Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why I read Historical Romance by Michelle Styles

I will be the first to admit it. I love historical romance. It is my favourite genre and has been for a very long time. I first cut my teeth on Victoria Holt, Georgette Heyer and Barbara Michaels aka Elizabeth Peters. My earliest literary crush was on Rab from Esther Forbes Johnny Tremain. I wept buckets when he died. Sir Percy Blakeney in the Scarlet Pimpernel beat all the boys I knew hands down when I was *forced* to read him in 8th grade English. So it went. Then when I discovered Johanna Lindsey, Jennifer Blake and La Vryle Spencer, the deal was totally sealed.

I suppose it was inevitable that I became a historical novelist. I love history and want others to develop a love of history. I started off trying to write contemporary and hoped that some day I could write historical. The HMB editor I was working with suggested that I might be really good at writing ancient historical and the rest as they say is history. Thankfully the editors have agreed to indulge my love of history and let me write in different time periods.

A historical romance can be a way into history. But the primary reason I read historical is to escape into another world. They are fun page turning reads.

In a good historical read, no prior knowledge of the period is required. Just as you don’t have to know how the police run an investigation to enjoy romantic suspense or how corporate finance works to enjoy an office romance, you don’t have to know history to enjoy historical romance. Sometimes when I want to know about a new period or place, I read historical romance. Historical romance is also a broad church. Lots of periods, settings and story types. From romantic suspense to straight romance. From super sexy to sweet and every flavour in between.

As you can see from other blogs on the Harlequin Historical blog, the authors take their research very seriously. Actually for me, research is not a hard slog but the fun bit. Recently I’ve had to reread about Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, and in pursuit of knowing more have read the earliest English travel guide to Egypt. Along the way I have also read about two bible hunting sisters from Glasgow whose adventure you couldn’t make up and how Florence Nightengale and Gustav Flaubert before they began their life’s work were both on the Nile in the winter of 1849 and how the experience shaped their lives. But the research only underpins the story. It is the growing relationship between the two main characters that drives the story. The history adds the flavouring. Of the research I do, maybe 10% gets in the book.

So what got you into reading historical? And if you haven’t tried one recently, why not?

Michelle Styles is the author of over 16 Historical Romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon Historical. Her next release in the UK will be The Viking's Captive Princess (Dec 10) and in US, A Question of Impropriety (Dec 10). She will also have an Online reading on e-harlequin starting 15 Nov. You can read more about her books on her website.

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