Race and Religion, Oh My!

Woman_writing_a_letter
Pat Rice here—

My mind wanders many curious byways while I’m writing, or procrastinating, as the case usually is.  I might be writing about a hero attempting to deal with a recalcitrant mule and wondering what kind of foul language he might use during the 1790’s, or what he’d edit himself into saying if the heroine isMule
around, and my mind will stray to another character who happens to be of a different race or religious persuasion and how he would speak to the mule. And then all these other intricate byways open up, maybe related to current events like the Imus foofaraw  and suddenly, there’s a giant unexplored cave before me.

The cave to explore today is race and religion in historicals. Once upon a long time ago, I used to write books about the American south and had to deal with the language that would have been used at that time. I perused newspapers of the period and headlines would read “Escaped Nigger—Reward Offered,” so I know perfectly well what was acceptable then. And I equally know it’s not acceptable now—if only because of those dreadful historical headlines and their connotations. 

So what is a historical author supposed to do? Ignore the facts of history to be politically correct ? That’s a loaded question, you realize, because a lot of people despise the theory of political correctness. They Spade
want to call a spade a spade and to heck with the fact that it was once an offensive reference to color. But I write books for people to enjoy and find it offensive to offend. At the same time, I want to present the issues and their historical foundations. That leaves me right in the middle of the road, waiting for a semi to knock me flying.

Race is the most obvious stalactite in this cave, but religion  is far more pervasive, if not as obtrusive.  The original colonies were founded on religion  because people in Europe couldn’t agree on it. Religion has driven wars and brought down kingdoms. Religion has divided Ireland for centuries and driven Jews to wander. But if we try writing about any of this, the reading public runs, horrified, in the other direction.

It’s no wonder we can only write Regencies these days!  If we stick to a ten year time period and aRegency
homogeneous class of people, when the wars were political and not religious or racial, we don’t have to trouble ourselves with nasty little “issues” unless we deliberately choose to do so.

I’m beginning to understand why fantasies about monsters have become so popular. They give us a chance to explore discrimination without offense.  We can see the darker side of human nature without applying it to ourselves.

Ostrich
Does this mean we may be willing to explore real “issues” someday soon? Or that we’re still sitting around with our heads in the sand and big bullseyes on our rears?  Or do issues have no place in genre fiction?

And how do I get out of this cave before I bang my head against the stalactites and knock myself out?

88 thoughts on “Race and Religion, Oh My!”

  1. Well, how’s redressing the lack of representation of women in the past for an issue? Women are (aprox.) 50% of the population, yet you wouldn’t know that from History class. Suffragettes are about the height of it. Maybe because women didn’t get to write history. Maybe because “women’s issues” are of less interest to historians than Prime Ministers and wars. The nature of historicals is to not only make women the focus, but also play up the more feisty, educated and interesting types of women that did/could have existed.
    Far from being a “safe” era, the Regency is full of issues for women around independence, marriage, health and childbirth, money, education, etc. It is these issues which make some of the best books so compelling.

    Reply
  2. Well, how’s redressing the lack of representation of women in the past for an issue? Women are (aprox.) 50% of the population, yet you wouldn’t know that from History class. Suffragettes are about the height of it. Maybe because women didn’t get to write history. Maybe because “women’s issues” are of less interest to historians than Prime Ministers and wars. The nature of historicals is to not only make women the focus, but also play up the more feisty, educated and interesting types of women that did/could have existed.
    Far from being a “safe” era, the Regency is full of issues for women around independence, marriage, health and childbirth, money, education, etc. It is these issues which make some of the best books so compelling.

    Reply
  3. Well, how’s redressing the lack of representation of women in the past for an issue? Women are (aprox.) 50% of the population, yet you wouldn’t know that from History class. Suffragettes are about the height of it. Maybe because women didn’t get to write history. Maybe because “women’s issues” are of less interest to historians than Prime Ministers and wars. The nature of historicals is to not only make women the focus, but also play up the more feisty, educated and interesting types of women that did/could have existed.
    Far from being a “safe” era, the Regency is full of issues for women around independence, marriage, health and childbirth, money, education, etc. It is these issues which make some of the best books so compelling.

    Reply
  4. Well, how’s redressing the lack of representation of women in the past for an issue? Women are (aprox.) 50% of the population, yet you wouldn’t know that from History class. Suffragettes are about the height of it. Maybe because women didn’t get to write history. Maybe because “women’s issues” are of less interest to historians than Prime Ministers and wars. The nature of historicals is to not only make women the focus, but also play up the more feisty, educated and interesting types of women that did/could have existed.
    Far from being a “safe” era, the Regency is full of issues for women around independence, marriage, health and childbirth, money, education, etc. It is these issues which make some of the best books so compelling.

    Reply
  5. I’m fascinated by history, and glimpses into the reality of how people lived at various times. I think any of us who love historical romances do so in part because we’re history buffs. The problem with including historical context about social injustices and religion in a romance is that they tend to overwhelm the romance. They’re too big to solve in one story.
    You could highlight one aspect – have a heroine working to get orphans out of a workhouse, for instance – which would give a flavor of the time yet still be a resolvable situation. But I read romances in part to be happy, and it’s hard to be happy for the main characters when other characters I’ve become fond of are not going to have a happily ever after. And common parlance of the time, while relatively unexceptional then, can be so perjorative to my ears that I can’t get past it. That’s where the fantasy part comes in – cleaning up the language for our sensibilities.
    I do like a book where the characters care about religion and God, but there again, it has to be an aspect of character and not a doctrinal treatise. And I’ve really enjoyed some medieval romances which include the major political roles played by the Catholic church clergy (including nuns).
    I guess it basically comes down to this: I don’t want to work that hard at reading a romance, and I don’t want to lose the romance in the fog of history. I’ll take some loss of historicity instead. But I very much like the idea of bringing a novelist’s eye and sensibility to the writing of history – like wench Susan Holloway Scott does.

    Reply
  6. I’m fascinated by history, and glimpses into the reality of how people lived at various times. I think any of us who love historical romances do so in part because we’re history buffs. The problem with including historical context about social injustices and religion in a romance is that they tend to overwhelm the romance. They’re too big to solve in one story.
    You could highlight one aspect – have a heroine working to get orphans out of a workhouse, for instance – which would give a flavor of the time yet still be a resolvable situation. But I read romances in part to be happy, and it’s hard to be happy for the main characters when other characters I’ve become fond of are not going to have a happily ever after. And common parlance of the time, while relatively unexceptional then, can be so perjorative to my ears that I can’t get past it. That’s where the fantasy part comes in – cleaning up the language for our sensibilities.
    I do like a book where the characters care about religion and God, but there again, it has to be an aspect of character and not a doctrinal treatise. And I’ve really enjoyed some medieval romances which include the major political roles played by the Catholic church clergy (including nuns).
    I guess it basically comes down to this: I don’t want to work that hard at reading a romance, and I don’t want to lose the romance in the fog of history. I’ll take some loss of historicity instead. But I very much like the idea of bringing a novelist’s eye and sensibility to the writing of history – like wench Susan Holloway Scott does.

    Reply
  7. I’m fascinated by history, and glimpses into the reality of how people lived at various times. I think any of us who love historical romances do so in part because we’re history buffs. The problem with including historical context about social injustices and religion in a romance is that they tend to overwhelm the romance. They’re too big to solve in one story.
    You could highlight one aspect – have a heroine working to get orphans out of a workhouse, for instance – which would give a flavor of the time yet still be a resolvable situation. But I read romances in part to be happy, and it’s hard to be happy for the main characters when other characters I’ve become fond of are not going to have a happily ever after. And common parlance of the time, while relatively unexceptional then, can be so perjorative to my ears that I can’t get past it. That’s where the fantasy part comes in – cleaning up the language for our sensibilities.
    I do like a book where the characters care about religion and God, but there again, it has to be an aspect of character and not a doctrinal treatise. And I’ve really enjoyed some medieval romances which include the major political roles played by the Catholic church clergy (including nuns).
    I guess it basically comes down to this: I don’t want to work that hard at reading a romance, and I don’t want to lose the romance in the fog of history. I’ll take some loss of historicity instead. But I very much like the idea of bringing a novelist’s eye and sensibility to the writing of history – like wench Susan Holloway Scott does.

    Reply
  8. I’m fascinated by history, and glimpses into the reality of how people lived at various times. I think any of us who love historical romances do so in part because we’re history buffs. The problem with including historical context about social injustices and religion in a romance is that they tend to overwhelm the romance. They’re too big to solve in one story.
    You could highlight one aspect – have a heroine working to get orphans out of a workhouse, for instance – which would give a flavor of the time yet still be a resolvable situation. But I read romances in part to be happy, and it’s hard to be happy for the main characters when other characters I’ve become fond of are not going to have a happily ever after. And common parlance of the time, while relatively unexceptional then, can be so perjorative to my ears that I can’t get past it. That’s where the fantasy part comes in – cleaning up the language for our sensibilities.
    I do like a book where the characters care about religion and God, but there again, it has to be an aspect of character and not a doctrinal treatise. And I’ve really enjoyed some medieval romances which include the major political roles played by the Catholic church clergy (including nuns).
    I guess it basically comes down to this: I don’t want to work that hard at reading a romance, and I don’t want to lose the romance in the fog of history. I’ll take some loss of historicity instead. But I very much like the idea of bringing a novelist’s eye and sensibility to the writing of history – like wench Susan Holloway Scott does.

