Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Allure of Medieval Romance

Yesterday, an article I wrote on the resurgence in medieval romance appeared in USA TODAY's Happy Ever After section. I thought you might like to read it--and I'd love to know your thoughts!

You can read it below and see it as it appeared HERE.

The Allure of Medieval Romance by Regan Walker

Medieval romance has been around for centuries. The love story of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere, as memorialized in Lancelot, le Chevalier de la Charrette, an Old French poem, written in the 12th century, and Wagner's composition of Tristan und Isolde are classics we never tire of. And, many of us read Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, set in 12th century England, when we were in school. It might surprise you to know that romance writing developed in Britain after the Norman Conquest and flourished right through the Middle Ages. But it just might be that medieval romance is experiencing a resurgence today.

On Amazon, for example, there are nearly as many medieval romance novels as there are historical romance novels. Many of the new ones are self-published, possibly because publishers haven’t been as interested in the subgenre. But some of the authors I have spoken with are making a good living off their medieval stories. Some are Amazon bestsellers. So, perhaps the publishers should take note.

Why do we love to read about that time when knights battled for their king and ladies swooned at their victories? Perhaps it is the notion of chivalry, a valuing of womanhood and virtues such as truth, honor and valor. A knight who rises to duty, and the maiden who would take her place at his side. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, he describes a knight as being distinguished in truth, honor, generosity and courtesy, who is both wise and modest. A nobility of spirit, not just a nobility of title and lands.

In today’s medieval romances, readers want good love stories, but they also want more. They want to experience a time when, putting on rose-colored glasses, a simpler life allowed for the graces and time for romantic love. A knight might woo his lady with love notes and gifts, and take a ride with her on his palfrey, not just swing by for a beer. And he will be saving her from certain peril at some point. With all the modern fiction available, full of crude language and ill treatment of women, readers are looking for a change. A look into the past, when women wore courtly gowns, their virtue was (generally) protected and a man’s honor was everything, is refreshing. Of course, the heroine must be intelligent and courageous. I don’t wonder if that is one reason Game of Thrones is such a popular TV series. Though not set in any particular time in history, it definitely has a medieval feel, and the females are among the strongest characters.

One of my fellow authors, Kathryn LeVeque, told me “more and more readers enjoy getting involved in a big medieval book for the adventure and romance.” According to Kathryn, “readers are 'over' vampires, werewolves, ghosts, shape-shifters, bad dukes and sinful earls.” According to her, “They like the thought of a virtuous knight sweeping them off their feet and a good, old-fashioned damsel in distress.”

I heard much the same thing at the Romance Writers of America when it comes to future trends in historical romance. It made me think medieval romance is about to experience a come back.
I was drawn to medieval romance myself, both as a reader and as an author. My earlier novels and stories were all set in the Regency era, though I would never have described them as “light” romances. (Each has real history and mystery as well as a love story.) But the deep past kept calling to me. It was an adventure to dive into the 11th century and take a look at England after the Norman Conquest. It wasn’t all a pretty picture, to be sure. No, indeed. William the Conqueror was a brutal king who treated his enemies despicably. But the knights in my story, The Red Wolf’s Prize, are of a noble bent, inclined to pay homage to womanhood, even if the hero does lust after the heroine. And of course, my heroine is brave and noble of heart, though her independence leads her into trouble. Since it’s a romance, you can expect conflict and difficulty, but in the end, even an English maiden will succumb to a Norman knight if he proves himself to be a man of valor and honor.

So, as you consider your reading options, take a look at the more than one thousand medieval romances available for your reading pleasure. And, please take a look at The Red Wolf’s Prize!


  1. I agree with you, Regan. I think medieval romance will make...or already is making a comeback. It's so nice you're getting in on the ground floor of the upsurge! :-)

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Janice. I have a few more in the Agents of the Crown series to write, but I expect to write at least two in the Medieval Warriors series and then, perhaps as a part of it, I want to tell the story of Somerled in the 12th century--the Lord of the Isles. I have been thinking about that since before my first novel!

  2. I love the cover of Red Wolf's Prize. It reminds me of the great cover artwork for HR from the 80s. I don't really like the 21st century-looking people in the photos that that we find as HR covers nowadays.

    1. Dear Anonymous...thank you so much for the complement on the cover of The Red Wolf's Prize. The classic covers was exactly what I was going for. Like you, I prefer the older covers that had much more emotion in them.

  3. I'm looking forward to reading this, Regan. In fact, I can't wait to get started. It looks fantastic. I love books with complex plots, especially historical romances. Thanks for posting this!

    1. You'll have to let me know how you like it, Cate!