Pushing Boundaries With Unusual Historical Romances

There are only so many times a historical romance fan can read about a handsome duke who is secretly a spy, a crusty cowboy soon to be tamed by a saloon girl with a heart of gold or a beautiful Scottish lass abducted by the laird of a warring clan. After a certain point, it all gets, pardon the pun, old. So what’s a historical romance fan to do? Visit the group blog Unusual Historicals, of course! Created by author Carrie Lofty, the site is a gathering place for authors and readers who are seeking stories that are off the beaten path. Now Lofty talks about pushing the boundaries of historical romance – literally by setting her novels in Austria, South Africa and medieval Spain - and she shares what readers can expect as the website marks its fourth anniversary celebrating these reads!

One of the most impulsive networking decisions I ever made was to set up a group blog in late November of 2006. I’d barely finished my first manuscript. I knew very few people in the industry. All I wanted to understand was whether the difficulty I’d encountered in trying to sell my first romance had to do with my writing or the market.  

See, I’d made a terrible lapse in judgment. During college and grad school, I stopped reading romance novels. When I’d left off in the early 90s, romances still traveled the world! Upon rediscovering my favorite genre—a welcome relief after years of dry academia—I started with catching up with old favorites. I also started writing toward publication.

Only toward the end of 2006 did my reading catch up with the current market. I looked around and found acres and acres of…England. Oh, and Scotland. Can’t forget those hot Highlanders (not that they’d let us).

But by then, I was already sunk. My first manuscript was set in 1804 Austria!  


Thus…Unusual Historicals was born.  

Initially, I wanted only to find more exotic locales for my to-be-read pile. Following the exploits of a hundred versions of Mr. Darcy and John Thornton didn’t hold the same exoticism for me as it might have for another reader. After all, I’d already married an Englishman! I can see the appeal—believe me—but I craved more far-flung locales.

I also wanted to know: Am I the only romance author on the planet still pursuing unusual settings and eras? Although its line-up has shifted several times across four years, Unusual Historicals sustains me with a firm answer to that question. Not only are there many, many romance authors who hunger for a something different, but there are also similarly hungry readers!

Taking up this mantle has been a lot of hard work, but not without professional benefits. Twice I’ve sat on national workshop panels to discuss the state of unusual historicals, and twice I’ve written articles on the subject for the RWA’s Romance Writers Report (check out my website for some of the content). Folks seem to associate me with the topic now, which is quite cool. Everybody needs a shtick, right? 

So what became of my “whoops” project? That little-manuscript-that-could went on to become my June release from Carina Press, Song of Seduction. I didn’t stop there. My medieval adventure, Scoundrel’s Kiss, was set in Spain, and Flawless, the first of my upcoming Victorian romances from Pocket, is set in colonial South Africa. 

I know, right? I’m still a little boggled.

Don’t mind me, then. I’ll be over here in my own little world, where I pretend the demands of the market can be thwarted by inspiration and plain ole’ stubbornness. There has got to be a moral there somewhere…

In the meantime, please visit Unusual Historicals this week to help us celebrate our fourth anniversary. Lots of great books up for grabs—books set in Ireland and Russia and China and Egypt and France and the Jazz Age. We also feature new guest authors every Sunday. It’s a great way to go exploring, and always with a heavy dose of romance and a happy ending. 

- Carrie Lofty

You can check out Lofty's most recent boundary-pushing novel, Song of Seduction, now and be sure to check back on The RT Daily Blog as we cover a different aspect of unusual historical romances every day this week!


Read more about "unusual historicals" all this week by following the links below:

BLOG UPDATE 12/7/2010: Blythe Gifford talks about readers' willingness to follow a dashing historical hero "off the beaten path." Get the Details >>

BLOG UPDATE 12/8/2010: Elizabeth Lane on the evolution of what is considered "the time line" that moment when historical romances become too modern. Learn More >>

BLOG UPDATE 12/9/2010: Michelle Styles talks about ways that historical romances vary around the world. Read On >>

BLOG UPDATE 12/10/2010: Several authors who contribute to Unusual Historicals share their favorite boundary pushing romances set in the past. Get the List >>