Monday, April 25, 2011

Reading ain’t what it used to be!


I was bored at work today – not much to do, half the staff off so I started pondering. When I first came back to romance reading, the historical was my bread and butter reads. I had no desire to read anything but historical – England only please. But I was a voracious reader and it wasn’t long before I exhausted most of the English set historical and began branching out into Medieval, Westerns, Colonials and stories set just before, during and after the Civil War. They were much easier to find back in the 90’s. Then I exhausted them and through Nora Roberts started consuming Contemporaries and Romantic Suspense through Elizabeth Lowell. But still, the English set historical was my first love and choice.

But over the years things have been slowly changing. My consumption of the historical has drastically gone down over the years; fewer every year, and my enjoyment of the contemporary and romantic suspense has gone up. Last year I read 33 Contemps and 23 RS but only 14 historical. And at least so far this year the trend seems to be continuing. In 2005, when I started tracking the number of books read, I read 32 historicals, 17 RS and 16 contemps. So you can see that it’s almost reversed itself in 5 years.

I’ve been wondering why this change around. I still love historical set in England and there are some authors I will continue to buy and to love in this genre. But as for trying new authors, not so much anymore in this area. Instead I’m more willing to try a new contemporary, RS or even paranormal author than a historical author. And I’ve come to a few reasons why this is

I’m older now than I was when I first came back to romance; older by about fifteen years or more. I just can’t relate to the angst that many a historical virgin 20 year old heroine goes through. As both sons have hit the 30 mark now (though amazingly I haven’t really aged) a woebegone heroine is getting further and further outside my relate zone. I’m one of those readers who really gets into characters and I don’t want to get into a very young miss anymore.

More and more I’m less drawn to a rich and titled hero. The dukes and the earls bore me. I just finished a wonderful little Western by Carina Press where the hero was a sheriff who wasn’t afraid to get dirty. Give me one of those types of heroes any day over a mamby pamby gent who gets his exercise in Gentleman Jackson or Jim (or wherever) boxing salon. I like a hero, who works for a living; who isn’t afraid of sweat and if he is going to fight with someone, I want it to mean something. While I haven’t filled out a lot of dating profiles *g* if I were, I would go for a blue collar work every single time over white collar. Ron was blue collar and that’s what I prefer.

I find the ‘entertainment’ aspect of historical a bore anymore. I don’t do the bar scene – and have not for a very long time now heh, heh. So the idea of a crowded ballroom gives me the willies. I’m getting more claustrophobic as the years go one so putting my feelings towards crowds into a book setting and I just can’t imagine the draw of the ball. Give me a good old fashioned barn dance after a good harvest any day. Or I’d rather see a ‘shoot ‘em up’ scene with terrorists – as long as it’s all fiction of course. I prefer the smaller towns you often read about in Contemporaries or the former military guy who is part of a group of ex-military who opened their own agency for the good of all. I even often prefer a good shape shifting wolf over a formerly pampered viscount who is also spying for the crown.

The lack of real angst in English set historical has also had an effect on me reading less of this genre. Where in the 90’s there was more drama, more variety, in current times the publishers seem to want to appeal to the broader audience who in some cases can have narrowed tastes. I’ve read on message boards where some readers don’t want their heroines to be experienced at all – thus the dreaded virgin widow. Also a great many readers prefer that the hero not have any kind of lustful feelings towards anyone but the heroine. I’ll be honest and say I prefer this myself, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker. I’ve read a few (older) historical where the hero was blatantly unfaithful and though I wasn’t pleased with the hero at all, at all, it wasn’t a deal breaker. But I think many of the NY publishers – one in particular, who shall remain nameless, try and avoid all controversy.

So while, as I said, there are some historical authors I will never give up and I still try new authors to the genre, historicals aren’t really the cupa they were a few years ago.

So, has anyone else gone through a similar transformation? Or are you still a dyed-in-the-wool historical reader? Do you read cross genres or just stick pretty much to one or two? Have your tastes changed over the years and if they have why do you think that is?

15 comments:

The Book Pimp Blogs said...

I used to read a lot of historical when I was younger, but you couldn't get me to read one now for anything. I'm all about RS and comtemps now. I'm not sure when it changed or why? At the end of the day, I just want to read a good, entertaining story that leaves an impression on me.

