Lost Civilizations

Cbkgandalf
Here’s Jo, pondering lost civilizations.
(Assisted by a wizardly CBK.)

Actually, I’m thinking about medieval romance. Once upon a time, it thrived. Just possibly, it ruled the historical romance genre. Back then, historicals maybe ruled the entire genre, so….

So what happened? I don’t know. I’m truly asking for input here.

Regardless of what readers sometimes think, there are no great conspiracies in publishing. The editors don’t get together in a smoky Manhattan bar and decide to kill the gothic, or the traditional regency, or the Civil War romance, or the medieval. I assume the readers don’t gather secretly, either, with the same aim. What happens is that readers stop buying the books.

Yes, we can blame publishing decisions such as editorial requirements, covers and titles. Happy with title, but hate the cover! Dcold

Contrast with.Dccov

Is the second one too subtle, not romantic enough? Or do you prefer it?

But readers often flock to buy books that are bizarrely written, with lurid covers, and gross titles.

So what happened to the medieval romance? Why did it stop hitting the spot for most romance readers?

I can point to three factors that might have had an effect simply on the basis of readers having finite money with which to buy books and finite time in which to read. (Both these commodities have probably decreased, in fact. Books have become more expensive, especially with there being more hardcover and trade paperback books in romance. And people have a lot more options for their leisure time.)

Anyway, here are the three factors.
1. The rise in popularity of the regency historical. Truly, it wasn’t really there 20 years ago.
2. The creation of the single title contemporary romance. Again, it wasn’t really there. Most contemporary romance was the short “category” novels from Harlequin and Silhouette.
3. The recent rise of paranormal romance, which may have a similar energy because they mostly feature the dark warrior hero, even if he’s a werewolf or a vampire.

Am I correct that these things explain why so few medievals are purchased by readers today? What have I missed?

Or, has something happened in reader psychology that turns them off medieval settings? I hear quite a lot of readers say that they don’t want to read about a time that was “grim”, “dirty”, “harsh for women” etc. We can debate whether those descriptions are true, but did readers not think that way in the past, or did they not care?

Is it the Monty Python effect? Did Monty Python and the Holy Grail ruin our image of the middle ages forever?

Share your thoughts.

Do you have any medieval romances on your keeper shelves, and if so, which are they?

Who are/were your favorite authors?

What is your favorite century for medieval romance?

Jo 🙂

78 thoughts on “Lost Civilizations”

  1. Oh mercy, I love a good medieval and dearly wish there were more of them. My medieval keepers are too many to name: Roberta Gellis, of course, and some classic (at least to me) titles by Bertrice Small, Rebecca Brandewyne, Virginia Henley and Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Wolf and the Dove. I nearly wept bitter tears when Anita Mills changed over to westerns, and refuse to acknowledge her retirement. She can’t be gone — she still has more “Fire” books to write. I would take Flora Speer’s grocery list; her For Love and Honor blew me away. Annelise Kamada only had two books, period, A Love So Bold and its sequel A Banner Red and Gold, which has one of the most memorable endings I’ve ever read.
    If I can hop over to the CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association) side of the fence for a moment, Angela Elwell Hunt’s Theyn Chronicles was a medieval trilogy that sucked me right in and makes me glom all her fiction(in many genres)today. Definetly intense and gritty here. She also returned to the medieval period in The Silver Sword.
    For me, the medieval period is perfect for romance — the distant time, the pageantry, the honor, the time when legends were born. I’d love to write a few of my own, but would need some serious research first; botched details bother me.

    Reply
  2. Oh mercy, I love a good medieval and dearly wish there were more of them. My medieval keepers are too many to name: Roberta Gellis, of course, and some classic (at least to me) titles by Bertrice Small, Rebecca Brandewyne, Virginia Henley and Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Wolf and the Dove. I nearly wept bitter tears when Anita Mills changed over to westerns, and refuse to acknowledge her retirement. She can’t be gone — she still has more “Fire” books to write. I would take Flora Speer’s grocery list; her For Love and Honor blew me away. Annelise Kamada only had two books, period, A Love So Bold and its sequel A Banner Red and Gold, which has one of the most memorable endings I’ve ever read.
    If I can hop over to the CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association) side of the fence for a moment, Angela Elwell Hunt’s Theyn Chronicles was a medieval trilogy that sucked me right in and makes me glom all her fiction(in many genres)today. Definetly intense and gritty here. She also returned to the medieval period in The Silver Sword.
    For me, the medieval period is perfect for romance — the distant time, the pageantry, the honor, the time when legends were born. I’d love to write a few of my own, but would need some serious research first; botched details bother me.

    Reply
  3. Oh mercy, I love a good medieval and dearly wish there were more of them. My medieval keepers are too many to name: Roberta Gellis, of course, and some classic (at least to me) titles by Bertrice Small, Rebecca Brandewyne, Virginia Henley and Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Wolf and the Dove. I nearly wept bitter tears when Anita Mills changed over to westerns, and refuse to acknowledge her retirement. She can’t be gone — she still has more “Fire” books to write. I would take Flora Speer’s grocery list; her For Love and Honor blew me away. Annelise Kamada only had two books, period, A Love So Bold and its sequel A Banner Red and Gold, which has one of the most memorable endings I’ve ever read.
    If I can hop over to the CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association) side of the fence for a moment, Angela Elwell Hunt’s Theyn Chronicles was a medieval trilogy that sucked me right in and makes me glom all her fiction(in many genres)today. Definetly intense and gritty here. She also returned to the medieval period in The Silver Sword.
    For me, the medieval period is perfect for romance — the distant time, the pageantry, the honor, the time when legends were born. I’d love to write a few of my own, but would need some serious research first; botched details bother me.

    Reply
  4. I dunno, I like Medievals but do not buy them by every author. Those on my keeper shelves:
    1. UNCOMMON VOWS, by MaryJo Putney
    2. DARK CHAMPION, Jo Beverley
    3. THE BRIDE, Julie Garwood
    4. FOR MY LADY’S HEART, by Laura Kinsale (Is this a medieval?)

    Reply
  5. I dunno, I like Medievals but do not buy them by every author. Those on my keeper shelves:
    1. UNCOMMON VOWS, by MaryJo Putney
    2. DARK CHAMPION, Jo Beverley
    3. THE BRIDE, Julie Garwood
    4. FOR MY LADY’S HEART, by Laura Kinsale (Is this a medieval?)

    Reply
  6. I dunno, I like Medievals but do not buy them by every author. Those on my keeper shelves:
    1. UNCOMMON VOWS, by MaryJo Putney
    2. DARK CHAMPION, Jo Beverley
    3. THE BRIDE, Julie Garwood
    4. FOR MY LADY’S HEART, by Laura Kinsale (Is this a medieval?)

    Reply
  7. I do buy them and enjoy them, but there is a central reality in all of them if accurately researched—women were simply chattel, even if they were handily managing the estate while hubby went off to the Crusades. No matter how feisty the heroine is made to be, the harsh historical facts of marriage intrude to me…and undoubtedly poor dental hygiene, but that’s another story! And yes, I’m aware Regency women had few rights and options as well. I wonder if movies such as Robin Hood and Vanity Fair have permanently altered our vision of what the past was like.
    Jo, I’ve loved all your medieval books. I think you’re right in believing readers perceive that period to be “heavy.” A frothy Regency canlelit ballroom beats the fleas in the rushes in the dank castle any day. But I will (and do) read just about anything. So if you’re contemplating a medieval masterpiece, bring it on!

    Reply
  8. I do buy them and enjoy them, but there is a central reality in all of them if accurately researched—women were simply chattel, even if they were handily managing the estate while hubby went off to the Crusades. No matter how feisty the heroine is made to be, the harsh historical facts of marriage intrude to me…and undoubtedly poor dental hygiene, but that’s another story! And yes, I’m aware Regency women had few rights and options as well. I wonder if movies such as Robin Hood and Vanity Fair have permanently altered our vision of what the past was like.
    Jo, I’ve loved all your medieval books. I think you’re right in believing readers perceive that period to be “heavy.” A frothy Regency canlelit ballroom beats the fleas in the rushes in the dank castle any day. But I will (and do) read just about anything. So if you’re contemplating a medieval masterpiece, bring it on!

