My Tortured Relationship With the Regency

regency_dances 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!

-Lynn Spencer

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42 Responses to “My Tortured Relationship With the Regency”

  1. RobinB says:

    With so much romance fiction set during the Regency, it would seem that everyone who lived in England during that time was either a member of the aristocracy or was a servant in an aristocrat’s household! So, yes, different times and places are most welcome in historical romance!

    I’ve enjoyed reading historicals set in India during the Raj, and I also like stories set during the medieval period, although sometimes, writers who use the medieval or Renaissance periods as their time frame get a little careless in terms of their historical research, and then the anachronisms pop up like a sore thumb! Nevertheless, as much as many of us enjoy reading fiction set during the Regency, we should remember that variety is the spice of life!

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by All About Romance, Amanda McCabe. Amanda McCabe said: RT @AllAboutRomance Tired of the Regency? @LynnAAR is. http://bit.ly/aoWc4P [...]

  3. Jill Barnett says:

    In fairness to the writers, certain publishing houses only want Regency and will not buy any other time period. They have managed to destroy the wonderful variety that used to be in historical romance. It is frustrating for many authors, I expect. However, not so for me at Ballantine, where I have a Medieval trilogy coming out next year. I left S & S and I am back with some of my same team, once at Pocket Books, who was always supportive and happily published my books set in the South Seas, off the coast of Maine, in the Philippine jungle, and along the Welsh English borderlands. They are now doing my trilogy set in Medieval Scotland. There are many writers who want to do Westerns or Americana. Unfortunately, not many editors will buy those books. It’s about the business for publishers, about the bottom line and no risk. So until readers actively buy other settings in big numbers, or an author has a huge bestseller with another setting, nothing will change.

  4. Pat Henshaw says:

    What’s amazing to me is that Regency authors were being downsized and were complaining just a few years ago (five? ten?) that Regencies looked like they were dying. I seem to recall a lot of “Save the Regency” action on boards. Maybe what we should have done instead was a “Save the historical” campaign.

    In recent years I’ve grown fond of quirky Westerns (think Osbourne, not Miller or Greenwood) and have returned to Scotland (a la Kurland). But like you, I’ve noticed that these historicals are being shelved in Westerns and fantasy instead of romance now.

    I’m hoping that this is just another cyclical trend and historicals, in the true sense of the word, will return.

  5. trish says:

    I totally agree that the glut of historical romances set in the Regency and the decade or two following is a shame. When I “grew up” reading romances authors seemed to never stick to one period or setting. Authors like Johanna Lindsey and Kathleen Woodiwiss wrote everything from medievals to Victorians to Georgians to Westerns, Highlander stories, Colonial America, the Carribean – you name it! – with a pirate or sheik thrown in for good measure. I miss that variety so much. I suspect like Lynn, I actively see out stories set in less than the usual.

    As for the Regency dying, I think that was more about the “death” of what was called the “traditional Regency”, i.e. books more in keeping with the period and the Austen tradition, with less action/melodrama and sexual content than what is called the “European Historical” set in the Regency period. Authors like Emma Jensen, Carla Kelly, early Mary Balogh, etc.

    I don’t know, it seems like Victorians are the new Regency with a whole new crop of authors writing Vics like Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, the recent quartet by Laura Lee Guhrke, Liz Carlye’s new series are Victorian-set. Georgians have also been represented in Elizabeth Hoyt and Eloisa James’ recent series.

    Variety is the spice of life, so they say. Perhaps publishers (and readers!) will support more variety in historical romance!

  6. Tinabelle says:

    I read a lot of historicals, too, and agree with many of the comments already made. I don’t dislike the Regency Era setting although more variety in eras and settings would certainly be welcome.

    What I dislike about the current Regencies is the sameness of so many of the plots and characters. So often, I have trouble remembering much of anything specific about the books because they are so generic. Historically this was a very rich time in history but you would never know it by the dearth of wallflower books and “going-to-balls and modistes” stories out there.

