The best seller’s charts for Historical Romance has some surprises up its sleeves this week. Regency, Scottish Highlander, and Cowboy Romances are all doing well, however, so don’t worry about that. The increase has been in the niche of Realistic Historical Romance, essentially, romantic heroes and heroines rubbing shoulders with the people out of history textbooks. This isn’t new, but the additional interest is.

But first, let’s look at that old favourite, Cowboy and Western Romances. It’s on the rarer side this week, and the books that are a part of this niche are not all what you would expect. This is one of the niches where general historical novels can sneak their way in and so it has happened this week. But of those books that are Romance based novels, there are certain tropes that are clearly favoured by readers. Mail Order Brides are very popular, as are men with a tortured past who must now provide for their family, Single Dads are popular as well.

In contrast, there are a lot of Scottish Highlander stories on the chart and they are all very focused on the Romantic side. From Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, to Jayne Castel’s, The Bride’s of Skye Series, the focus is on warrior men with kilts and preferably with an army, or at the very least a bandit troupe, at their backs. Alpha Males and Virgin Heroines are massively important to this niche, as are Marriages of Convenience and anything involving Arranged Marriages. This is also one of the niches where battles and wars are the most likely to be seen on the page, rather than happening far away in someone else’s book series. Outlander, obviously, is known for telling the story of the Jacobite Rebellions, but Scots are also shown as mercenaries fighting in many conflicts.

The niche of the week, however, has to be that of Realistic Historical Romances. These books are from any era from the Medieval period to the early 1900s. Often the historical realism is accentuated by the presence of famous people from the era. This is obviously made more difficult the longer ago it was, and the less famous the person. So generally these books take place in the courts of royalty, instead, since the characteristics and routines of the people are more easily researched. Funnily enough it should be quite easy to spot these books on the chart this week, the covers seem to be almost uniformly golden.

In contrast there is a bit more variety in the Regency Romance section. At least, once you have set aside the routine demands that a couple in period appropriate dress be on the cover. Sometimes the couples are split, and only one or the other appears, if it is the woman she is likely either wearing a dress in a pale colour to hearken back to the idea of chastity, or a rust red to bring to mind the opposite. It’s not just rust red dresses that are popular in the Regency Romance books on offer, there are plenty of tropes and niches doing well, though, it has to be said not as uniformly as the dresses. The Virgin Heroine and Roguish Hero are archetypes that rule over this niche, but it is especially obvious this week with a lack of widow characters on the shelves. Instead the women are mostly debutantes, with the odd governess thrown in. But here’s some more detail for you;

  • Rogues and Rakes are the most popular description for non-titled men, this underlines the trope in this niche of the experienced man with a scandalous past.
  • It is still Dukes who are the most popular nobles to be named in their book’s titles, there are a few Marquess’ on the list, and a few Lords scattered into the mix. Of course, by calling a man a Lord there is no reason why he cannot also be a Duke or an Earl or anything else, often that is in fact the case in this niche.
  • Interestingly, a lot of books this week have foregone the usual naming traditions of the genre, instead going for names like Mimi Matthews’, A Work of Art. 
  • Royals are very popular this week, though, unlike in the Realistic Historical Romance section, they are mostly of fictional countries that often are in the midst of political upheaval.

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