Heat Indexes in Historical Romance

The other day I picked up an older historical romance book by a well-known traditionally published author and started reading it. The book was published in 2015. When I got to page forty, the hero of the book unbuttoned his breeches and exposed himself to the heroine as a shock tactic. Frankly, she was a lot calmer than I was reading the passage, because I was horrified. I don’t consider myself a prude by any means, and have written my own fair share of steamy scenes when it comes to romance. Nevertheless, the act turned me cold as stone, and obviously, I didn’t finish the book. It’s something that I personally do not think belongs in a historical romance book. However, other readers were not as offended, by evidence of the five-star reviews.

I suppose readers of historical romance have all sorts of tolerance levels when it comes to sex scenes in a novel. You will notice that we try to indicate in our author promotions, how warm and cozy or steaming hot these scenes are by rating them as follows:

  • One – Kisses and hugs
  • Two – Passionate kissing
  • Three – Sex behind closed doors
  • Four – Steamy sex with a few descriptive words
  • Five – Sex with graphic description short of erotica

Level five, of course, is the over-the-top sex with graphic descriptions that are blazing hot, making the reader go wide-eyed, blush, and grab a fan. Some like it hot – others do not. It’s a matter of preference.

Posting these heat indexes hopefully help readers make decisions when purchasing a book. Unfortunately, we don’t get those insights on Amazon or other retailers what level of sexual activity is in the story we are about to read. Once in a while, you may see an author put a warning at the end of the synopsis if it’s close to erotica. You can usually tell, too, by comments in reviews if a reader thinks there is too much sex and not enough story.

Things have come a long way since the bodice-ripping days. The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss has its fair share of shock in the beginning of the book with rape of a virgin and subsequent captivity. Twenty years ago when The Duke and I was written by Julia Quinn, I don’t think much was said about Daphne’s ploy of having sex with drunk Simon without his consent, which would be definitely coined as rape in the eyes of many today. You can see that complaint being raised in more recent reviews.

Many of us love Jane Austen, who wrote the beautiful love stories we admire. Naturally, she’s a great example of historical romance in the kisses and hugs rating. They are proof that wonderful romances can be written without graphic sex. They are more character driven stories than sexually driven.

In historical romance, intercourse can occur out of wedlock or after the wedding vows. Morals are not a central theme in most books unless it’s a religious-based historical romance. I’ve written books with no sex and plenty of sex — it just depends on the story, characters, and theme.

There is no right or wrong answer on how cozy or steamy historical romance books need to be, but there are definitely preferences among readers. Frankly, I don’t like books with rape scenes, aggressive men who take liberties without asking first, or shocking vulgarity like the first example I gave. However, for other readers, it may not be a problem. After all, in the early bodice-ripping days, historical romance had its share of rogues who seduced women. The proliferation of such tropes gave the genre its reputation. With the increasing awareness in the twenty-first century about the importance of consent, these scenes of forced seduction may not be acceptable to some readers. But let’s be honest here. To some women, it’s a turn-on. Each to their own.

Authors, however, are listening to the masses, or at least should be, on how to write a hot steamy sex scene that doesn’t cross boundaries. There is a great article on a website named Jezebel entitled, “The Romance Novelist’s Guide to Hot Consent.” It’s worth the read, especially for authors, and delves into how some of the bestselling authors approach this delicate subject when writing sex scenes. A few authors interviewed in the article are of the historical romance genre.

So, let’s be honest.

  • Some prefer cozy sweet hugs and kisses.
  • Some prefer hot and steamy love scenes with no questions asked.
  • Others require slow paced scenes that include vocal consent to remove bras and panties.

My parting thoughts are that I only wish that authors would be more proactive and add the heat level at the end of their synopsis of the book itself. It would help readers immensely in choosing the level of sexual content in a book they purchase. If it’s not listed in the “Sweet Romance Category,” it’s pretty hard to determine how hot it gets between the pages. You can sometimes make a determination based on the heat level of the cover, but that still doesn’t tell you how far the lovers will take it with or without consent between the sheets.

Do you have a preference? Feel free to chime in on the subject. You are always welcome to express opinions.

