Love Never Fails: Romance in the Early 1900s

(Congratulations to our winner from last week’s post, Brentlee Shoemaker! Brentlee, please email your mailing address to me, Amy, at so I can send you a copy of Against the Tide.)

The 1900s brought some dramatic changes: from fashion to world events to courtship. Three of our authors responded with thoughts on the historical events of their books’ settings, and how the traditions of romance have changed from back then to where they are now.

First, Janette Oke shares more about the shift in attitude that came in the 1920s, and how that change impacted the heroine of her new release.

Where Courage Calls

Title and Setting: Where Courage Calls, 1920s Canada

My Question:
What was the attitude of the time period toward romance and courtship?

Janette’s Answer:
The story of Beth Thatcher took place during the Roaring Twenties—a time when the world was quickly changing in so many ways, after the First World War. Coming from a very wealthy, conservative home and daring to venture out on her own seemed scary enough—but forming new worldviews, new perimeters, new social standards, and new relationships was totally mind-boggling. Especially for a young girl who was not looking for a life partner . . . yet.

At the time, there was a measure of transition happening. In the past, the parents of the upper class were very involved in the process of match-making. Young ladies debuted into society. Proper young men were welcomed as suitors, others quietly rejected.

In the time period for our story, more young women were seeking a new independence. Many were furthering their education and thus choosing their future career. They were being much more exposed to the world and all of its possibilities and pitfalls. For many it was a totally new world that frightened parents and excited youth. In a way, they were joining the society around them, where the lower classes had already been making such decisions on their own.

Oke_JanetteChat with Janette on a March 4th Facebook Party!

Siri Mitchell‘s upcoming release, Love Comes Calling, also takes place in the 1920s…but in the bustling city of Boston instead of a remote mining town. Her main character, Ellis, encounters all the commotion and chaos of the Prohibition era.


Title and Setting: Love Comes Calling, 1920s Boston

My Question:
What did you personally find interesting about your main characters’ relationship?

Siri’s Answer:
It’s a romance between two people in the upper strata of Boston society who are burdened by the expectations of their family and friends¬. They both see (and love) each other for the people they are, not the people others want them to be.

My Question:
What was an interesting dating tradition of this time?

Siri’s Answer:
The Roaring Twenties was known for its fads. These were the years in which the dance marathon was born. This is also when “dating” truly began. The term “blind date” first appeared in 1921.

My Question:
What about the relationship in your book was typical of the time period and what was not typical?

Siri’s Answer:
Part of the story takes place on a college campus. As a writer of historicals, it was a treat to place a book in an era when women were attending college. One of the plot points involves the heroine, Ellis, trying to avoid being “pinned” by the fraternity boy hero, Griffin. Pinning is long-time tradition in the Greek System in which the fraternity boy offers his fraternity pin to his sweetheart. As a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, it was fun to be able to share that tradition with my readers.

My Question:
How was romance/courtship different from what it looks like today?

Siri’s Answer:
Actually, it was during this period that romance and courtship began to take on the look and feel of our modern era as the concept of dating became established. The 1920s are also notorious for their ‘anything goes’ mentality. The slide in morality among the decade’s youth can be blamed on two things: movies and the automobile. Many young men of the era freely volunteered that everything they knew about kissing, necking, and petting they learned from the movies. And the car changed everything. No longer did a boy have to spend his time courting a girl within the confines of her family home at the invitation of her wary parents. If you were going to let a boy buy you a drink or take you out to dinner, then you owed him something. This shift of control in the dating arena from the female to the male forever altered relations between the genders.

Mitchell_SiriConnect with Siri on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Finally, Kate Breslin writes about the turmoil of the early half of the century from an ocean away in the midst of World War Two. Here, she shares how such a conflict might shape the lives and hearts of those in the middle of it all.

For Such a Time

Title and Setting: For Such a Time, 1944 Czechoslovakia

My Question:
What did you personally find interesting about your main characters’ relationship?

Kate’s Answer:
The fact that they have one. My hero, Aric von Schmidt, is a SS-Nazi Kommandant in charge of the camp; my heroine, Hadassah Benjamin, is a blond, blue-eyed Jewess who poses as his Aryan secretary, Stella Muller. Stella has every reason to despise Aric as she watches her own people struggle against Nazi brutality and the constant threat of Auschwitz. Aric, a man of hidden depths, finds himself drawn to “Stella,” knowing only that she was raised by Jews and fearing her hatred of him once he’s executed his part in the Nazi’s Final Solution—the total annihilation of Jews inside his camp.


A view of Auschwitz, from Kate’s Pinterest board.

My Question:
What about the relationship in your novel was typical of the time period and what was atypical?