    Reply
  9. I do buy them and enjoy them, but there is a central reality in all of them if accurately researched—women were simply chattel, even if they were handily managing the estate while hubby went off to the Crusades. No matter how feisty the heroine is made to be, the harsh historical facts of marriage intrude to me…and undoubtedly poor dental hygiene, but that’s another story! And yes, I’m aware Regency women had few rights and options as well. I wonder if movies such as Robin Hood and Vanity Fair have permanently altered our vision of what the past was like.
    Jo, I’ve loved all your medieval books. I think you’re right in believing readers perceive that period to be “heavy.” A frothy Regency canlelit ballroom beats the fleas in the rushes in the dank castle any day. But I will (and do) read just about anything. So if you’re contemplating a medieval masterpiece, bring it on!

    Reply
  10. I think they got too popular – there was a run of bad ones and readers decided they’d been there, done that and the time period led to junk reads. Take a Norman, take a Saxon – mix. I read some seriously, seriously, seriously bad books. I could name some, but it just wouldn’t be nice. So I decided I’d had enough of that. I’ll only buy a medieval from a trusted author, new authors I don’t even look at anymore. I might buy one if I’m promised it says something new or requires the place and time to tell the story. Maybe.
    I also think the market is driven by young women and older women. I have nothing to base this on but personal experience. I’ve read genre from my tweens into my (rapidly) upcoming forties, but most people my age stopped reading and people a bit older than me have ‘just gotten back into them’. So with each new wave of women comes different tastes and a desire not to read ‘mom’s books’. I think in a decade or so short form regencies will come back as women who loved them start buying books again. My beloved gothic is probably good and dead.
    The whole vampire thing I blame on Buffy and I count the days till it ends.

    Reply
  11. I think they got too popular – there was a run of bad ones and readers decided they’d been there, done that and the time period led to junk reads. Take a Norman, take a Saxon – mix. I read some seriously, seriously, seriously bad books. I could name some, but it just wouldn’t be nice. So I decided I’d had enough of that. I’ll only buy a medieval from a trusted author, new authors I don’t even look at anymore. I might buy one if I’m promised it says something new or requires the place and time to tell the story. Maybe.
    I also think the market is driven by young women and older women. I have nothing to base this on but personal experience. I’ve read genre from my tweens into my (rapidly) upcoming forties, but most people my age stopped reading and people a bit older than me have ‘just gotten back into them’. So with each new wave of women comes different tastes and a desire not to read ‘mom’s books’. I think in a decade or so short form regencies will come back as women who loved them start buying books again. My beloved gothic is probably good and dead.
    The whole vampire thing I blame on Buffy and I count the days till it ends.

    Reply
  12. I think they got too popular – there was a run of bad ones and readers decided they’d been there, done that and the time period led to junk reads. Take a Norman, take a Saxon – mix. I read some seriously, seriously, seriously bad books. I could name some, but it just wouldn’t be nice. So I decided I’d had enough of that. I’ll only buy a medieval from a trusted author, new authors I don’t even look at anymore. I might buy one if I’m promised it says something new or requires the place and time to tell the story. Maybe.
    I also think the market is driven by young women and older women. I have nothing to base this on but personal experience. I’ve read genre from my tweens into my (rapidly) upcoming forties, but most people my age stopped reading and people a bit older than me have ‘just gotten back into them’. So with each new wave of women comes different tastes and a desire not to read ‘mom’s books’. I think in a decade or so short form regencies will come back as women who loved them start buying books again. My beloved gothic is probably good and dead.
    The whole vampire thing I blame on Buffy and I count the days till it ends.

    Reply
  13. “Or, has something happened in reader psychology that turns them off medieval settings?”
    I have a theory that might explain at least part of the decline of reader interest in medievals. However, I have no evidence beyond my own general impressions of what’s on the shelves now compared to a decade or so ago, and since I wasn’t paying as close attention before I started writing myself in 2001, my impressions may not be accurate.
    With all those caveats, my impression is that readers like their escapism more escapist, for lack of a better word, now that the real world seems so much darker and more threatening than it did in the 90’s. I think this has partly fueled the rise of the paranormal, where you can have a very dark, gritty story, but where the threat is fantastical–the real world seems safer by contrast, because at least we’re not dealing with vampires, dark magic, etc. And on the other side of the spectrum, with chick lit, the lighter-toned type of Regency, etc., the reader can escape to a world that contrasts with reality by being brighter, frothier, and seemingly safer.
    So genres that are perceived, correctly or not, as being darker and grittier (and realistically so, as opposed to the fantasy darkness of many paranormals) suffer in the current environment. That’s just my impression, and I don’t know how accurate it is, but it does feel like there’s been a shift that at least partly corresponds with changing world conditions.

    Reply
  14. “Or, has something happened in reader psychology that turns them off medieval settings?”
    I have a theory that might explain at least part of the decline of reader interest in medievals. However, I have no evidence beyond my own general impressions of what’s on the shelves now compared to a decade or so ago, and since I wasn’t paying as close attention before I started writing myself in 2001, my impressions may not be accurate.
    With all those caveats, my impression is that readers like their escapism more escapist, for lack of a better word, now that the real world seems so much darker and more threatening than it did in the 90’s. I think this has partly fueled the rise of the paranormal, where you can have a very dark, gritty story, but where the threat is fantastical–the real world seems safer by contrast, because at least we’re not dealing with vampires, dark magic, etc. And on the other side of the spectrum, with chick lit, the lighter-toned type of Regency, etc., the reader can escape to a world that contrasts with reality by being brighter, frothier, and seemingly safer.
    So genres that are perceived, correctly or not, as being darker and grittier (and realistically so, as opposed to the fantasy darkness of many paranormals) suffer in the current environment. That’s just my impression, and I don’t know how accurate it is, but it does feel like there’s been a shift that at least partly corresponds with changing world conditions.

    Reply
  15. “Or, has something happened in reader psychology that turns them off medieval settings?”
    I have a theory that might explain at least part of the decline of reader interest in medievals. However, I have no evidence beyond my own general impressions of what’s on the shelves now compared to a decade or so ago, and since I wasn’t paying as close attention before I started writing myself in 2001, my impressions may not be accurate.
    With all those caveats, my impression is that readers like their escapism more escapist, for lack of a better word, now that the real world seems so much darker and more threatening than it did in the 90’s. I think this has partly fueled the rise of the paranormal, where you can have a very dark, gritty story, but where the threat is fantastical–the real world seems safer by contrast, because at least we’re not dealing with vampires, dark magic, etc. And on the other side of the spectrum, with chick lit, the lighter-toned type of Regency, etc., the reader can escape to a world that contrasts with reality by being brighter, frothier, and seemingly safer.
    So genres that are perceived, correctly or not, as being darker and grittier (and realistically so, as opposed to the fantasy darkness of many paranormals) suffer in the current environment. That’s just my impression, and I don’t know how accurate it is, but it does feel like there’s been a shift that at least partly corresponds with changing world conditions.

