Why Are Historical Novels So Enticing?

blog-hop-for-writersToday on the blog hop we’re discussing our favorite genre. In my case, my favorite is what I write: romantic historical fiction. (This post is adapted from one I wrote last summer during another blog hop.)

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Why are historical novels so enticing?

There’s something intriguing about stories set in history, a spirit of excitement and fascination that captures our soul. Although basic issues of family and survival remain the same in every century, the challenges people faced in the past were quite different from modern times. Men and women were called to be courageous in ways that are no longer necessary, or even possible. They faced with challenges that modern-day life would never present. This element of fantasy draws in the reader and makes them wonder how they would behave under those circumstances.

What specifically draws readers to novels set in other time periods?

  • The Viking Era creates a sense of fear and awe in the reader because the Vikings were so menacing in their efforts to expand.
  • The Medieval Period, full courageous kings and knights, was a time when chivalry reigned.
  • The political and religious tension of the Tudor Era creates a fascinating background for intrigue.
  • The Regency Period is enticing because the rules of society, the formal words and behaviors, fosters a romantic environment where much is forbidden and left unsaid.

But it’s not just the mystery of the time period, it’s also the curiosity of the reader, who desires to know what life was like for the people who lived back then. When historical details are woven through each chapter, the story’s inspiration becomes much more powerful.

AC coverFor my current series, The Lawmen of Clayton County, I chose the Old West, with its tough pioneers, rugged cowboys, and lawless society. The stories take place in three separate towns in the newly settled Oregon Territory during the 1850’s, just after the Great Migration over the Oregon Trail.

The first story, Athena Creek, released in two volumes, was published last year. It features a marshal named Trace Ingram who seeks to uncover the mystery behind three murders, all of which point to the man who hired him: Charles McCrae.

Excerpt from Athena Creek:

“According to the billet,” Trace said, “Mahaffey is wanted for stealing cattle in

California, not Clayton County or the Oregon Territory. So I let him go.”

“He’s killed several men without reason,” McCrae said. “Everyone knows he’s

done it.”

Trace sharpened his tone. “Everyone but me.”

McCrae took a step closer, his eyes narrowing. “My word is reliable, Ingram. You should have arrested that man.”

“He didn’t break any laws while he was here.” Trace kept his tone even. “No one has proven to me that he’s ever done so. The paper I have doesn’t state any charges of murder. I believe I did the right thing.”

“The right thing? Criminals belong behind bars!” McCrae turned away to regain control of his temper. When he faced Trace, his expression had lost its red tinge. He even managed a smile.

“Well, Ingram, there’s nothing we can do about it now. Let me just make one thing clear.” McCrae’s smile faded. “Next time you better think long and hard before you let a cold-blooded killer go free.”

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What do you think makes historical novels so enticing?

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Comments 8

  1. Historical Fiction is so tricky, I admire you. Being able to walk that thin line between reality and make believe is a real skill. Throw in romance and I’m stymied.

    Leanne Ross ( readfaced.wordpress.com & @LeanneRossRF )

  2. Hi Jen,
    Now I know a little more about you. I love historical fiction – especially if it has God in it – redemption, character building, plot. I read fiction to relax, especially before bed. I don’t like horror or anything ugly. I read non-fiction at other times.
    Blessings,
    Janis

  3. Jen, it has been interesting getting to know you a bit through the blog hop. We have many of the same interests 🙂 I’m glad we’re able to collaborate on the San Francisco Wedding Planner series.

  4. I think the fun part about historicals is being able to peek into another time and place (assuming the author has researched and evoked it well!)

    I keep forgetting westerns are historicals — they have more action and I think of them more as adventure stories. Silly me! Athena Creek sounds like a good read!

  5. I’m all about character-driven, relationship-driven stories. Although the characters’ situations and surroundings may be very different than my own, the historical fiction I’ve read reinforces the fact that no matter where, no matter when, people are basically the same. In this way, I can relate to them and grow to care about them, even if their “lives” are very different than my own. All the best with your writing.

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