by Madeline Hunter)
Welcome to my new column at Happy Ever After! Twice a month, on the second and fourth Wednesdays, I'll be talking historical romances. We'll have news, reviews, interviews, and reader views, and sometimes my opinions. We are not going to be really strict about that "historical" label, at least the way it is used in marketing. Here, it will include pirate romances and sometimes time travels where characters go back in time. If the author has to build the story's world in an historical period, it fits.
Why do readers buy historicals by the armful? Lots of reasons, but for me one is the clothing. If you drooled over the costumes in The Tudors, Pride and Prejudice, Downton Abbey, and even Game of Thrones — join the club! We who love historicals love the clothes of yesteryear, the long white gloves, satins and lace, damask waistcoats, jeans and chaps and bare-assed kilts (and boots! All kinds of boots!). Anyone who as a little girl lusted after a Disney princess gown or who watches Project Runway as a guilty pleasure now — you should be reading historical romances.
Why name the column Romance Unlaced? Well, many of those old garments had laces that someone had to pluck loose, right? Preferably a handsome hunk of a lord or cowboy or laird or small-town hero with enough edge to make us breathless. Forget about how much trouble it was to get into some of those garments in reality. Definitely don't fret over how hard it was to get out. As long as the unlacing is done by the hero of the novel, it can take half a chapter as far as we are concerned. There is nothing like an historical romance for a long, slow, tantalizing tease.
Historicals are the romances that have the Once Upon a Time as well as the Happily Ever After. We step into another world as we read, a world with old-fashioned gentility and quaint technology, a world in which the hero better know his stuff because there are no cellphones for calling in backup.
So join me to talk all things historical in the months to come, and mark the second and fourth Wednesdays on your calendars. And if you have not read an historical romance in a while, check out the new releases that Joyce posts every week, too, or some of the authors mentioned below, and feed your imagination.
5 QUICK QUESTIONS FOR SABRINA JEFFRIES
Share one thing most readers do not know about your life.
Sabrina: I named my childhood cat Thomasina after the Disney film The Three Lives of Thomasina. I remember absolutely nothing about the movie, but I still remember my black and white spotted cat!
Do you write every day? Even on vacations?
Sabrina: Yes, I write every day. Some vacations are writing-free, some are not. It depends on where I am in my deadline schedule and how boring the vacation is. I did not, for example, write while we were in London. At all. About anything.
What is your favorite line from your new book?
Sabrina: "Her release hit her like lightning, splitting her present from her past in one blazing flash and hurtling her into the future." I was very proud of this line. Later, I saw a highlighted line from an Eloisa James book I'd never read and realized how similar they were, which dimmed my enthusiasm somewhat. I guess great minds think alike. Right? Right??
What is your guilty pleasure?
Sabrina: Pizza with everything on it, including anchovies. If it's good it's the kind that's really bad for you — lots of cheese and fatty meats — so I don't have it often.
What book by another author would you recommend to readers new to historicals?
Sabrina: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey. I find it very funny, and it turns some of the genre conventions on their heads. Plus, the hero is just fabulous! It's my favorite of the Malory series.
Sabrina Jeffries (When the Rogue Returns) is the NYT best-selling author of 36 historical romances and a self-proclaimed caffeine addict, Third Culture Kid, chocoholic, and jigsaw puzzle aficionado.
BEYOND HER MAJESTY'S SHORES
It may not seem like it at times when you browse stores or online, but there are historical romances being written that are NOT set in Great Britain. Let's broaden our horizons today and talk about some current Western/Americana authors and reads:
A few years ago when the word coming out of New York was no one could sell Western historical romances, the supremely talented Jodi Thomas kept hitting best-seller lists and winning RITA awards with them. She heads an anthology released in January, Boots Under Her Bed (what a great title!), in which she and three other authors — Jo Goodman, Kaki Warner and Alison Kent — serve up novella-length Westerns. Some of the best-loved Western tropes show up in these stories, all handled with originality, fun and aplomb by these first-rate writers.
Lori Handeland, also a multiple RITA winner, has turned her hand to Westerns, too, writing as Lori Austin. I asked her what she thought created the enduring appeal of Westerns. "The Western is a pure American art form. The West is the story of this country. Sometimes it isn't pretty, but it's always an adventure. Only the strong survived and their stories are action-packed, edgy and ours," she said. Her most recent western, The Lone Warrior, is all three of those things. It tells the story of Luke Phelan, rumored to have been both a Cheyenne captive as well as a Dog Man Warrior, and Rose Varner, whose courage in the face of every danger persuades Luke to grant her request to retrieve her kidnapped daughter from the Indians.
Deb Stover has a long and illustrious career writing romances, and they always touch the heart. Her recent release, Maid Marian and the Lawman, is a Western take-off on the Robin Hood story. Shane is the lawman from whom Marian wants to shield her brother Robin and the other assorted misfits for whom she cares. Things get complicated when Shane lands in her care after a rattlesnake bite.
Check out the trailer.
Callie Hutton's Emma's Journey takes place on the Oregon Trail. When Emma Thorpe's husband is killed on the wagon train to Oregon, she wants to return to Indiana, but she's forced to marry Wagon Scout Davis Cooper. He intends to make their marriage work; she plans to flee as soon as they arrive at their destination.
Merry Farmer's Fool for Love starts in Victorian England but moves to Montana when a ranch owner visiting across the pond rescues a lady by bringing her home with him. Eric believes Amelia holds the key to saving his beloved ranch and giving him the family he always wanted, but can he save her from the demons of her past without losing himself in the process?
Do you have a favorite Western romance? Leave a comment and recommend it to other readers!
TIDBITS FROM HISTORY
From the Times of London, October 1833: To all who require COPIES of LETTERS, ETC. — W. SQUIRE (late with Wedgwood) respectfully recommends the MANIFOLD WRITER, which having been before the public for more than 20 years, ... combining the important advantages of portability and secrecy. W.S. takes this opportunity to assure his friends that he has effectually removed three impediments to the more general use of this invention, vs, high prices, a smell proceeding from the copying paper, and the smearing of the carbonic paper ... portable ... its size and weight does not exceed that of a quarto church prayer book. Price 3 pounds, 15 s each.
Madeline says: This was a device that held an early form of carbon paper, which was the common means of making instant copies up until the invention of photocopiers in the second half of the 20th century.
New York Times best-seller Madeline Hunter is the two-time RITA-winning author of 24 historical romances. To contact Madeline about content for or in this column, please e-mail her at RomanceUnlaced@gmail.com. Due to the volume of mail, e-mails from authors may not be answered personally but all will be read.