It's time for Ask-A-Wench — and today the Wenches address Nancy Miller's question:
A fascinating topic — The beauty and lure of Ireland,the charm and mystery of the Irish culture and the Irish people are without question, and yet there are fewer Irish-set romances than Scottish, and fewer of either than English. Why so? The Wenches contemplate…
Susan Fraser King: As the Wench with 18 Scottish-set historical novels (and one English-set) under her belt so far, it's certainly something I've considered. I've got an Irish book or three in my head, but why haven't I written them? The history of Ireland is complex and interesting, full of heroism and heart … yet it's tragic and laced with violence, oppression, poverty and sadness. The historical challenges and the run of bad luck from one century to the next has shaped the Irish poetic nature, but is part of its melancholic and poignant character too.
There are many stunning historical novels set in Ireland, and heartfelt and wonderful romances set there too — yet the constant challenge for the romance writer is the difficulty of staging a satisfying romance when a happy ending for hero and heroine is not always guaranteed. The hero and heroine of Irish-set romance are potentially surrounded by great sadness and despair. The reader may be very aware of that, and it's certainly not easy for the writer (or the reader) to ignore the history and circumstances. Other readers may be unfamiliar with Irish history. Yet there are romance authors who rise to and above the challenges, and kudos to them!
Though I think, uniquely in Ireland's case, contemporary romance can work better than historical in Irish-set fiction, conveying the charm and heart of Ireland along with more certain happy endings!
Patricia Rice: To be perfectly blunt, because editors won't buy them. The "Irish troubles" are so dreadfully depressing, they detract from the romance. At the same time, they kind of blunt the fantasy of the perfect English Regency, or all the other fantasies we have of an aristocratic English society. Politics and fantasy just don't mix!
But I enjoyed the opportunity to delve into Irish fantasy with the Mammoth Book of Irish Romance. I could delve deeper into Irish history than the "troubles" and write a fun sidhe story, although like most Irish reality, it includes blood and death. <G>
Jo Beverley: I've thought about this. I think it's mainly because Ireland's history is so painful. In addition, however, it lacks elements for the romantic fantasy that are the foundation of a good romantic novel.
For example, a wealthy and elegant 18th and 19th century English aristocracy peoples the most popular historical romance today. Ireland had a similar aristocracy, as did Scotland, but they rarely provide heroes and heroines for historical romance because they're oppressors of the romantically tragic Irish and the romantically noble Highlanders.
All of the above is myth, but as readers we choose which myths we
like to play with and which we don't. Or perhaps it's just that Americans have seen too many St. Paddy's
Day celebrations with green bowler hats and beer. It's hard to be romantic after that!
Mary Jo Putney:
I've always thought that Irish settings are less popular because so often they are rooted in "the English are evil and we're suffering victims and we hate them!" Not that there isn't historical evidence to support that belief, but it makes for rather gloomy. not to mention repetitive, stories.
The Scots are equally Celtic and certainly have plenty of reason to dislike the Sassenach, but instead of sitting around complaining, they spread through the world as soldiers and explorers and and inventors and all kinds of very cool things. More fun to read about!
Cara Elliott/Andrea Pickens:
A good question! This is something that has always perplexed me. I've heard many people explain by saying that Ireland's history is a bit sad and grim, so that it doesn't make a great backdrop for a romance novel. But Scotland's history is not exactly all sweetness and light, so I'm not sure that the answer.
For me, there is so much that is wonderful about Ireland-the incredible natural beauty, the myths and legends, the traditions of poetry and music, the warm and generosity of the people, the wit and humor. So it seems a rich canvas on which to paint a story. And from a purely business/marketing perspective, it would seem that there is a great “target” audience here in the U.S. Irish-Americans are very proud of their heritage (just look at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City) I'd think Irish-set romance would have a great appeal. I know I'd love to read more. So–if anyone has an answer, I'd love to hear it!
And BTW, if you are looking for some wonderful Irish reads, our honorary Wench laurel McKee/Amanda McCabe has a great trilogy called The Daughters of Erin. The second book, The Duchess of Sin, just came out last month and is fabulous.
Irish settings are beautifully romantic in contemporaries — Nora
Roberts has certainly shown that. But with historical novels, it's not
so easy, because so much of Irish history is about hardship and
poverty. Certainly it would sour a happy ending if we knew that in a
few years the couple in the book would be facing the potato famine, or
caught up in "the troubles."
But it's more than that. Scottish history is also full of hardship and
grim times, but we think of it as wildly romantic. (And Welsh settings
hardly ever get a look in at all, and Wales is stunningly beautiful.)
I think the reason why Scottish settings seem more romantic to us is
partly to do with the Scottish social structures that survived longer
than those of Ireland and Wales — the clan, the chieftain or the laird,
the tribal aspect that was more thoroughly eradicated in Ireland or
Wales. Add to that the slightly barbaric element -- the bright tartans,
the kilt, sword dancing, bagpipes and whisky, and it's the stuff of
Thanks go to Nancy Miller for a great question! She wins a signed copy of one of my books (Nancy, please contact me through my website). What do you all think — do you love Irish set romance, do you wish there was more, or do you avoid it and look for more familiar territory in your romance reading? Are there some Irish-set novels, romance or otherwise, you would recommend?