Scottish romance is such an ingrained part of the romance genre that we don’t even blink when we see a muscled warrior wearing a kilt gracing the cover of romance novels. But how about Scotland’s equally fierce but less outlandish neighbor, Ireland? For the decades that Scottish—and, let’s be honest, Regency—romance has ruled the roost, we’ve been hard-pressed to see Irish romance take off as a similarly popular subgenre.
First off, how have we been wasting this opportunity for such a wonderful accent to fill our romance novels? And just because they don’t march around in kilts and throw around “dinnae”s and “cannae”s, doesn’t mean that Irish men don’t stir some hot fantasies within readers. Here are just a few reasons why we think Irish romance can have just as strong a foothold as the Scots.
I’m not gonna argue that the heather-covered hills of the Highlands don’t look dreamy as all get out. But Ireland, with its green lands and crumbling ancient castles, taps into that escapist fantasy just as well. And while Scottish romances are confined to Scotland, the Irish narrative extends into England and America, allowing for a greater variety of love stories—not to mention different heroines through which readers can live vicariously.
To that end, there’s nothing stopping romance novels about Irish lasses and their paramours, Irish and American alike. Marian Keyes‘ brilliant, heartbreaking novels may fly beneath the radar because they don’t make a big deal of being set in Dublin or their heroines being Irish; they take it for granted that readers will be interested in the big-city and small-town romantic and political dramas in The Other Side of the Story (one of my favorite books, ever) and This Charming Man.
Irish history is fraught with upheaval and the constant need to redefine one’s identity in the light of new rulers or an unfamiliar new home. So some Scottish laird needs to unite his clan? This Irish lad escaped the Potato Famine, only to go on to further poverty, persecution, and identity crisis in the United States. Yeah.
I’ve got to quote The Irish Warrior author Kris Kennedy (who hit the nail on the head at Heroes and Heartbreakers) on this: “I think the scarred history is inherently romantic, in often sad ways. But people unwilling to be subsumed is pretty dramatic, and makes for a rich store of romantic themes a storyteller can draw on. And when it comes to heroes, there’s nothing more potent than a man on a mission, where the underlying motivation is something larger than himself.”
Of course, we would want to see Irish novels tackle some of the thornier parts of Irish history and culture—street gangs in America, the IRA, etc.—without resorting to stereotype.
Gift for music
Bagpipes, shmagpipes. We would melt over a romantic hero who could woo his ladylove through song. Depending on the time period in which the book takes place, we’re talking everything from folk songs to modern favorites such as “Galway Girl”:
The “probable ideal”
Editor Cindy Hwang suggests that women romanticize the ruggedness and independence of Scottish heroes, creating “an improbable ideal” to which they’re attracted. If any genre is going to play to fantasies, it’s romance. And yet, we want to uphold the “probable ideal,” or a man who has that same fierceness and passion, but whose love story is more grounded. Sure, the stakes won’t be as ridiculously high, but they’re undeniably deeper.
The punny titles
So many opportunities for playful book titles. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling immediately comes to mind!