Category Confusion on Amazon Best Selling Lists

I read an interesting complaint the other day in a group on Facebook for historical fiction lovers. They complained that far too many historical romance books were invading the bestseller list, making it difficult for them to find books. Naturally, I jumped on the bandwagon to explain how publishers and authors choose categories and keywords when uploading a book for sale. I don’t know that it helped any, because the complaints kept coming.

Frankly, I will admit when I look at the bestselling list for historical romance, I get confused. There are plenty of category crossovers as well, causing readers to sift through the top one hundred. As a result, I occasionally read nasty reviews when a reader who expected a certain genre gets a miss-match instead.

What is the difference between the two genres? Historical romance is a sub-genre of romance and is set in a time period set before 1950 (per Romance Writers of America. It used to be World War 2, but time marches on). I’m going to borrow from the Romance Writers of America website the romance definition. “Romance novels should have a central love story, where the main plot revolves around individuals falling in love and struggling to make it work. It should have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”

The definition of historical fiction, which is a sub-genre of literature, is set in the past and “characterized chiefly by an imaginative reconstruction of historical events and personages,” according to the dictionary. Of course, those personages can experience romance too, but it’s not the central story. The Historical Novel Society has a rather lengthy article on what defines the genre.

As a writer myself, I can say that I have fallen into the trap of cross categorization. Some historical fiction novels may have romantic elements, so does that make them historical romance or historical fiction? If it doesn’t follow the rule for a happy ending, reviewers will definitely balk and complain it was not historical romance. If your lover gets beheaded at the end, it’s definitely historical fiction.

There are a few good examples of crossing genre lines taking a look at today’s bestseller lists. What the Wind Knows is a good example that is currently in the top selling-categories of historical Irish fiction, cultural heritage fiction, and twentieth-century historical romance. It’s a time-travel trope, heavily laden with historical fiction, with some romance. Diana Gabaldon has repeatedly stated that Outlander is not a historical romance when it clearly stays in the top one hundred best sellers of that category. It currently holds a spot on the bestseller list for historical fiction too. Of course, both books have romantic elements, but they are more clearly historical fiction time-travel, with romantic elements. I like to write family sagas, but they also have romantic elements. They are not historical romance as defined, and make it difficult to choose the right category.

Checking the current list of best sellers in historical fiction on Amazon, Julia Quinn owns quite a few top spots in that genre, when clearly she writes historical romance. There are a few other obvious historical romance books by known authors on the list. Undoubtedly, that is a result of the historical fiction category being chosen by the publisher or author during the book release.

Is there a solution? Not really. As long as Amazon gives publishers and independent authors the ability to choose two categories, the problem will persist. Otherwise, you will continue to find crossover in both lists, including a few sagas, paranormal, and non-historical romance related books.

Of course, if you’re looking for a true historical romance, you can always stick to the titles with a duke, earl, marquess, or other English-titled aristocrats who look like a rogue on the cover. The history between the pages may not be exactly correct (which brings up another subject altogether), but the romance is hot and steamy with a happily-ever-after ending.

Good luck with your searches!

“Nixon and Dovey” by Jay W. Curry

Book Spotlight 
Presented by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Publication Date: November 14, 2014
Smashwords
eBook: 369p
ISBN: 978-1-3117280-3-6
Genre: Historical Fiction

