Friday, 21 February 2014

Romance versus romantic title - what is the difference exactly?

I’ve always been a keen reader of historical romances but it was typically something that I was embarrassed to share. It was a secret between me and my K Mart cashier, the rest was behind closed doors or reading on public transport with the cover shoved closely to my knee. To heck with that…it’s time to learn about the genre that I love so dearly.

Historical romance refers loosely to any romance or romantic (there’s a difference and I’ll be getting to that) novel set in a time period pre-World War Two. This is a huge time frame and as such there are many sub-genres within the historical romance genre.

There are sub-genres a plenty. A few years back I discovered there was a difference between ‘Regency’ and ‘Regency historical ‘. I had always known some titles were more steamy than others but I didn’t realise there were differentiations in terminology outside of erotica and everything else. It wasn’t until I was fishing around romance websites that I learned there was a clear division, especially in the US. I had previously lumped them together due to the time period.
“…A traditional Regency in the US is usually a “sweet” (i.e. no sex) romance, a light-hearted comedy of manners, or sometimes a mannered comedy. They have a style all their own and some are (in my humble opinion) rather artificial and stagey. They tend to be short (80K words) although some, like Julia Quinn’s books, are longer (100K+). A Regency Historical is generally a longer book, set in the Regency period, which will generally include sex and in which the themes may be stronger and darker. “

So what are the basic sub-genres available for the fan of the historical romance?


Feature robust Vikings and take place in the Dark Ages or Middle Ages. They are vastly populated by blonde characters with hulking physiques and horrific names. The sub-genre has by all account fallen out of vogue in the past fifteen years.


Set in time periods between 938-1485 there is a propensity toward domineering and evil relatives (or king) dictating the heroine’s life. The hero is normally a knight, usually one fighting against the heroine’s father for maximum shenanigans.


Novels set in England between 1485 and 1558.


Novels set in England between 1558 and 1603 (during the time of Elizabeth I).


Set between 1714 and 1810 in England.


Novels set between 1810 and 1820 in England. (Such a lot of action in such a small time frame.) A firm favourite of mine.


Take place between 1832 and 1901 England, beginning with the Reform Act 1832 and including the reign of Queen Victoria.


Usually come hand in hand with a kidnapping, whether the hero happens to be a pirate or a privateer. He’s the ultimate naughty boy and can sometimes lead a duel life as a member of the upper crust. A case of Stockholm Syndrome immediately takes place post-capture.


While this sub-genre can occur in many countries, the main setting is that of the United States. It often focuses on the difficulties of a female’s life in these times; the struggles and the dangers. She’s often a survivor but will need to be rescued by a man at some point in time. I tend to throw the Native American sub-genre (which is not altogether unlike the pirate sub-genre just sub Native Americans in for swashbuckler and a prairie for the ocean) and Civil War characterised adventures.

and lastly…

Time Travel

Sometimes a character will just find themselves sucked into a past time and place and have to make do.

As for the pesky differences between a romance book and a romantic book? The Romance Writers of Australia Inc. define is as

“…A romance is a book where the romance itself is the main plot. A romantic novel would have a romance as an integral part of the plot but other areas of focus as well.”

Make sense?

Which sub-genre tickles your fancy?

Hit me with some recommendations, whether they are YA or not.


Mary @ BookSwarm said...

I like most romantic subgenres, with the exception of Westerns (love cowboys but never really got into those). However, no matter the setting or subgenre, I like my stories with plenty of passion and humor in them.

Angiegirl said...

Poor Vikings. Falling out of vogue and whatnot.

Yeah, Regencies are definitely my favorite so far in Angie's Great Discovery of the Romance Genre, Cont. Regency historicals, that is. I've still to meet a Julia Quinn book I liked . . .

Sarah MacLean and Courtney Milan are favorites. Sherry Thomas, too.

Which are your favorites?

Justin Matthews said...

I have always loved romance books, but set in the 1980s