    Even many of my favorite authors seem to have become more generic. I often find that I don’t like their current work as well as their backlists. I have been doing a lot of rereading lately.

  7. limagal says:

    I agree wholeheardtedly with you, Lynn. I have become tired, tired, tired of regencies. I also have automatic buys from authors such as Suzanne Enoch and Julia Quinn, but so many regencies are just plain boring. I have a data base of books read and I put a line or 2 about plots. After a couple of months, I can’t even remember what most of them are about.

    Mostly, I love Medievals and was thrilled to see Jill Barnett’s comment about having a new trilogy- I LOVED the “Wonderful” trilogy and it still is one of my favorites.

    Although much was said in the RWA conference last year about medievals being the next hot item, I have yet to see it. I have written 2 books set in that period – neither is set in England nor Scotland, but rather the Germanic territories and Spain, and I have haf no luck with publishers as yet.

  8. Pat Henshaw says:

    Trish, yes, it was the death of trads, but the implication at the time was a death of Regency as a subgenre too. Then writers like Elizabeth Hoyt seemed to break the mold and produced a lot of discussion in the field, which in turn seemed to revive Regencies.

    Tinabelle, I absolutely agree with you. I’m reviewing a book now that reads like a Regency By the Numbers, almost as if the writer were following a prescribed checklist as a way of becoming a published author.

    As a book reviewer for over 40 years (ack!), I often wonder how some authors actually get published!

  9. I love variety. Any historical period will do as long as the setting is lush, the characters are rich, and the love story is delicious. It does seem, though, that publishers prefer Regencies these days. Which is why I crave books by authors like Liz Carlyle (trish, so glad you mentioned her!). She paints Regency and Victorian England onto a broader canvas, offering characters with foreign origins and stories that go far beyond the drawing room. I really adore drawing rooms (and ballrooms, and carriage rides in the Park at the fashionable hour…). But it’s so fun when an author takes the reader a few steps farther too!

  10. Mary Lamb says:

    I don’t agree or disagree. When I read a romance, all I really care about is the romance. It could be set on the moon and as long as the hero is hot and the heroine interesting, I’ll probably read it and not care too much about the setting. It is interesting when the setting is integrated smoothly, though. I just read “In For a Penny” reviewd, I think, here and OMG talk about as perfect a romance as I have ever read! I have to admit it I don’t like it when there is too much setting or too much detail but “In For a Penny”, you didn’t notice the setting, its just organic to the plot. Really perfect.

    But honestly, setting, historical period is just not something for me to get excited about. As long as I find the characters and romance hot and interesting, I don’t care if all I read is Regencies. Its all about the romance.

  11. LizJ says:

    Maybe it’s because I also read SF&F (and in so many ways, Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance seems like the anti-Regency), but I’m not tired of Regency-period romances. With money tight, I just need to limit myself to the better ones. These days I’m far less likely to buy an unknown author with a grope cover illustration, and more likely to focus on authors that consistently produce good or great books. Over the last few years there appears to have been a widening of the time periods for English historicals with some of the better known authors moving into into Georgian and Victorian.

    Personally, I have a hard time with Medievals – maybe it’s because what’s missing that is in those other time periods is the whole social comedy of manners thing (that authors like Eloisa James, Julia Quinn and Tessa Dare tend to do well)?

    Westerns and novels set in Scotland bother me because of the accent problem…almost every author I’ve read that tries to write these settings mangles their dialogue in order to try and reproduce the accents in print.

    I will read early American; the only recent ones I’ve found have been in Christian-market fiction (which has it’s own overload area – Amish settings).

  12. Rosie says:

    I found that in the historical romances I’ve read, the ones that draw me in either have to have really good writing or have a different setting and period than the Regency (preferably both). I’ve gotten really bored with books set in the Regency period because the characters never seem to do anything and nothing exciting happens. Even if the writing is very good, I find myself losing interest pretty quickly. Two authors I have found who seem to have broken the mold in both writing skill and unique settings and periods are Carrie Lofty and Judith James. I hope they continue to be able to get contracts and more authors like them will emerge.

