Issue #107 (December 1, 2000)

Our Romance Family Tree - the Historical Novel:
I guess I wasn’t the most mature college kid in the world because one thing I loved about being a history major in college was the way some people reacted. Back in the seventies there were not many women history majors and my classes were full of young men. (Gee, what a sacrifice that was!) In groups of history majors it was de rigor to mention that what you really liked was diplomatic history or U.S. Economic history - never social history or anything that might include women. When asked what interested me I usually picked the driest possible topic, something like Chinese nuclear weapons policy in the late fifties as my favorite subject.

Inevitably a friend would sigh, “Oh how can you study that stuff? It’s so dry.” And I, benevolent 20-year-old that I was, would smile understandingly, shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know. I think its interesting.” On some occasions when I was a bit more honest I would say, “Hey, history is full of violence, passion, loyalty, friendship and betrayal. It's one great big interesting story.” But although this was much closer to the reason I loved history, I was really guilty of a lie of omission. I had a secret and I knew that it was a secret. I loved history because it was. . .romantic.

Is this because I had spent my youth reading romance novels? Well, no, although I did have a healthy (though guilty) appreciation for Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart and Daphne DuMaurier. I’d never heard of Georgette Heyer. I occasionally read the love stories in women’s magazines, which sometimes included gothics. (Redbook was famous for its “complete novel in this issue.”) I read Gone With the Wind, but in those days just about everyone of my parent’s age had read it and it was not considered “romance.” Why did I think history was romantic when my mother and most of my girlfriends thought it was nothing but the recounting of the deeds of famous men and a listing of wars?

I could list a lot of great books here and I will later. They are all very good, very presentable. But for now I will leave them be and present the greatest of all “biographical novelists” (are there any others?) - the great Irving Stone.

Irving Stone is a name I would not have dared to even whisper in the intellectual halls of the History Department of George Washington University; I would have been laughed out of the place. In the 1960's and 1970's Irving Stone was a big, big commercial name. To have mentioned him in a history class would have been a lot like bringing up The Bridges of Madison County in a literature course. Not only did Stone appear on the best seller lists, his books were frequently condensed by the Readers Digest, an honor which seems like nothing now but was a sign of success then. Though some of his books are still in print I have a feeling that he would suffer from today’s rather fragmented, genre-driven market and a more cynical readership. Most of Stone’s books told a fictionalized story of a historical figure or a couple. They were not literary, not really history or biography and they were very sentimental. The American ones, such as the stories of the Adams and the Lincolns are patriotic and give a conventional interpretation of American history.

Stone is remembered today primarily as the author of The Agony and the Ecstasy, a biographical novel of Michaelangelo, and Lust for Life, a biographical novel of Vincent Van Gogh but the books that got me hooked were the ones about women married to famous men. These included The President's Lady: A Novel About Rachel and Andrew Jackson, Love Is Eternal: A Novel About Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln, Immortal Wife: The Biographical Novel of Jessie Benton Fremont, and Those Who Love, the story of Abigail and John Adams. They are all as romantic as romance novels but teach you a good deal about American history at the same time. In Love is Eternal, one sees a sympathetic Mary Todd Lincoln and follows the courtship of the Lincolns. Mary was a southern belle and was courted by Stephen Douglas, Lincoln’s famous adversary. She believed Abraham to be extremely handsome and became ill with depression when he cut off their courtship for a time.

Those Who Love, the story of the John and Abigail Adams, is equally romantic. During their courtship, John Adams decided to be vaccinated for small pox, a procedure that at that time involved being inoculated with the live virus. Those who were inoculated had to be quarantined. In words taken directly from letters, the two discussed the fact that Abigail should probably not walk past the house as the two might be too overcome to stay apart! Who says American history has no passion?

