Yes.
I first knew I wanted to write in grade school. It’s been ingrained in my brain, imprinted on my soul, and a driving force behind my fingers. It’s foolish for me to think that I’m terrific at my craft because I’m not. I’m an average Jane out in the world of thousands of books released each year. I’m continually learning how to write better. Sometimes I want to quit, but I’m afflicted, as this quote declares:
“I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.”
William Carlos Williams
So the next time you pick up your Kindle or a paperback, remember you are not holding a new historical romance book — you are holding the blood, sweat, and tears of an individual who wrote the story.
In conclusion, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes about writing as explained by Winston Churchill.
“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy then an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then it becomes a tyrant and, in the last stage, just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”
Since the publication of her first romance novel, Night Song, in 1994, Beverly Jenkins has become one of the genre’s most prominent authors. The prolific Jenkins has primarily focused on historical romance starring Black characters, including her latest, Wild Rain, set in the Wyoming Territory.
Book reviews are important to authors. From accolades to one star they serve a purpose beyond feedback of a story. Reviews are an essential means by which authors can promote their books. Without them, they are lost in a digital sea of ebooks. With the Amazon market filled with millions of books (think 1.3 million and thousands daily are added), visibility is becoming a huge challenge for many authors. The only way to become visible is to pay for advertising.
Reviews are garnished in a variety of ways. Some use websites such as NetGalley, Hidden Gems, BookSirens, and BookSprout to obtain reviews. These sites allow authors to post free copies of new releases in exchange for an honest review. Paying for reviews is against Amazon’s terms.
Amazon can also be a pain when it comes to receiving and keeping reviews. Their policies go far beyond no family members or friends posting reviews. They are now targeting individuals who may interact with authors on Facebook or other social media platforms. On author forums, you’ll read plenty of complaints about disappearing reviews from people they don’t know personally. A lot of book reviewers as well are getting nasty-grams from Amazon threatening to be blocked. These over-reaching rules go far beyond the purpose for which they were initiated to cut down on fake reviews. In 2015, an in-depth article on Gizmodo delved into what they termed Amazon’s Review Policy is Creepy and Bad for Authors. It’s a great article about how Amazon big brother is watching your every move.
Beyond this challenge, reviews are integrally connected to marketing. Marketing is a pain. It’s expensive. It’s a time-consuming task. It’s necessary to get visibility in a saturated marketplace when you don’t have a mainstream publisher backing your book.
The biggest obstacle in releasing a new book is the lack of reviews that plague independent authors on Amazon for months on end. Without reviews, they cannot market. Without marketing, they cannot get noticed. When you hear the best way to thank an author is to write a review, I sincerely hope that you will consider supporting the authors you read in this fashion. A few words and a number of stars help in getting noticed.
You may ask — well why don’t authors pay for advertising? Authors do but are restricted where they can advertise because of a lack of reviews. There are multiple places to market books. Costs can range from $5 a day to as high as $600 a day, depending on the marketing venue. Almost all of these advertisers have requirements that include a minimum number of reviews and minimum star ratings to be accepted. They either post it plainly on their website, or the marketing resource will check all your book ratings on Amazon, iTunes, Nook, Kobo, and Goodreads to see if you qualify.
BookBub is by far the best place to advertise, hands down but competition is fierce for placement from publishing houses and other successful independent authors. Only 20% of those who apply are chosen to run an advertisement. Depending on the genre and if you advertise in the USA, costs can be astronomical. For a one-day historical romance advertisement, the fee is $584 for a book priced at 99 cents. The fee rises if the price is higher. Results on BookBub are phenomenal but expensive. No matter where authors advertise, they don’t always receive a return on their investment.
Remember the next time you read a book that the author is hoping for a review. They realize that not everyone will love their book. Stars can range from one to five. They can be kind remarks or cruel remarks. However, the most critical reviews can be written with kindness. Your reviews can be a sentence or a multi-paragraphed discourse. Whatever you write, it brings feedback on the story, helps authors to get noticed, and makes them eligible to obtain advertising from third-party marketers. They also bring encouragement as well as discouragement.
I’ve heard it said by many that reviews are for readers and not for authors. As you can see, that’s not always the case. Reviews are an integral part of being an author. How do authors handle reviews? Here’s a great quote from one of my favorite authors who writes historical fiction.
“A bad review – or several— is, of course, one of the unavoidable pitfalls of being published. Some authors cry. Others get drunk. Most get mad. A few take it in stride, or at least, pretend to. After all, it’s our book someone just skewered. In the end, even a bad review is still a review. It means someone cared enough to take the time to say: Hey, this sucks. So, how did I deal with bad reviews? How else? I cry. I get mad. I pretend not to care. Then I pour myself a glass of wine and call a friend to complain.”