  13. Leigh says:

    I just tired of historicals. I am not trying to bad mouth the authors because I haven’t read the books. . .But in reading the reviews the heroines just seem so out of place. . . They all are breaking conventions right and left. . . Not married and on the shelf. . .or jilted or brother in debt, then do something a modern heroine would do. So to me they just all seem artificial. I am tired of cutesy, perky, unorthodox, unique, usual, original heroines. If you are doing a historical, then use the time period instead of making another wall paper historical. And not that I won’t tons of history but I would like to feel like I am actually in that period. And that is just the heroines. I can’t tell you how many books have the hero as part of a stud club. . .

    I have read historicals that take place in other countries beside England, and they still seem like wall flower books. So I haven’t seen that the place makes a difference.

    While I do read a few historicals, it is not the place that makes the book, it is the dialogue that pulls me in.

    One reason I read science fiction books or urban fantasy is because I don’t have to suspend belief as much, thinking a heroine from this period would do that. The author develops her own world and own mores. .

    So except for a few authors, most of my reading is contemporary and urban fantasy type books.

  14. Danielle D says:

    I would love to see more books written in the Victorian Period. Also storylines that take place in Italy, Germany or some other European country!

  15. Elaine S says:

    I’ll never tire of regencies but those that satisfy my personal pushable buttons are few and far between such as Kelly, Metzger, Layton, Rolls, Balogh, etc. I trawl backlists, look at sites like Regency Retro Reads for inspiration and re-read. That’s not to say I don’t read other sub genres – I do and quite happily. However I read my first regency (Maulever Hall by J A Hodge) at 12, my first Heyer at 17 and now, some 43 years later, still wallow in them. Writers who set what I call modern stories in the regency (or, indeed, other historical periods) are the ones who ruin historical romantic fiction for me as I do like good and accurate period flavour to my reading.

  16. AAR Lynn says:

    @Jill Barrett – a medieval trilogy? Sounds exciting! I have read about publishers not wanting to buy some settings on other sites as well and it does frustrate me because I would LOVE to read those other settings.

    @Tinabelle – I agree with you about the generic nature of things. There are some authors who write Regency who really bring their time period to life. However, there are too many wallpapery books out there which I think of a “Regency lite”. If it weren’t for the high-waisted gowns and mentions of Almack’s, it could just as easily be a wallpaper Victorian, I think.

    @Rosie – Carrie Lofty and Judith James are two who are on my radar screen as well. I’ve liked their books so far. IMHO, historical romance needs voices like that in addition to what has dominated the mainstream lately.

  17. @Leigh, I so agree. When I read a historical, I want to be transported to another time, not read a version of a contemporary, but without the Internet and with Prom dresses. That’s why I stopped reading them, except for authors I love and can trust, like Jo Beverley and Laura Kinsale.
    If authors did primary research, ie read the newspapers etc of the time (easily available on the Internet and off these days) there are some stories aching to be written. I am so tired of spies and feisty, spunky heroines!

  18. limagal says:

    This has certainly turned into a great topic with so many comments!

    Mary, I agree with you that a great love story can be in any time period, and I have read many in the most diverse time periods or located in other worlds. However, generally speaking, there are too many regencies that do not have enough going for them. I especially hate long drawn out ones where, even if they are married, the heo and heroine resist saying that they love the other and it drags on…and on,, with no real action happening.

    I love medievals, first, because I have always loved that period – I credit watching the old Robin Hood series for that decades ago, but also because they seem much more varied than regencies. So much more can happen, and does, that I can never predict what turn the story will take. Some think that medieval heroines all have to be submissive women but I think that a lady in charge of her castle probably exerted a lot more independence than a regency lady was allowed. As an example of a very independent and willful woman, we have Queen Eleanor of Aquaintaine (first married to King Louis in France and then to King Henry of England.) This woman, who was the mother of many children, including Richard the Lionhearted and King John is portrayed as a bitch
    by some historians and an admiral example of a woman by others.

    Keep the comments coming… very interesting!

