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Posts Tagged ‘medieval’

Historical Romance for Dummies: The Basics

Woman Reading a Diary

Disclaimer: We don’t really think any of our readers are dummies. In fact, we consider you quite intelligent for choosing to follow our blog!

Most authors struggle with some degree of unexpected interest from friends and work colleagues who—sad though it may be—have never read a historical romance in their life. Sometimes, we even feel as though we should offer something of a disclaimer to them.

“Keep in mind it’s a Romance,” we say to their enthusiastic claims of having pre-ordered it. “A historical romance.”

More often than not, they blink at us in happy confusion. “Great,” they say. “I like history.”

Errrm…. Yes. That will indubitably help.

But as most Duchesses can tell you, enjoying one’s high school lecture on Alexander the Great is not enough to ensure instant appreciation and understanding of historical romance. Don’t mistake us—we are thrilled to welcome some readers who might have only ever read, say, the odd Nicholas Sparks book, or 50 Shades of Grey. But such books are a far cry from historical romance, and because we eagerly embrace our role as ambassadors bringing the stories of by-gone eras to life, we wanted to assure you that there is more to discover, if given half the chance.

It occurs to us, however, that newcomers to the world of historical romance might be confused by one or two things in our books that we originally felt no need to explain. And that perhaps they would be more inclined to think favorably upon the book—and the genre—if they had a primer on some basic background information. So the Duchesses have planned a series of posts on the topic, which are intended to help ease the way for those new readers and hopefully keep them focused enough to appreciate all the amazing things historical romance has to offer.  

Today, we shall start with the basics. After all, one must walk before one waltzes, and we don’t want skinned knees and tears right off the bat.


Romance: a genre of fiction whose central plotline is centered on the development of a romantic relationship. The standard story arc leads to a HAPPY ENDING. That doesn’t mean the author can’t put those characters through an emotional tailspin, just that those bits should be resolved by the time you reach “THE END.” If we are going to get specific, the most common and widely sold romance is m/f (male/female), but there is also a lively market for m/m and f/f romance should you care to investigate.

Historical Romance: a type of romance novel that is based on characters in the past. Most folks consider a historical anything up to about WWII. Many Duchesses would like to challenge this notion, especially as the WWII standard has been in place for something like 50 years… surely we can count the Korean War, Vietnam, and even the Cold War as historical eras worth writing about by now.

Bodice Ripper: a derogatory name sometimes applied to historical romances, based on an outdated perception of the overbearing heroes and meek females that were sometimes portrayed in older historicals. These days, the heroines tend to be much stronger, and more assertive of their individuality, and if a bodice is going to get ripped they are as likely to do it themselves, so some Duchesses don’t personally mind the term. But be warned–some authors will be all too willing to whack you over the head with their reticule (for those of you newbies in our audience, a form of purse or handbag) if you say this in their presence.

The Eras: These are important, because the social mores differed for each major period of history, and also differed based on the setting (i.e. British-set historicals vs. American or exotic settings). A good deal of conflict in historical romances is based on the societal expectations of the time and the main characters rubbing up against those constraints, so the political backdrop, views toward women, and views toward sexuality of a given time all heavily influence the tone of books.

Briefly (and bear in mind, these are largely convenience groupings, rather than an intentional history lesson):

Medieval Romance: These romances tend to be set in the 5th through the 14th century. BBC’s Merlin is a great example of the period. Think: Knights. Plague. The Crusades.

Renaissance: This is roughly the period from the 14th to 17th century. Think: Henry VIII, the Tudors, and everyone’s head getting chopped off.

Scottish Romance: There is a tremendously popular market for Scottish romance spanning both the Medieval and Renaissance areas. Think: Men in Kilts. Braveheart (before Mel Gibson got weird).

Georgian: Technically defined as the time under the rule of the Georges I-IV, this era stretches from 1714 to about 1811, and often is just broadly defined as “the 18th century”. This was a turbulent time in British society, with parties and debauchery a bit more accepted among both men and women. Think: Powdered wigs, breasts bulging over plunging necklines, and those funny wide hoops that made women turn sideways to get through doors. Remember that video Walking on Broken Glass? That is tres Georgian!

