Evangeline Holland

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

Historical Romance Week: Melissa Marsh – The Human Drama of WWII

Historical Romance Week

I’ve always been a sucker for historical romances. They were the first “grown-up” novels I read and through them, my deep love of history grew and expanded to include lots of different time periods. Over the years, I’ve researched and oftentimes become obsessed with the American Civil War, the Revolutionary War, the French Revolution, the Regency Period, Georgian England, and the list goes on. Naturally, I began to write fiction set during those different historical periods.

Oddly enough, however, I didn’t consider World War II to be much of a personal draw. Where were the gorgeous hooped skirts and horses and carriages? Pretty much nonexistent. I steered away from reading any historical novels set during that time period for a long time.

The Memphis Belle (1944) Then something changed. People have asked me when my interest in World War II began, and the nearest I can pinpoint it is to when I watched the Hollywood movie, Memphis Belle, about the B-17 bomber and her crew. That film sparked my interest. I would occasionally read historical fiction set during World War II, but I wasn’t “in love” with the time period yet. Years later, after I’d married and started a family, I decided to go to graduate school and earn my master’s degree in history. At first, I planned to compare women’s roles during the American and French Revolutions. I only had one problem: I didn’t know French, and to do any worthy research, I’d have to learn it. There simply wasn’t time for that (not with small children at home and a hopeless tin ear on my part when it came to learning language).

I wasn’t sure what to do, but then I decided to take a course in Nazi Germany. Suddenly, everything started clicking. I had a voracious appetite to learn anything and everything I could about World War II. I wanted to understand how this horrible conflict could have happened, how a country like Germany, infused with such a rich, vibrant culture, could be capable of putting a man like Adolf Hitler in power. I wanted to learn not so much about the battles, but about the men and women fighting those battles, whether they were nurses, soldiers, doctors, reporters, or war artists. What drove them? What compelled them to fight? How did the war shape their present and their futures? How did the people left behind on the Home Front react and cope? How did the wife go about her day-to-day life wondering if her husband was dead or alive? How did a soldier cope with receiving a “Dear John” letter right before he was sent to clear a nest of Japanese snipers?

Those are a historian’s questions, to be sure, but they are also a writer’s questions. Writers write about human drama, and there is certainly no shortage of human drama when it comes to World War II.

The Clock (1945)

Wartime romance movie The Clock (1945) – with Judy Garland and Robert Walker

And there is definitely not a shortage of romance. The marriage rate in the U.S. alone skyrocketed after the attack on Pearl Harbor. All over the world, romances bloomed between the unlikeliest of candidates. Some of them fizzled and died after the war ended; others endure today. How can we not want such gripping historical romance fare?

Yet for some reason, historical romances set in World War II are few and far between. But this appears to be an American phenomenon. Great Britain has a healthy, robust market for World War II romance. One could argue that this is because Great Britain was far more involved in the war than we were. After all, U.S. cities were not bombed every night for days on end as the British were. Neither did we have to worry about thousands upon thousands of Allied men coming to our shores to prepare for a massive invasion of the Continent. It is only natural that World War II should remain so vivid within their collective conscience.

I wish I could offer a few theories as to why American publishers are reluctant to “take a chance” on World War II historical romances, but I honestly don’t have any. There’s a plethora of straight historical fiction set during the war, but as far as straight historical romance, or historical romantic fiction, we’re lagging behind our British friends. A few historical romantic fiction novels have been trickling in here and there – Kristina McMorris is one who is bridging the gap – but we need more. In fact, I’d argue that publishers desperately need to open their minds to many, many other time periods. Offering readers a wide variety can only be a good thing. But perhaps that is another discussion for another day.

For my part, I intend to keep writing my World War II novels. I doubt I’ll ever run out of ideas, and though I also have ideas for novels set in other time periods (I’d love to do a lush, historical romance set during the American Revolution), I’m committed to seeing my World War II historicals traditionally published here in America. Why? Because I believe with all my heart that World War II is the perfect venue for the historical romance.

What do you think? Am I banging my head against a brick wall that will never break, or do you think the tides are beginning to turn when it comes to opening the door to different time periods in historical romances?

Biography: Melissa Amateis Marsh holds a BA and an MA in history with an emphasis on World War II. Her work has appeared in America in WWII magazine, Nebraska History, and several historical encyclopedias. Marsh is working on a history of the POW camps in Nebraska during World War II that will be published in 2014 with The History Press. You can find her on Twitter @WW2HistoryGal, Pinterest, and on her personal blog.

