I have a secret passion that I’ve only told a few people about.
I love to read Regency Romances.
Did you just say, “Huh??” with a puzzled look on your face? Yep, this serious-minded woman loves a good escapist novel.
Don’t know what a Regency Romance is? Think Jane Austen, the best-known author in the genre. If you have read her books or seen the movies based on them: Sense and Sensibilities, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Lady Susan, you have experienced the Regency era.
So, what was the Regency Era?
King George III was the British king that colonial Americans fought in the American Revolution. He’s the king that raised the taxes on tea imported from Great Britain so high, that the people of Boston threw the shipment into Boston Harbor creating the first “Tea Party.” He was king (although not ruling) when Napoleon was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.
He was also insane.
His bouts of insanity were interspersed with periods when he was able to rule. By 1810, the situation had become a crisis. Now here’s the thing, British kings rule until they die. With the king no longer able to rule, what were they to do? Parliament decided to set up a Regency, and his eldest son, George, the Prince of Wales, became Prince Regent.
The Regent, both loved and hated by his people, ruled until his father’s death in 1820. Then he became King George IV. Although the Regency was dissolved in 1820, many expand the Regency time frame from 1800 to 1837. This includes George IV’s death in 1830 and the death of his successor, his uncle William IV, in 1837. Next up? Queen Victoria’s reign and the Victorian era.
The Regency era is known for its proper ladies and extremely polite gentlemen. The women wore high-wasted gowns made of silk and muslin—among other fabrics—that fell to the floor with a little train, bonnets, gloves, half boots, slippers and carried a reticule (purse). The gentlemen wore cravats, breeches, glove, and tall hats. They bowed when meeting a lady and the lady curtsied.
The simple style of the high-waisted gowns flowing directly to the floor, and the severe hair styles with only a few curls over the ears, were meant to emulate the styles seen on ancient Greek urns and statuary. This focus on ancient Greece was also seen in furniture design and home decorating along with a renewal of the study of the Greek language and its philosophers.
The rules of society and etiquette were many and written in stone. A woman’s reputation for being quiet, kind, generous, and sensible, along with modest and chaste, was everything and if she lost her reputation, she lost her chance of marrying well.
While the gentlemen were allowed to hang out at their men’s club, gamble, box at Gentleman Jim’s, drink, and race horses, a proper lady should be found at home receiving visitors, embroidering, practicing the pianoforte, painting landscapes in watercolors and learning how to run a household from her mama (accent on the second syllable).
I have been a great reader since I was old enough to hold a book and have read many great books including Pulitzer Prize winners, best sellers, trashy beach reads, mysteries, suspense, young adult and children’s books, cookbooks (a skill I learned from my mama) and the classics. I also enjoy reading novels written during the Regency and Victorian eras. The writing can be a challenge, but worth it.
Now, along with my love of reading Regency Romances, I have begun writing them. I have just finished writing “The Truth About Family, A Traditional Regency Romance.” I’ve entered it into a writing competition that, if it makes it through the several rounds of judging, will put it into the hands of book editors. I won’t know the outcome of the judging until the end of March and will let you know more about that when I have been notified.
There is one thing about Regency Romances that I want to explain. I started by reading Jane Austen’s novels which were written during the Regency era. From them, I had an expectation of reading novels with the Regency’s standards of behavior for proper young women and gallant gentlemen. This expectation included a discrete allusion to sex, not a sex manual.
After reading several great Regency Romances, I was shocked to come across one with a level of sexual content bordering on pornography. Now, I realize that what I consider to be an inappropriate amount of sexual explicitness and what others consider inappropriate may be very different. Although I don’t require my reading matter to be squeaky clean, I do object to a detailed description of what the hero is doing with his tongue.
As I have continued to read Regencies, I have developed a “checklist” that an unknown author must pass before I will spend money on one of their books. This includes carefully reading the description of the novel—usually on Amazon—reading Amazon reviews (which don’t always mention sexual content), and paying attention to the cover art. If the woman and/or man are unclothed or partially unclothed (what I call a “Bodice Ripper”) I don’t even give it a chance.
Even so, I have run across too many erotic Regency Romances for my taste. I keep track of it by maintaining a list of authors I enjoy and those I will not read. Here are a few of my favorite modern-day Regency authors: Jo Beverly, Kate Harper, and Audrey Harrison. Pick one up and give it a try, you might fall in love just as I did.
Until next time,
Susan L Stewart