We’ve all had this happen at one time or another—an urging or longing for a certain something or other that sneaks up on us and lingers until it settles in our bones. Before long, another person mentions the very thing we’ve been deliberating. Soon, we begin seeing or hearing about that certain something everywhere until a groundswell of popularity emerges. That’s what seems to be happening with American-set historical romances. Remember those lush, sweeping, sagas full of romance, drama, sexual tension, excitement, family struggles, and plenty of twists and turns that spans time and geographic locations? Stories that kept us turning pages well into the night?
Having grown somewhat weary of reading restrictive English-set ballroom scenes filled with rigid rules, where one dance too many often meant scandal or even a marriage proposal, I purposely set my first novel in the English countryside, far away from London. Immediately, I found I had greater latitude to create a viscount with a large and quirky but close-knit family whose members thought nothing of doing exactly as each pleased—rules be damned. To stir up the mix, I gave them a heroine who’d also been raised in the countryside, but with no memory to speak of, and opposite from this fun loving, raucous clan.
It wasn’t that I wanted Regency era romance to disappear. What I wanted was something with a broader range of settings and situations. So with my second book, I ventured even farther from London…India, to be exact. I wrote about a scandal that involved the illegitimate daughter of a duke and Indian royal mixing it up with a proper duke and master spy smack in the middle of a dangerous war. Once I’d finished writing the story and the contract signed, I found myself longing once again for those American sagas of old. When had the likes of Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers disappeared?
With my yearning running bone-deep, I contracted with Kensington Books for my American-set When Hearts Dare series. CELINE, book one in the series, spans time, cultures and locations, from New Orleans to San Francisco. It felt great to go on an adventure with the heroine that encompassed more than a few weeks of a Season in a civilized setting. I loved the adventures and the change of venues. I felt as though I’d come home.
ALANNA, book two, begins in San Francisco and moves Eastward (due to release November 4th), while JOSETTE, book three in the series, returns full circle, from San Francisco to the lush setting of New Orleans. My timing couldn’t have been better. Alicia Condon, Editorial Director at Kensington Books (and my wonderful editor), firmly believes the American-set historical romance that explores a rich and lush history is set for an exciting comeback. According to Alicia, the book buyers are enthusiastic about this “fresh” kind of historical.
A fresh kind of historical? For more than a century and half, the American-set historical romance had been the best seller, the favorite read of all time, beginning with Nathanial Hawthorne (1804-1864. His fiction works are considered part of the Romantic Movement). What new shape is the American Historical taking?
Romance evolves in response to changing circumstances of American life—political, social, and intellectual. In my opinion, what’s fresh and new about the resurgence of the American Historical is that there are conditional changes that have taken place in today’s society that will ultimately be reflected in the stories. The hero is allowed to be more vulnerable and sensitive, the woman more of a free-thinker and independent. I find this particularly exciting in the context of American-set historical romances that can range from WWII back to Colonial times.
There is no mistaking the sudden rise of historical romance. Recently, I stumbled upon an internet group, “The Old School Romance Book Club,” and quickly joined. Each month an old issue book is chosen and discussed. Also, another historical romance group recently emerged which I joined. Already, the group has a current membership of nearly three hundred and growing.
We live in a global world filled with so much stress and chaos that the reader wants to slip back in time and into a bold story that spans our beloved country when it was relatively young; when it was a brave new world filled with hope, with people taking risks and building empires. Readers want stories filled with close-knit families rooted in heart-warming commitment and conviction. American historical settings are rich in the development of dreams and goals, and of creating legacies, which provides the author with a broad stroke of the artist’s brush when creating a world filled with love, loss and the depths and heights of human emotion.
There’s a new generation of romance readers who have never read historical romance set in America and are itching to do so. Look for the American-set historical romance with its amazing texture, its more original and less formula-driven plots to appear on bookshelves and in e-readers around the world.
Once Kathleen Bittner Roth realized making a living was not the same as making a life, she blazed her own trail by founding a successful well-being center, walking on fire, marrying in a castle in Scotland, scuba diving in dangerous waters, and learning to ride her Arabian horse English style. She has somehow managed to live in six U.S. states and several foreign countries. Currently residing in Budapest, Hungary, she still keeps one boot in Texas and the other in her home state of Minnesota. Kathleen is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America®. She has been a guest numerous times on radio, television, and on various writing blogs. She has won or been a finalist in numerous writing contests, including the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart®. You can find Kathleen on Facebook, Twitter @K_BittnerRoth, Goodreads, Pinterest, or by visiting her website.