Historical Romance Fiction

Romance. We love reading about it, writing about it, and experiencing it. Well, historical romance fiction gives romance readers their dose of love with a great twist - it is set in an intriguing, exciting historical time period. Read on to find out more about this subgenre of historical fiction.

Historical Romance Fiction Historical Romance Fiction

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Contents
Table of contents

    Historical romance fiction: meaning

    Historical romance fiction is fiction which combines both history and romance. The action takes place in a specific historical era in the past. The main plot usually revolves around romantic pairings.

    Historical romance fiction: genre

    Historical romance fiction is considered a subgenre of historical fiction. It is historical fiction with elements of romance.

    Historical fiction is a broad genre that describes any sort of fiction that is set in a chosen historical era. A well-known example of historical fiction is Memoirs of a Geisha (1997) by Arthur Golden. Set in the 20th century, in the time around and during the Second World War, the novel is about Nitta Sayuri who is a geisha in Kyoto.

    Romance is a genre of fiction which focuses on romantic love. One of the most famous writers of romance fiction is Jane Austen. Austen's most popular book is Pride and Prejudice (1813) which follows two people from different social backgrounds as they slowly warm up to each other and fall in love.

    Note that works of historical romance fiction are set in the past, in a different historical period from the one that the author lives in. It is a common misconception that Jane Austen's novels, for example, are under the historical romance genre. Austen's works are set in the time that she actually lived in (late 18th - early 19th century). Novels written by contemporary authors that are set in Austen's time, such as An Offer From a Gentleman (2001) by Julia Quinn, are categorised as historical romance fiction.


    Historical romance fiction: authors

    Here are some of the best-known historical romance authors:

    Georgette Heyer (1902-1974)

    Georgette Heyer is an English author who has written several historical romance novels set in different time periods. Heyer’s first novel,The Black Moth (1921), is set in the Georgian era (early 17th to mid-19th Century). The novel details the romance between Diana, a young lady from Sussex, and Jack, an English nobleman who rescues her from abduction.

    Philippa Gregory (1954-present)

    Philippa Gregory is an English author of historical romance. Gregory’s best-known historical romance novels are written in the Tudor era (1485 - 1603). Her well-known series, The Cousins’ War (2009-2014) is set in the era of the War of the Roses, which precedes the Tudor era. The series was such a success that it was adapted for television in a 2013 drama called The White Queen.

    Julia Quinn (1970-present)

    Julia Quinn is a contemporary American author of historical romance fiction. Quinn's most famous book series Bridgerton (2000-2006), which is set in the Regency era (1811 - 1820), has recently been adapted into a successful Netflix series (2020-). Each book in the series is dedicated to the romance of a different sibling from the high class Bridgerton family.

    Historical romance fiction: books

    Here are some examples of historical romance fiction:

    The Other Boleyn Girl (2001) by Philippa Gregory

    The Other Boleyn Girl is set during the reign of Henry VIII in the Tudor era in England. It follows the rise of Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s sister, as she is welcomed to the court of Henry VIII. Mary serves Queen Katherine of Aragon, Henry's wife. Henry soon sets his sights on Mary. Henry and Mary have an affair and Mary gives birth to two children. Anne is welcomed to court and Henry becomes interested in her. However, she refuses to be his mistress and instead urges him to divorce Katherine so that they can marry and she can become queen. This works eventually, but after the couple fails to have a living son and heir, Henry wants a divorce. The novel follows Anne’s fall from grace and her eventual beheading.

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008) by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

    Set in 1946, this is an epistolary novel about the writer Juliet Ashton. She receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a man who's part of a literary society that was founded during World War II, at the time of the German occupation of Guernsey. Juliet visits Guernsey and she becomes close with the people there. Juliet and Dawsey fall in love and the novel ends happily with their wedding.

    An epistolary novel is a novel in which the story is told through the medium of letters or other forms of correspondence (documents, newspaper articles, diary entries etc). Famous examples of epistolary novels include Daddy-Long-Legs (1912) by Jean Webster and Bridget Jones's Diary (1996) by Helen Fielding.

    Historical fiction mystery romance novels

    Historical mystery romance novels are historical romance novels that also include a mystery, be it a crime investigation or an inexplicable mysterious event.

    Deanna Raybourn’s A Curious Beginning (2015) is an example of a historical mystery romance novel. It follows the protagonist Veronica Speedwell as she experiences an attempted abduction in Victorian London.

    Historical Romance Fiction - Key takeaways

    • Historical romance fiction is fiction which combines both history and romance.
    • Works of historical romance fiction are set in a specific historical era. The story revolves around a romantic pairing.
    • Historical romance fiction is considered a subgenre of historical fiction.
    • Some of the best-known historical romance authors are Philippa Gregory, Georgette Heyer and Julia Quinn.
    • Examples of historical romance novels include The Other Boleyn Girl (2001) by Philippa Gregory and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008) by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Historical Romance Fiction

    What is historical romance fiction? 

    Historical romance fiction is fiction which combines both history and romance. The action takes place in a specific historical era in the past and the story involves elements of romance.

    What are 2 examples of historical romance fiction? 

    Two examples of historical romance fiction are Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl (2001) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008) by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. 

    What is the difference between historical fiction and historical romance?

    Historical romance fiction is considered a subgenre of historical fiction. Historical romance fiction always incorporates some level of romance whilst historical fiction can be about other topics. 

    Who writes the best historical romance?

    Some of the best-known historical romance authors are Georgette Heyer, Philippa Gregory and Julia Quinn.

    Can historical romance be described as 'fantastic fiction'?

    This is a subjective question and it depends on who you ask. However, historical romance fiction is quite popular, with many novels being adapted for film or television. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is historical romance fiction? 

    What is an examples of historical romance fiction? 

    Who is the author of The Black Moth (1921)?

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