Monday, June 16, 2008

What will it look like?

Last DWT we stumbled upon my new favorite game. Maureen and Sinead will not remember this because they were too drunk. (Note to self: when Sinead orders another cider and then giggles. Yes, giggles - settle in for the good stuff and get out the notebook.) There are perks to being the sober one at DWT.

Anyway - the game. What Will It Look Like? When the suffering sub genre comes back into popularity what will it look like? How will it be different than it's first reincarnation?

I think it's safe to say that Historicals are back - not that the market isn't tight - it is. And the books coming out these days are proving that a tight market makes for great reading. But what do they look like? All these great reading historicals? What are some of the ties that bind them?

Well, they're better that's for sure. The historicals out right now are plain better than a lot of stuff being put out in some of the glutted sub-genres (ie paranormal or romantic suspense). The new historicals are tight, well-paced, and crafted. Elizabeth Hoyt, Deanna Raybourne, Sherry Thomas - they are taking their time with their words.

Most of them are hotter. But not gratuitous. The romantic conflict walks right on into those love scenes making them hot, emotional and exciting.

They're darker - aren't they? They feel darker - not "let's kill everyone" darker, but tone and conflict just seem heavier. I know Julia Quinn is still writing in her style - a little lighter. But those Julia Quinn copy-cats have dropped in number, leaving lots of room for writers who have taken some of the darkness from the uber-popular paranormals and laced it into their books.

There's a lot more plot going on in some of these books. Spies. Murders. Proactive heroines. Out of the ordinary heroines. Crime solving heroines.

So, last DWT we talked briefly about what will the contemporary romance come back looking like? (Before suddenly, we were talking about make up??) As it went out of vogue a few years ago it seemed that it had melded with chick-lit and everything was pink. Everything was light. Zany. Everyone was trying to be Jenny Cruise. Now, it could come back that way - perhaps the reading public is tired of all this dark paranormal stuff and we need some lightness. Which makes sense to me - it really does, because so many of those books were good.

But my guess is that editors aren't going to be looking for that chick-lit voice in romance for a while. They've been burned. And how.

Also, I think the fantastic ongoing popularity of romantic suspense and paranormals set in contemporary times indicates that the book buying public wants a heavy dose of fantasy, of "this is so not like my incredibly dull life - no one is deciding what to do with the chicken thawing on the counter or how to potty train their son" with their romance. The popularity of category romance (slight surge in numbers and the huge surge in the number of princes being found across lines) indicates to me that this is true too.

But what do I know? Really. I was sober.

So, what do you think? How do the new historicals look to you? What do you want to see in returning contemporary romance?


Anonymous said...

One of these days I will not order the 4th pint and remember this stuff.
I so agree with historicals. Then funny thing is other historicals are being printed, new authors are coming out in the sub-genre, but no one hears about them because they are so eclipsed by the amazing work of Elizabeth Hoyt and Sherri Thomas.
My hypothesis on this, is that historical sales were down, readers were tired of the same old, editors didn't know what worked any more, so they just bought the books they loved.
And presto, the historical genre is filled with magic again.
Because if you look at the historicals on the market, Sherri Thomas and the amazing Private Arrangements, is completely character driven, no suspense plot of any kind, and then you have Bourne, who writes these amazing plot heavy spymaster books, and Elizabeth Hoyt is somewhere in between.
Anything goes as long as it's really, really good.
And I do believe the contemporary single title market is headed there as well.

Maureen McGowan said...

I'm not sure what the contemporary romance genre will look like when they come back, but they will come back. Too much of a vacancy in that area right now. But I'm sure they'll be well written, non-cliched, emotional stories whether they're funny or dark.

(BTW. The BIG discovery when Molly abandoned Sinead and I for a couple of weeks was that when she's away, DWT quickly degenerates into Drunk Mascara Talk.)

Molly O'Keefe said...

I've been thinking alot today about this subject and what I'd like to see is less of the wacky light set-ups. I think premises will be darker and maybe handled with a lighter -- or they could be. It's one way of looking at how to try and reattack this genre. But then I was thinking of the fabulous Eileen Cook book and that was a lighter premise handled with a lot of intelligence and the ramifications were darker. Bigger.

And to tell you the truth, Maureen. I think April falls right into this empty slot.

I really like what you said Sinead about the editors having the freedom to buy what they liked and what they could get behind. Not a lot of freedom and I'm sure there were a lot of great historicals that didn't get the love they should have - but freedom enough to make us happy.

I bought expensive face cream today -- you have no idea how happy I am.