The Historical Romance Genre

A genre is a category of artistic composition such as writing. Historical romance is a popular genre that has been the mainstream of romance novels for many years. It’s a broad category of fiction set in various centuries, which was first popularized as early as the nineteenth century by Walter Scott who wrote such books as Ivanhoe.

The genre’s popularity started with a flame, which over the years flickered into near obscurity. Articles were being published asking if the genre was dying a slow death, when it once dominated the market. Recently, interest in the genre has been refueled because of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton Series on Netfix. I’m happy to report its given the genre a resurgence of popularity, although not as many bodices are being ripped as in the past.

In today’s modern era of writing, historical romance can be categorized from the ancient world up to 1950 (per Romance Writers of America). A few of the favorite time periods on bookshelves are:

  • Medieval Period
  • Viking Age
  • 17th Century, including:
    • Scottish Highlands
    • England
    • Europe
  • American Eras, including:
    • Colonial America
    • Civil War
    • Westerns
  • Georgian Era
  • Regency Era
  • Victorian England
  • Early 20th Century up to WW2, including:
    • Edwardian Era
    • Roaring Twenties
    • 1930s and 1940s forties.

During the 1970s, the genre took off and was affectionately known as the “bodice ripper” years, which led to mass-market paperbacks.

Kathleen Woodwiss’s historical romance, The Flame and the Flower, published in 1972, literally set the genre on fire, followed by steamy romance covers of domineering men and women melting at their touch. Today The Flame and the Flower might raise eyebrows with readers because there are scenes of non-consensual sex and captivity. It was the time of book covers displaying scantly dressed Fabio, along with women in dresses that fell off their shoulders. The covers were an art form from mainstream publishers. Today those covers would throw you into what’s called the “erotica dungeon” on Amazon and make advertising on Facebook impossible because of guideline violations.

Since that time, the genre has remained relatively the same until recently. The onset of the me-too movement has begun to change some weak-willed, easily seduced female characters into spunky and spirited ladies. In addition, the publishing world has called for more diversity in authors and stories, which is long overdue. Readers do not seem to mind these changes even though there may be a deviation from the norm of the time period.

There are many well-known traditionally published authors in the twenty-first-century, such as Mary Jo Putney, Lisa Kleypas, Eloisa James, Elizabeth Hoyt, Sabrina Jeffries, Tessa Dare, and Julia Quinn, just to name a handful. In addition, there are quite a few independently published authors in the genre who are making a name for themselves on the Amazon best-selling charts.

Historical romance immerses readers into different centuries. They are a great way to learn and enjoy history, especially if it was not your favorite subject in school. I like to think it is a welcome change from contemporary romance and problems that we deal with day-to-day. It gives us an opportunity to live vicariously in other time periods, with different values, ways of courtship, and lifestyle.

Yes, authors do romanticize centuries that were fraught with their own challenges. Nevertheless, a knight in shining armor, a Scottish highlander, or a duke to sweep us off our feet and make ravishing love to us might be just what you need to get your mind off twenty-first-century challenges and recent woes.

Enjoy your next historical romance novel! Take your choice of a brawny Viking, kilted Highlander, English aristocrat, a handsome military man, or a cowboy on the wild west plains of America. It’s a world of romance, waiting just for you.

‘Outlander’ Author Diana Gabaldon Reveals Progress on Book 9

Gabaldon released the first Outlander book in 1991. And since then, she’s written seven more novels for the series. Her last installment, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, was published in 2014. So for nearly seven years, fans have been waiting to see where she takes Claire and Jamie Fraser’s story next.

Source: ‘Outlander’ Author Diana Gabaldon Reveals Progress on Book 9

Review of Best Seller List

Julia Quinn continues to rule the Amazon best seller list for historical romance with eighteen — count them — eighteen of her books listed among the top one hundred. Right behind her are other popular traditionally published authors with a flurry of best sellers including Lisa Kleypas with six, Scarlett Scott with six, and Tessa Dare with four. Other authors grabbing multiple spots are Grace Burrowes and Christi Caldwell. This is the list as of January 25, 2021 at 4:13 p.m. PST. The list is updated hourly.