Before he met Dovey, it was just a heated feud. Now, in the backdrop of southern antebellum slavery, it’s a deadly game of passion, murder, and revenge.
Facts: In 1818 Nixon Curry became entangled in one of the most sensationalized murder/love stories in early American history. As a result, Nixon Curry became arguably the most notorious and widely publicized criminal in America’s first half century. His fame derived not from the brutality or number of his crimes but from the determination of the Charlotte aristocracy to hang him. His remarkable talents, undying love for Dovey Caldwell, and the outright audacity of his exploits made him an early American legend.
Story: Set in the antebellum south of North Carolina, Nixon Curry, a talented son of poor Scot-Irish immigrants, accepts a job at a racing stable. Soon, his riding skills rival those of his mentor, Ben Wilson. The fierce rivalry becomes confrontational when Ben frames Nixon’s childhood, slave friend, Cyrus, for the Caldwell plantation fire. When both Nixon and Ben win invitations to the 1816 Race of Champions, the stage is set for an explosive face-off. During pre-race festivities, the dashing, young Nixon meets the beautiful Dovey Caldwell, daughter of the state’s wealthiest and most influential senator. Finding Nixon unworthy of Dovey’s affection, Senator Caldwell betroths his daughter to Nixon’s nemesis, Ben. The announcement sets in motion a clash of cultures, talents, and passions leading to murder, mayhem, and revenge.
How far will Nixon go to have his love? What price is he willing to pay and what will be the consequences?

  Buy Now: Amazon | Apple | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

About the Author

Jay W Curry is a former Big-4 consulting partner, business coach, and award-winning author. When he is not coaching, fly-fishing or writing he facilitates a Vistage CEO roundtable in Houston. Jay has co-authored three internationally successful books and has won honors for both his short fiction and non-fiction work. When the heat of Texas summer arrives, Jay and his wife, Nancy, head to their Colorado home (http:/CurryBarn.com) or visit their three children and seven grandchildren. Nixon and Dovey is the first of a three-book passion to bring the 200-year-old story of Jay’s relative, Nixon Curry, back to light.
For more information, please visit Jay W. Curry’s website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

"Nixon and Dovey" by Jay W. Curry

Book Spotlight 
Presented by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Publication Date: November 14, 2014
Smashwords
eBook: 369p
ISBN: 978-1-3117280-3-6
Genre: Historical Fiction

Before he met Dovey, it was just a heated feud. Now, in the backdrop of southern antebellum slavery, it’s a deadly game of passion, murder, and revenge.

Facts: In 1818 Nixon Curry became entangled in one of the most sensationalized murder/love stories in early American history. As a result, Nixon Curry became arguably the most notorious and widely publicized criminal in America’s first half century. His fame derived not from the brutality or number of his crimes but from the determination of the Charlotte aristocracy to hang him. His remarkable talents, undying love for Dovey Caldwell, and the outright audacity of his exploits made him an early American legend.

Story: Set in the antebellum south of North Carolina, Nixon Curry, a talented son of poor Scot-Irish immigrants, accepts a job at a racing stable. Soon, his riding skills rival those of his mentor, Ben Wilson. The fierce rivalry becomes confrontational when Ben frames Nixon’s childhood, slave friend, Cyrus, for the Caldwell plantation fire. When both Nixon and Ben win invitations to the 1816 Race of Champions, the stage is set for an explosive face-off. During pre-race festivities, the dashing, young Nixon meets the beautiful Dovey Caldwell, daughter of the state’s wealthiest and most influential senator. Finding Nixon unworthy of Dovey’s affection, Senator Caldwell betroths his daughter to Nixon’s nemesis, Ben. The announcement sets in motion a clash of cultures, talents, and passions leading to murder, mayhem, and revenge.

How far will Nixon go to have his love? What price is he willing to pay and what will be the consequences?

  Buy Now: Amazon | Apple | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

About the Author

Jay W Curry is a former Big-4 consulting partner, business coach, and award-winning author. When he is not coaching, fly-fishing or writing he facilitates a Vistage CEO roundtable in Houston. Jay has co-authored three internationally successful books and has won honors for both his short fiction and non-fiction work. When the heat of Texas summer arrives, Jay and his wife, Nancy, head to their Colorado home (http:/CurryBarn.com) or visit their three children and seven grandchildren. Nixon and Dovey is the first of a three-book passion to bring the 200-year-old story of Jay’s relative, Nixon Curry, back to light.

