Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Return of the Epic American-set Historical Romance by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Welcome back to History Undressed our regular first Tuesday of the month guest blogger, Kathleen Bittner Roth!

Today she's written a fascinating article for us on the resurgence of American-set romance historicals. And be sure to check out her books--she's got a new release at the end of this month!

The Return of the Epic American-set 

Historical Romance

by Kathleen Bittner Roth

We’ve all had this happen at one time or another—an urging or longing for a certain something or other that sneaks up on us and lingers until it settles in our bones. Before long, another person mentions the very thing we’ve been deliberating. Soon, we begin seeing or hearing about that certain something everywhere until a groundswell of popularity emerges. That’s what seems to be happening with the American-set historical romance. Remember those lush, sweeping, sagas full of romance, drama, sexual tension, excitement, family struggles, and plenty of twists and turns that spans time and geographic locations? Stories that kept us turning pages well into the night? 

Having grown somewhat weary of reading restrictive English-set ballroom scenes filled with rigid rules, where one dance too many often meant scandal or even a marriage proposal, I purposely set my first novel, The Seduction of Sarah Marks, in the English countryside, far from London. Immediately, I found I had greater latitude to create a viscount with a large and quirky but close-knit family whose members thought nothing of doing exactly as each pleased—rules be damned. To stir up the mix, I gave them a heroine who’d also been raised in the countryside, but with no memory to speak of, and opposite from this fun loving, raucous clan.

It wasn’t that I wanted Regency era romance to disappear. What I wanted was something with a broader range of settings and situations. So with my second book, I ventured even farther from London…India, to be exact. In A Duke’s Wicked Kiss, I wrote about a scandal that involved the illegitimate daughter of a duke and Indian royal mixing it up with a proper duke and master spy smack in the middle of a dangerous war. Once I’d finished writing the story and the contract signed, I found myself longing once again for those American sagas of old. When had the likes of Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers disappeared.
With my yearning running bone-deep, I contracted with Kensington Books for my American-set When Hearts Dare series which chronicles the enigmatic Andrews family, wealthy owners of a worldwide shipping empire.

 Celine, book one in the series spans time, cultures and locations, from lush New Orleans, across the plains and mountains of the wild west, to primitive but thriving San Francisco. Celine is a young widow who, in the wake of tragedy, seeks a new life on her own. While the turbulent love affair she enters into may heal her heart it’s certain to drive her into danger. 

Alanna, book two, begins in San Francisco and moves eastward and across two oceans when a high-spirited young woman intent on shedding a fiancĂ© handpicked by her social climbing parents embarks on a blazing love affair with a mysterious lone wolf. His quest to find his mother's murderer threatens their love—and their lives.
Josette, book three in the series which releases September 29th returns full circle, from San Francisco to the intriguing setting of bustling New Orleans during its peak of success. Josette is a steamy love story filled with a touch of mystery, bayous, and voodoo. A reviewer wrote that she hadn’t expected to like an American set historical romance, but ended up falling in love with both the story and the setting…“this is one of the best historical romances I’ve read in a while.”

My timing for writing American set historical romance couldn’t have been better and I am happy to report that three more books in the series will be upcoming. Alicia Condon, Editorial Director at Kensington Books (and my wonderful editor), firmly believes the American-set historical romance that explores a rich and lush history is set for an exciting comeback. According to Alicia, the book buyers are enthusiastic about this “fresh” kind of historical. 
A fresh kind of historical? For more than a century and half, the American-set historical romance had been the best seller, the favorite read of all time, beginning with Nathanial Hawthorne (1804-1864. His fiction works are considered part of the Romantic Movement). What new shape is the American Historical taking?
Romance evolves in response to changing circumstances of American life—political, social, and intellectual. In my opinion, what’s fresh and new about the resurgence of the American Historical is that there are conditional changes that have taken place in today’s society that will ultimately be reflected in the stories. The hero is allowed to be more vulnerable and sensitive, the woman more of a free-thinker and independent. I find this particularly exciting in the context of American-set historical romances that can range from WWII back to Colonial times.
Why a renewed interest in an American historical setting? We live in a global world filled with so much stress and chaos that the reader wants to slip back in time and into a bold story that spans our beloved country when it was relatively young; when it was a brave new world filled with hope, with people taking risks and building empires. Readers want stories filled with close-knit families rooted in heart-warming commitment and conviction. American historical settings are rich in the development of dreams and goals, and of creating legacies, which provides the author with a broad stroke of the artist’s brush when creating a world filled with love, loss and the depths and heights of human emotion.
There’s a new generation of romance readers who have never read historical romance set in America and are itching to do so. Look for the American-set historical romance with its amazing texture, its more original and less formula-driven plots to appear on bookshelves and in e-readers around the world. 


Once Kathleen Bittner Roth realized making a living was not the same as making a life, she blazed her own trail by founding a successful well-being center, walking on fire, marrying in a castle in Scotland, scuba diving in dangerous waters, and learning to ride her Arabian horse English style. She has somehow managed to live in six U.S. states and several foreign countries. Currently residing in Budapest, Hungary, she still keeps one boot in Texas and the other in her home state of Minnesota. Kathleen is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America®. She has been a guest numerous times on radio, television, and on various writing blogs. She has won or been a finalist in numerous writing contests, including the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart®.

You can find Kathleen on: 
Twitter: @K_BittnerRoth
Or by visiting her website at: www.kathleenbittnerroth.com.


Unknown said...

THis is so true! I love American-set historicals. And I love how you write about awesome places such as New Orleans and San Francisco - and INDIA! How cool is that!!! Anyone can write London-set Regencies. I learn so much about history, geography, and other cultures when I read your books. Write on, Kathleen.

Tammy Baumann said...

I just love these books, Kathleen. For all the reasons you pointed out, but also because they are thoughtful and well written! Congrats on the recent contracts!!