This month's PHS Poll looks at historical settings, from the traditionally popular regency, to vikings, flappers and the early 20th century. What's your favorite historical setting?
Suzette D. Harrison - I Heart the 1930s
My Facebook banner bears a tagline: Two Eras, One Author. It’s true! I write contemporary and historical fiction. I’m not restricted to time or genre. Rather, I follow where my characters and their settings lead. If contemporary treatment is demanded, I comply. Likewise, if my characters dictate I flow back in time, guess what? A-flowing I will go!
Which do I prefer—here and now, or historicals? I’ll hang my modern-day sensibilities on a coatrack and step back (to borrow from my historical heroine, Taffy) to “once upon a when” in a hot minute. Perhaps I’m an old soul. Or maybe my creativity simply needs relief from this present ethos. Like a time traveler, I’ve “gone back,” penning three 1930s’ romances.
Oh, the 30s! They’re not the glamorous Great Gatsby, Harlem Renaissance roaring twenties. Or the 1940s when—as a result of war—our country experienced economic upswing, and phenomenon such as the integration of the U.S. military. The 1930s saw our nation seated in a lack of luxury and the lap of liquor, courtesy of Prohibition and the Great Depression.
What romance writer in their right mind would situate a love story there?
That would be me.
As an African-American author, I come to my craft fully cognizant that, no matter the era, our love has always faced myriad external obstacles and challenges. Yet, somehow our love remains.
Situating my historical romances in the 1930s forces me to delve deep, to look below the surface of flowers, candy, and romantic niceties. I’m pressed into the marrow, into strength of hearts that survived social injustice, inequality and racism. I unearth treasures of spirit to discover what that yesterday kind of love was like. My characters are welcome to take me on wild rides through any decade they’d like, showing me how our love survived and thrived. Gladly, I let them drive.
SuzetteTaffywebsiteFacebookTwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram's latest 1930s novel, , and follow her on , and , is out now. She is also part of the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance project. For more information about her and her writing check out her , , .
Elisabeth Hobbes - I Heart Medievals
The Medieval period is incredibly long, lasting from the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century until the 15th. That’s ten centuries to set potential stories in, but if I asked you to picture a stereotypical medieval couple they would most likely be a woman in a flowing dress and a man in a suit of armour or a tunic and breeches who could pass for extras in Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.
I’ll be honest: when I talk about medieval times, I’m talking with a Western European frame of reference (with the overspill into the Middle East caused by The Crusades). I know shamefully little about what was happening in the rest of the world in the same time period (though the Korean ceramics I saw recently suggest they were way ahead of us in terms of artistic skills) but in Europe the period gave rise to the code of chivalry, formed society and culture that we still recognise today and resulted in some of the greatest art and architecture still around.
It was a time of conquest and conflict, tournaments and battles. The Medieval period had very clearly defined conventions, social structure and strict moral codes. Society was deeply superstitious and religious with the Christian Church having influence over every element of life (even dictating when in the year you could get married). Transgressing these had serious - and in some cases life threatening – consequences. It was a brave person who could step outside the boundaries of expected behaviour and ignore the wagging tongues and gossip in the close-knit community of the medieval village or town.
I’m naturally bloodthirsty so I love the fact that life was harsh and hazardous. The period allows for grittiness and conflict that makes for so much excitement and drama. Characters can be put into dangerous situations that make their eventual victory and HEA even more satisfying. I’ve included hanging, drawing and quartering; mass execution, mutilation and miscarriage in my stories (did I mention Game of Thrones?) so it’s no wonder my characters are determined to grab the opportunity for love so eagerly. Not for them the genteel Regency ballroom and risk of being ‘cut’ by the Ton. Put a foot wrong in the Middle Ages and you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of the sword not a snapping fan!
The architecture provides a great backdrop for stories. There are so many great settings for the hero and heroine to fall in love against. They could be dancing in the Great Hall of a candlelit manor house, stealing a kiss on the battlements of an imposing castle, getting into trouble in narrow, winding alleyways of towns, or tending to the hero’s wounds in tents after a battle.