Kate’s Answer:
During my research, I found the occasional instance of Jewish women marrying Nazi officers, but it certainly wasn’t the norm. Nazi romance and courtship was a very “white bread” ideal. Each man of good German stock was to marry a blond, fair-featured Aryan female to bear him many children for the Nazi state. She would be a model mother and homemaker, unobtrusive in her manner and dress, and keep for him a happy home and hearth. The Nazis expended much propaganda to this end. The U.S. had their own share of propaganda, but aimed it more toward encouraging women to take on roles previously held by men.

As far as romance and marriage, while expectations here were not rigidly idealized as in Germany, many young women felt pressured to meet and marry a serviceman before he departed for the war. I’ll also note here that German women were prohibited from a professional career during wartime or from joining the armed service, while our women became more independent, filling in for our men in all facets of work as well as serving as nurses and other occupations in the armed forces.

I believe that romance, when it did occur during this time, must have felt more amplified than it does today. The world was at war, and men everywhere were being pressed or drafted into service to fight and perhaps die. The European Jewry had been rounded up by Hitler and was being slowly exterminated. Life in every aspect became precious, the future fragile and uncertain. For many, a sense of urgency to form lasting bonds drove them beyond conventional rites of romance and courtship. Marriages took place in all venues—perhaps a weekend’s liberty in some foreign country or in the middle of a concentration camp.

Breslin_Kate1Connect with Kate on Facebook and her website.

When Calls the HeartThis time our giveaway prize is a little different: two winners will receive DVDs of When Calls the Heart, based on the novel by Janette Oke. To enter, comment on this blog post with an answer to this question: if you could travel back in time to any period in history, which would you pick and why? Winners will be posted on a new blog post on Thursday, March 6th.

68 thoughts on “Love Never Fails: Romance in the Early 1900s

  1. Today, the answer to your question would be 1927, because that’s the year my current WIP is set, but if you would have asked this question last year, I would have said 1898 (the year my last story was set). 🙂 I would love to immerse myself in any time period I’m currently working on to see and smell and feel all the little details around me.

    I recently went to the Prohibition Exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society to do research for my story. It was a fascinating experience. I’ve also been to the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. Both were very helpful in understanding the changes brought about by Prohibition and organized crime. It’s fun to see more books set in this era.

  2. I would have to say any time would be all right as long as the Lord is with me. I also enjoy reading a variety of time periods.

  3. I think I would choose the 1890’s. families were so self sufficient, and family oriented. They also knew their neighbors and relied on each other. I also simply LOVE the quilts from this tea.

  4. I do not have the Hallmark Channel so would LOVE a copy of the DVD. Look forward to reading For Such a Time!

    I’d like to visit the 1800s!

  5. I’d love to visit the Little House on the Prairie days. I think I would enjoy it, yet I’d be more grateful for the advances we have made.

  6. I love the early 1900’s, late 1800’s. It was a lot of hard work just to live, but they built things to last and people had strong character and morals, even those who were not Christians. Men had respect for women as a lady and treated her like one. Of course some people still do, but not as many.

  7. I would love to go back to 1926 so that I could meet my Grand-dad, his brothers and my Great-grand-dad and his brother who were all doctors. I would love to hear their stories, finding out what part the elders played in the Civil War and why their lives took the turns they did. Did my g-grand-dad really ride into our state wearing a kilt and riding a mule? So many questions I would love answered.

  8. Hmm… the late 1800’s! Back when people took care of each other, bartering was fairly common and faith and family came before all else!

  9. Rome in the time of the Roman Empire – and I would like to visit Palestine and meet Jesus Christ during His time on earth. (think Ben-hur, The Robe, etc)

  10. I would love to win this movie! Just finished reading the book and fell in love with it! I would like to go back either to the Victorian era or the Oregon trail years. The Victorian era for their fine clothes and houses and the Oregon trail to see what they experienced!

  11. I enjoy reading about times past-I’ve found I’m interested in the late 1800’s early 1900’s as our Country was spreading it’s wings and people were bravely moving west.

  12. I suppose that I would pick the 1950s. We had electricity and the war was over. I thought that maybe I could be a pioneer girl but I’m not able to physically do that. So, I wanted electricity for sure. And modern conveniences. in the 1950s the world was happy that WWII was over and American pride was high. Family was important but there was no “free love” and drugs like the 1960s. Interesting question. kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.

  13. If I could travel to any period, I think it would be the American West in the late 1800s. I would love to live on a ranch because I think I would really enjoy that lifestyle – and the new “modern” conveniences that came about toward the end of that period.

    Thanks for the giveaway prize opportunity!

  14. I would have to say about 1900 in the mountains of VA where my grandpa grew up. I would love to see what those stories he told were about and meet all those people he always talked about

  15. I think that to be born at the turn of the twentieth century and experience the elegance of the Edwardian era, the World Wars, and all the remarkable changes in technology … from horse and buggy to jet planes …, as well as the huge social shifts would be my choice.