  19. [...] Evangeline AAR’s Lynn Spencer writes about her relationship with Regency Historicals on the AAR blog. I can sympathize with her stance wholeheartedly. For a while I thought I hated the period because [...]

  20. Tumperkin says:

    I don’t disagree with what you say but I do think there are probably lots of Regencies because they do sell well and I think there are a number of reasons of that. For one thing, I think readers quite like getting know one period pretty well and developing an understanding of that historical fictional setting (some of the elements of which have undoubtedly developed through the genre rather than reflecting any kind of historical reality). In that sense it’s like any kind of fictional world-building.

    I must admit to disliking medievals and having an aversion to the idea of ancient history in romance which is an extension of what I dislike about medievals: it feels too long ago to me. For some reason I have a kind off 18th century cut-off in my head as to how far back I like to read romance in. However, geographically, I am very amenable to any setting from the 18th century on.

  21. Magdalen says:

    For me, it’s a catch-22. I like well-written historical romances. More of those are Regencies because more historical romances are Regencies. More authors may only know details of the Regency period, partly because they themselves have read so many Regencies. So more authors write Regencies, more Regencies are sold, and thus more Regencies get published.

    Your post reminded me of the early Jane Feathers: Oliver Cromwell’s 17th century England, Imperialist Russia, and the Elizabethan era: all there. Even her early 19th century romances are different from the mainstream. But you’re right — those are some of them more than 20 years ago. What’s with publishers today? Do they think we can’t tell the difference between something fresh & new and something ooh, different and thus scary?

  22. Jill Barnett says:

    Okay, I’m going to get in trouble but I can’t keep my mouth shut. I’m going to try to give an author’s perspective here, and a few personal comments.

    The problem with the books is that many are missing the single, most important element: real and honest conflict between the hero and heroine. Back in my day, you couldn’t get published without strong conflct. I have read books, many, that had no conflict at all, let alone strong and realistic conflict….and by conflict I meant CONFLICT, not misunderstanding. This goes for hsitorical as well as contemporary.

    And as writers, we have to write to the contemporary sensibility, especially in romance, particularly in historical romance to be moderately successful and receive new contracts, to be able to write more books and to appeal to readers.

    Not every reader. But our readers. So please don’t slam us all because an author disappointed you, or wrote a heroine you found unbelievable. Don’t read her, but try someone else, someone whose vision and style appeals to yours.

    We do not expect everyone to love us, and we know some will despise us for some silly thing we did at 2AM or a perceived mistake we made in the book because of the inaccuracies in some of the public’s historical knowledge. It’s part of the job.

    Sometimes we must write to what the general pop thinks they know, and not what is actually historically correct.

    We need to write books that read smoothly, with turns of phrase that imply historical time, not bad dialect. To be historically accurate, I’d have to write my new books in Norman French or Norse/Gaelic.

    As for heroines who are too contemporary, that is subjective. But historical romance has always been driven by rare and unlikely historical heroines. If we wrote accurately about the people, the books would not be romantic or appealing. We honestly walk a fine line between our research and the truth and what the story needs. We write fiction. We create worlds, with our own visions and words and sensibilities. We see the story in our minds and create to entertain you, not offend you.

    Yes, it is important to be believable in our stories, and that’s where writing in the human spirit comes in. If we write a heroine is sympathetic, she might not be historically accurate, so we try to make her so appealing you won’t care about anything but seeing her triumph. If we do that, we have done a good job.

    I write books that are longer than most nowadays, 115,000 to 135,000 words. Some words might be wrong. I am human. Editors are human. Copy editors are human. There are mistakes. But I research extensively and think hard and spend sometimes 18 hours a day writing to entertain a reader….because I was a reader long before I was a writer. When I read my first historical romance, Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain, I fell in love with romance novels. To be able to so this, for me, is an ultimate dream.

    It is so easy to criticize. It so easy to make a mistake. Imagine writing 120,000 words of a cohesive book out of thin air. We make something out of nothing. It is a gift to us, and we hope, for you.

