In yesterday's post, I noticed something interesting in the description: the heroine had been educated in a French convent. I'll be honest and say that if I'd been the editor I would have "hidden" this and not mentioned the word "French" or "France" in the copy at all. I'm not sure if I'm right or not, but I've always believed that most readers are actually turned off by settings that seem to be inherently romantic: France, Italy, Russia, Spain...

This has nothing to do with personal preference. But so many our writers have said, over and over again, that they want to set books in settings other than England and Scotland. And readers who are more "plugged in" (on message boards, etc.) say the same. But in my experience, books that are set in other countries don't sell. At all.

Am I right to be so cautious? Or am I missing an opportunity to finally broaden the scope of romance?

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16 Comments:

Blogger Zoe said:

travel fantasies/romance used to sell loads I truly dont see why a romance in, I dunno, Lybia would not sell as much. I always assumed that exotic was part of romance after all it's what we all crave! I'd rather buy a romance book set in another part of the world than another Arthur round table type but then again I'm not a fervant romance reader.

3:25 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Tough question!

I have to confess to an early love for all those '70 Harlequins set in exotic locales-- deserts, islands, jungles, in whatever part of the world. While there is comfort in the familiar English settings for the historical single-title, there is definitely a... what? an 'intrigue' factor, I guess, for different settings, for me anyway. I mean, continental Europe used to be somewhat popular, didn't it? I seem to remember reading wonderful books set in Russia, or Scandanavia (sp!?)... All those cold nights, perhaps? Personally, as a reader, I would welcome changes in histoical settings.
But another thing I wonder about is the time factor. I would love to know your take as an editor on the idea of setting historicals in the early 1900's. Why isn't that being done? Is it not 'historical' enough? I mean, does 1906 still feel too close? Or is the spectre of WWI looming on the horizon too distracting from the happily-ever-after?

Just wondering!

11:47 PM  

Blogger Dina Vangrieken said:

what about da vinci code...it' all happens in france, scotland, england. and it works

11:11 AM  

Blogger LuciaMacro said:

Well, the easy one first: The daVinci Code isn't a romance. Romance readers come to the party with a different set of expectations. So while that book works extremely well as an amazing piece of commercial fiction, it's never going to get shelved as romance in a bookstore.

As for settings, in the past, I had edited or worked with authors who'd set books in Russia, etc., and, believe me, it didn't do their careers any favors.

Maybe the lack of appeal is unable-to-ignore political unrest that so many of those countries experienced (France in the 1800s was a hotbed of revolution and uproar, for example) that makes other countries less appealing as settings. England was relatively stable, at least on its home shores.

As for time period: I still think that the early 1900s isn't historical enough for romance. We've published a few romances set in the very late 1800s (1899ish), and they have not set the world afire.

Yes, there is the spectre of WWI, however, this is a world that is somehow less exotic and too close to modern-times. My grandmother, for example, was alive in 1906. Photography and, more important, moving pictures were just about to take hold, and the technology we know about now (telephones, automobiles, etc.) started to exist. These were fascinating times, but are they part of the fantasy?

6:17 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Thanks for your answer! I suppose you are probably right (um... yeah, you being the editor & all) about 1906 feeling too 'close'. I guess that was part of what I meant above... but if I may, can I just play devil's advocate for a moment?

I just read Kathryn Smith's latest 'Be Mine Tonight' a few weeks ago (my very first paranormal, might I add, which I have to say I lovedlovedloved!) and was it not set at the turn-of-the-century? I mean, the heroine's fondest wish was to drive her father's new automobile really 'fast' and as a reader I certainly didn't feel that Ms. Smith's decision to include such a 'modern' thing as a Daimler (it was a Daimler, wasn't it? Gosh, I hope I didn't get that wrong!) in the story detracted in any way from the romantic element. For me, Prudence's drives with Chapel were a very memorable and romantic part of the book...

So in answer to your question I guess I'd have to say that yeah, I do think, IMveryHO, and strictly as a reader, that 'modern' technology can be part of the fantasy, along with all the tried-and-true Regency/Victorian and earlier settings, which I still and will always love!