Regency: This is one of the most popular historical eras for historical novels. It was technically the time the Prince Regent was at the helm of Britain, 1811 to 1820, but is often extended to 1837, when Queen Victoria took the throne. The era saw the introduction of greater simplicity of fashion, but also, we think, more elegant social graces. There was a stiff set of expectations placed on upper class females: they were expected to marry, and to marry as well as they could for social power and financial security. Think: Country house parties, high-waisted gowns, Jane Austen, and those scintillating dances that involved standing across from one’s partner and bowing. Duchess Valerie has written at greater length on the topic here.

Victorian: A very long period in British history (1837 to 1901), mainly because the monarch, Queen Victoria, lived so long. Queen Victoria had firm views on propriety and the role of women, and this period of time was a bit more uptight than either the Georgian or Regency eras. Charlotte and Emily Bronte wrote during this period, and unlike Austen, their words tended to be darker, more dramatic. The movie The Piano is a hauntingly beautiful portrayal of both the period’s dress and expectations for women. Think: sexual repression, whalebone corsets, séances and an obsession with death and mourning.

Edwardian: The period when Edward, Victoria’s son, sat as king. Although he died in 1910, this period is often extended up until 1919, the end of World War I.  Fashion lines became simpler, cleaner, with lots of ornate beading. Women began to emerge with greater independence, and access to education/learning, and also began to challenge traditional stereotypes. Think: Titanic, Downton Abbey, World War I.

Roaring twenties to WWII: The 1920 to about 1945. Think: the movie Chicago. Flappers. Prohibition. The Great Depression. World War II. This was definitely a time period where women broke out of older, traditional roles and their independence became more commonplace and accepted.

For the new reader, understanding which era their book is set in is the first step. Once they have that in-hand, they can begin the process of understanding more advanced details.

Be on the lookout for our next post on Historical Romance for Dummies, which will focus on terms for the new historical reader of Regency and Victorian fiction.

The Duchesses must offer this disclaimer: we are not history professors, nor do we pretend to be. We are first and foremost spinners of stories. If you notice any errors, or have new ideas that might be useful to share, please do contact us and let us know! We do believe, with these basics, most of the uninformed can safely tackle the wonderful world of historical romance.

Interview With Historical Romance Author Barbara Bettis

Barbara Bettis headshotI’d like to welcome another debut author to the blog today. Barbara Bettis  loves creating stories of other times and places, of heroines to die for and heroes to live for. Her first book, SILVERHAWK released last week from Wild Rose Press. Congratulations on your debut novel.

Barbara: Thank you. I’m excited to see Giles and Emelin’s story in print. I’ve loved it for a long time.

I remember seeing that title come up quite regularly as a contest finalist. Can you tell us a little more about it?

Barbara: Love to. :) SILVERHAWK is about a knight who is everything a proper lady should never want, and lady who is everything a bastard mercenary can never have. And every time I start to talk about it,­­­ I get all carried away, so let me just share the blurb.

To avenge his mother’s honor, Sir Giles of Cambrai has come to England to kill his father. First, however, he’ll take sweet revenge by kidnapping his sire’s new betrothed. But when Giles uncovers a plot against King Richard, he faces a dilemma: take the lady or track the traitors. What’s a good mercenary to do? Both, of course.

Abandoned in a convent by her brother, Lady Emelin finally has the chance for home and family. Yet now she’s been abducted. Her kidnapper may be the image of her dream knight, but she won’t allow him to spoil this betrothal. Her only solution: escape

Rescuing the intrepid lady–while hunting the traitors–is a challenge Giles couldn’t anticipate. But the greatest challenge to both Giles and Emelin is the fire blazing between them. For he’s everything a proper lady should never want, and she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

What fascinates you about the medieval period?

