New Article: Reflections on Pornography and Romance from a Minotaur Milking Farm

By Laura Vivanco on

I know it's been a long time since I posted here. I've been mostly busy over adding entries to the Romance Scholarship Database. However, I do have a new article out, "Feeling Judged: Reflections on Pornography and Romance from a Minotaur Milking Farm", at the Journal of Popular Romance Studies. Here's the abstract:

In general, “pornography has been defined in terms of content (sexually explicit depictions of genitalia and sexual acts), lack thereof (materials without any redeeming artistic, cultural or social value), intention (texts intended to arouse their consumers) and effect (texts arousing their consumers)” (Paasonen, Nikunen and Saarenmaa 1). This article explores the relationship between pornography and romance via an examination of just one romance novel, C. M. Nascosta’s Morning Glory Milking Farm (2021), not because it is representative of the entire genre, but because its setting, plot, and characterisation facilitate such an exploration. Consensus seems unlikely to emerge as to whether or not romance fiction meets the criteria for classification as pornography. Even those works lacking explicit sexual content may be considered akin to pornography (‘emotional porn’) due to the genre’s focus on producing emotional responses in its readers.

As I mention in the article, it seems a particularly important time to think about the relationship between romance and pornography given that there has been a rise in book banning due to the presence of sexual content and some of the banned books have been romance novels. Here's the link again.

New Article: "Historical Accuracy, Racism, Courtney Milan, and The Duke Who Didn’t Conform to Genre Norms"

By Laura Vivanco on

I've had writers' block now for about a year, so I don't have any more academic work in progress. However, I did manage to get an essay through the peer review process and "Historical Accuracy, Racism, Courtney Milan, and The Duke Who Didn’t Conform to Genre Norms" is now freely available in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, volume 11 (here's the pdf).

By the time it got to the time to produce an abstract, I think I must have lost steam because it's very short:

This essay seeks to demonstrate that Courtney Milan’s The Duke Who Didn’t (2020) is a “novel of ideas” which challenges readers to examine the concept of “historical accuracy” and the racism that may be perpetuated by its invocation. The historical context in which the novel itself emerged is also examined.

However, over on Twitter I got a bit of help since one reader (@changhenge1) tweeted about it, saying that

This is an excellent paper! Really interesting look at that old 'historical accuracy' bugbear and what it means & represents. And especially excellent in using the narrative setup of The Duke Who Didn't to demonstrate this.

and @jbb_melissa added that "It's an excellent, insightful piece that gave me a really helpful new lens through which to understand histrom."

Paperback and PDF versions of Faith, Love, Hope

By Laura Vivanco on

I forgot to post about this months ago, because I was so busy updating things everywhere else, but Faith, Love, Hope and Popular Romance Fiction's been available as a free pdf download from this website at

It should also be available in paperback at as close to cost price in as I could make it at a number of online shops. It's self-published and details of where to find it are also on that page.

What I've Been Doing Recently

By Laura Vivanco on

I've been taking a break from social media and have taken up embroidery again. I found a Y online and then adapted it, so now it looks like a tree, with moss at the base of the trunk and small leaves on some small branches; there's a U which is based on a colour-blindness test, so it's made up of green and orange/red dots; the M with a roughly life-sized mouse nesting above it came from a kit and I just adapted it very slightly to make the mouse look a bit more like a harvest mouse. [If you want to see the stitches in more detail, the version here lets you click to enlarge.]

In more academic news, there's been typesetting of Faith, Love, Hope and Popular Romance Fiction going on, and the plan is to make it available in print and as an ebook.


Where we are with "historical accuracy" in romance

By Laura Vivanco on

This is really just a quick note, rather than a proper post, because I wanted to keep hold of the details of Zeahaa Rehman's recent article about historical romance. It's about the ways in which a particular version of history has been perpetuated, the consequences of that, and how it might change:

The version of Regency England that viewers are accustomed to, both onscreen and in books, is one that excludes BIPOC and queer characters. Piper Huguley, a Black English professor and author of both contemporary and historical romance that features Black characters, believes that the genre’s popularity and homogeneity come from an unhealthy relationship between publishers and readers. “If a publisher only prints out a certain kind of thing, then the readers are only going to want that,” she says.


