Genres change over time, and some genres, like the traditional Regency, and the gothic, once titans of romancelandia, are now in the shadow of other subgenres, like the ever present Regency historical, or romantic suspense and paranormal romance. Since we in the US have just celebrated Independence Day, it seems only natural to look at Americana Romance.
If the term, “Americana,” causes you to scratch your head and wonder what on earth that could mean, you aren’t alone. Once upon a time, however, there was a subgenre of historical romance, of American historical romance, for that matter, called Americana,
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines Americana as:
materials concerning or characteristic of America, its civilization, or its culture; broadly : things typical of America. materials concerning or characteristic of America, its civilization, or its culture; broadly : things typical of America; American culture.
American culture, especially lately, can mean a whole lot of things, and it certainly isn’t relegated to the past. Ours is an ever changing country, built on the contributions of native-born and immigrant alike, so it stands to reason that there are a lot of stories from America’s past, an endless flow of love stories, specifically, that remind us that America is not built upon one culture, but many. Let’s take a look at a few.
But, Anna, I hear some of you saying, Carla Kelly is one of the Regency romance legends, all the way back to those traditional Regencies and beyond. That is one hundred percent true, and she very much deserves a place on this list, as she brings a different angle to western historical romance, weaving in the history of her own faith, that of the Latter Day Saints.
Also falling under the category of own voices romances (a topic of its own, for another post) is the fabulous Beverly Jenkins and Forbidden, the first in her Old West series, where a hero who is passing for Caucasian falls in love with an African-American woman who is not, which, in the wake of the Civil War, is not the easiest thing in the world. Talk about tough choices to make, but love, as it always does in romance, will surely show the way. Ms. Jenkins, a passionate advocate of romance in general has also written about the historical African-American experience in earlier eras, on the high seas, and in the modern day, as well.
Yes, I am beating the Danelle Harmon drum again, because A) she is one of my all time favorite authors, B) her latest novella, Never Too Late For Love, not only features a seasoned couple (both over fifty) but showcases the very heart of Americana. Sure, westerns are an important part of the historical romance canon on this side of the pond, but there has always been plenty of interesting stuff going on along the east coast as well. Harmon’s Merricks and their in-laws show us a slice of life in nineteenth century Massachusetts and Maryland, places that have loads of territory yet to explore.
No discussion of the current state of Americana romance would be complete without mentioning Joanna Shupe. Another writer who, like Kelly and Harmon, knows her way around a Regency ballroom, there is more than enough glitz and glamour to give Almack’s a rum for its money, in the Gilded Age of old New York. With the very very rich, side by side with the very very poor, in a time of rapid advancement in finance, commerce, science, politics, and more, the atmosphere is downright combustible, and each romance truly one for the history books.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. What comes first to your mind when you hear the term American historical romance? Do you have a favorite? What sort of American historical romance would you most like to see? Pull up a chair in the comment section, and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.