Romance novels set during the Regency period in England are one of the most popular genres. Readers love them, and everything associated with them. The term “regency” refers to the period when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales, (known as “Prinny”) ruled as Prince Regent (hence “Regency”). On the death of his father in 1820, the Prince Regent became George IV. This covers the time period from 1811 to 1820, although books set during the Georgian era (1795-1837) are still considered “Regency” by a lot of readers and writers.
So what is the strong appeal of this time period?
Who doesn’t like to imagine going to balls and wearing beautiful gowns? Buried deep inside us is the little girl who always wanted to be Cinderella to her Prince Charming. Formal dinners, full and empty dance cards, strict rules to break, secret liaisons, lots of money, and power.
Since I am born and bred American with no prior history of England under my belt, the research I need to do is extensive. My newest book, SEDUCING THE MARQUESS is my ninth Regency novel. When I first started writing regencies, I wasn’t real clear on the titles, ranks, rules, property rights, women’s rights, marriage laws, and so forth. I now own three binders, stuffed with Regency information, as well as numerous books, dictionaries, and progeniture charts.
The Regency period was a time when women were protected from the harsh realities of life—but had very few rights. The wealthy led wonderful lives, with the best food, clothing, entertainment, transportation, and housing—but the poor were beyond miserable. Which makes me think of the opening of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times and the worst of times.”
I think these types of romance books are popular, also, because it is a way to escape our frenzied, too-much-information life style. It must have been pleasant to not be bombarded with constant noise pollution—but, unfortunately, with a lot of real pollution.
Times change, people do not. Therefore, every time period has its good points and bad points. I sometimes think I would like to travel through time. How nice to see men and women being polite and courteous to each other. To see people actually speaking to each other over a dinner table, not engrossed in their phones. But, am I willing to give up modern medicines, and time saving machines? No.
Hence, my best strategy is to enjoy what modern life has provided for us, but escape into writing and reading about times past. Viewing the past through rose-colored glasses might help to get through the present with a spotlight on—well—just about everything.