Past or Present?

- by Charlotte Hubbard

I sent in the manuscript for SEXUAL SECRETS last week and my agent’s response brought up an interesting point about where our writers’ hearts—and voices—really live: Reminded me of the old Melissa. A good, solid story and lots of erotic stuff.

demon-coverThe “old” Melissa MacNeal wrote historical romps for Black Lace. I began penning contemporaries to remain, well, employed because my current Kensington editor insisted on it. Yet last contract, he suggested my “off the wall” story tendencies might work better in a historical mode…

So the “old” Melissa has returned—and she’s damn glad to be back, thank you! Say what you want about writing to stay in the market, as many of us have done, I’m guessing most writers’—and readers’—hearts are either in the past or the present.

thepleasureofhisbed150-1Have you switched back and forth, as a writer? Do you, as a reader, follow an author no matter where she goes, or do you insist on either historicals or contemporaries? Chime in with me here! I’ve got books to give away to those who make insightful remarks about this issue!


One thing I totally enjoy about writing historicals is creating heroines who defy the rules and regs of their day. Back in the early ‘90’s when I sold my first books, feisty heroines were my stock in trade, but Camille and Colette, the identical twin heroines of SEXUAL SECRETS, take that tendency to a new depth. As the proprietors of a classy couturier in Victorian London, they not only defy their titled husbands—who thought their dressmaking would be a nice little hobby—they also become wildly successful by flagrantly refusing to follow the dress code and etiquette for mourning when Lord Bentley, Camille’s husband, dies.

This, after secretly switching husbands! And accomplishing this swap so flawlessly that neither Lord Bentley nor his son, Heath, have a clue their look-alike wives have deceived them. Try getting away with that in a contemporary romance! (And yes, even though you could, it just wouldn’t have the same risqué flavor in today’s more sexually permissive society.)

I also find it very liberating not to contend with those obligatory condom scenes. Safe sex might be healthier and more politically correct to write about, but safe sex isn’t nearly as sexy! If you’re writing erotic romance, why compromise the fantasy by reaching for that foil packet? (Frankly, the scent of warm latex is a big turn-off for me. Reminds me of the gloves my dental hygienist wears…SO not sexy!)

I also love the cadence of language from the past: when I had written but the first few pages of this book, I realized the flow and sentence structure…the witty turns of phrase and plays on words…had returned to me in a rush. It was effortless and totally unexpected—and wonderful! While I avoided the heavy dialect of London’s working class, I loved hearing my characters talk in my head like characters from a Jane Austen movie. For a Missouri girl, this is huge!

The research is fun, too: I love learning about social conventions of the past because they provide catalysts for conflict within my characters. Here I tip my hat to the awesome Mary Jo Putney for her patience while she answered my questions and steered me past the snags and pitfalls of English titles, legalities, and details of everyday living. I’m sure I didn’t get it all right—the American West is my usual hangout—but I enjoyed the learning curve!

So how about you? Past or present? Personally, I’m ecstatic that the market’s swinging back to historicals—but maybe you prefer to live and read in the now! Tell me why, and it could win you a copy of any of my books—historical or contemporary—at either of my websites. Look me up at www.charlottehubbard.com or www.melissamacneal.com, and shoot me a response!

And thanks for playing today!

10 comments

  1. Give me the Past, the Future, Alternate History or Another World — anything but the here and now!

  2. I SO understand that “escape route” you’re after, Tara! It’s one of the main reasons I find historicals so compelling: they provide ME an escape as I write them, just as my reader gets away from reality, too.

    Thanks for joining us here!

  3. Hi Charlotte,
    If I’m a fan of an author, I usually follow them when they venture into other sub-genres. I love Julie Garwood’s historicals and I continue to read her books after she started writing romantic suspense. I don’t enjoy her romantic suspenses as much as her historicals. I was so happy when she released her first historical in over ten years last winter. Historicals take us back to another time where emotions and outward displays of affection where frowned upon. I love it when a hero or heroine defy the social norms and dare to fall in love.

  4. You make a great point, Jane: I loved Danielle Steele’s early historicals, too, and once she started on the contemporary stuff I faded off into other authors. LaVyrle Spencer, however, wrote well in both time frames, I thought. Now *there’s* a voice I miss a lot!

  5. i do like the present and comptemps now. i do stick with it.

  6. I prefer the future actually. It doesn’t have to be distant or sci-fi gadgety (though I’m also a sci-fi fan), but I like the positive, progressive, things get better types. No rose colored glasses required, hard work is involved and life still has it’s ups and downs, but people putting aside differences and working together to make things better for all really speaks to me. That’s an optimism I love escaping to :-)

  7. any winner

  8. wtg winner

  9. I have recently read A Patchwork Family Journey To Love,Angels Embrace and Gabrel’s Lady and I really enjoyed them. I have been unable to find Heaven Sent, Somebody’s Son, and Home Again. Do you have any idea where I can find them??? I have tried used book stores, new books, web sights with no luck. I feel like I have lost contact with a family of friends.

  10. oops, web sites not sights