The politics. Marriages were arranged for political or financial gain so there are plenty of opportunities for stories of advantageous matches turning into true love. There were laws but there was also lawlessness. A hero could be an outlaw fighting against an oppressive regime or a noble knight trying to keep his lands safe from invaders. So could a heroine, of course, because there were some truly kick-ass women who more than held their own while their menfolk were off fighting or just not up to the job, such as Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joan of Arc and the thousands of unnamed and unremembered women who got on with daily life in a period when life expectancy was low and giving birth was as much of a risk as heading into battle.
Last but not least, the heroes. Beowulf, Arthur, Robin Hood, Lancelot. The list goes on. All familiar characters of legend from the Middle Ages and great inspiration for our heroes. Strong and courageous, honourable and dutiful, these men needed to be capable of wielding broadswords or bows, riding horses or wearing their own bodyweight in armour - and the resulting physique doesn’t hurt their allure in the slightest.
Elisabeth's latest release, Redeeming the Rogue Knight, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Chanta Rand - I Heart Ancient Egypt
The Great Pyramids. The Nile. King Tut. Cleopatra. The mere mention of these words conjures images of royalty and splendor. There are few iconic civilizations that symbolize such grandeur and mystique.
Whenever I think of Egypt, I think of the wealth and the romance of that era. The pharaohs were strong alpha males. The queens were regal beauties. Wine flowed. Trade flourished. Egypt set the trend for fashion with cosmetics, jewelry, scented perfume cones, wigs, and fine linen. Don’t even get me started on the precious metals and vibrant turquoise and blood coral gemstones.
Egyptians were master architects, constructing temples for their gods, pyramids for the afterlife, and great cities to show off their vast riches. We still study their religion, politics, herbal medicine, and hieroglyphics—a unique system of writing they created. They perfected culinary many delights we enjoy to this day (such as sweet potatoes, smoked fish, and beer).
Egypt had its share of enemies. Even their rivals were badasses. The most famous were the Nubians (located in present day Sudan), with their deadly army of archers. The Egyptians drove chariots, sailed in yachts down the Nile, and traded gold, ebony, ivory, spices, and animal hides.
With so much opulent culture to draw upon, it’s no wonder Ancient Egypt is my favorite historical setting. If you want to learn more about this glorious ancient civilization, pick up my historical romances, Pharaoh’s Desire and Goddess. Each book contains an Author’s Note at the end with rich details and other succulent historical tidbits.
Chanta's newest release, First Love Second Chance, is available out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website and blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
KJ Charles - I Heart the 1920s
The 1920s in Britain are a time of dramatic change and conflict, glamour glossing over loss, and new social movements finding their feet. The old order was changing as people questioned social rules in the aftermath of World War I. Many aristocratic families found themselves no longer nearly as rich as they’d thought; women who had worked throughout the war were not content to return to domestic service; the upper-class generation that had been too young to fight plunged into hedonistic self indulgence while the less wealthy began to ask hard questions involving expressions like “is this fair?” and “who put you in charge?”
I love the contrasts of writing 1920s: terrible losses and new horizons; women and working people demanding their rights in the teeth of the Establishment; modern conveniences like cars and phones and hot water on tap (such a relief after writing Regency, honestly); the incredibly hard times many people were living through and the glitzy self-indulgence of the remaining rich. It’s ripe for conflict, and of course conflict and romance go hand in hand.
In my Green Men series I’m writing 1920s with a paranormal twist: the Great War was fought by occult means, and the magical fallout is having deadly effects. The old ways are being destroyed, and everyone is struggling to find their feet, do their job, turn a profit, save the world, or simply come to terms with a future that’s very different from what they thought it would be. It’s a complicated time for anyone to find love, especially across lines of class or wealth. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s where half the fun of romance lies...
KJ's latest novel, Spectred Isle, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook, and Twitter.
Elle Wright - I Heart the 1980s
I set my Decades: A Journey of African American Romance novella, Made to Hold You, in the 1980s.
