Nothing But Romance Series
A Romantic History by Lynne Shelby
A boy and a girl grow up together in the country and fall in love. He is lured away by a sophisticated woman from the city, she is pursued by two other men, but eventually the young couple get back together and marry. It sounds like the plot of a romantic novel – and it is – but this particular book, ‘Daphnis and Chloe,’ was written in ancient Greece, around 1,800 years ago. Unsurprisingly, as they were written on papyrus scrolls, only five romantic novels have survived from that time, but I like to imagine that the ancient Greeks, when they weren’t inventing politics, philosophy and maths, liked nothing better than to settle down with a cup of wine and a good romance!
Skip a few centuries to the Middle Ages, and people were still reading or listening to love stories, particularly tales of heroic knights rescuing damsels in distress and winning their love. The epic poems and other fiction of Medieval times aren’t ‘novels,’ as we think of them today, and they have far fewer happy endings than we might like, but they are certainly romantic, and the names of the couples whose often doomed love affairs are told by Medieval authors are still well known – think of Tristan and Isolde or Lancelot and Guinevere.
Another popular romance was that of Troilus and Cressida, which takes place against the background of the Trojan War. In the 14th Century, Chaucer, better known as the writer of the ‘Canterbury Tales,’ wrote a version of this story, ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ in which the hero doesn’t believe in love – until he sees the heroine. He falls for her, she falls for him, there is an exchange of love letters, a night of bliss, mistaken jealousy – all the ingredients of a romantic novel, although, sadly for a modern reader, the story does not end well.
Love stories have been told and retold for centuries, but the first romantic novel in the modern sense, ‘Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded’ by Samuel Richardson, written entirely from the heroine’s POV, was published in 1740. In the novel, Pamela Andrews, a young serving maid, constantly fights off the attempts of her master, Mr B, to seduce her, and he eventually rewards her virtue when he proposes. Back in the 18th Century, marriage between a lower class maid and a landowning squire was considered shocking, and Pamela has to wait for her happy ending until Mr B’s family accept her as his wife. More shocking to modern readers is the fact that Mr B appears to be a serial sexual predator, but in its day the novel was a huge success – there were even playing cards and ladies’ fans printed with scenes from the book.
Half a century later, in 1811, Jane Austen published ‘Sense and Sensibility,’ the first of her six books that were to ensure the continuing popularity of the romantic genre and inspire romantic novelists right up to the present day. The romance between the feisty Elizabeth Bennet and the proud Darcy, an iconic alpha hero if ever there was one, in ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ their love overcoming the obstacles of her prejudice and his pride, has surely influenced most romantic novels that have been written since.
Fast forward to the 20th Century, when, with mass market books readily available to all, and the publishers Mills & Boon starting to sell books in newsagents and supermarkets, the popularity of romantic fiction continued to grow.
In 1919, ‘The Sheik’ by E M Hall became a best-seller. Again, modern readers would find much of the plot, in which the hero rapes the heroine, completely horrific, but back then, the book’s extraordinary success led to it being made into a film starring heartthrob of the day, Rudolph Valentino, that broke box-office records.
Much more palatable to modern readers, are the books of Georgette Heyer. Her first novel, The Black Moth, published in 1921, was set in the 1750s, but she is still best known for her popular Regency romances, that with their impeccably researched historical background, essentially created and established the historical romance.
Another book that had a lasting influence, is ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ by Helen Fielding. Published in 1996, this novel, inspired by ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ was one of the first books to be described as chick-lit, and with its hapless yet likeable heroine, it certainly set the tone for many rom coms written since.
And no look back at 20th Century romantic fiction would be complete without mention of Dame Barbara Cartland, one of the most prolific and commercially successful romantic novelists of all time, with 723 books published between 1925 and the year 2000.
Times change, and today’s romantic novels have evolved to reflect the 21st Century lives of their readers. Sweet young innocent heroines who resist the advances of overbearing males have given way to independent women of all ages, with careers and past relationships. What hasn’t changed, is the love story at the heart of the book.
About The Author
Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance, and her new novel, The One That I Want, is published on 26 July 2018. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city – Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Reykjavik – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.
There are many reasons why I love reading and writing historical novels. Firstly, I love history. Secondly, I am just a big softie and like nothing better than a Happy Ever After ending. I should like, therefore, to say a big thank you to Frankie for inviting me to contribute to her blog.
I began by making a list of things which draw me to my favourite era, the Regency. As it grew, just for fun I thought I would make it a Romantic Fiction ABC. Here, then, is my Top Twenty of why I love Historical Romance novels.
