I’m in the middle of teaching an online class, “Introduction to Writing Regency Romance.” Preparing for the class helped me brush up on the basics and the participants seem to be enjoying it. I certainly am. It feels rather nostalgic to answer questions I asked about seventeen years ago when I started my first manuscript!
One thing I’m keeping in mind while teaching this class is that there are many types of Regency romance—traditional, inspirational, long historical, paranormal, erotic, and other variations. There are also many different readers—some who love specific genres, some who are more eclectic in their reading, some who prefer “sweet” romance, some who enjoy darker stories, etc… Even though the historical background is unchanging, I believe that readers have different ideas of what sort of Regency world they most want to visit and since romance is meant to be entertaining, there really is no right or wrong Regency world, only personal preferences. So in each lesson, I strive to provide accurate information, but also allow each participant to decide for herself how much she wants to use that information in her stories.
Within my books, I do strive to get the details right. My characters may bend the rules of society, but not without being aware of the risks they take. But I’m not a purist about every matter. I know perfectly well that the hero’s clothing on the cover of Fly with a Rogue is inaccurate. However, I chose this image for a specific reason. I’ve found that readers don’t always check my blurbs to gauge the sensuality of my books, so I used this image to help them recognize that this is one of my sexier books. So far, no one has complained about the sensuality, and no one has complained about the inaccurate clothing either. I think I’ve achieved my goal of making sure the right readers buy this story.
As a reader, I’m pretty eclectic. I’m OK with books that create rather different versions of the Regency. For instance, I don’t care if some of the details are over the top in a really funny story. In an angsty story, I want more realism. I try to be a forgiving reader regarding a lot of historical details, though there are a few that grate.
As someone who’s done a bit of riding, I find that errors regarding horses do bother me. The funniest one was the story in which the hero kept teams of black stallions posted at inns between London and his country home. I’m sure this seemed romantic to some, but anyone who knows much about horses would know just how unrealistic this would be. (Most male horses are gelded as this makes them easier to manage; generally only the ones deemed best for breeding are kept intact.)
The sort of things that bother me most, though, are those that paint a Regency society that is too different from what I imagine from my reading and research. These include books in which the characters behave as if they are completely unaware of social conventions—not merely rebellious, but unaware. These also include books in which the social conventions are stricter and feel more stuffy and Victorian than Regency. I’ve read books in which characters are declared “compromised” after a brief time alone, even though there are plenty of scenes in Jane Austen’s books where couples are not closely chaperoned. There might be gossip, such as there is when Marianne is out driving with Willoughby, but not the full-flown scandal of, say, Lydia running off with Wickham.
Anyway, I’m curious what others think. What’s your favorite kind of Regency world? Without naming authors, because this is a polite space, are there any pet peeves you’d like to share?
Also, the ebook version of The Incorrigible Lady Catherine is on sale this week for just 99 cents. Lady Catherine is one of my more rebellious heroines. Besides trying to elope with a rake, she shocks her family by playing Beethoven sonatas, which were considered too passionate for ladies. Since she derives so much pleasure and comfort from the arts, I’m going to donate the proceeds to PBS.