A few months back I read and reviewed The Gin Lovers by Jamie Brenner and despite not being in love with the book, I’ve been thinking a lot about books set in the 1920’s, which is a time period that I have always been enamored with (a couple of years ago I even went as a flapper for Halloween). One would think that a period of such social unrest would make a great back drop for a romance novel, but for some reason authors seem to shy away from the 1920’s.
What I loved the most about The Gin Lovers was Brenner’s ability to bring the Lost Generation onto the page–the clothes, the music, Prohibition… They were all done so well and it was as if I stepped through a wormhole 90 years into the past. I could feel the period, if you know what I mean. That is so very hard to do, especially for someone that was not around when the book was set. The sheer amount of research she had to have done astounds me.
The one reason I can think of as to why we don’t see more romances set in the 1920’s is that there were so many authors writing during the 20’s–F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nathaniel West (how I hated Night of the Locusts and Miss Lonely Hearts), Agatha Christie, Sinclair Lewis, etc.–that modern writers are too afraid to return to that period, fearing not being able to live up to the books written in that period about that period. Even this is a weak excuse at best–people are constantly revisiting Regency and Victorian England despite a plethora of books by the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, and Charles Dickens.
While searching for 1920’s themed romance novels, I found a post on All About Romance in which someone suggested the lack of 1920’s set romances has to do with an unwillingness to think of people of that time (i.e. our grandparents/great grandparents) having a sex life. While I definitely do not want to know about my grandmother’s sexual encounters, I don’t think this is it. Readers are smart enough to be able to separate fictional characters from real-life people that happened to be from the time period a book is set–I’m almost certain that the things I read in Regency or Victorian romances weren’t really being done at that time, especially by the gentlewomen. Also, I’m completely able to read books featuring older heroines (i.e. 40’s or 50’s) and not freak out because characters the same age as my parents are having fulfilling sex lives, and one would think that this would be the type of thing to freak people out–I really don’t want to know about my parents and sex (I already know more than I should–I really don’t know why I didn’t go out and get crazy drunk that night).
I’m hoping that in the next few years there will be more books set in the 1920’s and that The Gin Lovers wasn’t an anomaly because I would love to read them–and based on the posts I’ve found on Goodreads and AAR, I have a feeling there are quite a few other people that want to read them too.