What’s Your Favorite Time Period? (Giveaway!)

DSC01434

Staircase at Versailles. Photograph by Amy Atwell © 2009.

Update: Our winner for the 2 paperback books is Kristine Radgman.  I’ll be in touch with you via email to get a mailing address. Congrats!!

I am a sucker for historical fiction. I love to lose myself in a different time and place, so any setting, any period. Describe the costumes and habits of the characters, paint the scenery on the page so I can see it, let me explore the world you’ve built and I am a happy reader. 

Now that all the online retailers make it so easy to shop for books listed as “historical fiction,” I find myself surfing and looking at book covers, reading descriptions, and occasionally buying. But it’s also made me wonder what is truly popular when it comes to historicals.  

For over a decade while I was first trying to attract a publisher, I was told that “the historical is dead.”  I was told to focus my energy on contemporary books. There was no room for a newbie historical romance author when the shelves of the bookstore were filled with Madeline Hunter, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Stephanie Laurens and more.

DSC01509

Model of Notre Dame Cathedral. Photograph by Amy Atwell © 2009.

I’m particularly fond of 18th and 19th century settings, both American and European. Those eras are rich in history and filled with progress, both technological and social. People began to see more of the world, cultures clashed and sometimes melded.  An unspoken code of honor was still strong.

What’s your favorite time period for historicals?  Share your favorite author, title or general time period with us—I’m always looking for new book recommendations!  One lucky randomly-selected commenter from the U.S. will win a pair of historical paperbacks from my stash:  Vicky Dreiling’s Regency-set How To Marry A Duke and Kris Kennedy’s medieval Defiant.  Winner will be chosen from comments left on this post through Wednesday, April 17th at 11:59 p.m.  I’ll announce the winner at the top of the post on Thursday.  Thanks all!

  1. I used to love reading stories that took place in the early 1900s. There were so many changes in that time period. But books in that period became impossible to find. The 1920s is another rich period that isn’t used as much. So now I read more Regency and Georgian books, just because that’s what’s mostly available. My most recent keeper book that I love is Daughter of the Sky by Michelle Diener, which is set in Zulu. 🙂

    • I love the Edwardian setting of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Peter Wimsey series and I think The Prisoner of Zenda might qualify as early Edwardian, too. But you’re right, publishing seemed to push historical romance straight to Regency for a long time. I found I longed for something different.

      Oh, and if you enjoyed Daughter of the Sky, you might try Susanna Fraser’s books. Hers are set against the Peninsular Wars, very sharp writing.

      • I just got the first book in the Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy Sayers on a recommendation from a friend! How funny to see another recommendation within a few days. 🙂

        Amy, wanted to say thank-you for doing a giveaway of DEFIANT!!
        Kris Kennedy`s last blog was …Latest News

  2. It’s the same for me… 1700s and 1800s! Although I do enjoy a Medieval now and again. And I heard the same thing from NY publishers/agents…historicals are dead. Then I sold 2 to Kensington, and now I’m writing them for Montlake. lol. Not too long ago it was contemporaries which were supposedly dead and guess what…they are some of the best selling Indie books out there. Sometimes I think the NY publishing world has no idea what readers want.

    • LOL–I agree, Lori, at times it looks like NY publishers are out of touch with readers. It’s very cool that online retailers make it so easy for authors to bring their work directly to readers.

  3. I don’t read much in historical fiction, unless it’s research. I do love Phillipa Gregory books, and I’ve read and reread The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant. I’m also a sucker for midcentury Southern tales – not sure those would qualify as historical. Books like To Kill A Mockingbird and The Help draw me in every time, whether it’s the depression or the civil rights movement, there’s something intriguing to me about the South and the people who lived during those tumultuous years.

    • Philippa Gregory is awesome, isn’t she? And I’m so pleased to see the WWII era and more of the 20th century considered “historical” instead of contemporary. Have you read, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou? Not fiction–more autobiography, but fascinating.

  4. I’m really into the romance more than any specific period. But I do like the ones where the social changes are shown… maybe why Downton Abbey is so interesting to watch how society was changing for a variety of reasons..

    • Cate, yes, exactly! I love to see how people lived and experienced things and what they thought about issues. And for romance, how younger generations made that transition from arranged marriages to marriages of the heart.

  5. I love to read anything historical. The time period doesn’t matter as much to me as being transported away from current time. 😉
    (Although, I have taken a liking to Paranormal Urban Fiction lately…)

    I have many favorites, but these have a place on my real world bookshelf:

    Goldhawk by Patricia Werner
    Maiden of Inverness by Arnette Lamb
    The Trysting Moon by Deborah Satinwood
    Enchantress by Barbara Benedict
    Warrior’s Lady by Madeline Baker

    My newest favorite author is Sarah Woodbury.

    • Jenna, thanks for the recommendations. I love Arnette Lamb, but the other authors are new to me. Here’s a few names I’ll add onto the list:
      Karla Darcy (whole series of short novels, witty dialogue, romance, very fun)
      Jill Barnett (she just rereleased some short stories as ebooks)
      Larissa Lyons (unconventional heroine, love those)
      Cindy Nord (Civil War–wonderful!)

  6. Of course I love you Lori. And Rose Gordon. She’s also a fave. Would love to go back to knights in shining armor.

  7. I love the 1700’s. Madeline Hunter Rarest Bloom series, Julia Quinn Bridgerton series, Lynsay Sands, Hannah Howell and Lisa Kleypas are my fave historical romance authors to read.

    • So glad to see you, Kristine! Yes, how could I forget Lisa Kleypas? And if you like 1700’s you should check out Jo Beverley. She’s got some great Georgian settings.

      • Hi Amy thanks for the recomendation, well I’ve read only two books by Jo; An Unlikely Countess and A Scandalous Countess. I did enjoy them.

    • blodeuedd– now I feel awful. I’ve disqualified our international readers. Okay, next giveaway I do will be a gift card, good internationally. Promise!

      I find medievals fascinating because humans seemed to really be connected to the land, the seasons, the animals. And you’re right–not too barbaric, but most issues could easily turn to life and death struggles. It definitely raises the stakes of the drama for those stories.

  8. Hi Amy! I don’t read a lot of historical fiction but what I have read has been of different time periods and I find as long as there is a romance story in it I am game for anything. I have enjoyed Michelle Diener’s books, as well as Michelle Miles’ stories about Scottish Knight. I like a little intrigue in my books so Tracey Devlyn’s Nexus Series about British Agents has been fun as well. That is about the extend of my historical fiction reading. And yes, I still have Ambersley on my Nook and plan to read that soon! 🙂

    • Amy, you picked three great authors! Another great one to try is Courtney Milan. Gorgeous, smart writing. Unique and wonderfully flawed characters. Romance that will curl your toes. And if you like spies in your contemporary work, you might try L. j. Charles (Everly Gray series – not really spies, but woman sleuth), and Leslie Langtry (black comedy of multi-generational family of hit women, VERY fun!)

  9. Amy,
    My absolute favorite is Regency, just because of my insatiable Austen adoration ;). But I’m really open — esp. when I have friends who write historicals!! BTW, I loved Katherine Neville’s novel THE EIGHT, which is contemporary but has a parallel storyline that takes place during several historical periods — really fascinating!

    • Ooh, The Eight sounds fascinating. I’m always intrigued with time not being linear, so stories that play that out are really appealing to me. I think it was Suzanne Brockman who had a romantic suspense (and I’ll never remember the title at this point) that featured the main present-day story line, but then a subplot that unraveled the backstory of the grandmother. It was terrific. Whichever plot I was following, I couldn’t wait to get back to the other. I felt like I got two books in one.