Thursday, April 3, 2008

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The first historical romances appeared in 1921, when Georgette Heyer began writing romances set during the English Regency period (1811-1820), when the Prince Regent ruled England in place of his ill father, George III. Heyer was inspired by Austen's novels. Although Austen had also written romances set in the Regency period, hers were contemporary novels, describing the times in which she lived. Because Heyer's writing was set in the midst of events that had occurred over 100 years previously, she had to include more detail on the time period in order for her readers to understand.[13] Unlike the other romance novels of the time period, Heyer's novels used the setting as a plot device. Her characters often contained more modern-day sensibilities, and more conventional characters in the novels would point out the heroine's eccentricities, such as wanting to marry for love.[14] Heyer was a prolific author, and write one to two historical romance novels per year until her death in 1974.[15]
Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower
Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower

The modern romance genre was born in 1972 with Avon's publication of Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower, the first romance novel "to [follow] the principals into the bedroom."[16][17] Aside from its content, the book was revolutionary in that it was one of the first single-title romance novels to be published as an original paperback, rather than being first published in hardcover, and, like the category romances, was distributed in drug stores and other mass-market merchandising outlets.[18] The novel went on to sell 2.35 million copies.[19] Avon followed its release with the 1974 publication of Woodiwiss's second novel, The Wolf and the Dove and two novels by newcomer Rosemary Rogers. One of Rogers's novels, Dark Fires sold two million copies in its first three months of release, and, by 1975, Publishers Weekly had reported that the "Avon originals" had sold a combined 8 million copies.[18] The following year over 150 historical romance novels, many of them paperback originals, were published, selling over 40 million copies.[19] Unlike Woodiwiss, Rogers's novels featured couples who travelled the world, usually were separated for a time, and had multiple partners within the book.[20]

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