07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Swimming Upstream, or Bucking a Romantic Cliché

Here’s the thing…

Romantic clichés come under two headings: what the uninformed THINK romance stories are about, and what they EXPECT romance stories to be about.

The THINK part is easy, and pretty much goes across all romance genres: ripping bodices, sex, handsome men, sex, flawless heroines, sex, exotic settings, sex, fantastic fashions, sex, and then ~ there’s the sex. And always guaranteed is the Happily Ever After, cheesy or not.

The EXPECT part gets a little narrower, especially when it comes to Historical Romance (which happens to be what I write). Here, you get the Regency period (which, I don’t write) with British words like “Ton” spoken by rakish dukes, innocent would-be duchesses, nasty earls, and grasping uncles. Think Jane Austin on steroids.

Or, you have countless kilted warriors (which, I don’t write either): tall, muscular Scots with long red hair, impervious to cold and rain, swashing around with their longswords (pun intended) and dropping the T from the end of “Not” with their thick brogues, calling everyone “lassie.”

Catch any clichés there? *wink*

The reality is that there ARE stories that fit these clichés. Good ones, even. They are popular in part because they are familiar and comfortable ~ and what many of us cut our romance-reading teeth on. After all, America was very heavily populated by immigrants fleeing from, or being thrown out of, England, Scotland and Ireland. We speak (mostly) the same language, and generally have the same cultural values.

But there are a lot of us who have broken away from this mold, and taken our historicals from the Bronze Age through World War II. We also moved them out of England and Scotland in the process, placing our characters on other continents and in less-well-known cultures. Places not as familiar to the average American reader.

What an uphill battle this has proved to be! Who knew? Not every reader is willing to step out and try something different. Those who do, however, are reaping interesting and imaginative rewards by the pageful. Dark-eyed Indian Rajas from Mumbai, powdered and beautifully coifed Geishas from Japan, muscular Roman soldiers building a wall.

Though I cannot prove any Norwegian ancestors directly, my DNA is “100% Northern European” ~ and with four grandparents with English, Scots, Irish, and German surnames I figure I am most definitely Viking spawn. As if the Scots and German weren’t enough, throw in some Norse and I can be a bit stubborn. No, really.

So, dang it, I am going to succeed with my Norwegian heroes. Big, blond, buff and beautiful, with eyes the color of seawater, and the blood of their Viking ancestors flowing through their veins.

Can you feel it?

It’s time to buck a few clichés. Go on, swim upstream. You’ll see ~ the water is wonderful.


Judith Ashley said...

Well done, Kris! Love the picture and caption...it is true readers purchase a book with expectations. It is one way I travel back in time to other parts of the world. I learn, from those authors who do their research, so much about another culture, another period in the world's past. Having a Danish paternal grandfather and English and Irish on my mother's side of the family as well as my maternal grandmother's, I can feel the call of the Northern European Viking ancestors.

Kris Tualla said...

If only the Big 5 publishers could understand that readers want VARIETY!!! ;)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

There certainly isn't anything cliche about your wonderful stories, Kris. I fell in love with Brander in the first books about him and will follow him to the ends of the earth. Yep, I, too, have a lot of that Viking blood raging through my veins and proud of it. Just don't stop pushing water uphill - ever!!

Kris Tualla said...

Thanks, Paisley! <3

Sarah Raplee said...

I am one of a legion of readers who look for something different in my historical picks! I LOVE your books, Kris!

Another book I'll never forget was set in the ancient Mideast. The heroine was a widowed perfume maker. The hero was someone else's slave who had earned his freedom.

Most of the Regencies and Scottish Highlander books I've read have become a blur after so many. Give me something interesting and new!