Monday, January 11, 2010

Historical Romance is Ruining Me....

My love affair with romance started with Harlequin Desire and while I kept reading category contemporary romance, I soon found historicals and...well, that was that. As a teenager the drama and repressed emotion found in regency England ballrooms was a heck of a lot like the drama and repressed emotion found at good old RTHS.

The conventions of historical romance get me every time. I adore absolutely adore long conversations wherein the characters don't talk about what really needs to be talked about because the CAN'T. Society dictates they not talk about that kiss, or their past, or what he said at the soiree, or her drunk uncle or his bankruptcy. All that subtext is delicious. Kills me.

I also love a good misunderstanding - as long as it's short and sweet and doesn't get too ridiculous. A misunderstanding can be bigger and go longer in historicals because of all those conversations they can't have.

Forced marriages, marriages of convenience all work better in historical. They rarely work at all in contemporaries - because marriage isn't what it used to be.

And therein lies my problem. I keep trying to put these conventions to work in my books and they fail - miserably. Maybe I'm just doing them wrong. This conversation with my editor that resulted in a giant rewrite was all about the fact that characters not having a conversation they need to have - is not a plot point. It isn't satisfying and it didn't work. In contemporary romance those conversations need to be had and they need to make things worse between the characters.

I swear I knew that.

The other big change was about a secret that starts in Chapter 2 and is revealed at the end of the book. Not much changes about this secret - stakes don't get changed all that much. It's a static subplot. And I think that was part of what bugged my about the Hoyt series - that mystery was so stagnant. Who was the traitor? For four books. Anyway -that's a side note.

I have to take a historical break and get back to some contemporaries. Victoria Dahl's new one is getting rave reviews - I'll start there.

12 comments:

Eileen said...

At the risk of getting pelted by rotten tomatoes, those conventions are exactly what I don't like about historical romance. I get tired of the "oh, no, we kissed!" stuff and all the strictures of society. I don't relate to them.

Hmmm. Relatability. I might have found the topic for tomorrow's post . . .

Maureen McGowan said...

Writing is hard.

That's all I have to say right now, because, well, writing is hard.

Sinead M said...

I'm with Eileen on this one. Used to love all the historical romance conventions, but they've all been done and so often, I find them boring now.

Eileen said...

But back to putting those conventions into a contemporary novel . . .

I think you're right about the marriage of convenience thing, but we often don't have conversations about things we should be talking about. I have a friend who keeps trying to talk to her 87-year-old mother about moving into an assisted living facility. She brings it up. Her mother answers with remarks about the weather or politics. It still happens.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I feel like when the conventions are in the hands of a master - it's heartbreaking and tearjerking and exciting. Those Judith McNaught historicals - with all that subtext and angst - amazing.

But when not done well, it's predictable and boring and I do believe those were my editors exact words...

Molly O'Keefe said...

I think the relatibilty is big deal - which is why i so loved those books in high school. I totally related to the emotional undertones. Now, not so much. And I think that's a good lesson for me to learn too - who is my audience? They're more like me know than me fifteen years ago.

Eileen - I look forward to some relatability conversation.

Eileen said...

One of the historicals that I enjoyed the most in the past few years was ON A HIGHLAND SHORE by Kathleen Givens. I couldn't put it down.

She passed away suddenly week before last. What a loss to us all.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I judged that book for the Ritas a few years back and loved all the action and adventure. I agree - we miss Kathleen.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Interesting about our age changing our perspective. I was thinking of that this morning. When I'm 65 will I still want to write romance? And if so what will they be like? And will I be able to relate to the younger group of readers?

I think in a way it explains our reaction to Twilight. A 16 year old girl's fantasy is a 39 year old woman's... get real.

That said I do think the conventions can be done if done well. However - I'll go w/ Sinead and say in some cases they're growing sooo predictable.

It's why anything drastically set away from Regency England has a chance. Because while readers still want it, they're clamoring for that something different.

Eileen said...

Steph, I wonder the same thing and it's so much closer for me! What I find sexy is so different now than what I found sexy at 25.

Back to Kathleen Givens . . . that story did have tons of action. The conventions were there. The strictures of society were there. THey weren't the point of the story though, they were just part of it. Maybe that's what I need to make me want to read an historical?

Allie said...

I accidentally bought a historical romance a few weeks ago. It was a backlist book by an author I like who doesn't write historicals anymore. Oh man! So hooked!

sdanic said...

It's the subtext I love too. That's also why Austen works so well.

Victoria Dahl's new one, Lead me On, is great.

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