    My best to all,

    Jill Barnett

    • Jill Barnett:As for heroines who are too contemporary, that is subjective.But historical romance has always been driven by rare and unlikely historical heroines.If we wrote accurately about the people, the books would not be romantic or appealing.We honestly walk a fine line between our research and the truth and what the story needs.We write fiction.

      Great post, Jill, and I agree with everything except this part. It’s amazing how similar women of the past are to us, and how much we can learn from them. Their attitudes were sometimes different, yes, but not so different that we can’t sympathise with them.
      I don’t think that spotting ‘heroines that are too contemporary’ is necessarily subjective. You can read the letters and journals of women of the past and try to sink into their mindset. There are and were remarkable women, but sometimes the story isn’t about that, it’s about an ordinary woman finding herself in unusual circumstances.
      I try to be as accurate as I can, and I don’t have many problems making the story romantic. If you read “Pride and Prejudice,” or “Evelina,” or “Pamela” or even “Moll Flanders” you can see how romantic they could be. And stories like those of Pitt the Elder and Lady Hester Greville, Caroline Lennox and Henry Fox and many others show that there was romance in real life, too.

  23. reader says:

    I used to read the old Signet regencies in high school and college. These were traditional regencies–heavy on the clothes and manners and figures of speech and light on sex. For the most part, the sexual tension was within the confines of the conventions of the day.

    Like a prior post mentioned, current Regency heroines are almost always doing things inconsistent with the mores of the day–most often it’s jumping into bed before marriage. But sometimes it’s other very farfetched plot lines that try to make the heroine more modern and independent than her day. I find those books very tiresome. Why don’t those authors just write contemporaries? Oddly, the heros never seem to be as liberated from society’s conventions, and hence they are almost always a reformed rake who feels honor bound to propose marriage since he has deflowered the heroine. She resists for a time (got to hold on to that independence, even if it’s irrational!) before giving in to her alpha male.

    In the hands of a good author–Julia Quinn comes to mind–these stories can still be satisfying. But mostly, they are dull.

    Personally, I would be thrilled to see a revival of medievals. There is a lot of rich history to be retold during that period. And the plot devices–forced to marry by the king, widowed and forced to marry to protect her young son’s landholdings etc.–seem more compelling than the typical regency plot lines which tend to manufacture drama through kidnappings, prostitute or gambling subplots, highwaymen, evil relatives etc. And, if you like alpha male heros, then medieval is your time period since every guy is literally a knight in shining armour.

  24. Laurie says:

    I’m a relative newcomer to romance books and my first exposure to historical romance was through a western – “Autumn Lover” by Elizabeth Lowell. And I LOVED it!. So, to this day I search in vain for really good Westerns – I really love the genre. I also search (mostly in vain) for great medievals as that is another time period I find very interesting. But I do like regencies – if someone can give it a slightly different twist. Not an easy thing to do with all that’s out there. But I agree with Jill, no matter what the time period, what is usually missing is that element of true and honest conflict which makes the story interesting. Not the Big Misunderstanding, which is all too often substituted. The Big Misunderstanding will make me skip to the end of the book or not finish it at all faster than almost anything. And, if the book is well written, I am usually pretty forgiving about historical inaccuracy.

  25. maeb says:

    I agree that there are too many Regencies, esp. bad ones. I generally do not buy any — just get them at the library. I do buy Medievals, esp. those in Scotland. And I have been waiting for more Viking tales.
    One great Victorian writer I love is Deanna Raybourne–I love the mystery series and the half-Gypsy / half British gentleman hero, even though the hero and heroine haven’t yet paired up (maybe the next one.)
    And a favorite medieval is the series by Ariana Franklin with a wonderful, smart heroine. These stories are rich and well plotted, with terrific characterization. I love these so much I shell out the money for the audios.
    And I adore the luscious American colonial tales by Pamela Clare. Those guys are sooooo terrific, with just the right mixture of loving, protective nature and strong alpha ranger-warrior instincts.
    I just learned she’s writing more of these MacKinnon’s Rangers books, after writing several contemporaries that are also terrific.

