That would be England’s George IV, of course, who was dubbed “Prinny” by his subjects during his time as Prince Regent, from 1811 until 1820.  But how, exactly, might poor Prinny be responsible for murdering an entire sub-genre of romance?

Obviously he’s not, but according to some commentators the Regency Period has helped do a pretty good job of killing historical romance.  There’s been a discussion in the romance blogosphere that puts forward the case that Regency Romances are strangling the genre with a constant stream of dukes and earls who moonlight as spies/crime lords/gambling kings, and pert misses/courtesans/merry widows who involves themselves in all sorts of activities and professions that sometimes seem insanely anachronistic.  Some bloggers and readers claim many of these books are derivative, repetitive, silly…well, you get the picture.

As a Regency writer myself, I tend to disagree.  It is true that Regency Romances dominate this sub-genre of the industry, both in traditionally published and self-published books.  It’s also true that sales numbers for historical romance—as far as they can be accurately ascertained—are lower than sub-genres like paranormal romance, New Adult and YA, and the phenomenally popular contemporary romance. 


But does that mean historical romance is fading away like a be-capped spinster firmly on the shelf?  I don’t think so.  An admittedly unscientific perusal of various bestseller lists in historical romance shows a preponderance of Regencies, but also a fair number of Westerns (yay!), Medievals, Victorians, Scottish historicals set in various periods, some World War II romances, a few Celtic romances, and one set in Wales in 1280.  A number of these are backlist books achieving new life through self-publishing, but the fact remains that readers are rediscovering those books and loving them.

Romance sub-genres all have their ups and downs.  Several years ago romantic suspense was hot, hot, hot…until wasn’t.  During the last few years you couldn’t sell a romantic suspense book or proposal to New York to save your life.  But that’s also changing thanks to new players on the scene like Amazon’s Montlake imprint, and to indie publishing.  Maybe romantic suspense isn’t quite off life support, but it certainly seems to be on the way to making a comeback.

If you Give a Rake a Ruby

As for historical romance, there are simply too many wonderful writers—Regency or otherwise—for it to be labelled as dead.  Writers like Elizabeth Hoyt (gritty Georgian era romances), Jeannie Lin (Tang Dynasty China), Jo Goodman (Westerns), Pamela Clare (Colonial America) and talented Regency writers like Loretta Chase, Jo Bourne, and JQ’s own Shana Galen and Robyn DeHart. 

Do I wish there was more breadth to the genre?  Heck, yes.  I’d love to see more romances set in far flung times and places, like Imperial Rome or ancient Egypt.  I think those days are coming, especially with crossover books that straddle the line between historical fiction and historical romance. 

But did Prinny and the Regency kill historical romance?  To my mind, not even close.

Secrets of Mia Danvers 

Do you think historical romance is on life support?  What settings and eras would you like to see more of?

30 thoughts on “Did Prinny Kill The Historical Romance?

  1. Rhonda says:

    I enjoy all the historical romance the era doesn’t really matter. I think I have read more set in the Restoration period in England.

    1. That would be a wonderful period to write in, Rhonda! So much color and interesting history.

  2. No! I LOVE historicals! I do agree that it would be nice to see more diversity…I love the Civil War era…Ashes in the Wind, that kind of thing. I can’t imagine that the genre is dying, Vanessa. But sure, I suppose there are trends. If it’s lower now, it’ll swing back. Hang in there! We need you!

    1. Kristan, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that a certain genre or other is dying, all to much lamentation. I’m just thinking that markets are cyclical, as are trends. And I’d love to see more romances set during the Civil War, too!

  3. Shana Shana says:

    Prinny aside, it’s funny how authors get blamed for everything. Now we’re ruining the Regency period by writing too many books set there and diversifying them by adding fun elements like spies or highwaymen. If we stuck to emulating Heyer, we’d be lambasted for never changing.

    1. Yep, and if we do write more traditional types of Regencies, then we’re writing wallpaper historicals. Can’t win! I tend to write the kinds of books that I want to read, and I’m just grateful when my readers like them, too!

  4. Sandi in OH says:

    I read all the genres and I always have. I’ve lived long enough to see things cycle from one extreme to the other. I’m just sad to see that WWII is now considered historical since I was born between VE and VJ day. Does that make me historical?

    1. Oh, dear! That is pretty weird when you think about it, Sandi. I think that makes a whole lot of people historical!

  5. eap says:

    I would like to see more romances set between 1890-1920 in the US like Pamela Morsi’s.

