History as Written by the Victorias: Tessa Dare on Love in a Bygone Era
A former librarian and lifelong book lover, Tessa Dare is a bestselling author and the two-time recipient of the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award. Her new book, The Duchess Deal, sweeps readers away to Regency-era England, where fiery Emma Gladstone accepts a truly bizarre marriage proposal from the brooding Duke of Ashbury. Goodreads asked Dare to share her thoughts on the timeless appeal of historical romance.
Like many romance readers, I fell in love with the genre when I was a teenager. I cut my teeth on Jane Austen and Julie Garwood—and went on to devour every long-ago-and-somewhere-else romance novel my suburban public library had to offer. Somewhere along the way, my notions of romance became inextricably linked with corsets and carriages, kilts and cravats. Historical romance was not only my jam, but my conserves and blancmange, too.
Julia Quinn, Loretta Chase, or Laura Kinsale novels offers just enough fantasy that I feel transported to another place and time while also including characters and relationships that resonate as real.
In a historical romance, chivalry is not only not lost—it's practically a profession! Love letters are written with quill and ink, while modern romances are negotiated in emojis. And the clothes! Oh, the clothes. All those buttons and laces and petticoats. Historical romance is, in a word, swoon-y.
But my absolute favorite thing about historical romance isn't the swoons. It's the subversiveness.
Romance is largely written by women, for women—and it puts women at the center of the story. When I think back to my beginnings as a romance reader, my high school curriculum was The Scarlet Letter, Madame Bovary, and Hamlet. Masterworks of literature, all three, but the women don't fare well. It came as a profound relief to stumble upon these novels in which the heroines pursued goals, fell in love, and took ownership of their sexuality—without being shunned, drowned, or poisoned with handfuls of arsenic for it! What a revelation.
A happy, fulfilled woman shouldn't be an elusive unicorn wandering the dense thickets of historical fiction. They say history is written by the victors? Well, historical romance lets the Victorias have their say. Women in all eras have worked, loved, resisted, persisted, and survived…to live happily ever after.
That's what I love to write and read, and it's what I personally intend to do, with all regards to Ophelia.
Tessa Dare's The Duchess Deal hit bookshelves on August 22. Add it to your Want to Read shelf here.
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