I just love Georgian architecture, whether as a London town house or a beautiful country mansion. There is something hugely romantic about the arrangement and shape of windows, pediments and porticoes; of marbled floors and the symmetry of rooms around a central entrance hall; of rococo plaster work on ceilings and mantelpieces, and – far from least – the glorious richness of murals and ceiling paintings.
Breeches and Top-boots
Some ladies find attraction in Giorgio Armani, Gucci and Boss. Not so this romantic author. For me, men in breeches, neckcloths and elegant coats, with top-boots or Hessians, have a swoon factor the half-naked men depicted on some modern covers just don’t have (not that I don’t appreciate a manly chest, you understand!) The sight of Richard Armitage’s Mr. Thornton will always win the heart over his be-stubbled Guy of Gisburne. Although… ahem.
There is just something about a four-in-hand and a beautifully turned out equipage that modern cars cannot emulate. Although they were nowhere near as comfortable to travel in (and I appreciate many will disagree with me), cars have nothing to compare with the jingle of harness, the stamp of a shod hoof, the snort of the proud ‘cattle’ poled up. Flying feathers, tossing manes, swinging tails; the glorious, pungent smell of sweat glistening on warm equine hides… ah, sweet bliss to the horse fan!
Dresses and Drawers
What can be more romantic than beautiful gowns with frills and flounces? I will confess they have never been my idea of comfortable clothing, but I love to see them and certainly wouldn’t mind possessing an elegant riding habit. I love to read a book where the author has taken the trouble to describe what characters are wearing. For me, that is part of the magic of historical fiction – to be carried away to another time, to escape reality for a while. I hope I succeed in sweeping my readers away to the world my characters inhabit.
The Georgian era is renowned for its elegance. Georgette Heyer’s heroes appreciate a well-turned ankle, do not leer over some Page 3 girl. Beautiful porcelain, cut glass and tableware; delicate fans, with their own discreet language; pretty frills and fichus; embroidery, lace and silks; the smooth rotation of a perfect waltz… the instances are many. When I have time, reading a well-written novel or watching an historical drama takes me away from the ordinariness of everyday 21st Century life and allows me the illusion such elegant living has not gone for good.
Having longed for a Hygena bedroom in my youth, I now appreciate the beauty of hand-crafted wood and especially that of the Georgian age. I love most old furniture, even utility stuff made during WWII. I should love to have a big kitchen with Welsh dressers, solid oak tables and cupboards. Part of the romance of the Regency era, though, is the elegant mahogany and marquetry you find in many a National Trust property. One day, I have promised myself, I will have Georgian-style winged armchairs and elegant side-tables!
Georgette Heyer is the reason I am writing this blog. Had it not been for discovering her books when I was about eleven or twelve, I probably would not be where I am today. She is the Queen of Regency and although she dismissed her novels as ‘fluff’, you would be hard put to find better written romantic novels. I love her style and wit, her masterly descriptions and the sense of fun her novels convey. When you laugh out loud at a book, it can only be a winner. May I proffer humble thanks, ma’am.
I admit it. I am a sucker for a happy ending. While there can be an emotional satisfaction in a sad conclusion to a story, if that is what the plot demands, I do like to see my characters happily settled at the end of a novel and I prefer to read books with either a happy ‘ah’ ending or a witty one. Georgette Heyer was particularly adept at the latter and it always left me with a warm feeling. I try to do that with my own stories, because romantic historical fiction should be about escapism. We have enough reality in this modern world.
I love visiting a stately home and seeing a room decorated as it would have been in eras gone by. It is fascinating, especially when it is done in Regency style. Old buildings have an amazing atmosphere. Although a ruin, Witley Court in Worcestershire has the most wonderful feel of secrets and ghosts from times long past. Many years ago I was lucky enough to visit Salzburg in Austria, where the fortress is alive with the spirits of previous centuries. (No, I’m no madder than any other writer, honest!) I try and convey this to my readers through my writing, because for me, romance is not only about the love story.
What Regency author doesn’t love Jane Austen’s works? She was, of course, writing about her own time and did not invent the Regency genre. Georgette Heyer can be credited with that. However, Jane has bequeathed us so many gems of insight, custom and historical detail. From her works we know the modern delight in contracting words in dialogue (one of my bête noirs in historical novels) is not accurate. She gave us the wicked romp in Lydia and the serene beauty in Jane. She gave us the intelligent, independently minded heroine in Elizabeth and the interfering one in Emma. She also gave us the toe-curling Mr. Collins, the wonderful Colonel Brandon and the worst marriage proposal in English literature! Thanks to Auntie Beeb and Andrew Davies, though, I can no longer read Pride and Prejudice without thinking of Colin Firth and that scene…
Love. One of the strongest emotions, it comes in so many forms: Love of life, a subject, a place, a view; love of family, of friends, of pets… and of that one special person in your life. Love is all you need sang the Beatles and they weren’t far wrong. Love makes the world go round. Within the pages of novels from the Circulating Libraries, ladies of the Regency found solace from their humdrum lives and loveless marriages. Nowadays, we buy romance novels by the zillion, just for the sheer pleasure of that perfect, joyful connection with another person. There are few more satisfying feelings than reaching the end of a wonderful book with a happy ending. That warm, fuzzy sensation is love in itself.
