Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Romance Unlaced: The Buzz About Historical Romance

by Madeline Hunter)

(Photo: Avon)

One of the perks of this gig is getting to play fan girl. So I asked Jo Beverley, one of my favorite authors, to do my quick interview. Read on, then check out my column's feature after her answers.


Q: Share one thing most readers do not know about your life.

Jo: I taught woman-centered childbirth classes for five years and have a particular interest in the history of childbirth practices.

Q: You have written traditional Regencies and Regency historicals. What do you find is the biggest difference besides length?

Jo: I think it's a spectrum, and that the lines on the spectrum are different for each author. One might vary her books only by sexuality. For another it could be period detail. For another it could be the amount of action/adventure and/or time away from the hubs of the ton. Or all of the above.

I have written a few trad shorts recently and enjoyed it. They take place within Regency society with characters who respect the social rules, including the sexual ones, and the stories have love stories and conflicts that grow out of the rules of society, so I suppose that's my angle.

Q: What is your favorite line from your newest book?

Jo: Lucy pursues David to Devon. "My aunt said that you´d fled London because we´d behaved improperly in that theater stairwell. That a gentleman would have to wonder whether such a lady would be a chaste wife."

David replies, "A gentleman would merely hope that the lady would be as improper as a wife."

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Jo: I don't do guilt, but if I were to squint in that direction, it's probably enjoying simple computer games like Zuma. But I regard such things as part of my hand-eye coordination workout. :)

Q: What book by another author would you recommend to readers new to historicals?

Jo: This is never easy, because all readers are different in their tastes. I'd recommend Mary Jo Putney's Thunder and Roses, because it has all the charms of good historical romance but a slightly different setting and tone, which might appeal to someone who's resisted historical romance thus far.

Jo Beverley is the best-selling author of 36 historical romances set in her native England and a member of the RWA Hall of Fame. In A Shocking Delight (April, available for pre-order now!) an impoverished earl seeks to marry Lucy Potter for her rich dowry, thinking her too feather-witted to notice that he's also a smuggling master. Big mistake. Find out more and read an excerpt at


Pirates, privateers, masters and commanders ….

Ya gotta love those seafaring alpha males

One of the first romances I ever read was a pirate romance. I have no idea why it caught my eye, since I am not a shiver-me-timbers kind of gal, and it was years before Johnny Depp made pirates so cool. Perhaps the notion of being trapped on the high seas, and deciding not to defend my virtue against a handsome, seductive rogue, spoke to the rebel in me.

Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in a scene from "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."(Photo: Stephen Vaughan, Disney Enterprises)

Ship-based romances are their own subgenre. The hero does not have to be a swashbuckling pirate, although they all tend to be collected under the name "pirate romances." He can be a privateer (a genteel, semilegal type of pirate working for one government. England's "privateers" were France's pirates, however, so the distinction was not worth a lot if the wrong side caught you), or even a sea captain performing the duties of war. The conventions are much the same, however — lots of water, confined conditions, sailing ships and rigging, often exotic locales but in the least varied ones, few women aside from the heroine, and a man who is in total command of his small, ocean-bobbing world, and who must be alpha to maintain his position.

A tight hold on command was critical for real pirates. The life of a pirate was perilous. Almost every country hanged pirates if they were caught. Of course, romance novels romanticize the great age of piracy. Most pirates were irredeemable scoundrels. Not OUR pirates, however. Ours are fascinating rebels, men with dark psychological scars, reckless adventurers, rebels with or without a cause, but always, always worthy of love by the end of the book.

"The Rebel Pirate" by Donna Thorland.(Photo: NAL)

I recently had the chance to read a novel that fits this category, although it is not typical. The shipboard adventures in it take place along the coast, not the high seas, and a lot of the story is on land. The Rebel Pirate by Donna Thorland came to me with a request for a cover quote. I don't have the time to do a lot of those, but this one arrived when I could find some time, and the book intrigued me. It is set on the eve of the American Revolution, a setting that does not get enough attention in historical romance these days. It is being marketed as mainstream historical fiction, but for all the well-handled intrigue and interesting plot, the primary question I wanted resolved involved the romance. I like the way Thorland opens the book, right in the action, and the way she develops the story. Her clean, efficient writing style really appealed to me, and I found the characters memorable. The rebel pirate in the title is … you will have to read the whole book to know! (Find out more at

For a first foray into pirate novels, you can't go wrong trying out Johanna Lindsey's Malory Series. The first one, Gentle Rogue, is a much-beloved classic, and many of the others in the series touch on seafaring and feature privateers.

A USA TODAY best-selling author who is very well known for her seafaring romances, Danelle Harmon has recently published a new one in her Heroes of the Sea Series, to her many fans' joy. In Lord of the Sea, the hero is an American privateer during the War with England of 1812, and he is sexy, swaggering, wounded, and carrying a secret that could unravel his life if it became known. This is a redemption story, in the best tradition of romance novels.

Another author of classic pirate romances is Marsha Canham, and hers are now available as e-books. Canham has written across the spectrum of historical romances, and some of her pirate romances even take place in the time of Frances Drake. These are for the lovers of swashbuckling adventure at its best.

"Wind Raven" by Regan Walker.(Photo: Boroughs Publishing)

Regan Walker is currently writing pirate romances. Wind Raven, her newest, features an English privateer on the prowl for a notorious pirate down in the Caribbean. The presence of hoyden Tara McConnell on his ship is the last thing he needs, but she will not deter him from his mission. She will, however, test his patience, and his willpower.

Jennifer Bray-Weber is also busy writing a pirate series full of swashbuckling men and strong women. You can check them out at


Shiver me timbers! The saying can be dated back to the 18th century and was used as a literary device for a pirate's exclamation. The timbers refer to the support posts on sailing ships. In bad weather the waves would raise the ships so much that when they fell the timbers would shake, or shiver, surprising or shocking the sailors. "Shiver me timbers" did reference nautical slang, but was mostly used in fiction and plays.

(And if you really like pirate stuff, remember that International Talk Like a Pirate Day is Sept. 19. Mark your calendar. )


• A new group site of 16 historical authors has just launched, named Embracing Romance. The authors represent a variety of heat levels and settings, everything from sweet to erotic, from the American prairie to Regency England to WWII.

• Another group site, The Jewels of Historical Romance, features 12 authors, many of them New York Times bestsellers. One of their giveaways is an anthology of favorite scenes by each author, so you can taste their work for free. They also host a salon on Facebook and have monthly contests.

• One of the longest-running group blogs of romance authors, the Word Wenches, features bestselling historical romance authors, including Jo Beverley.

USA TODAY and New York Times bestseller Madeline Hunter is the two-time RITA-winning author of 24 historical romances. Her next book, The Accidental Duchess, will be published June 3.