    Reply
  9. I’ve been sick so I’m not that lucid. Not that it will be different from any other day, but take the declaimers where I can get them, yes?
    I’m tired of the same old issues. She’s freeing the poor – she’s a feminist – her best friend is a slave – she’s popular with the peoples of India – she’s going to jump off the cart and take your whip away! – they’re very popular and easily managed. Religion has been an excellent facet of several historicals, but you know going in that someone’s going to get mad. (And if it’s ‘inspirational’, the eye roller is often me.) I love Civil War (UK) era books for the complexity of the times. I like seeing real conflict explored rather than timeless conflict (tho that’s good too, of course).
    Mostly I think the genre reader wants none of it. I have friends that cannot tolerate a book if the h/h so much as makes a life choice they don’t agree with. If they’re ‘immoral’ (30 year old never been kisseds make me snort, sorry) or not modern enough in their thinking. Failure to deal with the big issues (whatever issue it is) will keep genre ‘down’ and the books that successfully do will be the controversial classic keepers along the way. Readers (ime) aren’t as elastic as they’d like to think they are.

    Reply
  10. I’ve been sick so I’m not that lucid. Not that it will be different from any other day, but take the declaimers where I can get them, yes?
    I’m tired of the same old issues. She’s freeing the poor – she’s a feminist – her best friend is a slave – she’s popular with the peoples of India – she’s going to jump off the cart and take your whip away! – they’re very popular and easily managed. Religion has been an excellent facet of several historicals, but you know going in that someone’s going to get mad. (And if it’s ‘inspirational’, the eye roller is often me.) I love Civil War (UK) era books for the complexity of the times. I like seeing real conflict explored rather than timeless conflict (tho that’s good too, of course).
    Mostly I think the genre reader wants none of it. I have friends that cannot tolerate a book if the h/h so much as makes a life choice they don’t agree with. If they’re ‘immoral’ (30 year old never been kisseds make me snort, sorry) or not modern enough in their thinking. Failure to deal with the big issues (whatever issue it is) will keep genre ‘down’ and the books that successfully do will be the controversial classic keepers along the way. Readers (ime) aren’t as elastic as they’d like to think they are.

    Reply
  11. I’ve been sick so I’m not that lucid. Not that it will be different from any other day, but take the declaimers where I can get them, yes?
    I’m tired of the same old issues. She’s freeing the poor – she’s a feminist – her best friend is a slave – she’s popular with the peoples of India – she’s going to jump off the cart and take your whip away! – they’re very popular and easily managed. Religion has been an excellent facet of several historicals, but you know going in that someone’s going to get mad. (And if it’s ‘inspirational’, the eye roller is often me.) I love Civil War (UK) era books for the complexity of the times. I like seeing real conflict explored rather than timeless conflict (tho that’s good too, of course).
    Mostly I think the genre reader wants none of it. I have friends that cannot tolerate a book if the h/h so much as makes a life choice they don’t agree with. If they’re ‘immoral’ (30 year old never been kisseds make me snort, sorry) or not modern enough in their thinking. Failure to deal with the big issues (whatever issue it is) will keep genre ‘down’ and the books that successfully do will be the controversial classic keepers along the way. Readers (ime) aren’t as elastic as they’d like to think they are.

    Reply
  12. I’ve been sick so I’m not that lucid. Not that it will be different from any other day, but take the declaimers where I can get them, yes?
    I’m tired of the same old issues. She’s freeing the poor – she’s a feminist – her best friend is a slave – she’s popular with the peoples of India – she’s going to jump off the cart and take your whip away! – they’re very popular and easily managed. Religion has been an excellent facet of several historicals, but you know going in that someone’s going to get mad. (And if it’s ‘inspirational’, the eye roller is often me.) I love Civil War (UK) era books for the complexity of the times. I like seeing real conflict explored rather than timeless conflict (tho that’s good too, of course).
    Mostly I think the genre reader wants none of it. I have friends that cannot tolerate a book if the h/h so much as makes a life choice they don’t agree with. If they’re ‘immoral’ (30 year old never been kisseds make me snort, sorry) or not modern enough in their thinking. Failure to deal with the big issues (whatever issue it is) will keep genre ‘down’ and the books that successfully do will be the controversial classic keepers along the way. Readers (ime) aren’t as elastic as they’d like to think they are.

    Reply
  13. Most excellent post, Pat. It brought a question to mind.
    Has a “romance” ever made it onto the list of most frequently banned books? If not, perhaps it’s time. Very good for sales, you know. ;-j
    And a question for the pubbed writers here: Has an editor/agent ever shot down a book proposal based on issues of race or religion making the book idea a tougher “sell?”
    And if so, I wonder what data they base that opinion on?

    Reply
  14. Most excellent post, Pat. It brought a question to mind.
    Has a “romance” ever made it onto the list of most frequently banned books? If not, perhaps it’s time. Very good for sales, you know. ;-j
    And a question for the pubbed writers here: Has an editor/agent ever shot down a book proposal based on issues of race or religion making the book idea a tougher “sell?”
    And if so, I wonder what data they base that opinion on?

    Reply
  15. Most excellent post, Pat. It brought a question to mind.
    Has a “romance” ever made it onto the list of most frequently banned books? If not, perhaps it’s time. Very good for sales, you know. ;-j
    And a question for the pubbed writers here: Has an editor/agent ever shot down a book proposal based on issues of race or religion making the book idea a tougher “sell?”
    And if so, I wonder what data they base that opinion on?

    Reply
  16. Most excellent post, Pat. It brought a question to mind.
    Has a “romance” ever made it onto the list of most frequently banned books? If not, perhaps it’s time. Very good for sales, you know. ;-j
    And a question for the pubbed writers here: Has an editor/agent ever shot down a book proposal based on issues of race or religion making the book idea a tougher “sell?”
    And if so, I wonder what data they base that opinion on?

    Reply
  17. While women’s issues are always a relevant topic, they’re not as “historic” as wars and politics. I know when I first started out, I had a devil of a time finding social history that addressed these topics. In general, I assume, governments direct the course of the future. It’s pretty hard to pin down how women do it since they don’t pass acts of war. Maybe just commit them. “G”
    Like Liz, I think the women’s issues theme has been done quite frequently in historicals, since at heart, most of us are socially conscious. And I’m not exactly advocating a theme of race or religion so much as wondering how we should be treating those issues through the course of the story. People use nasty epithets to denigrate others who are different from them, whether that be race or religion. Historically, races and religions have segregated themselves and each other. I’m thinking that romance readers really don’t want to hear about that anymore, but it’s such an opportunity to show the real relevance of history. I regret that we can’t do more.
    I think LOLITA may have been banned, but I don’t consider that a romance. I’m not sure if any others have. But yeah, it is very good for sales to have a controversy. 😉
    I’ve pushed a lot of proposals over the years, but I don’t remember any of them being rejected for their social issues, although I’ve had an editor complain about my contemps because the issues gave them plots. “G” But that wasn’t data based so much as personal preference.

    Reply
  18. While women’s issues are always a relevant topic, they’re not as “historic” as wars and politics. I know when I first started out, I had a devil of a time finding social history that addressed these topics. In general, I assume, governments direct the course of the future. It’s pretty hard to pin down how women do it since they don’t pass acts of war. Maybe just commit them. “G”
    Like Liz, I think the women’s issues theme has been done quite frequently in historicals, since at heart, most of us are socially conscious. And I’m not exactly advocating a theme of race or religion so much as wondering how we should be treating those issues through the course of the story. People use nasty epithets to denigrate others who are different from them, whether that be race or religion. Historically, races and religions have segregated themselves and each other. I’m thinking that romance readers really don’t want to hear about that anymore, but it’s such an opportunity to show the real relevance of history. I regret that we can’t do more.
    I think LOLITA may have been banned, but I don’t consider that a romance. I’m not sure if any others have. But yeah, it is very good for sales to have a controversy. 😉
    I’ve pushed a lot of proposals over the years, but I don’t remember any of them being rejected for their social issues, although I’ve had an editor complain about my contemps because the issues gave them plots. “G” But that wasn’t data based so much as personal preference.

