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CORINTHIANS, RAKES, AND INCOMPARABLES, OH MY!

This month, I'm continuing the historical romance theme and tackling... Regencies! 

Why is the Regency such a popular setting?  Lots of reasons-- just take a look at what was going on in those days: the Napoleonic Wars, the peak of the Industrial Revolution, the women's rights movement, the birth of Gothic literature, and the Romantic poets, just to name a few.  It was the day of Beau Brummel, the Elgin Marbles, Byron, Keats, Shelley (both of them), Ann Radcliffe, and of course, Miss Jane Austen.  And at the heart of it all, the Ton: the glittering, fascinating, hothouse environment of Britain's upper crust.  Wealth, privilege, education, and refined manners, all held together by a rigid code of conduct for the space of a London Season.  I like to think of the Regency period as romance's answer to the sonnet: the rules might seem oppressive and needlessly complicated, designed to strangle creativity, but think what marvellously subtle and nuanced work can result!  Is it any wonder that the Regency is the most popular type of historical romance in our library?

It fascinates me that so brief a period of British history could spawn such an enormous body of romantic literature.  The Regency was very short-- by the strictest definition, it lasted less than nine years.  It began in June 1811 when George III (the one who lost the American Revolution) went mad and was finally deemed unfit to rule.  His son stepped in, acting as Prince Regent until the elder George died in January of 1820.  At that point "Prinny" (as he was affectionately known) took the throne in his own right and became King George IV.

Some readers will argue the only true "Regency romances" are the traditional ones: novels of wit and manners, written in the style of Austen (the first true Regency author, and still the gold standard).  Traditional Regencies are not modern romances in fancy dress; they stick closely to the historical setting, and the rules and mores of Society generally have a significant impact on the plot.  The focus is on developing the social and emotional bond between the main characters, not their physical relationship.  (As author Kate Moore puts it, "The Regency is about that four-letter word for intercourse between a man and a woman-- talk.")  The mood may turn sensual at times, but kissing is generally as racy as it gets.  (This isn't true of all traditionals-- Mary Balogh can get pretty steamy.) 

In contrast, non-traditional Regencies (high sticklers refer to them as "Regency-set historicals") tend to be broader in scope and more action-oriented-- they're about passion, not talk.  They may move beyond the traditional drawing room or ballroom into more adventurous locales: gaming hells, pirate ships, even a house of ill repute or two.  Society's rules are still in place, but characters often get thrown into situations where they'll have greater opportunity (and temptation) to flout them.  And yes, there are love scenes; historicals can run the gamut from warm to downright erotic.  (A passionate clinch on the cover is a pretty good clue you're not looking at a traditional Regency.)  In my opinion, the best Regencies are the ones that find a balance between traditionals and historicals-- the wit and verbal byplay of traditionals with some of the plot twists and passion of the historicals.  But don't take my word for it-- check out a few of the titles below!  If you're already a fan of Regencies or just want to know more about them, the links at the bottom should pique your interest.

Traditional Regencies:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Fiction Austen)
Julia and the Master of Morancourt by Janet Aylmer (Fiction Aylmer)
The Ideal Wife by Mary Balogh (PbkRomance Balogh)
A Lady Betrayed by Nicole Byrd (PbkRomance Byrd)
Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase (LP Chase)
Emily Goes to Exeter by Marion Chesney (Fiction Chesney)
Mad Jack by Catherine Coulter (LP Coulter)
The Frog Earl by Carola Dunn (Fiction Dunn)
To Catch a Bride by Anne Gracie (PbkRomance Gracie)
The Vampire Viscount / The Devil's Bargain by Karen Harbaugh (PbkRomance Harbaugh)
Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer (Fiction Heyer)
His Lordship's Chaperone by Shirley Marks (Fiction Marks)
To Catch a Rogue by Amanda McCabe (PbkRomance McCabe)
Saved by Scandal by Barbara Metzger (LP Metzger)
A Gentleman by Any Other Name by Kasey Michaels (LP Michaels)
The Rules of Gentility by Janet Mullany (Fiction Mullany)
A Tall Dark Stranger by Joan Smith (LP Smith)
The Mandarin of Mayfair by Patricia Veryan (Fiction Veryan)

Regency-set Historicals:
The Wedding Bargain by Victoria Alexander (PbkRomance Alexander)
Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh (Fiction Balogh)
A Most Sinful Proposal by Sara Bennett (PbkRomance Bennett)
St. Raven by Jo Beverley (PbkRomance Beverley)
Something about Emmaline by Elizabeth Boyle (PbkRomance Boyle)
Rogue in My Arms by Celeste Bradley (PbkRomance Bradley)
The Golden Season by Connie Brockway (PbkRomance Brockway)
The Marriage Wager by Candace Camp (PbkRomance Camp)
Never Lie to a Lady by Liz Carlyle (PbkRomance Carlyle)
Rules of Engagement by Kathryn Caskie (PbkRomance Caskie)
Sleepless at Midnight by Jacquie D'Alessandro (PbkRomance
Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare (PbkRomance Dare)
Always a Scoundrel by Suzanne Enoch (PbkRomance Enoch)
My Wicked Marquess by Gaelen Foley (PbkRomance Foley)
In the Thrill of the Night by Candice Hern (PbkRomance Hern)
Duchess in Love by Eloisa James (LP James)
Sins of a Wicked Duke by Sophie Jordan (PbkRomance Jordan)
Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas (PbkRomance Kleypas)
Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens (PbkRomance Laurens)
To Love a Wicked Lord by Edith Layton (PbkRomance Layton)
A View to a Kiss by Caroline Linden (PbkRomance Linden)
The Devil Who Tamed Her by Johanna Lindsey (PbkRomance Lindsey)
Beauty and the Spy by Julie Anne Long (PbkRomance Long)
The Wedding Wager by Cathy Maxwell (LP Maxwell)
A Kiss to Remember by Teresa Medeiros (Fiction Medeiros)
Love with the Perfect Scoundrel by Sophia Nash (PbkRomance Nash)
Compromised by Kate Noble (Fiction Noble)
Her Notorious Viscount by Jenna Petersen (PbkRomance Petersen)
Sinful between the Sheets by Barbara Pierce (PbkRomance Pierce)
One Perfect Rose by Mary Jo Putney (Fiction Putney)
Surrender by Amanda Quick (PbkRomance Quick)
When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn (LP Quinn)
The Devil's Waltz by Anne Stuart (PbkRomance Stuart)
Tempted by His Kiss by Tracy Anne Warren (PbkRomance Warren)
The Dangerous Duke by Christine Wells (PbkRomance Wells)
Lessons from a Scarlet Lady by Emma Wildes (PbkRomance Wildes)

All About Romance: The Regency & Post-Regency Period http://www.likesbooks.com/regent.html
Good Ton http://www.thenonesuch.com/
Risky Regencies http://riskyregencies.blogspot.com/
Joanna Waugh: Resources for Readers & Writers of Regency Fiction http://www.joannawaugh.com/
Nancy Mayer, Regency Researcher http://www.susannaives.com/nancyregencyresearcher/
Rakehell: Share your Regency Obsession http://www.rakehell.com/
Jane Austen Centre Online Magazine http://www.janeausten.co.uk/magazine/index.ihtml
Georgette Heyer Discussion Lists http://www.heyerlist.org/

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