Open a historical romance and from the first sentence the writer aims to transport you to another era. A time of grace and elegance in which candles sputter, fans flick, silver gleams, and aristocratic noses are held high. The ballroom awaits, as does the promise of romance and a satisfying happily ever after. In the historical romance, the first sentence, like the gown you’ll wear to the ball, must be perfectly designed for the period and the romantic possibilities. It must catch the eye of every duke in the room.
Here is one of the most famous lines in historical romantic fiction:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. Published in 1813.
And thus Miss Austen ever so skillfully sets the story stage not only for Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy and their conflicted love but for the thousands of love stories that followed her classic tale. As a reader, reading Miss Austen’s opening, I was drawn into her world by the language, so proper and appropriate, so reflective of the time in which it was written. Beautiful, really.
What’s happened since 1813 with historical romance opening sentences?
I was curious, so I selected a random few to see how quickly the author’s use of language and era clues drew me in to their stories.The sentences do speak for themselves, as the writer intended, but it’s interesting to ask the question do they speak to you? (I’ve italicized the words or phrases that worked for me.)
“Although it contrived to appear very much as usual, the gaming room of White’s wore a faint air of disapprobation.” The Parfait Knight, Stella Riley
“Robert Blaisdell, the ninth Duke of Clermont, was not hiding.” The Duchess War, Courtenay Milan
“‘Remind me why I’m here,’Nathaniel Buford, Earl of Roderick, said as he checked his gold pocket watch.” The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife, Ruth Ann Nordin
“Amelia Banbrook peered into the dimly lit corridor, thankful that for once, Lord Weatherby’s servants were being frugal with the candles.” The Earl Who Loved Me, Bethany M Sefchick
“Amidst the openly curious stares of the servants, the tall, dark-haired man entered the Langford Mansion.” The Seduction of Sophie Seacrest, Mary Campisi
“Dominick Manton had never expected to spend his twentieth birthday peering covertly through the open terrace doors into the Earl of Blakeboroughs’s ballroom.” If the Viscount Falls, Sabrina Jeffries
“The Honorable Charteris Ashby sauntered along Oakham High Street feeling both noble and disgruntled.” Regency Valentines. If Fancy be the Food of Love, Jo Beverley
“At the end of the hunting season, before the winter set in, the Earl of Clarendon hosted a soiree at his London home for the families of Quality that had come to town.” The Devil Takes a Bride, Julia London
“This year’s most sought-after invitation must surely be that of the Bridgerton masquerade ball, to be held Monday next.” An Offer from a Gentleman, Julia Quinn
Just one sentence! And these writers have packed me in a time capsule and carried me off. They’ve made it clear where I’m going and that I’ll be mixing it up with some fascinating lords and ladies.
There will be a sexy Duke in there somewhere, I’m sure of it.