There seems to be a good deal of confusion over just what constitutes a historical these days. To be fair it is a bit of a moving target. After all, what is historical to me, (I was born in 1978) is like yesterday to a lot of the Inkies.) And yes, yes I did have to rub that in a little.)
Publishing houses define historicals differently as well. It all seemed a bit random to me, until I realized that they were likely basing this off their understanding of their typical market. In other words, if they generally appeal to an older audience, then what they consider to be “historical” is likely to be earlier than a line that appeals to younger readers.
In general I’ve found that most houses consider historicals to be World War II and earlier. A few consider historicals to Vietnam Era and earlier. Of course this will likely change as we get further and further from the events in question.
So what do you call a novel set in the “twilight area” between contemporary and what the house calls historical? I heard a suggestion that these gems should be referred to as Vintage, which I personally love, but isn’t necessarily a term in popular usage yet.
It can be a quandary.
In my opinion the best way to handle it for now is to use the underlying genre rather than worrying about the setting. In other words, if the story is a romance just call it a romance, if it has a mystery at heart, just call it a mystery. If it’s a story about relationships between women it’s women’s fiction right on down the line.
Do you like novels set in the twilight zone between contemporary and historical? What do you think they ought to be called?