When I was preparing this column I went to the library to look for Irving Stone. The shelves tell the story of a once best selling author out of fashion. Only two books were there but one was Those Who Love. I quickly found a passage that I remembered from years ago. How I wish that some of our modern historical romances would dare print a scene like the following one which took place on a very bumpy road in a carriage ride to Worcester, Massachusetts:

“I hope there’s no resemblance between this journey and matrimony.”
Repentant, he leaned over to kiss her.
“You were right to reprove me, but an angel to do so gently. You could have flailed me.”
“I thought I had…in a ladylike way.”
“Then please be gentle still once again.”
“About what?”
“Our marriage.”
“Is it imminent?”
“It’s just too soon,” he pleaded pitifully. “November, I mean. I need more time.”
She turned a white face to him.
“John Adams, you are not a defendant. I’ll thank you not to mention marriage to me again if you tremble at the prospect. I look at marriage as sacred. I have no intention of being jumbled into it on a road like this one.”
“Nor will you be. I have good prospects for the winter and spring trials.”
“I think we had better find our way back to love, first.”
“I do love you, Nabby, and I always will, much as you shall sometimes regret it.”
“I think I shall not.” She said determinedly. “I never imagined you were prefect. But do you think you could droop a little less in the coming months ahead?”

What I like about this scene is not only that Abigail speaks her mind but that she is frank about wanting to get married and has no patience for a man who might want to imply that she is pushing him into it. I can’t think of a romance where I have read a similar conversation but I have certainly heard many similar conversations related by girlfriends dealing with boyfriends and fiancé’s.

One thing that is interesting to me about Irving Stone’s books is that, although they were sentimental and often focused on a love story, they were not considered to be “women’s books.” I was introduced to Irving Stone by my father, a World War II veteran and history buff who would not have been caught anywhere near a “romance novel.”

It was my father's taste in historical novels that fueled my interest in history and I read many of his favorites, including the wonderful and unforgettable novels of Kenneth Roberts, probably the greatest writer of American historical novels. If you think that American history can never be as compelling as England in the Regency and Victorian periods, I beg you to read Kenneth Roberts, who makes writes the American Revolution like a cliffhanger - you'll find yourself wondering who will win! Roberts wrote many books all of which centered on characters from Maine and New England during colonial days through the early days of the republic. He describes food, the language, clothing, and prejudices of Americans who lived in a rural land made up of small villages. My favorite Roberts' books are the Arundel, Rabble in Arms, and Oliver Wiswell trilogy. Each is set during the revolution and each contains love stories. While the first two are told from the Patriot point of View, Oliver Wiswell portrays the life of an American Loyalist.

Remembering Kenneth Roberts and Irving Stone for this article led me begin thinking of the many straight historical novels popular in the mid-twentieth century that also featured love stories. Many of us who now love historical romance novels grew up on these books. They included books like Thomas Costain’s novels of the Middle Ages and Hervy Allen's mammoth Anthony Adverse. Another was the epic Forever Amber, written by the scandalous actress Katherine Winsor.

Forever Amber was published in 1944 as a mammoth 972 page book. Though it did not get the critical acclaim of Gone With the Wind, the two are frequently compared, probably because it was an enormous seller, outselling every other novel of the 1940’s! According to the, it was banned in Boston “for its sheer sexiness.” Forever Amber is set in Restoration England and is the story of Amber St. Clare, a sixteen year old heroine who eventually becomes the mistress of Charles II. Amber lives through Great Plague and the Fire of London and (like Scarlett O’Hara) remains steadfastly in love with a man she cannot have.

Also like Gone With the Wind, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and the sentimental best selling Irving Stone books, Forever Amber was read by men as well as women. Women may have flocked to the book, but men were not yet feeling that they had to avoid a book simply because it was being marketed to women. And like Margaret Mitchell's classic, the historical aspects of Forever Amber may have made it somehow more acceptable to many men.

Last summer at RWA, I asked each of the romance writers I met who was their favorite hero. Jo Beverley immediately named Francis Crawford of Lymond from Checkmate and five other books in Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. Characterized by author Beverley as "brilliant," Dunnett's books are poetic and challenging historical novels that are read by a general audience. What reader isn't turned on by a brilliant hero?

What other historical novels had an impact on today's romance reader? I went to members of the discussion list I moderate for AAR on-line - canwetalk - for their input (while posts to this list are generally held in confidence as it is a reader's-only list, members gave permission in this instance for me to share their responses).

Sue also remembered Irving Stone but she had others too. She wrote “Irving Stone immediately comes to mind. I can't remember the title, but it was his story of Michelangelo. There's also Costain's Beneath the Salt and Elswyth Thane's Williamsburg series. Then there are the books of Grace Livingston Hill, which I still love, and those by Emily Loring and Glenna Finley. These are my childhood books - dates me, huh?”

