Happy birthday to us!

Happy birthday and may we live long and prosper.

Megan and I started this blog in August of 2005 because we both had books coming out that fall, from the now defunct Signet Regency line. Between us we managed to kill it off. Megan, splutter, had a hero with dirty boots and a sex scene that was a sex scene without gallons of virginal blood, a misplaced hymen, or life-threatening trauma for the heroine. Mine was Dedication, my first attempt to crack the romance code, and between us we thought we’d better storm the internet.

So in six years, what has changed in romance?

1. It’s no longer absolutely necessary to bend over backward (so to speak) to preserve your heroine’s virginity even if she has been married several times and/or captaining a pirate ship since adolescence.

2. The hero no longer has to get the cherry.

3. The heroine is allowed to enjoy sex with partners other than the hero.

4. The heroine no longer has to think herself plain or undergo a miraculous makeover.

5. There are at least three 30-something hot single Dukes now available for every female with heroine pretensions in Regency London and 80% of those women are expensive courtesans.

And what hasn’t changed much?

1. Sadly there are still marriages made with one, other, or both insisting that it’s “in name only.” (p.s. it never works).

2. Characters still spend a lot of time leaning on mantelpieces*, drinking tea*, wearing riding hats with jaunty feathers (female), wearing underwear (female), eating historically incorrect scones, drinking historically incorrect whiskey, and using Edwardian slang because it sounds English.
* I own the copyright to these two activities, particularly if they are done concurrently. Please contact me for terms if you wish to use them in your book.

3. Sex for recreational purposes only is still tricky. Here is a quick checklist to make sure your characters are having sex for the right reason:

  • Traumatized by Waterloo (male)
  • Traumatized by Waterloo (female)
  • I am a hot 30-something Duke and I can do whatever I want to, so there
  • Traumatized by previous consummated marriages
  • Traumatized by previous unconsummated marriages
  • To improve morale on the pirate ship

And now, the big news. At least I think it’s the big news because I have a feeling I’ve announced it somewhere already. LooseId will be bringing out a new edition of Dedication sometime in 2012–I don’t have a release date yet. It will have all the sex I really wanted to put in the first time around but which was just inferred–and may even include flashback sex!

So to celebrate I am giving away one of my precious copies of the Signet Regency Dedication and we also have two $20 Amazon gift certificates to spread around. I’ll give one away today and the other to anyone who comments during our birthday week. So please check out our other birthday posts if you haven’t already.

What do you think has changed in romance over the last six years?

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31 Responses to Happy birthday to us!

  1. Lois says:

    First, you can take me out of the running for the book – I have one. 🙂

    As for the rest, I thought I’d answer this one because of this — I guess I’ve been reading romances for a little bit more than 6 years now… and the thing that has changed is when I started searching for all things related to romances and that thing that I discovered called Regency romances, historicals were dying (even though I was sure buying a lot of them in a month). Now, contemporaries are dying (even though I am sure buying a lot of those in a month, not counting the monthly Harelquins). Makes you wonder if they are actually telling the truth or what! LOL

    Lois

  2. I also have a precious copy, and it would be wrong for me to have two.

    When I first started reading romance, the heroines were all 17 and vacuously virginal. I am sooo glad to read about and write the “older” heroine (30ish, LOL, like I’ll ever see *that* decade again). Innocence is vastly over-rated and I’m glad that lots of writers have ditched it. Ditto the perfectly-proportioned, porcelain-skinned, pretty-as-a-picture heroine. (Now mind you, the men are still absolutely studly and so they should be. We’re talking fantasy here.)

  3. oneredboot says:

    can’t wait to read the newly-revised Dedication!

    i think the most interesting shift i’ve noticed recently is seeing regency worlds influencing / appearing in other genres. susanna clarke’s fabulous “jonathan strange and mr norrell,” for example. and there have been lots of new YAs set in during the regency–just finished jennifer bradbury’s very imaginative “wrapped.”

  4. The world has shifted on its axis… my dear BIL reads romances now… Probably still is a huge Science Fiction fan… but most likely has read everything ever written… Please pick me — I haven’t read it !!

  5. Cathy P says:

    I have been a romance reader for 40 years now. So much has changed. Back then, the heroines were all young and virginal, and the heroes had experience of course. Sex was not mentioned back then.