    Reply
  19. While women’s issues are always a relevant topic, they’re not as “historic” as wars and politics. I know when I first started out, I had a devil of a time finding social history that addressed these topics. In general, I assume, governments direct the course of the future. It’s pretty hard to pin down how women do it since they don’t pass acts of war. Maybe just commit them. “G”
    Like Liz, I think the women’s issues theme has been done quite frequently in historicals, since at heart, most of us are socially conscious. And I’m not exactly advocating a theme of race or religion so much as wondering how we should be treating those issues through the course of the story. People use nasty epithets to denigrate others who are different from them, whether that be race or religion. Historically, races and religions have segregated themselves and each other. I’m thinking that romance readers really don’t want to hear about that anymore, but it’s such an opportunity to show the real relevance of history. I regret that we can’t do more.
    I think LOLITA may have been banned, but I don’t consider that a romance. I’m not sure if any others have. But yeah, it is very good for sales to have a controversy. 😉
    I’ve pushed a lot of proposals over the years, but I don’t remember any of them being rejected for their social issues, although I’ve had an editor complain about my contemps because the issues gave them plots. “G” But that wasn’t data based so much as personal preference.

    Reply
  20. While women’s issues are always a relevant topic, they’re not as “historic” as wars and politics. I know when I first started out, I had a devil of a time finding social history that addressed these topics. In general, I assume, governments direct the course of the future. It’s pretty hard to pin down how women do it since they don’t pass acts of war. Maybe just commit them. “G”
    Like Liz, I think the women’s issues theme has been done quite frequently in historicals, since at heart, most of us are socially conscious. And I’m not exactly advocating a theme of race or religion so much as wondering how we should be treating those issues through the course of the story. People use nasty epithets to denigrate others who are different from them, whether that be race or religion. Historically, races and religions have segregated themselves and each other. I’m thinking that romance readers really don’t want to hear about that anymore, but it’s such an opportunity to show the real relevance of history. I regret that we can’t do more.
    I think LOLITA may have been banned, but I don’t consider that a romance. I’m not sure if any others have. But yeah, it is very good for sales to have a controversy. 😉
    I’ve pushed a lot of proposals over the years, but I don’t remember any of them being rejected for their social issues, although I’ve had an editor complain about my contemps because the issues gave them plots. “G” But that wasn’t data based so much as personal preference.

    Reply
  21. Having wrestled with many of these same issues, I don’t think I have much to add, Pat. I like to layer in religious and spiritual topics when they fit, and if a reader is offended by the Methodist heroine of Thunder and Roses, too bad. Ditto is anyone didn’t like the deep Catholic faith of the protagonists of Uncommon Vows. Religion and faith are important aspects of life, and they belong in popular fiction. Though preachy isn’t a lot of fun.
    Race is a lot harder. I’m gathering my thoughts for a blog on slavery when A Distant Magic comes out at the end of July. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  22. Having wrestled with many of these same issues, I don’t think I have much to add, Pat. I like to layer in religious and spiritual topics when they fit, and if a reader is offended by the Methodist heroine of Thunder and Roses, too bad. Ditto is anyone didn’t like the deep Catholic faith of the protagonists of Uncommon Vows. Religion and faith are important aspects of life, and they belong in popular fiction. Though preachy isn’t a lot of fun.
    Race is a lot harder. I’m gathering my thoughts for a blog on slavery when A Distant Magic comes out at the end of July. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  23. Having wrestled with many of these same issues, I don’t think I have much to add, Pat. I like to layer in religious and spiritual topics when they fit, and if a reader is offended by the Methodist heroine of Thunder and Roses, too bad. Ditto is anyone didn’t like the deep Catholic faith of the protagonists of Uncommon Vows. Religion and faith are important aspects of life, and they belong in popular fiction. Though preachy isn’t a lot of fun.
    Race is a lot harder. I’m gathering my thoughts for a blog on slavery when A Distant Magic comes out at the end of July. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  24. Having wrestled with many of these same issues, I don’t think I have much to add, Pat. I like to layer in religious and spiritual topics when they fit, and if a reader is offended by the Methodist heroine of Thunder and Roses, too bad. Ditto is anyone didn’t like the deep Catholic faith of the protagonists of Uncommon Vows. Religion and faith are important aspects of life, and they belong in popular fiction. Though preachy isn’t a lot of fun.
    Race is a lot harder. I’m gathering my thoughts for a blog on slavery when A Distant Magic comes out at the end of July. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  25. I enjoyed Nita Abrams’ A Question of Honor. It fits well within the romance genre, and deals with prejudice against the Jews in Regency times. (The hero is Christian and the heroine is Jewish.)
    For those looking for reading recommendations, one of my favorite historical novelists is Diana Norman… many of her novels include romance, but first and foremost they deal — extremely powerfully — with social injustice.

    Reply
  26. I enjoyed Nita Abrams’ A Question of Honor. It fits well within the romance genre, and deals with prejudice against the Jews in Regency times. (The hero is Christian and the heroine is Jewish.)
    For those looking for reading recommendations, one of my favorite historical novelists is Diana Norman… many of her novels include romance, but first and foremost they deal — extremely powerfully — with social injustice.

    Reply
  27. I enjoyed Nita Abrams’ A Question of Honor. It fits well within the romance genre, and deals with prejudice against the Jews in Regency times. (The hero is Christian and the heroine is Jewish.)
    For those looking for reading recommendations, one of my favorite historical novelists is Diana Norman… many of her novels include romance, but first and foremost they deal — extremely powerfully — with social injustice.

    Reply
  28. I enjoyed Nita Abrams’ A Question of Honor. It fits well within the romance genre, and deals with prejudice against the Jews in Regency times. (The hero is Christian and the heroine is Jewish.)
    For those looking for reading recommendations, one of my favorite historical novelists is Diana Norman… many of her novels include romance, but first and foremost they deal — extremely powerfully — with social injustice.

    Reply
  29. Great blog, Pat. I think you may have something in saying that fantasy versions of modern times might allow the reader to step aside from ISSUES.
    I know that one reason I can’t write contemporary is that as soon as the book brushes up against an issue I want to stop and pay attention to it, and as someone said, most pop fic readers simply don’t want to. They (including me) want to get away from the news for a while.
    For me, historicals are already a step away because even if there are some issues in there, they’re usually ones in the past.
    It’s also why I like to play with past politics, court life, or intense personal dramas rather than issues which still resonate today.
    Jo

    Reply
  30. Great blog, Pat. I think you may have something in saying that fantasy versions of modern times might allow the reader to step aside from ISSUES.
    I know that one reason I can’t write contemporary is that as soon as the book brushes up against an issue I want to stop and pay attention to it, and as someone said, most pop fic readers simply don’t want to. They (including me) want to get away from the news for a while.
    For me, historicals are already a step away because even if there are some issues in there, they’re usually ones in the past.
    It’s also why I like to play with past politics, court life, or intense personal dramas rather than issues which still resonate today.
    Jo

    Reply
  31. Great blog, Pat. I think you may have something in saying that fantasy versions of modern times might allow the reader to step aside from ISSUES.
    I know that one reason I can’t write contemporary is that as soon as the book brushes up against an issue I want to stop and pay attention to it, and as someone said, most pop fic readers simply don’t want to. They (including me) want to get away from the news for a while.
    For me, historicals are already a step away because even if there are some issues in there, they’re usually ones in the past.
    It’s also why I like to play with past politics, court life, or intense personal dramas rather than issues which still resonate today.
    Jo

    Reply
  32. Great blog, Pat. I think you may have something in saying that fantasy versions of modern times might allow the reader to step aside from ISSUES.
    I know that one reason I can’t write contemporary is that as soon as the book brushes up against an issue I want to stop and pay attention to it, and as someone said, most pop fic readers simply don’t want to. They (including me) want to get away from the news for a while.
    For me, historicals are already a step away because even if there are some issues in there, they’re usually ones in the past.
    It’s also why I like to play with past politics, court life, or intense personal dramas rather than issues which still resonate today.
    Jo

    Reply
  33. Hi Wenches and Wenchlings,
    I’m writing from Toulouse, France and wrestling with this unfamiliar keyboard. Great post and discussion, thank you Pat!
    I like books that show people of character and depth of thought wrestling authentically with conundrums of their time–not so much “solving” social problems or expressing modern religious ideas, but instead questioning, “Is this wrong or right and why?” or “What is the best choice among the alternatives that are possible?” Also great are books with layers of meaning/interpretation–
    Right now I’m reading Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series about Napoleonic dragons, which is a ripping good read (though not a romance except in the classic sense of “roman”)but which also, subtly at first and now more overtly, has become an exploration of the issue of slavery.
    I get to eye-rolling when the “issue” at hand–social, moral, religious–is handled in a “cartoony” or overly simplistic way and characters solve sweeping social issues with a nod and a wave on their way to a HEA.

    Reply
  34. Hi Wenches and Wenchlings,
    I’m writing from Toulouse, France and wrestling with this unfamiliar keyboard. Great post and discussion, thank you Pat!
    I like books that show people of character and depth of thought wrestling authentically with conundrums of their time–not so much “solving” social problems or expressing modern religious ideas, but instead questioning, “Is this wrong or right and why?” or “What is the best choice among the alternatives that are possible?” Also great are books with layers of meaning/interpretation–
    Right now I’m reading Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series about Napoleonic dragons, which is a ripping good read (though not a romance except in the classic sense of “roman”)but which also, subtly at first and now more overtly, has become an exploration of the issue of slavery.
    I get to eye-rolling when the “issue” at hand–social, moral, religious–is handled in a “cartoony” or overly simplistic way and characters solve sweeping social issues with a nod and a wave on their way to a HEA.

