Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Maggie Anton's Guest Post

Readers, please join me in welcoming Author Maggie Anton, who's guest posting here today! Maggie is the author of the historical trilogy, "Rashi's Daughters". Book III - RACHEL was out in August 2009.

How can you tell a historical romance from a historical novel with romance?
By Maggie Anton

Here's a big topic of discussion lately in women's historical fiction blogs? What is the difference [assuming there is one] between historical romance, historical fiction with a romance plot, and historical fiction with romantic elements? Surely all can have the basic plot: girl meets boy, girl gets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy. So what makes one novel a 'bodice-ripper' and another literary fiction? Is it the writing or merely the publisher? That is, does Harlequin sell the former and Penguin the latter? Is it hard cover vs. trade paperback vs. mass-market paperback? Is it marketed towards women readers? And who decides?

According to Wikipedia– and who knew there was such a trove of information on the subject – a historical romance takes place before WWII, has a plot whose primary focus is the relationship and romantic love between two people, and concludes with an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romance_novel] I guess that leaves 'Romeo and Juliet' out, as well as 'Gone with the Wind.' Yet under this definition, each volume of my RASHI'S DAUGHTERS trilogy qualifies, as does everything written by Jane Austen and many of Zane Grey's westerns. Anyone who denies that Zane Grey writes romantic novels hasn't read 'Riders of the Purple Sage.'

There lies perhaps the critical distinction. A historical romance is first and foremost a romance. Nothing intrudes on the relationship - not the heroine's profession, her relationship with her family, nor historical events. Secondary characters exist purely to help or hinder the love relationship. Critics complain that historical romances are formulaic, and this may be due to lack of subplots and interesting secondary characters. In historical fiction with a romance plot, historical events loom large, and the love relationship is one of many influences on the heroine and hero's lives. Historical family sagas often have romantic elements, but there may be several heroes and heroines in different generations and locations [James Michener's novels come to mind].

So who decides? Apparently the bookseller. Go into any bookstore and the romances are filed together, while my new novel, RASHI'S DAUGHTER: BOOK III – RACHEL, is filed in another section altogether, along with all sorts of disparate novels. Or perhaps my book is filed with Judaica. Yet in 2007, when it came time for Bookscan to decide in what category to rank the sales for BOOK II – MIRIAM, they put it under Romance, where it spent 18 weeks on Bookscan's bestseller list. Imagine how long it might have stayed there if they'd called it Judaica.

Now that's certainly fodder for thought! As always, it's a treat to have you here, Maggie. Drop by again soon!

Readers, your thoughts and comments are most welcome as always!
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2 comments :

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  2. I really liked this post - it's interesting how the books are categorized. I hadn't thought of it before. Thanks!

    gaby317nyc at gmail dot com

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