Today in the world of Romance, Paranormal is queen. I don’t know who started it, Stephanie Meyers or Sherrilyn Kenyon or even Anne Rice. Whoever gets the credit, the Romance world is awash in vampires, shape-shifters, and even angels these days.
But it wasn’t always this way. Oh no. In fact, Paranormal is a brand new baby sub-genre in the grander scheme of things. Long before there was Bella Swan there was Elizabeth Bennett, Jane Eyre, and even Scarlett O’Hara. There was a time when the art of seduction was a slow dance at a formal ball, a stolen glance from a theater balcony, or a letter written in the dead of night and delivered by a footman. There was a time when the touch of a gloved hand revealed more than any howling at the full moon.
Okay, okay, I hear you saying it. I hear you say that you love your vampires and werewolves. I hear you saying that history is that stuffy collection of names and dates that old Mrs. Winterbottom made you recite in high school. Who wants to relive all that when the heroine can have superpowers?
My friends, you don’t know what you’re missing.
And so, to tempt your tastes and tickle your imagination, I present you with five reasons why you should be reading Historical Romance.
1. It’s better than any History class
Think history is all about boring kings and battles and oppressed women? Think again! Yesterday’s tabloid gossip is the stuff of today’s textbooks. Scandals abounded in the past. Men had very public mistresses and women rocked the social and political world. In some centuries laws reduced women to no more than property, but in other eras women had as much equality as they do today. And there’s no telling what went on between a man and a women behind closed doors. Historical Romance fills in those blanks with delicious detail.
I had a fellow writer remark to me once that he was shocked and amazed at how accurate and well-depicted history is in Historical Romance. It’s what you learned in school with breasts and hips and sinew. Historical Romance writers go to great lengths to make sure that what you’re reading is as true and vibrant as possible. Because every second of history was filled with personality and longing, action and sex. You’ll never look at your old family pictures the same way!
2. Nothing says sexy like a corset
Let’s face it, the modern world leaves nothing to the imagination. The modern world has no imagination. “Wham, bam, thank you ma’am” is a modern invention. But when a modern vixen wants to get schmexy what does she put on? A bustier. And what is a bustier but a nylon corset?
Corsets were meant to shape and lift. Yeah, sure, they were there to make a lady’s waist small, but more than that they the ultimate push-up bra. A corset is a garment that constricts while it reveals. It hides and displays all at once. And that’s just what you’ll find in a Historical Romance heroine.
The act of removing a corset is as much a metaphor for sex as the act itself. The breathless anticipation, the straining against bonds until the heroine feels she is about to burst, and the ecstatic relief that comes as the last clasp pops and the flesh is free to be kissed and caressed. It’s like opening a present on Christmas morning. The shiny layers come off revealing the pulsing prize beneath.
Give me a book where the hero has to quest his way through corset closures to claim his prize any day!
3. Less is More
Where is the romance in a modern world where we list everything on eHarmony and make spreadsheets of the profiles we study to find “true love”? How satisfying is it really to notch up your bedpost looking for that one man who will be there in the morning? Is it the obvious we’re after or is it the hint of what might come?
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The juiciest parts of a good Historical Romance are not laundry lists of positions and speed and friction. They are the glances across crowded ballrooms, the inappropriate lingering of fingers at the crook of an elbow. A tender press of lips against the back of a slender neck in a dark garden carries far more titillation than the full monty.History was a subtler time, a suggestive time, a naughty time. A hero in a Historical has to be clever to seduce his heroine in a world where the strictures of society prevent him from walking right up to the girl and hitting on her. But does that mean he’s less masculine? Oh no! Quite the contrary. Because….
4. Tight breeches hide nothing
Historical Romance is packed floor to ceiling with some of the most sensual alpha males you’ll ever want to meet. And the clothes men wore back in the day were tight. Whether he’s wearing medieval chausses or 19th century breeches, men’s clothes left nothing to the imagination. Muscle, sinew, and a whole lot more were right there on display. We’re talking some serious eye candy here! In the wild it is the male of the species who has the brightest feathers. The same goes for History.
The past was also a world without texting, without Facebook, and where you could find yourself engaged to a girl if you looked at her wrong. So men had to become the masters of the stolen glance, innuendo, and unspoken, radiant heat. Historical Romance heroes ooze sex out every pore while gliding seamlessly through the steps of a formal dance. They whip out their swords and show their power through action. Oh, and they occasionally fight duels too.
And it might do to remember that this is the world that your Paranormal vampires come from. Everything an immortal hero learned about seducing a woman he learned in the past. Why not take a ride back to his origin to find out what formed him?
5. There’s something for everyone
The sheer variety of Historical Romance, the depth and diversity of all of history, means that no matter what your fancy there’s something for you. I’ve read pirate romances, Regency romances that take place in the city and in the country, and Georgian romances. I write medieval romance and western romance. There are Historical Romances that take place in England, in Scotland, in early America, Ancient Rome, feudal Japan, and everything in between. You name it, we’ve got it. And that’s not even counting time-travel romances or steampunk!
So if you think Historical Romance isn’t your thing, if you think that Paranormal is the only thing that will give you a thrill and make your heart beat faster, maybe it’s time to reconsider. If it’s action you want, adventure you crave, it’s all right there. If you like tales of suspense mixed in with your love story, yep, we’ve got that. And we know how to bring the Happily Ever After and bring it in style!
Don’t know where to start? There are scads of brilliant Historical Romance novelists out there. Some of my absolute favorites are Elizabeth Hoyt (her novel The Leopard Prince is my favorite romance ever), Lisa Kleypas, Elizabeth Boyle, and Julia Quinn. Those are just some of my favs. Who are yours?
Please leave a comment so that the uninitiated reading this will know who their next favorite author is.