For more information, please visit Jay W. Curry’s website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Review – “The Queen’s Vow” by C. W. Gortner

The life of royalty is akin to playing a game of chess.  Kings, queens, bishops, and plenty of pawns fill the pages of The Queens’s Vow.  As a child in school, history happened to be the subject I hated the most.  However, give me a good book and an intriguing story, and you’ve won me over.  On the pages of a textbook the facts of kings and queens could put you asleep, but in the hands of C. W. Gortner, they keep you highly engaged turning pages in anticipation of what is ahead.

The Queen’s Vow focuses upon the young Isabella of Castile starting at the age of three and continuing onward through adulthood. It begins with the sad reality that the death of a monarch can suddenly leave a wife and his children relegated to poverty far away from the throne. In this instance, Isabella’s half-brother, Enrique, rules Castile. He is married to an unfaithful wife with ambitions for her daughter, who everyone believes is the product of an affair and not of the king’s loins.

The early years of Isabella’s life, with her less than emotional stable mother and younger brother, fill the first few chapters. However, when she and her brother, Alfonso, are finally called to court by their half-brother, you sense the fear of the unknown. Welcomed by the king, but their presence unwanted by the queen, the two of them suddenly become pawns in everyone’s plans for the realm.  However, it’s here that Isabella knows without a doubt that one day she is destined for greatness.

Drowning in a court with unscrupulous advisers and rampant immorality, Isabella finds the court to be a dreadful place. The one bright moment, however, is her introduction to Fernando, Prince of Aragon, who at the age of 12 has led armies into battle.  She dismisses him as a boy, even though he speaks of marriage like a man.  In his mind, they are destined to be together, and when he departs for Aragon to return to his father, he merely writes for her to wait for him.  And wait for him she does – for years.

The book is filled with twists and turns and the ups and downs of Enrique’s rule, Isabella’s favor from the king and subsequent displeasure, along with the characters who play the game of chess behind the scenes. She matures into a strong woman who faces her future with braveness.  I, on the other hand, count my lucky stars for having not been born royalty in an age such as this when the ambitions of others could very well threaten your livelihood and your life. There is an underlying fear of betrayal and captivity that is unsettling in Isabella’s journey to the throne that lasts for quite some time. Finally, in her late teens, she is reunited with Fernando, who she marries against the king’s wishes. The act sets into motion an upheaval that eventually leads her to the throne of Castile.

Though we often read of the conquests of kings and queens in their adulthood and later years, it’s not often we can journey with them on their way to the throne. Of course, if you know your history, Isabella is not without her questionable acts later on in her reign, which are alluded to in the story when a man of the cloth tells her that she’s been chosen by God to clean the land of its wickedness.

C.W. Gornter is an engaging and intelligent author who takes his readers into the world of history-making everything come alive. From the descriptive scenery of Castile to the moldy and musty-smelling castles, the book breathes life on every page. As an author myself, I find his style and writing highly engaging.

I highly recommend The Queen’s Vow for anyone looking for a great historical fiction of a famous queen, sprinkled with the love of her husband, Fernando.  I found the story extremely intriguing from her childhood to the coronation and her early years of rule.  However, when Jewish persecution and the Spanish Inquisition were initiated at the persuading of others, I found my interest waning in the book.

I think that relates back to the bad taste in my mouth left by a profoundly disturbing movie – Goya’s Ghosts.  Perhaps I had high hopes for Isabella and Fernando because I enjoyed their characters early on but found fault in their actions later in their rule.  The author, who did a great job creating living and breathing reincarnations of kings and queens, brings you to a place of being intimately acquainted with these historical characters.  That is a mark of a good writer, especially when their actions bring you disappointment — you almost take it personally.

On a side note, for my historical romance readers, there are fleeting portions of romance within the book.  Nevertheless, I rate it a Four-Star – Princess of a Charming Story (even though it’s about a Queen).