Barbara: You know, I’m not quite sure. I think it’s tied up in my interest in history. I’ve loved the stories of knights and Silverhawk Coverladies and quests for as long as I can remember reading—King Arthur’s Round Table I recall devouring early on. In those stories, there seemed to be a chivalry, an altruism, a romantic gallantry missing from today. Not altogether true, of course. What can I say? I started reading very young.

Of course, once I got to school, and later researched and really learned about the period, the reality of the hardships of life and the limited opportunities—especially for women, some of that romance dissipated. But the fascination with earlier times never faded.

Do any other time periods catch your fancy? Tell us about them and why.

Barbara: History was one of my minors in college. I’m interested so many periods, that question is difficult to answer in a short space, so I’ll just mention Greek and Roman–especially Greek. So many foundations of our own culture are found there, including Greek drama and dramatic structure (in college, I thought Aristophanes’ Lysistrata had a good idea for halting war). The Napoleonic years, also, I find interesting.

What else might we see from you in the future?

Barbara: Right now I have a sequel to Silverhawk with my editor. It’s Stephen and Evelynn’s story. I spent the last months getting it edited and revised. My WIP is a Regency, my other favorite period for my own writing. I’m looking forward to getting back to it.

Naturally, many of us here also love the Regency. The bio on your website indicates you’ve always loved reading. What was your favorite book or series growing up?

Barbara: I had no one favorite. Of course, Nancy Drew! One of my first memories of reading involves my sitting on my grandmother’s couch, absorbed in a book of fables and folk tales. All the pre-Disney, dark versions of fairy tales, written as cautionary stories for children? Scary.

I read everything I could get my hands on, including my uncle’s stash of very old Westerns (they were tame back then. I appreciated Luke Short’s economy of words.)

I had a similar book of fairy tales growing up, and I loved them. Anything else you’d like us to know about you?

Barbara: I’m the grandmother of a varied crew, including four teen-aged granddaughters. This summer I’ve re-discovered the calming effect of chocolate.

Thank you so much for hosting me today. I’ve enjoyed being here.

You’re quite welcome. And I’m sure we can all vouch for the calming effect of chocolate.

You can find Barbara at:



Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/barbarabettis

Twitter: @barbarabettis

Buy Link: http://amzn.to/1bQX3td

Barbara is offering a beautiful bookmark to one lucky commenter.

Scandalous Proposals—Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry Plantagenet

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an heiress in possession of enormous tracts of land must be in want of a husband. Or at least that was the universal truth during the high middle ages—to the point where such an heiress risked being abducted and forced to marry her captor so he could gain control of her property.


At the age of fifteen, Eleanor of Aquitaine became just such an heiress when her father died suddenly, leaving her in possession of a territory nearly 1/3 the size of modern France. But like his daughter, William X Duke of Aquitaine was  intelligent and left a provision in his will to ensure Eleanor wouldn’t fall prey to the first kidnapper who came along.

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Interview With Kim Rendfeld

Ash: Today, medieval author Kim Rendfeld has dropped in for tea. And when I say medieval, I’m talking Carolingian France. Tell us a little about your latest release.


Kim: The Cross and the Dragon, published by Fireship Press, is a tale of love amid the wars and blood feuds of Charlemagne’s reign. The heroine, Alda, is a young noblewoman who must contend with a jilted suitor bent on revenge and the anxiety that her beloved husband, Hruodland, will be killed in the coming war.


Ash: That is certainly off the beaten path, but as a former French literature major, I’m familiar with the legend. If I recall my classes, “The Song of Roland” is considered the first work of French literature, in that it exists in Old French as opposed to Latin. Tell us a bit more about the time period.

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Interview and Giveaway with Kris Kennedy

Kris Kennedy is here to talk about her latest release, DEFIANT. I loved this book! So did Publisher’s Weekly, who gave it a starred review, and All About Romance, who voted it as a Desert Island Keeper.

 Leave a comment and enter to to win one of two signed copies of Defiant! Winners will be announced on Sunday, March 4.

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