I wonder if maybe this might be because the technologies we have these days (ie. cell phones and/or other tele-communications, & our modernised forms of transportation, etc.) are so vastly far removed from their earliest inceptions that those earlier forms might just be archaic enough to warrant inclusion in the fantasy now.

Would such allowances make the world inside the story less 'exotic' and more familiar? Probably. But would they make the story any less romantic? Personally, I don't think so. For me, love is love, romance is romance, no matter when it happens (and I say that a bit sheepishly as I have to confess to not being much of a contemporary romance reader... not enough escapism in the 'now' for me!) But, as a devoted historical girl, I would still consider turn-of-the-century and up until say, the early twenties (when my grandparents were born) to be 'historical enough'.

Please tell me if you think I'm completely off the mark (or completely off my rocker!)

;)

1:14 AM  

Anonymous Shana Galen said:

As an author, I do sometimes feel constrained by limits on setting. But as an author, I also want to give readers what they want. I know there are some readers who complain about so many UK-set books, but by and large, I think these are the hardcore, jaded romance readers. The majority of readers--those who don't post on bulletin boards or write reviews or blog, those who just walk into the bookstore and browse for a book to read over the weekend--are still going to pick up a book that's set in England.

10:20 AM  

Blogger Mary Castillo said:

Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I'm kinda tired of books set in England and Scotland. (Don't throw scones!) Some of my favorite books are by Victoria Holt and Madeleine Brent who partly set books in China, France, Turkey (or maybe it was Hungary) as well as in England. I also enjoy books set in 19th century New York such as the Francesca Cahill mysteries by Brenda Joyce.

Then again I don't buy books based on their setting, whereas as it seems the majority of the book buying public does.

10:49 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Ooh, very interesting ladies! I wonder how you both feel, as authors, about the 'time' setting? Do you think it could be appropriate to expand the historical timeline a bit, to include the turn of the 20th century in romances now that we find ourselves firmly in the 21st?
Would you be interested in writing & researching to that time-frame?

11:03 AM  

Blogger Jenna Petersen said:

Eh, I love the Regency era, so I don't know if I'd write to the early 20th, even if it opened up. I mean, I'd never say never, but my favorite romances are Regency-set or Victorian-set and those seem to be the settings that intrigue me enough to set books in.

1:14 PM  

Blogger krissyinva said:

I personally would love to read more books from around the world. The only time period I wouldn't want to read is the 1930's-1980's I love all historical time periods and newer contemp's. I'm not into the "futuristic" stuff either.

3:49 PM  

Blogger Kelly said:

I would love to see more settings. It changes things up, keeps you from getting stuck in the same ole, same ole. Russia is totally underused. I think that would be fascinating. And France has always interested me as well.

8:58 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

The reason I overcame my discomfort with romances rated 'very sensual' and went ahead and purchased (historical romance author) Lydia Joyce's two latest books is because she set them in 'exotic' locales - Italy and the Ottoman Empire. As it turned out, they were wonderful. And one of my favourite romances is Karyn Monk's Surrender To A Stranger, set during the French Revolution. Of course I don't know whether it sold well or not (although I would guess it did not fare too badly since it was reissued five years after its first publication), but another similarly set romance certainly created a lot of buzz, i.e. Lauren Willig's The Secret History Of The Pink Carnation. Among contemporary romances we have Harlequin Presents...and judging by the success of the line none of its readers seem to have a problem with the settings.

Danielle C.

2:27 PM  

Anonymous ShanaGalen said:

I would love to write a book set in the 1940s. I love the music, the fashion, and the tragedy of WWII. Maybe one day...

2:55 PM  

Blogger Camilla said:

I agree with Anonymous. Why do readers gobble up contemporaries set in locations considered "exotic" by historical romance standards? My preference in writing and reading romances is the period spanning the years 1890-1914 (in any locale; esp France); which is a little "modern", but still clings to the standards from the early and mid Victorian periods. I vastly enjoy Lydia Joyce and buy her novels to show that there IS market for authors who want to write historicalromances that are set outside of traditional locales and are still emotionally satisfying.

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