Like almost every other writer/reader, I have a TBR pile. No, pile is a vast misnomer–it’s s structure, a mountain. For a long time, I had these books stacked in my hallway, blocking the coat closet and waiting to brain unwary passers-by. Until one day, when the volumes went almost to the ceiling, my cat tried to climb up the pyramid and started an avalanche. Books were scattered far and wide, and I knew I had to make a change. Get organized. So, I bought a slew of clear plastic tubs at Target and started packing the volumes away to store them in the garage (after I moved the car out, of course). To a non-reader this sounds like a quick and easy job, but we here at Risky Regencies surely know better. This job took days, weeks, because I ended up sitting on the floor re-reading old favorites, starting new books I’ve been meaning to get to, just basically wasting time and having fun.
I sorted these books into several stacks–books I will read soon, books I will read some day (when I’m 80?), and books to give away (I think there were about 3 of these). Then I found it. A battered, taped-up copy of the Very First Regency I ever read–Marian Chesney’s AT THE SIGN OF THE GOLDEN PINEAPPLE. And nostalgia set in.
A little backstory. Unlike lucky Megan, my parents were never great readers. But my grandmother was, and she was always taking me to the library and giving me books as presents. Some of them I loved, like the Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables series (for their romantic elements, and their plucky, wanna-be writer heroines). Some I loathed (like the egregious, treackle-beset POLLYANNA and ELSIE DINSMORE). But I devoured them all.
My grandparents lived on a sort-of farm, and every summer we visited them for several weeks. This particular summer, when I was 8 or 9, someone gave my grandmother a couple of big boxes full of romance novels, and I ended up sitting in the closet (where the boxes were stored) and reading the whole time. At first it was just a fun way to avoid my cousins, who only ever wanted to play Star Wars and brooked no deviation from the script. Boring. Soon, though, I was totally hooked, living in a world of country estates, Almack’s, handsome dukes, and high-perch phaetons. I could not even be lured away by my grandmother’s German chocolate cake.
These boxes were filled with mostly Cartlands, with a couple of Heyers, and some old Fawcett and Harlequin Regencies. I was somewhat familiar with the period, having seen the Garvie-Rintoul P&P, and I loved the clothes, the manners, the witty atmosphere. I was so excited when I pulled a book out of the box–AT THE SIGN OF THE GOLDEN PINEAPPLE–and saw the words “Regency Romance” at the top. I devoured it on the spot, and then dug out every single volume that also declared itself a “Regency.” The monster was unleashed.
I don’t remember a huge amount about that particular book. It was maybe set in Bath, and the heroine ran a Gunter’s-style shop. But it sucked me into a fabulous, fascinating new world I couldn’t get enough of. I still can’t.
So, I’m curious. What are the books that first drew YOU into the Regency? What did you like about them, what kept drawing you back? What was your first time like?
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….