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Regency Romances Genre
What is the Regency Romance Genre?
The Regency genre focuses on romances which are set in Britain during the early 19th century, primarily between 1811-1820. Although seemingly akin to the novels by contemporaries like Jane Austen, these novels are actually quite different stylistically. Widely credited with popularizing the genre is Georgette Heyer, who wrote several dozen Regency romance novels between 1935 and her death in 1974. The genre is often linked to the fiction genre called “the novel of manners,” in which social class, customs and clever conversation are the main focus. There is, in fact, very little graphic language and virtually NO sex scenes in these novels – the most touching that occurs would be through dancing. Often there is not even a kiss between the main characters in these novels. Instead, they are highlighted by a focus on humorous and engaging dialog between the characters – both central and supporting.
There are some novels in this genre which might also be classified as “Regency Historical,” suggesting that the setting might be in Regency period, but the characters, plot and style of the works are different than the original formula.
There are very few, if any, of these novels being written and published today – the current batch of Regency romance novels features more sex (aka ‘bodice ripping’) as a result of reader expectation and demand.
What to Expect in the Regency Romance Genre
- References to British high society (“the ton”)
- Differences among social class
- False relationships/engagements and marriages of convenience
- Mistaken identity – some intentional, some accidental
- Surprisingly, there is a LOT of humor in these novels
Regency Romance Characteristics
- Level of Angst
On a scale of 1-10, the level of angst in this genre is quite high given the some of the topics which the novels can focus on – including alcoholism, abuse, depression, post-war trauma, etc. Plus, the couples who truly love each other rarely end up together since the focus is on a stable and economically secure future.
- Character Development
Unlike most romance novels where the level of character development depends on the writing ability of the author in developing them, Regency novels are absolutely reliant on the character development. Since there is very little – if any – physical relationship development in these novels, the development of likable – or unlikable – characters and fun dialogue between them is what keeps the readers interested.
- Plot Strength
This genre is set back in a somewhat romantic period in Britain, although a lot of the novels focus not on the extravagance of royalty but on the difficult challenges which faced people of the lower classes, or people who go back and forth between the two as a result of someone gambling away their fortunes, the death of a father, etc. The plot strength, similar to the character development, is absolutely central in these novels. There is a lot of focus on British society, and the families and experiences of the “haves” and “have-nots.”
- Romantic Tension
There is sometimes some romantic tension in this genre, but mostly these novels are read for the witty plots and character studies. The couples get together for stability and security, not for love. Ironically, most of the romantic tension is for the reader who has certain expectations of what a romance novel “should” be–since in most of the novels in this genre the hero and heroine interact very little with one another.
- Level of Eros
None at all…even less than with Christian romance novels since there is not even any talk of sex since it is not the focus with this genre.
- Prose Quality
The prose quality in this genre is usually outstanding.
Related Romance Subgenres
The related subgenres include Historical Romance and Historical Regency Romance, but although related, they are different in tone and form.
Regency Romance isn't for you if
You like a lot of sex scenes, a lot of “pillow talk”, and you like time-travel/the supernatural/mysteries.
Regency Romance is totally for you if
You like in-depth character development. You enjoy intellectual tug of war, and “old” Britain.
- 1 The Grand Sophy (1950)
By Georgette Heyer. Focuses on the daughter of a diplomat who is left in London with her aunt and her hilarious, laugh-out-loud adventures as she discovers her true meaning in life.
- 2 The Lady’s Companion (1996)
By Carla Kelly. Tells the story of a woman who finds herself at the mercy of her evil aunt when her father gambles away his estate. She finds herself attracted to a man who should be off limits…but neither of them can seem to accept it.
- 3 Olivia (1981)
By Jennie Gallant. Is yet another classic tale of a pretty, unmarried girl who knows what she wants – financial independence. When she sets out to get it by charging far more than any governess should, she is challenged her sponsor’s younger brother who is outraged at her demands. Written in the first person, this is one of the more enjoyable novels in this genre.
- 4 Elyza (1976)
By Clare Darcy. Is the classic Regency novel – a young girl with limited options for her future steals some boys’ clothing and runs away from home. What ensues involves confusion, blackmail, kidnapping and a fantastic chase.
- 5 Lord Carew’s Bride (1995)
By Mary Balogh. tells the story of a woman who is torn between her old lover and her present betrothed, who happens to be his cousin.
- 6 A Loyal Companion (1992)
By Barbara Metzger. Focuses on a young woman who is sent off to London to try to “keep her out of trouble.” Traveling with her loyal dog, she meets another person down on his luck, and determined that it is her destiny to rescue him.
- 7 The Tulip Tree (1979)
By Mary Ann Gibbs. Presents the class Regency romance elements of a rebellious heroine, a hard-working hero and the traditional change of social status due to the death of the family patriarch.
- 8 Megan (1979)
By Norma Lee Clark. Is the story of a young girl who comes to London to assist her cousin while she (the cousin) looks for a husband. Of course while the cousin is attracted to a man, the man is attracted to Megan.
- 9 A Mistress for the Regent (1980)
By Helen Tucker. Is the classic tale of a woman who smart and beautiful, but poor and abandoned by her Italian nobleman fiancé. In a twist of fate, she ends up becoming the pawn in a game which might make her the most powerful woman in the land.
- 10 Kathleen (1980)
By Barbara Hazard. Takes a slight twist on the standard Regency formula – in this novel the young girl moves to the big city (London) and is wooed by two suitors. As with all other novels in the genre, the “hot” date is a dance…that’s it, and not even a good night kiss at the end.
Publicly Ranked Version of the List21 items >>
- Persuasion (Jane Austen)
- Emma (Jane Austen)
- Katherine (Anya Seton)
- Ravished (Amanda Quick)
- Saving Grace (Julie Garwood)