    Reply
  16. I agree that many readers prefer their romances to be lighter or at least a romance in a time ~ either Regency or Paranormal ~ that isn’t filled with the darkness that is part of life back in the medieval age. Personally I’ve never been all that fond of Medieval romances until I came across Margaret Moore; her books are all on my keeper shelves. There is also Kinley MacGregor with the ‘Brotherhood of the Sword’ and MacAllister’s series’.
    As for which Medievals I prefer, it would be those AFTER the Crusades ~ now there was a dark and dismal time.
    Kathy

    Reply
  17. I agree that many readers prefer their romances to be lighter or at least a romance in a time ~ either Regency or Paranormal ~ that isn’t filled with the darkness that is part of life back in the medieval age. Personally I’ve never been all that fond of Medieval romances until I came across Margaret Moore; her books are all on my keeper shelves. There is also Kinley MacGregor with the ‘Brotherhood of the Sword’ and MacAllister’s series’.
    As for which Medievals I prefer, it would be those AFTER the Crusades ~ now there was a dark and dismal time.
    Kathy

    Reply
  18. I agree that many readers prefer their romances to be lighter or at least a romance in a time ~ either Regency or Paranormal ~ that isn’t filled with the darkness that is part of life back in the medieval age. Personally I’ve never been all that fond of Medieval romances until I came across Margaret Moore; her books are all on my keeper shelves. There is also Kinley MacGregor with the ‘Brotherhood of the Sword’ and MacAllister’s series’.
    As for which Medievals I prefer, it would be those AFTER the Crusades ~ now there was a dark and dismal time.
    Kathy

    Reply
  19. Thanks for the kind mentions of my medievals.
    Interesting theory about dark times, Susan. I have one cavil. Along with historicals, the most popular type of romance is apparently romantic suspense. That seems to me to be all about the real dark and scary stuff in our world.
    Perhaps that is two separate readerships thought — the historical escapists, and the ones who prefer to play through scary situations and see the bad guys lose.
    What do you think?
    Jo

    Reply
  20. Thanks for the kind mentions of my medievals.
    Interesting theory about dark times, Susan. I have one cavil. Along with historicals, the most popular type of romance is apparently romantic suspense. That seems to me to be all about the real dark and scary stuff in our world.
    Perhaps that is two separate readerships thought — the historical escapists, and the ones who prefer to play through scary situations and see the bad guys lose.
    What do you think?
    Jo

    Reply
  21. Thanks for the kind mentions of my medievals.
    Interesting theory about dark times, Susan. I have one cavil. Along with historicals, the most popular type of romance is apparently romantic suspense. That seems to me to be all about the real dark and scary stuff in our world.
    Perhaps that is two separate readerships thought — the historical escapists, and the ones who prefer to play through scary situations and see the bad guys lose.
    What do you think?
    Jo

    Reply
  22. Personally, I have nothing against medievals, unlike westerns. 😉 But like everything I read, they have to be well written. Medievals do seem to be more work to read for some reason, so maybe it’s easier for gems to get buried in the dross.
    In my experience, a glut of poorly written/plotted/characterized romances can kill any subgenre. If most of the ones I pick up are bad or even mediocre, I’ll stop bothering to look. Still, I don’t have a particular dislike of medievals and do enjoy them if they’re good. Jo’s medieval novellas are some of my favorite Christmas romances, and I loved Elizabeth English’s The Linnet. I also really liked A Kiss in the Night by Jennifer Horsman (which I’m pretty sure is medieval and based on an actual Mysterious Occurrence).
    About romantic suspense – I read very little of it. It’s too immediate.

    Reply
  23. Personally, I have nothing against medievals, unlike westerns. 😉 But like everything I read, they have to be well written. Medievals do seem to be more work to read for some reason, so maybe it’s easier for gems to get buried in the dross.
    In my experience, a glut of poorly written/plotted/characterized romances can kill any subgenre. If most of the ones I pick up are bad or even mediocre, I’ll stop bothering to look. Still, I don’t have a particular dislike of medievals and do enjoy them if they’re good. Jo’s medieval novellas are some of my favorite Christmas romances, and I loved Elizabeth English’s The Linnet. I also really liked A Kiss in the Night by Jennifer Horsman (which I’m pretty sure is medieval and based on an actual Mysterious Occurrence).
    About romantic suspense – I read very little of it. It’s too immediate.

    Reply
  24. Personally, I have nothing against medievals, unlike westerns. 😉 But like everything I read, they have to be well written. Medievals do seem to be more work to read for some reason, so maybe it’s easier for gems to get buried in the dross.
    In my experience, a glut of poorly written/plotted/characterized romances can kill any subgenre. If most of the ones I pick up are bad or even mediocre, I’ll stop bothering to look. Still, I don’t have a particular dislike of medievals and do enjoy them if they’re good. Jo’s medieval novellas are some of my favorite Christmas romances, and I loved Elizabeth English’s The Linnet. I also really liked A Kiss in the Night by Jennifer Horsman (which I’m pretty sure is medieval and based on an actual Mysterious Occurrence).
    About romantic suspense – I read very little of it. It’s too immediate.

    Reply
  25. I too used to avoid medievals, mostly because they weren’t “my period.” When I read yours, Jo (because you didn’t have any other Mallorens or Rogues left to read, darn it!), I really enjoyed them and since then have been open to them as a genre.
    One question/niggling disappointment I do have with medievals is the depiction of the church, priests, and “women religious” as ignorant, oppressive, anti-sexual and (too often)just plain evil. Certainly there are historical examples of “groovy sensitive” priests (how about Francis? Abelard?)and much of the spiritual literature of the time (particularly that written by women) is frankly sexual in nature and erotic in its description of interaction with the divine. And wouldn’t many historical people have felt comforted by the surety of their spiritual destiny at a time when death was a frequent visitor to every family?
    I also would assert that IMHO the cloistered life was freeing for women, not (as is so often depicted, and reflects our modern sensibility)one that restricted them. Where else but the cloister could women be educated, have a life of the mind, and be free of the restrictions placed upon them by arranged marriages and constant childbearing? (In many ways virginity was freedom to them, I think)
    I’m not a trained historian but (caution, Pollyanna alert) I would also want to challenge (at least for the sake of discussion) the notion that the medieval period was a “dark and dismal time.” It was a time of technological innovation (compass, cannon, plow, rudders–not to mention gothic architecture), incredible literature (Canterbury tales, Dante, Malory, etc. etc.), and some great spiritual women(Saint Clare, Julian of Norwich, Marjorie Kempe, Catherine of Siena, Hildegard of Bingen).
    What do you all think?

    Reply
  26. I too used to avoid medievals, mostly because they weren’t “my period.” When I read yours, Jo (because you didn’t have any other Mallorens or Rogues left to read, darn it!), I really enjoyed them and since then have been open to them as a genre.
    One question/niggling disappointment I do have with medievals is the depiction of the church, priests, and “women religious” as ignorant, oppressive, anti-sexual and (too often)just plain evil. Certainly there are historical examples of “groovy sensitive” priests (how about Francis? Abelard?)and much of the spiritual literature of the time (particularly that written by women) is frankly sexual in nature and erotic in its description of interaction with the divine. And wouldn’t many historical people have felt comforted by the surety of their spiritual destiny at a time when death was a frequent visitor to every family?
    I also would assert that IMHO the cloistered life was freeing for women, not (as is so often depicted, and reflects our modern sensibility)one that restricted them. Where else but the cloister could women be educated, have a life of the mind, and be free of the restrictions placed upon them by arranged marriages and constant childbearing? (In many ways virginity was freedom to them, I think)
    I’m not a trained historian but (caution, Pollyanna alert) I would also want to challenge (at least for the sake of discussion) the notion that the medieval period was a “dark and dismal time.” It was a time of technological innovation (compass, cannon, plow, rudders–not to mention gothic architecture), incredible literature (Canterbury tales, Dante, Malory, etc. etc.), and some great spiritual women(Saint Clare, Julian of Norwich, Marjorie Kempe, Catherine of Siena, Hildegard of Bingen).
    What do you all think?

    Reply
  27. I too used to avoid medievals, mostly because they weren’t “my period.” When I read yours, Jo (because you didn’t have any other Mallorens or Rogues left to read, darn it!), I really enjoyed them and since then have been open to them as a genre.
    One question/niggling disappointment I do have with medievals is the depiction of the church, priests, and “women religious” as ignorant, oppressive, anti-sexual and (too often)just plain evil. Certainly there are historical examples of “groovy sensitive” priests (how about Francis? Abelard?)and much of the spiritual literature of the time (particularly that written by women) is frankly sexual in nature and erotic in its description of interaction with the divine. And wouldn’t many historical people have felt comforted by the surety of their spiritual destiny at a time when death was a frequent visitor to every family?
    I also would assert that IMHO the cloistered life was freeing for women, not (as is so often depicted, and reflects our modern sensibility)one that restricted them. Where else but the cloister could women be educated, have a life of the mind, and be free of the restrictions placed upon them by arranged marriages and constant childbearing? (In many ways virginity was freedom to them, I think)
    I’m not a trained historian but (caution, Pollyanna alert) I would also want to challenge (at least for the sake of discussion) the notion that the medieval period was a “dark and dismal time.” It was a time of technological innovation (compass, cannon, plow, rudders–not to mention gothic architecture), incredible literature (Canterbury tales, Dante, Malory, etc. etc.), and some great spiritual women(Saint Clare, Julian of Norwich, Marjorie Kempe, Catherine of Siena, Hildegard of Bingen).
    What do you all think?

