Learn more about Grace at her blog: Fall in Love with History
Romance Writer’s of America gives guidelines as to what constitutes the genre of “Romance” and the many sub-genres that go along with it. It’s basically two points, and I quote: A central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.
You get the drift. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Have a few obstacles along the way, and live happily ever after.
What about historical fiction with romantic elements? Are they worth the read too? If you’re willing to take the “central love story” but not kill the author for the ending, they can be a satisfying read. Not all historical fiction books have happy or optimistic endings. Stories of kings and queens and the people they loved were largely influenced by their inherited duties and roles. Two of Isabella’s daughters, for instance, were married off for political alliances to men in other countries. One of those daughters was Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII.
One particular book recently released by C. W. Gortner, The Queen’s Vow, has caught my eye. It’s about Isabella of Castile as a young woman. I read an earlier work of his entitled The Last Queen about Joanna of Castile, who was one of Isabella’s daughters who married Philip the Handsome (yes that was his name) the Duke of Burgundy.
A few years ago, I got caught up in Joanna’s story of undying love for her adulterous husband. Definitely not a happy ending, so don’t put it on your historical romance shelf if you think you’ll throw it against the wall when you read the last page. If you’re curious about her, just Google her name and read her sad story of going mad because of her love for Philip. And if that piques your interest, there is a wonderful foreign movie, Juana la Loca (Joanna the Mad). It’s dubbed in English, but well worth the watch. It’s a difficult movie to find, but I’ve seen a few copies on eBay for sale. There are also clips on YouTube if you want to check them out.
Well, in any event, I’ve come across another great Virtual Book Tour site that deals exclusively with Historical Fiction. It’s the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. We will be receiving promotional updates for tours, and I’m going to include them in our blog. I occasionally read historical fiction, so I may focus on a few of those in my reviews. There is also an Amazon widget at the bottom of the page that will showcase recent releases or books on tour.
In the end, I will confess that I am more of a realist when it comes to stories. There are many personal reasons in my life that have forged my thinking and writing that way. My Legacy Series books are historical fiction with romantic elements. I’ve been crucified a few times over the endings in those books, but I’ve received even more positive responses for writing stories of love that deal with stark realities.
Nevertheless, I thought I would spread our wings and offer you new reads to add to your shelf. I’ll be reading The Queen’s Vow. I love the cover. From what I’ve read, it leans more on the romantic side and Isabella’s love for Ferdinand. This could prove detrimental to finishing my latest book.
When he was conceived by Jane Austen and read by women everywhere before movies came along, I wonder how he was pictured in the minds of women. Of course, I’m sure that propriety forbade them to speak openly of such private imaginations. Well, let’s face it, as Jane said, a “lady’s imagination is very rapid” and who knows where it will lead besides matrimony.
As modern women, we are blessed with the advent of movies that have cast Darcy in the bodies of handsome actors. It’s here in our 21st-century world when we read Pride & Prejudice, we no doubt picture one of these men wearing a cravat and looking quite dashing in their period clothing.
I think it’s safe to say that most ladies love Colin Firth as the Darcy of their dreams. My tastes lean toward Elliot Cowan as my swoon-worthy Darcy. (Who you say? He played Darcy in the fictional world of “Lost in Austen.”) There was something about his appearance, characterization, and voice that made me go weak in the knees.
Perhaps, you enjoyed Matthew MacFadyen in the role, and our mothers and grandmothers kept their eyes on Laurence Olivier who moved women in 1940. There were others who made it on film to play the role in various adaptations. No matter who your mind wanders to as Fitzwilliam, he’s still the arrogant aristocrat we find utterly fascinating.
However, our beloved Darcy does have his flaws. Before Elizabeth finally humbles him and puts him in his place, he really is annoying. The man never smiles. Of course, if you like aristocratic snobs and are one yourself, I’m sure you think he’s well behaved in his treatment of others. Wonderful Jane Austen pens the most powerful scene after Darcy declares his love for Elizabeth, totally undone by the feelings he has tried so hard to repress. After all, his love is a sacrificial gift due to Miss Bennet’s status in life. Hear him declare: “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
But alas, Elizabeth will have none of it, as she puts him in his place.
“From the very beginning— from the first moment, I may almost say— of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”
Jane Austen’s colorful characters are worth their weight in gold. Darcy, of course, is just one of the many leading men we can fantasize about in Austen’s works. Is he my favorite among all of Jane’s creations? No, he isn’t.
Now that I’ve shocked you, you’ll just have to wait and see which man moves my heart or “floats my boat” as Amanda Price would say in Lost in Austen.
Enjoy your daydreams of Darcy, and do tell, who is your favorite!
|Fashion in France 1908|
In my book The Price of Deception, I had a few passages about hats.
I also mentioned that his mother became overly excited when her daughter-in-law brought a gift back from Paris.
