Identifying historical romances set outside the British
Isles or North America can be a bit of a chore. Here I’ve put together a batch
of stories located in one of my favourite countries, France.
Asterisks denote romances set partially (*) or mostly/entirely
(**) in continental France as defined by its current borders, including Provence, Languedoc, etc.. Standard warnings apply to some of
the older titles. As for diversity, a regrettable consequence of being a
little-used geographical setting is that diverse characters remain rare even as
boundaries have expanded elsewhere in the genre.
Night Fires by Karen Harbaugh **. French Revolution. Vampires
with a unique twist, redemption.
Whisper His Name by Elizabeth Thornton *. Regency. Heroine opens book business, scholarly hero has secret profession, light suspense.
A Wheel of Stars by Laura Gilmour Bennett **. Medieval /
Timeslip. Templars, Cathars, Inquisition, troubadours.
Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase *. Regency. Forced
marriage, heroine-as-saviour, rakehell hero, clever repartee, perennial romance
The Last Arrow by Marsha Canham **. Medieval. Heroine is
a skilled archer, swashbuckling adventure, Robin Hood & King John.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
*. Regency / Contemporary. First in the Pink Carnation series. The dual
narrative framework alternates between Eloise, a modern scholar researching
“that demmed, elusive Pimpernel”, and British spies romping about in Napoleonic
Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran **. Victorian /
Belle Époque. Jilted bride decides to ditch nice girl image, black sheep hero,
The Making of a Duchess by Shana Galen *. Georgian /
First French Republic. First in a trilogy about French brothers. Governess,
spies, rescue mission.
Storm Winds by Iris Johansen **. French Revolution. Dark suspense, graphic violence including rape (not involving h/h), class
divide, Marie Antoinette.
Moonrise by Roberta Gayle **. Victorian / Second Empire. Art
world, artist heroine, seafaring hero, poc h/h, Paris.
A Bed of Spices by Barbara Samuel **. Medieval. Forbidden
love, Jewish hero, Christian heroine, hero is medical student, virgin hero (IIRC), Black Death.
Ruthless by Anne Stuart **. Georgian / Ancien Régime.
First in the House of Rohan series. Rakehell hero, sexually abused heroine, bluestocking heroine, May-December.
The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne **. French
Revolution. Third in the Spymasters series – in which France is a recurring
location - but chronologically the first. Secret identity, spies, suspense,
sexually experienced heroine.
The Heart’s Wager by Gayle Wilson. Regency / Bourbon Restoration
/ The Hundred Days. Friends-to-lovers, physically scarred hero, heroine brought
up in gambling den, spies.
King of the Castle by Victoria Holt **. Nineteenth
century. Gothic. Heroine is an art restorer, château set amid vineyards, dead
first wife, promiscuous hero.
Dance by Judy Cuevas (also known as Judith Ivory) **.
Edwardian / Belle Époque. Independent heroine who produces and directs films;
starchy, self-denying, head-of-the-family hero; heroine jilted hero’s brother.
Their backstories are encountered in a connected book, Bliss. A third historical,
Beast (as the title suggests, a Beauty and the Beast tale), takes place in
France and on an ocean liner.
Don’t Tempt Me by Sylvia Day. Georgian / Ancien Régime.
Fourth in the Georgian series. Erotic romance. Twin sisters, mistaken identity, spies, suspense, amnesia, rake
Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels by Anne Golon **. 17th
century. Not a standalone as the book finishes on a disconsolate cliffhanger
and forms the first installment in an extended adventure romance series. Still, no
list of historical romances set in France would be complete without this vintage
classic. Long wildly popular in Europe, the Angélique series was known for its
action-filled blend of intrigue, history, and lustiness, including pirates,
slavery, and the court of the Sun King. In line with some earlier romances,
expect a strongly heroine-centric storyline in which she (due to plot-spoiler
circumstances) has more than one relationship yet recognises only one true love.
If you enjoy Bertrice Small, Angélique may very well work for you. In addition, some of the books have been made into feature-length films, the first one twice (1960s and 2013).
A Midnight Dance by Lila DiPasqua **.17th
century. Erotic romance. Loose retelling of Charles Perrault’s Cinderella,
debt-ridden but resourceful heroine, childhood crush, privateer
hero, acting troupe, deception, thievery, revenge.
The Protector by Madeline Hunter **. Medieval. Fifth in the Medieval series. Alpha
heroine, warrior heroine, heroine prefers convent over marriage, alpha hero, honourable
hero, sieges and battles, Black Death. I only recently discovered the story
deals with Brittany, then an independent Duchy in the grip of succession
struggles in which England and France aggressively meddled. Those familiar with my blog will probably not be surprised to learn that the
Breton setting has made it shoot up to the top of my TBR. [ETA 11 Feb. 2017: Cannot disagree more with reviewers who’ve deemed the hero honourable. He’s an old school romance misogynist. The other major negative is the slut shaming and all other women being belittled unless they’re the heroine in another book by the author. Strong points include the fluid writing style, an interesting, smart, and capable heroine, and decent historical texture. Blood pressure warning re. said negatives. Hero: D (a few, small redeeming moments rescue him from an F). Heroine: A. Story: B.]