    Over the last 6 years I guess some heroines are older and not virginal or older and still virginal. Sex is explicit now, whereas before it was more or less implied.

  6. jcp says:

    I notice romances are more explict and the hero has less previous partners and the heroine has usually one or two and is older as well.

  7. Kat says:

    All of London’s famous courtesans coming out of those naughty dukes beds and bringing all their knowledge to the young ladies of the world, the day of the simpering Miss is gone.

  8. catinbody says:

    Masturbation. So far, I’m only seeing the men doing it. Maybe I’ve just missed the female masturbation scenes (I do read mostly historical). I expect I’ll eventually come upon a solo sex scene in Regency England. Judy Blume did it in 1970 (her character Margaret, I mean), but it’s still taboo.

  9. Linda says:

    What a delightful post, I loved the reasons for having sex. Thanks for the giveaway.

  10. HJ says:

    There seems to be a wider range of historical romances available now – the publishers appear to realise that books which are not cliche sweet Regencies will also sell (and they can keep selling the traditional Regencies too, often to the same customers). Romances are allowed to be a little darker, with more complicated plots and more complex characters.

  11. Maria says:

    Loved the post! Totally made me laugh!

    I’ve only been reading romances for the last 3 years so I can’t really say what’s changed over time but I have noticed the covers are definitely more geared towards being “hero” centric rather than “heroine” centric as in the old bodice ripper days. I also think the heroines are definitely more liberated -which I’m not sure is historically accurate- but is fun to read. Looking forward to the version which will release from LooosId.

  12. Na says:

    I started reading romance regularly a few years ago and have never looked by. In between reading other genres I always include a romance and no genre makes me feel as happy. Even as a new reader to the romance genre I have read all sorts of romances from recent releases to classics in all the sub-genres. I like seeing the genre evolve and recent changes I have seen is a belnding of genres which I embrace. In the past when I think of Regencies I think of witty, playful reads about romance but there has been an emgence of paranormal Regencies or Gothic Regencies. The lines may be blurrings but the stories are still GREAT! I fall in love with the characters and can enjoy a deeply moving love stoy.

  13. Rosie Hong says:

    Hm…I haven’t read that many older romances, although it has been about 5 years since I really started reading romance. I would say there are fewer amnesia plots, and more of a variety of the hero besides just the major, major alpha I-am-man-you-are-woman-you-do-what-I-say hero (although there are still quite a few of those).

  14. Virginia says:

    I have notice a lot more paranormal romance out right now now my favorite read by the way give me a historical any day. Also there are a lot more sex scenes in books now with more detail. That is the bigest thing I have noticed.

    lead[at]hotsheet[dot]com

  15. Hi everyone, sorry for neglecting you for so long–I hope the servants have been suitably attentive. Idiot dayjob got in the way.

    Lois, OF COURSE contemporaries are dying. I’m writing them.

    @oneredboot, I sometimes wonder if the only way to go with Regencies is to pluck out the elements you like best and drop them into an entirely fantastical world of your own making. I’m beginning to think the “I’m too sexy for my ducal boots” stuff is getting a bit tired.

    @Maggie, I personally like the perfectly-proportioned, porcelain-skinned, pretty-as-a-picture hero but you don’t find many of them.

    I love that guys read romance, @girlygirletc. Good for your BIL.

    @CathyP, @jcp, @Kat–but do you think it improves the subgenre? Don’t you think we’re going from one stereotype to another?

    @catinbody, I agree. We’re a bit short on female action and I think it might be because it might actually suggest that it would be ok for the reader to get turned on too. (Cue chorus of “it’s all about the luuuuuurrve!”)

    And that was one of the reasons that fiction for/by women was so frowned upon in the 18c/19c century–all that solitude could only lead to trouble.

  16. Jane George says:

    Genre blending & ‘mash-ups’ are common now. I appreciate the greater variety. And I’m excited to see authors like Colleen Gleason (and Riskies too!) start their own publishing lines, either with backlist or original titles.

  17. @HJ, I think it’s a pity the generic Regency has dominated the market to the detriment of equally interesting historical periods, although quite honestly finding one were women were not chattel and/or religious maniacs is difficult.

    @Maria, don’t you love all those Dukes fresh from the gym?!

    @Na and @Rosie, I love it when subgenres overlap and tropes are overturned or subverted.

