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?
VikingFeature 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.
MedievalSet 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.
TudorNovels set in England between 1485 and 1558.
ElizabethanNovels set in England between 1558 and 1603 (during the time of Elizabeth I).
GeorgianSet between 1714 and 1810 in England.
RegencyNovels set between 1810 and 1820 in England. (Such a lot of action in such a small time frame.) A firm favourite of mine.
VictorianTake place between 1832 and 1901 England, beginning with the Reform Act 1832 and including the reign of Queen Victoria.
PirateUsually 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.
WesternWhile 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.
Time TravelSometimes 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.”
Which sub-genre tickles your fancy?
Hit me with some recommendations, whether they are YA or not.