    Reply
  35. Hi Wenches and Wenchlings,
    I’m writing from Toulouse, France and wrestling with this unfamiliar keyboard. Great post and discussion, thank you Pat!
    I like books that show people of character and depth of thought wrestling authentically with conundrums of their time–not so much “solving” social problems or expressing modern religious ideas, but instead questioning, “Is this wrong or right and why?” or “What is the best choice among the alternatives that are possible?” Also great are books with layers of meaning/interpretation–
    Right now I’m reading Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series about Napoleonic dragons, which is a ripping good read (though not a romance except in the classic sense of “roman”)but which also, subtly at first and now more overtly, has become an exploration of the issue of slavery.
    I get to eye-rolling when the “issue” at hand–social, moral, religious–is handled in a “cartoony” or overly simplistic way and characters solve sweeping social issues with a nod and a wave on their way to a HEA.

    Reply
  36. Hi Wenches and Wenchlings,
    I’m writing from Toulouse, France and wrestling with this unfamiliar keyboard. Great post and discussion, thank you Pat!
    I like books that show people of character and depth of thought wrestling authentically with conundrums of their time–not so much “solving” social problems or expressing modern religious ideas, but instead questioning, “Is this wrong or right and why?” or “What is the best choice among the alternatives that are possible?” Also great are books with layers of meaning/interpretation–
    Right now I’m reading Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series about Napoleonic dragons, which is a ripping good read (though not a romance except in the classic sense of “roman”)but which also, subtly at first and now more overtly, has become an exploration of the issue of slavery.
    I get to eye-rolling when the “issue” at hand–social, moral, religious–is handled in a “cartoony” or overly simplistic way and characters solve sweeping social issues with a nod and a wave on their way to a HEA.

    Reply
  37. I’ve always liked “issues” in historical fiction — not only because they tend to be the things that characters care most passionately about, but also because they can often demonstrate both the differences and the similiarities between the past and our own time.
    But handling subjects like religion and race in genre fiction isn’t easy, or at least not easy to do well. The ever-shrinking length of books makes it even harder, and increases the risk of making an overly simple (and boring) explanation. If a romance writer is faced with the choice of explaining a knotty Parlimentary issue or the growing relationship between the hero and heroine, it’s a no-brainer as to which option wins.
    Have I ever had an editor pass on an idea because of an “issues” theme? Yep. When I was writing historicals set during the American Revolution, I wanted to write a series based on the Sephardic Jews who fled to Rhode Island from the Inquisition in Portugal. They became such successful and powerful merchants here that they funded much of the American cause (and were consequentally stiffed by the Founding Fathers, who never bothered to pay back the loans after the war) — something that’s almost never mentioned in history books. I thought it sounded like a fascinating idea, but you can’t believe how fast editors & agents recoiled in horror. Someday…..
    Susanna in Alabama — thank you for your kind words! Though what can fly in a SHS book wouldn’t get off the ground in one by MJ. *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  38. I’ve always liked “issues” in historical fiction — not only because they tend to be the things that characters care most passionately about, but also because they can often demonstrate both the differences and the similiarities between the past and our own time.
    But handling subjects like religion and race in genre fiction isn’t easy, or at least not easy to do well. The ever-shrinking length of books makes it even harder, and increases the risk of making an overly simple (and boring) explanation. If a romance writer is faced with the choice of explaining a knotty Parlimentary issue or the growing relationship between the hero and heroine, it’s a no-brainer as to which option wins.
    Have I ever had an editor pass on an idea because of an “issues” theme? Yep. When I was writing historicals set during the American Revolution, I wanted to write a series based on the Sephardic Jews who fled to Rhode Island from the Inquisition in Portugal. They became such successful and powerful merchants here that they funded much of the American cause (and were consequentally stiffed by the Founding Fathers, who never bothered to pay back the loans after the war) — something that’s almost never mentioned in history books. I thought it sounded like a fascinating idea, but you can’t believe how fast editors & agents recoiled in horror. Someday…..
    Susanna in Alabama — thank you for your kind words! Though what can fly in a SHS book wouldn’t get off the ground in one by MJ. *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  39. I’ve always liked “issues” in historical fiction — not only because they tend to be the things that characters care most passionately about, but also because they can often demonstrate both the differences and the similiarities between the past and our own time.
    But handling subjects like religion and race in genre fiction isn’t easy, or at least not easy to do well. The ever-shrinking length of books makes it even harder, and increases the risk of making an overly simple (and boring) explanation. If a romance writer is faced with the choice of explaining a knotty Parlimentary issue or the growing relationship between the hero and heroine, it’s a no-brainer as to which option wins.
    Have I ever had an editor pass on an idea because of an “issues” theme? Yep. When I was writing historicals set during the American Revolution, I wanted to write a series based on the Sephardic Jews who fled to Rhode Island from the Inquisition in Portugal. They became such successful and powerful merchants here that they funded much of the American cause (and were consequentally stiffed by the Founding Fathers, who never bothered to pay back the loans after the war) — something that’s almost never mentioned in history books. I thought it sounded like a fascinating idea, but you can’t believe how fast editors & agents recoiled in horror. Someday…..
    Susanna in Alabama — thank you for your kind words! Though what can fly in a SHS book wouldn’t get off the ground in one by MJ. *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  40. I’ve always liked “issues” in historical fiction — not only because they tend to be the things that characters care most passionately about, but also because they can often demonstrate both the differences and the similiarities between the past and our own time.
    But handling subjects like religion and race in genre fiction isn’t easy, or at least not easy to do well. The ever-shrinking length of books makes it even harder, and increases the risk of making an overly simple (and boring) explanation. If a romance writer is faced with the choice of explaining a knotty Parlimentary issue or the growing relationship between the hero and heroine, it’s a no-brainer as to which option wins.
    Have I ever had an editor pass on an idea because of an “issues” theme? Yep. When I was writing historicals set during the American Revolution, I wanted to write a series based on the Sephardic Jews who fled to Rhode Island from the Inquisition in Portugal. They became such successful and powerful merchants here that they funded much of the American cause (and were consequentally stiffed by the Founding Fathers, who never bothered to pay back the loans after the war) — something that’s almost never mentioned in history books. I thought it sounded like a fascinating idea, but you can’t believe how fast editors & agents recoiled in horror. Someday…..
    Susanna in Alabama — thank you for your kind words! Though what can fly in a SHS book wouldn’t get off the ground in one by MJ. *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  41. This is a most interesting topic, and it has given rise to some very illuminating comments.
    I think that all I ask is that any historical, social and cultural information be as *accurate* as the author can possibly manage. I am always happy to learn new things, but they had better be right!
    It is quite possible to write a good romance with very little background information, whether contemporary or historical. When I used to read category romances, with contemporary settings, in the 1980s, some were so focused on character and so generic as far as setting was concerned that they did not even strike me as culturally foreign; others would be so overwhelmingly American that I would find myself paying as much attention to the exotic socio-cultural information as to the love-story. I could enjoy (or dislike) either kind, according to plot, characterisation and writing skill.
    However, with historicals, I don’t see a lot of point in choosing a setting in the past unless the writer goes to some trouble to make it convincing for the reader, to bring the past to life, and enable the reader to imagine what it was like to be alive in that time and place. The contrast between different mores and rules in society, and the universal elements of human behaviour, is part of the pleasure of historicals. This sometimes means that contentious aspects of the past must be confronted, and that the fictional characters must engage with them.
    And Susan/Miranda – I hope you do get the chance to do a book about those Portuguese Jews; it sounds like a terrific subject to me!
    🙂

    Reply
  42. This is a most interesting topic, and it has given rise to some very illuminating comments.
    I think that all I ask is that any historical, social and cultural information be as *accurate* as the author can possibly manage. I am always happy to learn new things, but they had better be right!
    It is quite possible to write a good romance with very little background information, whether contemporary or historical. When I used to read category romances, with contemporary settings, in the 1980s, some were so focused on character and so generic as far as setting was concerned that they did not even strike me as culturally foreign; others would be so overwhelmingly American that I would find myself paying as much attention to the exotic socio-cultural information as to the love-story. I could enjoy (or dislike) either kind, according to plot, characterisation and writing skill.
    However, with historicals, I don’t see a lot of point in choosing a setting in the past unless the writer goes to some trouble to make it convincing for the reader, to bring the past to life, and enable the reader to imagine what it was like to be alive in that time and place. The contrast between different mores and rules in society, and the universal elements of human behaviour, is part of the pleasure of historicals. This sometimes means that contentious aspects of the past must be confronted, and that the fictional characters must engage with them.
    And Susan/Miranda – I hope you do get the chance to do a book about those Portuguese Jews; it sounds like a terrific subject to me!
    🙂