Once you hit the top one-hundred list of any genre, your book feeds off the sales for days on end. Competition for sales is fierce thanks to Bridgerton, which we can only hope will lead to more visibility of the genre. Heaven knows there are enough traditionally published, independently published, and hybrid authors spinning out books to keep readers busy for 2021.

Check back here for great new reads in the days ahead.

Georgette Heyer – Regency Romance

The article link below to The Guardian was actually released back in September of 2016.  I’ve been thinking about focusing some posts on a few well-known authors of the past who have paved the way for the historical romance genre’s popularity.  Georgette Heyer is certainly one of those writers who come to mind.

The article states, “Heyer, known for her tales of romance and intrigue set during the early 19th century, died in 1974, the author of more than 50 books. She said of her work that ‘I ought to be shot for writing such nonsense, but it’s unquestionably good escapist literature.'”  Obviously, many have escaped over the years into the Regency era through her books.

Though she passed away in 1974, she still ranks #46 in the top 100 historical romance authors in ebooks and #28 in historical romance in print.  This prolific writer’s popularity has not waned in any fashion over the years.  Her author page on Amazon is filled with her works.

Read more about her life here:

Three short stories by the queen of Regency romance have been discovered by her biographer and are being reprinted in a new volume.  Source: Forgotten Georgette Heyer stories to be republished

Review: "The Rogue’s Prize" by Katherine Bone

Crimson Romance
Traditional Publisher
Synopsis:

Captain Henry Guffald is no ordinary captain. A member of Nelson’s Tea, he’s learned the hard way what treachery will achieve. As a result, he’s sworn an oath never to give in to his ambition. Daring, proud, Henry sets out to rescue a comrade captured in Spain. But when his ship is attacked by a female pirate roving the Cornish coast, waylaying his plans, Henry is forced to make her his prize if he’s going to save a good man’s life.

Lady Adele Seaton has been raised in a family profited by a lucrative smuggling business. Though her parents wish otherwise, she would no sooner give up the call to rove than marry. But obtaining independence is a challenge when her brother faces a hangman’s noose. Planning to save him, she captures an English ship. But things go awry and she is dragged home in disgrace, forced to ally herself with the one man with the power to anchor more than her ship – her heart.

 Author Links:  Website | Facebook | Twitter

Review:

Second book in the historical romance trilogy “Nelson’s Tea,” The Rogue’s Prize is a thrilling amorous adventure that captivates its readers from the very beginning. I’ve read only this novel by Ms. Katherine Bone, I’ll make sure to look into her other books soon.

Regardless whether you read the first book in the series or not (I haven’t), this one is a pretty standalone adventure with an array of interesting characters; from men in uniforms, double agents and a damsel in distress.
I won’t go into the details of the story (as I’ll post the summary at the end), but I was entranced by Captain Guffald and his entourage immediately. If you have a soft-spot for pirates and life at sea, this is a book I recommend.
The story has nice twists to it, good dialogue and clear descriptions. The author balances out the importance she gives to the romancing as much as she gives to the action scenes. Some hot, sensual loving wasn’t missing which, speaking frankly, we always anticipate in these novels. Lady Adele and Captain Guffald are two strong characters with as much different temperaments and characters as they are each others’ equals and even though us ladies tend to spiral in favour of the Captain (aye, aye!); you will be pleased not to be reading about a whiny lady concerned with her hair and her dress.
Whilst loving the story, it doesn’t mean I would change anything either. For starters, I would have loved to see more twists. The verbal skirmishes between the hero and heroine were interesting, and I would have liked to see them clash more rather than read their repetitive musings.
Captain Guffald whilst being a handsome navy captain, he is also a recurring character from the previous novel. Ms.Bone gives us ample information; through his thoughts to learn about his past adventures that took place in the other book, however sometimes it feels like his musings are too cumbersome for this book and for the man himself. For readers of the first book this aspect might be a bit boring and repetitive. For new ones like me; it actually helped me to get inside the man’s head but after half the book was over I felt that maybe I didn’t really need to read the first novel at all as he provided major spoilers. Nonetheless, Ms.Bone’s tactic is similar to the human mind and how some traumatic experiences are relived on a daily basis which shows also the depth of the character.
Finally my verdict would be a 4 Crowns – Princess of a Charming Story. The plot was good, the characters interesting and so is the dialogue. It is wonderfully written and for a pirate-lover like me; this novel was ideal to start my Summer reading spree with.

