Historical Romance

DECEMber 9, 2015

cover imageThe discussion of historical romance got a bit steamy at the December 2nd meeting of the Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable genre study group, as the group talked about the benchmark title, The Duke and I – a humorous Regency romance by Julia Quinn – and described the appeal of a wide variety of second titles.

(Reminder! If you haven’t submitted your thoughts on the appeal of your second title to the blog, please do so here. Thank you!)

As a group, we are working towards 1) shedding prejudices about the romance genre and 2) going beyond our individual personal preferences to think about preferences of romance readers. A helpful blog and book combination recommended by Miki is Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Beyond Heaving Bosoms (Touchstone, 2009) by Sarah Wendall and Candy Tan.

Sarah Wendall also wrote Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels (SourceBooks, 2011).

Our discussion frequently veered into how romances (especially historical romances, maybe?) often get into problematic territory from a feminist perspective – regarding consent, women’s rights, whether modern sensibilities can/should be ascribed to characters from the 19th-century (and farther back to the prehistoric era), etc. For further reading from this perspective, another possibility is Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained (2015) by bestselling romance author Maya Rodale. She also has a blog and writes articles about romance, including this one for The Huffington Post: What Happened to the Historical Romance Novel?

We sorted out some confusion over the historical order of the different period romances – Regency, Georgian, Victorian, etc. – and talked about the wide variety of subgenres within the historical fiction subgenre. We talked about the differences between Period Romance, a Romantic Historical and a Historical Novel that Kristin Ramsdell writes about in Romance Fiction: A Guide to the Genre, 2nd ed. and how these distinctions might help us advise readers.

We discussed the appeal of Historical Romance:

  • Emotional pull/identifying with the heroine
  • Escapism/Fantasizing
  • Being transported to another place and time that has “problems, but different problems”
  • Historical details secondary to romance and character development
  • Wordplay/dry wit of Regency novels, in particular

We talked about why openly reading romance makes some (all?) of us uncomfortable or embarrassed, and how studying the genre is helping us move beyond our personal reading comfort zone. Several mentioned over-explaining to family members or colleagues why they were reading romance novels; not bringing their paperback romances out in public; and reading on an e-reader for increased privacy. Some who had read romance novels in their youth but not as adults, mentioned that they were surprised to enjoy rediscovering old favorites when choosing second titles to read.

We discussed the benchmark title The Duke and I by Julia Quinn. Some readers were surprised at how much they personally enjoyed the book, having never read a Regency romance before. One reader was annoyed by the vagaries of the plot and the lack of follow-up on details that were mentioned for seemingly no reason and said she needed to keep reminding herself that “romance is the point, not the plot.”

Others’ enjoyment of the story was ruined by the lack of consent (by the man) before/during sexual relations, which is described (in detail) at one point in the story. For these readers, muddy motives, conflict-building, or having reason overcome by passion was no excuse. It’s highly doubtful that these readers will go on to read the next nine books in the Bridgerton series. Seriously, though, this part of the plot generated a lot of good discussion about trigger warnings, “rape-y” romance stories from the 70s in particular, good and bad sexual fantasies, and the potential for subversiveness  in romance written predominantly by women for women.

For cross-collection reader’s advisory, it was suggested that some romance readers might wish to explore the “true romance” found in narrative history books, and pairing mysteries and romances that share a setting in a display or in a book list was also suggested.

Historical Romance Meeting Agenda

Historical Romance Readings – Discussion Questions

The page about our Historical Romance second titles will be coming soon. Please remember to share your thoughts with the group if you haven’t already…and thank you, if you already have!

NOVEMber 20, 2015

cover imagePlease note that the upcoming Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable meeting will be held at the SAILS Network Corporate Offices, 10 Riverside Dr #102, Lakeville, MA 02347 (508) 946-8600, instead of the Holmes Public Library in Halifax, as originally planned.

Everyone registered should receive the additional readings by email by today at the latest. If you have forgotten to register, please register here and send an email to Miki at mwolfe@ocln.org to have the readings sent out.

