Jennifer's Journal


Friday, December 04, 2009

Retro Romance

"Retro romance." What does the phrase mean? I came across the description the other day in a review for one of my historical titles, and have been mulling it over ever since. Does it mean the book has something to it beyond mere Lust At First Glance? Do the characters develop a relationship before melting into each other's arms? Do they display concern for the mores surrounding male-female relationships in the society to which they belong? Is there actually a story there somewhere, one with (What an idea!) a modicum of historical background to support it?

I ask these questions because I've read several of the more recent historical romances. By and large, they seem generic. Remove the occasional mention of a horse, petticoat or sword, and they could take place anywhere, any time. Why is this? Why do authors set their stories in historical time periods if they can't be bothered to do the research? Why do they make their characters behave like 21st century adults on the prowl? Why call their books romances if they gloss over the story and go straight for the sex? Why not just label them erotica and be done with it?

Oh, right. They're doing that now, except they confuse the issue by tagging them as Romantic Erotica.

Yes, the sensual relationship has always been central to historical romance novels, just as it's always been central to life itself. Yes, the love scenes are key. Still, there was once more meat to the books, more story and exploration of male-female dynamics set against a backdrop of history. The love scenes were about the power of emotion to heal, to bind and to transcend instead of about mechanics and anatomically correct body parts. The relationships were romantic, in the best sense of the word, instead of merely erotic.

I like to think my books continue to reflect the elements which fueled the rise of the romance genre, making it the most popular in the history of publishing. If that makes them "retro" then so be it.

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Blogger Patti--Patricia Frances Rowell said...

Amen to that, Jennifer!

Keep up the good fight.


1:46 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Blake said...

Thanks, Patti. You do the same!

9:00 AM  
Blogger LBDDiaries said...

Amen, sistah, preach it! I noticed the same thing in today's so called "romance" story - that it was far more erotica and far less of everything else - plot, story line, character development. I've tossed out more books w/o finishing them. I don't want a sex manual when I read romance. That's why I like your books!!!

9:49 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Blake said...

It's great to see my opinion vindicated. Thanks much for your comment, LBD. And I appreciate the accolade for my books, too!

8:55 AM  

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