Reviewed by Countess Victoria

 

Review – "The Queen’s Vow" by C. W. Gortner

The life of royalty is akin to playing a game of chess.  Kings, queens, bishops, and plenty of pawns fill the pages of The Queens’s Vow.  As a child in school, history happened to be the subject I hated the most.  However, give me a good book and an intriguing story, and you’ve won me over.  On the pages of a textbook the facts of kings and queens could put you asleep, but in the hands of C. W. Gortner, they keep you highly engaged turning pages in anticipation of what is ahead.

The Queen’s Vow focuses upon the young Isabella of Castile starting at the age of three and continuing onward through adulthood. It begins with the sad reality that the death of a monarch can suddenly leave a wife and his children relegated to poverty far away from the throne. In this instance, Isabella’s half-brother, Enrique, rules Castile. He is married to an unfaithful wife with ambitions for her daughter, who everyone believes is the product of an affair and not of the king’s loins.

The early years of Isabella’s life, with her less than emotional stable mother and younger brother, fill the first few chapters. However, when she and her brother, Alfonso, are finally called to court by their half-brother, you sense the fear of the unknown. Welcomed by the king, but their presence unwanted by the queen, the two of them suddenly become pawns in everyone’s plans for the realm.  However, it’s here that Isabella knows without a doubt that one day she is destined for greatness.

Drowning in a court with unscrupulous advisers and rampant immorality, Isabella finds the court to be a dreadful place. The one bright moment, however, is her introduction to Fernando, Prince of Aragon, who at the age of 12 has led armies into battle.  She dismisses him as a boy, even though he speaks of marriage like a man.  In his mind, they are destined to be together, and when he departs for Aragon to return to his father, he merely writes for her to wait for him.  And wait for him she does – for years.

The book is filled with twists and turns and the ups and downs of Enrique’s rule, Isabella’s favor from the king and subsequent displeasure, along with the characters who play the game of chess behind the scenes. She matures into a strong woman who faces her future with braveness.  I, on the other hand, count my lucky stars for having not been born royalty in an age such as this when the ambitions of others could very well threaten your livelihood and your life. There is an underlying fear of betrayal and captivity that is unsettling in Isabella’s journey to the throne that lasts for quite some time. Finally, in her late teens, she is reunited with Fernando, who she marries against the king’s wishes. The act sets into motion an upheaval that eventually leads her to the throne of Castile.

Though we often read of the conquests of kings and queens in their adulthood and later years, it’s not often we can journey with them on their way to the throne. Of course, if you know your history, Isabella is not without her questionable acts later on in her reign, which are alluded to in the story when a man of the cloth tells her that she’s been chosen by God to clean the land of its wickedness.

C.W. Gornter is an engaging and intelligent author who takes his readers into the world of history-making everything come alive. From the descriptive scenery of Castile to the moldy and musty-smelling castles, the book breathes life on every page. As an author myself, I find his style and writing highly engaging.

I highly recommend The Queen’s Vow for anyone looking for a great historical fiction of a famous queen, sprinkled with the love of her husband, Fernando.  I found the story extremely intriguing from her childhood to the coronation and her early years of rule.  However, when Jewish persecution and the Spanish Inquisition were initiated at the persuading of others, I found my interest waning in the book.

I think that relates back to the bad taste in my mouth left by a profoundly disturbing movie – Goya’s Ghosts.  Perhaps I had high hopes for Isabella and Fernando because I enjoyed their characters early on but found fault in their actions later in their rule.  The author, who did a great job creating living and breathing reincarnations of kings and queens, brings you to a place of being intimately acquainted with these historical characters.  That is a mark of a good writer, especially when their actions bring you disappointment — you almost take it personally.

On a side note, for my historical romance readers, there are fleeting portions of romance within the book.  Nevertheless, I rate it a Four-Star – Princess of a Charming Story (even though it’s about a Queen).

Reviewed by Countess Victoria

 

Historical Fiction with Romantic Elements – Do We Care?

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.