This leads publishers to believe “that’s what readers want,” adds Cat Sebastian, a white bisexual author who writes queer historical romance. Publishers then acquire similar books—often not factoring in the success that many self-published authors are now finding with diverse historical romance.


Purveyors of the accuracy argument are [...] inconsistent in the kinds of imaginative leaps they’re willing to make. If it is unfaithful to have queer and racialized aristocrats, then it is equally false to see plentiful wealthy, titled young people with perfect teeth, no STIs, and a healthy relationship with alcohol—as well as heroines with shaved bodies; great hygiene (soap, after all, was expensive); no after-effects of cholera, typhoid, or scarlet fever; and a distaste for the corset (which, as many costume enthusiasts on YouTube will tell you, was not restrictive). Charles also points out that so-called historically accurate all-white, all-straight romances rarely mention significant events in their eras, like the assassination of British prime minister Spencer Perceval, in 1812, or the Peterloo Massacre, in 1819.

There's a lot more in the article, and I've just pulled out a few quotes. The examples given there, and the comments it includes from authors, provide an update to/complement earlier work on this topic, such as (again, I'm putting this in here mostly so I can find the details quickly next time), from two 2018 academic romance conferences, Jennifer Hallock on chronotopes and Elizabeth Kingston on white supremacy.


Rehman, Zeahaa, 2021. "Adding Colour to the Romance Genre." The Walrus. 29 April 2021.

Big Houses, National Heritage, Post-War England and the Gothic?

By Laura Vivanco on

In Brave New Causes: Women in British Postwar Fictions Deborah Philips and Ian Haywood discuss a

specific sub-genre within the field of romance fiction, which can be termed 'the country house romance'. In these novels written by and for women, it is the country house and the tradition it represents that is as much an object of desire for the heroine as the hero [...] the house [...] stands as an emblem of 'Englishness', of a British tradition that must be secured and maintained.

Such novels articulate an anxiety about the possibility of sustaining the traditions embodied in the country house, which was widely perceived to be threatened by the onslaughts of the war and of taxation, bureaucracy and death duties imposed by an unsympathetic postwar Labour government. (42)

They note that

the Gowers report, published in 1950, but commissioned in 1948, to investigate the fate of the British country house [...] recognized the notion of 'stewardship' of the national heritage by the upper classes and acknowledged, in language very close to that expressed by the heroes and heroines of romance fictions, that:

the owner of a great house who lives in it today and admits the public to see it has a burdensome, anxious and in some respects uncomfortable way of living, which few would choose except under the influence of a sense of duty.

This sense of the 'duty' of stewardship recurs in romance narratives centred around a 'great house'. The desire to keep the house in the family is expressed not as a wish to hold on to the privileges of inherited wealth, but more as a service to the nation, an obligation which only those born and raised to it can properly undertake. As one heroine remarks, ownership of the house is understood as an inherited and genetic obligation: 'House of the Pines was in our blood. It wasn't so much that it belonged to us. It was more that we belonged to it.' (43)

That's a quote from Jan Tempest's House of the Pines, published by Mills & Boon in 1946. I can't help but think, firstly, of the recent controversy about the National Trust, which preserves many such large houses, and its recent

report, which considered how the lucrative proceeds of Britain’s imperial past had helped build and furnish 93 trust properties, provoked furious headlines in the autumn, with some Tory MPs and media accusing the trust – one of the UK’s biggest charities – of perpetuating “Marxist” or “woke” views. (The Guardian, 11 March 2021)

Secondly, I wonder if any of the anxieties about Englishness and English heritage, which are expressed explicitly in these contemporary romances and linked to country houses, contributed to the depiction of the great house elsewhere in romance. In Georgette Heyer's The Quiet Gentleman (1951) the great house, Stanyon, is a significant factor in the attempted murder of its war-hero owner, Gervase. He, it should be noted, having secured his property, roundly dismisses left-wing ideas of the kind which Heyer may well have associated with "an unsympathetic postwar Labour government." Gervase, it should also be observed, is "uniformly courteous, good-natured, kind, forgiving, warm and humble but also dashing, intelligent, witty, humorously resistant to his family’s antipathy and a strikingly competent fencer [...]; he stands as a model of alternative masculinity and aristocracy" (Hirst 114-115). He is, it would seem, the kind of aristocrat who would be considered a worthy custodian of the nation's heritage and an embodiment of Englishness.