Jennifer recalled Alexander Kent, loved by her father and an author her grandmother continues to read. She remembers his stories as "adventure-on-the-high-seas" books. His Bolitho series in particular stays with her. Set during the Napoleonic era on English ships - "big tall ones with lots of masts," this series has "been a kind of foil for me for the light and fluffy Regencies that seem to abound." She added that under the name Douglas Reeman, "he wrote/writes more modern ship warfare/hero fiction."

Shelly remembered Raphael Sabatini; Captain Blood, one of his swashbucklers, featured a "wonderful romance." She also recalled Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, which "had a nice little romance in it too." She pointed to Mary Renault and Sigrid Undset's Kristan Lavrensdatter trilogy which, she wrote, "was a great depiction of a realistic medieval romance. In the first book, she falls for a charming aristocrat; in the second book she's married to him and has to live with him; in the third book, she makes sense of the rest of her life after joining the church. Not an HEA, but satisfying."

As with me, Shelly also has fond recollections of Daphne DuMaurier - who can forget the romance of Rebecca? She added:

"I think the English romantic suspense/gothic writers really fulfilled our romance needs from the 1930's through the 1960's. Some of the mysteries of this period did the same - remember Nick and Nora? Other than those, the ones I read were typical, like Jane Eyre, Jane Austen, and Gone with the Wind. The books that made me realize that I loved HEAs were the ones without them, like Wuthering Heights, The Three Musketeers, and Shogun. I cringed when the heroines died, but I still re-read them over and over again for their love stories.”

Deirdre wrote that she had access to a wonderful old school library as a child and, as a result read a lot earlier than mid century books. Jeffrey Farnol was one particular favorite. As with Shelly, she loved Raphael Sabatini, particularly Scaramouche, Captain Blood, and his novels set in Renaissance Italy. A fan as well of The Scarlet Pimpernel and the Gaustark books, she admits to reading nearly any book featuring characters in 18th century (or earlier) dress on the frontispiece. While she also read Elswyth Thane, she didn't limit herself to her Williamsburg series. She also read her biographies of Queen Elizabeth and Martha Washington and Tryst, her "great ghost story," and her novel The Lost General. She recalls these last as "good stories, emotional appeal and a fascinating dollop of the supernatural.”

Deirdre also loved Henry Treece's books.

"He usually wrote dark, gritty stuff about the ancient world but he definitely shaped my taste in reading. The Green Man was a retelling of Hamlet (Amleth) set in Denmark of the dark ages. Amber Princess and Jason were set in Bronze Age Greece. I was just thinking about him the other day because I've been reading Judith Tarr's The Shepherd Kings about the end of the reign of the Hyksos in Ancient Egypt. Tarr is able to give a similar feeling of a very different time and way of thinking. The love story is important in the plot, but the gods weren't necessarily kind. However, if an ending is emotionally satisfying I don't need a happily ever after.”

JD told us that she re-reads Jan Wescott’s The Hepburn every few years. She loved Knight's Honor by Roberta Gellis, though she didn’t care much for Gellis’ later work. Like Jo Beverley, she also loved Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. About Francis Crawford, she wrote, “sigh.... I still want to find someone who will give me lapis lazuli and quote old, old, old poetry.... the original wounded hero.”

Another canwetalk reader mentioned R.F. Delderfield, author of the Swan trilogy which begins with God Is an Englishman. He also wrote To Serve Them all My Days and A Horseman Riding By. This combined with mentions of John Galswothy’s Forsythe Saga led me to ask about Masterpiece Theatre and Public Television in general. Did anyone besides me consider Masterpiece Theatre in the 70’s and 80s to be part of their roots of romance? I know that I do. Not only did Masterpiece Theater introduce me to To Serve Them all My Days, it also got me reading Cronin’s The Citadel and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which made the best seller list thanks to Masterpiece Theatre. Public Television led me to read Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her, the story of a young woman who justifiably jilts her fiancé, when it aired The Palisers.

A great number of readers responded to this question by recalling the 1980's version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Though it was on broadcast television, it starred British actor Anthony Andrews, whom we all remembered from Masterpiece Theatre's Brideshead Revisited. Poldark was another production that readers remembered as having spurred them into reading a multi-book series.

