Within the subgenre of the historical romance there are so many different time frames and tones within the stories. My favorites are the Regency/Georgian and the Victorian—both in America and over the pond in England. But there are so many others: Medieval, Viking, Roman, Biblical/Ancient, Tudor/Elizabethan, the western, American Civil War, Colonial America/American Revolution…and many more.
The origin of the Historical Romance novel historically begins with Georgette Heyer in the 1920’s with her 18th century-set books and later her regencies. (I just loved Cotillion.) And the modern age of the romance novel came in with Avon in the 1970’s—and the category historical romance was born—with Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower.
So, what makes us love the historical romance so much? Listening to many readers I think the answer is pure escapism. And what better escape than into the pages which transport us to a time long, long ago and into the (figurative) arms of a man who can easily sweep a woman off her feet. Try not to swoon. I dare you.
What about this historical hero we speak of? What is it about him that makes him so enticing?
I believe part of it is that men can be men. Chivalry is still alive (sometimes). He is a man of action. He might be ruthless to his enemies but also tender with his lady. Whether dominant or humorous, he is always in control of his own fate (or so he thinks).
I had the most fun writing the hero in my upcoming high-fantasy novel, The Princess and the Rogue. He is part Scarlet Pimpernel and part Robin Hood. He can act the fool, play with the heroine and then switch tack and defeat his enemies and reveal his heart to his lady.
In my latest release, an Inspirational historical, Dilemma of the Heart, you meet my hero Frederick Adair, thought dead at the close of the Civil War. He is the type with quiet strength and pride. When he returns home, he finds his sweetheart engaged to another man. How he deals with that situation makes him heroic. I also introduce you to the antagonist of this book who in turn becomes the hero in the sequel, Temptation of the Heart. He is a powerful character whose demons and torments come to the fore in the sequel.
In classic literature, there are some wonderful examples of romantic heroes. Sir Percy Blakeney as The Scarlet Pimpernel and Robin Hood are obviously favorites of mine. Captain Wentworth and Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen. John Thornton from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. Oh the list could go on. Come on, I know you have favorites—please share. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from my historical, Dilemma of the Heart.
Frederick began to move toward her, his strides determined and sleek. “And how shall I address you when you’re married?” His voice drawled into a low and provocative tone, making her heart give a little leap.
She made the mistake of gazing into those deep, wonderful eyes of his and forgot to breathe as his eyes, no longer playful, seared into her, down to her beating heart. When she was finally able to gulp some air, her lungs began to pump again. “You may call me Cassandra as you always have…I hope.” Her voice came out breathy and weak.
“Oh, no, I don’t believe that would be proper.” He stepped right in front of her face and touched his forehead to hers. In that moment, it felt as if a dozen butterflies had been released inside her stomach. He grabbed her around the waist, but before he had the chance to kiss her, she returned to her senses. Pushing off from his chest, she moved down toward the stalls, keeping her back to him as she held a hand over her galloping heart.
He was not going to kiss her before he explained everything—his miraculous appearance, his incalculable behavior, and what his future intentions were. “No, Frederick that wouldn’t be proper and I have never known you to be anything but proper.” She glanced back at him over her shoulder. “Well, maybe not quite always.” A fraction of a smile escaped her before she could help it.
He crossed his arms again and lifted his chin up a notch. “No, we have both had our lapses in propriety. So, maybe you can tell me why you’re here, in my barn, unaccompanied after nightfall. Was it possibly to gloat over your engagement?”
She quickly pivoted her body until she was standing directly across from him. “I am only aware of one engagement…No!” She shook her head. “I am not going to speak of this until you clarify something first.”
He titled his head and raised his eyebrows. “Oh and what might that be?”
“Frederick, you were dead…well, you were pronounced dead. Your name appeared on the list. We had a funeral. We mourned for you.”
“And then you moved on to better pastures, I see.” He glanced at her hand. “And where is your ring? Left it at home to avoid thieves, I assume.”
“No, it’s here.” Feeling a bit bold, she opened her pocket to retrieve it. “Shall I put it on?” she asked as she held it out.
“As you wish.” He nodded his head as he pulled his mouth into an impertinent smile, appearing far too charming.
“Frederick, please drop this nonsense. We were never ones to play such games.”
“No, we weren’t.” His attitude again turned serious. “What do you want to know, Cass? Where I’ve been? Why I’m still alive?”
Cassandra nodded her head while a chilling wave of uncertainty struck her. All of a sudden she wasn’t so sure she wanted to know. Maybe it would be more than she was ready to hear. She turned her back on him again. “Yes, tell me how you went gadding about the South on some mission of glory.”
Frederick grabbed her about the shoulders and swung her around. “Glory? Do you think that’s what this was all about?” His eyes were startlingly bright and intense yet she wasn’t fearful. As angry as he might seem, she could see in those big, brown eyes the man who had always loved her.
She stepped back away from him. “Call it what you like, Frederick. The truth is that you ran away to the call of battle—away from your responsibilities, away from those who needed you.” She searched his face while biting her lower lip in an attempt to fight back the threatening tears tightening her throat.
His glare softened at her words. “Before I left, we both shared beliefs that slavery was wrong…that ceding from the nation was wrong.” There was a pause of silence between them. “Glory, as you call it, was never my calling. Six months ago, when you thought I was killed in battle, I very nearly was. I was shot.”
Cindy K. Green is a multi-published author with degrees in History and Education. Previously a middle school English & History teacher, she now homeschools her own children and writes in several genres: Inspirational, Contemporary, Suspense, Fantasy and Historical romance. But whatever she writes she always throws in a bit of humor and fun. Find out more about Cindy and her books at www.cindykgreen.com and http://cindykgreen.blogspot.