Contemporary vs. Historical Western Stories

Contemporary vs Historical

I ran across a fun video from three authors talking about things you won’t find in a contemporary western romance.  Melissa Tagg, Victoria Bylin (who will be a guest blogger on August 4th!), and Becky Wade had this list:

  • Shotgun weddings
  • Arbuckles coffee
  • Primitive diseases (the plague, scarlet fever, smallpox)
  • Aristocracy
  • Stagecoaches
  • Corsets
  • Wars
  • Telegraphs and lost letters
  • Covered Wagons
  • Mail-Order Brides

I question them on #10 because this still happens, but the brides are from other countries rather than from the east and communication goes by email. I also thought of a few other things for their list…bonnets and ten-gallon hats, animal clothing such as mink or fox coats,  button-up shoes, mercantiles, ice-boxes.

Since I write historical westerns, I decided to make my own list. This is what I came up with…the first was a biggie because so very many of our modern conveniences stem from it.

Things you won’t find in a historical western:

  • Anything electronic — Cell phones, televisions, texting, computers, refrigerators, automatic dishwashers, air-conditioning.
  • Modern transportation — Automobiles, airplanes, jets, space stations, rockets.
  • Modern medicine.

So, what has stood the test of time and is still seen in both types of stories?

  • Rattlesnakes
  • Horses
  • Cowboy boots and Stetsons
  • Lasso’s
  • Bucking broncos and bulls
  • Windmills
  • The cowboy code
  • Manners among our heroes
  • Guns & rifles
  • Land wars, although these have morphed from sheep vs cattle and farmers vs ranchers to land developers’ vs small towns but they are still definitely land wars.)

Can you think of other differences between then and now?
Or things that have stayed the same?

Comment for a chance to win a copy of my latest release ~

And for your viewing pleasure ~ here’s the video.

(It’s cute!  I think you will enjoy it.)


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19 thoughts on “Contemporary vs. Historical Western Stories”

  1. I believe back then true love was held in high regards and not clouded by today’s social media. Mail order brides were real back then and not so much these days. Awesome blog

    • Hi Tonya,
      Social media can sure make a muck of things, that’s for sure. It has everything to do with a person’s integrity. I guess there were misrepresentations of the truth back then as well as now–only now it seems so much more wide-spread. The cowboy code is sorely missing today and could sure use a dramatic comeback!

  2. I love both Historical and Contemporary… I just love the journeys each couple takes to find happiness… the first thing that came to mind is A/C… boy are we lucky to have that invention at times… can not imagine life without it in some places.

    • Hi Colleen,

      I have been thinking about A/C a lot lately! I remember when my mom started to say that she just couldn’t handle the heat anymore (Midwest sweltering summers!). Now it is happening to me. The heat just wipes me out. I am so VERY thankful for A/C! I like to read both Historical and Contemporary too. A good story is a good story 🙂

  3. Romance then, romance now… you can’t beat it! I am thinking the same thing about the refrigerated air. Thank goodness we can be cool in these hot,hot summers.

  4. The one difference I can think of is the change in society’s sexual codes: The necessity of being a virgin when wed no longer holds true for most contemps, and the loss of virginity doesn’t mean a mandated marriage. I suppose this fits under the header of shot-gun wedding but how unmarried sex is accepted by society is a big difference for me between contemps and historicals.

    Social mores aside, people are people and a reader will relate to a character well drawn in any time setting because of the fundamental aspects of humanity. That said, I’m drawn to historical settings because they remove me from today, and that step away opens the characters even more to me. So I’m not reading historicals for history lessons but for the step away from today that is a different perspective while people are basically the same. (The West didn’t have electronic social media but town gossip flourished nonetheless.)

    Kathryn, don’t include me in the drawing since a dear friend Suzanne knew I wanted your book “Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove” and sent it to me since I’m not currently able to drive and until just recently wasn’t online.

    • Oh Eliza! I have been wondering how you are doing! Welcome back! I am so, so glad that you are back online. All the fillies at Wildflower Junction have missed you!

      I agree — historical romances are an escape from the stress and realities of today–and escape to simpler times (which probably were not all that much more simpler!). It is like going on a vacation or journey to read one.

  5. Great blog, Kathryn. Lots of food for thought. I love to write historical western’s but am now doing a contemporary series where the characters and town is 3 to 4 generations down the line in lineage. It’s been fun. Now as far as your list is concerned, I hope this doesn’t sound cocky but I was born and raised in Texas and it’s both historical western and contemporary western. Our men are still men, like a lot of the western states, deals are still sealed with a handshake and women are still called “Ma’am”; and we still live by the Code of the West. Love, love your list. Big hugs from one Filly to another, Phyliss

    • Hi Phyliss! Well, I am SO HAPPY to hear that the Code of the West is still alive. This world needs it! Thanks for stopping in and giving us your two-cents worth of optimistic opineion!

  6. Big changes are the roles of women from historical to contemporary. Either way I do love historicals more than contemporary – but I love to read both! I love all things Cowboy. 🙂

    • Hi Susan. I’m with you. I’ve always liked the hard-working, honest, slow-talking man in boots over a city-slicker. Doesn’t matter which century they are in, LOL.

  7. What a great blog — I hadn’t thought of that — but I could probably add a few things myself on what you won’t find in contemporary Native American romance vs. historical. Fascinating blog.

    • Hi Karen Kay — Thank you for your kind words! It really was just something fun that when I ran across that video made me start thinking. The video was so cute–just had me chuckling.

  8. Thanks everyone for chatting with me yesterday. The winner of my giveaway is Tonya Lucas!

    Tonya — you can contact me at kathryn at kathryn albright dot com and let me know if you want an ebook or print book. I hope you enjoy it!

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