Friday, November 30, 2012

Regency England as a Backdrop for Romance By Christy English



 Why is Regency England the backdrop for so many love stories? Countless films have been made from Jane Austen’s novels, drawing us into the world of the Regency gentry. Miss Austen is the harbinger of this period of romance, and yet, her novels are hard- hitting tastes of reality, where true love does not always win, but good sense, modesty, and propriety always do.




As we move forward in time to the Regency novels of Georgette Heyer, currently being republished by Sourcebooks Casablanca, we find that these novels follow in the vein of Miss Austen with simplicity and wit, and always a love story. Of course, romance in Miss Heyer’s world does not mean bodice-ripping and overwhelming passion. Gentlemen and ladies fall in love, but they do it with grace, under the watchful eyes of the ladies’ chaperones.


But there is another kind of Regency romance, like the ones I write, that bear little resemblance to the novels of Heyer or Austen, where Regency England is portrayed as a sort of Disneyland, where all the characters are extremely wealthy and extremely beautiful. In these novels, the clothes and the settings come from the time period between 1811 to 1820, but little else remains of the years when the Prince Regent ruled the Empire in his father’s stead. For the most part, we fanciful novelists do not muck about in the realities of the time, when the men were coming back from the wars against Napoleon, the economy was plunged into chaos as the Industrial Revolution marched on, the factories in the North beginning to change the world.

We romance authors stick to the magical, fictional world of the wealthy and titled, focusing on the escapism of beautiful women falling in love with impossible men. The entire time I am writing, the entire time anyone is reading one of these novels, we are fully aware that they are fantasies. Whereas the lady who began it all, Jane Austen herself, wrote romances to reveal something of the world she knew, the world she lived in. The Prince Regent hosted Miss Austen once at Carlton House and from her letters afterward it seemed clear that she was not impressed with the prince or his extravagance. It is that very extravagance that we focus on in modern Regency novels, crossing over from the realm of historical fiction into historical fantasy. We revel in that fantasy, all the while knowing that the real world of Regency England was very different from the one we portray. I must admit that I enjoy both.

Christy English is the author of the historical novels THE QUEEN'S PAWN and TO BE QUEEN, both about the ever-intriguing Eleanor of Aquitaine. Her most recent novel, HOW TO TAME A WILLFUL WIFE is a re-telling of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew set in Regency England. Please visit her on her blog at http://www.ChristyEnglish.com

16 comments:

  1. Great post, thank goodness we have excellent authors like yourself to share your research, and insight into the Regency period with your readers. I thank you for writing. You have made a lot of folks happy with your Historical Novels. Interesting and informative post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Elizabeth...:) I tend to become absorbed in historical fantasy, where I do the research about a period like Regency England and Shakespeare's plays, then go off on my own tangent. I think there is room for all of us in the world, as long as readers keep enjoying what we do. Thank you for coming by and sharing with us.

      Delete
  2. Yes I like the odd fairy tale and wrote about romance and realism in Historical Fiction in my academic thesis. I am not a fan of regency but I have read Austin. I think my taste lies more in the region of the Brontes and those stories are gothic escapism to a degree. I annoyed reading this post mind you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carol, I adore the Brontes! So dark, so gloriously dark, esp where Emily is concerned. And JANE EYRE looks into the darkness without blinking too...a fascinating set of work. I adore Jane Austen and all the work she has led us to create...she never knew she would still be read so many years later, I'll bet :) Thanks for taking the time to read and chat with me about this...

      Delete
  3. That is a graceful phrase, to describe the alternative type of Regency romance as "historical fantasy". It's not my personal preference, but it's refreshing to see someone differentiate between Austen & Heyer and this newer genre.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sue, thank you. I think there's room for all of us, but Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer are definitely in their own league. I do love my fantasies though :) I'm so glad you came by and added to this discussion...

      Delete
  4. I think if the correct language, customs, manners, and facts are in place, one doesn't need to always delve into the harsher partes of life to have a wonderful book. It's when the above are left out that I stop reading.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great point Ella...and I know we fantasy writers try to keep the details accurate...Thanks for pointing that out :)

      Delete
  5. I find myself enjoying both styles of writing depending on my mood. I appreciate good well-researched factual historical fiction, but I do love my fairy tale regency romances too.

    Enjoyable post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too Sophia Rose! I think there is plenty of room in the world, and on my bookshelf, for both :)

      Delete
  6. I like both. C S Harris writes a grittier tale which I enjoy also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Intriguing...thanks for passing on that new author Maggie. I can't wait to read your new book!

      Delete
  7. Never hold grudges...you know, you never know when it's going to be your last day, so why would you want to go through that day holding a grudge?

    Flights to Lahore | Cheap Flights to Lahore | Cheap Air Tickets to Lahore

    ReplyDelete
  8. I would have no problem with it if it were labeled as historical fantasy. But I really hate reading an ostensibly historical novel which is nothing more than modern characters in Regency costumes. 'Regencies' where the women traipse off to stay alone in a single man's house where they make love repeatedly to the hero and then debate with themselves whether they should marry the guy- all while enjoying their evenings at Almacks and without a peep of protest from any of their relatives are like nails scraping blackboards to me.

    ReplyDelete