Most of the books we discussed were not romance novels. They were historical novels with love stories in them. Laurie and I discussed this; one thing we agreed on was that in a long historical novel, the romance often keeps you reading. One canwetalk member expanded on this idea that these books are larger and more diverse than romance novels. She wrote, “That's why I wish that editors and publishers would relax the parameters on what is 'romance'. I think we'd get more inspired authors, in turn writing more inspired stories. I've read Elizabeth Maxwell's essay about popular fiction, and I agree with her. To be 'good', a book doesn't have to present a nihilistic sensibility. Many romances I've read are 'good', with good characterization, plot, theme, and attention to setting - all with a happy ending! So I'm not suggesting that widening the parameters means throwing away happily ever after.”

Laurie, who read a great number of historical novels and non-fiction throughout the years recalls that their breadth and depth is what separates them from romance novels. She says that, because the romance, if it's there at all, is but a component to a larger story, there's less of a "Perils of Pauline" feeling to them. She too remembers Irving Stone's Immortal Wife, and also William Rutherford's Sarum, Susan Howatch's Penmarric (during her first trip to London at age 11), Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and biographies of Catherine the Great and Nicholas and Alexandra. She admits to being hooked on the History Channel for their non-WWI/WWII documentaries and watches Biography on A&E when "they aren't doing cheesy biographies of celebrities."

I spent my own childhood and adolescence reading the books my Dad suggested and, as I said, it never occurred to either of us that these books were for women simply because they contained love stories. Not that I would have handed Dad a gothic by Victoria Holt, but I knew he would read most any straight historical that I suggested.

Then things changed; the tip off was one of my favorite historicals, Anya Seton’s Katherine. Katherine is the 14th century story based on the real life love affair of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt. It is one of those long, drawn out books that has lots and lots of detail and many historical figures, including Chaucer. For me this book was a revelation because it was so intensely romantic and because as I read it I became completely immersed in the period. It is interesting to note that the only available copy is the thirty-eight dollar library bound version. In spite of this, many, many women remember it as a pivotal read. There are over sixty customer reviews on Amazon; many state that it changed the reviewer's life. Almost all of the reviews are by women.

I was so enthralled with Katherine that I could not wait to give it to my father to read. It was a large hardcover book with a green cover featuring an attractive young woman. Dad took one look at it and laughed his head off. No, he was not reading that book. I’m still convinced he would have loved it.

Whether or not Dad was willing to read it, Anya Seton was addictive and wonderful. She wrote many popular historical novels, among them The Winthrop Woman, Dragonwyck and Green Darkness. Romance novelist Barbara Samuel, aka Ruth Wind, wrote a Desert Isle Keeper Review for Green Darkness several years ago. Last summer I met Barbara and we talked about Anya Seton. Barbara has made a pilgrimage to Igtham Mote, the site of Green Darkness and features picture of it on her web site. What does Barbara know about Seton? According to Barbara, very little is known about Anya Seton the writer even though there is a tremendous amount of interest in her. Seton's books had strong love stories but the focus in Katherine was on the heroine rather than on a couple. The two were separated for long periods of time, far longer than a modern romance novelist would be allowed her keep her hero and heroine apart.

I asked AAR’s own Ellen Michelleti about the idea that historical books had been a less genre-driven business. Ellen, editor for our Historical Cheat Sheet, contributed a segment on popular 19th century fiction, takes perhaps a different approach. She says, "When I think back, there always seems to me to be certain types of popular books that have been considered 'women's fiction'. There are the old domestic novels of Susan Warner and Mrs. Southworth from the 19th century. Then there are the novels of writers like Fannie Hurst (Imitation of Life) and Olive Higgins Prouty (Stella Dallas) from the 1920's and 30's which were usually referred to as 'sob stories'." Novels like GWTW may have broken out, according to Ellen, but she doesn't believe they were all that common.

When I pointed out to Ellen that there were lots of historicals written for a general audience with love stories, she responded, "Yes, but Thomas Costain, and Hervey Allen were men. Hmm, I'm going to have to think this over, and maybe ask my father (who has always been a reader) if there was any stigma attached to men reading novels by women back then. I know that in the sci-fi field, back in the 1930's women either used their initials, (C.L. Moore) or a pen-name (Andre Norton) or they had a sufficiently androgynous name that they didn't bother (Leigh Brackett)."

