Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Article by Francine (RMM Reviewer)

What constitutes a Good Romance Read?

Francine's reveal: 

Having asked RRM reviewers to reveal what makes for a good historical romance, it occurred to me that I too must reveal the nitty-gritty, so here goes. All in all I have a curious nature and throughout life I’ve always wanted to know what makes other people tick, and authors of historical novels– in general– are an intriguing species as are fans of historical novels.

It’s a given readers will time-slip through pages to wild windswept moors, tread through harsh stone mediaeval castle and manor halls, or step to the more elegant domain of royal courts and ballrooms. In reality each historical period has memorable events such as 1066, 1485, 1812, 1815, so on and so forth, but not all authors include major events as a backdrop to their stories. 

Many of the old romances often afford little more than a dateline sub header per chapter to denote time and place, e.g. Yorkshire 1759, or perhaps London 1814, and nothing else beyond the social standing of the characters and all that arises within their immediate circle is provided to latch onto. After all, a red shawl is a red shawl, and it’s up to the reader to determine knitted, woven, or silk etc, according to the character's social standing. Often within old books there was no in depth description of clothes, but the story was no less thrilling. In this instance the novel “Wuthering Heights” leaps to mind, and there are those within literary circles who will declare WH is not a romance, that it is merely a love story because it doesn’t have a happy ever after. I beg to differ, because two people fall in love, conflict arises, and tragedy ensues, just as it did in Romeo & Juliet, as it does in many of the great love/romance stories where the hero or heroine has to turn from the other and walk away. Some of the most memorable novels of loss leap to mind: Gone with the Wind; Frenchman’s Creek; and Brief Encounter. These novels were no less enthralling throughout, the endings somewhat tragic in the emotional sense, though in GWTW it was an open ending – would Rhett return; unable to live without Scarlet?

So you see I don’t believe romance novels have to have an HEA. Romance and tragedy is memorable; sad yes, and yet fulfilling in so many ways. So whatever romance comes my way for review, I can in all honesty say I have an open mind as to what constitutes a good or great romance read, though I do revel in books where emotions run deep, characters reveal their inner self, or the story lines have darker elements at play. Historical accuracy counts too, but please no antique sales catalogue descriptions of items, whether personal or household. Other than that I am a tart for handsome military heroes.


  1. I agree, I look for backdrop and deep characterization otherwise it doesn't hold my interest. But I also like the little details which bring flavour to a story. I have no time for stories with a contemporary woman in long skirts, though there's some successful authors writing those. Obviously some readers are happy with that. But it seems to me that what most want is that HEA or the prospect of one. I've seen some outraged comments on Amazon when a novel doesn't deliver. Those authors lost some of their fans.

    1. Thank you for dropping in, Maggi. Oh yes, there are die-hard HEA fans and nothing less will do. But in terms of books that have become classics the tragedies are the ones people remember, and when they are made into TV dramas and movies everyone seems to watch them. Same goes for Jane Austen novels, not just because they are mostly set within the Regency, it's because the characters are so well drawn along with all their little foibles, Austen novels were contemporary of their time with escapist rose-tinted perspective. The latter quite acceptable considering the country was at war! Was it any wonder Georgette Heyer chose Austen's novels as templates to her own wonderful string of Regency novels, when she in fact preferred writing more serious novels (Lord John) and her detective novels. And neither Austen or GH looked upon their novels as romances per se, albeit they provided the reader with HEAs.