One speaker talked about how romances are rooted in women's struggles in a man's world. That's true, but it triggered some questions and thoughts about that and historical romance. I'm going to toss them out and I hope you'll argue, expand, spin off them and have fun.
If romance is all about women's struggle in a man's world, then it seems clear that the struggle is more vivid in historicals, where most women in most times and places had far fewer rights, powers, and opportunities than today.
But then, why is the 19th century more popular than earlier ones, such as medieval, when the situation was more dramatically unequal before the law?
(I always think in that cover it looks as if he's doing a push up off her ribs!)
One possible, but wacky, answer came to me — that the more dramatically turbulent times actually gave some women great power. For example, a medieval countess could have opportunities for greater power and independence than her Regency counterpart. The complexity of running medieval estates was demanding and she could be left entirely in charge when her husband went to war.
Did the writhing clinch cover, where the heroine seems to be attempting to escape the domineering male, send a message about that elemental stuggle? If so, why is it less common now, and what about all the heroine comfortably alone covers? No male dominance implied there.
So, is it possible that the increased popularity of historical romances set in quite modern times, but before anything close to equality is because women were at their least powerful then? Go ahead, attack the idea. It's just off the top of my head!
Working on from that, is historical romance weakened the further into the age of women's rights it goes?
The woman's struggle in a man's world is harder if she's deprived of a support group such as friends and family. It used to be that many contemporary romances had orphan heroines, then later the heroines were isolated by some plot device, such as going to work on a remote island, (owned of course by a dark and dangerous billionaire.) This is the element of the gothic, whatever its form. Gothic heroines are always isolated.
But it seems to me that many romances now give heroines friends and family. Some historical romance series are based around families and friends. After all, isn't a heroine who hasn't made friends a bit strange? The plot can take her away, but….
Are books in which the heroine has friends and family still about women struggling against the man's world? If so, how is the struggle affected by the support group? Perhaps you can think of a particular title or series like this.
Is my off-the-top-of-my-head thought true, that there are more historical romances about groups of male friends than about groups of women friends?
My book Dangerous Joy has just been reissued. It is all about the battle between the sexes because it's a guardian/ward story, and looking back I don't know why Felicity doesn't have close friends, but it emphasizes the plot. By the way, the heroine is not Spanish!
Next week I'll be in San Antonio for the RWA conference, so if you're in that area why not come to the ginormous signing in aid of literacy and say hello. Wenches Nicola, Anne, and Mary Jo will also be there. Wednesday, July 23, 2014 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter Hotel in the 3rd floor ballroom.