    I wish we would get more medievals from Claudia Dain and Madelyn Hunter.

    Just a few on my wish list.

  26. Jill Barnett says:

    To Lynn,

    Absolutely. There are strong women in every era, which is great for writers. It’s our job to make them believable, readable, and honest.

    Best,

    Jill

  27. Courtney says:

    I absolutely miss the historical romances that I read when I was a teen. I loved the Civil War ones especially. Heather Graham had a series I adored set in the Civil War.

    I would also like to see other time periods such as Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, Civil War, Revolutionary War, WWI and WWII. Hopefully, we’ll see an expansion soon.

  28. mdegraffen says:

    I don’t read contemporaries (except for Crusie) or paranormals. I’ve always been an historical girl, always will be. Regency is good, but I also like Georgian and some Victorian. That’s it. I prefer to read something that takes me away, but not to another dimension with shapeshifters and stuff. I have to relate to it in some way. History is a hobby of mine, and P&P is my all time favorite book.

  29. KristieJ says:

    To Jill Barnett – my dissatisfaction and frustration with the state of most historicals these days is ENTIRELY with the publishers who many are only willing to put out what THEY think will sell. And sadly, in many cases I think they have reason. May of us online romance readers long for the out of the box, outside the norm historical romance settings and stories. But sadly we represent a small section of the romance reading market. I wish with all my heart we could somehow rally all those who aren’t plugged into the ‘net to step outside their box – to try an Americana or Western set romance. Move away from England and explore France or Spain or Italy or even Russia!!
    I would so love it if authors could return to other genres – like Lorraine Heath to Westerns or Laura Lee Gurhke to Americana.
    Whenever I see a different setting for historicals, such as Pamela Clare’s colonials, I snap them up as quick as can be and hope that I’m not the only one doing so.

  30. For reading and for writing, historicals are my big love, always have been, always will be. When I pick up a historical romance, I want good amounts of both. Get those in the right porportions and I am a happy camper.

    When I check RT Book Reviews each month, or the reviews here, the first thing I check is time period. If it’s not a Regency, my interest goes up a notch. Nothing wrong with Regency, but I have to put my foot down at all Regency all the time. Especially when coupled with the popularity of series within Regency set romances. Almack’s, lovely as it is, is getting crowded.

    I may be dating myself when I go into this next bit, but I have fond memories of learning about a new release by a favorite author, and the first question that leapt to my mind was “where and when are we going this time?” Authors like Kathleen Woodiwiss, Bertrice Small or Johanna Lindsey, to name a few of the founding mothers, could have one book set in Tudor England, the next medieval France, the next the American west, then Vikings, then off to Australia, then some pirates, etc. I loved hopping about through the centuries and seeing how talented authors could bring wildly different places and times to life for modern day readers. I miss that. I hope to do some of that myself as a writer.

    Regency England is nice, and if that truly is the right setting for a particular story, then by all means use it, but *use it.* Don’t merely put the hero in breeches and the heroine in a high waisted dress. Let them live in that world, as vividly as one would expect the hero and heroine of an urban fantasy to live in theirs. Modern-acting characters in whatever period dress don’t hold my interest. Give me characters who are authentic to both themselves and the era in which they live and I am happy.

  31. JMBaja says:

    For Jill Barnett – I am sooooo excited to hear about your new Trilogy. I am a fan and have been watching to see what you would release next. One of the things I love about your books is that you do vary your locations and characters.

    I recall when Sentimental Journey was released. I picked it up and then read the back cover when I got home. I am not a fan of books about war. I often find them depressing. So I put Sentimental Journey on a shelf for months before I finally picked it up. It was an amazing story and after reading it, I wondered why I had waited so long.

    In general – I agree there are too many regencies out there. I would not want them to go away completely, but I would like to more of a variety. I generally choose my books based on the author. I try new authors and if I like their writing style I will read them again regardless of time and place. If I don’t like an authors writing style, then I would not buy that author even if they wrote something that was in a new or more interesting era/location.

