Revisiting: Lusty Wenches and Hawt Spies–Loving the Historical

Photo by Alaska Dude

Photo by Alaska Dude

By Liz Everly

Note: This blog post is a reblog of one that I wrote some time ago. I’m running it again because I’m celebrating the fact that the historical romance I wrote has now found a home with Tirgearr Publishing. It turns out the Kemberlee Shortland, one of the owners of the company loves this time period in history as much as I do. You just never know, do you?  I’m thrilled to share this news with you. Please stay tuned for more details as they come along.

I’ve been thinking about historical romances ever since I read that Dear Author post about the death of them. Also, I sat in on the Shindig historical romance panel that included the RITA nominees. The Dear Author post was a topic of conversation.

I adore historicals. I wrote one several years ago and it’s one of my favorite books I’ve ever written—even if it’s never been sold. So many of us have books like this, don’t we? Books that we loved writing but just have not found a home yet?

A little about my own homeless historical

“Tempting Will McGlashen” is set in 1765 in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. This was the frontier. Roads were being blazed out of old Native American trails. People were seeking opportunity for more land at cheaper prices came to the Valley, mostly from Pennsylvania, which was becoming crowded and expensive.

Photo by OZinOH

Photo by OZinOH

My heroine is an innkeeper’s daughter and my hero a blacksmith that comes to work for her father. Both my agent and my current editor loved the book, but he could not get the rest of his committee on board. The main reason was that the time period and the place are just not easy to sell. (And would be even harder with a first time novelist.)

I’ve thought about self-publishing it—and I probably will at some point. But right now, I don’t have the time. (Kudos to those who can do it and do it well.) I’m writing two series and several blogs, and do have a life. (Imagine that.) But it’s a project that is very near and dear to my heart. I loved the research and the writing. And I keep the thought of doing something else with it tucked back in my mind.IMG_0269.JPG (1)

Mathilde, the innkeeper’s daughter , is second generation of German descent. She’s 20-years-old, loves to cook, and converse with the travelers who eat and stay at their “ordinary,” which is what inns were called in Virginia then. Oneof the reasons I set the book at in and ordinary is I wanted her to meet many people. She has a lively mind and when her father mentions that it’s time to consider marriage to a young man who owns a farm in Pa., she balks. She doesn’t want to be tucked away on a farm, and she can’t imagine marrying Joshua. But she tries to consider him because she’s a dutiful daughter. She goes along with her father up until a certain point.

In walks Will McClashen, fresh from Scotland, whose voice “sounds like song” and makes Mathilde’s heart race. Will has a few secrets of his own and knows that acting on this heated attraction with Mathilde might put his new job (and new life) in jeopardy with his new boss, her father. Where he comes from, marrying outside of your class is not done. And besides, as far as he knows,  Mathilde is going to marry Josh. So even though he has a burning desire for her, she is off-limits. Or so he thinks.

A little about the tension therein

Is there anything worse than wanting a lover you can’t have for whatever reason?

Photo by Happyhippysnacks

Photo by Happyhippysnacks

This kind of plot is not unique—feeling love and attraction for someone that society deems unacceptable. This convention exists is many, many romances. What makes each story unique is the setting and circumstances along with the characters, complete with their own foibles and quirks. And of course, the narrative the author place over that “structure.”

This scenario is even popular in contemporary romances. Think about  the colleagues who should not have an affair, or the boss and employee, and yes there’s definitely still “class” lines drawn in the sand, especially in other cultures. And let’s not forget the multicultural taboos. But all of those lines are more sharply dawn in historicals. And I wonder if that’s one of our fascinations with them. We also love history coming alive, imagining ourselves back then, how would we have reacted? What would we wear? What station of life would we be in? Would we be one of those who went against convention or would we have the courage to walk our own paths?

I think that good historical romance writers are some of the best writers. Think about it. Not only must they be accurate in the historical manner, but they also must bring some kind of modern sensibility to their storytelling or today’s reader could not relate. Achieving that balance in an artistic, yet readable  fashion is not easily done.

What do you think about historicals? Are they dying?

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  • cmkempe
    May 14, 2013 at 5:04 am

    I detest DA and all her sneering. As a horror writer I have laughed out loud every time soneone’s declared that vampire were completely dead — because just as surely thry rise again. I’ve just re-sold my historical THE MANGROVE LEGACY (written as Kit Marlowe) which will be out as an eBook later this year. Write what you want to write, it will find a home eventually.

