First things first: I don’t hate the Regency. If you check my old reviews, you’ll find some Regency historicals out there that I’ve liked or even loved. Julia Quinn, Tessa Dare and Carla Kelly are all autobuys of mine. However, the Regency is like cake to me. I may like it occasionally, but I really don’t need a constant diet of it every single day of the week. I need a lot more variety than that.
So – even as I read Regency historicals, I also find myself looking for the anti-Regency. Deep, angsty medievals, books set in continental Europe, colonial America, imperial Russia – well, you get the picture. And I’m sure you know how easy these are to come by. Hell, sometimes I think I might as well go to the bookstore hunting for unicorns!
I love historical romance in general, but when I’m actually given a choice, I now actually prefer time periods other than the Regency. This is at least due in part to the fact that shelves are awash in Regencies while it can be hard to find good books set in other time periods. If the Regency is all there is, I’ll buy it rather than go without historicals totally, but it makes me feel conflicted and almost guilty. After all, I certainly don’t want publishers to look at my buying habits and think that I’m another one of those readers who just can’t get enough Regencies. I’ve often wondered how many readers like me there are. I know publishers go on and on about how Regencies are what sell, but I can’t help thinking that there might be more people like me who just want historicals even if it’s not specifically the Regency they want to read about.
I love a rich characterization, a witty sense of humor, and a strong sense of place. There are writers out there who have these qualities in spades. Even as I wish that those vividly realized characters could speak to me of medieval France, imperial Russia, ancient China, or the Spanish colonies rather than yet another airing in Hyde Park, I’ll still read good writing joyfully. I crave interesting settings, but at the end of the day, good writing still trumps all.
However, I’ve noticed as time goes on that my reading slumps hit more frequently than they used to. Unless I dig deep into the golden oldies of my TBR pile, there’s a distinct lack of variety. If you don’t want Regency lords and ladies, you can get Victorian lords and ladies, but anything else is much harder to find. I lurk on historical romance listings constantly, looking for something a little off the beaten track to pique my interest. I’m starting to see more hopeful glimmers out there, but still too few and not always well-marketed.
It makes me feel like a conflicted reader, too. I adore the writing of some of my favorite historical writers and I’m so thankful for what they give us. Yet there’s also a part of me that wishes more writers would write books set in a variety of times and places rather than sticking to only one. Judging by what I see in the UBS, this used to go on in the 80s and early 90s, but I can think of very few authors that still roam varying times and places. It’s kind of a shame because while I do sometimes like the Regency, I also can’t help resenting it on occasion because it seems to have displaced so many other times and places I would love to see in my reading.
What about you? Surely I’m not the only one looking for a little more variety!