This morning while surfing Amazon to check out two new books that were recommended by BuzzFeed for Spring release (The Duke of Undone and To Love and to Loathe) the page loaded with more recommendations. Each of the covers displayed the new cartoon-type artwork that seems to be a new trend being pushed by traditional publishing companies. These came from St. Martin’s Griffin (Macmillan), Berkley (Penquin), Atria Books (Simon & Shuster), and Kensington Books. (Shame on Kensington, because they used to have some of the most beautiful artwork when it came to covers.)
Is it just me disappointed with this new push? What’s behind the change from the big houses? Is it to save money? Brand themselves apart from independent authors?
What are your thoughts? Chime in on the comments.
Ugh? I think it’s obvious that I’m in the “ugh” category. Give me artwork and wonderfully design covers any day.
Look at this smug eldest brother right here? As heavily foreshadowed in Season 1, the second season of “Bridgerton” will focus on the love story of Viscount Anthony Bridgerton, played by Jonathan Bailey. In the Instagram post announcing the second season, the omnipresent Lady Whistledown revealed that “Lord Anthony Bridgerton intends to dominate the social season.”
I, take thee, to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward,
for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.
Sounds like a fairytale, doesn’t it? Historical romance authors, if they follow the rules, end books in similar ways giving a happily-ever-after ending to readers. Who wants to read about divorce in a romance novel? However, I’m a diehard researcher that always looks at a situation from every angle, so I took the time to discover the truth about marriage and divorce.
My research regarding divorce laws in France and England reminded me of that phrase we often say, but don’t really adhere to in the 21st century – “until death us do part.” Let’s move the romance aside for a moment and take a look at the reality of 19th-century marriage and divorce. I discovered the following in my hours of researching the topic from a moral, religious, and civil law perspective.
Marriages in the Victorian era fell into three categories: (1) those contracted for convenience; (2) those produced by sympathy or love; and (3) those entered into from duty. The aristocracy put great importance on the background and nobility of the families they married into, as well as marrying for money. Though love in marriage might be ideal, it was not a practical reality, and people were told not to expect too much from marriage. If you found an ounce of happiness in your union, rejoice.
So what about unhappy marriages? Divorce was not easily obtained. Extramarital sexual relations were a normal feature of life in troubled relationships. After marriage, adultery was almost inevitable. Adultery, believe it or not, was preferred to divorce, mainly because divorce was difficult and expensive to obtain. Men had sex with their wives for children and bedded their mistresses for love and pleasure. A wife had the duty to obey her husband and produce heirs, and in return for her obedience, the husband owed her protection and security.
Divorce in England and France evolved over the years, coupled with Catholic and Anglican restrictions. A married woman in France needed two causes for divorce – adultery and physical cruelty. Adultery alone was not grounds for divorce for a woman. However, a man could divorce his wife for adultery only.
To file for divorce in France, a petition had to be brought before the president of the chambers, and there had to be two attempts before the court to reconcile the marriage. If the marriage failed to reconcile, then court proceedings would continue. Upon the divorce, the children would go to the custody of the husband. After 1886, custody was left at the discretion of the court. The wife had to take back her maiden name and was forbidden to keep her husband’s name. The husband could remarry immediately after the divorce became final, but the wife had to wait ten months after the dissolution before she was allowed to marry again.
In Victorian England, the rules were similar. “The husband could obtain a divorce for adultery, the wife could obtain a divorce for adultery coupled with cruelty or desertion for two or more years, and also for incestuous or bigamous adultery, or rape, or unnatural offenses.” (Quoted from The Encyclopedia Britannica: Volume 3, Google Books) Divorce could be a lengthy and costly process that only the rich could afford.
Of course, civil laws did not govern church laws. Catholics could not divorce and remain in good graces with the church, and surely Anglican and other protestant branches held the same views. Holy matrimony was just that – a holy union not to be broken. The alternative of adultery to divorce was a matter of sin and one’s conscience. Even though France was predominantly Catholic, the church turned a blind eye to the infidelity of the male Frenchman.
Our modern-day divorces are much easier to obtain. Though we may utter those words “until death do us part,” they don’t really carry the serious consequences of marriages long ago. Perhaps that is why readers insist on a happily ever after as a prerequisite to a good historical romance. The reality of being chained to a marriage without love for the sake of convenience, law, or religious conscience must have been an unhappy existence. As Jane Austen would say: “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.“