by Annabeth Leong
I never seek out historical fiction. In fact, I confess to an inner sigh at the thought. There is something about the phrase "historical fiction" that seems like too much work to me.
Then I think about my favorite things, and the historical pieces start stacking up.
I'm not sure if Jean Roberta will be too modest to talk about her own work, but I love The Flight of the Black Swan madly. Not only is it hot and wonderfully shameless, it has one of my very favorite historical elements: boats. Women running off on boats has always been an instant sell to me, since way, way back, when I first read Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. If Amazon ever makes a bestseller list highlighting those titles, I will go bankrupt.
When I consider more deeply, I think part of it is that I'm not endlessly interested in every little detail. The clothes alone don't get me, nor do the events or the particular places. There are, however, things I really like. I'm interested in manners and protocols and the conflicts they create. Because of that, I've gradually had to admit a great weakness for regencies or anything Jane Austen-y.
While I'm plugging other people's books, here's another: Sense and Sensuality: Erotic Fantasies in the World of Jane Austen, edited by the excellent J. Blackmore.
A great deal of last week was dominated by a frantic and obsessive reading of Penelope Friday's Petticoats and Promises. This is, wonder of wonders, a lesbian regency romance. I am no expert, but it felt accurate to me, and did engage with issues of the scandal that would result if the romantic connection between the two main characters was discovered. It has some erotic scenes, but I'd say it's on the romance side of the line.
Anyway, as I was reading I kept thinking I would read the hell out of this genre if it was more of a genre. I even spent a couple days googling "lesbian regency romance" and various combinations thereof to see if I could find a list (and I'll gladly take recommendations in the comments!).
I think a lot of what I'm interested in is rebellion, no matter when or where it happens. It's particularly fascinating in a restrictive historical context. As people have pointed out, there are pitfalls to this. It's easy to understate the challenges characters are facing, or to overlook the way a character would likely think as a product of his or her time. When it's done right, it can make me ache and thrill.
My own historical writing is usually on that theme. I'm thinking about stories like The Miracles of Dorothea of Andrine, which I researched for extensively. It's deep in church politics, about a bishop investigating a woman who's been put forward as a candidate for beatification. What he finds, however, is that the woman in question has been heading a matriarchal Virgin Mary-worshipping sex cult.
I normally avoid advertising my own work here, but today is sort of fortuitous—it's the cover reveal day for Liquid Longing, which is a collection of many of my erotic speculative fiction stories and novellas. A lot of the pieces are set in fantasy versions of historical locations. In addition to the religious novella I already mentioned, there's also a piece set in ancient Tokyo, several stories set in ancient Greece, and one inspired by Mongolian legend. The cover artist put a lot of incredible research into creating the cover I'm posting here. Since I've already crossed the line, I'll also mention that I'm looking for people interested in reading advance copies of this book as well. Feel free to shoot me an email or ask me about it in the comments. I will warn that these stories are erotic, not romantic, and many of them are dark or taboo.
I feel like I've been incredibly scattered in this post, and I apologize for that (and for my lateness). I hope I'll get it together for a better essay-style thing next time! And I guess I should try to write an erotic story about a woman running off on a boat. :)