We’re listing seven reasons why we love retro and vintage romance novels. Modern romances have much to offer readers, but for us at Sweet Savage Flame, nothing beats old-school.
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What’s So Great About Old-School Romance Novels? Everything!
Why do vintage romance novels hold such an allure for us at Sweet Savage Flame? As Robert Browning wrote, “Let me count the ways…”
Old-school romance novels offer an intriguing glimpse into the past. Plus, a collection of these wonderful paperbacks with beautiful cover art is a must-have for any book collector. Those are just a few factors that make us all about old-school, but they aren’t the only ones.
Here are some more reasons why we adore retro romance books.
Reading old-school and vintage romance books is a wonderful way to take a nostalgic journey into the past.
Older books hold a unique place in our hearts, evoking memories of special people, places, and moments that have stayed with us. We can remember the first time we read these romantic tales while recalling the events of our lives at that time. They may bring back fond recollections of shared moments with family or friends or childhood days spent daydreaming about our crushes.
Reminiscing in this way can be both comforting and exhilarating. Books have a special power over us, similar to music and scents, to evoke vivid memories of the past.
Plus, it’s fun to experience the charming romances of eras gone by.
2. The Dazzling Cover Art
Old-school romances often featured unique, eye-catching covers that differ from contemporary books. They can be works of artistry that add to the romantic atmosphere of the stories they adorn.
The beautiful visuals on these covers can transport us to another time, helping to further immerse us in the world of the book we’re reading.
3. Historical Significance
Vintage romance novels were written 30 to 50 years ago when the norms of society and expectations varied greatly compared to today. These books offer us a glimpse into what life was like in years gone by.
Through reading these stories, readers can gain a unique understanding of the past by experiencing the social values and attitudes that existed at the time these stories were written.
They can provide an opportunity for valuable reflections on how social and cultural views have changed over time.
4. Classic Love Stories
Old-school and vintage romance books often feature classic love stories that have stood the test of time. The stories are timeless and relatable, even in today’s world.
These books allow you to experience love in a way that the modern genre often fails to capture. There’s something special about the way old-school romance books describe the love story that makes it feel more authentic.
Reading retro romance books is like opening up a time-traveling capsule that whisks us away to another era where chivalry, courtship, and romance were celebrated with aplomb.
The intoxicating aroma of old paper and the texture of worn-out pages, along with the romanticized language and flowery prose, transports us to a world where love was a delicate dance between two individuals who were meant to be together
5. They Are Collectible Items
Collecting old-school and vintage romance books can be a fun hobby and a great way to build an impressive collection. Maybe there’s a particular cover artist whose work we adore or an author whose entire first-edition backlist you must have.
Not only can these items make for interesting décor pieces, but they could also prove to be valuable finds if kept in good condition. These books can hold monetary value and may be highly sought after by collectors, making them a smart investment.
Reading old-school and vintage romance books can be a delightful way to escape from the hectic chaos of modern life. These stories offer a genuine, timeless experience while maintaining an enchanting sense of fantasy.
When we lose ourselves in these books, we can submerge ourselves into an idyllic realm filled with love, adventure, and charm that has no bearing on the world that is. Reading older romances is a way to flee—ever so briefly—from the stresses of life, work, social obligations, polarizing politics, and the impending technological singularity.
It’s like taking a trip back to another time, allowing us to forget all our worries while reveling in a beautiful, passionate narrative.
7. Modern Books Don’t Measure Up to Old-School Romances
Many modern romance novels often fail to capture the essence of what we adore about romance novels. They leave us longing for the action-filled yet passionate plots, strong themes, and endearing characterizations in retro romantic stories.
A few gripes we have about contemporary-day romances are listed below.
Evolution of a Love Story with Actual Obstacles Standing in the Way
While some modern romances feature slow-burn romances, in a lot of books we’ve come upon, we find they jump straight into the love story—or bed—without allowing the characters to develop a real connection. We want to see the story unfold, not hop right into it.
Then there are endless pages of navel-gazing and psychological analyses that go on and on, yet nothing ever happens! Give us action and tension! Moreover, make the villains real threats to the happy ending.
