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.