    It’s too bad that publishers don’t just read the books and say hey “it’s a good book publish it”, instead of only publishing in an era that they think will sell. In my opinion, any era will sell if the writing is good.

  32. Vonnie says:

    Hey, I WRITE Regencies and I agree with you. But if you’d like some variety, hop on over to this place: http://historicalbellesandbeaus.blogspot.com and feed on their site. Great research done by historical writers who are not necessarily hung up on Regencies.

    Vonnie

  33. SharonH says:

    I agree with several others – I don’t care what the time period is if the book is well written. Good character development and good relationship development, no matter where or when or social class. I will also agree, however, that I do sometimes get tired of the Ton and rules of society taking up so much space in the story. But if it is a romance I am in the mood for, I am not so picky, so long as the story is good. Publishers should note that these books are ones I usually get at the library. While they are entertaining at the moment, most current historical romance novels are rarely keepers for me, probably because of the similarity of books occurring in this genre.

    When I want something different, more historically accurate or more detailed settings or plots, I have learned to go to the general fiction section. Elizabeth Chadwick and Sharon Kay Penman medievals have taught me loads and still made me cry. A few from Rosalind Laker have remained in my mind because they were well-told romance in a different time and place. And the author I am currently rereading because I did buy all 6 and all 8 books in her two series, Dorothy Dunnett. I have just spent the past week in 15th century Cyprus with Niccolo. It’s not a quick read by any means and the romance comes slowly, but I had forgotten how rich the story is. I wonder if Mrs. Dunnett would have been published today?

  34. Kristine says:

    The biggest problem is that its seems like the only type of historical romance novels that publishers will allow into the market place is an English Regency. It has got to the point where in some months there will be only 2, mainly published by Harlequin, non-Regency’s and good luck trying to find them. I have nothing agianist them but do the publishers have to publish so many of them that they seem to take 95% of the published books that are in the book stores. This means if I want anything else I have to either special order itor wait for it at the UBS or hope that I can recieve it as an e-book. I started reading historical romances in the mid 1990′s and that was the tail end of the golden age of Romance novels. I used to be able to get any period I wanted and some of my favorite authors would use so many settings that it was like an escape from the real world for a few hours. I loved it and bought many more books. I noticed around the year 2000 that the varity that used exist was starting to dry up and more of the books were Regencies. At first I did not really care because if there was usally something there that I wanted to read and usally was happy though I was buying fewer books than I had in the past.

    It really starting getting bad in 2003-5 where it seemed that the only type of books that were on the shelves were Regenices and it was almost impossible to find anything else so I picked up some that sounded interesting but it did not take too long for me to lose intrest. I wanted the varity that I first had to come back and was extremely fustrated that I could not find any books that I wanted to read.

    It just wasn’t the setting that was wrong either. Most of the conflict was gone or replaced with trival matters that I could have cared less about. I mean I am supossed to care that a wealthy and powerful Duke who some women rejected years ago was afraid to trust another women because it his heart was broken by that women, or his father was distant, or his mother did not love him enough. In many cases all I could think was I would love to have his problems. Now in a light book that meant to be funny that type of problem would work, but in a more serious novel it falls really flat and I just stoped reading the book instead reading anymore of this because I want to read a story with some meat to it where the hero and herione have some real problems to deal with. Add the fact that the books got a lot shorter, under 300 pgs is not uncommon these days, meant that there was very little chance to create a sense of place or add any detail that would help paint the picture that the author is trying to draw

    One thing that I noticed, though reviews not by reading some of these books, is the quality is way down. Some of the books seems so bad that I wonder how they were allowed to be published in the first place. The editors should exercise some quaity control and reject some of these manuscipts. Just because it is a Regency does not means that everything else does not matter. The only thing that makes this worse is where the editor tells an author what and how to write the novel. I mean I have heard an editor request an author to write the heroine as a virgin widow. I really thing that editor main job should be finding a good story not trying to change it so the marketing department will have an easier job selling it.