    Reply
  28. RevMelinda, you made much of my argument. In fact the perception of the Middle Ages as “dark” and backwards was coined by later historians, to set it apart from what came after. The middle ages were neither as dysmal, nor as violent as we are led to think. I am not saying that it was all that much fun to live then, but by no means was life completely oppressed. Same goes for women’s rights. This is a really tricky issue but again, women had options, fewer than today, but there were women who were guilt members in their own right, women who owned property, inherited earldoms & ruled them (the last “earl” of the tyrol was a woman, Margarete Maultasch, who ruled her lands and drove off her first husband – to give just one not so famous example) and so on. Also women had families who protected them, and did not just look at them as chattel to sell off, just as the “grim warrior” is not the only medieval man available – not by a long shot!
    To get back on track, I love medievals if they are good. I esp. love Roberta Gellis and Elizabeth Chadwick, but others too! Incidentially, the market for historical novels (with lots of romantic elements and usually a HEA) is very strong in the German speaking areas….
    Sorry if I am not making much sense here. I should’t post when I am tired…

    Reply
  29. RevMelinda, you made much of my argument. In fact the perception of the Middle Ages as “dark” and backwards was coined by later historians, to set it apart from what came after. The middle ages were neither as dysmal, nor as violent as we are led to think. I am not saying that it was all that much fun to live then, but by no means was life completely oppressed. Same goes for women’s rights. This is a really tricky issue but again, women had options, fewer than today, but there were women who were guilt members in their own right, women who owned property, inherited earldoms & ruled them (the last “earl” of the tyrol was a woman, Margarete Maultasch, who ruled her lands and drove off her first husband – to give just one not so famous example) and so on. Also women had families who protected them, and did not just look at them as chattel to sell off, just as the “grim warrior” is not the only medieval man available – not by a long shot!
    To get back on track, I love medievals if they are good. I esp. love Roberta Gellis and Elizabeth Chadwick, but others too! Incidentially, the market for historical novels (with lots of romantic elements and usually a HEA) is very strong in the German speaking areas….
    Sorry if I am not making much sense here. I should’t post when I am tired…

    Reply
  30. RevMelinda, you made much of my argument. In fact the perception of the Middle Ages as “dark” and backwards was coined by later historians, to set it apart from what came after. The middle ages were neither as dysmal, nor as violent as we are led to think. I am not saying that it was all that much fun to live then, but by no means was life completely oppressed. Same goes for women’s rights. This is a really tricky issue but again, women had options, fewer than today, but there were women who were guilt members in their own right, women who owned property, inherited earldoms & ruled them (the last “earl” of the tyrol was a woman, Margarete Maultasch, who ruled her lands and drove off her first husband – to give just one not so famous example) and so on. Also women had families who protected them, and did not just look at them as chattel to sell off, just as the “grim warrior” is not the only medieval man available – not by a long shot!
    To get back on track, I love medievals if they are good. I esp. love Roberta Gellis and Elizabeth Chadwick, but others too! Incidentially, the market for historical novels (with lots of romantic elements and usually a HEA) is very strong in the German speaking areas….
    Sorry if I am not making much sense here. I should’t post when I am tired…

    Reply
  31. “Along with historicals, the most popular type of romance is apparently romantic suspense. That seems to me to be all about the real dark and scary stuff in our world.”
    Good point–and one I didn’t think of because I’m not a romantic suspense reader, so they’re not really on my radar. Basically, I read historicals, the occasional paranormal, Jennifer Crusie, and Kathleen Eagle.
    “Perhaps that is two separate readerships thought — the historical escapists, and the ones who prefer to play through scary situations and see the bad guys lose.”
    I think that’s true, and the fact that I fall into the latter category feeds my frustration in my search for the kind of historicals I most like to read. I like the grit and the danger; I’m just rarely interested in the contemporary settings of romantic suspense or technothrillers. I guess I just prefer frigates to nuclear subs and Baker rifles to AK-47’s! So lately I read romance when I most want the love story and a Sharpe book when I most want the grit and peril.
    On the subject of medievals, they’re not my favorite era, largely I think because I just don’t know the history as well as I do earlier or later eras, so I just don’t connect to it as well. But I did really love THE SHATTERED ROSE, which I read earlier this year, and I’m always open to recommendations and trying something new.

    Reply
  32. “Along with historicals, the most popular type of romance is apparently romantic suspense. That seems to me to be all about the real dark and scary stuff in our world.”
    Good point–and one I didn’t think of because I’m not a romantic suspense reader, so they’re not really on my radar. Basically, I read historicals, the occasional paranormal, Jennifer Crusie, and Kathleen Eagle.
    “Perhaps that is two separate readerships thought — the historical escapists, and the ones who prefer to play through scary situations and see the bad guys lose.”
    I think that’s true, and the fact that I fall into the latter category feeds my frustration in my search for the kind of historicals I most like to read. I like the grit and the danger; I’m just rarely interested in the contemporary settings of romantic suspense or technothrillers. I guess I just prefer frigates to nuclear subs and Baker rifles to AK-47’s! So lately I read romance when I most want the love story and a Sharpe book when I most want the grit and peril.
    On the subject of medievals, they’re not my favorite era, largely I think because I just don’t know the history as well as I do earlier or later eras, so I just don’t connect to it as well. But I did really love THE SHATTERED ROSE, which I read earlier this year, and I’m always open to recommendations and trying something new.

    Reply
  33. “Along with historicals, the most popular type of romance is apparently romantic suspense. That seems to me to be all about the real dark and scary stuff in our world.”
    Good point–and one I didn’t think of because I’m not a romantic suspense reader, so they’re not really on my radar. Basically, I read historicals, the occasional paranormal, Jennifer Crusie, and Kathleen Eagle.
    “Perhaps that is two separate readerships thought — the historical escapists, and the ones who prefer to play through scary situations and see the bad guys lose.”
    I think that’s true, and the fact that I fall into the latter category feeds my frustration in my search for the kind of historicals I most like to read. I like the grit and the danger; I’m just rarely interested in the contemporary settings of romantic suspense or technothrillers. I guess I just prefer frigates to nuclear subs and Baker rifles to AK-47’s! So lately I read romance when I most want the love story and a Sharpe book when I most want the grit and peril.
    On the subject of medievals, they’re not my favorite era, largely I think because I just don’t know the history as well as I do earlier or later eras, so I just don’t connect to it as well. But I did really love THE SHATTERED ROSE, which I read earlier this year, and I’m always open to recommendations and trying something new.

    Reply
  34. I like Tina St John – her most recent series has a paranormal aspect but not too heavy and not at the expense of period. I do find medievals seem to have less variety of background (I never want to read another book of any period where the heroine is a genius as healing with herbs)

    Reply
  35. I like Tina St John – her most recent series has a paranormal aspect but not too heavy and not at the expense of period. I do find medievals seem to have less variety of background (I never want to read another book of any period where the heroine is a genius as healing with herbs)

    Reply
  36. I like Tina St John – her most recent series has a paranormal aspect but not too heavy and not at the expense of period. I do find medievals seem to have less variety of background (I never want to read another book of any period where the heroine is a genius as healing with herbs)

    Reply
  37. I don’t dislike medievals at all, and have read some truly lovely ones by the Wenches. But if I’m standing at a bookshelf filled with medievals and Regencies, I will gravitate toward the Regencies every time.
    Jo, your question really made me question why I prefer Regencies over medievals. I think it might be that to me, Regency men seem more “real” to me, more civilized, more inclined to use their wit and words as weapons in the drawing room, as opposed to swords and maces on the battlefield. I realize that’s a sweeping generalization.
    I also consider the Regency era more safe than older times. And men and women dressed in a style more closely related to how we dress today. This makes me more able to identify with them. When I read a medieval it is an entire world that seems so foreign to me, when the Regency era just seems more “real”
    It also seems that during the medieval era lords were always involved in preparing for war, or participating in battles, with fewer opportunities for drawing room conversations and London balls. Again, probably a gross generalization, but there you have it.
    On the whole, I guess I would prefer Regencies over medievals for two reasons: the Regency is more civilized to me, and I can identify more with a Regency hero than a medieval warrior.
    P.S. Happy birthday to our “littlest Wenchling,” Nina! You’re what … 16 now? *g*

