A Quickie on the Regency

by Mary Jo Putney

LLB: Because one of the reasons I began the Historical Cheat Sheet was to learn why authors write about certain time periods and why we readers love to read about certain time periods, I recently asked author Mary Jo Putney, long-time Laurie's News & Views reader, who has written both traditional Regency romances and now historical romances set in the regency period, about that particular period in time. What is it about that time in English history that she finds appealing? Who are the best at writing in that period? And, does she still read Regency romance even though she no longer writes it?

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I think the Regency is the most popular time period, as well as my personal favorite, because so many interesting currents cross then. It was the dawn of the modern age, where revolutions and industrial change were creating the society we recognize now. The old regime was dead, and the people of that time period speak in voices we can recognize. They are accessible. It was also an age of wonderful writers, of Jane Austen and the Romantic poets.

At the same time, the Regency is distant enough to have glamour. The heaviness of the mid to late Victorian period was still in the future. No trains, only dashing carriages. No powdered wigs in general usage; rather, women wore graceful Empire styles and men were starting to wear clothing not that different from what is worn now. (The navy blazer and tan slacks that are a semi-casual business uniform today came in during the Regency, from what I've been able to determine.)

Finally, it was the Napoleonic period, where there was a Good War not unlike WW II. The territorial wars of earlier days are hard to care about, and the sordid imperialist skirmishes of the Victorian period are downright depressing, but fighting an egotistical, power-hungry conqueror who wanted to enslave everyone in sight, a man who didn't care how many of his countrymen lost their lives, was an honorable cause. And it gives the opportunity for wonderful, dashing soldier and spy heroes, and sometimes heroines, too.

As to the best writers of Regency romance - one can't raise the topic without mentioning Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. In the modern period, there have been a number of outstanding authors: Joan Wolf, Edith Layton, Mary Balogh, Loretta Chase, Jo Beverley, Karen Harbaugh (who brings a very fresh voice to Regencies of today) - and many others. I won't try to narrow it down more than that.

And yes, I still read Regencies. They have a special quality that is different from historical regencies, and some days, nothing else will do.

--Mary Jo Putney

 

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