Lynne Connolly said...

Me too, me too.
I stopped reading so many because they just aren't historical any more. They don't reflect the real problems of the era, or the characters and expectations.
That means, for me at least, that they lack depth. Why not write about modern people instead? More and more the historical is about modern people in fancy clothes without cell phones and computers. It's not different enough any more, and it doesn't have the depth that you can find in other stories.
I'll carry on writing my historicals, but because I love writing them and because I enjoy the research. Not because they form the bulk of my sales any more. I must be mad.

Anonymous said...

I like RS too, but I think historicals will always be the greater part of romance fiction because they add to rather than detract from the fantasy of romance fiction. RS is okay because from the get-go it's a bit fantastic, but straight contemporaries require me, at least, to suspend disbelief beyond what I'm capable of. Cupid's arrow striking a heroine or hero seems far more likely somehow in the rarefied, mannered Regency world than in the 21st century.

Wendy said...

I read more category romance now. I've always read it - but it's definitely increased volume-wise. I've discovered this is just how I prefer my contemporary reads. In category format. With shorter word counts and an intense focus on the romance. So yes, I'm part of the problem when it comes to single title contemporaries not flooding the market :)

I still love historicals. What has changed there was that at one point I was so burnt out on anything remotely England that I avoided all English-set historicals. And by avoid I mean I read maybe one a year for 3 years running. But thanks to short-stories I've gotten back into them. But like Lynne, I need to be selective. Wallpaper didn't used to bug me, but the older I get, the crankier I get. So I try to steer towards historical writers that give me at least a hint of history :)

Romantic Suspense - I'm very selective here. Chalk it up to too many years as a mystery/suspense reader. There's nothing finer than a really great rom/sus read, but I'm very finicky about the suspense thread. I NEED a good suspense thread. I just do.

Paranormal = burn out. I'm doing what I did with English-set historicals years ago. I'm just not really reading them. A couple a year, tops.

Good post Kristie :) And A-to-frickin'-men on the blue collar heroes. More please.

Mollie said...

HAHA! I'm actually the complete opposite. I started with contemps and paranormals. But recently ALL I've wanted to read are historicals. However, I tend to shy away from the weak virgin heroines. I also like the TORTURED heroes (Broken Wing-style!).

I've recently read Lessons in French, Lord of Scoundrels, The Forbidden Rose, and loved them. Loved the Libertine's Kiss, Judith James' latest. I've been glomming the historicals recently. Currently reading Prelude to a Scandal by Marvelle. Liking it so far!

Anything contemp or paranormal haven't appealed to me. With the exception of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series... :).

My most recent post was soliciting suggestions for historicals that have the tortured heroes and fiesty heroines! Funny how our tastes change! :)

Kristie (J) said...

Book Pimp Blogs: I'll always have a fondness for England set historicals and writers like Lisa Kleypas and more recently Elizabeth Hoyt are 2 examples. And this applies 99% to English set. I still am ALWAYS on the lookout for Colonials such as those Pamela Clare writes for example. But the Lorraine Heath, Julia Quinn, Eloisa James etc - not for me hardly at all anumore.

Lynne: Very Good Point!!! I used to learn so much from Historicals but now it's very few authors who make you feel like you are in the times the book is set in. I don't think as many authors do their research like those of previous years. Of course there all still some authors that do. And those are the ones that keep me reading them.

Anonymous: I think they will too. They are more 'make believe' then RS or contemporaries. But I think part of it is my advancing age *g*, but the fairy tale aspect doesn't appeal to me as much as it once did. That's not to say I don't understand the draw of it for others and if one is fairly new to romance, it's a wonderful aspect to it. But 'princesses' are unrelatable to me anymore and even if I really do understand the appeal

Wendy: *g* as I'm just discovering the appeal of some of the series lines and I've really enjoyed all the Carina Press books I've read and they are shorter, I'm not complainin'. And I think the wallpaper of the wallpaper historicals has become blander - appealing more to the majority as I said in the post. I really like RS though I've noticed that it's a fine balance between the suspense and the romance - though if it doesn't balance then I like it better when it falls on the side of romance. I didn't come into them with a real background in suspense like you have - though I have read it in the past.
And while I like them, I haven't read a great many paranormals so I haven't burned out on them. But given a choice between a Western and a Paranormal say, it's not often I'll choose the paranormal.