    Reply
  38. I don’t dislike medievals at all, and have read some truly lovely ones by the Wenches. But if I’m standing at a bookshelf filled with medievals and Regencies, I will gravitate toward the Regencies every time.
    Jo, your question really made me question why I prefer Regencies over medievals. I think it might be that to me, Regency men seem more “real” to me, more civilized, more inclined to use their wit and words as weapons in the drawing room, as opposed to swords and maces on the battlefield. I realize that’s a sweeping generalization.
    I also consider the Regency era more safe than older times. And men and women dressed in a style more closely related to how we dress today. This makes me more able to identify with them. When I read a medieval it is an entire world that seems so foreign to me, when the Regency era just seems more “real”
    It also seems that during the medieval era lords were always involved in preparing for war, or participating in battles, with fewer opportunities for drawing room conversations and London balls. Again, probably a gross generalization, but there you have it.
    On the whole, I guess I would prefer Regencies over medievals for two reasons: the Regency is more civilized to me, and I can identify more with a Regency hero than a medieval warrior.
    P.S. Happy birthday to our “littlest Wenchling,” Nina! You’re what … 16 now? *g*

    Reply
  39. I don’t dislike medievals at all, and have read some truly lovely ones by the Wenches. But if I’m standing at a bookshelf filled with medievals and Regencies, I will gravitate toward the Regencies every time.
    Jo, your question really made me question why I prefer Regencies over medievals. I think it might be that to me, Regency men seem more “real” to me, more civilized, more inclined to use their wit and words as weapons in the drawing room, as opposed to swords and maces on the battlefield. I realize that’s a sweeping generalization.
    I also consider the Regency era more safe than older times. And men and women dressed in a style more closely related to how we dress today. This makes me more able to identify with them. When I read a medieval it is an entire world that seems so foreign to me, when the Regency era just seems more “real”
    It also seems that during the medieval era lords were always involved in preparing for war, or participating in battles, with fewer opportunities for drawing room conversations and London balls. Again, probably a gross generalization, but there you have it.
    On the whole, I guess I would prefer Regencies over medievals for two reasons: the Regency is more civilized to me, and I can identify more with a Regency hero than a medieval warrior.
    P.S. Happy birthday to our “littlest Wenchling,” Nina! You’re what … 16 now? *g*

    Reply
  40. My views seem heretical in this discussion, but I don’t read Medievals. My keeper shelves hold seventy-five books by the Wenches, and there is not a Medieval among them. I have one among my many hundreds of keepers, and it is a comedy (a Medeiros). I know from discussion on other boards that I am not alone in choosing not to read romances with this setting. I honestly don’t know why I don’t like them. It is particularly strange since generally at least one semester I teach a world literature course that includes Beowulf, Dante, Chaucer, Marie de France, Christine de Pizan, and others. And I love teaching that course, but somehow my love for the literary period does not translate to romance fiction.

    Reply
  41. My views seem heretical in this discussion, but I don’t read Medievals. My keeper shelves hold seventy-five books by the Wenches, and there is not a Medieval among them. I have one among my many hundreds of keepers, and it is a comedy (a Medeiros). I know from discussion on other boards that I am not alone in choosing not to read romances with this setting. I honestly don’t know why I don’t like them. It is particularly strange since generally at least one semester I teach a world literature course that includes Beowulf, Dante, Chaucer, Marie de France, Christine de Pizan, and others. And I love teaching that course, but somehow my love for the literary period does not translate to romance fiction.

    Reply
  42. My views seem heretical in this discussion, but I don’t read Medievals. My keeper shelves hold seventy-five books by the Wenches, and there is not a Medieval among them. I have one among my many hundreds of keepers, and it is a comedy (a Medeiros). I know from discussion on other boards that I am not alone in choosing not to read romances with this setting. I honestly don’t know why I don’t like them. It is particularly strange since generally at least one semester I teach a world literature course that includes Beowulf, Dante, Chaucer, Marie de France, Christine de Pizan, and others. And I love teaching that course, but somehow my love for the literary period does not translate to romance fiction.

    Reply
  43. Just to pick up on RevMelinda’s point about technological innovation: in fact, a great many technological ‘discoveries’ of the Middle Ages were merely re-discoveries of things that had long been well known in Classical Antiquity but had been lost in the early Medieval period because of the conscious rejection of paganism and all things connected with it. Yes, Medieval architecture can sometimes be sublime – but it is not all that original either. 😉
    This is not to denigrate such achievements: history’s like that – it goes in waves, in peaks and troughs. I find myself somewhat out of sympathy with any European setting prior to the 17th century AD: pre-4th century because I know too much about it, and 5th-17th because I know too little, and in any case, I am waiting eagerly for the Enlightenment…
    But if a story is a good tale, well-written, vividly and accurately placed in its setting, with engaging and believable characters, then I am going to enjoy reading it anyway. At a fundamental level, people are people, and the differences in cultural context merely highlight some of the basic similarities between ourselves and our ancestors, however remote.
    😉

    Reply
  44. Just to pick up on RevMelinda’s point about technological innovation: in fact, a great many technological ‘discoveries’ of the Middle Ages were merely re-discoveries of things that had long been well known in Classical Antiquity but had been lost in the early Medieval period because of the conscious rejection of paganism and all things connected with it. Yes, Medieval architecture can sometimes be sublime – but it is not all that original either. 😉
    This is not to denigrate such achievements: history’s like that – it goes in waves, in peaks and troughs. I find myself somewhat out of sympathy with any European setting prior to the 17th century AD: pre-4th century because I know too much about it, and 5th-17th because I know too little, and in any case, I am waiting eagerly for the Enlightenment…
    But if a story is a good tale, well-written, vividly and accurately placed in its setting, with engaging and believable characters, then I am going to enjoy reading it anyway. At a fundamental level, people are people, and the differences in cultural context merely highlight some of the basic similarities between ourselves and our ancestors, however remote.
    😉

    Reply
  45. Just to pick up on RevMelinda’s point about technological innovation: in fact, a great many technological ‘discoveries’ of the Middle Ages were merely re-discoveries of things that had long been well known in Classical Antiquity but had been lost in the early Medieval period because of the conscious rejection of paganism and all things connected with it. Yes, Medieval architecture can sometimes be sublime – but it is not all that original either. 😉
    This is not to denigrate such achievements: history’s like that – it goes in waves, in peaks and troughs. I find myself somewhat out of sympathy with any European setting prior to the 17th century AD: pre-4th century because I know too much about it, and 5th-17th because I know too little, and in any case, I am waiting eagerly for the Enlightenment…
    But if a story is a good tale, well-written, vividly and accurately placed in its setting, with engaging and believable characters, then I am going to enjoy reading it anyway. At a fundamental level, people are people, and the differences in cultural context merely highlight some of the basic similarities between ourselves and our ancestors, however remote.
    😉

    Reply
  46. You might look at it from another viewpoint, Jo—medievals were really “hot” when the historical romance genre first hit the market. At that time, readers weren’t accustomed to reading about sex, and medievals gave them a nice comfortable distance from which to view these usually lavish purple prosy scenes. Knights and castles were a “romantic” background for the sex.
    But as readers grew more acquainted with this new genre, they started hunting out the periods they enjoyed most, and gradually, medievals were weeded out, probably for a lot of the reasons stated above.
    In full disclosure—I’ve only written one book that could be called a “medieval,” and I did it because I wanted to write about witches without the Puritan thing getting in the way. I adored Roberta’s medievals for her characterization and skimmed over all the details.
    And Janga, I love Terri’s early medieval comedy. It made me a lifelong fan of hers. But I’ll read Terri and Roberta for their characters in any period. I don’t trust all writers in that same way. And I simply don’t enjoy the history of that era.