Hirst's recent article discussing The Quiet Gentleman argues that this novel has Gothic elements and I can't help but wonder if the conditions which prompted the emerge of 'the country house romance' in the 1950s also contributed to the new wave of Gothic romance which emerged in the 1960s. Obviously those belong to a much longer tradition, but I wonder if the postwar context and the associations of large houses in that period also played a role. I've not read many of them, so I'm very much not an expert on them and, as Lori A. Paige mentions in this video about her book on the Gothic romances, there's not been a lot of research done on them, but Amanda Jones's recent article on Victoria Holt certainly suggests that her Kirkland Revels (1962) was influenced by some other debates at the time: "the contemporary scandal of consigning unmarried, pregnant, yet sane women to Victorian-built asylums, exploring these socio-political anxieties in the context of the Victorian Lunacy Acts, the 1957 Percy Report and the 1959 Mental Health Act." I don't think it's totally ridiculous to suggest that post-war anxieties about the nation's heritage in the form of its stately houses may also have contributed in some way to the development of the Gothic romance.


Butler, Patrick. "National Trust report on slavery links did not break charity law, regulator says." The Guardian. 11 March 2021.

Hirst, Holly. "Georgette Heyer and redefining the Gothic romance." Georgette Heyer, History, and Historical Fiction. Ed. Samantha J. Rayner and Kim Wilkins. London: UCL Press, 2021. 105-118.

Jones, Amanda. "Madness, Monks and Mutiny: Neo-Victorianism in the Work of Victoria Holt." Neo-Victorian Studies 12.1 (2019): 1-27.

Paige, Lori A. "Romancing the Gothic - 300 years of Gothic Romance with Lori A. Paige." Video on YouTube. Romancing the Gothic. 11 January 2021.

Philips, Deborah and Ian Haywood. Brave New Causes: Women in British Postwar Fictions. London: Leicester University Press, 1998.

Plot Wounds Only

By Laura Vivanco on

Over on Twitter an account which regularly posts about Georgette Heyer noted the existence of a romance convention I haven't seen mentioned all that often:

"When shooting a hero in a novel, please always aim for the left shoulder, and do not allow the bullet to touch any vital spot therein."

— Georgette Heyer (@georgettedaily) April 11, 2021

It's a convention which is alluded to and critiqued in Eve Pendle's Falling For a Rake (2019) in which [SPOILER ALERT - so I'll put in a long break below]




the heroine recalls how she shot her fiancé when he wanted to break off their engagement:

"[...] I hit him exactly where I intended. In the upper arm, just a graze really. We walked back and he didn't seem too bad. A little faint. He embraced me before he rode home. [...] He wasn't supposed to die. I never thought he would."

"What happened?"

"I didn't see him for days afterward. By then his arm was infected. Her voice wobbled. "I just wanted to teach him a lesson. To make him pay for what he did to me. I was so incensed, so hurt. And...[...] I was a selfish little girl. He was happy without me, and I wanted him to be miserable. [...] But the funny thing is, everyone thinks Lady Vidal is a heroine. Lady Dain is a heroine. Miss Jane Fitzsimmons is a heroine. Why?" Emily shook her head thoughtfully. "They punished a man who did them wrong, by shooting him. Their men recovered, realized the error of their ways, and joyfully married them. It never gets infected in novels."

She named women who had been scorned or threatened and had retaliated. It must have seemed quite reasonable to Emily at the time. "It's difficult to accept you might not be the hero of your story."

These are novels written long after the period in which this novel is set: they're deliberate anachronisms which prompt thought about current romance conventions.

Lady Vidal is the married name of the heroine of Georgette Heyer's Devil's Cub (1932), Lady Dain is the married name of the heroine of Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels (1995). I'm not sure about Miss Jane Fitzimmons, but I think she might be the heroine of Once Upon a Scandal (2015) by Julie LeMense.


Pendle, Eve, 2019. Falling For a Rake. Selfpublished.