Manners and Courtesy
I am a traditionalist, and appreciate it when a gentleman holds open a door for me or a child says please and thank you. I’m aware I am a dying breed and yes, I am perfectly capable of opening my own door, but it is nice to have it done for me. It is nice when a gentleman helps you out of a car (or down from a carriage!) It is nice to be escorted on a proffered arm and treated with old-fashioned courtesy. It is particularly nice when the gentleman next door mows your front verge with his ride-on mower to save you having to struggle with your old electric one! I love that about Regency novels, that even when people were insulting each other, it was couched in such a manner as to be civil, rather than screaming abuse heavily littered with profanity.
There have been lots of great names throughout the centuries which are now virtually obsolete. Joscelin, for a man, is one of my favourites and finally found its owner in the hero of Carpet of Snowdrops. There is a certain romantic beauty in many old names, I feel… although perhaps not Godfrey, Wat or Alf!
Heroines must have something about them. They must be strong and engaging and preferably have some trait or quirk which makes them unique. That strength need not mean they are independent and headstrong, but that they can deal with whatever ‘life’ throws at them in a fashion which is enjoyable to read. They must also behave in a manner befitting the era they live in. If a Regency heroine talks and behaves in the manner of a modern miss, it throws me out of the story. It is part of the charm and romance of an historical novel to discover how the heroine can claim her hero without overstepping the bounds and mores of the time.
Posting Houses and Coaching Inns
I just love old inns, especially if they still have their original stable yards! I am fascinated by the history of them; the stories of past landlords and noble (or well-known) patrons, of smugglers and highwaymen, of ghosts and crimes. I am also fascinated by the growth of such buildings and how they became famous. Romance comes in so many forms.
Rakes and Rogues
What reader of historical romance doesn’t love a rake or a rogue? With a nod to Frankie, this article would not be complete without them! I admit I do have a soft spot for one – provided he has some redeeming features, loves his lady and is reformed (or at least faithful) by the end of the book. He must be tender as well as masterful and recognize his shortcomings. After all, a gentleman with experience is better set to please his bride! Perhaps my favourite literary rake is Damerel in Georgette Heyer’s Venetia.
Well-written and well-researched novels are a fascinating window on the way people lived in a previous time – and what a great way to learn! This is one of the best of the many facets of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen novels: the historical detail. I love to know what people ate, drank, slept in, sat on, used, wore and did for recreation and entertainment. I’m just a nosey so-and-so!
As a horse lover, a visit to London isn’t complete without a look-in at Hyde Park Corner and a walk down Rotten Row. The most famous horse sales and bloodstock agency in the world began life here, founded in the 1770s by Richard Tattersall. The Duke of Kingston’s former groom and trainer rented land behind St. George’s Hospital, close to the Corner. It quickly became the place to be seen among gentlemen with an interest in equestrian matters, as well as the place to buy and sell horses. A weekly sale was held and ‘Black Monday’ became the not always humorous nomenclature for Settling Day. It meant the ruin of many an aristocratic name. Tattersall’s is one of the must-see places for young Johnny Raws from the country in any Regency novel.
What can be more romantic than a trip down the river to Vauxhall for the characters in an historical novel? Picture the shadowed paths, the tree-lined walks, the music playing and figures bedecked in their finery, flitting like butterflies and chattering like sparrows. It is the perfect setting for a clandestine meeting, a risqué masquerade or an elegant concert followed by supper and a romantic walk along the lantern-lit paths. Such intrigues can be envisaged, such dastardly actions performed, and all for the stroke of pen or press of keypad… Vauxhall was made for romantic fiction!
Of all the elements of good Regency fiction, possibly the one I like best is the witty dialogue. While Jane Austen had an acerbic wit, Georgette Heyer was the grande dame of the concept in her novels. I laugh aloud when I am reading her books and that does not happen with many authors. I love it when I find someone who writes with that same sense of humour. Of course, beside JA and GH, the rest of we poor mortals can but aspire.
