I’ve been seeing this topic come up a lot lately in various forms or another, and it made me pause to ask the question: is historical romance really dead?
There was a an article in the August 2013 issue of the Romance Writers Report from RWA titled “Checking the Pulse of Historical Romance” written by Stephanie Draven that delivers a stunning revelation about the genre that I had been feeling myself but was too afraid to put into words. The article particularly covers the Regency period (which I is a very fond time period for me) on which the writer found the following: “Many readers expressed fatigue with the time period.” (RWR, August 2013, pg. 20, Draven.) And I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Have you ever picked up a historical romance from the Regency period because you knew exactly what was going to happen in it and knew with certainty that you would enjoy the book? Ever get bored halfway through? There are so many texts on my Kindle that glare at me accusingly with their 40% and 50% finished statuses, all waiting for me to get un-bored. My own trusted editor even said to me that historicals were getting stale.
Which leads me to a review that was recently placed on my historical Regency romance, Son of a Duke. The reviewer said this: “Not your typical regency romance.” And along with the 3 stars that were given with this review, I wanted to feel crushed, but instead I said, THANK YOU!!!
Because that’s what I was going for.
I had been trying to get published traditionally for over 10 years, and I heard all the same things from publishers. You have a terrific voice, and your characters are just great. But I can’t sell this. Well, if my writing was great, what wasn’t there to sell about it?
Enter point 2 in Draven’s article from the RWR: gatekeepers.
Draven argues that the Regency romance genre is evolving but that the gatekeepers stand in the way, the gatekeepers being traditional publishers. My own experience supports this argument, and I applaud Draven for making it. Case in point was made in a recent blog at Dear Author where Jane Litte makes the valid argument that authors are holding back evolution just as much by claiming to be moving outside of the norm but never really making it. I would make the assertion that these traditional, long writing authors aren’t making it because of these gatekeepers. They are pushing the boundaries as far as they dare to go with knowing what will get their book bought. What historical romance needs is its own Suzanne Brockmann.
So I hand the question over to you. Is historical romance dying? Or does it need to evolve? Who can break down the gatekeepers?