Jo here, again, thanks to Gina. Many blessings be upon you!
And thanks to Susan Kind for allowing me part of Thursday to repeat this.
I said I’d blog about this, and here I go in true blog style, because I’m not sure I have anything coherent to say, but the subject does interest me for many reasons.
I was a young reader of historical romance. I began with The Scarlet Pimpernel when I was about 10, I think. The thinking is about the age, not the book, though I had been reading some historical novels, mostly about real people before that, and Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, which of course contain a lot of romances and they were the ones I read and reread.
I was in England, of course, where romances flourished back then, including historical romance. I soon discovered Heyer, definitely historical romance. Let’s forget the distinction between trad regency and historical romance that sprang up. I had no concept of such a thing then, or when I wrote my first complete romance novel in 1977, which is why what became An Arranged Marriage was and is a bit unusual (!) for a regency romance.
Someone should research when the division occurred between regency and historical romance, because by the mid eighties it was firm in North America, with the idea that “regency” meant no sex and
historicals meant sex, graphic or not.
Anyway, I outread the children’s library at a young age and was given an adult library card, which admitted me to many delights, including a whole wall of Mills and Boon romances. Not historical, but very enjoyable, thank you, much to my mother’s dismay. Yup, to her they weren’t “real books.”
I digress, as always.
But I’m trying to think about my attitude to historical romance — always my favorite reading — and what appealed to me as a young person at school, at university, and afterward.
I think mate-choosing has to appeal to young people strongly. We are animals beneath the sophistication, so as soon as we enter puberty, a large part of our mind is occupied with the important business of
finding a mate and reproducing our genes. We may not do it, as many haven’t through the ages — very wise of so many women to enter convents in the middle ages, in my opinion, though it’s equally
interesting that more men did than women. I’m not quite sure how that works out — but biologically it’s the only thing of true importance.
Perhaps, if there is a decline in interest in romance novels in young women across the board these days, it reflects the fact that they’re more busily engaged in the activity, after a manner of speaking, than my generation were. Except that the swinging sixties didn’t do much to change my interest in historical romance. That’s a picture of me as a romance reader at university, complete with phallic images. That’s my art work BTW, but not an example I’m proud of. I never was into abstract.
I think this is getting too long, and I may add to it later. But what do you think?
Are young people really reading less. I was an avid reader but most of my friends weren’t even then. Are there really fewer avid readers?
Is historical romance less appealing to today’s young readers? I get quite a bit of e-mail from young readers.
Is it perhaps because the protagonists, especially the heroines, in historical romance are often older? I still write quite young ones. Imogen in Dark Champion was 16. Claire in Lord of Midnight, 18. Jancy in The Rogue’s Return is 18, and Mara in To Rescue A Rogue is 19. Thea, in my MIP, is the advanced age of 20.
Apart from a couple of older women younger men stories, I don’t think I’ve written a heroine older than 24 and most of my heroes aren’t much older than that.
Or is it that the stories have become a bit internal, with not enough action and derring-do. And I include most sex scenes as internal (no puns, please. I’m British!) as despite the many delights being experienced, it is not action in the plot sense.
Many thoughts, no coherence.
PS. Adding as I repost this, I might not have enjoyed romances so much as a young teen if I hadn’t been able to find plenty of adult romances, by which I mean they weren’t written for young readers, with subtle sexuality. Where are those books now? I don’t think YA books hit the spot.