Can a Cozy Be Historic?

Recently I’ve been trying to convince myself to get back into my cozy mystery. Do you sense a lack of enthusiasm? Yeah, me too.

Part of the problem, and if I’m honest it is a really big part, is that I’ve got enough distance to see the many problems. My main character bores me. My setting is based on my neighborhood so I am all too familiar with the problems the community is facing, and, if you’ve ever read a cozy, there are always problems in the community.

Some of the problems exist because of local economics. Sources of income have dried up and if we are going to save the town we have to get innovative.

Some of the problems are character based. A difficult person comes along and wants to change the lay of the land. Sometimes they literally want to change the land, developing a previously pristine wilderness. Sometimes they want to take something over, altering the status quo.

But nothing about my current story fascinates me as much as the stories I read. As I shuffle through the changes I could make, I realize how many have been done. Yarn shops. Sewing shops. Book stores. Libraries. Done, done and done. There are B&Bs and historic mansions and people fixing up those mansions.

What if I shift the setting, not geographically but in time. Can you set a cozy in the past? I did a quick search and found that the answer is YES. A few examples include:

  • Ashley Weaver’s Amory Ames series set in 1930s England
  • Dianne Freeman’s Countess of Harleigh series set in Victorian England
  • Kate Parker’s Victorian Bookshop Mystery series set in Victorian London
  • Deanna Raybourne’s Lady Julie Grey series set in the Victorian period
  • Maisie Dobb’s series by Jacqueline Winspear set just after World War I

Obviously, the answer is yes. You can in fact set a cozy mystery in the past. Although I admit that I did laugh at the fact that there are still bookshops as central locations.

Now the question remains – does your character have to live in or be from England? Because I’ve got an idea and it has me pretty excited. It may mean scrapping my current project but it doesn’t have to. The setting could be the same (this city) but different (in the distant past). My character could be returning home as she does in the present draft, but for an entirely different reason.

Was the first draft simply my bike with training wheels? Or am I doing what is easy and exciting, starting something fresh vs facing a difficult revision? I have to admit that I do not have the answers.


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