Romantic fiction, Georgian style
My new book, Wanted, a Gentleman is set in 1805, with a hero, Theo Swann, who runs a Lonely Hearts magazine and writes Gothic romance on the side. These sound like very 1970s sort of jobs, but Lonely Hearts go way back (I’ve written about them elsewhere on this tour) and the “romance” novel has a long and complicated history.
At first ‘romance’ meant, basically, ‘a fictional adventure story’, and it hung on to that meaning for a while. The Monk: A Romance by Matthew Lewis (1796) includes rape, torture, incest, murder, the Inquisition, selling one’s soul to Satan, the heroine’s baby starving to death, lifelong misery for everyone, and the main character’s six-day agonising death described in loving detail. I’m pretty sure it’s not eligible for a RITA.
Notwithstanding, this was the period when the basis of what we would call a romantic novel was being laid down. Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740) included many of the tropes we still love—class conflict, rake/virgin, alphahole hero redeemed(ish) by love, HEA. 1764 saw the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, with persecuted heroine, wronged hero, family secrets, sinister villainy, ghosts, and a love affair (spoiler: no HEA). In 1789 Mrs Radcliffe wrote her first Gothic romance, featuring a central love plot with a happy ending, and a genre burst into bloom. So much so that, by 1798, Jane Austen was already writing a satire of the genre’s many accepted tropes (though Northanger Abbey wouldn’t be published for another two decades).
So by 1805 the Gothic romance-as-we-know-it is a thing, the romantic novel is going gangbusters, there is a thriving publishing business serving a big, voracious, much-mocked but economically powerful readership mostly seen as female. Nothing much changes, does it?
My hero Theo pens Gothic romances in the spare moments of his day job. He’s very much writing for the money, as he does everything for the money. But Theo has a lot to learn, about what he writes, and what he wants to write, and the reasons for doing what he does—and all those chickens start coming home to roost when Martin St Vincent drags him off on a breakneck chase to catch a runaway heiress before she reaches Gretna Green with her beloved.
Because when a “churn ‘em out” Gothic romancer finds himself not just acting a part in a romance trope, but falling in love himself…well, it’s possible that only romance novels can save him now.
Wanted, a Gentleman is published by Riptide on 9th January.
By the good offices of Riptide Publishing
KJ Charles’s new Entertainment
WANTED, A GENTLEMAN
Or, Virtue Over-Rated
the grand romance of
Mr. Martin St. Vincent . . . a Merchant with a Mission, also a Problem
Mr. Theodore Swann . . . a humble Scribbler and Advertiser for Love
Act the First:
the offices of the Matrimonial Advertiser, London
where Lonely Hearts may seek one another for the cost of a shilling
Act the Second:
a Pursuit to Gretna Green (or thereabouts)
a speedy Carriage
sundry rustic Inns
a private Bed-chamber
In the course of which are presented
Romance, Revenge, and Redemption
Deceptions, Discoveries, and Desires
the particulars of which are too numerous to impart
KJ Charles Biography
KJ Charles is a writer of mostly m/m historical romance, sometimes with fantasy. She has won several Rainbow Awards for her work and twice been voted Best LGBT+ Romance in the All About Romance annual poll. She is published by Loveswept and Samhain.
KJ is also a RITA-winning editor with twenty years’ publishing experience as a commissioning and line editor. She worked primarily in romance and children’s fiction, and is now freelance.
She lives in London with her husband, two kids, a wildly overgrown garden, and a cat with murder-management issues.
Connect with KJ:
- Website: www.kjcharleswriter.com
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/kj.charles.9
- Twitter: @kj_charles
- Tumblr: kjcharleswriter.tumblr.com
To celebrate the release of Wanted, A Gentleman, one lucky winner will receive $20 in Riptide Publishing credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on January 14, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Please note, it’s one winner for the entire tour, not just at Smexy Books.