I’ve always had a rocky relationship with historical romance; there are some that make me gnash my teeth and want to throw the book at the wall. First, historical romance better be accurate. It drives me crazy when me (a so-so history student at best) spots inaccuracies. Second, there are social mores and cultural practices (arranged marriages, compromised virtue) that I have a hard time dealing with, feminist that I am. While I’m aware that these things are very real parts of history, that doesn’t mean I want to read about them in romance novels. There are others that I adore (Catherine Coulter, Amanda Quick anyone?)
I want high concept historical romance. I’d like to avoid virgins b/c they play into a lot of the cultural practices that turn me off. What I’d really like are well written, well-researched stories about intriguing periods of history that feature characters caught up in the thick of events. Susan Carroll does this with her brilliant book The Dark Queen. I devoured it b/c the writing was brilliant, the story exciting and the characters memorable. I’ve been reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series as well. I’m about ten years behind the curve, but those books are amazing. I’m currently reading a narrative non fiction about the Medici’s called Medici money. It’s about how the Medici family made their money in trade (gasp) as a banking family before they were patrons of the arts. I’m sure that would be a brilliant historical romance topic.
Hope this gives everyone some insight.