Hi Miss Snark:
I have a novel that takes place in two time periods (equal parts present day and 1832.) I’ve been calling it commercial fiction in my queries, but should I be calling it historical fiction? Semi-Historical? I think historical is too narrow, but semi-historical is too scary for an agent.
I think if someone queried me with "semi-historical fiction" I'd semaphore for the form rejection. It's commercial fiction set in two time periods. Call it that, and I'm more likely to read it.
Nothing beats plain straightforward description in a query letter. It's when you get all fancy that you shoot yourself in the foot. If your description sounds like a snotty wine waiter at an overpriced faux french bistro "a clever little novel drenched in atmosphere with an insoucient streak of historical je n'est ce quoi circa 1832" then you've just assured me that not only is the novel not quite right for me, it will need a trip to Lourdes to be publishable.