Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Longing for yesterday

There was a post recently on a message board I often visit with a two point question. The first question dealt with the vanishing romance books on the bookshelves and the second point dealt with the lack of interesting historical romances being published today. This is about the second part of the question.

I love Historical romance. It's the genre that gave me my love of romance books BUT the Historical Romances in particular English setting being published today, except for the increasingly rare cases are not the same as the historicals that were published a few years ago. Another poster said today’s historicals are boring. I can’t say that I find them boring as much as I find them completely forgettable. Many of the older historicals are unforgettable. Even though I read some of them years ago, if you were to ask me the basic storyline I would have very little problem coming up with it. Compare for example the books written by Celeste Bradley to Loretta Chase. I’ve read all the books in Ms. Bradley’s spy series and while I enjoyed them, for the life of me I can’t remember the storyline or the characters six months, even three months later. If I read the back blurb, if I rack my brain, I’ll remember something, but it hurts to do that. On the other hand, while I haven’t read Lord of Scoundrels for a couple of years now, I can still vividly recall the glove scene between Dain and Jessica, the scene where she gives him the icon, the boxing match and so many other unforgettable moments. Early Mary Jo Putney books, Julie Garwood (although she hasn’t stood the test of time with me, I still vividly recall many of her books). Just out of curiosity, I went to my spreadsheet, picked a random year over 5 years ago and here is a list of some of the books published that year:

No Sweeter Heaven – Katherine Kingsley
Then Came You – Lisa Kleypas
Whisper of Roses – Teresa Mederios
Thunder and Roses – Mary Jo Putney
Dangerous – Amanda Quick
Deception – Amanda Quick
Lady Defiant – Suzanne Robinson
East of Forever – Christina Skye
A Rose at Midnight – Anne Stuart
Shadow Dance – Anne Stuart
Once in a Blue Moon – Penelope Williamson

The year – 1993

Many of these books are considered classics and are still highly sought after today in 2005, twelve years later. How many books published in the past couple of years will still have the staying power of some of the above books? Not nearly that many I’m thinking.

I know there are a couple of reasons very little stands out these days. First of all is the quality of writing. It just isn’t there for the most part. Words and descriptions and character development have gone to the wayside in a lot of cases. Instead, they have been replaced ad nasuem by stories of spies, of dukes, of marquis, of rakes. Dain in FoS was a rake, but at least his character was developed. A lot of readers may not care for him but I bet they remember him. The exact same can be said for Jessica.
Quick question, no cheating, who was the hero of Bradley’s The Spy (2003)? Me, I have no idea. I know I read it. I can look it up and if I read the storyline, I can probably remember, but off the top of my head – nada. Next question. Who was the hero of Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale (1992)?
Another major factor in the decline of the historical is imitation. I know it is the sincerest form of flattery, but how many spies, rakes, Dukes of Dullsbridge, Marquis’ of Mundanehaven, Earls of Boredom are we expected to read and remember? I have just about reached my saturation point. I can count of the fingers of one hand, how many English historicals I can still count on to remember a year from now.I want this to change. I want to remember books published today five, ten years from now. But I don’t know if it will.


Jay said...

Just to play devil's advocate for a moment - couldnt the reason you remember Lord of Scoundrels so well be because it's one of your favorites? I'm not saying its not a book that stands the test of time, just that to use that as an example of an exceptional read might be somewhat skewered since you do love it so much.

I mean, Im not saying the current historicals are better or worse than the ones from a decade ago. I just wonder if the books you listed were considered (cult?) classics at the time they were released or if they gained classic status only with the passage of time. If so, who knows what's in store for the current crop.

Jay said...

ack! I meant skewed not skewered. I was thinking of shish-ka-bobs apparently!

Kristie said...

That’s a good point and there is definitely something to it. But one of the ways I can sort books is by years. When I look up books from the early to mid nineties, I remember so many more percentage wise than I do of many of the more recently published books. And I read many of them the year they were published, not just recently. I would put down the fact that I’m not remembering more recent books as well, to age and diminished brain cells J except that I do still remember a lot more of the older books. When you have close to 10 to 20 historicals in the past couple of years all dealing with spies, it’s hard to tell them apart after a while. I have enjoyed many of them, I’m not saying I don’t, I just don’t remember them later. Then again, maybe my brain is reaching it’s saturation point and is just too full.
And we will always have classics, from every year. It will be fun to see what the next batch will be!

Tara Marie said...

I think Jay is probably right in that you're kind of comparing apples and oranges. Books you love to books you enjoyed but are only memorable in the moment.

It almost seems like historicals have been homogenized to fit what the publishers think the market is looking for. So many romances are set in Regency England we start to confuse characters and story lines not just within an authors backlist but between authors in general.

Having said this and telling myself and anyone else who reads my blog that I was going to start avoiding Regency period books, I bought 4 more today. *hanging my head in shame*

CW said...

I agree. I haven't read many new historicals lately, but even Lisa Kleypas and Loretta Chase wrote my favorite books back when (DOY and LOS).

With LK's latest, I can't remember much about her similarly titled books. Chase's MW and MI were nice, but will they be as vivid and recallable as DOY and LOS down the road? I doubt it, as the main thing I remember from MW was the outrageous dowry (200,000 pounds? Unpossible!).