    Reply
  47. You might look at it from another viewpoint, Jo—medievals were really “hot” when the historical romance genre first hit the market. At that time, readers weren’t accustomed to reading about sex, and medievals gave them a nice comfortable distance from which to view these usually lavish purple prosy scenes. Knights and castles were a “romantic” background for the sex.
    But as readers grew more acquainted with this new genre, they started hunting out the periods they enjoyed most, and gradually, medievals were weeded out, probably for a lot of the reasons stated above.
    In full disclosure—I’ve only written one book that could be called a “medieval,” and I did it because I wanted to write about witches without the Puritan thing getting in the way. I adored Roberta’s medievals for her characterization and skimmed over all the details.
    And Janga, I love Terri’s early medieval comedy. It made me a lifelong fan of hers. But I’ll read Terri and Roberta for their characters in any period. I don’t trust all writers in that same way. And I simply don’t enjoy the history of that era.

    Reply
  48. You might look at it from another viewpoint, Jo—medievals were really “hot” when the historical romance genre first hit the market. At that time, readers weren’t accustomed to reading about sex, and medievals gave them a nice comfortable distance from which to view these usually lavish purple prosy scenes. Knights and castles were a “romantic” background for the sex.
    But as readers grew more acquainted with this new genre, they started hunting out the periods they enjoyed most, and gradually, medievals were weeded out, probably for a lot of the reasons stated above.
    In full disclosure—I’ve only written one book that could be called a “medieval,” and I did it because I wanted to write about witches without the Puritan thing getting in the way. I adored Roberta’s medievals for her characterization and skimmed over all the details.
    And Janga, I love Terri’s early medieval comedy. It made me a lifelong fan of hers. But I’ll read Terri and Roberta for their characters in any period. I don’t trust all writers in that same way. And I simply don’t enjoy the history of that era.

    Reply
  49. Jo, I love medievals (and of course, have yours!) in part because I love castles! I like the fact that the castle may have been the center of and the reason for the village. I love the history but also really appreciate it when the author puts the purpose of the castle (military, political, economic) into perspective for me and the role that the castle folk play in the surrounding community – as well as at court.
    Perhaps you are right and I like the historical distance from dark & dangerous doings. But, like others here have suggested – I think that publishers glomed onto the market & put some bad books out there when medievals first became big. (Much like they are currently doing with paranormals!)
    However, for other folks out here who want a sampling of authors who excell at the medieval I can only sing the praises of Roberta Gellis, 2 by Laura Kinsale, Sharon Kay Penman (though some may not call hers’ romances) and Judith Merkle Riley for a touch of whimsey and angels & devils – all really great authors.

    Reply
  50. Jo, I love medievals (and of course, have yours!) in part because I love castles! I like the fact that the castle may have been the center of and the reason for the village. I love the history but also really appreciate it when the author puts the purpose of the castle (military, political, economic) into perspective for me and the role that the castle folk play in the surrounding community – as well as at court.
    Perhaps you are right and I like the historical distance from dark & dangerous doings. But, like others here have suggested – I think that publishers glomed onto the market & put some bad books out there when medievals first became big. (Much like they are currently doing with paranormals!)
    However, for other folks out here who want a sampling of authors who excell at the medieval I can only sing the praises of Roberta Gellis, 2 by Laura Kinsale, Sharon Kay Penman (though some may not call hers’ romances) and Judith Merkle Riley for a touch of whimsey and angels & devils – all really great authors.

    Reply
  51. Jo, I love medievals (and of course, have yours!) in part because I love castles! I like the fact that the castle may have been the center of and the reason for the village. I love the history but also really appreciate it when the author puts the purpose of the castle (military, political, economic) into perspective for me and the role that the castle folk play in the surrounding community – as well as at court.
    Perhaps you are right and I like the historical distance from dark & dangerous doings. But, like others here have suggested – I think that publishers glomed onto the market & put some bad books out there when medievals first became big. (Much like they are currently doing with paranormals!)
    However, for other folks out here who want a sampling of authors who excell at the medieval I can only sing the praises of Roberta Gellis, 2 by Laura Kinsale, Sharon Kay Penman (though some may not call hers’ romances) and Judith Merkle Riley for a touch of whimsey and angels & devils – all really great authors.

    Reply
  52. LOL, on the heroine who’s a genius with herbs. Definitely overdone. But I’m equally irritated by the intrepid sword-wielding heroine.
    I like to explore strong women within the norms for their time, because otherwise it feels to me as if the subtext is that women have to either assume men’s roles or be super-nurturer to be admirable. They can’t just be skillful, hardworking women of their world.
    Yes, RevMelinda, there were many women who were happy to join convents and have an interesting life there without those pesky men. In some periods, however, the prevailing tone of male Christianity was anti women. Referring to what I said above, they tried to deny the value of ordinary women by elevating the concept of the Virgin Mary, and they were always preaching about the sexually predatory woman, who would ruin men’s chance of heaven.
    Interesting point about the change in the romance genre as readers grew into it.
    There’s another thing that amuses me about some views of the medieval world in romance novels — the independent hero. There is is, like a lone gunman in the Old West, declaring the virtues of being his own man, how no one is going to boss _him_ around. It’s so not feudal. To be solitary/not dependent was to be marked as a BAD person. That’s what outlawry was all about. Having as many connection as possible, as many adherents, and plenty of connections to the right superiors was to win the medieval game of Life.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  53. LOL, on the heroine who’s a genius with herbs. Definitely overdone. But I’m equally irritated by the intrepid sword-wielding heroine.
    I like to explore strong women within the norms for their time, because otherwise it feels to me as if the subtext is that women have to either assume men’s roles or be super-nurturer to be admirable. They can’t just be skillful, hardworking women of their world.
    Yes, RevMelinda, there were many women who were happy to join convents and have an interesting life there without those pesky men. In some periods, however, the prevailing tone of male Christianity was anti women. Referring to what I said above, they tried to deny the value of ordinary women by elevating the concept of the Virgin Mary, and they were always preaching about the sexually predatory woman, who would ruin men’s chance of heaven.
    Interesting point about the change in the romance genre as readers grew into it.
    There’s another thing that amuses me about some views of the medieval world in romance novels — the independent hero. There is is, like a lone gunman in the Old West, declaring the virtues of being his own man, how no one is going to boss _him_ around. It’s so not feudal. To be solitary/not dependent was to be marked as a BAD person. That’s what outlawry was all about. Having as many connection as possible, as many adherents, and plenty of connections to the right superiors was to win the medieval game of Life.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  54. LOL, on the heroine who’s a genius with herbs. Definitely overdone. But I’m equally irritated by the intrepid sword-wielding heroine.
    I like to explore strong women within the norms for their time, because otherwise it feels to me as if the subtext is that women have to either assume men’s roles or be super-nurturer to be admirable. They can’t just be skillful, hardworking women of their world.
    Yes, RevMelinda, there were many women who were happy to join convents and have an interesting life there without those pesky men. In some periods, however, the prevailing tone of male Christianity was anti women. Referring to what I said above, they tried to deny the value of ordinary women by elevating the concept of the Virgin Mary, and they were always preaching about the sexually predatory woman, who would ruin men’s chance of heaven.
    Interesting point about the change in the romance genre as readers grew into it.
    There’s another thing that amuses me about some views of the medieval world in romance novels — the independent hero. There is is, like a lone gunman in the Old West, declaring the virtues of being his own man, how no one is going to boss _him_ around. It’s so not feudal. To be solitary/not dependent was to be marked as a BAD person. That’s what outlawry was all about. Having as many connection as possible, as many adherents, and plenty of connections to the right superiors was to win the medieval game of Life.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  55. Like many of you, I like medievals well enough depending on character and story. I’m also a history nut, so huge errors tend to annoy me a lot and can pull me right out of the story.
    My favorites are Roberta Gellis (closer to a real sense of medieval “place” and identity than almost any other writer out there) and Sharon Kay Penman, whom I may not classify as romance but there are romantic elements in her books. And boy is she good. Also excellent is Sharan Newman’s mysteries (though there’s a central relationship throughout). Another writer with a fantastic sense of medieval time and space. I haven’t read Jo’s or any of the other Wenches’ medievals yet, though some of them are on my TBR shelf. So I can’t classify those :).
    That being said, I don’t go seeking medievals out for the most part. Probably because I’ve read too many TSTL or modern heroes/heroines who drive me nuts or authors who have no real clue about the Middle Ages other than knights, chivalry, and tournaments.
    It is true…much of the Middle Ages was virulently anti-female in its Christianity. At least in its written form, that is. I think that’s for two related reasons. One, the only people who were literate, for the most part, were the monks. And two, the monks were required to be celibate (it wasn’t officially required of priests until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 but monks were another story — they volunteered). Making women the devil they have to resist is to both acknowledge their power (or shift the blame from the men) and to make them easier to resist by the monks. So of course monks were anti-female. I’m not sure that meant medieval society as a whole was that way.

