What exactly is a historical romance?

A historical romance is essentially a romance set in a different historical period. There is no rule about which period—Ancient, Medieval, 18th century, Regency, Victorian, Gilded Age—but choose carefully, for reasons I’ll explain in the research section.

More important than a particular period is the commitment to writing a ROMANCE. If you’re already a reader of the genre, you know what that means:

  • Love is the fundamental object of the story
  • Your two protagonists (sometimes three) must have a happily ever after (hereafter abbreviated to HEA), or happy for now

This is distinct from historical fiction with romantic elements. Many/most stories contain some element of romance, but to be truly classified as a historical romance, your story must revolve around (for the sake of argument) two people falling in love and eventually being together.

In essence, if your goal is to elucidate some principle, bring a little-known historical figure to life, explore social and political movements, then you’re probably not writing romance.

More than one way to get the couple together

While heterosexual Regency romance is often what springs to mind immediately, more than a little research reveals queer history in the period, and gender-bending characters were not unheard of. Basically, as long as you’re within the conventions of the genre, you can give your protagonists any kind of sexual preference.

That leads into the fact that historicals can be as sweet or steamy as any other sub-genre. This course doesn’t cover writing sex scenes, but many readers love them, and they can be open-door or closed-door, just as in any other novel.