I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with time travel romance novels. I love time travel, but I don’t like mainstream romance much. Most time travel novels aren’t about someone from the past who comes to modern day, which is the idea I’m personally most interested in, but quite a few romances are. So, I’ve read the premises for, and the beginnings of, and even a couple endings of time travel romances for fun and inspiration.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, since it reduces the amount of money I spend on the things, I usually know just by reading the kindle sample that stuff I want to read is not in the novel, because the time traveling hero will spend a full ten pages talking to (or sometimes even kissing) the heroine before he looks around and notices, just as a point of passing interest, that he’s not in Regency England anymore, and, in fact, has no idea where he is.
Now, I understand that the point of a romance novel is to tell the story of people falling in love, so it makes sense that other details about the story get pushed to the side sometimes. I also understand that most romance readers like to hear about instant love and attraction that works out for the best, so in mainstream romance novels, filling the meeting scene to overflowing with sexual tension makes sense. However, as important as this sexual tension seems to be to the romantic community, it is not going to be quite so important to a guy who’s just time traveled. Or to a girl who just met a guy who claims to have time traveled.
All to often, I read excerpts where the first thing on both the characters’ minds is how gorgeous the other one is, even after they’ve discovered one of them is clearly mistaken about what year it is. Even after they buckle down and do a little bit of thinking about their unusual situation, the main question on their minds is usually not, “How do I adapt to this foreign time period?” or, “Now that I’m starting to believe someone from another time period showed up on my doorstep, what do I do?” or even, “What does it mean to me to know that time travel is possible?” but instead, “When is she/am I going to let me/him have sex.”
To be fair, of course, some romances are more realistic than others. I think the main reason people keep touting A Knight in Shining Armor as great time travel romance writing is that the characters attempt to come to terms with the time travel and learn from the differences between each other’s eras. Many time travel romances might as well be just plain romances where the reader is told to “imagine the guy wearing some hot looking ancient costume,” but this one feels real, including plenty of detail on what a time traveler from the past might actually think about our day, and what a modern girl might think about him, not just as an attractive guy, but as a time traveler.
Basically, what makes a good time travel romance is not lengthy descriptions about how attractive the main character are. What makes a good time travel romance is time travel.
- How Not to Write About Time Travel Part 1: Don’t Define the Rules (mgirouxstories.wordpress.com)