Five Reasons Why American Historical Romances Are Making A Comeback



This post originally appeared in USA Today’s Happy Ever After Column on October 29, 2014.

It’s true that Americans have always had a soft spot in their hearts for a good western. Starting with Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey, westerns have endured and have been a popular staple in the American diet, across all venues of entertainment. Callie Hutton, author of A Chance To Love Again, says “There will always be a place in our heart for the cowboy, mail order brides and wagon trains.”

But what about the American historical romance? Its popularity has waxed and waned over the years. In the 1980s and 1990s there were stand-out romances by such legends as Catherine Anderson, Pat Rice, Johanna Lindsay and Kathleen Woodiwiss. The early 2000s saw the emergence of Cindy Holby’s Wind series, but lately, the American historical romance has been hard to come by.

Until now. Several large publishers are suddenly realizing the resurgence of the American historical romance. Alicia Condon, Editorial Director of Kensington Books said “Publishing trends follow a cyclical process, and I feel the time is right for American-set historical romances to make a comeback. I’ve acquired several new series, and the first title, Kathleen Bittner Roth’s Celine, has been enthusiastically received by account buyers, who are excited to try something new.” Brian Paules at ePublishing Works! took a chance on Betty’s Bolte’s series on the American Revolution when his marketing department’s analysis showed a renewed interest in American historicals. They cited two current best-selling Kindle books relating to the Revolutionary War, along with AMC’s Turn, about spies during the same war. Crimson Romance was ahead of the curve, publishing Elizabeth Meyette’s novels about the Revolutionary War, Love’s Destiny and Love’s Spirit, in 2012 and 2013, as well as my own Cotillion Ball Series, which began in 2012. Elizabeth says, “I think American historicals are an untapped resource of great stories.”

There must be a reason for the new popularity. In fact, I’ve uncovered five of them.

1) Commemorative ceremonies of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary have been ongoing since 2011. The Pony Express celebrated its sesquicentennial anniversary in 2011, as well. Before that, Lewis and Clark’s Voyage of Discovery celebrated a 200-year anniversary. These events were celebrated in live reenactments, TV documentaries and books, bringing the focus of all Americans to their joint past.

2) Hollywood. The big screen’s fascination with the history of America may have begun with 1992’s release of The Last of the Mohicans. Then came Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves. The story of John Adams and the Roosevelts have shown up on the history channels. Hell on Wheels, about the Transcontinental Railroad is now in its fourth season on AMC television, and the Lone Ranger has migrated from the small screen to the theaters.

3) Ease of internet access to genealogical research has helped inquiring Americans find connections to the Civil War, the Mayflower, past presidents, and uncover hidden members of the family. and its TV show, Who Do You Think You Are? along with a readily available DNA testing kit providing proof positive of one’s heritage, has greatly contributed to families making genealogy a shared event. What was once a research-intensive pursuit has now become easy for anyone to do. And the stories that get uncovered are priceless. Barbara Andrews, author of Hetty’s Song articulates, “When a person becomes aware of their heritage through family stories, genealogy and curiosity, questions arise as to how they lived and what they experienced.” Terry Irene Blain’s first American historical romance, Kentucky Green, incorporates part of her heritage uncovered by her family.

4) Relatable characters and history. We all learned a bit of American history in school, and regardless of your age, grew up on TV westerns such as Bonanza, The Big Valley, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Gunsmoke, The Wild Wild West, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. or Deadwood. There were also all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to devour, and, as we got older, there was Gone With The Wind, The Kent Family Chronicles, and Roots.

5) Our world is full of stress and chaos, and it’s nice to be able to slip back to an earlier, less complicated time, when America was the great melting pot. People came to this country from other lands filled with hope for a better future, risking everything for a chance to achieve their dreams.