They call me the Countess of Controversy. With this topic, I will live up to my nickname. What, you may ask, could possibly be controversial about settings? But in the world of historical romance writing, it’s a very controversial topic, indeed.
I live on the Oregon Trail, a place where walking the dog means walking in century-old wagon ruts. A spin in the car will take me to high cliffs overlooking the Snake River, where eagles soar and the wilderness has not changed in thousands of years. So, it’s only natural that the books of my heart are set in the American heartland.
But American publishers prefer British settings. A recent trip to the romance aisle of my local bookstore sounded a lot like a game of duck duck goose. Duke, duke, duke, duke, hijab. . . Of course, I stopped on hijab, because it was different. I ended up loving Veil of Roses, a delightful novel by Laura Fitzhugh, about the experiences of Iranian women in America. But I have to think that the publisher felt like he was taking a giant risk by stepping out of the typical romance formula. And I applaud Bantam for taking that chance with a first time author.
Now before you dismiss me as an insular dimwit who can only understand Made in America, let me say that I have lived on three continents. I’ve swum in the Mediterranean and rode a camel through the Sahara. I’ve walked the bowels of the Coliseum in Rome, strolled the Left Bank, and wandered through ruins of ancient Timgad. Any one of those places would make a truly spectacular backdrop for a historical romance. The possibilities for settings are endless. And yet, somehow, we limit ourselves to England.
Please understand. I have a genuine love for Tudor England and I do enjoy regency. But I read it for the excellent writing, the outstanding characterization, and the subtle humor. I have to believe the same talented authors could set a novel in Paris, Milan, or Carthage and make it equally enticing. I, for one, would love a novel that took me someplace new and taught me a thing or two about the world while it entertained me.
So, what are your favorite settings for historical romance? If you write regencies, do you write it because you love it, or because it’s what sells? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.