Historical Romance: Too Hot to Handle!

by Tammy Lough
published in Writing

Historical romance novels are in high demand. I wondered if the Netflix series, Bridgerton, which received a staggering viewership of 82 MILLION for its 8-episode first season, influenced this increased demand. My enquiring mind didn’t mess around. I went straight to the pros for answers and emailed sisters, Bea and Leah Koch. These dynamic women own The Ripped Bodice, the only “exclusively romance” bookstore on the West Coast.

URL: https://www.therippedbodicela.com

In a personal conversation on July 20, 2021, Leah Koch graciously answered the following questions via email:

Tammy Lough: Have you experienced an increase in the sale of historical romance since the debut of the historical romance series, Bridgerton on December 25, 2020?

Leah Koch: It’s a little hard to say definitively since romance is all we sell for the most part, but we certainly saw a huge influx of orders for all of the books in the Bridgerton series. Anecdotally, we have seen lots of people coming in wondering what to read after finishing and enjoying the series on Netflix!

Tammy: Do you hear customer chatter about Bridgerton? If not, what is the source                                of frequent customer inquiries?

Leah: Yes absolutely! Our customers are always up on what’s trending in romance. 

Tammy: Do you think perhaps the increased chatter comes from those who wish to promote a   fabricated excitement … or is it real?

Leah: Probably a little bit of both. 

Tammy: What news regarding the romance genre would excite you? Shock you? Make you roll your eyes or throw your hands in the air out of frustration? 

Leah: We get excited by new books, of course! And any time someone writes a book that makes more people feel that they have a place in the romance genre. 

And we always get frustrated when people have impressions of romance novels that are rooted in misogyny, fear of people’s sexual autonomy and shame.

Since The Ripped Bodice sells romance novels exclusively, Bea and Leah Koch’s lucky    customers have an entire shop of happily ever after novels to choose from … and then some … and then some more. 

If you plan to write a historical romance novel and need a little brushing up, read these tips & tricks of the genre.

Writing the Historical Romance Novel

1. The Time Period

Do hoop skirts and bustles make you wish you were born in another century? What about hunting with a bow and arrow or fighting in a war with a single-shot musket? Choose a period in time that tickles your fancy.

Purchase a book like A Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life by Marc McCutcheon. He writes a comprehensive description of life from the time period of your choice and includes such goodies as Slang, Everyday Speech, and Crimes of the day.             

2. Think Outside of the Box, Way Outside

A story idea that sparks my interest and takes up real estate in my thoughts is one I enjoy writing from the first sentence to the happily ever after, The End.

A room of 100 romance writers can receive a writing prompt and 100 original ideas will surface. It is acceptable to take creative liberties to enhance your story. Think James Cameron’s Titanic. If you are leery about rewriting past events, leave an author’s note informing your readers that you have created something new based on a specific time period. Period.

3. Challenge Yourself

Write “What if … Ask yourself several “what if” scenarios.

What if Beau arrived late for the party and witnessed Andrea dancing with Sam? 

Does “what if …” aim you in a new direction? A new subplot?

Write “Because of This … This Happens”? 

Fill in the blank. This causes me to pause and question the cause and effect of storytelling.

Because Beau arrived late for the party, Andrea met Sam and they can’t stop talking.

It creates a whole new scenario in which you can expand your story, topic, scene, thought, plot, etc.

4. Cozy Up with an Old-Fashioned Book of Fairy Tales

Remake an old-fashioned fairy tale into a new romance novel. Freshen it with a new setting, conflicts, and dialogue. Keep the story and change some of the aspects.

5. It’s the Little Things

Dialogue in historical romance is snappy, witty, and curious. The initial conversations run the gamut from light and cordial to fiery and passionate. Read dialogue out loud. Does it sound like a real conversation? 

You created these characters. Have fun with them!   

Writer’s write!!!    

*Author Note: A mega thank you to Leah Koch for such interesting and insightful answers!

Tammy Lough is an award-winning author of over 65 published works who loves writing romance and creating unique characters who burst with personality and frequent sprinklings of humor. She writes a monthly column, On the Back Page with Tammy, for Saturday Writers, a Chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild and is an active member of the Missouri Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and the Missouri Writers Guild. You can connect with Tammy on her website.

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