I’m honestly baffled to hear so many readers say they want the heroine and “the other woman” to end up as besties because they don’t like seeing the O.W. maligned. The heroine and her rival should get along like “peas and carrots.” After all, they have so much in common: the hero.
Us? We want the other woman to be nasty, cunning, and vicious. And then get eaten by a crocodile at the end, like something out of a telenovela.
The Fiesty, Fierce Heroines Who Know Better Than Everyone Else
We love a strong, independent heroine, but too often, romance novels feature heroines who are too perfect, with no fundamental flaws or vulnerabilities. Even worse is the anachronistic, uber-modern heroine in a historical romance who ignores all of society’s rules yet remains unaffected by scandal.
Often, these female protagonists are beyond feisty; they are obnoxious with their smug superiority. Sure, old-school romances have heroines so perfect they fart potpourri (see Bertrice Small’s heroines) or foot-stomping, chest-smacking females that irritate.
And yes, there were more virgin heroines in the past, but—and this is going to sound crazy—we’re okay with that. Despite the prevalence of intact hymens, there was a wide variety of heroines to admire in older books.
Many female main characters today are diverse in appearance but homogenous in personality.
Real Rakes and Bad Boys in Need of Reform
We miss the trope of a genuine, hardcore womanizer who falls for the heroine but fights it every inch of the way. Rakes in current historicals are just noblemen with a few mistresses. Where are the despoilers of virgins, the scandal-makers, the blackguard rogues who ruin the heroine with nary a care?
When it comes to contemporaries, it’s too much in the opposite direction; there’s way too much emo angst. The reason he’s a “damaged” bad boy who shuns love is always due to over-the-top childhood trauma. Is a huge backstory of abuse, mommy issues, forced prostitution, captivity, etc, necessary to explain away the hero’s cruel behavior toward the heroine?
Is there no middle ground? Can’t he just be bad because he’s an arrogant, jaded asshole?
An amoral player of a hero who is ultimately civilized by the love of an extraordinary heroine is something we love about old-school romance.
Where Are the Diverse Historical Settings?
While there are some incredibly compelling contemporary romance novels out there, we miss historical romance novels set in unique locations, such as ancient civilizations or lesser-known time periods.
What happened to the Westerns and the Medievals? Books set in the Renaissance, the Age of Explorers, the English Civil War, the American Civil War, and Native American romances.
It’s the British Isles circa 1750–1890, almost all the time in Historical Romancelanida. As for Highland Scottish romances, they are fun—once in a while.
Historical Accuracy, Attention to Detail & Rich Characterization
This point includes elements of our previous gripes but takes it further. While some modern romance novels often have engaging plots and exciting twists, we often find the characterizations lacking in depth and nuance. A complicated character with both strengths and weaknesses who matures as the tale unfolds is really rewarding but hard to find.
As to our next point, if you disagree with our opinion, that’s no big deal. However, please don’t mistake our preference for small-minded nastiness.
In historical romances, we want historical accuracy. We appreciate research that incorporates not just names, costumes, locations, and events but also the mindsets, attitudes, beliefs, and individuals who lived in those places and periods.
It’s not so much accuracy that matters; it’s authenticity.
As George Lucas said, “[In a film] I can make up a science. But once I do that, I am bound by the rules to stick to that science.”
Retro Romance Novels Will Always Be Classic to Us
Whenever we’re in the mood for a getaway and an emotional roller coaster ride, then retro romance novels have everything we need.
With a variety of factors contributing to their allure—nostalgia, dazzling cover art, historical significance, classic love stories, collectible items, and escapism—old-school reads provide an experience we can’t always find in current-day romances.
To be clear, modern romances do have their own merits! But for us at Sweet Savage Flame, vintage romance novels will always be treasured classics.
So, how do you feel about our rant-and-rave session about our love for the oldies? Do you agree—a little bit? Do you disagree—a lot?
Whatever’s on your mind, we’d love to know. So please drop us a comment, and let’s talk romance.