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.

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.

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.

Synopsis

Lady Amelia has only known the comfort of life in mid-eighteenth century English aristocracy. But when first her mother and then her father die, she finds herself alone, grief-stricken and… not of age. Her appointed guardian, an American uncle, has ordered her travel to his plantation where she must remain for at least two years when she will come of age.

With the help of Lady Grace and Lady Sarah, Lady Amelia gets her uncle to agree to give her four weeks to settle her affairs and unbeknownst to him…find an English lord to marry so she can remain in her beloved England. Despite her mourning period she endeavors to trap one of London’s eligible bachelors in matrimony.

Lord Goldstone, Lady Grace’s nephew is devilishly handsome, but a Scottish Duke and so entirely unacceptable as a possible husband. After all Scotland is not her beloved London and environs. He also has a nasty habit of showing up at all the wrong moments and thwarting her carefully laid plans to ensnare a suitable husband. Sparks fly as the pair find themselves at odds with each other and drawn to each other at the same time. Can they find a way to stop arguing long enough to explore their growing passion? Is it strong enough to make Lady Amelia give up her English home after all? Or will Lady Amelia find a suitable English lord and avoid social exile in America? Time is running out.

Synopsis

Separated from her twin during the Orphan Train selection, schoolmarm Serena Sullivan searched for her brother Bill over fifteen years. Just as she gets a lead on his whereabouts, she is railroaded by a crooked sheriff and set to hang for the murder of the sheriff’s best friend.

English playwright Daman Rutledge has come to the American West on business for his brother when he witnesses a woman about to be executed. On impulse he rescues the beautiful stranger and goes on the run with her across the Kansas prairie. Along the way Daman finds the muse he’s been missing and loses his heart to the raven-haired beauty with haunting amber eyes.

As they try to escape the long arm of the law, Daman seeks to prove Serena’s innocence before it’s too late. They find love—and the truth—on a journey that changes their lives.

Lauren Linwood Author Bio and Links

As a child, Lauren Linwood gathered her neighborhood friends together and made up stories for them to act out, her first venture into creating memorable characters. Following her passion for history and love of learning, she became a teacher who began writing on the side to maintain her sanity in a sea of teenage hormones.

Lauren’s novels focus on two of her favorite eras, medieval times and the American Old West. History is the backdrop that places her characters in extraordinary circumstances, where their intense desire and yearning for one another grows into the deep, tender, treasured gift of love.

Lauren, a native Texan, lives in a Dallas suburb with her family. An avid reader, moviegoer, and sports fan, she manages stress by alternating yoga with five mile walks. She is thinking about starting a support group for Pinterest and House Hunters addicts.

 

Synopsis:

Francesca Hartwell adores cats of every kind. Lions, leopards, tigers. And they all love her. Good thing she gets to see them every day since her father is their caregiver in the Tower of London’s Royal Menagerie. She’d love to find a man with whom she could share her love of animals, but so far, no one has stolen her heart. And there’s the added snag that whoever she marries must not have anything to do with nobility, as her mother had left her and her father for an earl.
John Fairgate has three rules given to him by his uncle. Inherit the title of baron upon his uncle’s death. Give up ornithology. And marry a childhood acquaintance. The first two, John will abide by, but won’t like. But the third, marrying a shrew who makes his skin crawl, he simply cannot do. Meeting Miss Francesca Hartwell at the zoo, however, has given him other ideas for a wife. But she’s not titled or wealthy. How will he be able to convince his uncle that she’s the woman of his heart?

Ruth Hartman
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

SYNOPSIS

Tainted in the eyes of Victorian society by his wife’s suicide, Doyle Flanagan turns a deaf ear to the baseless gossip and harsh rebukes. Ignoring his shattered reputation, he goes about his business, making money and enemies, and doing good works whenever his conscience gets the best of him. Arrested for murder, he is forced to rely on a feisty school administrator to solve the puzzle. As he struggles to prove his innocence, he realizes gaining the trust and loyalty of Cady Delafield may be more important than his freedom.

On a quest to locate a missing student, school matron Cady Delafield enters a stranger’s house and discovers the woman murdered. Driven to see the murderer brought to justice, she is determined to prevent any further tragedy even if it means joining forces with the very man accused of the atrocity. Against the wishes of her powerful family, she risks her job and reputation to learn the truth. But will the truth, once revealed, drive her away from the man she has come to love?

Passion and murder collide in 1880’s Chicago as they race to keep one step ahead of the police who want Doyle to pay for his crime. As the attraction between Cady and Doyle sizzles, they battle suspicions, lies and lethal actions to uncover the murderer before he destroys them both.

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Joyce Proell grew up in Minnesota and attended college and grad school in Chicago. After working in mental health, she retired at a young age to write full-time. Her first book, Eliza, was published in 2012. When she isn’t writing mysteries or historical romances, she loves to travel, walk, read, and do crossword puzzles. She and her husband make their home in rural Minnesota in her very own little house on the prairie.

Visit her website: www.joyceproell.com
Visit Facebook page: Facebook.com/JoyceProellauthor 
Buy links:
 

Soul Mate Publishing

Synopsis

It’s a risk of a lifetime loving a man you’re supposed to hate…

Betrayed by a brother she hardly trusted before the bloodthirsty Viking, Jarl Randvior Sigurdsson, attacks her home, Noelle Sinclair is conveniently bartered as a means to save her cowardly sibling’s skin. Forced to leave her homeland and accompany the petulant Viking to the untamed wilderness of central Norway, Noelle is ever-aware of the burgeoning dangers around her—including her weakening resolve to resist Randvior.

Should Noelle surrender to his resplendent charms and seduction, or fight with every ounce of strength she possesses to get home?

Excerpt

Dark clouds always gathered in Noelle Sinclair’s dreams. Hundreds of nightmares had played out in her mind since childhood. Why should tonight be any different?

The smell of burning wood invaded her sleep. Smoke snatched her breath and she tried to purge her lungs by taking deep breaths. She ran for the great hall and all she could see were scorched rafters and floorboards. Guards scrambled to the battlements, while women and children fled the castle. She searched for her sisters among the people migrating outside …

“Fire!”

Noelle’s eyes snapped open at the sound of dire warning. By God, this was no dream! She flung blankets aside and rolled over, shook her older sister awake, and jumped out of bed.

“What’s wrong?” Margaret asked sleepily.

“The castle’s on fire. Get up, now!”

Margaret scurried from bed and ran with Noelle to the windows overlooking the eastern edge of the castle. Through the swirling fog, Noelle could make out a tangle of men with torches and weapons in the courtyard below. She further scanned the shoreline where the North Sea pounded against the rocks and dunes. The castle was under siege and poorly defended. Most of the soldiers and her father were in Ireland, leaving only her brother and a skeleton army behind.

Her gaze still locked on the beach, Noelle caught sight of three, silvery-white longships anchored beyond the walls. Their blood-red sails snapped in the wind. She stared in horror as the pattern on the sails came into focus—the shape of a dragon.

 About the Author

Violetta Rand holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy and a master’s degree in Environmental Management. Serving as an environmental scientist in the state of Alaska for over seven years, she enjoys the privilege of traveling to remote places few people have the opportunity to see.

Violetta has been “in love” with writing since childhood. Struck with an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age, at five, she wrote short stories illustrated by her best friend and sold them in her neighborhood. The only thing she loves more than writing is her wonderful relationship with her husband, Jeff. She enjoys outdoor activities, reading whatever she can get her hands on, music, and losing herself in the ancient worlds she enjoys bringing to life in the pages of her stories.

Author’s Website