    1. Pamela Morsi is a fabulous writer, eap!

  6. catslady says:

    I love all things historical but I too would love more from older civilizations – the older the better because the more I’m away from current times, the more I enjoy it!

    1. catslady, it cool how that happens – it’s like the farther you go back in time, the more you can let your imagination fly.

  7. I LOVE historical romance. In fact, I have one historical women’s fiction title on my backlist (written as Elizabeth Robards). I would love to write more, but as you said, right now, they’re not an easy sale. However, I’m holding out hope that they will come back around. I have several ideas set in 19th century France on the back burner.

    1. Nancy, I’ll have to look up your hist/fic book – it’s a genre I love.

  8. Connie Fischer says:

    Are you kidding? Life support? Historical romance is what I cut my teeth on a long time ago and I can tell you it is here to stay. We readers love it and it’s very popular. Please don’t even think about not writing it anymore. Love it! Wish there were more gothic historical romance novels about the governess teaching the child of a widower who lives in a remote old home near a moor. Those plots seem to have dwindled. Wish some authors would resurrect them!

    Thank you to all of you wonderful authors for providing your readers with so many terrific reads!

    1. Connie, I love gothic romance! I know that Eve Silver just reissued one of her gothics that she’d published with Kensington years ago, and Carol Ericson is putting out three gothics under another pen name (which escapes me at the moment). I loved Victoria Holt and would really like to see more books like that, too.

      1. Connie Fischer says:

        Thank you so much, Vanessa, for the heads-ups on these two authors. I am definitely going to check them out. I adore gothic novels!

  9. ki pha says:

    I wonder who is making all the complaints about killing Historical romance. I, as a blogger and reader of historical romance, is confused as to which bloggers deem that Historical romance are dying. Just because this genre dominates doesn’t mean it’s “ruining” romance or the history behind them. And adding spies and highwayman just makes the story more entertaining, and they know it! We also know there were spies and highwaymen during those times too, they were just hidden under the blanket from view.
    But I love a sorts of Historical romances! I do want to see more industrialized setting….Steampunk is really good in that field but, with less punk??

    1. ki pha, a lot of the discussion started on the Dear Author blog some weeks back, and spun off to a number of other blogs. Not everyone agreed, of course, but I think part of the concern stems from the fact that historical romance doesn’t seem to be selling as well as it used it. But the markets are cyclical and there are a LOT of historical romance authors out there, so maybe the love is just getting spread around!

  10. Melody May says:

    Here’s my thought: 1) I don’t see historical really leaving, because its historical. Contemporary is only contemporary to the time it is written. In 10 years the current contemporary wont really apply to next contemporary, while historical will still have the same things that make it historical.

    I love the regency area, but I’ll read other eras. Plus, it was the regency covers that got me to read romance novels.

    1. Good points, Melody! I agree – historicals aren’t going away anytime soon.

  11. May says:

    I love all types of historical! I think the plot and characters are more important than the setting… I do love reading about Europe though…

    1. I absolutely agree with that, May. If the plot and characters aren’t working, setting and period won’t save the book.

  12. Hi, Vanessa,

    Well, a month ago, I might have wondered about this. Then last week, my critique partner, Joanna Shupe, signed a three-book deal with Kensington for her Regency-set historicals. Now, Joanna is a fantastic writer. Fantastic writing sells.

    I think, like everything else in publishing, you have to find the right editor, someone who recognizes something special in your work. I also think there are an awful lot of people who are loyal to their sub-genres of romance…people who love Regencies will always look for Regencies. People who love to read Romantic Suspense will always want more titles. The bigger issue in my mind is how traditional publishers are adjusting to the e-book and self-pub market.


  13. Jaye Marie, congratulations to your CP! Kensington is a very strong house for historical romance. As to how trad publishers are adjusting to the changes in the marketplace, I think the jury is still out on that one!

  14. Denise says:

    I sure hope not, I love historicals, especially Regency.

    1. I do too, Denise!! Always have and always will, I suspect

  15. Fascinating question…

    I tend to think everything ebbs and flows, but few things rarely disappear altogether. It would be lovely if we could dissect each wave and find out what caused it, predict how long it would last, etc., but that seems beyond even the most sophisticated market research, for the moment, anyhow.

    Generally speaking, though, I think reluctance to take any chances results in bigger disasters than risking too much. I adore Georgette Heyer, but, as Shana said, if historical writers did nothing but imitate her we’d all be oversaturated in a hurry.

    1. Agreed, Kathleen. It’s nice to have the variety.

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