I love the 80s! Plain and simple. The thought of doing a historical set in that decade gave me life. It was a fun time for me, a lighter time in some ways. When I was ten-years-old, in 1984, I never envisioned life in 2017. And now, over thirty years later, the 80s doesn’t feel out of reach for me, probably because I grew up during this time. I have memories tied to the current events of that decade, which is why I loved this setting.
Exploring the African American experience through my writing has given me a chance to delve in the issues that affected many couples during that pivotal time in history for the African American community. It allowed me to lose myself in the fashion, the movies, the television, and the music of the 1980s.
The rise of Hip Hop had a huge impact on my life. I can recall listening to Slick Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, and being introduced to Rakim. These rappers were speaking on their personal experiences, telling us stories about their lives through lyrics. They allowed us into their world for a few seconds on each track.
Artists like Michael Jackson, Prince, and Whitney Houston were paving the way for entertainers coming behind them. They were breaking sales records, creating iconic music videos, and making movies that had lasting effects on our community.
During the 80s, we saw the first African America Ms. America, the first African American cable television network, and the first African American NFL coach were a few giant steps forward for the race.
Black and white households were introduced to a middle-class, successful African American family every Thursday night at 8:00 pm when The Cosby Show started airing. It was a game changer. Young people everywhere enrolled at college because A Different World made it seem possible to do so.
Researching the challenges African Americans faced in this decade was eye-opening for me. Made to Hold You deals with the effect the “War on Drugs” had on families. The surge of crack cocaine use in American destroyed many lives, ruined many marriages. I wanted to write a story of redemption, give readers a happy ending for a couple involved in the devastation of drug use.
Being a part of the Decades project, working with so many amazing writers, is an honor. Each author has a unique story to tell, and I hope readers enjoy where this series takes them.
Ella's newest release, Beyond Forever, is available out now. She is also part of the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance project. For more information about her and her writing check out her website and blog, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Joanna Shupe - I Heart the Gilded Age
Bathrooms constructed of gold. Lavish dinners held entirely on horseback. Estates built to resemble European castles…
Sounds a bit like the 1980s, doesn’t it? Nope, this is from a century before during the Gilded Age, the years roughly between 1870 and 1900. Opulence and innovation ruled in this era that was categorized by powerful industry, astounding corruption, and extreme wealth in America.
I fell in love with Edith Wharton's Gilded Age-set stories as a young teen. Wharton's descriptions of society's strict rules and customs were fascinating. Through stories like The Age of Innocence, House of Mirth, and The Duchesses, I fell in love with the idea of high society trying to hang on to its traditions in a time when the world was changing so drastically around them. And once I began researching the history of the era, I was hooked.
I discovered Mrs. Astor, Delmonico’s, and the House of Worth. Who were the Knickerbockers? (Turns out they’re not just a professional basketball team!) This world of powerful robber barons, Fifth Avenue socialites, and Newport mansions was unlike anything I’d learned about in school, which tended to focus on the (mostly boring) politics of the era.
When I moved to Chicago (and later New York City), I realized just how much of an impact the Gilded Age still has on us today. The gorgeous Beaux Arts architecture popular at the time can still be seen in the Carson Pirie Scott building, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Public Library, to name a few. Central Park? Yep, that’s Gilded Age, too.
The Gilded Age wasn’t always pretty and glamorous. Reconstruction was being sabotaged in the south. Immigrants faced racism and unfair working conditions. The gulf between the richest Americans and the poorest Americans widened. So I try to shed light on all aspects of the Gilded Age in my books. After all, if we can’t learn from history, then what’s the point of writing it down?
Joanna's latest novel, A Daring Arrangement, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.
Lindsay Evans - I Heart the 1900s
I love to play dress-up. Photos of Edwardian couples, especially the women in their long skirts and elegant hats and the hourglass shape of the Gibson girl in American advertising gives me plenty of inspiration when I browse vintage racks.
As much as I love these images though, it has always been difficult seeing the readily available versions of them that never featured a Black woman or Black couple. If I didn’t know better, I would assume that people who looked like me didn’t exist during that time.
