Romance Writer’s of America gives guidelines as to what constitutes the genre of “Romance” and the many sub-genres that go along with it. It’s basically two points, and I quote: A central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending. You get the drift. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Have a few obstacles along the way, and live happily ever after.
What about historical fiction novels with romantic elements? Are they worth the read too? The definition of historical fiction, which is a sub-genre of literature, is set in the past and “characterized chiefly by an imaginative reconstruction of historical events and personages.” (i.e., dictionary.com)
If you’re willing to take the “central love story” but not kill the author for the ending, they can be a satisfying read. Not all historical fiction books have happy or optimistic endings. Stories of kings and queens and the people they loved were largely influenced by their inherited duties and roles. Two of Isabella’s daughters, for instance, were married off for political alliances to men in other countries. One of those daughters was Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII.
One particular book recently released by C. W. Gortner, The Queen’s Vow, has caught my eye. It’s about Isabella of Castile as a young woman. I read an earlier work of his entitled The Last Queen about Joanna of Castile, who was one of Isabella’s daughters who married Philip the Handsome (yes that was his name) the Duke of Burgundy.
A few years ago, I got caught up in Joanna’s story of undying love for her adulterous husband. Definitely not a happy ending, so don’t put it on your historical romance shelf if you think you’ll throw it against the wall when you read the last page. If you’re curious about her, just Google her name and read her sad story of going mad because of her love for Philip. And if that piques your interest, there is a wonderful foreign movie, Juana la Loca (Joanna the Mad). It’s dubbed in English, but well worth the watch. It’s a difficult movie to find, but I’ve seen a few copies on eBay for sale. There are also clips on YouTube if you want to check them out.
If you’re interested in book tour sites for the genre, check out Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. The Historical Novel Society regularly posts reviews, although they don’t review all books they receive (raises hand because one of mine was rejected). They tend to focus on traditionally published novels. Regardless, love can be found in historical fiction as well and be an enjoyable read that satisfies with a history lesson.