History, “Social Mentalities” and Julia Quinn

By Laura Vivanco on

This post is not a demand that all historical romances be “historically accurate”: it’s what happens when an author claims to be constrained by history in ways which make me wonder if they were not, in fact, nearly so constrained as they seem to think. I felt I should start by clarifying that because, as Marlene L. Daut observes,

Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels are mostly populated with white people like the regency-era England where they take place. The London of Shonda Rhimes’s Bridgerton tv series for Netflix, in contrast, is a multicultural mecca, sprinkled with Black characters of various skin hues, as well as a smattering of east and south Asians walking around silently in the background. There is even a Black queen and a Black duke.

In the world of fiction—whether on the page, stage, or screen—such ahistoricity does not necessarily have to be an issue. We should not evaluate a work of art by how well it matches reality, or how faithful it is to history.

It does, however, seem entirely valid to evaluate claims of historical authenticity when these are deployed to justify particular inclusions and exclusions, as in the case of Julia Quinn’s “past dubious statements about race in the Regency period and romance” (Cuthbert).

The best documented of these can be found in a video dated 1 June 2017, of a panel event held by the Strand Book Store in New York. Before I turn to them, however, I’d like to note some earlier statements Quinn made in that video which give indications of her approach to history. With reference to the English Regency period Quinn stated:

That particular time period works very well for me but I think it’s also very popular because it is modern enough that people think in a similar way to the way we think now. If you go a lot further back, say to the medieval period, there's a sense of mysticism that pervades your life and the church - it's such a big part of your existence. And it's not to say that going to church and that sort of thing wasn't an important part of society in, you know, 1815 England, but it didn't pervade every sensibility that you have the way it did further back. So I can make my characters think in ways that will - modern readers can relate to. At the same time it's far enough removed that there's a fairytale quality to it and readers can, like, have a certain element of fantasy. (11 minutes onwards)

The “medieval period” covers many centuries, many locations, and medieval people were by no means homogenous. The “Toulouse Inquisition records of the 1270s,” for example, record

witnesses, many of them probably illiterate [who]: had shown disrespect for sacred things by dirty jokes, defilement of cemeteries, disparagement of the reputed holiness of saints and shrines, scepticism about the sign of the cross, quarrels with priests over burial practices, restlessness at sermons, and disparagement of current attitudes towards Jews and usury. It was surely encouraged by Cathars and Waldenses. It could also easily be generated by peasant scepticism and the frictions of village life. (Edwards 20)

Later ages’ assumptions about the European Middle Ages have sometimes been shaped by

A Protestant tradition [...] inclined to dismiss late medieval Catholicism in particular as 'magical' and 'superstitious' to explain why a Reformation was so badly needed by the sixteenth century. [...] It is no longer convincing to dismiss the medieval Church, in 'Protestant' terms, as a source or purveyor of 'magic', but hints that Catholicism, on the eve of the Reformation, was 'vulnerable' to a 'rationalistic critique' can still inform present debate. (Brown 2-3)

In addition to possible ideological biases which may have affected historians, it is also important, as Susan Reynolds states, to consider the biases of some of their primary sources:

The mentality of the sources and the degree to which it was shared by the whole of society also need more critical consideration in face of the mass of miracle stories which have for centuries been taken as evidence of medieval credulity. Most of the collections of miracle stories which were so notable a feature of the eleventh and twelfth centuries were made by monks to promote particular shrines. Taking their word as evidence of general belief is like taking television commercials as evidence of the public's preferences among pet-foods. The miracle stories are full of scoffers. Like people in commercials who use the wrong soap-powder, they get their come-uppance, but they would not be in the stories if such people had not existed in real life and needed to be converted. (29)

Admittedly, the evidence adduced here may seem a little obscure and insufficient to challenge the respective characterisations of the two periods of history Quinn is discussing but it may challenge some assumptions about “social mentalities” (Reynolds) or “the totality of those implicit assumptions which are imposed on us by our environment and which rule our judgements” (Febvre, qtd. in Reynolds 21).

