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Friday, May 23, 2014

What is it about the Regency?

This is reblog of a recent post on LOVE HISTORICALS... 

In the film “Austenland”, the heroine, a mousy young woman obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, and believing she will never find her “Mr. Darcy” in modern New York, spends her life savings on a trip to England and a Jane Austen theme park, Austenland. Of course all is not as she may have dreamed and Mr. Darcy may not be what she expected… but you need to read the book or see the film.

Having just released my first Regency romance (suspense), LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR, I have been thinking about the Regency. My previous novels have been set mostly in the English Civil War and while I love all periods of history, there is SOMETHING about the Regency that draws readers like magnets.

I wasn’t brought up with Georgette Heyer or, I am ashamed to say, Jane Austen. My own reading taste was rather more for battlefields rather than drawing rooms, so I am a late comer (and a full on convert!) to the genre.

So in my quest to understand more about Regency Romance I have discovered there are two distinct sub genres: TRADITIONAL and REGENCY HISTORICAL. I am probably preaching to the converted when I note Traditonal Regencies are found in the tradition of Georgette Heyer, mannered romances where romance and attention to historical detail is all. Regency Historicals are everything else (and do run the risk of being modern costume dramas). Attention to historical detail is terribly important in whatever period you write and small details like Christmas trees in a Regency drawing room or an English lady fussing about her pumpkins for Thanksgiving are going to be noticed.

These are my thoughts and it will be interesting to know what others think:
  • Firstly I believe that Regency romances are, in fact, fantasies. If the real Regency England had been filled with quite so many amorous members of the aristocracy, there would have been no room for the common people and there were common people. It was actually a time of great misery - the Napoleonic wars and the industrial revolution had a huge impact on the populace. Poverty was rife in the large, industrial cities and changes in agricultural practice were forcing more and more people off the land and into the cities, worsening the situation. No one wants to read about that in the world of Regency romance, it is big houses and beautiful people, brooding Dukes and feisty heroines.
  •   Secondly I think it is the first accessible period of history. The clothes and the hairstyles and the way of life are understandable in a modern context. The civilising factor allowed for gracious houses and comfortable furniture. We recognise (and can transpose ourselves) into the lifestyle of the “ton”.


In this short excerpt Sebastian Alder ventures out to explore the new world he has just entered...
He sanded the letter and folded it and picked up a seal, engraved with the same coat of arms, and applied it to the wax, shaking his head in disbelief as he inspected the impression.
Rising carefully from the chair, his hand going to his side, he limped over to the door.
Beyond it, a wide gallery circled around from a broad, sweeping staircase. Using the balustrade for support, he took the stairs with care, cursing the infernal weakness of ill health.
When he reached the ground floor, he found himself in an elegant, circular entrance hall with a floor of black and white tiles. He turned a slow circle, taking in the elegant Grecian statuary in the alcoves and the fine paintings on the walls.
A number of closed doors, all of which were now his to open, led from the hall. He took a deep breath, hesitating and, for a moment, closed his eyes. Surely this magical world would vanish and it would all be revealed as a fevered dream. But when he opened his eyes, a white marble statue of Diana and her hounds beamed back at him. He smiled and put his hand to one of the doorknobs. .
The first door revealed a dining room dominated by a long polished table and th
second a handsome reception room. The third revealed a bright, cheerful parlour — a woman’s room, he thought.
‘Captain Alder!
Lady Somerton rose from a small escritoire as he entered, her eyes wide with surprise. 

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