September 18th, 2013

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

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Nowhere Bites.

September 17th, 2013

Historical Romance Week: Kaia Alderson – My Search for Historical Heroines Who Look Like Me

Historical Romance Week

I have been a historical romance junkie since I stole my mother’s copy of Proud Breed by Celeste De Blasis when I was 10 years old. My mother, seeing that I had enjoyed the book I had “borrowed” so much, then turned me on to De Blasis’s Wild Swan series (which spans from Regency England through the U.S. Civil War and ends at the dawn of the 20th Century). Those books pretty much sealed the deal on me becoming not only a historical romance fan, but a junkie of all things historical for life.

Buffalo Soldiers Then my father gave me a copy of When Harlem Was in Vogue by David Levering Lewis when I was 12. (You mean there was more to African-American history than the slave ships and picking cotton? What!) I think I devoured that book in two days. My father then told me the stories behind Bob Marley’s song “Buffalo Soldier” and about other famous black people in the Old West like Wild Bill Pickett. From that point on, my trips to the local bookstore resulted in a variety of African-American history books and historical romances mixed in with my monthly Sweet Valley High fix. However, it never occurred to me to question why there weren’t any historical romances about women who looked like me. (Note: I am African-American.)

Winds of the Storm by Beverly Jenkins I stopped reading for fun while I was in college. As a result, I missed the very short lived “boom” of African-American historical romance authors in the mid-to-late 1990s: Jane Archer, Anita Richmond Bunkley, Gay Gunn, Shirley Hailstock, Beverly Jenkins and Mildred Riley. Luckily, I discovered Beverly Jenkins’s books in 2002. Reading her work re-ignited my forgotten addiction to historical romance. And what made Jenkins’s books so great was that she merged all of my reading addictions into each story she wrote.

I began hunting for other books like hers with a vengeance and came up with nothing. By that time, she was the only from that original group who was still publishing African-American historical romance. All those other novels were out-of-print. A few titles by other authors have been published in the eleven years since then. But, Beverly Jenkins is the only author who has been consistently publishing African-American historical romance to this day. So unlike my teen-aged self, I began wondering why there weren’t more historical romances about women who looked like me.

I informally asked some African-American authors about this lack of historical romances about us. The typical response was along the lines of “I’d like to write one but I don’t have time to do the research.” I am an aspiring author myself and I also came to the same conclusion.

Then, I had a conversation with one of my girlfriends about the portrayal of African-American women in reality television shows that somehow turned into a discussion about young African-American girls not knowing their history. After about 45 minutes of listening to me ramble off a litany of obscure facts about the accomplishments of African-American women during the first half of the 20th century, Heather stopped me. “Why aren’t you writing all this stuff down? This is what you should be writing about in your stories.”

I couldn’t use the “I don’t have time to do the research” excuse anymore. I realized that I had already done much of it during my teenage years (And I had done all that research for fun, no less). So thanks to Heather and a few other influences, I currently have three African-American historical romances in progress with settings as varied as 1920s France, 1910s Washington, DC and World War II era New York.

Yes, I’m now doing my part to help fertilize this romance subgenre desert by working on my stories. But that does nothing to satisfy me as a reader. And then that conversation about African-American girls not knowing their history continued to bother me. This is why I recently started a weekly blog called Aren’t I A Heroine?, the purpose of which is to talk about African-American women’s historical romance with other readers, to serve as an educational resource about African-American women’s history in general, and to encourage other authors to write more of the stories I love to read.

If you have any interest in reading or writing in these kind of romances, I have your back. A group of us readers have compiled a list of over 150 black historical romances and black women’s fiction this past summer. The blog contains information about the different settings, historical events and women who inspired these stories. There are references provided to get over that research hump as well as plot bunnies based on real-life romances. What more could you want?

Biography: Kaia Alderson is the self-proclaimed Head Historical Geek over Aren’t I A Heroine?, a weekly blog about African-American historical romance. Her favorite periods in African-American history are the Civil War and the Harlem Renaissance. She is a graduate of Spelman College and the University of West Georgia. When she is not exploring all the historical landmarks she can find in the southeastern United States, you can find her either reading a book or writing one. You can contact her at aahistoricalheroine [at] gmail dot com or follow her on Twitter @KaiaWrites