Amy Ruttan said...

I want more adventurous historicals ... mainly because that's what I write and what I'm trying to sell.

I want hot historicals. Again, see above. LOL!!

I'm tired of most paranormals.

Anonymous said...

I agree with historicals being hot! Literally. Which I do love because the scenes aren't just sex for sex's sake. They really work within the story.

I was torn with the Sherri Thomas book - totally understood why it was a hit -but for me it wasn't a book I would re-read again. Where Hoyt and Bourne are auto buys with me at this point. And I've read the Hoyt books at least 6 or 7 times. There is something about the Thomas book that might be a bit too angsty for me. Maybe angst for angst sake? I will buy her next though.

I also read the new Julia Quin - I have HUGE issues with this book. But I think some of it might have to do with the fact that the quality is so high now my expectations are that much higher.

Note to writers you better bring your A game every time.

I agree with you Molly - about darker - but I'm going tweak that a little and say "truer." Fiction is an escape yes - but I think based on what I'm seeing readers are enjoying real people. Not the traditional heros and heroines of historicals past - but what "real" people might have truly felt/acted back in those days.

Let's face it - not all the girls were virgins, all the husbands faithful, everyone paragons of virtue.

We aren't today - we wouldn't have been then.

Sorry - long post over. Did I mention I love this blog?

Anonymous said...

Stephanie, so interesting. I think Hoyt's The Leopard Prince is my fav, but Private Arrangements came a close second.
I write such plot driven stuff, and Private A is so completely character driven, it read like magic to me.
Great point about Truer.
Amy, I think hot historicals will always sell, as long as the book is good.
For me the new historical is one where there is something moving the book along.
for so many years, I read historical after historical where so little happened, all propped on balls and cute dialogue and repititious scenes, and it all read the same.
Even the authors that started out so original seemed to move that way. Madeline Hunter is a perfect example to me. Her early medievals were amazing, but when she moved to the sexy regency, her books lost all the elements that made the medievals so great, but those sexy regencies got her on lots of bestseller lists, so I know why she made the move.
phew, another long comment from me. Not enough to make up for not posting on Friday, but I'm trying.

K J Gillenwater said...

About the new historicals...yes, they are hotter, which is fine by me. I also like that Elizabeth Hoyt, in particular, creates heroines who try to work against society's expectations. I can honestly believe there were many women back then who felt very choked by that. And writing an historical romance without including some thought as to the woman's situation in life seems a little empty-headed to me.

The heroines are smarter and more real. Darker heroes with faults that go deeper.

I don't read much contemporary romance, so I don't know what to say there. But I do know of one agent who was looking for something contemporary and 'normal' rather than paranormal. Straight romantic suspense is also one she was looking for.

And I suppose that means publishers are looking, too. Or maybe she just wanted to add an author to her list with those specialties.

I like good suspense, minus any real romance. But not guy-driven suspense. I'd like to find some new female authors who do suspense with just a bit o' romance.

Anonymous said...


Leopard Prince was also my favorite of Hoyt's!

With PA it was just minor things -overall really liked it. But I had heard all the hype so maybe that was a bit of the problem. I was expecting to read it as if I was reading Woodiwiss for the first time - that kind of experience.

I had a problem with the "heir" - was the intent she was going to bare the child and give it away? It dinged her with me that she seemed to agree so readily - even though she was using protection.

I also had an issue with the current fiance. And her choice to be with him - although it could be said that she never really had any intention of marrying him - it was just a ploy to get the husband to act. But it wasn't as spelled out if that was the case.

Really minor now that I think about it.

What I LOVED was the epic feel to it. It read like The Thornbirds - in a standard romance forum. I loved the sense of time. This relationship was signficant. I loved the emotion - but just a few times I thought it was over the top.

And you are so right - it moved without any spies, intrigues, nothing other than just these two people working it out.

Maureen McGowan said...

You know... I was just about to comment on Stephanie's comment... But I think I'm going to make it my post tomorrow.

An ode to romance heroines behaving badly.

Anonymous said...

That's so funny, Stephanie's post made me think of my next post.
Why I think writing character driven and only character driven, compelling stories are the hardest and for me, ultimately the most satisfying to read.

Kimber Chin said...

Unfortunately I'm a little too old school to be loving the new historicals (I fell in love with the hubby at first sight and he is my one and only so that's my reference point). One of my fave historicals of all time is Amanda Quick's Ravished. No cheating. No angst about 'do I love him or do I not love him'. No spy plot propping up the romance. Simply two very interesting characters and great writing. Nothing else was needed.

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