    Reply
  43. This is a most interesting topic, and it has given rise to some very illuminating comments.
    I think that all I ask is that any historical, social and cultural information be as *accurate* as the author can possibly manage. I am always happy to learn new things, but they had better be right!
    It is quite possible to write a good romance with very little background information, whether contemporary or historical. When I used to read category romances, with contemporary settings, in the 1980s, some were so focused on character and so generic as far as setting was concerned that they did not even strike me as culturally foreign; others would be so overwhelmingly American that I would find myself paying as much attention to the exotic socio-cultural information as to the love-story. I could enjoy (or dislike) either kind, according to plot, characterisation and writing skill.
    However, with historicals, I don’t see a lot of point in choosing a setting in the past unless the writer goes to some trouble to make it convincing for the reader, to bring the past to life, and enable the reader to imagine what it was like to be alive in that time and place. The contrast between different mores and rules in society, and the universal elements of human behaviour, is part of the pleasure of historicals. This sometimes means that contentious aspects of the past must be confronted, and that the fictional characters must engage with them.
    And Susan/Miranda – I hope you do get the chance to do a book about those Portuguese Jews; it sounds like a terrific subject to me!
    🙂

    Reply
  44. This is a most interesting topic, and it has given rise to some very illuminating comments.
    I think that all I ask is that any historical, social and cultural information be as *accurate* as the author can possibly manage. I am always happy to learn new things, but they had better be right!
    It is quite possible to write a good romance with very little background information, whether contemporary or historical. When I used to read category romances, with contemporary settings, in the 1980s, some were so focused on character and so generic as far as setting was concerned that they did not even strike me as culturally foreign; others would be so overwhelmingly American that I would find myself paying as much attention to the exotic socio-cultural information as to the love-story. I could enjoy (or dislike) either kind, according to plot, characterisation and writing skill.
    However, with historicals, I don’t see a lot of point in choosing a setting in the past unless the writer goes to some trouble to make it convincing for the reader, to bring the past to life, and enable the reader to imagine what it was like to be alive in that time and place. The contrast between different mores and rules in society, and the universal elements of human behaviour, is part of the pleasure of historicals. This sometimes means that contentious aspects of the past must be confronted, and that the fictional characters must engage with them.
    And Susan/Miranda – I hope you do get the chance to do a book about those Portuguese Jews; it sounds like a terrific subject to me!
    🙂

    Reply
  45. Thought-provoking post, Pat. I do believe “issues” have a place in historical romances, and I love it when an author weaves them into the story.
    Susan/Miranda, your American Revolution Jews idea sounds like a wonderful premise. Is there any chance you could pick a real character from that sect and turn it into a ROYAL HARLOT type of book?

    Reply
  46. Thought-provoking post, Pat. I do believe “issues” have a place in historical romances, and I love it when an author weaves them into the story.
    Susan/Miranda, your American Revolution Jews idea sounds like a wonderful premise. Is there any chance you could pick a real character from that sect and turn it into a ROYAL HARLOT type of book?

    Reply
  47. Thought-provoking post, Pat. I do believe “issues” have a place in historical romances, and I love it when an author weaves them into the story.
    Susan/Miranda, your American Revolution Jews idea sounds like a wonderful premise. Is there any chance you could pick a real character from that sect and turn it into a ROYAL HARLOT type of book?

    Reply
  48. Thought-provoking post, Pat. I do believe “issues” have a place in historical romances, and I love it when an author weaves them into the story.
    Susan/Miranda, your American Revolution Jews idea sounds like a wonderful premise. Is there any chance you could pick a real character from that sect and turn it into a ROYAL HARLOT type of book?

    Reply
  49. Good point, Rev Melinda. I far rather have two characters present opposing viewpoints as a part of their conflict than have a political or religious diatribe of any sort. There is no such thing as only one right point of view for everyone, and that’s a far more important thing for a reader to see. Although you can see why I end up in the middle of that scary road…

    Reply
  50. Good point, Rev Melinda. I far rather have two characters present opposing viewpoints as a part of their conflict than have a political or religious diatribe of any sort. There is no such thing as only one right point of view for everyone, and that’s a far more important thing for a reader to see. Although you can see why I end up in the middle of that scary road…

    Reply
  51. Good point, Rev Melinda. I far rather have two characters present opposing viewpoints as a part of their conflict than have a political or religious diatribe of any sort. There is no such thing as only one right point of view for everyone, and that’s a far more important thing for a reader to see. Although you can see why I end up in the middle of that scary road…

    Reply
  52. Good point, Rev Melinda. I far rather have two characters present opposing viewpoints as a part of their conflict than have a political or religious diatribe of any sort. There is no such thing as only one right point of view for everyone, and that’s a far more important thing for a reader to see. Although you can see why I end up in the middle of that scary road…

    Reply
  53. MJP – Thunder & Roses is actually one of the books I was trying to think of as a good example of faith in fiction.
    There was another ‘issue’ book I can’t place – but the Scottish hero lifted his entire clan out of Scotland for the New World – he recognized that there wasn’t going to be a free Scotland and took alternate action. I recall a lot of complaints about that book because people felt he gave up – I really liked it as I’m tired of the ‘undefeatable’ Scotsman.

    Reply
  54. MJP – Thunder & Roses is actually one of the books I was trying to think of as a good example of faith in fiction.
    There was another ‘issue’ book I can’t place – but the Scottish hero lifted his entire clan out of Scotland for the New World – he recognized that there wasn’t going to be a free Scotland and took alternate action. I recall a lot of complaints about that book because people felt he gave up – I really liked it as I’m tired of the ‘undefeatable’ Scotsman.

    Reply
  55. MJP – Thunder & Roses is actually one of the books I was trying to think of as a good example of faith in fiction.
    There was another ‘issue’ book I can’t place – but the Scottish hero lifted his entire clan out of Scotland for the New World – he recognized that there wasn’t going to be a free Scotland and took alternate action. I recall a lot of complaints about that book because people felt he gave up – I really liked it as I’m tired of the ‘undefeatable’ Scotsman.

    Reply
  56. MJP – Thunder & Roses is actually one of the books I was trying to think of as a good example of faith in fiction.
    There was another ‘issue’ book I can’t place – but the Scottish hero lifted his entire clan out of Scotland for the New World – he recognized that there wasn’t going to be a free Scotland and took alternate action. I recall a lot of complaints about that book because people felt he gave up – I really liked it as I’m tired of the ‘undefeatable’ Scotsman.

    Reply
  57. “It’s also why I like to play with past politics, court life, or intense personal dramas rather than issues which still resonate today.”
    That’s why I enjoy writing about the Napoleonic Wars. I can’t imagine writing about a soldier currently serving in Iraq, because there’s no way I could write about that war without writing about the politics, and I get enough present-day politics just living. But with Britain vs. France 200 years ago, I don’t have to decide whether it’s right or wrong or try to pick my candidate for my party’s caucus based on who I think can extricate us with the least harm to us and the region. I can just write about soldiers and the women who love them.
    “When I was writing historicals set during the American Revolution, I wanted to write a series based on the Sephardic Jews who fled to Rhode Island from the Inquisition in Portugal.”
    Y’all have no idea how frustrated it makes me to hear about all these wonderful ideas publishers won’t let into the marketplace where I could read them!

    Reply
  58. “It’s also why I like to play with past politics, court life, or intense personal dramas rather than issues which still resonate today.”
    That’s why I enjoy writing about the Napoleonic Wars. I can’t imagine writing about a soldier currently serving in Iraq, because there’s no way I could write about that war without writing about the politics, and I get enough present-day politics just living. But with Britain vs. France 200 years ago, I don’t have to decide whether it’s right or wrong or try to pick my candidate for my party’s caucus based on who I think can extricate us with the least harm to us and the region. I can just write about soldiers and the women who love them.
    “When I was writing historicals set during the American Revolution, I wanted to write a series based on the Sephardic Jews who fled to Rhode Island from the Inquisition in Portugal.”
    Y’all have no idea how frustrated it makes me to hear about all these wonderful ideas publishers won’t let into the marketplace where I could read them!

    Reply
  59. “It’s also why I like to play with past politics, court life, or intense personal dramas rather than issues which still resonate today.”
    That’s why I enjoy writing about the Napoleonic Wars. I can’t imagine writing about a soldier currently serving in Iraq, because there’s no way I could write about that war without writing about the politics, and I get enough present-day politics just living. But with Britain vs. France 200 years ago, I don’t have to decide whether it’s right or wrong or try to pick my candidate for my party’s caucus based on who I think can extricate us with the least harm to us and the region. I can just write about soldiers and the women who love them.
    “When I was writing historicals set during the American Revolution, I wanted to write a series based on the Sephardic Jews who fled to Rhode Island from the Inquisition in Portugal.”
    Y’all have no idea how frustrated it makes me to hear about all these wonderful ideas publishers won’t let into the marketplace where I could read them!

