Monday, January 16, 2017

Lifelong Love Affair with Regency Romances (What's a Traditional Regency?)

In a few weeks, my debut novel comes out: an inspirational Regency romance called The Reluctant Guardian.
Yay! We will party here on the Inkwell in a few weeks to celebrate!
Recently, I was chatting with Inky DeAnna Dodson about Regencies, and it took me back to the beginning of my love affair with love stories set in Regency England--the era of Jane Austen, Beau Brummel, and Empire waist gowns.

Back when I had no clue what a Regency romance was.

In those days, teens hung out at the mall, and one Saturday my best friend Laura and I wandered into B Dalton to look at books. We were junior highers and voracious readers, and at the time I read every Agatha Christie I could get my hands on. But on this particular day, a book that was clearly-not-a-mystery caught my eye.

Wow, someone's got a copy up on Amazon!
I bought it. I devoured it.

I told Laura about the heroine, an English lady named Gillian, whose mother had a scandalous affair years ago with a roue named Sir Hewitt Gambol that devastated her marriage, and Gillian didn't know who her dad was, Sir Hewitt or her mother's estranged husband. (Pause for breath.) After her mother's death, Gillian heads to London by herself to find Sir Hewitt, but first bumps into the emotionally scarred Earl of Bain, who can't let this sweet young lady ruin herself by hanging out with an old letch like Sir Hewitt, so he takes her to his cousin, Meg, who is bored and thinks it'll be fun to launch Gillian into Society, so she takes Gillian into her home and pays for her to be a debutante.

Oh, and Gillian wore something called sprigged muslin.

Laura devoured the book, too. We even took it camping with us at the beach and literally lay in our tent reading it aloud to each other with horrible Swedish accents (just try it, a la the Muppets' Swedish chef: Sir Hewitt Gambol).

We were very happy girls who had discovered this amusing genre of book, and we found more and more of them to enjoy (they even carried them in our high school library! After I married, I found them in the grocery store!). And even though the red banner at the top of the book said it was a Signet Regency Romance, we called them "Seasons," because of the London Seasons mentioned in the stories.

I didn't know what a "Regency" was, but of course, I eventually learned that the Regency period in England refers to a specific, short period of time (around 1811-1820) when Prince George served as Regent for his father, King George III.

Therefore, Regency romances, technically, are romances that take place in that specific period in Britain, when Jane Austen lived and wrote.
Little did I know that these books that I loved were in a small way Jane Austen's grandchildren. Regency romances as we know them follow in the footsteps of works by a woman named Georgette Heyer, who wrote Regency-set stories during the 1930's-1970's which were absolutely inspired by Jane Austen's works. (DeAnna Dodson wrote a Heyer post last June.)

If Heyer is The Mother of the Regency Romance, then one could argue that Regencies are Austen's grandchildren.(It must be said, though, that Austen's books, while dealing with love and marriage among other topics, were not romances. In all her books, there are 14 kisses.)
Suffice to say, I did not know about her or her delightful books when I picked up Scandal's Daughter. I didn't meet Georgette Heyer until I was 24.
Pretty cover of The Corinthian, although it's not Regency costume, but oh...whatever.
I've loosely defined Regency romances as romances set in the Regency period in Britain, but they're actually a lot more than that. When I was doing research for this post, I learned Wikipedia has a "Regency Romance" page. Who knew? Here's how they define a Regency romance:

"Regency romances are a subgenre of romance novels set during the period of the British Regency (1811–1820) or early 19th century. Rather than simply being versions of contemporary romance stories transported to a historical setting, Regency romances are a distinct genre with their own plot and stylistic conventions. These derive not so much from the 19th-century contemporary works of Jane Austen, but rather from Georgette Heyer, who wrote over two dozen novels set in the Regency starting in 1935 until her death in 1974, and from the fiction genre known as the novel of manners. In particular, the more traditional Regencies feature a great deal of intelligent, fast-paced dialogue between the protagonists and very little explicit sex or discussion of sex."

Today, Regency romances are all over the map as far as tone, manner, setting, and level of sensuality--you can find Regencies everywhere, from YA to erotica.