At 17.46 minutes Quinn makes a statement about the “social mentality” of the Regency period for which there are well-known counter-examples:

I wrote a novella recently where the heroine is very scientifically-minded. She’s really into astronomy and what I didn’t do was make her somebody who’s banging down the doors at Oxford and Cambridge demanding to be earning a degree because this just takes place too far in the past. It wouldn’t even occur to her that this is something that she can do. But what she can do is sort of fight against her constraints in smaller ways, ways that are more obvious: figure out how to study, how to learn, how to do her own investigations, how to finagle her way in to visiting, you know, this previously off-limits telescope. So I, I do feel like I have to work within the constructs of the, and the constraints of, the time period because a lot of the ways that we as modern women would think we can fight against, you know, the patriarchy or the rules or whatever, it just if, if you don't even realize what - how strict those rules are, and, and I honestly think a lot of women at that time had no idea, you can't really fight them in the same way.

Quinn continues at 19.14

so even just getting women of the early 1800s to a point where they understand how many fewer choices they have, and how the fact that they have fewer choices affects them, is to me a very feminist moment in the book

However, as another panellist, Sarah MacLean, states around 22.29,

I think it is a difficult argument to make that - to say that women in history haven't always had power and seen the struggle that women in the world have to go through and I often, whenever I sort of really struggle with this I think about […] Wollstonecraft, right.

As a scientist, perhaps Quinn’s heroine might have known of Laura Bassi, who gained a doctorate from the University of Bologna in 1732 and was subsequently appointed to a professorship there. Certainly a woman who literally tried to bang “down the doors at Oxford and Cambridge” wouldn’t have got far but, in the 1790s, the French mathematician Marie-Sophie Germain, due to not being permitted to attend the “École central des travaux publics, later to become the École polytechnique” found an alternative method to access an education there. It was admittedly due to the fact that “one of the innovations in this new scheme of education was to make lecture notes available to all who asked, among them Germain. Another innovation was the practice of having students submit written observations.” Thanks to these innovations, Germain was able to send her observations to a member of the faculty, Lagrange,

using the name of a student acquaintance, M. LeBlanc. Germain's originality and insight moved Lagrange to want to meet ‘LeBlanc.’ His respect for her work was not diminished when he learned that the notebooks were produced by a woman, and Lagrange continued for many years to provide support and encouragement. (Grinstein and Campbell 48)

Even taking account of different circumstances in England, Quinn’s heroine would not have been entirely without access to institutional support as a woman scientist in the UK since “From its inception in 1799 the Ri [Royal Institution of Great Britain] welcomed women to lectures and also accepted women as members” (Scales). As for an awareness of the barriers that existed for women scientists, Mary Somerville, who visited the astronomers Caroline and William Herschel’s “telescopes at Slough in 1816 […] described herself as "intensely ambitious to excel in something, for I felt in my own breast that women were capable of taking a higher place in creation than that assigned to them in my early days, which was very low" (Holmes).

So yes, “most people in any society probably accept its prevailing beliefs, and most dissidents in a persecuting society will keep their heads down” (Reynolds 33) but again, no society is entirely homogenous. Here’s another historical example, recently published:

In a newly discovered passage from an 1810 diary, Yorkshire tenant farmer Matthew Tomlinson considers the notion that homosexual desire is a natural, divinely ordained human tendency, discernible from adolescence and undeserving of capital punishment. Although ultimately inconclusive, his reflections offer tantalizing evidence that historical attitudes towards same-sex love in early nineteenth-century British society could be more diverse and sympathetic than previously assumed. (O’Keeffe)

It was after Quinn had demonstrated a propensity to latch on to potentially incorrect “social mentalities” and to minimise the extent to which individuals can resist them, that she proceeded to make some “dubious statements about race in the Regency period”:

[at 45.29] Somebody asked me [...] recently, about introducing more diversity into my books and it's difficult because first, with the time period that I write in, I mean, some say "Oh well, it really was diverse". Like, well, not among the Dukes [...] It's tricky because you know you read these civil war romances and they’ve been kinda out of fashion for a while and you're like you know isn't it interesting that you know the heroine always seems to feel that her slave is really, truly her equal, and I'm thinking well, she wasn't raised that way. She'd have to be pretty remarkable to have figured this out on her own. So, she's going to feel that way, you need to explain to me how that came about, and a lot of times they didn't.

