Why are Historical Romances written today so bland?

Historical romances have to be one of the most cliche and white bread variety of all fiction genres.  Historical romance writers play it safe, the characters are always virtuous to some end.  But novels printed in bygone eras weren’t all Jane Eyre and Jane Austen.  Georgette Heyer played close to the vest in her imitation of Austen’s novels, but she was from a conservative era as well.  For some reason, the media likes to paint the past as this idyllic and overly intelligent time bygone.

Guess what?  People don’t change that much and they’re as fun and flawed and ferocious as they’ve ever been.

So here are some literary novels that will knock your socks off and have yet to be banned from the public:

1) Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (1722) – Prostitution, incest, illegitimate children galore can be found in one of the earliest English novels.

2) Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) by Choderlos de Laclos (1782) – Better known to Gen Y as Cruel Intentions and Gen X as Dangerous Liasions, two former lovers plot the downfall of innocent misses.

3) The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1380s) – Though this isn’t a novel, it is a collection of some of the bawdiest tales to grace English ears.  Chaucer is considered by many to be the Father of English Literature, all thanks to a sex-starved college student and a dangerous old cougar.

Top 5 Overused Names in Historical Romance Novels

While reading several Regency novels, I’ve noticed a certain pattern to the names of characters.


  1. Lily/Lillian – I’ve actually lost count how many times I’ve seen this name come up.  Somehow, every Lily is a naive hoyden on the run from someone.  As someone who used to find it adorable, I could do without seeing it in a Regency story ever again.
  2. Isabella/Isabel/Isabelle/Belle/Bella – This name was gaining popularity even before the Twilight books came out, but can just one of them not be clumsy?
  3. Molly – The favored name of chambermaids and street rats.
  4. Grace – Too often used as the joke, “Grace/Your Grace”
  5. Charity, Chasity, Patience, Passion, Prudence – I know virtue names were a thing at one point, but sometimes they come off far too Mary Sue in trying to make the character from the actual virtue.

Names that get a pass because they’re historically accurate in their usage: Jane, Elizabeth, Anne, Joan, Mary, Marie, Julia, Emma, Lydia, Sophia, Kate, Catherine, Charlotte.  Overall, the overuse of female names happens less often than it does with male names.


  1. Sebastian – The arrogant noble guy who always ends doing the right thing, in spite of himself.  Self-righteous to the bone.
  2. Jack – The ideal name for the rogue, misunderstood younger son of some nobleman.  Also known as “the black sheep” of the family.
  3. Rafe – Pretty much the self-made man with an ignoble yet slightly noble background.
  4. Tristan – This is one of my favorite male names and I’ve used it in Regency, but I’m a little weary of seeing it now. Often he’s the good, not twisted hero with more whimsy in his character than most other heroes.
  5. Gabriel – This name often emphasizes the avenging angelic nature of the hero.

Names that get a pass because they’re historically accurate in their proliferate usage: Edward, Henry, Richard, Michael, John.

It’s not the common usage of names that’s obnoxious (in real life it happens all the time), it’s that the names have become stock characters.

Character Descriptions that Need to be Dropped Like a Bad Habit

1) Stop describing the hero as a Greek statue or Adonis

2) Stop describing the hero as a cat or cat-like, which includes but isn’t limited to lynxes, lions, tigers or leopards

3) Stop describing the heroine as a kitten or mouse or mousy

4) Stop writing that the hero “would never force himself on a woman”

5) No more flaming red hair, there are far too many characters that remind me of Little Orphan Annie all grown up

6) I know even when you’re in love in real life, it’s easy to drop the “perfect” word around a lot, but it gets old fast on paper