The Treasure Keeper
by Shana Abé *. Georgian / Ancien Régime. Fourth in the Drakón series. Dragon
shapeshifters, hero-in-pursuit, disabled hero, heroine betrothed to someone
The Champion by Elizabeth Chadwick * (?). Medieval.
Tournaments, separated lovers, miscarriage, court of King John. This is a romance
that pulls toward romantic historical fiction (Chadwick later transitioned to
biographical historical fiction).
Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart **. Since nearly
seventy years have passed since its original publication, I’m now classifying
this vintage Gothic romance, written and set in the 1950s, as a historical
romance. Cinderella, governess, child-in-peril, hero who may or may not be a
villain. Also set in France are Thunder on the Right, Stewart’s first effort and a very
purple gothic (though published second), and Madam, Will You Talk, a taut,
atmospheric romantic suspense in which the heroine’s superb driving ability plays a central role.
Maiden of Fire by Deborah Johns **. Medieval. Templars, Cathars,
Inquisition, heroine with a secret mission, scribe heroine, hero belongs to
enemy force, forbidden love.
The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale *. Georgian /
Ancien Régime. Friends-to-lovers, cross-dressing heroine, angry heroine,
recluse hero, disabled hero, hero-in-pursuit, pet wolf, revenge. And yes, that’s
Fabio on the original cover.
A Lady’s Secret by Jo Beverley *. Georgian / Ancien
Régime. Malloren series but works as a standalone. Road trip, heroine in peril,
kind and fun-loving hero, heroine born out of wedlock, famous but secret father, competent and
adventurous heroine, scene stealing Papillon.
Surrender to a Stranger by Karyn Monk **. French
Revolution. Rescue missions, commoner hero is spy, noblewoman heroine is betrothed
to someone else, adventure, suspense, revenge. (Note that Goodreads and Amazon
synopses are messed up, conflating two unrelated novels. For example, the hero’s name is
Armand St. James, not Damien Powell.)
Rake Most Likely to Rebel by Bronwyn Scott **. Regency /
July Monarchy. Fencing, secret identity, blackmail, cross-dressing heroine, heroine
expert at her profession, duteous hero expected to marry someone else, hero not
a rake despite book title.
Fallout Headcanon: the most frequently confiscated type of contraband in the Legion isn’t cigarettes, alcohol, or any kind of chem. It’s actually shitty, pre-war dime store paperback harlequin romance novels. They’ll trade them to one another, under the table, and the Legionaries who can’t read get in on the action too by having the literate ones either straight up read them out loud to them or having them summarize it. Ones without missing pages or scorch marks are highly valued, and the books are commonly traded for favors, information, and other stuff on top of being used as betting material.
“Pavus, I need a favor.”
“What’s in it for me?”
“I’ve got ‘Untamed Billionaire, Undressed Virgin,’ AND the highly coveted 'A Noble Captive.’ Both have a little bit of water damage but all the pages are there and everything’s readable.”
“….throw in that copy of 'Bought for the Marriage Bed’ that I saw you with last week and it’s a deal.”
Today has been really lovely. My partner and I had class together then went to a bookstore where we just walked around and talked about the books we liked growing up, what we look for in books now, and made fun of cheesy romance novel titles. Then we went and got lunch together I had delicious pad Thai and they had great veggie dumplings they made me laugh way too loudly for that small of a restaurant. :P And then before my next class we sat down and cuddled for awhile and took goofy photos together and it was all very cute.
Do you have any feeder fics? Either Bucky or Steve?
OK so there’s a story with this one. Neither me or Gabby knew what this was and were gonna leave it until we had time for some research. Then today with the oscars, Gabby sent me a pic of cevans that had his shirt showing out of his jacket a little and was like, Karin, for a second consider chubby cevans. Our consensus it that he’d look amazing with a lil tummy and soft thighs and thus began a search for fics with chubby cevans. There were none, which naturally lead us to chubby Steve Rogers. Which lead me to discover the extremely well tagged collection of feeder/belly love stucky fics. Like seriously these authors are not fucking around with the tags. Gabbys gonna write a chubby steve fic and also I’m about to start a drawing of chubby cevans and put a lot of effort into realism. Anyways point is here’s some feeder fics that I found, I hope they’re what you were looking for:
Getting to know his roommate, Steve Rogers, through midnight baking sessions was something Bucky Barnes never expected to happen. Falling for Steve wasn’t in the cards either but Bucky is fastly doing just that. What he needs to figure out is if he can be the man Steve wants him to be or not. If he can be maybe they can have a happily ever after. Or just being happy together without the ever after would be fine with Bucky.