    Reply
  60. “It’s also why I like to play with past politics, court life, or intense personal dramas rather than issues which still resonate today.”
    That’s why I enjoy writing about the Napoleonic Wars. I can’t imagine writing about a soldier currently serving in Iraq, because there’s no way I could write about that war without writing about the politics, and I get enough present-day politics just living. But with Britain vs. France 200 years ago, I don’t have to decide whether it’s right or wrong or try to pick my candidate for my party’s caucus based on who I think can extricate us with the least harm to us and the region. I can just write about soldiers and the women who love them.
    “When I was writing historicals set during the American Revolution, I wanted to write a series based on the Sephardic Jews who fled to Rhode Island from the Inquisition in Portugal.”
    Y’all have no idea how frustrated it makes me to hear about all these wonderful ideas publishers won’t let into the marketplace where I could read them!

    Reply
  61. So much depends on the author and the issue that it’s hard to make blanket statements, but I do know I generally avoid antebellum novels set in the American South for precisely that reason — either the H/H use terms and act in ways modern readers find offensive (or should, even if they don’t) or else the H/H are so good and kind that their slaves love them to pieces and I want to barf (or at least throw the book against the wall). i mentioned on another board that I put one book down immediately when I read the back blurb and saw it contained the words “took his child bride home to his plantation” — which contained not one but two of my hot buttons.
    Opposite examples do exist, however. MJ’s “Thunder and Roses” is one of the first romances I read and remains one of my favorites, in part because the heroine’s religious faith is such an organic part of who she is, yet the book never preaches at us to imply that if we don’t believe as she does that we are lost. Diana Norman was also mentioned by someone, and she’s also a master at incorporating religious and political viewpoints that ring true for the time and places she writes about. “Taking Liberties” deals with liberty, both personal (in terms of gender roles) and political (in terms of the American Revolution). Liberty in the most basic sense is also dealt with, as a secondary character is a slave, and there is the unspoken tension between the colonists fighting for liberty while owning slaves. Her “Fitzempress Law” is a time travel that deals with medieval antisemitism, as one of the contemporary characters saves the lives of a Jewish family. Norman manages to incorporate humor and empathy rather than a sledgehammer.
    And I find it interesting that a book about Sephardic Jews in RI is seen as a non-seller. Michael Chabon just published a novel about an imaginary Jewish homeland in Alaska, which you’d think would be an even harder sell.

    Reply
  62. So much depends on the author and the issue that it’s hard to make blanket statements, but I do know I generally avoid antebellum novels set in the American South for precisely that reason — either the H/H use terms and act in ways modern readers find offensive (or should, even if they don’t) or else the H/H are so good and kind that their slaves love them to pieces and I want to barf (or at least throw the book against the wall). i mentioned on another board that I put one book down immediately when I read the back blurb and saw it contained the words “took his child bride home to his plantation” — which contained not one but two of my hot buttons.
    Opposite examples do exist, however. MJ’s “Thunder and Roses” is one of the first romances I read and remains one of my favorites, in part because the heroine’s religious faith is such an organic part of who she is, yet the book never preaches at us to imply that if we don’t believe as she does that we are lost. Diana Norman was also mentioned by someone, and she’s also a master at incorporating religious and political viewpoints that ring true for the time and places she writes about. “Taking Liberties” deals with liberty, both personal (in terms of gender roles) and political (in terms of the American Revolution). Liberty in the most basic sense is also dealt with, as a secondary character is a slave, and there is the unspoken tension between the colonists fighting for liberty while owning slaves. Her “Fitzempress Law” is a time travel that deals with medieval antisemitism, as one of the contemporary characters saves the lives of a Jewish family. Norman manages to incorporate humor and empathy rather than a sledgehammer.
    And I find it interesting that a book about Sephardic Jews in RI is seen as a non-seller. Michael Chabon just published a novel about an imaginary Jewish homeland in Alaska, which you’d think would be an even harder sell.

    Reply
  63. So much depends on the author and the issue that it’s hard to make blanket statements, but I do know I generally avoid antebellum novels set in the American South for precisely that reason — either the H/H use terms and act in ways modern readers find offensive (or should, even if they don’t) or else the H/H are so good and kind that their slaves love them to pieces and I want to barf (or at least throw the book against the wall). i mentioned on another board that I put one book down immediately when I read the back blurb and saw it contained the words “took his child bride home to his plantation” — which contained not one but two of my hot buttons.
    Opposite examples do exist, however. MJ’s “Thunder and Roses” is one of the first romances I read and remains one of my favorites, in part because the heroine’s religious faith is such an organic part of who she is, yet the book never preaches at us to imply that if we don’t believe as she does that we are lost. Diana Norman was also mentioned by someone, and she’s also a master at incorporating religious and political viewpoints that ring true for the time and places she writes about. “Taking Liberties” deals with liberty, both personal (in terms of gender roles) and political (in terms of the American Revolution). Liberty in the most basic sense is also dealt with, as a secondary character is a slave, and there is the unspoken tension between the colonists fighting for liberty while owning slaves. Her “Fitzempress Law” is a time travel that deals with medieval antisemitism, as one of the contemporary characters saves the lives of a Jewish family. Norman manages to incorporate humor and empathy rather than a sledgehammer.
    And I find it interesting that a book about Sephardic Jews in RI is seen as a non-seller. Michael Chabon just published a novel about an imaginary Jewish homeland in Alaska, which you’d think would be an even harder sell.

    Reply
  64. So much depends on the author and the issue that it’s hard to make blanket statements, but I do know I generally avoid antebellum novels set in the American South for precisely that reason — either the H/H use terms and act in ways modern readers find offensive (or should, even if they don’t) or else the H/H are so good and kind that their slaves love them to pieces and I want to barf (or at least throw the book against the wall). i mentioned on another board that I put one book down immediately when I read the back blurb and saw it contained the words “took his child bride home to his plantation” — which contained not one but two of my hot buttons.
    Opposite examples do exist, however. MJ’s “Thunder and Roses” is one of the first romances I read and remains one of my favorites, in part because the heroine’s religious faith is such an organic part of who she is, yet the book never preaches at us to imply that if we don’t believe as she does that we are lost. Diana Norman was also mentioned by someone, and she’s also a master at incorporating religious and political viewpoints that ring true for the time and places she writes about. “Taking Liberties” deals with liberty, both personal (in terms of gender roles) and political (in terms of the American Revolution). Liberty in the most basic sense is also dealt with, as a secondary character is a slave, and there is the unspoken tension between the colonists fighting for liberty while owning slaves. Her “Fitzempress Law” is a time travel that deals with medieval antisemitism, as one of the contemporary characters saves the lives of a Jewish family. Norman manages to incorporate humor and empathy rather than a sledgehammer.
    And I find it interesting that a book about Sephardic Jews in RI is seen as a non-seller. Michael Chabon just published a novel about an imaginary Jewish homeland in Alaska, which you’d think would be an even harder sell.

    Reply
  65. I think more risks with “issues” are taken in literary fiction than romance. I’m probably as guilty as anyone for seeking pure escape when I read, but I’m not averse to thinking, too. Keep pushing the boundaries, Wenches—we’ll be glad you did!

    Reply
  66. I think more risks with “issues” are taken in literary fiction than romance. I’m probably as guilty as anyone for seeking pure escape when I read, but I’m not averse to thinking, too. Keep pushing the boundaries, Wenches—we’ll be glad you did!

    Reply
  67. I think more risks with “issues” are taken in literary fiction than romance. I’m probably as guilty as anyone for seeking pure escape when I read, but I’m not averse to thinking, too. Keep pushing the boundaries, Wenches—we’ll be glad you did!

    Reply
  68. I think more risks with “issues” are taken in literary fiction than romance. I’m probably as guilty as anyone for seeking pure escape when I read, but I’m not averse to thinking, too. Keep pushing the boundaries, Wenches—we’ll be glad you did!

    Reply
  69. Hey Pat —
    Your post has got me to thinking about the old axiom: Strength is not to be found in sameness but in difference. It is here that I think romance can deal with the tough issues, albeit in a parable-like way.
    You really hit the nail on the head when you said “We can see the darker side of human nature without applying it to ourselves.” Even the Great Teacher had to resort to parables to get His point across. And today, we still wrestle with their many meanings. It is the struggle to know that keeps us coming back, time and again, wanting more.
    And, so it is, to me anyway, with romance. Humans are infinitely complicated beings who have spent all of history repeating themselves while thinking they have arrived or moved forward. I enjoy books that keep the h/h coming back around every time to the same place, facing the same issue, facing the same question until finally they change or accept and move forward. I think this can be an issue of slavery (free hero falls in love with slave heroine or the other way around and discovers joy in difference) or religion (Christian falls in love with a Jew and discovers that life is about faith not religion) or even promiscuity (heroine shuns peer pressure and decides her virginity is a gift to be bestowed upon the one who proves himself worthy of it and sets out to find him).
    I love cutting edge romance and I believe the cynical generation behind us will expect it. They’ve had enough of the fluff and stuff. They know the world sucks and few believe any more in the HEA. (Just listen to their music.) The books that can convince them otherwise w/o offending their sensibilities will be, IMHO, tomorrow’s best-sellers.
    Nina, getting off her soapbox before someone pushes her from it. 🙂

