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Romantic Historical Fiction as a label?

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Wed June 15th, 2011, 12:12 pm

you can only have so many sub-genres
Clearly, you've never read a Klausner review on Amazon. She is the queen of sub-sub genres :D
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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Madeleine
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Currently reading: "The Lantern Men" by Elly Griffiths
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
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Post by Madeleine » Wed June 15th, 2011, 1:50 pm

[quote=""Misfit""]Clearly, you've never read a Klausner review on Amazon. She is the queen of sub-sub genres :D [/quote]

I've never dared to go down that road, but if Harriet says it.....well I rest my case! ;)
Currently reading: "The Lantern Men" by Elly Griffiths

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Wed June 15th, 2011, 2:54 pm

[quote=""Madeleine""]I've never dared to go down that road, but if Harriet says it.....well I rest my case! ;) [/quote]

That woman can find a police procedural urban fantasy *noir* out of just about any book and that includes vampire romances :confused:
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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DeAnnaCameron
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Post by DeAnnaCameron » Wed June 15th, 2011, 6:39 pm

I really appreciate everyone's opinion.

@Misfit: Thank you, thank you for mentioning Emery Lee and her Goodreads group. That is exactly where I was introduced to the Romantic Historical Fiction term. Before that, I had only heard "historical fiction with romantic elements," which to me has the ring of a writing contest category. I do rather like "historical women's fiction," though...

Like @MLE, I agree that the term "historical fiction" *should* cover it because history is full of romance and sex and all that, but there seems to be an expectation by a number of historical fiction readers that unless the story is about courtly liaisons or Mata Hari or someone for whom sex is a primary concern, any romance should be kept to an absolute minimum because it distracts from the historical setting, context, etc.

That's why, like @AnneWhitfield, I worry about setting the wrong expectation with the straight "historical fiction" label. (You would think a pretty belly dancer in a flowing costume on the cover would dispel that, but alas it has not ...)

Is the answer a proliferation of sub-genres and sub-sub-genres? I thought so, but it seems there are plenty of people out there who already find this trend tedious. So now I'm more hesitant to go down that road...

If you're wondering why I'm concerned about a label for a book that came out a couple years ago, it's not really that one I'm thinking about. It's the next one, which seems to be falling into the same strange gap between historical and romance. I was hoping to head off any future misconceptions with a better label, but it looks like that isn't going to happen.

BTW, @boswellbaxter, I think Kathleen Givens' Rivals for the Crown is a wonderful example. I was just getting to know her (she lived here in Orange County) when she passed away last year. It was a great loss to the local writing community and she is greatly missed.

Anyway, I want to say again how much I appreciate your opinions. I know at least some of you are planning to be at the Historical Novel Society Conference in San Diego this weekend. I hope our paths will cross so that I can say hello and thank-you in person...
DANCING AT THE CHANCE, love and vaudeville in Old New York (Berkley/April)
THE BELLY DANCER, a novel of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (Berkley/out now)
www.deannacameron.com

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oldhousejunkie
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Post by oldhousejunkie » Tue July 26th, 2011, 9:04 pm

I've been using the term "historical fiction with strong romantic elements" in my query letters. But only when the agent represents both historical fiction and romance. ;)
I blog about all things writing and historical at Caroline Wilson Writes!

I'm also on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads!

Now Available: "Rebel Heart," a romantic historical fiction set in Civil War America and Victorian England.

Available at Amazon

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jessicajames
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Post by jessicajames » Fri September 16th, 2011, 2:27 pm

I would love to see the distinction. Writing in the Civil War genre, I don't want my books to be confused with straight Civil War historical fiction like Jeff Shaara writes (which are great novels, but contain basically no romantic elements). Neither do I want readers (especially male readers) to think my books are straight historical romance novels. I just think it would really be a service to the readers to have the distinction.
Jessica James
http://www.jessicajamesbooks.com
Winner of the 2011 John Esten Cooke Award for Southern Fiction
Winner of the 2011 Next Generation Indie Award for Regional Fiction
2011 Next Generation Finalist in Romance and Historical Fiction

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Fri September 16th, 2011, 3:11 pm

[quote=""jessicajames""]I would love to see the distinction. Writing in the Civil War genre, I don't want my books to be confused with straight Civil War historical fiction like Jeff Shaara writes (which are great novels, but contain basically no romantic elements). Neither do I want readers (especially male readers) to think my books are straight historical romance novels. I just think it would really be a service to the readers to have the distinction.[/quote]

It really should have it's own genre or sub genre as Harriet would call it. I see a lot of books being labeled as HF when they'd better fit this category, as well as books labeled as HR when there's so much more to them.
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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oldhousejunkie
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Post by oldhousejunkie » Fri September 16th, 2011, 7:45 pm

[quote=""Misfit""]It really should have it's own genre or sub genre as Harriet would call it. I see a lot of books being labeled as HF when they'd better fit this category, as well as books labeled as HR when there's so much more to them.[/quote]

It seems to me that "straight" historical romance (as found on the Romance shelves in bookstores) and historical fiction with romantic elements (as seen on the regular fiction shelves) are starting to blend together. I see both Deanna Rayburne (The Lady Julia series) and Lauren Willig writing books that are always found on the fiction shelves, but they often refer to themselves as historical romance writers. They've both won RITA awards from Romance Writers of America. But as a reader of both authors, I wouldn't place their novels in the historical romance category because they don't follow the formula that many romance novels have to adhere to. And then recently I saw an agent refer to Karleen Koen and Phillipa Gregory as historical romance writers.

It's very confusing. I've struggled with labeling my own historical fiction novel. It isn't "serious" historical fiction (although well researched) and a romance takes center stage. But I wouldn't consider it a "bodice ripper." However, I've begun to wonder if I should label it as historical fiction and submit it to some agents that specialize in romance just to see what happens.
I blog about all things writing and historical at Caroline Wilson Writes!

I'm also on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads!

Now Available: "Rebel Heart," a romantic historical fiction set in Civil War America and Victorian England.

Available at Amazon

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LCW
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Post by LCW » Fri September 16th, 2011, 10:34 pm

I think labeling something "Romantic Historical Fiction" would unfortunately and unfairly turn off too many potential readers. Esp men! Sharon Kay Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick are examples of good writers who's books are incredibly romantic but I don't think anyone would argue that they are aren't excellent works of Historical Fiction at the same time.

Anya Seton is another example. What sort of book would Katherine be without the romantic element between her and John of Gaunt? That's a romance that changed history and deserves its place in serious historical fiction.
Books to the ceiling,
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How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. --Arnold Lobel

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DianeL
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Post by DianeL » Sat September 17th, 2011, 12:16 am

I actually had a remarkable conversation with a VERY powerful agent recently, who basically said my histfic is tricky precisely because the definition of "historical fiction" these days, in publishing, is taken to mean romance for the most part. He pointed out that while Cornwell, Iggulden, and Kane do well, they're established - and he said "it's no coincidence they come out of the UK" as well - and for a new writer, particularly a woman, writing a historical, I've got an uphill battle given it's not a a romance. Though the relationship between Clovis and Clotilde is compelling, and her influence as a character is not minimal, the book as a whole could never be sold in the way most histfic is going.

He hasn't rejected me YET, though. So we shall see if, as I am hoping, my uniqueness can be used as an asset ...
"To be the queen, she agreed to be the widow!"

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The pre-modern world was willing to attribute charisma to women well before it was willing to attribute sustained rationality to them.
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