    The biggest problem is changing these trends is that a large numbers of the authors who regularly wrote in different eras are either writing Regencies,left the genre, or retired from writting all together. I can not count the number of times where I found an author at the UBS that I really liked and wanted more books of theirs and I found out they are not writing anymore and I can not get another book from them. This means that the publisher had lost a sure sale because I would have bought that book. I mean I want to buy books but I want stories that I can connect with and most of them I can not these days.

    I see the possibilities of using electronic methods to bring more varity of books back to the market place but the publishers do every thing they can to stop the growth of these books. With the exception of Harlequin no major publisher has used e-books to expand the types of books that can be published and can be successful. I mean what is the downside of using e-books to see what readers will buy. I mean they could use the cheaper method to publish books that are out of the box and see if readers would want more books of that type and what could be the next big thing out there.

    I mean I know that there are cycles but 10 years for one means that entire generation has grown up with nothing else and this may be very hard to break.

  35. JMM says:

    Would Jane Austen have been published today? Her heroines are, in the words of Mrs. Giggles, “mercenary wh*res”. They actually consider money and status and birth as factors that need to be considered in a potential husband!

    As for “unconventional heroines” – eh. How many truly unconventional heroines are there?

  36. limagal says:

    Kristine,
    You hit the nail on the head about the BORING plots. Yes, I have often seen that distant father or nother plot, or can’t trust because someone (maybe the heroine) hurt him bad in the past. As you said, they don’t seem to have problems. I mentioned the heroes who can’t say “I love you” until the end of the book. There is also the misunderstanding that if one of them would just stop and say, “I’m sorry. It was like this….” but they don’t, or almost do, then someone interupts.. and on it goes. There are whole regencies where nothing is happening. I have come to like the ones where someone is trying to kill the heroine or the hero or heroine is a spy, etc. At least something is going on.

    To Jill,
    As you say, you can’t please them all. To paraphase Abraham Lincoln- “You can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, but you can’t please all the people all the time.” Don’t let it bother you. We love your books and I, for one, will anxiously await the new medieval triology.

  37. judy walsh says:

    The number of Regencies being published these days is quite small. Why aren’t you aware of this?

  38. Kristine says:

    The entire number of historicals are small these days. That does not mean that one or two eras and one country should dominate the entire genre. In the average month about 22 historicals are published by the major publishing houses. Out of this number only 4-6, in good month and many months it is worse, are not Regency/Victoirian England. And those few books can be very hard to find because almost none of the authors are leads so that means that I have go on hunt just to get them because I have had to look for certain novels in two or three online book stores just to have the chance to read them because of the small print runs that they have and add on top of that a large number of them never get into e-book form mean that I have some times can not read the book even if I wanted to.

    This started about 2000 and I know all about cycles but 10 years of nothing but Regency all the time is starting to grate at this point. I mean how many authors who many readers would enjoy have either retired or not been published at all because of this. My faviorite time period is Medieval, and I would jump at any chance to read a book that was set outside of the British Isles but this is rarely published and is hard to find when it is. What makes this worse is most of the plot lines are more based on the hero’s emotional issues rather than a real conflict. So I try to avoid the entire era if possible because I want a good story and reading 300 pages of hero’s emotional agnst where that is the sole stumbling block to happiness. If you disagree with me that is your right but I am not the only one feels this way and I feel that there needs to be enough varity in the genre so everyone is happy and I do not think that is too much to ask is it.

  39. If only more than 33 people could hear about this.

  40. Lucinda Levy says:

    If only I had a quarter for each time I came to http://www.likesbooks.com... Amazing article!

  41. bavarian says:

    The “Regency” problem seems to exist mostly in the English speaking publishing industry. As I always see in German bookstores the historical market is booming without beeing reduced to mostly one time period. German historicals are covering all time periods from the Roman Empire to the early 20th century and take place all over the world.
    Another difference seems to be the not so strictly maintained difference between romance and historical fiction. The books are mixed on the shelfs.
    That however does not apply to the translated romances of American authors. These books are to be found in the “Liebesroman” or erotic section.

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