What a difference a few decades make. Back in 1979 when I was contracted to write historical romances as Maggie Lyons (see “her” story in my blog, “Romancing the Unknown”), I knew zip about the genre. Luckily I was given a tip sheet by my publishers regarding what to do and, more importantly, not to do. My heroines were supposed to be chaste as well as chased, and a big taboo was sex before marriage. If and when anything finally happened after 300 pages of foreplay, it was to be discreet. Think Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster on the beach in From Here to Eternity or a train going into a tunnel. You get the picture.
In 1999 when I was asked to write more Maggie Lyons books, the rules had changed. Seriously. It was no surprise that readers were more sophisticated and knowledgeable about history but who knew they wanted more explicit sex scenes? Nothing pornographic, mind you, but still. My new and improved heroines didn’t exactly fall into bed in Chapter 1, but they were more frank about their desires, i.e., they wanted the same things as my heroes. It seemed only fair to satisfy them, and frankly it was lots of fun.
Last winter I decided to resurrect these seven out-of-print books, only to learn I faced yet another set of criteria. For today’s reader, elaborate prose and details about antebellum Mardi Gras balls have taken a back seat to plots that are sleek, taut and move quickly. That meant heavy rewrites and editing because the bottom line, of course, is giving your audience what they want.
When I reread these books, it was like meeting old friends. To be honest, I’d forgotten more than I remembered, certainly in regard to the steamier scenes in the earlier novels. I found several instances, notably Heirs of Rebellion, where milady got all the pleasuring she wanted (and then some) without the sanction of marriage. Like most men, I guess I just didn’t want to wait, so naturally neither did my heroines. Each and every one of these women had her goals and, okay, like Miss Scarlett, flouted convention to get them. That’s what prompted me to call my Kindle series “Rebellious Belles.” My not so ladylike ladies have come a long way, baby!