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Writing on el Camino Real

Photo by Raychel Sanner, Unsplash

In the interests of full disclosure, the above picture is the Sandia Mountains, near Albuquerque, New Mexico. When I say “near”, I mean they’re the eastern border of the city. I can see them from my front door. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (the “Royal Road of the Interior Land” in Spanish colonial times) is actually to the west, where the Rio Grande flows through town. So I’m not really on el Camino Real but Writing on el Camino Real sounds cooler—i.e., more romantic—than Writing in the Northeast Heights.

A Bouquet of Historical Romance

I read a lot of historical romance novels, both without explicit sex and with explicit sex scenes (which I usually flip past, unless they actually contribute to the plot). The following is a roundup of my favorite “no sex, please” books from the past couple of years.

The Weaver Takes a Wife, Brighton Honeymoon, French Leave, The Desperate Duke and Baroness in Buckskin by Sheri Cobb South

The above five titles are my favorite Sheri Cobb South novels of all time, possibly because they’re funny as well as fun. I’m not going to try to describe them but you can get an idea of their tone by the cover illustrations (her books’ covers are usually far less generic than is typical of historical romance).

When I can find a romance that’s well written, funny and does not contain graphic sex scenes, I’m thrilled, because it’s a rare combination. Although I read many historical romance novels, some of which I enjoy very much, I usually flip past the apparently mandatory sex scenes. It’s nice to find an author who adheres to the old standard, in which romance comes before sex, and sex happens offstage after the end of the book.

The Parfit Knight by Stella Riley

I loved, absolutely loved, The Parfit Knight by Stella Riley. I’m a picky reader. I almost always find something to quibble with even in books I like a lot: an odd word choice, a bit of clunky writing, a grammatical problem, typos, plot silliness, repetitive sex scenes that don’t advance the story. I couldn’t find a thing to annoy me in The Parfit Knight.

It reminded me of Georgette Heyer’s 18th century romances: The Black Moth, These Old Shades, and Devil’s Cub, three of my favorite Heyer novels.

Ms. Riley captured the flavor of the time, something not all writers of historical romance manage to do.

The characters were compelling. I ordered the next two books in the Rockliffe series before I finished the first (in fact, after the first couple of chapters).

The writing carried me along with no awkward moments when I had to pause and ask myself what the writer meant by a badly constructed sentence, or cringe at a bit of modern slang.

The Parfit Knight also kept me up well past my usual bedtime. I’m a party animal until 9:00 p.m.

If you like Georgette Heyer’s novels or well-written historical romances without explicit bedroom scenes, this one is for you.

A random sample of historical romance novels I’ve especially liked.

The Country Gentleman by Fiona Hill:  I recently discovered Fiona Hill’s Regency romance, The Country Gentleman (originally published in 1987). Fans of Georgette Heyer and of Jane Austen will probably enjoy it as much as I did. The heroine, Anne Guilfoyle, even reminds me of Austen’s Emma. It’s witty, well-written, and the characters are believable. Those who simply like romances free of obligatory sex scenes should also enjoy it.

Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews:  I’ve read a number of Mimi Matthews’s romance novels now and liked them all. I loved Gentleman Jim. It seems to me it’s her most satisfying book to date, with complex characters and motivations. I particularly like that Ms. Matthews fills the no man’s land between romances with adventure and obligatory sex scenes and the “clean” romance sub-genre without adventure. More like Gentleman Jim, please.

Katharine, When She Smiled by Joyce Harmon:   For me, Georgette Heyer’s novels set the gold standard. Katharine, When She Smiled has all the elements of a Heyer novel: above average style, interesting characters, good plot, excellent dialog, and, well, an appropriately period “feel”. There’s no sex, which is a plus for me. I don’t object to explicit sex if it’s actually integral to the story, but it seldom is. I am now going to seek out Ms. Harmon’s other novels.

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Find my blog here: https://writing-on-el-camino-real.blogspot.com/

Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash. Nice picture of Territorial style windows in an old adobe building, the trim painted in turquoise blue, as is often the case. This may be in Old Town, Albuquerque or in Santa Fé.

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