by Hannah Rossiter
When you put the words ‘historical’ and ‘romance’ together, the first thing that usually springs to mind is Regency. But what if you’re interested in historical romance that isn’t set in the years between 1811 and 1820? And what if you are?
Here at Harlequin we’re open and eager to publish an array of different historical periods, with an eclectic cast of characters.
So, what do we want to see in submissions from aspiring authors?
Goes without saying… Regency (but with a twist)!
Authors can be incredibly creative, writing fresh takes on classic tropes, and we want to see more of those! Peppered with historical references, dashing dukes, and independent heroines, our Regencies don’t often have a damsel in distress who doesn’t have an independent thought in her head, desperate to be saved by a rich, powerful man. Sometimes she saves him! Sometimes they save each other.
We would be keen to see a wider range of diverse or underrepresented characters in our Regency and Victorian romances, to better reflect the UK as it actually was in the 1800s. Take, for example, the film Belle with Gugu Mbatha-Raw. It is the story of Dido Belle, the mixed-race daughter of a Navy Captain and an enslaved African woman from the West Indies who has been brought to England and thrust into Georgian Society.
The era of advancement, during the years 1820 to 1914, is a great setting for characters involved with industrialisation (the railways, the factories, the mills), and development (the Great Exhibition took place in 1851).
Also, the Suffragettes changed women’s rights forever. In this post-Me-Too world, who better to take inspiration from than the original instigators who demanded equality for the sexes. After all, isn’t this what our Harlequin books have been saying all along?
Whilst we no longer publish Historical Westerns, think about the influx of new money from abroad (e.g. the gold rush) into certain parts of society and how this disrupted centuries-old hierarchies!
Start thinking, are there events that took place that we don’t traditionally read about?
The Vikings have a rich history in trading, sailing, exploring, and even pillaging and generally being hardcore adventurous heroes and heroines. Whether it’s about warriors or shield maidens, they usually feature very strong characters and they’re always popular!
Medieval Chivalric Romances of gallant knights embarking on a quest have been around for centuries, always with a beautiful, tempting damsel thrown into the mix. Placing heroism in the very centre, these stories raised the question: can you be a hero without someone to save?
But ask yourself this: what if the damsel doesn’t want to be saved…? Enter Harlequin Historicals.
The period of rebirth had its foundations in 14th century Florence, spreading global exploration and artistic revolution throughout Europe.
Think of the royal courts and households of Europe as the basis for your romance. Lords and ladies battling for position and favour (War of the Roses, anyone…?), lady’s maids and squires creeping through corridors, meddling in scandal. Oh, the possibilities!
More recent historical periods we’re willing to try: Now that we’re in 2020, we’re considering extending the parameters of the series into the 1950s. The Cold War, Civil Rights, and the start of the Space Age could all inspire the next generation of Historical Romances, even if it’s a time within living memory for many!
Over the years the series has featured a wide variety of other periods, from Conquistadors in South America to Ancient Rome to flappers in the 1920s. These may not have as broad appeal as some of those mentioned above, but there is a bit of room for great stories from less familiar time periods.
There are dozens of potential avenues your writing could take if you decide to write historical romance, but if we have one piece of advice for you it’s this: bring something fresh and different to the series, whether that is voice, characters, and/or time period!
Keep the story highly focused on the central relationship, and tell us a gripping story with relatable and intriguing characters and deliver on the emotional and romantic intensity – and we’ll look forward to reading your submissions!
Please submit to Harlequin Historical via Submittable: https://harlequin.submittable.com/submit