(Review by Countess Samantha)

http://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=justocom-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B00D5X05F4&ref=tf_til&fc1=F0F1EB&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=D7B838&bc1=000000&bg1=000000&f=ifr

Accepting Books for Review

We are now accepting books for review.  You are welcome to submit your title, but I cannot guarantee we’ll be able to accommodate every request.  
However, if you have a book you’d like reviewed, please submit through the link below, and I’ll offer to our reviewers for consideration.  Traditional and independent authors are welcome. 

Our rating guidelines are below:

5 Crowns – Sovereign Queen of Historical Love

4 Crowns – Princess of a Charming Story

3 Crowns – Duchess of a Good Read

2 Crowns – Baroness of a Feudal Romance

1 Crown – A Lady in Waiting

Our staff is looking forward to reviewing your stories!  Also, if you’d like to be a reviewer, let me know and we can discuss.

You can read biographical information on our current review team HERE.

Request a review HERE.

Happy Writing and Reading!

Vicki

Knights in Shining Armor

As readers of historical romance, we probably all have our favorite eras that we love to read about.  For me, it is the late Victorian era up through the Edwardian era (1870 to 1910).  I’m fascinated mostly because of the fashions, etiquette, and way of life of the upper class.  Though I’ve written about the struggles of the poor and some of the unseemly points of existence during those years, I guess like most other readers I’d rather bask in the class of privilege.
However, one era that draws readers of historical romance is the Middle Ages, where we are surrounded by knights in shining armor.  When I think of that time, I instantly think of Lancelot, that cute Frenchman that stole the heart of Guinevere.  Visions of the Knights of the Roundtable, chivalry, amour, jousting, and the crusades fill my mind. This era spans from the 5th to the 15th centuries and leaves for authors a vast time period in which to weave historical novels of love.
Many years ago, I was swept up in curiosity regarding knighthood, and in particular the Knights Templar.  I wanted to learn more about knights in general, how they came to be, what their code of honor entailed, how they fought, how they loved, etc.  I stumbled across a book at Borders (let us have a moment of silence) entitled, The Knight in History, by France Gies, published by Harper & Row back in 1984.  It’s actually available in Kindle form now.  Here is the LINK.  It’s a fantastic read, and if you’re an author or reader who loves this time period, you might pick it up.
One particularly good chapter is The Troubadours and the Literature of Knighthood, which talks about the love poems and songs written by knights. Below is a short quote from a work that has survived the test of time.

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 . . .

While in London, I actually saw quite a few suits of armor, including those worn by Henry VIII.  Not only were the males adorned in shining metal, but their horses as well.  Below is a picture of Henry’s armor, which was quite larger than other examples. For some reason, I was shocked at the size.  No doubt I had Jonathan Rhys Meyers on my mind, rather than the hefty English king of reality.  If you enlarge the picture by clicking on it, you note the prominent area of protection around his manhood.
Let us fast forward to the Pre-Raphaelite painters during the mid-19th century who gave us inspiring works of knights in shining armor associated with beautiful women they loved, honored, or rescued.  A few of these great artists (Harper, Millais, Waterhouse) have created beautiful scenes of knights and ladies that surely give rise to inspirational stories in all of us.  Below is a small sample of some of those gorgeous works of art.
In any event, if you’re a lover of this era, our pages are open to authors who write stories about knights in shining armor.  As for me, I’ll stick with the more gentile gentlemen of the Victorian era, rather than men of steel and brawn.
Cheers,

Vicki

“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

Is the Historical Romance Genre Dying?

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.

 “It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”
― Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
Purple wool, velvet and lace two-piece Worth dress, c. 1890
(Courtesy of Old Rags on Tumblr)