  16. I would pick the 1940s to know my mother. She died when I was five, a month before my sixth birthday. I would like to have known her during this time. Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

  17. I would like to visit the Holy Land during the days when Christ was living on earth. Thanks for the opportunity to win a DVD!!

  18. Hmmm…that’s a hard one. Maybe the turn of the 19th century. The drastic differences from today and a more simple life

  19. I think I would travel to the late 1920’s into the depression area. I know it was hard, but people came together and supported each other for the most part. The same would not happen today.

  20. I would like the pioneer days – covered wagons, settling the mid and west USA and Canada. A time of recognition for community and family. Hard working people with solid values, not much time nor patience with the eastern focus on coming out parties, rules of dress, social status.

  21. love to read any time periods. it make me realize how times were simple not like now days. i love to take myself back in times and just image how it was back then . and how Lord would be with me during that times. i love simple things. and how we do things simple in those times.

  22. The pioneers who traveled West to settle is most vivid to me in my imagination when I read that time period. My own ancestors are included in these wonderful people, leaving me with a sense of satisfaction when I read other similar stories where their trust in God brought them through it all.

  23. I think I would enjoy the early 1900s. That would have been the time my grandmother was becoming a young woman and I would like to experience events that made her become the wonderful person she was!

  24. I think I would like to travel back to the 1940s and 50s and be a housewife. 🙂 I was born 50 years too late for how I think things should be.

  25. I believe during the Civil War era if you could take what you wanted; ha! I mean men were such gentlemen, but then again chauvinistic.

  26. I would go back to the 1800 – 1900’s. My husband loves that time period and I fell in love with period books from that time. The only thing I would miss I think would be my hair dryer and curling iron. ( the hair irons they used I’d be sure to burn my hair.) Lol I have very fine hair and it needs all the help it can get. Lol

  27. 1920’s. I would like to visit with some of relatives. Many died before I was born. I would have many things to discuss.

  28. I think I would enjoy the 1920’s. I would like to see the time when my parents were born. It would be interesting to see how women, like my grandmothers, handled the time of new independence, especially since I live through the 60’s and the Women’s Lib era.

  29. I would like to go back to the late 1800’s, maybe the West. People lived more off the land, there was more of a sense of community. People always seemed to help and share with one another. Manners and respect of God and religion were important too.

  30. My favorite period to go back in time would be colonial. I enjoy reading most about the time prior to and around the Revolutionary War.

  31. I would go back to the Regency period or the Victorian age. I love the fashion and genteel manners and it would have amazing to be alive during one of the great revivals of faith!

  32. There are so many time periods that fascinate me, but since I’ve become involved in our local historical society, and researching our church’s history for its150th anniversary I find myself very curious about the first fifty years of Wisconsin’s statehood.

  33. I’ve always wanted to go back in time to the 1800’s, there is just something appealing to me about that whole time era. I know it was a hard life back then but I think it also in some ways was a simpler one. Community was very important…as was family. I loved watching the Little House on the Prairie show as I was growing up and I also have read and re-read the series of books! Those books to this day are some of my favorites! I really want to be able to get them in the Kindle format so I can read them once again. I believe they are available to Canadian readers but not to the US due to copyright issues. I find reading Historical Fiction to be my “comfort food” when I’m just needing some down time to rest, relax and generally just let the stress dissipate. Thank you for offering this great giveaway!

  34. I would choose the 1950’s or the 1880’s. No time is “ideal”, as there is always a need for more of the Lord in every person’s life. However, I have always felt a “connection” to these two decades.

  35. These are the times I wish I could travel back to. The times when all families really worried about was money and where their children’s close, food, and shelter would come from. Love these beautifully written books!

  36. I would pick the Wild West era when ranching was big. I love horses & cowboys. In the old west a person had to be strong to make sure horses & cattle survived the elements & outlaws.

  37. Probably Scotland during the 1700’s or USA during the 1800’s. I know both were horrible times with hunger, war and diseases, but there was also something very romantic about those time periods and location also.

  38. I would like to have known my Grandmother in the early 1900’s. Her clothing was beautiful and the house furnishings were gorgeous. I would have loved to learn her methods of baking bread and canning on an open fire. Hard work I’m sure, and in the meantime raising seven children. I own everyone of J. Oke’s books and treasure them dearly.

  39. Pingback: 8 Things to Do While Waiting For the Next Book | Bethany House Fiction

  40. Three of my favourtie authors in one blog! WOW!

    I would love to read Janette’s book since I am an immigrant to Canada! 🙂
    The cover is beautiful and I love history lessons wrapped up in this format!

    As for Siri Mitchell’s work, I love her work and her books! She has such a talent for creating characters so real and endearing that I feel sad when I come to the end of the book!

  41. I would love the time about 1850ish when the pioneer movement brought people out west. Don’t know if I am hardy enough to do such a trek myself, though. But I love that time.

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