    Reply
  56. Like many of you, I like medievals well enough depending on character and story. I’m also a history nut, so huge errors tend to annoy me a lot and can pull me right out of the story.
    My favorites are Roberta Gellis (closer to a real sense of medieval “place” and identity than almost any other writer out there) and Sharon Kay Penman, whom I may not classify as romance but there are romantic elements in her books. And boy is she good. Also excellent is Sharan Newman’s mysteries (though there’s a central relationship throughout). Another writer with a fantastic sense of medieval time and space. I haven’t read Jo’s or any of the other Wenches’ medievals yet, though some of them are on my TBR shelf. So I can’t classify those :).
    That being said, I don’t go seeking medievals out for the most part. Probably because I’ve read too many TSTL or modern heroes/heroines who drive me nuts or authors who have no real clue about the Middle Ages other than knights, chivalry, and tournaments.
    It is true…much of the Middle Ages was virulently anti-female in its Christianity. At least in its written form, that is. I think that’s for two related reasons. One, the only people who were literate, for the most part, were the monks. And two, the monks were required to be celibate (it wasn’t officially required of priests until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 but monks were another story — they volunteered). Making women the devil they have to resist is to both acknowledge their power (or shift the blame from the men) and to make them easier to resist by the monks. So of course monks were anti-female. I’m not sure that meant medieval society as a whole was that way.

    Reply
  57. Like many of you, I like medievals well enough depending on character and story. I’m also a history nut, so huge errors tend to annoy me a lot and can pull me right out of the story.
    My favorites are Roberta Gellis (closer to a real sense of medieval “place” and identity than almost any other writer out there) and Sharon Kay Penman, whom I may not classify as romance but there are romantic elements in her books. And boy is she good. Also excellent is Sharan Newman’s mysteries (though there’s a central relationship throughout). Another writer with a fantastic sense of medieval time and space. I haven’t read Jo’s or any of the other Wenches’ medievals yet, though some of them are on my TBR shelf. So I can’t classify those :).
    That being said, I don’t go seeking medievals out for the most part. Probably because I’ve read too many TSTL or modern heroes/heroines who drive me nuts or authors who have no real clue about the Middle Ages other than knights, chivalry, and tournaments.
    It is true…much of the Middle Ages was virulently anti-female in its Christianity. At least in its written form, that is. I think that’s for two related reasons. One, the only people who were literate, for the most part, were the monks. And two, the monks were required to be celibate (it wasn’t officially required of priests until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 but monks were another story — they volunteered). Making women the devil they have to resist is to both acknowledge their power (or shift the blame from the men) and to make them easier to resist by the monks. So of course monks were anti-female. I’m not sure that meant medieval society as a whole was that way.

    Reply
  58. Sherrie Holmes wrote: I think it might be that to me, Regency men seem more “real” to me, more civilized, more inclined to use their wit and words as weapons in the drawing room, as opposed to swords and maces on the battlefield. I realize that’s a sweeping generalization.>>
    I would love to read about a Medieval hero of this ilk, even a court jester/magician. Someone who is not weak but survives and rises mostly on brains and canny influence.
    And I have to confess that FitzRoger in Dark Champion is my all-time favorite romance hottie.*blush*
    For me, it’s not what genre’s popular, but whether the book is intelligently written. I love Regencies, but there are some current bestsellers (no Wenches included)I won’t touch because they’re just not satisying. It’s hard to turn pages while rolling my eyes.
    And because of who and what I am, I’m really picky about paranormals.
    As for future trends, I predict sci/fi-romance fusion will be big.
    🙂

    Reply
  59. Sherrie Holmes wrote: I think it might be that to me, Regency men seem more “real” to me, more civilized, more inclined to use their wit and words as weapons in the drawing room, as opposed to swords and maces on the battlefield. I realize that’s a sweeping generalization.>>
    I would love to read about a Medieval hero of this ilk, even a court jester/magician. Someone who is not weak but survives and rises mostly on brains and canny influence.
    And I have to confess that FitzRoger in Dark Champion is my all-time favorite romance hottie.*blush*
    For me, it’s not what genre’s popular, but whether the book is intelligently written. I love Regencies, but there are some current bestsellers (no Wenches included)I won’t touch because they’re just not satisying. It’s hard to turn pages while rolling my eyes.
    And because of who and what I am, I’m really picky about paranormals.
    As for future trends, I predict sci/fi-romance fusion will be big.
    🙂

    Reply
  60. Sherrie Holmes wrote: I think it might be that to me, Regency men seem more “real” to me, more civilized, more inclined to use their wit and words as weapons in the drawing room, as opposed to swords and maces on the battlefield. I realize that’s a sweeping generalization.>>
    I would love to read about a Medieval hero of this ilk, even a court jester/magician. Someone who is not weak but survives and rises mostly on brains and canny influence.
    And I have to confess that FitzRoger in Dark Champion is my all-time favorite romance hottie.*blush*
    For me, it’s not what genre’s popular, but whether the book is intelligently written. I love Regencies, but there are some current bestsellers (no Wenches included)I won’t touch because they’re just not satisying. It’s hard to turn pages while rolling my eyes.
    And because of who and what I am, I’m really picky about paranormals.
    As for future trends, I predict sci/fi-romance fusion will be big.
    🙂

    Reply
  61. I agree with Liz when she says: “they got too popular – there was a run of bad ones”
    The genre is great, but not all authors are great at writing about it!
    Personally though, I’d rather buy a medieval than a paranormal (another example of a genre flooding the bookshelves and causing me to think ‘what? another one?’ I predict that soon there’ll be a downward slide in popularity for those too)

    Reply
  62. I agree with Liz when she says: “they got too popular – there was a run of bad ones”
    The genre is great, but not all authors are great at writing about it!
    Personally though, I’d rather buy a medieval than a paranormal (another example of a genre flooding the bookshelves and causing me to think ‘what? another one?’ I predict that soon there’ll be a downward slide in popularity for those too)

    Reply
  63. I agree with Liz when she says: “they got too popular – there was a run of bad ones”
    The genre is great, but not all authors are great at writing about it!
    Personally though, I’d rather buy a medieval than a paranormal (another example of a genre flooding the bookshelves and causing me to think ‘what? another one?’ I predict that soon there’ll be a downward slide in popularity for those too)

    Reply
  64. From the littlest wenchling:
    First, thank you Sherrie for your birthday wishes. And yes, it’s great to be 16… again. *g*
    On medievals… I love the concept of the feudal system and how it organized and ruled society. It works for me much better than the aristocracy of the Regency period. In the medieval times, if you were a feudal lord you ruled things and fought to defend the things you ruled. Very much like today except we defend paychecks instead of land and traveling space on the road instead of our castle walls.
    My favorite way to read about medieval times is in high or epic high fantasy. I love EHF when it has a strong sensual bent to it. This is often gained both by danger and the raw sexual attraction between the hero and heroine. Raw because we are often living in the wiles not a nice comfy London house or well furnished estate. (Not that I don’t like them too.)
    I don’t like the dominating hero ruled by his ‘other head.’ It may be arguably true to the times but bends me the wrong way every time.
    The greatest danger I see writers of medievals falling into, IMHO, is trying to make their story too true to life. Please don’t throw a bunch of words/terminology at me that I don’t understand. Yea, a knight wore a gauntlet. But tell me it was a glove first. Then use the big word.
    And, don’t forget the magic. In my mind, the medieval times were magical. In reality, I know they weren’t and mostly everyone was flea bitten. But, I don’t want to read about reality. Show me a world with gallant knights and daring women who fight for a cause bigger than themselves. This will fuel me every time.