Molly *laughing* A tortured hero is a tortured hero is a tortured hero and ALWAYS on the top of my list. But it's ever so much easier to empathize with the torturedness of Garbriel St Croix for example than a duke that lost his mom and his wife. Judith James is a great example of a historical write I will never give up and who makes you feel part of the landscape and times of her books (August, the release month of her next book I think, can't get here soon enough for me). And Laura Kinsale is a cut above many a historical author as are some others. Jo Goodman also comes to mind though her last two have been Westerns again (YES!!)
But I think too, that back when I came back to romance, historicals were more plentiful than the other genres - not that they still aren't - but I don't think there were as many RS, Contemps back then. And that was long before the Paranormal craze - though I do remember reading a few vampire romance by Linda lael Miller and Maggie Shayne.
But when I'm in a book store anymore, my eyes go first to the RS etc rather than the historicals.

Sunita said...

I could not agree more; great post, KristieJ!

I posted about this a few days ago, but in the context of Agency pricing and how it makes me less willing to read same-old, same-old and non-autobuy authors in historical. Carina has been great for branching out. And I read a lot of categories, way more than I used to.

You and I are about the same age, I think, and when you've read as long as we have, it's hard to keep reading the same thing unless it's really really good. And no genre is all really, really, good. Sigh.

RRRJessica said...

Great post! What is the title of that Carina Western? I want it NOW!

nath said...

Hey Kristie :)

I'm like Mollie. I started off with contemporary and then paranormals... and after that, historicals ^_^; And seriously, the reason I read so much historicals is because so many of them are published!!

You know how some books start trend? Well I think that's what happened with England historicals. Some book or author was probably a big hit, romance readers started reading so many historicals and so, everyone jumped on the England historicals bandwagon... and the problem is they stuck to what worked... Especially Avon ^_^;

Ah well, I have to say, I still enjoy England historicals - much more than any others ^_^; However, I'm much more picky as well :P

Kristie (J) said...

Nath: I'm curious - since you are - well let's say 10 years younger then me (ROTFL) do you think part of the reason why you enjoy historicals more than I do these days is because you can relate more to the heroine because of their younger ages than me? I think I enjoy contemps & RS more these days does have a lot to do with my senior years

Jessica: The Western in question is The Outlaw Bride by Kelly Boyce (from Carina Press) Hopefully I'll have a review of it soon - but I'm so far behind on them.

Sunita: *laughing* Well, I'd say the Western is really, really good - but I'll confess, I have read some duds in that genre too. I'm not too affected by agency pricing since I still buy print books too and if an ebook and a print book are the same price, I'll just buy it in print. What I do like though are the wider choices in ebook publishers. And at least with epublishers (now that I have TWO different devices to read on) they are less pricey than their print cousins.
And I've been reading more category too - partly because I'm reading more contemporaries and that's what a lot of them are.

orannia said...

What I read has definitely changed. If the back cover summary mentions fiesty, beautiful, spies, revenge, etc. I won't pick it up. I prefer unconventional heroines...the Plain Jane type :)

Question. Have you tried Deanna Raybourn? Silent in the Grave is brilliant IMHO. It's historical (Victorian) suspense with a hint of romance :)

Kristie (J) said...

Orannia: I've heard such great things about Ms Raybourn so yes, I do have the first in the series although I'm not exactly sure where it is at the moment and I haven't read it yet, but I will when I come across it again.
And yes to the feisty. That usually just means silly doesn't it?

nath said...

Age could be a factor, Kristie. I have to admit I tend to like heroines who are in their 20-30s...

Karen said...

I'm kind of running out of categories I really like these days. I will admit to being 55 years old and have read romance in all it's permutations thru the years.

It's been a long time since I have really liked a Regency era romance, Courtney Milan comes to mind as one I liked. I think I've met just about everybody in the ton by now and have 'been there done that' with any type of scandel, character or setting.

Oddly enough, I am really into Steampunk these days - something I never would have guessed about myself. I think that is in response to trying something new.

necklace said...

I think our entertainment interests have changed. There may have been a time when we read for entertainment, but now moveis fulfil that need for many people. I personally find reading non-fiction books to be more interesting