Think about it. The glamourous mood of Edwardian England and prewar Europe, captured in art and literature with a poignant mix of innocence and decadence. The days when airplanes were so rare that people would run outside to watch when one flew overhead. The urgency of wartime romances, the Roaring ’20s, the determination of people to survive the Great Depression. Compared to how we live today, it’s starting to seem more and more faraway, isn’t it?
So much of the 20th century seems to be the stuff of which great historical romance could be made. More and more authors are pushing their stories ever closer to that magical 1900 dividing line, and I hope the trend continues. I love reading books set in the far distant past, but I would love to try more set in the 20th century as well.
Inspirational historicals started moving past the year 1900 years ago. I’ve been seeing historical fiction and romance in this subgenre with early 20th century settings (particularly WWII) for quite a while, though the number of titles has increased in recent years. For example, Summerside Press has issued several books with 20th century settings from rural North Carolina in the 1920s to postwar Germany.
Steeple Hill author Renee Ryan has announced on her website that her next project will be a World War II trilogy. Julie Lessman’s Daughters of Boston trilogy is set during the 1910s-20s, and according to her website, her next series will be set during the Roaring 20s and Great Depression. And that’s just barely scratching the surface.
Secular historicals have a little catching up to do. Every now and again we’ll see a book such as Perfidia or like some of Elizabeth Lane’s more recent Harlequin Historicals, featuring a 20th century setting. In addition, Dorothy Garlock has been setting novels in the 20th century for quite some time. However, these are still outliers.
I’ve been noticing in recent years that authors using Victorian settings have been edging into the later Victorian period. Not only is this time period interesting in and of itself, but these authors, a group which includes Sherry Thomas, Laura Lee Guhrke and Meredith Duran, are exploring a world that could lead readers quite logically to 1900 and beyond just as we have seen readers follow their Regency reading on into the Victorian age.
The 20th century brims with fascinating material that just begs for good, meaty historicals. I hope to see more authors using it!