In addition, please read this NoveList article on humorous historical romances (including The Duke and I) by Jennifer Brannen:

Laugh Your Past Off: An Exercise in Humorous Historical Romances

NOVEMber 10, 2015

cover imageGoing back in time for the next meeting of the Southeastern Reader’s Advisory Roundtable group, we’ll be discussing Historical Romance. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 2, 10-12, at the Holmes Public Library, 470 Plymouth St., in Halifax. Snow date is Dec. 9.

While reading the benchmark title, The Duke and I by Julia Quinn, and our individually chosen second titles from the romance subgenre of Historical Romance, we can try to keep in mind the  characteristics and appeal of the Romance genre in general that we talked about last month.

For the benchmark title, we originally planned on Indigo or Nighthawk by Beverly Jenkins, to make our romance genre reading list multicultural, but copies are scarce. An African-American author of popular historical romance novels, Beverly Jenkins has written over 30 novels, any one of which would make a good choice for a second title. If you want more of a variety of suggestions for your second title, check out her list of 10 Best Historical Romance Novels published in Publishers Weekly last February.

For more possibilities, authors to know in the historical romance subgenre – according to Joyce Saricks’ book The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed. z- include –in addition to Julia Quinn – Loretta Chase, Julie Klassen, and (a classic author) Georgette Heyer.

The supplemental readings for discussion at our December SE-RART meeting are selections from The Reader’s Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed., by Joyce G. Saricks and Romance Fiction: A Guide to the Genre, 2nd ed., by Kristin Ramsdell. The details on these will be emailed to participants.

Don’t forget to register on the MLS Web site!

In addition, please read this NoveList article on humorous historical romances (including The Duke and I) by Jennifer Brannen:

Laugh Your Past Off: An Exercise in Humorous Historical Romances

If you want to post your second titles before the next meeting you can, and if you haven’t posted your Contemporary Romance second title, please click here. It doesn’t have to be a perfectly crafted paragraph summing up the essence of the reader’s advisory appeal factors of the book! If you can give us that, great! If not, whatever you’ve got is fine!  😉

NOTE: The Nov. 10, 2015 post has been edited for length.

NOVEMber 10, 2015

 

cover imageGoing back in time for the next meeting of the Southeastern Reader’s Advisory Roundtable group, we’ll be discussing Historical Romance. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 2, 10-12, at the Holmes Public Library, 470 Plymouth St., in Halifax. Snow date is Dec. 9.

While reading the benchmark title, The Duke and I by Julia Quinn, and our individually chosen second titles from the romance subgenre of Historical Romance, we can try to keep in mind the  characteristics and appeal of the Romance genre in general that we talked about last month.

For the benchmark title, we originally planned on Indigo or Nighthawk by Beverly Jenkins, to make our romance genre reading list multicultural, but copies are scarce. An African-American author of popular historical romance novels, Beverly Jenkins has written over 30 novels, any one of which would make a good choice for a second title. If you want more of a variety of suggestions for your second title, check out her list of 10 Best Historical Romance Novels published in Publishers Weekly last February.

For more possibilities, authors to know in the historical romance subgenre – according to Joyce Saricks’ book The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed. z- include –in addition to Julia Quinn – Loretta Chase, Julie Klassen, and (a classic author) Georgette Heyer.

The supplemental readings for discussion at our December SE-RART meeting are selections from The Reader’s Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed., by Joyce G. Saricks and Romance Fiction: A Guide to the Genre, 2nd ed., by Kristin Ramsdell. The details on these will be emailed to participants.

Don’t forget to register on the MLS Web site!

In addition, please read this NoveList article on humorous historical romances (including The Duke and I) by Jennifer Brannen:

Laugh Your Past Off: An Exercise in Humorous Historical Romances

If you want to post your second titles before the next meeting you can, and if you haven’t posted your Contemporary Romance second title, please click here. It doesn’t have to be a perfectly crafted paragraph summing up the essence of the reader’s advisory appeal factors of the book! If you can give us that, great! If not, whatever you’ve got is fine!  😉

NOTE: The Nov. 10, 2015 post has been edited for length.

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