Five things every historical romance novel should/shouldn’t have…

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After penning a few historical novels, I discussed this subject at length with fellow writers. Most agree on the following list. What do you think?


Compelling characters – Readers want to connect with your hero and heroine. Nothing determines the success/failure of a book more than the protagonists. Are they sympathetic enough? Believable? Do the secondary characters add to the plot and help story progression? Interestingly enough, a mentor of mine recently suggested that every antagonist needs redemptive qualities. I respectfully disagreed. It depends on their role. Is it purely self-serving or evil? If so, write their part appropriately. However, I agree most readers appreciate redemptive characters. Go with your gut feeling … there’s a place for both types.

Action – From the traditional Regency, to the Viking era, action contributes to story progression. And I’m not talking ballroom dancing. Give me lightning please, physical confrontation and adventure appropriate for the setting. Since I’m on a Viking kick at present, physical conflict is of paramount importance, of course, leave out any gratuitous violence please.

Limit subplots – Everyone (I think so) appreciates strong secondary characters, intrigue, and twists in a story from any genre. However, one of the most frequent complaints I see from readers concerns complicated subplots. I think this a problem for series authors. We thread ideas for our next book throughout our tales. Too much information takes away from the current storyline.

Love scenes – Is there an elephant in the room? Yes, I write steamy sex scenes. But just like action, too much may hurt the storyline. I know this particular facet is a matter of taste for writers and readers alike. Let the passion and love shine through, but for traditional historical romance, leave the smut out please.

Happily-ever-after – Most traditional publishing houses, great and small, agree on this. Give your hero and heroine a happy ending. If readers want heartache, they’ll frequent a different genre.

Follow Victoria Vane:

Romance Novelist

VICTORIA VANE is an award-winning author of smart and sexy romance with works ranging from wild comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Her books have received more than twenty awards and nominations to include the 2014 RONE Award for Treacherous Temptations and Library Journal Best E-Book romance of 2012 for The Devil DeVere series. She lives the beautiful upstate of South Carolina with her husband, two sons, a little black dog, and an Arabian horse.

20 Responses

  1. Maggi Andersen

    I agree, especially about the sex scenes. Sometimes keeping them in lust is more effective. I enjoy a good detailed sub-plot, but I think it works better when both hero and heroine are involved in it.

  2. annestenhouse

    Hi Violetta, Do agree about action. I hear so many readers complain about description slowing things up. anne stenhouse

  3. Harliqueen

    Great post and great tips, especially about happy endings. I always love a happy ending 😀

  4. allybroadfield

    Great list! The happily ever after at the a must have.

  5. Sandra Owens

    Great post, Violetta. Love those HEAs. Even when I know there’s a happily ever after (because it is a romance, after all) I’ll peek at the ending sometimes. 🙂