Evangeline Holland

Sweeping Drama ⚜ Larger than Life History ⚜ Exquisite Romance ⚜ Diverse Perspectives
September 18th, 2013 by Evangeline Holland

Historical Romance Week: Tasha B. – Five Historical Settings I’d Love to See More Of

Historical Romance Week

As a reader I’m a big believer in variety and, as a student of history, I know there are a ton of settings and time periods ripe for generating the romantic dramz. I love the 19th- and early-20th centuries (that was my focus in grad school), but what about the other million-ish years of human history? Here’s a short list of some of the historical settings I’d love to see more of in romantic fiction:

Colonial or Early America

When I was a young’un, it seemed like there were a lot of novels set in the American colonies or around the time of the American Revolution. Laura Lee Guhrke’s The Charade, for instance, was a fun spy novel; and Barbara Michaels’ Patriot’s Dream dealt with interracial romance and the struggle for equality. The colonial era is a great setting because you have a society that’s still in transition with a bunch of different cultures interacting, and there numerous resources available for research, both online and in museums. It was an exciting time period when people actually had the chance to make history! So why aren’t there more books with this setting being published? Idk…


Admittedly, prehistory can be a hard sell, because despite what I’ve heard some archaeologists say (coughRandallWhitecough), we don’t really know that much about it. Bronze jewelry, standing stones, and a frozen dude or two does not a complete picture make. Which means studying this time period is challenging—if you’re writing nonfiction. But fiction? You could do anything! Speculate wildly! Include actual magic, gods and goddesses, epic warfare, even take a page out of the History Channel’s book and add aliens. It’s like the Doctor Who of historical settings.



I am a big, big fan of Jade Lee’s Tigress series, which is set in 19th-century China. Lately there have been a few more historical romances set in China, like Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords, but we need more books that take place here! China’s history is long (going back to the Paleolithic, over 1.3 million years ago) and fascinating, and eras such as the murky Xia Dynasty, the Warring States Period, and the Qin Dynasty offer plenty of unsolved historical mysteries to inspire writers.

Tsarist Russia

Some of the greatest tragic love stories ever written were by Russian authors, from Anna Karenina to Doctor Zhivago. So why not twist that formula up and write a happy Russian love story? (I know, since they’re Russian no one would believe it. But Ninotchka has a happy ending and that’s a really good romantic comedy, too.) Tsarist Russia has everything: snow, fur hats, insane—and insanely—wealthy aristocrats, a strict class system. It’s the perfect recipe for drama and glamour, like Gossip Girl but set in Moscow.

The Roses of Heliogabalus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Ancient Mediterranean

How can you go wrong setting a book in the same place as the Iliad and the Odyssea? YOU CAN’T. Ancient Mediterranean (or AnMed) could include anything from Pompeii to Greece to Ancient Egypt and Carthage. Heroines could include the Delphic Oracle, a Vestal Virgin, or a nomadic tribe woman. Heroes could include anything from actual heroes, a la Achilles, to barbarian warriors or pharaohs. Plus it offers plenty of opportunity for metaphors of modern life and the course of civilization. Also! Like Colonial America, there are a ton of resources for learning about the setting and time period.

What different settings would you love to see in historical romances? Do you have any book suggestions for romances set in usual time periods?

Biography: Tasha B. is a freelance writer, art historian, and bibliophile who blogs about books at Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books. She will work for champagne and then tweet about it: @heidenkind. She can also be found at Book Bloggers International, Project Gutenberg Project, Liquid Persuasion

, and

Nowhere Bites.


17 Responses to “Historical Romance Week: Tasha B. – Five Historical Settings I’d Love to See More Of”
  1. Every once in a while I see a review of a histrom set in ancient Greece or Rome (though I’ll admit, I’ve never read one), but I’m dying for one set in ancient Egypt. I’d also love to read a histrom set in pre-colonial India.

    • I’ve read a few romances set in ancient Rome, and it seems like they get a lot of good buzz and then disappear. Lots of fascinating history in Pre-Colonial India!

  2. Janine Ballard says

    Personally I’d love to see more of France and Italy and Japan in historical romances.

  3. Count me in the group that wants more of ancient rome/greece. Love that time period. I also would love more books set in China or Egypt during the regency period.

  4. Caspette says

    Yes I agree with all those. Maybe we need to partition publishers?

  5. pamela1740 says

    As an erstwhile art historian I’ve always felt like there weren’t enough good romances set in the Renaissance – southern Europe, that is. Tudors and Plantagenets have a slight edge over Borgias and Medicis, at least in terms of romance as opposed to historical fiction – but there aren’t a lot of books with Renaissance themes within the genre. Great post – I agree about the Colonial US setting! I always seek them out, but since it’s a favorite period my feeling is you can never have enough/too many. I have enjoyed some recent and/or re-issued novels with pre-Revolutionary settings (or back story) from Pamela Clare and Elizabeth Hoyt. Donna Thorland is on the very top of my TBR.
    This is a great week of posts on one of my favorite themes!

    • Very true! The only Renaissance Italy books I’ve read have been historical fiction, and honestly I didn’t enjoy them that much. Perhaps part of the problem is that popular history is so overwhelmingly focused on the activities of men during this time period, especially when it comes to art history.

      Have you seen the movie Dangerous Beauty? That’s a romance (of sorts) set in 16th-century Venice.

      • pamela1740 says

        Shoot, I can’t remember if I’ve seen that film or not! And I even just looked at the IMDB page. It sounds vaguely familiar, and I do love Rufus Sewell.

        I like your theory about the focus on the individual male genius as dominant theme in both history and historical fiction about the Italian Renaissance. Starting with Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, popular media has almost exclusively focused on the Old Masters. Maybe someone should turn art history all on its head and come up with an Old Masters BDSM erotica series set in Florence under Cosimo de’Medici! or Isabella d’Este for that matter… 😉

        • Considering that we know/suspect several of the most famous artists of the time were homosexual, that would be fitting!

  6. I adore books set in Russia. I really enjoyed The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak and Kate Furnivall’s books set in Russia. My ancestors were Germans who settled in Russia during Catherine the Great’s reign (around 1764), so I’m very interested in it.

    I am also fascinated by the American Revolution – I really want to write a book set during this conflict some day. In the 80s, there were quite a few historical romances set during this time period. I agree with you – bring them back!

    • Were they Volga Germans, perchance?

      It’s strange how the American historical romances kind of faded out of popularity. There were a lot of good Civil War-era ones, too.

  7. I want to see some romances set in Constantinople/Istanbul in both the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. That area is one of the world’s major historical and cultural crossroads–there’s so many stories that could be told.
    (And if we’re getting really crazy, I’d love to see a story with an actual Turkish hero and some stories that aren’t choked with Orientalism.)

    • Oooh, that is a GENIUS idea! I’d love to read a book set there, Especially during one of the iconoclast periods–tons of story potential there.

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