I’ve been asked, once or twice, “What’s a historical romance?” Quite simply, a historical romance is a romance story set in a specific time period (generally accepted as pre-1940). The setting of the story acts as a background, a silent character, adding a “feel” to the story. Making the conflicts and resolutions the characters find slightly more unique for the era in which they are playing out their dramas. The romance genre takes all the “good”, flowery and sparkling parts of the history and intertwine it with characters who will eventually find a “happily ever after” ending to their adventure.
What makes a historical, of any genre, is the history. Factual people, events, codes of conduct, dress, technology and social and religious beliefs of the time add a purer sense to the possibility of the story having actually taken place.
I do want to make sure its understood while “historical fiction” uses facts of time, place, people, events as a “secondary character” in the story, which interact with the main characters to draw out the drama (goal, motivation, conflict), by contrast a “costume drama fiction” really only uses the general idea of the period as a setting and often the real historical facts have little to do with the story over all. In Costume Dramas history is often played fast and loose to fit the characters rather than the characters fitting the history.
For those who read historical romances (or historicals of any genre) the likelihood is some mental picture of the time period already exists (thank you Hollywood). Often readers tend to stick with a specific time frame, say Regency or American Western. Readers do this for the very same reason writers do, because its what is well known to them.
As someone who can never decide, day to day, whether to be a writer or a historian first I have a harder time making history something it never was even for the purpose of a sweet story line. So yeah while some oral health care happened people weren’t brushing teeth at least twice a day. Taking liberty with history is a writer’s prerogative and while I do much to avoid this I find even I cannot be purely historically factual and maintain the romantic elements, she would be missing teeth and his breath was going to be gag worthy. Although what I write directly in regards to historical events, people and places are factual for some who may not know or who will question the facts I am adding these blogs to build a better picture of the period in hopes to spark interest and deepen the appreciation for the “love found” aspect of every romance.
Because I write both historical fiction AND costume dramas I will try to be clear in my blogs which I am referring to. For The Debt (not yet available) I use the standards of Historical Fiction while The Worship Series is fully a Costume Drama and I use more of the darker, harsher elements of history which wouldn’t really fit into a typical Romance Genre story.
The reason I mention this is because while I hope you enjoy the story in a pure sense, that the characters make you laugh and cry and feel my true intent is to get you thinking about the history. I hope often to give you some fact you may never have known otherwise. To encourage you to revisit a historical place or to seek out confirmation of my facts and find even more facts about the history. I hope to give you a passion for our past. For while history doesn’t have to define us at the time we are currently it does lay the foundations for what we may become in time.
So as a quick reference I want to use a grand Hollywood Historical (Romance, Action, Intrigue,) you put the genre tag on it you want. I say Romance because that is how I watched it. I will be using this example off and on throughout my blogs because its an easy reference, not because I “loved” the movie.
We all know the “block buster” movie Titanic with DiCaprio and Winslet playing Jack and Rose (respectively). We all know the “big facts” of the Titanic’s ill-fated maiden voyage. We know from the beginning of the movie it will end with a tragedy, that 1100 people will die and a ship once proclaimed “unsinkable” will end on the bottom of the North Atlantic Sea. But we watched the story unfold all the same. Why? Simply, we want to follow the story of two people who were on the ship. And while we know those two people didn’t really exist we see their drama play out and we hope, we really hope that maybe someone really found what Jack and Rose found before the villain iceberg stole it all away. That we know in our logical minds such a wild, passionate, class-crossing romance probably didn’t happen, the setting of a doomed ship where so many were lost and unaccounted for and the lack of electronic records of passengers and such gives that place in our minds (really our hearts) hope.
In its basic form the Titanic is a historical romance that is POSSIBLE. We couldn’t do the same story really with a modern back drop the technology of the day prevents it, but on a ship in 1912 with only a modest telegraphing system and no finger prints or driver’s licenses or pass ports the story works and we fall in love and we feel all those wonderful feelings a romance is meant to give us.
History is often glorified, in every genre that uses it to create a fictional story. The truth is history was often dark, dangerous, violent and unjust. What we can all look at though is that enough of the glory, the beautiful survived because as humans, as people we strive to find heroes and heroins, bravery and love. People have always done this and most likely always will.
On this blog page I will be giving you more detail of the history of the stories. I will give you sources to find information yourself and I will answer questions, the best I can. Hopefully, this information will bring more of the story alive for you and help you enjoy the romance even more.
PS The claim the Titanic was “unsinkable” was a mis-quote of Capt E.J. Smith (RMS Titanic, seated 3rd from left) what he actually said was “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder… Modern ship-building has gone beyond that.” 1907