When Bucky was sixteen and drunk for the first time (on schnapps, dear god, not that he ever admits that part) he let his friend’s greaseball older brother talk him into a homemade stab-n-stick that is just… awful. He walks into the shop from the business card late at night, and a little guy in a too-big hoodie and skinny jeans looks up from the counter.
The Chubby!Punk!Bucky meets Tiny!TattooArtist!Steve AU.
That title may be a bit misleading. Vampires are, generally speaking,
lovers of all things melodramatic, and there’s no better place to find
melodrama than in a trashy romance with some broad-chested dude on the cover. They’re
suckers (pun intended) for a good bodice-ripping, heavy breathing piece of
literature. Coincidentally, they’re also suckers for puns (more on that next
time). What they really don’t appreciate are the ever-popular “paranormal”
romances that feature, you guessed it, vampires. The fanged community is
generally not fond of their overall portrayal in common culture, but they’ve
learned to take it in stride as they assimilate more and more into human
society. But one thing they’re still not cool with is that subgenre of fiction
that makes vampires into hunky, overly muscled alpha males with psychotic
tendencies that the author tries to pass off as “control issues.”
First, let’s debunk the whole “alpha male” concept. While it
may apply to werewolves and shapeshifters and, to a lesser extent, dragons and
elementals, vampires have a rather equanimous social order. The coven arrives
at important decisions by consensus, and more often than not will follow a matriarchal
hierarchy. And most importantly, they don’t appreciate the comparison to werewolves,
who do follow an alpha. The feud between the two races is something humans did
get right, and the fanged community does not take any confusion between
themselves and the “overgrown poodles” lightly (this is one of the many
derisive names vampires have developed for their rival supernatural beings).
Another thing: vampires will never willfully destroy
clothing. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, things that they love
and things that they hate. Vampires are among the cleverest of the supernatural
races, and the oldest. They have a deep appreciation for knowledge, but it
doesn’t matter how many Roman emperors you can name. Unless you can tell the
difference between designer brand and off-the-rack autumn wear (autumn is a
vampire’s favorite season) you won’t be invited to dinner a second time. So it
is with a heavy heart that I must confess that a vampire will never, EVER rip
the clothes off a lover while lost in the throes of sublime carnal bliss. They
will never have sex in a public place or, god forbid, in the woods. This is not to say vampires are
not adventurous or passionate in the bedroom, but there’s always a line. For
vampires, that line is made of expensive cashmere.
Thankfully, vampires also have a sense of humor. While
they’re not fond of the way popular culture has taken to portraying them from
time to time, they have learned to take these things in stride. Twilight was a close call. Not because
of the glitter, but because no self-respecting vampire would ever be caught in
a Volvo. Nowadays, though, vampires
are great fans of the franchise. It’s the comedy of choice on Coven Movie Night.
And if they turn up their nose at titles like Dark Needs At Night’s Edge (a vampire-ghost combo that was
originally taken as a saucy satire, because really), it’s not because they’re
prudes or snobs.
I’m pretty sure that most of these are not already real titles, but I just found out that one of my ideas, Say Yes to the Marquess, is the name of a Tessa Dare novel that will be released later this year. So, no guarantees.
I’m going to sort these by particularly inspirational words. First of all…
The Best of All Possible Earls: A naive young lady is captivated by the Leibnizian philosophy of a dashing earl. Then many misfortunes befall them and they must reexamine their ideals…as well as their love.
Earls Before Swine: A city-loving earl must retreat to the countryside (for health/family/scandal-related reasons) and finds himself intrigued by an eccentric country lady who cares more for farming than parties.
The Earl Most Likely: Lord Placeham was one of the most promising young aristocrats of his generation…until he suddenly fled England with no warning. Now he’s back, bitter and unsure of himself. What’s his deal? One former wallflower is determined to find out.
Boy Meets Earl: I mean, obviously, right?
Lock and Marquis: Lord Placeville, a sweet-natured marquis, is innocently hanging out in Paris in the 1770s when he’s somehow mistaken for the Marquis de Sade and is imprisoned for the man’s terrible crimes. Meanwhile, the Marquis de Sade goes free! Placeville enlists the help of a servant to set things right. Later, they (Placeville and the servant) fall in love. Maybe the Marquis de Sade is also involved, making for a very scary love triangle.
The Skeleton Marquis: Lord Placeville is a skeleton and some people in eighteenth century England don’t understand that, except for one very special lady.
The Marchioness Chronicles: This would be a series. Four widowed marchionesses look for love and personal fulfillment in eighteenth-century England. One is sweet and has a couple of troubled kids, another has anxiety issues and a dark past, the third is outspoken and interested in ending the slave trade, and the last one has a Scarlet Pimpernel thing going on.