    @Virginia, I have such mixed feelings about paranormal elements in Regencies. It it’s done well it can be brilliant, but there are so many interesting things about the period without going into the paranormal. I love Naomi Novik–and it was Megan Frampton who introduced me to her books, even though I was kicking and screaming all the way.

  18. Amy Kathryn says:

    I have to agree with the rise of the mash-ups. There seems to be more freedom with plot, characterization, and setting than there used to be…especially with the rise of new subgenres like urban fantasy, steampunk, etc.

    I am happy that there are now both traditional and non traditional romances available now to fit my mood. I can only hope that more flexibility leads to more great stories.

    (I also have a copy of the original Dedication in my TBR but would be happy to add to the TBR with the Amazon card!)

  19. chey says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Barbara E. says:

    I think that in the last six years, romance has changed in that there are a lot more genres of romance, including steampunk, scifi, paranormal romance, and mixtures such as paranormal historical. I think our heroines are becoming a bit more independent and not so reliant on the big strong hero to come along and save them. Sometimes they do the saving all by themselves, or even save the hero, which I think is refreshing.

  21. chey says:

    Happy Birthday!
    There is more sex and more paranormal elements in romances.

  22. M. says:

    HAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!

    OK, just had to get that out of my system first. I love you Janet, for making me smile so reliably. The only other blogger who can touch you in this is of course Carolyn.

  23. librarypat says:

    The biggest change for me has been the addition of more explicit sex. The heroines are “allowed” to be more outspoken and independent. It is nice to see the shift from simpering sweet young things.

    May there be many more years of this enjoyable blog.

  24. Thanks for making my day, Janet! Read this after a LONG hard day at the day job and your rules for historicals then and now cracked me up!

    Yes, the sex is more explicit and the heroes are a bit more varied. You have some intellectual types, spies, PTSD’s and even a lord with Asberger’s.

    I think see more of what goes on in characters’ heads in the newer historicals.

    And the genre is definitely expanding. Whether that is a good thing or bad thing only time will tell and for the most part it will be on a book by book basis.

  25. Kirsten says:

    Not sure if this happened in te last 6 years but things that have changed for the better, in my opinion. Are that the girls are a bit less innocent and the guys have more feelings/emotional depth.

  26. Diane Gaston says:

    I slept on this and realized I did have some ideas of what has changed in 6 years.

    The biggest change is the demise of the traditional regency. Janet, you and Megan were pushing the envelope of that genre in what I consider good ways, but I miss the shorter books with an emphasis on the settings, the manners, and the conventions (some of which you parody so well!). I know some readers miss the lack of explicit sexual content that was typical of traditional regencies. When the trads started to be about solving mysteries or searching for artifacts, or any of those things that pulled away from focussing on the characters and their journey, I stopped reading as many of them.

    I think Harlequin Historical has kept much of what was good about the traditional regencies alive. I think they are a hybrid of trads and single titles, not quite one; not quite the other

  27. Dee says:

    Love the list. Definitely lots of hottie Dukes around. I do miss the traditional regencies because the characterizations and gentle humor were the best parts. I think a lot of the new regencies are contemporary characters cloaked in an historical outfit. That said, there were a lot of far-fetched trad regencies written, too. And, while paranormal may be more trendy right now, at least as a genuine fantasy element it doesn’t cause my eyes to roll so far back in my head that I can’t read the printed page.

  28. Sheree says:

    As I haven’t read romances that long, I don’t know. Still, to have heroines who are older than 25 is good, courtesan or not.

  29. TxDee says:

    Happy B’day, Riskies. This column made me laugh, but got me to thinking about the genormous number of romances I have read over the last 6++ years. I agree with other posters that the sex has become more explicit, but in the hands of a skilled author, it doesn’t overwhelm the story. I also welcome the chance to read romances in many genres. I’ve read fantasy and scifi for years and I like the addition of romantic elements in these.

  30. TxDee says:

    Happy B’day, Riskies. This column made me laugh, but got me to thinking about the genormous number of romances I have read over the last 6++ years. I agree with other posters that the sex has become more explicit, but in the hands of a skilled author, it doesn’t overwhelm the story. I also welcome the chance to read romances in many genres. I’ve read fantasy and scifi for years and I like the addition of romantic elements in these.

  31. Maureen says:

    I think we have become less prudish with the heroine and now expect some kind of discrimination with the hero.

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