This is one of my favourite quotes and comes from Faro’s Daughter, first published by Wm. Heinemann Ltd. in 1941.
“You will find it very inconvenient to keep me in your cellar indefinitely, I imagine, but I must warn you I have not the smallest intention of leaving it, except upon my own terms.”
“But you cannot let the race go like that!” cried Deborah, aghast.
“Oh, have you backed me to win?” he said mockingly. “So much the worse for you, my girl!”
© Heather King. All photographs © Heather King, Other images Public Domain
About The Author
Heather King has made up stories since she was a small child. History lessons at school were rarely dull and the discovery of Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels in her early teens set her on a lifelong love of that era. A confessed romantic and bookworm, writing gives her a chance to indulge all these passions – and call it work!
She has her own voice, but likes to follow traditional Regency precepts and pen uplifting stories with witty dialogue, engaging characters and bags of emotion.
Visiting her Dark Side as Vandalia Black, she writes Vampire and Paranormal romance. She is the author of ‘Vampires Don’t Drink Coffee and Other Stories’ which includes a novella set in the English Civil War.
When not looking after her two hairy ponies, three cats and boisterous Staffie X, or frowning over keypad or notebook, she likes nothing better than to curl up with a good book.
Comparison between Writing Romance and Reading Romance
by Jenna Hines
Why I Love Romance:
Romance is a means of escape. It can give us hope and comfort and allows us to disappear into another world. To forget for a short time, our daily commitments.
I have been reading Romance all my life, which spans more than sixty years. My writing of Romance, however, only covers the last fifteen of those years.
First, let me tell you why I read and write Romance. Simple, I am a born Romantic and love a happy ending. Romance is very important to me as it has always formed part of my life. I fell ‘in love’ for the first time at the tender age of fourteen and the romantic notion of being with ‘The One’ has stayed with me forever, even though sadly, my first love remained a part of my past! I have kept my romance alive with each relationship I have been involved in, but alas many times it has not been reciprocated. I still live in hope! I have learned that being romantic helps me to get through all the ups and downs life throws at us. As I said before I am a born Romantic and have a tendency to look at life through those proverbial ‘rose tinted’ spectacles!! I will continue to read and write Romance as I believe one can truly be embroiled in it!
Here are my comparisons using a chart showing, for ease of demonstration, the two main characters who are romantically involved; How I read about them and how I would write about them. Each point showing the difference.
A. I lose myself in the characters who are romantically involved and build up a picture of them in my mind.
B. I automatically relate to the ‘couple’ who are romantically together.
C. I become engrossed in the couple I am reading about and wrapped up in their journey.
D. When the couple has a disagreement, I wonder why and try to understand the reason for the fallout.
E. When the couple ‘make-up’ I am engrossed in the process.
F. If one half of the couple is interested in a.n. other I read on to see what will happen.
G. For the final romantic passages. I read on enthralled.
A. I manipulate the characters to become romantically involved. Sometimes they manipulate me! I describe each one in detail to give the reader an insight into how they look and act.
B. I ensure the ‘couple’ come together by showing/telling the reader how.
C. I develop the couple and make sure the reader is engaged in their journey together by my description.
D. If the couple has a falling out I explain why to the reader by adding dialogue; maybe in the form of an argument.
E. When the couple re-engages, I elaborate on how and why by explaining to the reader the circumstances of making up and the reasons why.
F. For the one who is unfaithful, I describe the ‘other’ person and describe how and why they got to this point.
G. A smooth ending is described by me in detail on how the characters reach the finale of their romantic journey.
About the Author
A born romantic, Jenna Hines has finally followed her dreams. As a child she spent all her spare time in the public library, engrossed in stories of romantic fiction that enthralled her. In her early teens she craved to write her own stories, but it was much later in life that Jenna found the opportunity to fulfil her ambition. Victorian/Edwardian history had always captivated her. She re-familiarised herself with the era and began a new career, writing romantic stories set in the periods.
I’ve always adored romance books. Right from the moment I picked up my first one at twelve I’ve been hooked. Fabulous Harlequin Mills & Boon authors like Nora Roberts and Penny Jordan took me to imaginary places and made me best friends with the characters they created. By the time I left school, I had a secret dream to write them one day. I never dared tell anyone because I’d have been laughed at. Girls like me didn’t become authors.
However, as time went on and I read more books than I dare count, that dream became more insistent. After years working in the media I switched careers and became a history teacher. A little while later, I picked up my first regency romance and it was magical. Dashing men in boots and breaches, feisty heroines who gave them a run for their money, rich period detail- what wasn’t to love? There and then I decided if I ever wrote a book, it would be a historical romance.
