Saturday, May 28, 2011

Romance or Historical Fiction?

     This site is for those readers and writers whose favorite books sit on the fence between two genres, those books entered into the RITA contest as historicals with a strong romantic element.
Sometimes the line between historical romance and historical fiction blurs and thankfully so. I'm not sure  I would have been as avid a romance reader if I hadn't started with Georgette Heyer, Jan Cox Speas, and Mary Stewart, books heavy on plot and character, with great tension, subtle romance and intensely satisfying, albeit innocent, happily-ever-after endings.
      Romance, as a genre, didn't actually come about until the 70's. Before that, romantic stories and other genres, were lumped together as fiction. I remember standing in front of the shelves in my local library reading book jackets to insure that I would find a book with enough of a love story to keep me interested. Romance as a genre has come full circle. Although the bodice ripper is still out there, romantic fiction covers a tremendous span from the steamy heat of Virginia Henley and the wise-cracking comedy of Janet Evanovich to the satisfying warmth of Marcia Willett.
      A good friend of mine always makes a point of introducing me to his male friends as, "This is Jeanette Baker. She writes romance novels." Then he asks the proverbial question: "Have you ever read a romance novel?"
      I know why he does it. He loves the reaction, the look on their faces that reveal their dilemma. Will she be offended if I say no? Will she think I'm strange if I say yes? Does this woman who looks like my Sunday school teacher really write those novels?
      I don't know whether to put them out of their misery or keep silent and enjoy the game. The truth is, I have written those novels, the sensual kind, and I have also written the kind that aren't the least bit R-rated. It depends on the story and whether or not the plot is enhanced by a steamy scene. 25% of those who read fiction, read romance. Amen to those publishers who continue to offer readers a wide variety of romantic fiction.

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