But a few seconds on Google unearths a treasure trove of old photographs, beautiful portraits of Blackness and Black love that have nothing to do with slavery and everything to do with people simply living their lives the best way they knew how. Their outfits were elegant, their smiles serene, and their presence unmistakable. Looking at those amazing photographs, it was so good, through them, to simple be seen.
This is one of the reasons my upcoming novella, A Delicate Affair, in the Decades: A Journey of African-American Romance series is set in the 1900s.
I wanted to recreate the reality that during that time, Black couples were living and loving as much as their white counterparts. Of course, struggles were taking place. Prominent Black educator and civil rights activist, Booker T. Washington dared to eat dinner at the White House in 1901 and was threatened with lynching because of it. The Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 left twelve people dead. And in 1910, the city of Baltimore approved an ordinance segregating black and white neighborhoods, setting off a chain reaction of similar ordnances throughout the Midwest and the South.
Amid all that however, this was also a time of hope, when people—like now—were still able to see the beauty in their lives, to revel in it, and share it with the person they loved..
Lindsay's newest release, The Pleasure of His Company, is available out now. She is also part of the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance project. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Amy Lane - I Heart World War Two (as a setting!)
World War II was a time of great conflict, evil, and tragedy—but it was never boring. Young men gambled their lives on new technology, bad intel, and the unshakable hope that good would win, because Naziism was—and still is—the ultimate evil. Nothing says “hero” like the willingness to give your life so that others may live, and when you’re sacrificing your life fighting against people who think everybody but them should die, well, heroic achievement unlocked. Everybody wants in on that fight. There are so few absolutes in the world—joining in the struggle against evil creates an absolute good, and a hero we can root for.
It also came just after a time of sexual awakening—and that’s fun too. Although the pill hadn’t been invented yet, the girls in the movies at least were allowed a lover or two and maybe an extra husband before they found the love of their life.
Yes, they were forced to prove themselves as equals, but many of them did, and as equals they had choice. A pretty girl working for the OSS didn’t have to fall for the first smooth talking flyboy who came her way—and she didn’t have to be shy about it either. Add some female independence and the ability to be fierce, to fly into danger, to nurse the wounded, to hold rank or a wrench, and the women were compatriots to the men in bravery and duty and more than a match for the men who loved them.
And everybody was so scared. The stakes were so high. Taking a headfirst leap into intimacy tonight because you might fly to your death in the morning seemed only logical.
And the hope, the beautiful hope, that you might wake up next to this person in the morning in a distant future is the thing that might keep your heart beating long after the odds failed you, and you were left facing the chaos alone.
Amy's latest novel, Familiar Angel, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook, and Twitter.
Wayne Jordan - I Heart the 1960s
I love the 1960s. It’s not only the decade I was born in (1962), but the decade of events that I find totally fascinating.
The Civil Rights Movement is the one definitive event that impacted me when I was a teenager. While I did not recognize its impact until I was in my late teens, I remember my heart breaking, bit by bit, when I discovered what blacks in the USA had continued to endure and suffer during that decade, despite the abolition of slavery. Most of all, I lauded the courage of those individuals who fought for respect, equality and justice.
In Barbados, it was the decade when our island gained its independence from England. We now had our own national anthem, our own flag and motto, ‘Pride and Industry’- a motto that has guided my life and my own dreams. It was the decade in which our first Prime Minister brought free education to all Barbadians, when black and white could enter any school on the island and be given a free education. In 1972, when I entered secondary school as a ten-year-old, I did not recognize the importance of that right. More than forty years later, I have a B.A. and a M.A., and teach at one of the leading schools on the island. In 1966, our independence made that possible for me and generations of Barbadian children.
So why would I want to set a romance against this background of ugliness? It was the decade in which unity and love were important; the decade in which strong men and women needed love the most…because it was love that kept them focused on the fight without losing their sanity. Promise Me a Dream is set in the 1960s, but I am so fascinated by the decade, I will definitely write more against that background.