Three years ago, I finally plucked up enough courage to quit my job and follow my dream, then spent the next year writing three books. Not one was good enough to be published but those stories allowed me to teach myself how to write well. My fourth attempt felt different from the outset. Special. The characters spoke to me and the story flowed. I never plotted a single paragraph, instead I listened to their voices and wrote what they wanted me to write. I finished it in just five weeks and plucked up the courage to send it to Harlequin Mills & Boon. In May 2016, That Despicable Rogue became my debut novel.
It soon became apparent that not only could I not plot to save my life, but that I am prolific. All those years of daydreaming meant my odd mind has no trouble concocting characters, and once I introduce the characters to each other, they decide the direction of each book. I am currently writing my eighth Regency for Harlequin, something which I know is mad seeing as my first book only came out eight months ago, and each has been completely different. The only similarities have been my feisty heroes, even feistier heroines and the bursts of humour which spill naturally out of my pen. I call them Regency Romantic Comedies. So far, I’ve written about kidnapping, war, family feuds, a pair of talking horses, a foolhardy wager, four gorgeous brothers and the murky world of smugglers. I’ve been inspired by Shakespeare, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Hollywood musicals, a history documentary and a door knob. Yes, you did read that right! It was hanging by a thread on my daughter’s bedroom door because she has a tendency to flounce and slam said door. In my odd mind, in walked a tall, feisty yet sensitive heroine and Her Enemy at the Altar was born.
There’s another sibling series lurking in the queue behind the smugglers. Alongside Oscar Wilde. I’m thinking I might write that series as an homage to his genius. The first book will be my twist on The Importance of Being Earnest…
About the Author
As she got older, the stories became more complicated, sometimes taking weeks to get to the happy ending. Then one day, she decided to embrace the insomnia and start writing them down.
Fortunately, Harlequin Mills and Boon saw some potential in her stories and decided they would publish them. So far, she has been commissioned to write ten books for their Harlequin Historical series. Her first Regency Romance, That Despicable Rogue, was published in May 2016, and since then she hasn’t stopped writing. Her 3rd book, The Discerning Gentleman’s Guide was shortlisted for a RONA (Romantic Novel of the Year Award).
After the success of her Wild Warriners quartet, she is currently working on her second series for Harlequin Mills & Boon Historical- The Kings Elite- which should hit the shelves in the Summer of 2018.
She would love to hear from you on either Facebook or Twitter, especially if you love history as much as she does, and promises to try to remember to Blog about something interesting every month.
A former history teacher and enthusiastic tea drinker, Virginia lives near London with her wonderful husband and two teenagers. When she is not making up stories of her own, Virginia likes to travel to far off places, shop for things she doesn’t need, walk her beloved Labrador Trevor and read other peoples’ stories.
Despite all of that, it still takes her forever to fall asleep.
I have decided that I am going to start a new series of guest post’s, it’s called “Nothing but Romance” and it is going to be exactly that, an whole range of posts about Romance. Romance itself is such a diverse topic it can cover so many different angles, and you can enjoy romance in so many different forms everything from reading, listening to music and watching films and TV shows. Then there is how romance makes us feel and how romance is so important to have just a sprinkle of romance in our lives. We really don’t celebrate and talk about romance enough, and how it can be so beneficial for us so this is what my Nothing but Romance series is about.
So ‘Nothing but Romance’ is open for all that love Romance and you are a Reader/Reviewer or Author then this is open for you. All posts will be added to the Nothing but Romance page, for everyone to read and enjoy and maybe be inspired by.
The Guidelines – or lack of them!
- You must be a Reader/Reviewer or Writer (or apart of that community, in someway) with an interest in Romance.
- The post must be about Romance – here are just a few examples; Why you read/write romance, Why romance is important for us, What we can learn from romance, What we do to keep romance alive….You get the idea, but it’s up to you.
- Along side your post, I will add a little spotlight on you so this will be a bit of a bio about who you are, links to where people can follow your review/learn about your work and profile picture – just so people can see who you are. (If you could provide these, that would be great)
- The post will be yours to write about what ever you like about romance – yes, I am giving you free reign – as long as it’s not disrespectful, derogatory or abusive and if I feel it is, your post WILL NOT BE POSTED!!
- I will read everything before posting, so nothing will get past me!
If you are an author and you are interested in participating in this new series, you are all welcome. You don’t have to have already been featured on Chicks, Rogues and Scandals to participate, as this new venture isn’t associated with my reviewing.
If you are interested in me reviewing your work then please read my Reviewing Policy first.
I am really excited about how this new project is going to go and what I am going to learn from it, my aim is to have a post out a month dependant on how many requests I get.