I doubt many white people in slave-owning families would have had to ‘figure this out’ entirely on their own given the prominence of debates about abolition but this example Quinn offers does perhaps suggest that the veil of “fantasy” which allows readers to suspend disbelief about certain elements of historical romance can fade. Perhaps plantation romances lost popularity because many readers could no longer find those settings “far enough removed that there's a fairytale quality to it and readers can, like, have a certain element of fantasy.” That said, in fact “an entire industry of Christian romance novel-writing has coalesced around these sites, offering readers plantation-centered narratives which are presented as wholesomely romantic - and, even more troublingly, factual” (Adair).

If readers who are troubled by plantations, but find England in the Regency a fairytale escape, started to think about the sources of many Regency protagonists’ wealth, they might stop finding this setting quite so escapist:

geographic distance made it possible for slavery to be largely airbrushed out of British history, following the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. […] The history of British slavery has been buried. The thousands of British families who grew rich on the slave trade, or from the sale of slave-produced sugar, in the 17th and 18th centuries, brushed those uncomfortable chapters of their dynastic stories under the carpet. Today, across the country, heritage plaques on Georgian townhouses describe former slave traders as “West India merchants”, while slave owners are hidden behind the equally euphemistic term “West India planter”. Thousands of biographies written in celebration of notable 17th and 18th-century Britons have reduced their ownership of human beings to the footnotes, or else expunged such unpleasant details altogether. (Olusoga)

Getting back to Quinn’s comments about the setting in which she herself writes, at around 46.19 she says:

You know, I think, "Okay, I want to introduce diversity into my book, maybe put a Jewish character in there." There were Jews in England at the time, but you know what, a lot of people really didn't like them, and for me to explain why my characters, who I'd like to think are fundamentally good and kind and true, suddenly find these people to be perfectly fine and "Yeah, sure, Miriam, no problem, you know we don't care", I'd have to come up with a really good explanation of how that came about and that might have to be the story more than the actual love story so it's tricky to do.

First of all, the situation was more nuanced than Quinn’s comments might suggest. Of course there was prejudice, but, to give one example,

Horatio Walpole, 4th earl of Orford (better known as Horace Walpole, writer, historian, Whig Member of Parliament and prolific correspondent), was on friendly terms […] with Jewish neighbours at Strawberry Hill, his striking neo-Gothic country house in Twickenham, south-west of London. “My next assembly will be entertaining,” he wrote to his friend George Montagu on October 3, 1763; “there will be five countesses, two bishops, fourteen Jews, five papists, a doctor of physic, and an actress; not to mention Scotch, Irish, East and West Indians” (Letters 5:376).


Prominent Jews did similar entertaining. Thus Joseph Salvador, a wealthy Sephardi merchant (1716-86) and financial adviser to the Duke of Newcastle and his government around 1757, “gave a grand entertainment at his seat at Tooting in Surrey to a great number of noblemen and gentlemen, members of both houses of parliament” — so reported the London Evening Post of 10 July 1753. (Gossman)

I found it difficult to unpack and understand the assumptions behind Quinn’s statements however, particularly after discussions online which brought to light interpretations I had not considered. Here are some possibilities. If Quinn (incorrectly) believes that she could not have her aristocratic protagonists interacting with Jewish characters, does this mean

a) that she believes her characters would have anti-Semitic views and are therefore not entirely “good and kind and true” but has also decided that she does not wish her readers to think about this?

b) that her characters should be considered “fundamentally good and kind and true” despite their anti-Semitism?

c) that they are “fundamentally good and kind and true” and therefore not anti-Semitic, but readers are just supposed to take that on trust, without any explanation?

d) readers are left “with the mistaken impression” that Jewish characters “weren’t in England at that time having well rounded experiences and JQ manages to uphold the same anti-Semitic histrom ideals pioneered by Georgette Heyer”? (Blakeman)

In a recent interview Quinn stated that

"I'm Jewish and when I would read a book and one of the characters would be Jewish, I'd be like, 'Oh, that's me.' And it was very powerful," she explains. "And so now I feel like I'm able to start to extrapolate that and be like, 'You know what, everybody needs that.'" (Gillette)

However, Quinn apparently did not consider the possibility of addressing this need by centring non-aristocratic characters (and neither did the screen adaptation, even though it did change the race of some of them). It has been reported that “Her resistance to writing diversely because she doesn't think HEAs are believable in that era is well-documented and persistent.” (Lerner):