    Reply
  65. From the littlest wenchling:
    First, thank you Sherrie for your birthday wishes. And yes, it’s great to be 16… again. *g*
    On medievals… I love the concept of the feudal system and how it organized and ruled society. It works for me much better than the aristocracy of the Regency period. In the medieval times, if you were a feudal lord you ruled things and fought to defend the things you ruled. Very much like today except we defend paychecks instead of land and traveling space on the road instead of our castle walls.
    My favorite way to read about medieval times is in high or epic high fantasy. I love EHF when it has a strong sensual bent to it. This is often gained both by danger and the raw sexual attraction between the hero and heroine. Raw because we are often living in the wiles not a nice comfy London house or well furnished estate. (Not that I don’t like them too.)
    I don’t like the dominating hero ruled by his ‘other head.’ It may be arguably true to the times but bends me the wrong way every time.
    The greatest danger I see writers of medievals falling into, IMHO, is trying to make their story too true to life. Please don’t throw a bunch of words/terminology at me that I don’t understand. Yea, a knight wore a gauntlet. But tell me it was a glove first. Then use the big word.
    And, don’t forget the magic. In my mind, the medieval times were magical. In reality, I know they weren’t and mostly everyone was flea bitten. But, I don’t want to read about reality. Show me a world with gallant knights and daring women who fight for a cause bigger than themselves. This will fuel me every time.

    Reply
  66. From the littlest wenchling:
    First, thank you Sherrie for your birthday wishes. And yes, it’s great to be 16… again. *g*
    On medievals… I love the concept of the feudal system and how it organized and ruled society. It works for me much better than the aristocracy of the Regency period. In the medieval times, if you were a feudal lord you ruled things and fought to defend the things you ruled. Very much like today except we defend paychecks instead of land and traveling space on the road instead of our castle walls.
    My favorite way to read about medieval times is in high or epic high fantasy. I love EHF when it has a strong sensual bent to it. This is often gained both by danger and the raw sexual attraction between the hero and heroine. Raw because we are often living in the wiles not a nice comfy London house or well furnished estate. (Not that I don’t like them too.)
    I don’t like the dominating hero ruled by his ‘other head.’ It may be arguably true to the times but bends me the wrong way every time.
    The greatest danger I see writers of medievals falling into, IMHO, is trying to make their story too true to life. Please don’t throw a bunch of words/terminology at me that I don’t understand. Yea, a knight wore a gauntlet. But tell me it was a glove first. Then use the big word.
    And, don’t forget the magic. In my mind, the medieval times were magical. In reality, I know they weren’t and mostly everyone was flea bitten. But, I don’t want to read about reality. Show me a world with gallant knights and daring women who fight for a cause bigger than themselves. This will fuel me every time.

    Reply
  67. Great discussion, everyone.
    I do think we need a bit of fancy is medieval romance. After all, with other periods we don’t insist on absolute, broad reality. We’re allowed to select and even to go for the most appealing aspects.
    Which makes me wonder if westerns began to decline when authors concentrated on too much of the grim reality.
    A subject for another day!
    Jo

    Reply
  68. Great discussion, everyone.
    I do think we need a bit of fancy is medieval romance. After all, with other periods we don’t insist on absolute, broad reality. We’re allowed to select and even to go for the most appealing aspects.
    Which makes me wonder if westerns began to decline when authors concentrated on too much of the grim reality.
    A subject for another day!
    Jo

    Reply
  69. Great discussion, everyone.
    I do think we need a bit of fancy is medieval romance. After all, with other periods we don’t insist on absolute, broad reality. We’re allowed to select and even to go for the most appealing aspects.
    Which makes me wonder if westerns began to decline when authors concentrated on too much of the grim reality.
    A subject for another day!
    Jo

    Reply
  70. Late to chime in, but I have to give a recommendation for Joan Wolf’s spectacular Early Middle Ages trio from Arthur to Alfred. These are out of print, but well worth a visit to your local library. Also check out her Hugh de Leon books set in the high Middle Ages.
    I think medievals would be difficult to write and write well – too easy to focus on the concept of the knight without really knowing what one was and how it differed in England, France etc. Of course, many do this in the Regency as well, but perhaps word choice or actions which seem odd in a Regency just ring completely false in the medieval. As a history major who focused on social history of the Middle ages, I am too aware of the time period to let go and just believe. Much easier for me to accomplish this in the Regency where I have a passable knowledge of the era, but not the in depth picture and research I’ve done on the Middle Ages.

    Reply
  71. Late to chime in, but I have to give a recommendation for Joan Wolf’s spectacular Early Middle Ages trio from Arthur to Alfred. These are out of print, but well worth a visit to your local library. Also check out her Hugh de Leon books set in the high Middle Ages.
    I think medievals would be difficult to write and write well – too easy to focus on the concept of the knight without really knowing what one was and how it differed in England, France etc. Of course, many do this in the Regency as well, but perhaps word choice or actions which seem odd in a Regency just ring completely false in the medieval. As a history major who focused on social history of the Middle ages, I am too aware of the time period to let go and just believe. Much easier for me to accomplish this in the Regency where I have a passable knowledge of the era, but not the in depth picture and research I’ve done on the Middle Ages.

    Reply
  72. Late to chime in, but I have to give a recommendation for Joan Wolf’s spectacular Early Middle Ages trio from Arthur to Alfred. These are out of print, but well worth a visit to your local library. Also check out her Hugh de Leon books set in the high Middle Ages.
    I think medievals would be difficult to write and write well – too easy to focus on the concept of the knight without really knowing what one was and how it differed in England, France etc. Of course, many do this in the Regency as well, but perhaps word choice or actions which seem odd in a Regency just ring completely false in the medieval. As a history major who focused on social history of the Middle ages, I am too aware of the time period to let go and just believe. Much easier for me to accomplish this in the Regency where I have a passable knowledge of the era, but not the in depth picture and research I’ve done on the Middle Ages.

    Reply
  73. I think Medievals declined not because they got too gritty, but the opposite: too cliched and McMedievaland. As someone else said, how many sword-wielding heroines or herbalist heroines or Norman heroes bombarding the poor widdle Saxon heroine can we take? (The laxness in period detail and cliched and overused plotlines that flooded the market also killed the Viking romance, btw)
    I love Medievals–Marsha Canham, Teresa Medeiros, Catherine Coulter,Roberta Gellis, Iris Johansen’s WONDERFUL “Lion’s Bride”, but I don’t touch any with a ten-foot pole because they read like Regency Historicals in gauntlets and castles.

    Reply
  74. I think Medievals declined not because they got too gritty, but the opposite: too cliched and McMedievaland. As someone else said, how many sword-wielding heroines or herbalist heroines or Norman heroes bombarding the poor widdle Saxon heroine can we take? (The laxness in period detail and cliched and overused plotlines that flooded the market also killed the Viking romance, btw)
    I love Medievals–Marsha Canham, Teresa Medeiros, Catherine Coulter,Roberta Gellis, Iris Johansen’s WONDERFUL “Lion’s Bride”, but I don’t touch any with a ten-foot pole because they read like Regency Historicals in gauntlets and castles.

    Reply
  75. I think Medievals declined not because they got too gritty, but the opposite: too cliched and McMedievaland. As someone else said, how many sword-wielding heroines or herbalist heroines or Norman heroes bombarding the poor widdle Saxon heroine can we take? (The laxness in period detail and cliched and overused plotlines that flooded the market also killed the Viking romance, btw)
    I love Medievals–Marsha Canham, Teresa Medeiros, Catherine Coulter,Roberta Gellis, Iris Johansen’s WONDERFUL “Lion’s Bride”, but I don’t touch any with a ten-foot pole because they read like Regency Historicals in gauntlets and castles.

    Reply

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