I think Ellen makes an interesting point that often when women write history it often is marketed as “women’s fiction” whereas when men write history with a love story, publishers focus on the history. This is similar, I think to when today’s publishers receive a very sentimental love story from a male author such as Nicholas Sparks or Robert James Waller. For whatever reason the book is marketed as a hardcover literary love story when, in fact, it is far more sentimental than most or the romance novels being sold.

One notable historical popular novelist of the twentieth century who used a rather androgynous pen name was Taylor Caldwell. Taylor Caldwell, whose real name was Janet Reback, wrote many, many historical novels some of which contained strong love stories. Her first books were edited by the legendary Max Perkins, the Scribner’s editor who was pivotal in the careers of Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolf, to name a few. Caldwell’s books were written in a popular style that reminded me a bit of Howard Fast (The Immigrants, April Morning) but it is interesting that she used such a mysterious name at the start of her career.

Another writer whom readers remember as one who brought them to romance is Susan Howatch, the author of Penmarric, which Laurie previously mentioned. Penmarric which was first published in the early seventies as a sprawling multigenerational saga set in Penmarric, a mansion in Cornwall. The central tortured hero is Mark Castallack, and the heroine is his bride Janna, but this being a three-generation novel the story is a wide-ranging one.

In addition to the historical novels that people had read many of the readers with whom I discussed this subject counted Victorian novels as part of their romance “roots.” I understand this because just as I was addicted to straight historicals before I read romance I loved Victorian novels, especially those with great love stories. Like everyone I liked Jane Eyre, but I also love Thackery’s Vanity Fair, George Elliot’s Middlemarch and Dickens' David Copperfield. For the regency period I loved Jane Austen. In college classics like these provided a particularly respectable “romance fix” though I didn’t really know that that was what it was at the time.

I had an interesting conversation with Adele Ashworth, the author of Winter Garden about this. One of her favorite books, before she came to romance was Jane Eyre. Adele was struck by some of the dissimilarities between Jane Eyre and a modern romance novel. For one thing the hero and the heroine are apart for very long periods of time. It takes hundreds of pages for them to meet and when they do they barely communicate. Then, after Jane leaves Mr. Rochester’s house they are separated for another long period of time. Adele pointed out that modern readers and modern editors would have a tough time with all of this separation.

This separation of hero and heroine seems to occur in most older novels. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy seldom converse in the first half of the book. In David Copperfield, the hero is so obtuse about the fact that the heroine loves him that a reader not knowing the story might miss it herself until the closing chapters.

The more I thought about this the more it occurred to me that long separations were also a hallmark of many of the straight historicals that I had read that has contained love stories. Even in books that are famous for their love stories, such as Gone With the Wind, seldom put the heroine and heroine together for very long. In the Kenneth Roberts books that I mentioned, the hero often spends hundreds of pages tromping through the woods of New England and New York, always dreaming of the heroine, in Anya Seton’s Katherine, the heroine is married to a man other than the hero and the hero is also married. It takes many many adventures to bring the two together. When they get together the love scenes are seldom longer than a kiss.

I asked Ellen if the popular romances that she described in her article kept the hero and heroine together any longer that in the novels directed at a general audience. She wrote:

“Not really. Some of them were more coming of age type of books than anything else, like The Wide Wide World and The Lamplighter. Some were more romantic than others (St. Elmo Murray in the book St. Elmo was quite a heartthrob) but there was an element of fear in that one. St. Elmo had a very wicked past that was hinted about in very secretive language, and it wasn't until he got 'saved' that he was rewarded by the hand of Edna Earl. In Mrs. Southworth's books, there are kidnappings and dastardly plots and lots of good old gothic fear, but again the relationship is almost secondary. Mary Jane Holmes was one very popular Domestic novelist who used the Cinderella story quite often. Poor relation gets the handsome hero from her wicked rival was the plot of Lena Rivers, which was one of Mrs. Holmes' most popular books. In one very popular book, The Planter's Northern Bride by Caroline Lee Hentz, the conflict comes about when the daughter of a fervent Northern abolitionist marries a Southern planter and comes to see the goodness of slavery (she also learns to love her husband)."