    Reply
  70. Hey Pat —
    Your post has got me to thinking about the old axiom: Strength is not to be found in sameness but in difference. It is here that I think romance can deal with the tough issues, albeit in a parable-like way.
    You really hit the nail on the head when you said “We can see the darker side of human nature without applying it to ourselves.” Even the Great Teacher had to resort to parables to get His point across. And today, we still wrestle with their many meanings. It is the struggle to know that keeps us coming back, time and again, wanting more.
    And, so it is, to me anyway, with romance. Humans are infinitely complicated beings who have spent all of history repeating themselves while thinking they have arrived or moved forward. I enjoy books that keep the h/h coming back around every time to the same place, facing the same issue, facing the same question until finally they change or accept and move forward. I think this can be an issue of slavery (free hero falls in love with slave heroine or the other way around and discovers joy in difference) or religion (Christian falls in love with a Jew and discovers that life is about faith not religion) or even promiscuity (heroine shuns peer pressure and decides her virginity is a gift to be bestowed upon the one who proves himself worthy of it and sets out to find him).
    I love cutting edge romance and I believe the cynical generation behind us will expect it. They’ve had enough of the fluff and stuff. They know the world sucks and few believe any more in the HEA. (Just listen to their music.) The books that can convince them otherwise w/o offending their sensibilities will be, IMHO, tomorrow’s best-sellers.
    Nina, getting off her soapbox before someone pushes her from it. 🙂

    Reply
  71. Hey Pat —
    Your post has got me to thinking about the old axiom: Strength is not to be found in sameness but in difference. It is here that I think romance can deal with the tough issues, albeit in a parable-like way.
    You really hit the nail on the head when you said “We can see the darker side of human nature without applying it to ourselves.” Even the Great Teacher had to resort to parables to get His point across. And today, we still wrestle with their many meanings. It is the struggle to know that keeps us coming back, time and again, wanting more.
    And, so it is, to me anyway, with romance. Humans are infinitely complicated beings who have spent all of history repeating themselves while thinking they have arrived or moved forward. I enjoy books that keep the h/h coming back around every time to the same place, facing the same issue, facing the same question until finally they change or accept and move forward. I think this can be an issue of slavery (free hero falls in love with slave heroine or the other way around and discovers joy in difference) or religion (Christian falls in love with a Jew and discovers that life is about faith not religion) or even promiscuity (heroine shuns peer pressure and decides her virginity is a gift to be bestowed upon the one who proves himself worthy of it and sets out to find him).
    I love cutting edge romance and I believe the cynical generation behind us will expect it. They’ve had enough of the fluff and stuff. They know the world sucks and few believe any more in the HEA. (Just listen to their music.) The books that can convince them otherwise w/o offending their sensibilities will be, IMHO, tomorrow’s best-sellers.
    Nina, getting off her soapbox before someone pushes her from it. 🙂

    Reply
  72. Hey Pat —
    Your post has got me to thinking about the old axiom: Strength is not to be found in sameness but in difference. It is here that I think romance can deal with the tough issues, albeit in a parable-like way.
    You really hit the nail on the head when you said “We can see the darker side of human nature without applying it to ourselves.” Even the Great Teacher had to resort to parables to get His point across. And today, we still wrestle with their many meanings. It is the struggle to know that keeps us coming back, time and again, wanting more.
    And, so it is, to me anyway, with romance. Humans are infinitely complicated beings who have spent all of history repeating themselves while thinking they have arrived or moved forward. I enjoy books that keep the h/h coming back around every time to the same place, facing the same issue, facing the same question until finally they change or accept and move forward. I think this can be an issue of slavery (free hero falls in love with slave heroine or the other way around and discovers joy in difference) or religion (Christian falls in love with a Jew and discovers that life is about faith not religion) or even promiscuity (heroine shuns peer pressure and decides her virginity is a gift to be bestowed upon the one who proves himself worthy of it and sets out to find him).
    I love cutting edge romance and I believe the cynical generation behind us will expect it. They’ve had enough of the fluff and stuff. They know the world sucks and few believe any more in the HEA. (Just listen to their music.) The books that can convince them otherwise w/o offending their sensibilities will be, IMHO, tomorrow’s best-sellers.
    Nina, getting off her soapbox before someone pushes her from it. 🙂

    Reply
  73. Hey Pat —
    Your post has got me to thinking about the old axiom: Strength is not to be found in sameness but in difference. It is here that I think romance can deal with the tough issues, albeit in a parable-like way.
    You really hit the nail on the head when you said “We can see the darker side of human nature without applying it to ourselves.” Even the Great Teacher had to resort to parables to get His point across. And today, we still wrestle with their many meanings. It is the struggle to know that keeps us coming back, time and again, wanting more.
    And, so it is, to me anyway, with romance. Humans are infinitely complicated beings who have spent all of history repeating themselves while thinking they have arrived or moved forward. I enjoy books that keep the h/h coming back around every time to the same place, facing the same issue, facing the same question until finally they change or accept and move forward. I think this can be an issue of slavery (free hero falls in love with slave heroine or the other way around and discovers joy in difference) or religion (Christian falls in love with a Jew and discovers that life is about faith not religion) or even promiscuity (heroine shuns peer pressure and decides her virginity is a gift to be bestowed upon the one who proves himself worthy of it and sets out to find him).
    I love cutting edge romance and I believe the cynical generation behind us will expect it. They’ve had enough of the fluff and stuff. They know the world sucks and few believe any more in the HEA. (Just listen to their music.) The books that can convince them otherwise w/o offending their sensibilities will be, IMHO, tomorrow’s best-sellers.
    Nina, getting off her soapbox before someone pushes her from it. 🙂

    Reply
  74. Hey Pat —
    Your post has got me to thinking about the old axiom: Strength is not to be found in sameness but in difference. It is here that I think romance can deal with the tough issues, albeit in a parable-like way.
    You really hit the nail on the head when you said “We can see the darker side of human nature without applying it to ourselves.” Even the Great Teacher had to resort to parables to get His point across. And today, we still wrestle with their many meanings. It is the struggle to know that keeps us coming back, time and again, wanting more.
    And, so it is, to me anyway, with romance. Humans are infinitely complicated beings who have spent all of history repeating themselves while thinking they have arrived or moved forward. I enjoy books that keep the h/h coming back around every time to the same place, facing the same issue, facing the same question until finally they change or accept and move forward. I think this can be an issue of slavery (free hero falls in love with slave heroine or the other way around and discovers joy in difference) or religion (Christian falls in love with a Jew and discovers that life is about faith not religion) or even promiscuity (heroine shuns peer pressure and decides her virginity is a gift to be bestowed upon the one who proves himself worthy of it and sets out to find him).
    I love cutting edge romance and I believe the cynical generation behind us will expect it. They’ve had enough of the fluff and stuff. They know the world sucks and few believe any more in the HEA. (Just listen to their music.) The books that can convince them otherwise w/o offending their sensibilities will be, IMHO, tomorrow’s best-sellers.
    Nina, getting off her soapbox before someone pushes her from it. 🙂

    Reply
  75. Hey Pat —
    Your post has got me to thinking about the old axiom: Strength is not to be found in sameness but in difference. It is here that I think romance can deal with the tough issues, albeit in a parable-like way.
    You really hit the nail on the head when you said “We can see the darker side of human nature without applying it to ourselves.” Even the Great Teacher had to resort to parables to get His point across. And today, we still wrestle with their many meanings. It is the struggle to know that keeps us coming back, time and again, wanting more.
    And, so it is, to me anyway, with romance. Humans are infinitely complicated beings who have spent all of history repeating themselves while thinking they have arrived or moved forward. I enjoy books that keep the h/h coming back around every time to the same place, facing the same issue, facing the same question until finally they change or accept and move forward. I think this can be an issue of slavery (free hero falls in love with slave heroine or the other way around and discovers joy in difference) or religion (Christian falls in love with a Jew and discovers that life is about faith not religion) or even promiscuity (heroine shuns peer pressure and decides her virginity is a gift to be bestowed upon the one who proves himself worthy of it and sets out to find him).
    I love cutting edge romance and I believe the cynical generation behind us will expect it. They’ve had enough of the fluff and stuff. They know the world sucks and few believe any more in the HEA. (Just listen to their music.) The books that can convince them otherwise w/o offending their sensibilities will be, IMHO, tomorrow’s best-sellers.
    Nina, getting off her soapbox before someone pushes her from it. 🙂

