My Introduction to Historical Romance and JAFF – and TWO exciting announcements!

My Introduction to Historical Romance and JAFF – and TWO exciting announcements!

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!


18 Responses to My Introduction to Historical Romance and JAFF – and TWO exciting announcements!

  1. I read Jane Austen & Georgette Heyer as a preteen. I do prefer “clean” books – I find some bedroom scenes are enjoyable and tasteful, such as the one near the end of The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet by Caitlin Williams. The vast majority of the sex scenes in JAFF almost seem to be cut and pasted from the same source – not only were they not interesting to me the first time, but the lack of creativity sinks them to being exceedingly boring. There is one author who I will not name who wrote a series that is pretty well entirely sex scenes – or the same sex scene repeated endlessly. Ick. I first read JAFF when heading my local JA group; authors would send me their books, which they claimed all their friends assured them were “just like” Jane Austen’s one. They weren’t. However I do now keep an ever-expanding list of terrific JAFF authors whose work I believe even JA herself enjoy.
    Judging books by their covers, I avoid those with pictures of men without shirts on the cover. Except for one author’s, I also avoid books with blurbs mentioning dukes or earls.

  2. Welcome to Austen Authors. I’ve only read The Best of Relations and it was delightful. Looking forward to more stories from you. In my stories I prefer to write the suggestive rather than tell it all, but as for reading, I enjoy the spicy scenes if they are tastefully done. Best wishes with your writing!

  3. Oh, I remember many years ago having read every one of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s novels, and breathlessly waiting for the next to be published! I can’t recall what my age was then, but I married at 18, so the sex scenes couldn’t have come as much of a surprise. My daughter read my copies of her too, though I THINK at a somewhat younger age. Now that you mention it, I believe Diana Berdoll was my entrance into JAFF also. I was really surprised at some of the explicit scenes in her books but I was still fascinated by them. I also saw the 1995 BBC production of P&P with Colin Firth, so between the two events, I fell for JAFF and fell hard. I still have a crush on Colin Firth and I’m 61 years old! At this point, I don’t care whether a new JAFF book has sex or not; I just like keeping up with the characters in my old favorite, Pride and Prejudice! Congratulations on your new publishing deals!

  4. My introduction to historical romances came about as my mother had a Harlequin book collection. She had all types of ones but my favorite ones to read were the ones with a historical setting. I don’t really have a preference between closed-door or open-door love scenes.

  5. Congratulations on all your new endeavors. Wow! You have a lot going on. Open or closed door. I mostly prefer closed door but don’t mind reading some sex. Like you said… I can skip over it if it gets too graphic.

    I don’t like to see D&E anticipate their vows. That is crossing a line for me. Lizzy’s comments [in canon] about Lydia’s and Wickham’s behavior… that their passion was stronger than their virtue… set the tone as to her feelings regarding sex before marriage. I don’t like to see them cross that line. Therefore, if the author takes us into their marriage bed… I can handle it to a degree. After a time… what is the point?

    If an author is uncertain or not very creative… it becomes redundant and I don’t want to read it in every chapter. The story is about ODC… not their bedroom prowess and exploits. I’ve read stories where the author used the same bedroom scene, including the same expressions word for word, every single time. Not very creative or romantic and certainly not sexy.

    Also, people have different experiences in their lives and even in their own bedroom. Some authors get very creative and I’ve read things I’ve never done not would my spouse attempt such a thing. It would put us both in the hospital. Dang! It makes me wonder… do people really do these things… for real? I suddenly feel very old.

    Blessings on your new work and much success.

    • Yes, D+E anticipating their vows is an absolute no for me as well. It shows the author didn’t really have the characterisation correct because Lizzy would never, EVER do such a thing. And repeating bedroom scenes? What on earth… do people have no imagination?

  6. Congratulations on your upcoming releases!

    In addition to Miss Austen, Barbara Metzger was my introduction to the Regency world, My introduction to JAFF came via Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James (still a favorite).

    With quite the vivid imagination, I can fill in the blanks and do not need the graphic details spoon fed to me. I prefer to read sweet kisses and fade-to-black scenes. Which is how far my own stories go 🙂

  7. I prefer closed bedroom doors. However, I will intimate or hint at the intimacy between husband and wife, and that’s the touch of spice that makes my books sweet+ because that is life. I’m a divorcee and a widow now, and I know what goes on in the bedroom. I don’t need the graphic details. In fact, if an author goes too far, I’m either cautious about their books or they get on my R-rated list, and I won’t touch their books. I really hate having to skip parts of a book. And Jane Austen proved you can have a bestseller (even if it’s 200 years in the future) without the sex. (Darcy does allude to Wickham’s lifestyle of vicious propensities and dissipation in his letter to Elizabeth.) I’m delighted when Darcy and Elizabeth find their HEA.

    • As a reader, I absolutely agree. I read a lot of historicals and it does seem like most of the mass market ones have at least one obligatory sex scene, and sometimes it just feels like it was shoehorned in because an editor says so. It doesn’t even fit with what we know of the characters. I’ve decided I’m going to stay strictly closed door in future, but allude to misbehaviour as I see fit!

  8. I prefer closed doors to feed my imagination, but some detail is fine. I’m most interested in plot and character being well done. Too much open door description slows down the story for me.

  9. Oh my gosh, I read all the bodice rippers back in the day! Loved them! At one time I had something like 1,000 of them on shelves and in boxes, because I could not bear to get rid of books. At some point, I did get rid of them, and went through a long period where I did not read sex in books, but it was JAFF that got me back into reading it. LOL I don’t mind sex in JAFF. If I’m not in the mood to read it, I skip over it. Welcome to Austen Authors, by the way!

  10. I prefer closed door. I don’t need to know all the graphic details just the fact they are in love. My intro to JAFF was the Pride and Predjudice movie with Keira Knightley. It prompted me to pick up the books.

  11. Congratulations on all your upcoming releases! I, too, read Johanna Lindsey and Laura Kinsale years ago, but only because their books were bestsellers and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Georgette Heyer was my go-to Regency author. I still prefer reading “sweet” JAFF, but (to paraphrase Jane) if a book is well written, I’ll read it, whether the bedroom door is opened or closed.

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