There is, of course, no mystery as to why this is. To keep a love story, a story an author has to keep up the romantic/sexual tension. If two characters are together this is difficult so, as a result many old books have the hero and heroine fairly spitting at each other in the opening chapters. A good example of the “split them up” technique is in Gone With the Wind, every time Rhett kisses Scarlett he finds a reason to disappear. As a younger reader I was used to dealing with this. Scenes where the hero and heroine were together were “the good parts” to be savored and looked forward to. When the good parts came they were very short. It was not just a question of less sexual description. Writers of romance novels today have learned to come up with plots that keep the hero and heroine together even as they are mentally separated. Consider Loretta Chase’s enormously popular Lord of Scoundrels. Jessica and Dain are in conflict over Jessica’s brother. This conflict draws them together but the togetherness and the conflict are compounded when Jessica is ruined and they form a marriage of convenience.

Romance author Elizabeth Grayson commented on this when I asked her about her roots of romance and her experiences with straight historicals. She wrote, “The one thing that comes to me off the top of my head is that when I took 'Kiddie Lit' in college, they talked about building 'reading ladders'. Many of these writers were part of my 'reading ladder' to romance. I read Michener and Clavell and Jakes for the adventure and the history. But as much as I enjoyed the stories, and some of them are on my keeper shelf still, there was always something missing. What that was - I discovered when Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers began publishing - was a tighter focus on the relationship between the heroine and the hero. There was a moment of "Ah-ha!" for me on entering the world of romance through those early books. Here were books that gave me the adventure and the history I craved in my reading, but also allowed for the fuller, richer love story I had unconsciously wanted all along.”

Now I have to admit that much as I loved history I didn’t experience the ‘ah-ha” that Elizabeth is talking about until I read Carla Kelly and Mary Jo Putney. The few times I read Woodiwiss and Rogers I was too distracted by the lack of (to my mind) historical feeling to enjoy the interaction between the hero and the heroine. That said, however, regardless of which books bring you to that point, I think it is a point that most romance readers recognize and I would argue that some of it has to do with the special techniques that romance writers have developed over the last twenty years - even more so in the past ten years. These include using the hero and heroine point of view exclusively, describing attraction, and the detail that goes into describing even the smallest of interactions between the hero and heroine.

The result is, to my mind, often a more compelling book. In a romance novel we get to focus on the most intimate interaction between the hero and heroine. They stay together and usually have long conversations. When they are attracted the novelist tells us and shows us, often from both points of view. In the very best of historical romance novels we have a historical novel that focuses on what I used to think of as “the good parts.” It is a lot of fun. In fact it is a bit addictive.

But lately, having read over two hundred romance novels in the last few years I have been wondering if the techniques romance novelists have developed to keep our attention are not being a bit overused. We seem to be going in for a tighter and tighter focus on the hero and heroine until most other characters and events in the story are seen as extraneous. Or maybe I should say that the readers are getting a bit spoiled - or that I am getting spoiled. Lately my books have so many “good parts” that I am feeling a bit overstuffed. It’s a bit like eating too many Milky Ways at one time.

I realized this recently when I reread Mary Jo Putney’s wonderful Shattered Rainbows. What I really love about this book is that there is quite a bit of history and story in addition to the romance. Michael and Catherine share a billet with her family and some other soldiers in Brussels before Waterloo. The interaction between the hero and heroine is wonderful, but so are the descriptions of the families looking for places to live before the battle, the descriptions of the horrible field hospital and the descriptions of the battlefield later on. Shattered Rainbows is not a straight historical novel by any means. It is a romance novel, but it makes use of many more to the things that straight historicals used to use before the enormous popularity of historical romance.

I have enjoyed talking with people over the last few weeks about the books that led them to romance. I’ll be interested in hearing from all of you about the books that led you there as well.

Time to Post to the Message Board:
Earlier this year we presented three branches of what we like to call our romance family tree - the influence of Georgette Heyer, the gothic novel, and the bodice-ripper. We also talked about other authors who have influenced the genre by earlier discussions of Roberta Gellis and in our look last time about a possible "golden age" of romance.

With this column, we think we've added the final branch in the romance family tree through our discussion of the historical novel. We think it's the perfect opportunity to try something different. Rather than presenting you with a series of questions to think about and answer, we're going to let this column sink in and whatever comments and questions you'd like to talk about that are related to this branch of the romance family tree can be posted. Some of us came to romance from one branch, as Laurie did, with the historical novel. Others came to it from a couple of different branches, which was my path. No doubt still others traveled the tree on all four branches. We want to hear from all of you on how you arrived.

--Robin Nixon Uncapher

Our Romance Family Tree Series
A 2007 ATBF on Historical Fiction

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