My name is Katie Mack and I have a confession to make: I am a romance snob. At least I was until quite recently. I wasn’t a snob about romance novels in general, having read them since age 11. No, I was a snob about historical romances in particular.
You see, for 18 years I operated under the belief that all historical romances were bodice-rippers filled with awful rapist heroes and doormat heroines. Why, oh why, I’d ask myself, would a reader—a woman, no less—subject herself to such horrendous drivel? Why would a modern woman choose to read about a time when women were oppressed and the hygiene was problematic, when there are all of these wonderful contemporary romances at the tips of her fingers?
My snobbery knew no bounds. When my friends or family would comment on my questionable taste in books (read: romances), I would haughtily reply that I don’t read those romances, I read contemporaries. On message boards and review sites, I steadfastly ignored all praise of historical romances—DIK or not—and turned up my nose at the readers. Clearly they had dubious taste in reading material.
Then one day, quite to my dismay, I was forced to actually read a historical romance. I had been following, and rather enjoying, Suzanne Enoch’s Samantha Jellicoe series when I reached book four: Twice the Temptation. Ms. Enoch had decided to combine her two genres, historical and contemporary, into a book of two connected novellas, the second being the Samantha Jellicoe story. My ultimate goal of course was to read the contemporary story, but in order to fully understand it I felt I must force myself through the historical novella first. “Woe is me!” I thought, but I endeavored to forge ahead.
So forge ahead I did, and something shocking happened: I didn’t hate it. In fact, I daresay I actually liked it. There was no rapist hero, no doormat heroine, no ripping of bodices. Perhaps it is simply Ms. Enoch who doesn’t write those books, I thought.
There was now a crack in my snobbish façade. I found myself paying attention to historical reviews, and finally listening to all the good things being said about Amanda Quick’s early historicals. I decided to take the plunge. After combing through DIK reviews and the Top 100 poll, I carefully chose Ravished as my first full-length historical novel—though I must admit to some consternation over the title. It languished on my TBR shelf until one afternoon when nothing else sounded appealing and I decided to give it a go. And I loved it. 100% full-on adoration. It was so good. Could it be that I could actually like historical romances? Who knew?
Slowly, one by one, I began adding historicals to my TBR list—after careful consideration, of course. And slowly, book by book, my respect for historicals began to grow. In addition to Enoch and Quick I added Maggie Osborne and Elizabeth Hoyt (who I could spend hours gushing about). To my TBR list I’ve added Lisa Kleypas, Loretta Chase, and Carla Kelly. The list keeps growing.
I thought that an historical time period would be unappealing, but I actually find it quite fascinating to read and learn about how people lived two hundred years ago. And I’m building a whole new vocabulary of words like phaeton and hoyden and rusticate. But one of the biggest surprises for me was that where I previously escaped the stressors of daily life with a contemporary romance, I’m finding that in these tough financial times it is the historical novels that are providing me the true escape.
I think I must feel something akin to what a literature snob experiences after they actually read a romance or two and realize, “So this is why romances are so popular, ‘cause this stuff is really, really good.” I’ve come to appreciate that historicals can be as lush, compelling, sexy, smart, and wonderful as my beloved contemporaries. It’s like a whole new world of books has opened up for me, and I’m loving every minute of it.
The other day a friend of mine caught me reading To Taste Temptation and he asked, “I thought you didn’t read those ones?” To which I responded quite haughtily that, “Of course I read them. They’re quite good you know—nothing like those bodice-rippers of the past that people talk about.”
Hmmm, maybe I am still a bit of a snob – though I am open to new book suggestions.