Let's not forget the panel where she said - apparently in reply to a question - that OF COURSE she doesn't write diverse characters into her novels because she doesn't write about suffering. Said with a smile while sitting next to a black romance author of historical romances. […] There was also a FB post where she basically said the same thing - how difficult and tricky it would be to write diverse characters into hist rom because it would need to be historically accurate. (Schwab)

It seems an indication of the extent of Quinn’s commitment to her views of the “social mentalities” of the past that such comments could have been made while she was sitting alongside an author of African-American historical romances whose very body of work (full of HEAs) provided counter-evidence which should have made Quinn pause. It may also be an indication that, as Felicia Grossman observed,

there is a lot of resistance to the idea that histrom can center established communities that aren't aristocracy, or at least comparable to aristocracy. Or the idea that people were happy inside those communities.

It’s instructive, I think, to see when historical verisimilitude is, or isn’t invoked, and what must be overlooked or temporarily put to one side in order to enjoy tales of “fundamentally good” aristocrats, dressed in beautiful, expensive clothes and living in luxury.


Adair, Joshua G. “ ‘A Battlefield All Their Own’: Selling Women’s Fictions as Fact at Plantation Museums.” Museums, Sexuality, and Gender Activism. Ed. Joshua G. Adair and Amy K. Levin. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2020. 239-251.

Brown, Andrew. Church and Society in England, 1000-1500. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Cuthbert, Kate. “‘Bridgerton’ Finally Harnesses The Power Of The Romance Book Community.” Junkee. 19 January 2021.

Daut, Marlene L. “Why Did Bridgerton Erase Haiti?” LA Review of Books. 19 January 2021.

Edwards, John. “Religious Faith and Doubt in Late Medieval Spain: Soria circa 1450-1500.” Past and Present 120 (1988): 3-25.

Gillette, Sam. “Author Julia Quinn on the Netflix Adaptation of Her Bridgerton Series: It's a 'Fairytale'.” People. 25 December 2020.

Gossman, Lionel. “From Expulsion to Emancipation: Jews in England 1290-1858.” Victorian Web.

Grinstein, Louise S. and Paul J. Campbell. Eds. Women of Mathematics: A Biobibliographic Sourcebook. New York: Greenwood Press, 1987.

Holmes, Richard. “The Royal Society's lost women scientists.” The Observer. 21 November 2010.

O’Keeffe, Eamonn. “‘A natural passion?’ The 1810 reflections of a Yorkshire farmer on homosexuality.” Historical Research, 2021. That’s not open access but you can find more details about this here:

Olusoga, David. “The history of British slave ownership has been buried: now its scale can be revealed.” The Observer. 12 July 2015.

Reynolds, Susan. “Social Mentalities and the Cases of Medieval Scepticism.” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 1 (1991): 21–41.

Scales, Laurence. “Ladies with attitude.” The blog of the Royal Institution. 2 July 2014.

The Strand. “Feminists Take on the Romance Genre.” 1 June 2017.

Some questions from the past, about connections between past and present romance

By Laura Vivanco on

I've been busy adding more entries to the Romance Scholarship Database and came across an essay by Jean Radford from 1992, expanded from the introduction to a volume she edited in 1986, which asks some questions about the connections between modern and medieval romance that I think have yet to be answered:

to see modern romances as genealogical upstarts or the bastardized offspring of originally noble forebears is to reproduce a fantasy of the decline-and-fall type; it does not help to explain the evolution of cultural forms in relation to social and cultural developments. Instead, one can ask why the romance has moved from being about a male subject to being about a female one, or in what way the tests and trials faced by the hero of medieval romance differ from the obstacles and trials that the heroine of contemporary romance must typically overcome to achieve her objective; or how it is that the 'magic' that in earlier romances rescues the hero from false Grails becomes in Jane Eyre a supernatural voice that unites her with her 'true' destiny, and why magic/supernatural/Providential force is in today's romance represented as coming from within - as the magic and omnipotent power of sexual desire. A structural and semantic reading of these changing codes necessarily engages with questions of gender, ideology, and change. (5)


Radford, Jean, 1992. "A Certain Latitude: Romance as Genre." Gender, Language, and Myth: Essays on Popular Narrative. Ed. Glenwood Irons. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 3-19.