  • LizEverly
    May 14, 2013 at 6:06 am

    Thanks, Margery. Congrats on that sale! I have hope for Tempting Will. I just have no time right now to pursue. But maybe next year. Fingers crossed.

  • LizEverly
    May 14, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Reblogged this on Liz Everly and commented:

    Loving Historicals

  • madelineiva
    May 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    There’s a difference between a form (like historical romances) and a formula (it’s always a duke, it’s always a marriage of convenience).

    I think that historical romance readers love the form but get tired of a very basic formula. So there’s that.

    However, I agree completely with Liz — some of the best of the best romance writers we have are historical romance authors. However, this can make it hard for new folks (perhaps with fresh voices and fresh plots?) to find room in the genre.

    Thank goodness for the wild and wooly world of indie publishers. They are not as constrained when it comes to writing a historical. They do not face the daunting task of ‘writing the same book all over again–only different’ that must madden so many successful authors.

  • lisawhitefern
    May 14, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I haven’t read the Dear Author post, but I am quite certain they are not dead. Historical paranormal doesn’t seem to sell well though unfortunately.

    • madelineiva
      May 15, 2013 at 7:25 am

      Really? Kristen Callihan does historical paranormal and I think she’s doing all right. But I bet there’s a historical romance audience out there that’s quite choosey about what they like and why they like it.

      I remember only a few years ago when I started writing romances and everyone was saying historical was dead then. Frankly I don’t know what they’re talking about.

  • LizEverly
    May 15, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Reading the blog post over, I wonder if what she mean is that she think “regencies” are on the way out. There’s only a few regencies I like. I’m really not into Dukes and so on. I do think that we’ve seen a lot of regencies. And I also think that sometimes when folks use the term ‘Historical Romance” they are meaning “Regency.”

    • Elizabeth Shore
      May 15, 2013 at 1:10 pm

      That’s a good point, Liz. Maybe they are referring to Regencies. However, author Elf Ahearn, who we recently had as a guest on Lady Smut, writes regencies and sold two of her four book series to Crimson. So who knows. I’ve got five (count ’em) FIVE fully completed historical manuscripts just sitting on my shelf collecting dust. I, too, have seriously thought about going the indie route. I love them and I just have to believe that there are others out there who’d enjoy them as well. I think Margery’s absolutely right. We need to stand by our writing and write what we want. Eventually it’ll find a home.

      • LizEverly
        May 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm

        Agreed! The indie route is looking better and better.

  • lisawhitefern
    May 15, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    I’ve actually read that a lot of agents are looking for strong non Regency historicals this year.
    At a conference two or three years ago an editor from Berkley was very discouraging about writing historical paranormal because she said it doesn’t sell, but that may have changed since that was 2 or 3 years ago.

    • madelineiva
      May 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm

      Elf Ahern’s got a real nice gothic twist to her regencies, so maybe some Regency with a kick is wanted. I’ve heard editors say they’d die to see something from the servant’s pov, or included as a story line.

      Those editors–they’re right until they’re wrong. Jeaniene Frost talked about how she was writing vampire paranormals and everyone was shaking their heads. No, no, no, they said. That was B.T. — Before Twilight. There you have it.

  • piperhuguley
    May 17, 2013 at 7:45 am

    I think my earlier comment was eaten up, so I am reposting. Just wanted to say that I love the sound of your story and I sincerely hope that you publish it someday. As I said in the comment to the DA post, I have not seen the love from agents that lisawhitefern speaks of, but despite that, I’m going to keep on and hope that my 20thc stories find a home somewhere–even if I have to provide it myself! Thanks!

  • LizEverly
    May 17, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Thanks so much, Piper! xo

  • Joan Defers (nsfw)
    May 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Historical have been reputedly “dying” for at least 20 years. I have a how-to book from 1988 that discusses their decline. I’m guessing that it has to do with comparing them to the Woodiwiss heyday.

    • LizEverly
      May 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      That’s funny–they were dying in 1988? Hmmm. Thanks for commenting!

    • madelineiva
      May 24, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      That’s too much Joan! 🙂


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