Ah, the dictionary — it gives me the exact words to describe this post. RUT – “a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.” Thank you, Google Dictionary.
Already, I sound a bit snarky. However, historical romance has definitely fallen into a few ruts along the road, and I question whether we need a change. You may discover that I’m a rebel at heart.
This morning while scanning the bestseller list of Victorian historical romances on Amazon Kindle, I counted 39 out of 50 covers that consisted of one thing – a woman in a flowing dress. Seven covers added a male alongside the flowing dress. Two covers had a male and no female. The remainder – one with a ship on the cover and one with multiple women (a box set of brides for historical western).
My question – what is it with dresses? Why am I finding this trend monotonous? Like the proliferation of dukes and Regency era stories, historical romance has carved out an obvious ongoing path that doesn’t seem to vary much beyond those boundaries in the top 100. However, the path must be a popular one because these are the books that are bestsellers.
Historical romance is a far-reaching genre that includes eras, storylines, and cover scenes that can be just as interesting and romantic. Personally, I would love to see this genre stir the pot a lot more to include anything other than a woman in a flowing dress to attract attention. I suppose we could blame the traditional publishing houses for continuing to proliferate that scene and those who follow to blend into the scenery.
To add to the problem, covers don’t always depict dresses that are historically accurate when it comes to fashions, i.e., Victorian bustles rather than the Regency empire waists. One of the most recent examples is Lisa Kleypas’s, Hello Stranger, in a modern gown released by Avon who is supposedly a physician in the Victorian era. A bit of buzz has surfaced about the choice, but all of the gowns of that series appear out of place. Thank goodness for great sites like Period Images that attempts to give more accuracy to fashions when it comes to cover models.
Well, in any event, this morning was a downer as my eyes were accosted by 39 covers of flowing dresses. Is it just me in a state of perpetual boredom or do others share my views?
I suppose the old adage if it ain’t broken don’t fix it, but something tells me the longer we stay in the ruts we’ve created, the genre will never change as a whole. Hopefully, that doesn’t lead to a slump of interest in historical romance overall as readers burn out over repetitiveness. We could be doing more damage than good.
Historical Romance Admin
The #metoo movement is hitting the romance genre. “Put another way, how does a genre commonly dubbed “bodice-rippers” stay relevant in an era when the ripping of bodices sounds more like cause for a lawsuit than a display of passion?” Read more below. Perhaps us ladies should start ripping shirts instead!
Writing a ‘trigger-free love story’ is dicey in the age of #metoo.
Let’s face it, ladies. We are drowning in dukes! This morning when I visited the historical romance best sellers on Amazon Kindle, that’s pretty much dominated the scene in the 100 top-selling books. Even those books that don’t have the title “duke” on the cover, doesn’t mean there isn’t one lurking between the pages. Most of these dude dukes are bad boys with a few charming ones thrown into the mix.
Here’s a quick sampling if you don’t think I’ve gone historical romance raving mad.
Blame it on the Duke
Kind Ella and the Charming Duke
A Beauty for the Scared Duke
The Duke of Nothing
A Duke in Shining Armor
The Duke of Ruin
A Governess for the Brooding Duke
The Silent Duke
From Duke Till Dawn
The Desires of a Duke
My Wild Duke
The Lady, the Duke, and the Gentleman
Kissing the Duke
The Broken Duke…and on, and on, and on.
Once in a while, a lord, marquis, and earl sneak in the bunch, not to be confused with the many rogues of the historical romance genre. There are even duke series like Difficult Dukes, The Disgraceful Dukes, Girl Meets Duke and many more. I guess I’m scratching my head on why we always have to fall in love with a duke. Is there a hidden code that only best-selling romances must be duke centric? Is this the only peerage that can sweep us away into the fantasy land of romance?
After doing some research, I’ve found a Goodreads Listopia entitled, “Dukes…Bring ’em on!” If you Google the term “dukes in historical romance novels,” you’ll be smacked to learn the results. There’s an interesting article on NPR entitled, “Put Up Your Dukes: Romance’s Favorite Rank.”
Perhaps it boils down that with all these erotic romance covers, we have determined that dukes are the sexiest and most desired of the English peerage. We prefer dreaming about becoming a duchess regardless if we understand why we should address him as His Grace or where he stands in the scheme of English peerage. Whatever the reason, I’d frankly like to see more historical romances that go beyond this narrow breed of titled men and even dare to focus on a man without an aristocratic title.
What are your thoughts, readers? Don’t be shy! Start chiming in and enjoy the discussion.
Your Admin from Historical Romance Books
P.S. If you want to learn about British peerage, here is a good article on Anglotopia, “The peerage: A primer on Understanding Lords, Ladies, Dukes, Earls, and More.”
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