A Rake’s Progress: Not actually a pun, I know, but it is a pretty kickass Hogarth reference. Bit ironic, though, given that the rake in the paintings ends up languishing in Bedlam.
Rakes on a Plane: Another series. Four Regency rakes accidentally time-travel and end up on a modern-day plane. The first book would take place entirely on the plane, but the other three rakes would find love on the ground while hanging out in bars, working on election campaigns, or trying online dating.
One Knight Only: Sir Horserider has a one-night stand with a woman, only to find out that she’s a fairy queen who wants him to hang around her weird court and play the harp forever. At first, he’s like “no thank you” but then he realizes he belongs with the Fair Folk.
Boogie Knights: Yet another series! Four medieval knights accidentally time-travel (and, I suppose, normal-travel) to New York City at the height of the disco era. As they struggle to return to their time, they also enter dancing competitions, get caught up in historical events, and find love. Spoiler alert: they all decide to stay in the 1970s.
The Knight Has a Thousand Eyes: Argus, thousand-eyed servant of the Greek goddess Hera, does something to displease his mistress, who sends him to medieval Europe to become a knight. Nobody understands him, except for one special lady…
Knights in Rodanthe: A perfectionist medieval knight time-travels to Rodanthe, North Carolina, when a wizard decides that he needs a vacation. The knight isn’t so happy about this, but then he meets a charming divorcee and they open a quaint inn together. Also, nobody dies at the end. (This whole thing might cause some problems with Nicholas Sparks.)
The Rise and Fall of the Roman Vampire: Like Gladiator, but more romantic and he’s a vampire.
The Vampire Strikes Back: In turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh, Johnny Bloodowitz wants nothing more than fair laboring conditions for himself and his fellow workers…except, perhaps, for the good opinion of Anna, a fellow striker. But will he be able to overcome his ever-growing thirst for blood?
The Vampirate: This is not a pun, but a portmanteau, in the grand tradition of Carla Cassidy’s Pregnesia. It’s about a vampire who’s also a pirate. What more could you want?
Double Duchess: Identical twin sisters both marry dukes and then fall in love with each other’s husbands. How to sort out this zany situation?
My Way or the Highwayman: Impoverished Miss Pennyfeather is on her way to Gretna Green with her vile fiance when a highwayman holds up their carriage. Realizing that a stranger can hardly be worse than her betrothed, Miss Pennyfeather teams up with the highwayman.
The Means of Seduction: Something to do with Marxism. Sexy Marxism.
Full-Courtesan Miracle: A heartwarming novella…about Hanukkah…and courtesans…and basketball. I want it all.
Really. And that’s just one thing people like to say in the publishing industry. Others include:
Authors with names at the beginning of the alphabet do better. (This one actually has some logic in that people don’t have to kneel down to find the books on the shelf, but that falls apart pretty quickly when you realize that you never know how many books, and which books, are on a shelf at a particular store, plus the fact that there are always going to be multiple shelves for popular sections, so “M” might be at the top of its shelf and “D” at the bottom of its.)
YA covers have to be photographs. Nothing else. (Like I said in the original post, there are a lot of examples that fly in the face of the thought that illustrations don’t sell in YA.)
Don’t release really long books during summer. (The logic: people want something they can take on vacation, not a brick.)
Don’t release anything in August. Unless it’s a textbook or something that people will actually need to have in their hands in September.
If the lights are on in the house on the cover of your horror novel, less people will buy it than if the lights are off. (What?)
I think this one’s specific to Canada, but: Use American spellings throughout. We’re already used to reading what Americans type and it’s fine with us, but if the book is sold in the US, the Americans are going to throw fits at the extra U’s. Not fair, but it sadly probably has some truth to it.
No question marks in the title.
Romance novels must either look shamelessly like porn or not at all like porn. Either the couple/foursome/whoever is getting it on with strategically placed chairs or bedsheets right there on the cover, or they’re standing around fully clothed with no hint of anything inappropriate whatsoever. Camp 1 states that their cover strategy appeals to the reader’s carnal desires, whereas Camp 2 states that theirs appeals to the reader’s desire to have something they can actually read in public.
Hope that helps. And yes, these are all things I have heard from industry professionals, usually often.
World’s Finest #287: “Within My Heart…The Enemy!” (1983)
A few things about this issue, in which a mind-controlled Batman attacks Superman.
1. “Within My Heart…The Enemy!” is the most romance-novel title ever.
2. Superman saves Batman by hugging him. That’ll happen again in this story arc.
3. All joking aside, the image of a mind-controlled Batman mangling his hands trying to beat up his invulnerable friend is a pretty horrifying one and could inspire some nice hurt/comfort fic, don’t you think?