I first fell in love with historical romance not through Jane Austen (that came after watching the wonderful 1995 BBC adaptation) but by smuggling a few of my mother’s book collection out of her reading nook and up to my bedroom. I’d have been 11 or 12, I suppose, and she would definitely not have approved me seizing such adult reading material!
As a child, I was an exceptionally voracious reader in a family of bookworms. My family all had library cards which allowed us to have up to four books out at a time, and every Saturday when we went to the library, I would do my best to convince my three older siblings that they didn’t REALLY need their full allotment… they could spare one or two for me, surely? Generally they’d take pity on me, my father would give me three of his four, and I’d stagger home with ten or so books… which I would generally read by Tuesday night and then go looking for more reading material. Hence, the kidnappings from my mother’s bookshelf.
In the late eighties and early nineties, Johanna Lindsey was the queen of Regency romance. My favourite was Gentle Rogue, about a spirited American who smuggles herself aboard an English privateer’s ship dressed as a cabin boy and the captain turns out to be a dashing lord, black sheep of a noble family… I’m sure you get the picture, even if you haven’t read it. There was s-e-x in it, which to me at that age was absolutely thrilling. I’ve had a soft spot for Lindsay ever since, even though reading with today’s more socially conscious eyes her books from that era are terribly problematic. Same with Kathleen Woodiwiss, another of the pioneers of mass-market historicals, whose The Flame And The Flower is often lambasted as being incredibly rape-tastic and misogynistic. Really, they can only be called bodice-rippers – often the bodices were quite literally ripped – and are often mocked today for being the ‘Fabio cover’ books.
Yes, Fabio was on a lot of those covers. Johanna Lindsey was particularly fond of him. That is indeed Gentle Rogue’s original cover there on the right.
Thank goodness Pride and Prejudice never got the Fabio treatment, hm?
I do find it interesting, though, that these romances, very popular in their day, have not really stood the test of time, whereas Jane Austen’s work still stands up well to scrutiny two centuries later. Personally, I think it’s because Austen was following that tried and true tenet of authorship; Write What You Know. Jane lived those days. She knew the less glamorous side of life in the Regency era, suffered under the rule of men who thought women’s opinions and lives of no real consequence, and penned brilliantly biting social satire which must have delighted women throughout England even as men dismissed her writings as mere fantasy.
Perhaps it’s because Jane Austen, an unmarried maiden until her death, did not write of what lay beyond the bedroom door, having no knowledge of it. It’s usually the s-e-x parts of the early mass-market historicals which are usually decried, anyway!
Interestingly, of my four Austen works available, it was the one containing explicit scenes (Mr Bingley’s Bride) which didn’t seem to resonate with JAFF readers. My first introduction to JAFF was picking up Linda Berdoll’s Mr Darcy Takes A Wife in a bookstore somewhere, legendary for the amount of X-rated romping contained in its pages, and while I know a lot of other JAFF readers came to the genre via the exact same author, it’s my learned experience that the majority of JAFF readers would prefer, at most, a tasteful fade to black after some loving kisses. Henceforth, you won’t be finding any more open-door scenes in my JAFF books, of that I assure you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic; what was your introduction to historical romance and to JAFF, and do you prefer open or closed-door sex scenes? Should sex even be in a JAFF novel (especially outside marriage)? Please do let me know in the comments!
I also have some very exciting news to share… a couple of weeks ago I signed my first professional publishing contract! It’s with Sweet Promise Press, a new small publisher started by Melissa Storm, who when Kindle Worlds was announced to be closing spotted a gap in the market. Sweet Promise Press will be launching half a dozen new multi-author series (all sweet romance with closed-door sex scenes, if any at all) next year and I was selected to write for the Pioneer Brides of Rattlesnake Ridge series. I haven’t written a pioneer romance before so was delighted when my 10,000 word submission was chosen as the second lead for the series!
Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until August 2019 to read Coming From California, but there’ll be plenty more of my writing to keep you busy until then. I’m hoping to finish both Anne de Bourgh’s Diary and Lydia And The Colonel by the end of this year, and before that even my very first original published historical romance will be available!
Called An Earl For Ellen, this 35,000 word story will be featured in a boxed set of romances coming out on August 21st! Full details for Timeless are still being finalised, but I can tell you this; it’s available for only 99¢ on pre-order, and that price won’t last. I’ll tell you more when I have the details next month, but for now, you can and should get in and reserve your copy of Timeless: A Collection of Historical and Regency Romance now!