    Reply
  76. Hey Pat —
    Your post has got me to thinking about the old axiom: Strength is not to be found in sameness but in difference. It is here that I think romance can deal with the tough issues, albeit in a parable-like way.
    You really hit the nail on the head when you said “We can see the darker side of human nature without applying it to ourselves.” Even the Great Teacher had to resort to parables to get His point across. And today, we still wrestle with their many meanings. It is the struggle to know that keeps us coming back, time and again, wanting more.
    And, so it is, to me anyway, with romance. Humans are infinitely complicated beings who have spent all of history repeating themselves while thinking they have arrived or moved forward. I enjoy books that keep the h/h coming back around every time to the same place, facing the same issue, facing the same question until finally they change or accept and move forward. I think this can be an issue of slavery (free hero falls in love with slave heroine or the other way around and discovers joy in difference) or religion (Christian falls in love with a Jew and discovers that life is about faith not religion) or even promiscuity (heroine shuns peer pressure and decides her virginity is a gift to be bestowed upon the one who proves himself worthy of it and sets out to find him).
    I love cutting edge romance and I believe the cynical generation behind us will expect it. They’ve had enough of the fluff and stuff. They know the world sucks and few believe any more in the HEA. (Just listen to their music.) The books that can convince them otherwise w/o offending their sensibilities will be, IMHO, tomorrow’s best-sellers.
    Nina, getting off her soapbox before someone pushes her from it. 🙂

    Reply
  77. Well… I’ve been thinking about this a great deal today and don’t really have anything profound to add….just my preferences, I guess.
    I’ve always enjoyed learning my history through fiction. As a kid, I loved historical fiction….and I still do. (I think Jean Plaidy’s The Young Elizabeth was my favourite book for a whole year.) Thus….some issues must be addressed that are appropriate to the times if the book is going to satisfy me. However, I don’t always want or need the ‘issues’ to be the central focus of the book…I’m quite happy if they crop up as they do in our lives. Adds depth and richness, I think. And I don’t think religion for instance, can be ignored if I’m to enjoy a Medieval, as it was so important and central to life at that time. The faith of the protagonists is important if it affects how they feel, act or react, but it must be authentic. If an ‘issue’ is to be central to the plot, then it has to handled as that character would have seen it at the time, or I get antsy – it doesn’t ring true if a character has ‘modern’ societal values if they wouldn’t have had at the time, or if they have attitudes or perspectives that actually belong to a different culture (ie North American worldviews applied to European or Asian characters). But I think the handling of a race or religious issue can be done authentically but still sensitively, and be a satisfying exploration of the experience of living at that time – a good bit of the reason I read historicals. (I find that all of the Wenches do this well…I love your books. (-; )
    However if I’m reading a historical romance, I’m looking for entertainment rather than intellectual challenge, so the romance must still be central to the story. Any thorny social issues need to relate to and further the plot or provide context for the love story…rather than compete with it.
    Just my two cents. And I’m not at all sure it makes any sense. (-;

    Reply
  78. Well… I’ve been thinking about this a great deal today and don’t really have anything profound to add….just my preferences, I guess.
    I’ve always enjoyed learning my history through fiction. As a kid, I loved historical fiction….and I still do. (I think Jean Plaidy’s The Young Elizabeth was my favourite book for a whole year.) Thus….some issues must be addressed that are appropriate to the times if the book is going to satisfy me. However, I don’t always want or need the ‘issues’ to be the central focus of the book…I’m quite happy if they crop up as they do in our lives. Adds depth and richness, I think. And I don’t think religion for instance, can be ignored if I’m to enjoy a Medieval, as it was so important and central to life at that time. The faith of the protagonists is important if it affects how they feel, act or react, but it must be authentic. If an ‘issue’ is to be central to the plot, then it has to handled as that character would have seen it at the time, or I get antsy – it doesn’t ring true if a character has ‘modern’ societal values if they wouldn’t have had at the time, or if they have attitudes or perspectives that actually belong to a different culture (ie North American worldviews applied to European or Asian characters). But I think the handling of a race or religious issue can be done authentically but still sensitively, and be a satisfying exploration of the experience of living at that time – a good bit of the reason I read historicals. (I find that all of the Wenches do this well…I love your books. (-; )
    However if I’m reading a historical romance, I’m looking for entertainment rather than intellectual challenge, so the romance must still be central to the story. Any thorny social issues need to relate to and further the plot or provide context for the love story…rather than compete with it.
    Just my two cents. And I’m not at all sure it makes any sense. (-;

    Reply
  79. Well… I’ve been thinking about this a great deal today and don’t really have anything profound to add….just my preferences, I guess.
    I’ve always enjoyed learning my history through fiction. As a kid, I loved historical fiction….and I still do. (I think Jean Plaidy’s The Young Elizabeth was my favourite book for a whole year.) Thus….some issues must be addressed that are appropriate to the times if the book is going to satisfy me. However, I don’t always want or need the ‘issues’ to be the central focus of the book…I’m quite happy if they crop up as they do in our lives. Adds depth and richness, I think. And I don’t think religion for instance, can be ignored if I’m to enjoy a Medieval, as it was so important and central to life at that time. The faith of the protagonists is important if it affects how they feel, act or react, but it must be authentic. If an ‘issue’ is to be central to the plot, then it has to handled as that character would have seen it at the time, or I get antsy – it doesn’t ring true if a character has ‘modern’ societal values if they wouldn’t have had at the time, or if they have attitudes or perspectives that actually belong to a different culture (ie North American worldviews applied to European or Asian characters). But I think the handling of a race or religious issue can be done authentically but still sensitively, and be a satisfying exploration of the experience of living at that time – a good bit of the reason I read historicals. (I find that all of the Wenches do this well…I love your books. (-; )
    However if I’m reading a historical romance, I’m looking for entertainment rather than intellectual challenge, so the romance must still be central to the story. Any thorny social issues need to relate to and further the plot or provide context for the love story…rather than compete with it.
    Just my two cents. And I’m not at all sure it makes any sense. (-;

    Reply
  80. Well… I’ve been thinking about this a great deal today and don’t really have anything profound to add….just my preferences, I guess.
    I’ve always enjoyed learning my history through fiction. As a kid, I loved historical fiction….and I still do. (I think Jean Plaidy’s The Young Elizabeth was my favourite book for a whole year.) Thus….some issues must be addressed that are appropriate to the times if the book is going to satisfy me. However, I don’t always want or need the ‘issues’ to be the central focus of the book…I’m quite happy if they crop up as they do in our lives. Adds depth and richness, I think. And I don’t think religion for instance, can be ignored if I’m to enjoy a Medieval, as it was so important and central to life at that time. The faith of the protagonists is important if it affects how they feel, act or react, but it must be authentic. If an ‘issue’ is to be central to the plot, then it has to handled as that character would have seen it at the time, or I get antsy – it doesn’t ring true if a character has ‘modern’ societal values if they wouldn’t have had at the time, or if they have attitudes or perspectives that actually belong to a different culture (ie North American worldviews applied to European or Asian characters). But I think the handling of a race or religious issue can be done authentically but still sensitively, and be a satisfying exploration of the experience of living at that time – a good bit of the reason I read historicals. (I find that all of the Wenches do this well…I love your books. (-; )
    However if I’m reading a historical romance, I’m looking for entertainment rather than intellectual challenge, so the romance must still be central to the story. Any thorny social issues need to relate to and further the plot or provide context for the love story…rather than compete with it.
    Just my two cents. And I’m not at all sure it makes any sense. (-;

    Reply
  81. Nina, that’s an interesting comment about the next generation being more cynical and wanting their “reality.” I’m not sure how many of them will even romance, though. There may be another genre waiting to bust out for them.
    And I totally agree with everyone who says in romance, the relationship must be the center of the story. Any issues must be seen in that context. It’s just, as SS pointed out, romance editors will run if you even mention a conflict involving such issues. So they can’t even be part of the plot. They have to be part of the context and no more. And even then, it’s tricky.
    I’m enjoying these discussions with a wider world than my closest friends. “G” Thank you!

    Reply
  82. Nina, that’s an interesting comment about the next generation being more cynical and wanting their “reality.” I’m not sure how many of them will even romance, though. There may be another genre waiting to bust out for them.
    And I totally agree with everyone who says in romance, the relationship must be the center of the story. Any issues must be seen in that context. It’s just, as SS pointed out, romance editors will run if you even mention a conflict involving such issues. So they can’t even be part of the plot. They have to be part of the context and no more. And even then, it’s tricky.
    I’m enjoying these discussions with a wider world than my closest friends. “G” Thank you!

    Reply
  83. Nina, that’s an interesting comment about the next generation being more cynical and wanting their “reality.” I’m not sure how many of them will even romance, though. There may be another genre waiting to bust out for them.
    And I totally agree with everyone who says in romance, the relationship must be the center of the story. Any issues must be seen in that context. It’s just, as SS pointed out, romance editors will run if you even mention a conflict involving such issues. So they can’t even be part of the plot. They have to be part of the context and no more. And even then, it’s tricky.
    I’m enjoying these discussions with a wider world than my closest friends. “G” Thank you!

    Reply
  84. Nina, that’s an interesting comment about the next generation being more cynical and wanting their “reality.” I’m not sure how many of them will even romance, though. There may be another genre waiting to bust out for them.
    And I totally agree with everyone who says in romance, the relationship must be the center of the story. Any issues must be seen in that context. It’s just, as SS pointed out, romance editors will run if you even mention a conflict involving such issues. So they can’t even be part of the plot. They have to be part of the context and no more. And even then, it’s tricky.
    I’m enjoying these discussions with a wider world than my closest friends. “G” Thank you!

    Reply

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