Annoying Article!

I just read this article in the American Chronicle:

“Our Flirtations with Regencies”
, by Sonali T. Sikchi, and I can’t decide whether to be amused or annoyed. No, it’s annoyed.

This thing is full of the most ridiculous broad generalizations about Regency Romances: what could be culled from reading several Barbara Cartlands and assuming the rest are exactly the same.

A few examples:

“…Regencies rarely make even a pretense of incorporating historical events and elements in their stories.”
“The women in the Regency Romance stories are always young girls in their late teens or early twenties.”
“The women gorgeous and unique, sexually innocent and passionate; the men striking and arrogant, sexually experienced and passionate.”
“The stories follow a formula…”

OK, so here are some of my favorite counter-examples, in no particular order:

LOVE’S REWARD, by Jean Ross Ewing (Napoleonic war hero, espionage/intrigue plot)
THE CONTROVERSIAL COUNTESS, by Mary Jo Putney (espionage/intrigue, unconventional heroine)
THE RAKE AND THE REFORMER, by Mary Jo Putney (older heroine who is too tall, with mismatched eyes! alcoholic hero)
THE CAPTAIN’S DILEMMA, by Gail Eastwood (French POW hero)
AN UNLIKELY HERO, by Gail Eastwood (adorable virginal hero)
THE VAMPIRE VISCOUNT, by Karen Harbaugh (paranormal)
KNAVES’ WAGER, by Loretta Chase (unconventional heroine)
SNOWDROPS AND SCANDALBROTH, by Barbara Metzger (another great virginal hero)

In my own September book, LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, the plot revolves around London’s Foundling Hospital (gasp–a real historical institution), the heroine is in her thirties and not a virgin, and the hero is sexually inexperienced. (But he catches on fast.)

But the author of this article seems to be implying we’re a bunch of hacks cranking out endless stories according to a prescribed formula. Grrrr….

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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Phyl
17 years ago

I saw the article, too. From the first sentence the author came across as snobby and condescending. She used broad generalizations without any naming any concrete examples.

Meanwhile, she starts out asking some interesting questions without making any attempt to answer them. Why, indeed are American readers so interested in the Regency era? There are some good answers to this question if she’d attempted to find out. And then there was the comment about Princess Diana. Excuse me? The woman was idolized by half the world and I believe it was the British press who used her to sell their tabloids. Sure she got lots of attention in this country, but so do Angelina & Brad. Is there a difference?

Yeah, I read it. But I don’t have much respect for it.

Megan Frampton
17 years ago

That article was insulting. And false–the cliches she quotes were originally cribbed from Heyer, who did incorporate history (which Cartland then lifted). And trad Regencies use Heyerisms far more often than Regency-set, and trad Regencies usually have history in them. One of the complaints some readers have is that there is too much history in our romances. She doesn’t cite any specific book titles, she just makes broad generalizations. What was the point of the article, anyway? I don’t normally get mad at ignorant articles, but that one was just plain wrong. And lame.

Cara King
17 years ago

Was she even talking about traditional Regencies? Because though some of her statements seem more true of trads than of Regency historicals, some seem just the opposite…

She did seem to have a lot of half-formed ideas which might have led to a good article, but instead just sort of petered out in a whole slew of generalizations (most, if not all, of which are either wrong or just too general!)

Cara

Janet Mullany
17 years ago

(Ducking to avoid rotten eggs) I thought it was a pretty fair assessment of the regency subgenre, and even many regency-sets. Let’s face it, the exceptions are too few and far between, and our current crop of risky regencies are probably coming in too late to kickstart a subgenre that has refused to evolve.
I don’t think any of us would argue that we write fantasy, but she’s absolutely right in insisting that fantasy can and should be well-written (and not rely on cliches, as she points out, tho I think her examples were pretty silly). There’s nothing wrong with escapist literature, just so long as you know that’s what it is.
She does raise the question too of why Americans are fascinated with pretty royalty, something I wonder about too, since the Windsors and spouses have the collective IQ of a vegetable garden.

Janet

Megan Frampton
17 years ago

Janet:

You’re right, the journalist does get some stuff correct. My problem with it is that she mixes historical romance cliches without backing any of her statements up with examples. That’s just bad journalism. Again, what is the point of her article?

Elena Greene
17 years ago

Throwing rotten eggs back at you, Janet! 🙂

Well, there’s truth behind every stereotype, I won’t deny that, but it’s poor journalism to rely on stereotypes. It wouldn’t have been that hard for this writer to seek out which Regencies got top reviews, or won RITAs, and then she might have found at least a few books from my earlier counter-example list.

You’re right, though, the genre as a whole has not evolved along with its more creative writers. And with similar packaging on them all, savvy readers buy by author rather than cover or blurb.

Laurie Bishop
17 years ago

I read it, and like Cara, I couldn’t determine if she was talking about traditional Regencies or Regency-set historicals. And I couldn’t decide whether I was significantly peeved or just disappointed. I agree with all of the criticisms…but I have seen worse articles on a romance genre. Not that that makes it good.

It definitely did not seem to lead anywhere. I kept waiting for her point. And as for Princess Diana…she was also about 180 years too late to even apply to the discussion! At that point I thought, huh?! and was preparing to dislike the denouement. But, there is that saying that any PR is good PR…

Oh, and yes, what she said about Regencies not containing history! That did tick me off! Clearly she has not read broadly in the genre.

She has a web site for writers. Did anyone visit it?

Laurie

Amanda McCabe
17 years ago

This is a very irritating article. Mostly because: 1) she sets it up with an interesting question–why DO Americans love the Regency setting so much? Then makes absolutely no attempt to answer it. 2) she appears to have done her “research” by reading a couple of Barbara Cartland books. 3) she states that authors don’t incorporate “history” into the stories, but then goes on to state that details of the period are used to give atmosphere. Huh? This confuses me. Either we use historical details or we don’t. And if she means that actual historical events are not used (a la historical fiction), that is not entirely true, either. I have read numerous books that use Waterloo, the Congress at Vienna, etc. Perhaps I’ve wasted my time, then, reading all those research books and tramping through historical sites in England. I didn’t need to put any history in at all!

4) She doesn’t back up any of her statements with titles of books that could prove her point. She doesn’t cite any books at all. Just makes sweeping generalizations, as so many people do when trying to prove how Literary they are at the expense of genre fiction. It’s true that there are cliched, not so well-written romances, as there are in any genre, but it hardly encompasses an entire set of books. But I guess you can’t argue with someone who writes for airline magazines.

In my own books (because, of course, it’s all about me, LOL), my heroines are seldom young debs, they’re usually widows who have to take care of themselves. And they NEVER titter, though I do confess they have sometimes ridden in phaetons. And I don’t think I have ever written one single, solitary scene at Almack’s. But I have had kisses on terraces at balls, and midnight library encounters. So color me cliched. 🙂

Todd
17 years ago

It is certainly not true that all Regencies have the same format and use the same conventions; but even to the extent that they do, that need not mean anything negative. One thinks of poetic forms, like sonnets and haiku, that have a very rigid format–far more rigid than any novel. No doubt many bland and forgettable sonnets and haiku have been written; but many beautiful and brilliantly creative ones have been as well.

Todd-who-reads-too-much-stuff