My mother was born in 1912, so she grew up in an era of hats. I remember even in the 50’s the little pill-box hats she would wear with netting over her eyes. In fact, I still have two of her old square hat boxes. I frankly cannot remember the last time I saw a woman where I live wear a hat, unless it was a brave one on Easter Sunday morning in church.
|Credit: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press/Abaca|
In contrast to our practice in the United States, I’m very happy that the British monarchy and women of the realm have kept the hat alive and well. Half the fun for me during some important British occasion, is to check out the variety of hats worn by the aristocracy. Kate Middleton was named “Hat Person of the Year” in 2012 by The Headwear Association. You must admit, she wears hats very well. Kate even works with her milliner to help design the hats she wears.
As authors of historical romance, we probably write more about the love affairs of rogues, knights, or men in kilts than we do about the love of fashionable hats. Even though I see a lot of romance covers with men in britches, boots, and naked chests, along with women in low necklines and dresses with low backs, I rarely see one on the cover of a book donning a hat. Why is that? I think all of period clothing, including what has perched upon the head of a woman, is part of the wonder of long ago love and the stories we tell. After all, fashion makes the woman, doesn’t it? (As I look at my jeans and tee-shirt, I realize I need help.)
Tidbit: Do you know where the term “mad as a hatter” came from? The process of making felt involved toxic mercury that drove hat makers to madness. (From The Hat Museum – Portland, Oregon)
I am blind to others and their retort. I hear not. In her alone, I see, move, wonder…and jest not. And the words dilate not truth; but mouth speaks not the heart outright. I could not walk roads, flats, dales, hills, by chance, to find charm’s sum within one single frame, as God hath set her . . .
“Where are the simple joys of maidenhood? Where are all those adoring daring boys? Where’s the knight pining so for me he leaps to death in woe for me? Oh where are a maiden’s simple joys? Shan’t I have the normal life a maiden should? Shall I never be rescued in the wood? Shall two knights never tilt for me and let their blood be spilt for me? Oh where are the simple joys of maidenhood?” Camelot by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe
What a loaded question that happened to be on the Internet today. A blog post was contributed by Jane Litte, the founder of Dear Author entitled, “We Should Let the Historical Romance Genre Die.” A flash flood of comments were posted either agreeing or rebutting the idea. The article was re-posted on one of my favorite sites, The Passive Voice, which generated many comments as well. It was a hot topic between readers and writers whether our Mr. Darcy-type characters are doomed to fade away into the distant past.
I commented on The Passive Voice that I don’t think the genre will ever really die, though the interest may wane because of the current trends in the marketplace. The vampire rage has paled, being replaced by the kinky millionaires and sex slaves in the bedchamber. Perhaps one day readers will want to return to the good old days for a bit of swashbuckling romance. I think new generations who fall in love with Austen’s work will want to read Regency-era stories. Of course, that genre is a bit cleaner than the 21st century, unless we start tying up and spanking Mr. Darcy for pleasure.
Frankly, authors need to make their stories more interesting, reach out to those readers who want that type of novel. Keeping a genre alive is a responsibility of not only a reader, but the author as well, who should have the incentive and imagination to bring a new flavor. If the target audience is getting bored, there must be reason behind it. Perhaps authors are just churning out too many cookie-cutter stories with not enough emotional impact to keep readers interested.
I had an after thought, too, that historical romance is no easy gig for any author. It’s one thing to write contemporary romance, sprinkled with a bit of research. It’s entirely another daunting job to jump into a historical era and learn all about the speech, customs, dress, beliefs, and attitudes of the day. Without research, historical romance is bland and just a story. You can also get crucified in reviews from staunch protectors of the faith if you dare to vary from the historical norm. I don’t mind research, because I want to develop my characters in their true surrounding. After all, some of the research is interesting! I always thought French letters were just that — letters. Little did I know…
Well, I assume that in a few days another controversial post will pop up somewhere in blog land. In the meantime, what do you think? Is the historical romance genre dying a slow death? If so, what can we do to spice things up a bit, without making it raunchy in content?
I’ll leave with you another wonderful photo of a period dress to ponder upon while you’re thinking of your answer. I think women must have felt so feminine and beautiful. Believe me, my jeans and sneakers just don’t do the trick.
― Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
|Purple wool, velvet and lace two-piece Worth dress, c. 1890|
In 2010 and 2011, I had the opportunity to live my dream of traveling to England and losing myself in the wonderful city of London. My ancestors on my mother side are English and on my father’s Russian. I often say it makes a lethal combination as a writer, because most of my stories have drama and tragedy before the happy ending arrives! I blame my propensities in story writing on my heritage.
My favorite room contained a world famous collection of medieval tapestries, including the Devonshire Hunts. The room had a protected environment with dim lights and atmospheric controls for the ancient masterpieces. They were absolutely awe inspiring to examine up close in both color and intricate designs that covered the walls. I think each tapestry could be the inspiration for a stunning historical romance.
I hope enjoy the pictures.