Friday, April 25, 2014

My First Historical Romance(s)




A few weeks ago, one of my favorite blogs--the first blog I really followed--had a post about the authors' first time reading historical romance. You can read the post on Word Wenches here. I've read several of the authors who blog on Word Wenches, particularly Jo Beverley and Mary Jo Putney, and I've been introduced to other writers and books on the blog that I've subsequently gone on to read and follow.

My first historical romance novel; I was about 12 or 13 and we had my grandmother's books in our house--after she died, the books in her house were transported into a closet we had downstairs in our old house--and out of this magical closet, I found books like Nicholas and AlexandraA Night to Remember and Joy in the Morning.

I also found a book called The Taming by Aleen Malcolm.

I haven't picked up The Taming in years--more than fifteen years now--but I still have it on my shelf in commemoration of its being my first historical romance. If I recall correctly, The Taming took place in Scotland after Culloden, with the Scottish defeated and overrun by the English. There's a guy, who is Scottish but sort of assimilates into English culture and somehow, he runs into this totally wild girl (and she was a girl--about 14 or 15 years old) named Cameron. Anyway, there was a lot that is troublesome about this book--namely the age difference (she's what we would call a minor, while he was an adult); also, I think he had a mistress (which is a big no-no these days in historical romance). Also, I seem to remember there was spanking-as-physical-punishment and the old romance novel bodice-ripper trope of "I rape because I love."

At 13, I wasn't particularly discriminating as a reader.

But the first Regency historical romance I ever read--and anyone who reads this blog knows I have a thing for Regency historical--was The Rake by Mary Jo Putney. I was 15, the book was a birthday gift from a friend, and after I glommed through it, I immediately went to the bookstore near our apartment and bought another Mary Jo Putney book.



Here's the back cover summary:

The Rake

It was predicted that Reginald Davenport, disinherited and disgraced, would come to a violent end. But fate has given him one final chance to redeem himself, by taking his place as the rightful master of Strickland, his lost ancestral estate. Davenport knows his way around women—yet nothing prepares him for his shocking encounter with Lady Alys Weston. 
The Reformer
Masquerading as a man, in order to obtain a position as estate manager of Strickland, Alys fled a world filled with mistrust and betrayal. She's finished with men—yet how could she have predicted that Strickland's restored owner would awaken a passion more powerful than anything she had ever known? A passion that will doom or save them both...if only they can overcome their pasts and dare to believe in the wondrous power of love.



Here's what got me hooked on this book and the Regency era in romance novels as a whole, thus leading me in a circuitous way to my current WIP, which was originally supposed to be a Regency historical romance:

-The characters. Alys is a strong, but vulnerable woman, who works for a living and is very capable. Reggie is an alcoholic, but he's also funny and charming.
-Setting. There are background things about industry being brought to the area, shades of the Industrial Revolution.
-The formality of the era. I liked it. There were references to titles, estates and whatnot that I wouldn't quite understand until I'd read several more Regency-era novels, but I liked the characters and their conflicts and feelings--and how the times they lived in colored their personalities and dilemmas.

Later, I learned that The Rake is considered a bit of a classic in Regency historical romance, particularly in that the male lead is an alcoholic and the female lead has a respectable profession. There was a real story and it went pretty deep for the genre psychologically. Also, there was no rapey nonsense going on.

After The Rake, I read Mary Jo Putney's Victorian-set Silk trilogy, then her Fallen Angels books, then Jo Beverley's Rogues series...and down the rabbit hole I fell.

7 comments:

  1. Are all the men alcoholics then, or are there other flaws that Regency plays upon? Not sure if I'd want to read about the same types of characters in romance. Sounds like an intriguing genre.

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    1. Well, let's see--just off the top of my head--there's the disgraced son who inherits his father's title and estate anyway, soldiers of various kinds coming back from the Napoleonic Wars, spies coming back from the Napoleonic Wars, men with impoverished estates trying to make them work...

      At the time The Rake was written, the alcoholic hero was pretty unusual. And after a while, it does start to blend into the same thing, which is why reading historical romance set in other time periods becomes is a good idea after a while. I only go back to read them once in a while when some of my favorite romance authors have new books out now.

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  2. Hmm. You know, I don't think I've ever read a historical romance. I ought to, though. I've been wanting to read some books set in the older days. Have you any to recommend?

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    1. Depends on whether you want to read historical romance or historical fiction, since hist. fic. is more about the history and hist. romance is obviously more about the relationship.

      Looking at my bookshelves...for historical romance, one of my favorites is Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas. To Rescue a Rogue by Jo Beverley. Lady Beware by Jo Beverley is pretty dark as far as Regency historicals go, I think.

      For historical fiction...The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick is one of my faves. Cane River by Lalita Tademy is great, too.

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  3. My first historical romance was Secret Thunder by Patricia Ryan. I was 13 and bought it because it was pretty and had a fancy antique key on the cover. I have a thing for antique keys. ^_^

    It was fabulous! I was in a bit of shock because that was the first adult book I ever read. But I learned a lot of big words and immediately went out and brought a smaller dictionary and some more books with pretty covers. Only read one bad one. That was the most contemporary one. I liked that a lot if the heroines were 15/16. Lol! (I had a thing for older guys back then. Shh. Lol!)

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    1. I'm totally looking at the Amazon page for Secret Thunder right now. Ooh, Normans!

      My first romance novel was part of a Harlequin series and it was contemporary. Only thing I remember about that book was that the characters spoke without using contractions, which was plain odd.

      But yeah, The Taming was like "whoa!" And I'd been reading books that were for adults, but they were also classics--Gone With the Wind, Wuthering Heights, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, so yeah, reading that was a bit of a shock.

      I learned the words "vacillating" and "quixotic" from historical romance :-)

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Thank you so much for your comments and thoughts. Check back soon. I reply to all comments. Happy reading!