Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Reading (and writing) It Old School, part one

I came of age as a romance reader in the time of the big epic historicals that spanned years and continents and hero and heroine might even have to go through (at least) a spouse each before they were free to have their well earned HEA. I remember once thinking that I especially liked when the heroine had the couple's first child, because that meant we were in for the meat of the story with lots more still to come. It wasn't that uncommon to see the little sproglets grow through the book and have actual bearings on plot and character development. Neither were they automatically being set up for their own books.

These were the days of Small, Woodiwiss, Brandewyne, Busbee, McBain and Sherwood, to name only a few. Single titles rather than series were the norm, though there were exceptions. Jennifer Wilde's character, Marietta Danvers, was the heroine of three books, and not all with the same hero. Valerie Sherwood's Kells and Carolina swashed their buckle from colonial Virginia to the island of Tortuga through three big, thick books, and the same author's Imogene and VanRyker (not related to Kells and Carolina) had two and a half books, the other book and a half devoted to Imogene's presumed-dead-in-infancy daughter and her hero. Rosemary Rogers' Steve and Ginny had them all beat, with a whopping four books to their relationship before their daughter had a turn in the spotlight. Depending on how much one wants to quibble through a saga, Aola Vandergriff's Dan and Tamsen may well be the king and queen of the continuing stooooory, having lead or at least central roles in no less than six books of her Daughters series, following the tempestuous Tamsen and her sisters from late teens to old age and final days. Dan and Tamsen didn't have children, either.

Books of this era could often be termed heroine-centric, which suits me fine. A heroine might be beautiful, corageous and strong (none of those bad things) but by no means perfect in the Mary Sue sense. Shanna, from Kathleen Woodiwiss' novel of the same name, started out as a selfish spoiled brat, but there was room for change, and boy, did she. Plus she got Ruark. No bluebirds doing the hair of these gals, and I think it's high time they had a shot at the center stage once more. At least that's what I'm trying to do, and it's what comes most natural to me.


Kady said...

Honey, you're preaching to the choir here. I like some of today's style of storytelling, but there was just something about the old "bodice-rippers" that really grabbed me and I so want them back. Barring that, I continue to go back and re-read some of my old favorites every once in a while. Janet Leslie or Skye O'Malley can always give me a few hours of enjoyment.

Anonymous said...

Amen. Aola's Tamsen and Dan are my absolute favorite of all mentioned... and definitely king and queen of the continuing story. [I may be a bit biased since I was named for what I consider the greatest heroine. :)]


Anna said...

Tamsen, you were named for Tamsen in the Daughters books? How wonderful. I think that's a fantastic and very heroine-worthy name to have. Tamsen is definetly one of my all time favorite heroines.