I remember watching the shows, “I’ll Fly Away” set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and “American Dreams” set in the 1960s. Both shows impacted me, showing the cruelty of the decade with its racism and prejudice. But it also showed me that the struggle, our struggle, was not only a struggle for black men and women, but those white brothers and sisters who recognized that our struggle was not only ours, but theirs as well.
The 1960s was the decade of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, both assassinated for leading the fight for equality and justice and challenging the system. It was the decade of the “I Have Dream” speech and Dr. King’s cry from the mountaintop.
The 1960s was the decade in which I was born, but it was also the decade that helped to define who I am….
Wayne's latest release, Uncover Me, is out now. He is also part of the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance project. For more information about him and his writing, follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Lauri Robinson - I Heart the Wild West
I enjoy writing and reading books from many different genres and eras, but must admit, cowboy heroes are my favorite. It might be because I grew up watching westerns on TV and like many other girls growing up when I did, my first boyfriend was Little Joe Cartwright—he just never knew it. Although I enjoy contemporary cowboys, historical ones are my favorite.
To me, an historical cowboy isn’t just a man wearing boots and a Stetson. He created a way of life, and a breed all his own.
Here are a few reasons:
Cowboys respect women. They throw their coats over mud puddles, open doors, and offer protection because it’s embedded in them.
They have faith. In God, the land, animals, and other people.
Humility. The limelight isn’t for them.
They are spendthrifts, until it comes to their horse and gear. Conservative, too, and not just with money. This includes words, deeds, beliefs, and politics.
Protectiveness runs strong in them—over their loved ones, animals, and the land. Don’t mess with a cowboy because he will fight to the death.
Music. There’s always a song in a cowboy’s heart.
And that heart—He wears it on his sleeve, although he’d never admit it. His heart is as well-used as his hands, scared and covered with calluses, but when he gives it away, it’s for a lifetime.The strong silent type. They’d rather communicate through actions. A cowboy doesn’t throw words around, especially ones he doesn’t mean.
Critters—they have to have more than one. Horses are a must, but so are dogs.
Cowboys are simple men, down to earth, and utterly loveable—when they want to be. A heroine, lucky enough to have a cowboy fall in love with her, is one lucky gal.
Lauri's latest release, Western Christmas Brides, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Carla Buchanan - I Heart the 1950s
Writing historical romance allows me to delve into history in an interesting and entertaining way. Especially writing about the years surrounding the civil rights movement. I love this era, because there was so much change and there are so many memorable moments to highlight and challenging situations for my characters to face while trying to fall in love.
In an upcoming novella I have coming out, Pride and Passion, I chose the 1950’s as the decade I wanted to write about. I chose this decade not because of what I already knew, but because of what I didn’t know. I knew the research would help me discover those facts I never knew existed to make my story more interesting and provide myself with a history lesson I think we all need every once and a while.
Not only did my love of discovery draw me to the 1950s. I also wanted to see what it was like when my father was a child. He was five in 1950 and I’ve heard stories about picking cotton, missing school to work on a farm, and the military being so enticing when the other choice was to continue to work on a farm. It’s crazy that this was the story of a lot of men, especially those from small towns looking for a way out.
I loved, and continue to love, exploring every one of the somewhat less glorious parts of the 1950s. I love to show how average people, from small towns like the one I was raised in, related to what was going on during that time.
There is one thing I love most of all, and that’s when someone reads the book and they say, “oh, I didn’t know that,” about a fact. Those words make my day!
Carla's latest release, Return to Passion, is out now. She is also part of the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance project. For more information about her and her writing, check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Michelle Styles - I Heart Vikings
Why do I love writing Viking Romance? Let me count my top four ways:
1) The milieu – that is the chance to hold a dark mirror to our current society and explore some themes that might be impossible to explore in a contemporary romance. The Viking Age, that period between 793 and 1066 CE was a violent age. It was the real dawn of Europe as the proto-European states were formed. It was a clash of civilizations with all attendant emotions.
2) The settings — it means I can set my work in gorgeous countryside such as the Western isles of Scotland, the windswept moors of Northern England or the rugged countrys