But years ago when I picked up a Signet Regency, or, later, a Zebra Regency, which published the aforementioned Traditional Regency, I knew it was safe to expect these elements in the books:
  • Sweet romance (no sex), with the exception of particular authors
  • Witty dialogue and Humor, with the occasional kooky character or sarcasm
  • Characters from the leisure class, gentry, or professional arena (nobility, military, clergy, governesses, spies, the occasional scholar, solicitor, or bookseller, etc). 
  • Grosvenor Square:
    Grosvenor Square, a pricey neighborhood indeed
  • Settings like the grandest of estates or the exclusive Mayfair neighborhood of London (although run-down estates, rented rooms above shops, and mean dwellings are often where a character starts...but doesn't end up)
  • Mentions of the Napoleonic wars, social ills, and the Prince Regent, aka Prinny
  • References to the London Season (social season which took place every year in the late spring/early summer, depending on Parliament, when debutantes were presented)
  • References to the upper crust of society, aka the bon ton, the beau monde, the upper ten thousand.
  • Drury Lane Theatre:
    Drury Lane Theatre
  • The mention of places like Almack's, Vauxhall Gardens, Astley's Ampitheatre, Hookham's Library, White's Gentleman's Club, the Pavilion at Brighton, Kew Gardens, the Chinese Pagoda, Tattersall's (horse sellers), Drury Lane Theatre...
  • Activities like dancing at balls, paying and receiving calls, eating ices at Gunther's, driving at the fashionable hour of five o'clock through Hyde Park in a high-perch phaeton, watching plays, horseback riding, attending routs and musicales, or taking the children to the menagerie at the Tower
  • Cant, or the descriptive"slang" of the day used by gentlemen and men who were not so gentle, and every once in a while, a lady. Phrases for "good" include "bang up to the mark," "right 'un," "top o' the trees"... (See my page on Cant)
  • A mystery, from time to time
  • Regency shopping.
    Shopping at the mantua-maker's
  • Fashion. Fashion. Fashion. I loved the descriptions of sprigged muslin, sarcenet, silk, riding habits, bonnets, and Kashmir. The heroines, if poor, wore clothes a season or two out of fashion, but at some point they'd usually experience a trip to the modiste, where they were outfitted like Cinderella for the ball. (Want more? Click here.) And more often than not, the hero looked quite smart in his coat of superfine wool, tailored by the great Weston himself.
The first Christmas novella collection I ever read...actually, it was the first novella collection I ever read, period!
Alas, Signet stopped publishing Regencies ten years ago (Zebra stopped in 2005). Traditional Regencies still exist from other publishers, but I could no longer buy one in the grocery store like I did in the early 1990's. 

If you read my upcoming novel, The Reluctant Guardian, you probably won't find it to be a traditional Regency. It's an inspirational, written for a different audience than was targeted by Signet over ten years ago--but you will recognize several things I've listed above.

How could I leave them out? The girl who bought Scandal's Daughter would be disappointed if I did.

The Reluctant Guardian, coming Feb 7 from Love Inspired Historical:

Under the Spy's Protection 

When Gemma Lyfeld inadvertently interrupts a dangerous smuggling operation in her English village, she's rescued by a mysterious Scottish spy. Now with criminals after her and her hopes for an expected marriage proposal recently dashed, she will make her society debut in London. But not without the man tasked with protecting her… 

Covert government agent Tavin Knox must keep Gemma safe from the criminals who think she can identify them—a mission he never wanted. But as he escorts her and her rascally nephews around London, the lovely English lass proves braver than he ever imagined. Suddenly, the spy who works alone has one Season to become the family man he never dreamed he'd be.

Find it on Amazon! 


Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starrring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of several historical romances who's seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne lives in California and enjoys fancy-schmancy tea parties, curling up on the couch with costume dramas, and going to Disneyland any chance she gets.


  1. I'm looking forward to reading this--it's on its way now, actually. I love Regency novels and always get excited when a new one is available, especially when I don't have to worry about content. Thanks for the fun post!

  2. Hi Lynda! I'm so excited you came by today! Thanks for your interest in The Reluctant Guardian! I so agree with you--I love reading Regencies, and it's nice to read a good romance that I can share with my daughter or mom. Thank you for coming by and saying hi!

  3. Delightful, Susie. From the description of your journey to the intriguing cover. Thanks for sharing this with us today.

    1. Thanks, Anita Mae! I'm glad you stopped by. I'm also glad you like the cover of The Reluctant Guardian! The team at LI did an amazing job, didn't they?

  4. I look forward to reading your first Regency! I began reading Jane Austen and then moved on to Heyer.

    1. Thanks so much, J. Grace! I appreciate it! How wonderful that you started with Austen. She's incomparable. <3

  5. Ooooh, delicious! Eager to read your book and, since I rushed out and bought a copy on your recommendation, Scandal's Daughter.

    And I have a bunch of Heyer I haven't read yet, too. Woot!

    Congratulations on the new release. :D

  6. Hey-(y)er awesome my friend! OH MY GOODNESS! I have been squealing as delighted a squeal as any regency heroine has ever done-the whole time I was reading your blog. So that's a sprigged muslin! I'm so glad you have a good memory and it was so fun remembering our Swedish accents in the tent. I did love that book. Good times. I love your book and your work and this beautiful blog. So so so fun. I am about as tickled as I would be if you told me I could have my very own season!


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